Russia This Week is a weekly review by the MEMRI Russian Media Studies Project, covering the latest Russia-related news and analysis from media in Russia, the Caucasus, Central Asia, and Eastern Europe.
Photo Of The Week
Republican members of Congress meet with Russia's FM Sergey Lavrov. (Source: Mid.ru, July 3, 2018)
Quote Of The Week
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov reported Putin's reaction to the loss to Croatia in the quarterfinals:
"Putin watched. He rooted. Our side lost in an honorable very beautiful game. But for us they are good fellows. Heroes. They [literally] died on the pitch. We are proud of them."
(Lenta.ru, July 8, 2018)
Interview Of The Week
The following is taken from an RT interview with the Russian ambassador to Washington, Anatoly Antonov:
Q: "What are the most important spheres for Putin-Trump cooperation?"
Antonov: "As I've mentioned earlier, the US is a superpower and is a permanent member of the UN Security Council along Russia. We need to keep monitoring the global situation [together]. If two superpowers are quarreling, this means the fragility of peace in the whole world…
"In the bottom line we want the US to respect our national interests. If you [the US] treat us as an equal partner and grasp an idea that it is possible to talk with us not only from a position of strength, then we'll find a solution for any question [problem]."
(Russian.rt.com, July 4, 2018)
In The News:
US Congressional Delegation Visits Russia
Republican members of Congress visited Russia. The delegation arrived in St. Petersburg on June 30 and stayed in Russia through July 5.
The US Congress delegation included:
Senator Richard Shelby [Alabama], Senator John Kenned [Louisiana], Senator John Hoeven [North Dakota], Senator John Thune [South Dakota], Senator Jerry Moran [Kansas], Senator Steve Daines [Montana], and Representative Kay Granger [Texas].
Commenting on the visit, Senator Konstantin Kosachev, chair of the Federation Council's International Affairs Committee, said:
"We see things differently with regards to future world order, which will either be equal for all, or exclusively for the US. The differences in our approaches to UN activity, international legal institutions, and the resolution of hot or cold conflicts derive precisely from that"
(Ria.ru, July 3, 2018)
MP Inga Umasheva, coordinator of the US Congressional Relations Group, stated:
"The American partners have voiced a proposition to continue our dialog and hold a next meeting on American soil. Of course, we praise such a proposition, since we support a dialogue based on equal rights and mutual respect in order to harmonize Russian-American relations and strengthen international security. Nevertheless, a series of Duma deputies are on the sanctions lists and can't enter US territory. I think, that if our American colleagues are genuinely interested in continuing cooperation on the parliamentary level, there is a need to review the issue of lifting the sanctions against parliamentary members on a mutual basis."
(Ria.ru, July 3, 2018)
A source, familiar with the context of the meeting, said to RIA: "The question of sanctions against Senator Kosachev was raised during the meeting, since - given his official position (in the committee) – the sanctions impede inter-parliamentary cooperation. The Americans announced, that they are ready with the support of [Ambassador] Huntsman to assist in resolving that issue ". Yet, Kosachev himself refused to confirm to RIA the mere fact that the issue had been raised during the meeting. "If the U.S. senators intend to do something (about it), it will take place on their own initiative", said Kosachev.
(Ria.ru, July 3, 2018)
When the Duma's speaker invited the delegation to visit the assembly during the hearings, the vice speaker of the Duma interrupted an address by the General Accountant Office representative and asked the MPs to great the guests. The MPs delivered a standing ovation.
See the Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2D5dbCivepo
Russia-US Trade Wars
The Russian Minister of Economic Development Maxim Oreshkin informed that Russia imposed extra duties from 25 to 40% on import of certain US goods in response to steel and aluminum duties set by the US.
Oreshkin said: "Compensating measures apply as additional, higher rates of import duties from 25% to 40% of the price of imported goods. They will cover certain US goods, whose counterparts are produced in Russia… In particular, measures apply to certain types of road construction machinery, oil and gas equipment, metalworking and rock drilling tools and optic fiber."
The Ministry reported in the statement that the damage from US trade restrictions for Russian exporters is estimated at $537.6 million "This is the amount of additional duties Russian suppliers are obliged to pay in the US. On the current stage our higher duties cover only part of the damage - $87.6 million. This is the compensation Russia is entitle to under WTO rules," the ministry stated.
(Tass.com, July 6, 2018)
The Russian Ministry of Economic Development reported that Russia sent a request to WTO for formal consultations on its dispute with the US in respect to import duties on steel and aluminum. "The request for formal consultations was sent to June 29, 2018. If no mutually acceptable ways are found in the course of consultations, then Russia will apply to WTO with a request to set up an arbitration panel and pass the dispute for its consideration," the ministry informed.
(Tass.com, July 6, 2018)
Russia-Iran Relations In Syria
Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov answered questions following a meeting with his Jordanian counterpart, Ayman Al-Safadi.
Lavrov and Al-Safadi (Source: Tass.com)
Question: "What do you think is the likelihood of reaching agreement on southern Syria before the Helsinki summit?
"The other day, US National Security Advisor John Bolton said in an interview with the CBS that Iran’s withdrawal from Syria will also be discussed in Helsinki. I think all reasonable people understand that this demand is unrealistic. Nonetheless, we know that Israel has its own concerns over the presence of pro-Iranian non-governmental armed forces in the proximity of its borders. Is it possible to find a solution to this very complicated issue that would be supported by all parties, including Iran?"
Sergey Lavrov: "Let us first agree on some basic things. There are many non-Syrian forces in Syria. Some of them stay there with the agreement of the legitimate Syrian government, a UN member-country, while others stay there illegally, in violation of the principles of international law.
"As for southern Syria, all matters related to Syria are bound to be discussed in Helsinki. The agreement on this area has already been reached and was fixed in the documents and decisions adopted by Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Donald Trump in Hamburg in July 2017 and in Danang in November 2017. Jordan supported these decisions.
"These decisions provide for a certain sequence of actions, as a result of which no non-Syrian forces will be left in this region. The Syrian army will control the border with Israel. At the same time, there will be a zero tolerance policy with regard to Jabhat al-Nusra and ISIS units stationed in this area. The part of the agreements that depended on Russia to a certain extent has been largely fulfilled.
"Now we are trying to persuade our partners to do what they pledged to do under the two agreements reached last year. This primarily concerns the need to avoid any pretexts for not combatting terrorists and ousting them from this region.
"We see how the Western media discusses the subject of Iran in a very simplified context that is designed for a not very sophisticated audience: 'Iran must leave and everything will click into place.' This is applied not only to Syria but also to the entire region. It is alleged that Iran should leave, stay within its borders, and everything will be wonderful. This is absolutely unrealistic.
"It is impossible to seek solution to the region’s problems without the participation of its key countries, including Iran, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt, to name a few. All of the region’s countries have their own concerns and many have grievances against each other. As in any other area of the world, they should sit down at the negotiating table, state their concerns and start talking on how they can remove them on a mutually acceptable basis. There is no other way. It is necessary to act in the same vein as regards the settlement in Syria or any other problem in this volatile region."
(Mid.ru, July 4, 2018)
Russia Begins Reaping Economic Rewards From Syrian Intervention
According to the Russian Energy Ministry, a group of Russian oil and gas drilling companies started preliminary search on the Syrian shelf (part of Syria's exclusive economic zone) - the companies include: STG-Engineering, Zarubezhneft, Zarubezhgeologia, Technopromexport. The ministry added in a press-release that Russia is checking the feasibility of reconstructing Syrian oil plants and infrastructure. Moreover, the geologic study is being conducted onshore and in the sea.
Quoting a "diplomatic source", TASS reported that Serbia sent Russia a request for supplies of "a regimental package of S-300PMU-2 that consists of a regimental command post and two missile battalions."
In April 2017, Serbian PM Alexander Vucic said that Belgrade would like to have two battalions and the command point of the Russian antiaircraft missile system S-300 Favorit. Vucic also said that the S-300 were too expensive for Serbia but Russia offered its intention to help with aid.
(Tass.com, July 4, 2018)
However, Serbian Defense Minister Aleksandar Vulin refuted reports on his country's purchase of Russia’s S-300 missile systems. "Serbia has a high level of cooperation with Russia, but the news on buying S-300 systems is inconsistent with the reality," the minister said in a statement.
(Tass.com, July 5, 2018)
News In Brief
- "There has been much speculation lately in the media regarding the situation within the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) and Russia’s contributions to the Council of Europe budget… In the summer of 2017, a decision was taken to suspend the payment of contributions to the Council of Europe “until the delegation of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation to PACE is fully and unconditionally restored in its rights.” A year has passed since that time, and the rights of Russian MPs have not been restored. Accordingly, there is no reason to resume contributions." (Mid.ru, July 4, 2018; read the full statement)
- A senior Russian diplomat has told reporters that the country has everything to launch its own independent internet, but added that this would be done only if things go completely sour due to the efforts of Western partners. (Rt.com, July 3, 2018; read the full article)
- The Russian Security Council has asked the country’s government to develop an independent internet infrastructure for BRICS nations, which would continue to work in the event of global internet malfunctions. (Rt.com, November 28, 2017; read the full article)