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May 21, 2018 No.
7479

Russia This Week – May 21, 2018 – Part I

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.

Photos Of The Week

Vladimir Putin met with German Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel at the Bocharov Ruchei residence in Sochi.

(Source: Kremlin.ru, May 18, 2018)


The President of Syria, Bashar al-Assad, made a working visit to Russia.

(Source: Krmelin.ru, May 17, 2018)


Vladimir Putin took part in the opening ceremony of the Crimean Bridge motorway section and drove the lead vehicle of the construction equipment convoy. (Source: Kremlin.ru, May 15, 2018)


(Source: Kremlin.ru, May 15, 2018)

Quote Of The Week


Ramzan Kadyrov (Source: Shakhty.su)

Chechen Republic Head Ramzan Kadyrov blames France for "raising and breeding" the latest terrorist of Chechen origin who stabbed by passers in Paris on May 13:

"There have been reports from France about a tragic incident in the center of Paris. A young man stabbed random passers-by. On them has succumbed from his wounds. The lives of the other four are not in danger. The criminal is eliminated. I express my condolences to the family and next of kin of the person killed by that criminal. The French police report that the knife-armed youth is Khamzat Azimov, a French national, a native of Russia of Chechen extraction.

"Indeed, Khamzat Azimov received a Russian passport upon the age of 14. Yet, this passport is currently invalid, since Azimov has not renewed it upon the age of 20. In this connection, I should declare that the French authorities bear full responsibility for the fact that Khamzat Azimov embarked on a criminal path. He was merely born in Chechnya, but grew up in French society, while his views, personality and beliefs were formed while he was living there. …

"Western countries have created hothouse conditions for those who feel enmity towards Russia in general and Chechnya in particular, Western intelligence service prepare ([such people] for acting in the Middle East conflict zones to replenish the ranks of ISIS. Probably, some of those sponsored are getting out of control and commit such crimes. I remind once again Khamzat grew up in France and became a criminal in that country. I'm confident that if he had spent his childhood and teenage years in Chechnya, Khamzat's fate would have turned out differently".

(T.me/RKadyrov_95, May 13, 2018)

In The News:

Putin-Assad Meeting – Assad: The Positions Of Russia On The Global Stage Are Becoming Stronger Thanks To Your Actions


(Source: Kremlin.ru)

Following the talks, the Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad issued statements on the results of the Russian-Syrian talks.

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: "Mr. President,

"I am happy to see you in Russia. At the beginning of our meeting I would like to congratulate you on the start of the holy month of Ramadan.

"I would also like to congratulate you on the major success of the Syrian Government Army in the struggle against terrorist units. Due to the efforts of your army recently, important steps have been made towards the further consolidation of the legitimate government. Terrorists have laid down arms in key areas of Syria, which made it possible to restore the country’s infrastructure, push them back and practically end their operations near the Syrian capital.

"And, of course, after these military successes, additional conditions have certainly been created for the resumption of the full political process.

"Much has been done during the Astana process. Much was accomplished at the Syrian National Dialogue Congress in Sochi. Now we can take further steps jointly with you. The next goal is, of course, economic recovery and humanitarian relief for the people who have found themselves in a predicament.

"As you know, we are in contact with all sides of this complicated process, including the United Nations and Special Envoy of the Secretary-General Staffan de Mistura.

"I would like to discuss with you all of these areas of our joint work. Welcome! "

President of Syria Bashar al-Assad: "Thank you very much, Mr. President.

"First of all, I would like to congratulate you on the start of your new term in office. I believe that this election success proves the correctness of your policy both domestically and internationally since the Russian people see that the positions of your country on the global stage are becoming stronger thanks to your actions.

"And I am happy to meet with you in Sochi again after our meeting several months ago. A great many positive changes have occurred in between these two meetings. First of all, the fight against terrorism. The terrorist-controlled areas have decreased significantly. Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have been able to return to their homes in recent weeks, millions more Syrians are on the way.

"Stability is improving, and this opens doors for the political process that we launched some time ago. I always said, and I will repeat it now, that we always enthusiastically support the political process that should unfold alongside the fight against terrorism.

"We know that it is not going to be easy as there are countries that do not want stability in Syria. However, we will firmly move on with you and with our other partners on the issue of the peace process to achieve peace. Today’s meeting gives us a good opportunity to work out our joint positions for the coming period regarding the negotiating process in Astana and Sochi.

"Thank you again, I would like to especially thank the Russian Armed Forces, particularly the Aerospace Forces, which have played a very important role in fighting terrorism."

Vladimir Putin: "Thank you."

(Kremlin.ru, May 17, 2018)

Read also:

Putin-Merkel Meeting – Merkel: It Is In Our Strategic Interests To Maintain Good Relations With Russia


(Source: Kremlin.ru)

On May 18, 2018, Russian President Vladimir Putin met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Sochi.

Putin: "Madam Chancellor, ladies and gentlemen,

"I would like to thank Federal Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel for accepting Russia’s invitation to come to Sochi on a working visit.

"We have many subjects to discuss. We completed the first part of the talks, and after the news conference, we will continue in an extended format.

"We have already exchanged views on bilateral political, trade, economic, cultural and humanitarian ties. We also discussed pressing international matters.

"Russia and Germany believe that maintaining regular contacts is necessary and important, despite the challenging international environment and the diverging views we have on a number of global issues. Russia is ready to work with our German colleagues on a mutually beneficial basis, taking into consideration the interests of our peoples.

"Germany has traditionally been one of Russia’s main foreign trade partners, second only to the People’s Republic of China. In 2017, bilateral trade increased by 23 percent, and was up by 13 percent in the first two months of 2018.

"Investment cooperation is on the rise. Russian investment in Germany currently exceeds $8 billion, while Germany has invested more than $18 billion, almost five percent of the total direct foreign investment in the Russian economy.

"Almost 5,000 German companies operate in Russia with a total turnover that exceeds $50 billion, and some 270,000 jobs. At the same time, about 1,500 Russian companies operate in Germany.

"We believe that the governments of the two countries must remain proactive in their efforts to facilitate bilateral trade, as well as cooperation in industry and technology.

"Energy is a priority area in terms of the partnership between our countries. We discussed all aspects of our cooperation in this field, including infrastructure projects such as Nord Stream 2.

"Let me point out that we always viewed this as a purely economic project, which has always been handled by business entities, and has always been kept free from any political considerations.

"I would also like to note that Russia does not intend to stop gas transit though Ukraine once Nord Stream 2 is launched. Madam Federal Chancellor and I also discussed this today, since she raised the question. Let me emphasize that transit will continue, if it makes economic sense for the economic actors involved.

"I would like to mention our humanitarian and cultural cooperation. We are now completing the Year of Municipal and Regional Partnerships between the two countries. We are getting ready to hold the Year of Scientific and Educational Partnerships, and a large concert program Russian Seasons in 2019. We continue active contacts between our civil societies, in particular, the St. Petersburg Dialogue, Potsdam Meetings and the Germany-Russia Forum.

"I discussed in detail with Ms. Chancellor a number of key international issues. First, we exchanged views on the situation around the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on the Iranian nuclear issue after the unilateral withdrawal of the U.S. from the agreement. We also exchanged opinions on the exacerbated situation in the Middle East.

"We discussed the problem of the Syrian crisis. We stated that it is necessary to make a contribution to a political settlement, in particular at the Astana and Geneva venues, to stabilize the situation on the ground, and provide humanitarian relief to the population of Syria.

"We acknowledge the striving of the Federal Republic of Germany to take a serious part in restoring the socio-economic structure of that country. It is important that any assistance be granted by agreement with the legitimate authorities.

"We touched on the situation in Ukraine. We both believe that there is no alternative to the Minsk Agreements in terms of a settlement. Of course, we will continue to work together in the Normandy format and facilitate the productive activities of the Contact Group in Minsk. We instructed our foreign policy offices to seriously consider the creation of a UN mission on facilitating the protection of OSCE observers in Donbass.

"In conclusion, I would sincerely like to thank Ms. Federal Chancellor once again for a meaningful and open exchange of views that was timely and useful.

"Thank you for your attention.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel: "I am also grateful for the opportunity to be here today and to participate in the talks. Last year, around this time, I was here as well, when we discussed preparations for the G20 summit, and we enjoyed close and friendly cooperation.

"We discussed bilateral cooperation. There are also economic ties, and the Petersburg Dialogue, which the President mentioned. For my part, I stressed that media issues are crucial in some cases and proposed reviewing them again, as well as issues pertaining to freedom of culture.

"We always welcome Russia’s cultural institutions’ activities, such as concerts; though the Year of Science will also be important for cooperation and civil society, and we support it.

"We maintain a regular and open exchange with each other to discuss differences of opinion.

"Of course, we covered Ukraine extensively in our conversation. There are the Minsk Agreements, which are the only foundation that we can use to conduct our work. Unfortunately, major ceasefire violations took place today. Therefore, we need to continue to think about the UN mission.

"We coordinate our actions, and our foreign ministers should continue to work on this. It would be a step forward in terms of stabilizing the situation in order to carry out certain political steps, which were agreed upon in Minsk.

"We also discussed the importance of gas transit for Ukraine. Germany is convinced, and Peter Altmaier, our Economics Minister also held talks this week to make sure that even after the construction of Nord Stream 2, Ukraine's role as a transit country should continue, as it is of strategic importance.

"Germany is also willing to play its part and provide assistance. We also consider Nord Stream 2 an economic and commercial project, but it has other angles as well, so we need to think about guarantees for Ukraine in this regard.

"We spoke about Syria; we had a very intensive exchange on Syria. I think the UN-led process presents an opportunity we must explore. There is the Astana group and the so-called small group of states.

"Further steps need to be taken to work out a joint action plan that would be discussed in working groups. We are doing all we can to support the work of the UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura.

"We discussed the complex situation brought about by the U.S. withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal. The agreement has the support of Germany, Britain, France and all our European Union colleagues. We will continue to adhere to it. An unusual situation has arisen and we on the European side are discussing it with Iran.

"I do not think this agreement is perfect, but it is better than no agreement, so these negotiations with Iran should continue and we agree that the ballistic missile program should continue to be discussed.

"In general, the situation in the region is fairly tense, so everything should be done to conduct the political negotiations that would gradually lead to a political solution. Therefore, it would be good if what we have agreed upon in Sochi – the constitutional process – that representatives be appointed for it. That would create one element sought for by Mr. de Mistura.

"These are important negotiations. I think these major problems can only be resolved if we discuss the topics on which our opinions differ, discuss these topics, analyze them, and try to bridge the gaps, to discuss the facts together and to seek solutions; therefore, the negotiations have been important and we will continue these negotiations later. "

Question: "A question for the Federal Chancellor. You spoke about a renaissance in German-Russian relations against the backdrop of problems with the U.S. President. Ms. Chancellor, German and other Western companies are complaining that the Russian Parliament is drafting a law that will require foreign companies to not abide by the sanctions and will threaten them with fines if they do. Does this not subvert the efforts of German and other foreign companies to invest in Russia? Why do you think this law makes sense? "

Angela Merkel: "We have a firm trans-Atlantic friendship that has endured many opinions and positions in history. I think this time it will be the same. This does not call into question the intensity of trans-Atlantic relations.

"It is in our strategic interests to maintain good relations with Russia, and in the most difficult times, I have always been for the continued work of the Russia-NATO Council and EU contacts. I believe it is absolutely vital to maintain a dialogue.

"Our civil societies maintain extensive ties, and this German-Russian cooperation has to withstand serious and fundamental differences. But again, I will emphasize that if we want to solve problems, we need to communicate with each other, we need to conduct a dialogue.

"There are matters on which we have a common opinion and there are also matters on which we do not agree. At the same time, when we speak a lot about each other, we should always find an opportunity to talk to each other and this is always an element of our cooperation. Therefore, I think we are meeting at a good time now."

Vladimir Putin: "If you allow me, I would also start with the first part of your question.

"I do not think there is any need to link relations between Russia and the Federal Republic of Germany with our relations with third countries. As I said, Germany is one of our key trade and economic partners.

"Several years ago, our trade stood at around $80 billion, now, thank God, [after a slump] it has started growing again to reach $50 billion. Hundreds of thousands of jobs, both in Russia and in Germany, by the way, depend on our cooperation. Hundreds of thousands.

"We have once again started buying large quantities of German goods. This supports jobs in Germany. Add cooperation and joint ventures – it adds up to thousands. This is an important factor that makes a difference to the lives of Germans and Russians. We have never suspended contact with each other even in the most complicated times.

"Life moves forward, develops, and new opportunities arise. Old problems cannot be solved without a dialogue, I think everybody understands that. Therefore, Russian-German relations have their own dynamic and are important in their own right.

"As for the law you mentioned, the one currently discussed by the State Duma, I agree with you that it needs to be balanced. However, MPs in this country and in yours are often guided by emotion.

"However, concerning the existence of such a law, I would like to draw your attention to the fact that Europe has such a law, and as far as I know, it has been mentioned in Brussels, indeed our colleagues in united Europe want to make use of this law to protect their interests against transborder sanctions, in this case sanctions on the part of the United States.

"I see nothing extraordinary in Russia passing a similar law. However, and I agree with you there as well, it has to be balanced; it should not harm our own economy and those of our partners, who work honestly in Russia. I am sure this will be the case.

"As you may know, parliament has postponed the adoption of this law to allow for additional consultations with the Russian Government, which was only formed today."

Question: "Good afternoon. I have a question for both leaders. As is customary, you discussed the situation in Ukraine. Given the circumstances, is it important to return as soon as possible to interaction under the Normandy format at the highest level? Did you discuss a possible date for the next Quartet meeting?"

"One more about Ukraine, if I may. Ms. Merkel, Ukraine has come up with a dangerous precedent related to freedom of speech. For absolutely far-fetched reasons, the editor-in-chief of RIA Novosti Ukraina news agency was detained there. In this regard, I would like to convey to you a request from all Russian reporters to use, perhaps, your substantial influence with the Kiev authorities to have him released and to stop this practice altogether. I am talking about Kirill Vyshinsky. Perhaps, Mr. President, you too can directly address the Kiev authorities."

Vladimir Putin: "As for the Normandy format, as I said, we consider this an important instrument for settling the situation in southeastern Ukraine, and Russia is willing to work in this format. Moreover, we consider it critically important. At least for the time being, there is no substitute for it. We did not discuss a specific date, but we spoke about the possibility. A summit should always be well prepared and worked through; our colleagues are working on this, including our respective aides and foreign ministries.

"With regard to the detained journalist, I agree with you, this is something unprecedented. A person is being charged with high treason for what he did publicly and for performing his professional duties. I have not seen anything like it in a long time. I cannot remember such a thing ever happening. We touched upon this, just like other issues that we run into in Ukraine, but I am not going to go into details."

Angela Merkel: "Of course, a summit can be held as part of the Normandy format but it needs to be properly prepared to bring results. The respective foreign ministers are already on it, and our new foreign ministers and the newly appointed Russian Foreign Minister have started working on it. They have started the preparations.

"Our advisers are maintaining contact. I think the next step should include the UN mission. We should try to develop a joint mandate to be able to discuss this topic at the Security Council later.

"There should also be a provision whereby the heads of state and government can meet any time, but such a meeting should be substantive and lead to actual progress. Much work is being done to get there, because the situation remains unsatisfactory.

"Second, with regard to the journalist, I will of course discuss today's visit with the Ukrainian President. I will bring up the fact that a Russian journalist was arrested for doing his job. We are concerned about that. "

Question: "Madam Federal Chancellor, Germany accepted over 700,000 Syrian refugees, most of whom probably want to return home. What signal do you have from Russia that it will exert pressure on Syria to resume the political process finally?

"And, Mr President, one question about Sergei Skripal, who left the hospital today. Can you give us your reaction? What do you think about the results of the investigation that has been complicated from a diplomatic standpoint?"

Angela Merkel: "I have already said that the issue of Syria was discussed and support expressed for the UN proposal to start the constitutional process. There were signals yesterday that Syria will also appoint its representatives from the Astana and Sochi groups. Other representatives should also be appointed.

"The political process is a must and it should begin. We want to facilitate it. I have already spoken about our concern, Executive Order 10. In Syria, people lose property if they do not declare it within a certain timeframe. This is very bad news for all those who would like to return to Syria in the future.

"We will discuss this in more detail today. We will ask Russia to use its influence to prevent Assad from doing this. If this happens, it will be a very serious obstacle to the return of refugees. "

Vladimir Putin: "As for the first part of your question, I would like to emphasize that refugees are already returning in large numbers to the regions liberated by the Syrian army. Moreover, people were transferred with the help of our military police to other regions of Syria, including Idlib, from areas that they left of their own free will, for instance, Eastern Ghouta. They are returning and asking to return. We are seeing this movement, it is taking place.

"We are talking about thousands of people. But what should be done? It is necessary to depoliticize humanitarian relief and economic recovery in Syria. If the Europeans want people to return home from Europe, it is necessary to remove the restrictions on aid to Syria that we do not understand, at least in the regions that are controlled by the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic.

"How will people return there if everything is destroyed? To be honest, Syria does not have much ability to fix this; they are very limited in what they can do. If Europe wants people to return home from Europe, it is necessary to help Syria rebuild its economy and provide real humanitarian relief. This process must be depoliticized. I am absolutely certain of this.

"Take Raqqa, for instance. Everything has been destroyed there and people continue to be killed by mines to this day, corpses lie amid the ruins, and on and on. How can people return there? Therefore, we should think and work on this together.

"Now regarding Mr Skripal. Yes, I also heard from the media today that he has been released from hospital. We wish him the best of health, we are really very happy. I have several considerations in this respect.

"First. I think if a combat-grade nerve agent had been used, as claimed by our British colleagues, the man would have died on the spot. A nerve agent is so powerful that a person dies instantly or within several seconds or minutes. Fortunately, he is alive, he got well, was released from hospital and I hope he will live a healthy and safe life.

"As to the investigation, on our part we offered every assistance in the investigation to our British partners on a number of occasions, and asked for access to this investigation. There has been no response so far. Our proposals remain in place."

Question: "Mr. President, you said you and Ms Merkel discussed the unilateral withdrawal of the United States from the JCPOA. In this connection, my first question is addressed to Ms Merkel. Secondary Iran sanctions will affect not only Russian but also European companies, including German ones. What measures do you contemplate to take in order to protect them?

"And in the follow-up to the topic of sanctions. Mr President, it was revealed that Donald Trump said the realisation of Nord Stream 2 is contrary to Europe’s interests and threatened to impose sanctions on those companies that will take part in the project. "

Vladimir Putin: "Has he threatened to impose sanctions? "

Question: "To impose sanctions… What is your forecast for the prospects of Nord Stream 2 in this context? And your forecast too, Ms. Merkel."

Angela Merkel: "On behalf of Europe and Europeans, we have our contacts with Iran; we speak about it so that Iran adheres to the agreement because I think it guarantees greater control and greater security. It was announced that Iran has complied with the agreement, according to the IAEA, so we shall see.

"It is possible that companies who want to invest money in Iran will be able to do so. We are discussing this in Brussels – a block, a blocking mechanism. But there must be no illusions here, the compensation will not be very large. These are economic decisions taken by the companies themselves.

"Nevertheless, our position is that it would be in Iran’s interests to continue to comply with the JCPOA. This agreement was endorsed by the UN Security Council, which means it has an international foundation. And it would also be beneficial for Iran to say, Yes, we are going to comply with our commitments."

Vladimir Putin: "With regard to Nord Stream 2 – I already mentioned it earlier; we discussed it in the context of our other energy projects. We maintain diverse cooperation in this sphere, which has been going on for many decades quite successfully.

"The position of the United States on Nord Stream 2 has long been known. In this sense, you could say it is a rare instance of continuity between the current administration and the administration of President Obama. We see nothing new here. This position is dictated by two considerations, as we are told.

"First, it is about supporting Ukraine, which does not want to develop relations with Russia, but gladly takes our gas transit money. This is about $2–3 billion a year. They want us to give Ukraine a little bit of our money. As a matter of fact, we do not mind. I have already said that we would be willing to keep this transit in place provided it makes economic sense, which can be achieved through negotiations. We are ready for such negotiations with Ukraine.

"After all, the fact of the matter is that Nord Stream 2 can be used not only to supply gas directly to Germany. It can also be used to supply gas to other European countries, with the falling production in Great Britain and Norway in mind.

"The European countries’ need for this commodity is on the rise, and their own production is falling. That is the point. However, Donald is not just President of the United States, but also a good, strong businessman, so I think he is promoting his business with an eye towards securing US liquefied gas sales on the European market. Is that possible? It is. However, it is expensive – about 25, even 30 percent more expensive than Russian pipeline gas supplied to Europe.

"They have built a bunch of LNG terminals in Europe, which are used at about 25–30 percent of capacity. That is it. Why? They do not make much economic sense. Liquefied gas is too expensive. That is the snag. However, I understand President Trump. He is protecting his business and wants to promote his product on the European market.

"However, it is up to us and our ability to build relationships with our partners. It depends on our partners in Europe. The project is open to other partners, not just the ones who are already on board.

"As far as I know, the construction of a gas pumping station in Germany began at a Nord Stream 2 gas delivery point. We are also doing our part. We believe it is a lucrative project for us. We will fight for it."

(Kremlin.ru, May 18, 2018)

America's Withdrawal From The Iran Nuclear Deal

In an article for the newspaper Kommersant Elena Chernenko and Anastasiya Shubunova write that Tehran is demanding "unrealistic guaranties" of JCPOA participants following the U.S. withdrawal from the deal in order to preserve the agreement. According to the article Iranian FM Muhammad Javad Zarif made it clear during his meeting with his Russian counterpart Lavrov that Iran wants to continue benefitting economically if it continues the restraints on its nuclear program. Yet, according to Russian experts it will be enormously difficult to protect international business from secondary sanctions in case of financial cooperation with Tehran. According to the experts, the European companies and the Russian ones will have to choose between protecting their interactions with U.S. companies and doing business with Tehran.

(Kommersant.ru, May 15, 2018)

During a meeting in Moscow with Iranian FM Mohammad Javad Zarif, Russian FM Sergey Lavrov said:

"We appreciate this opportunity to meet in Moscow to exchange opinions on the crisis that has developed over the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on Iran’s nuclear program.

"We know that in the next few days you plan to talk with all parties to this agreement, with the exception of the United States, which has announced its withdrawal from it. Regrettably, we once again see Washington’s intention to revise the main international agreements, such as the JCPOA, Jerusalem and other arrangements.

"Today, we hope to discuss the possibility of rallying the assistance of the three main European countries plus China, Russia, Iran and the European Union to use the available methods to prevent the destruction of this crucial document, regional destabilization and new threats to the non-proliferation regime.

"As far as we know, the above three European countries, China, Iran and Russia have announced their intention to comply with the JCPOA provisions. Today we would like to hold an in-depth discussion of your plans and our common actions in this field.

"We will definitely discuss this. I can understand Iran’s desire to protect its legitimate interests. However, I would like to say that Russia and the other parties to this agreement – China and Europe – also have their legitimate interests, which have been stipulated in this agreement and approved by the UN Security Council. This is why we should work together to protect the legitimate interests of every one of us."

(Mid.ru, May 14, 2018)

Read also:

  • European countries have come under the gun from Washington over the Iranian nuclear deal, Russia’s FM Sergey Lavrov said at a press conference. (Tass.com, May 15, 2018; Read the full article)
  • Moscow does not rule out a scenario of Iran’s pullout from the nuclear deal, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said at a session of the Valdai international discussion club. (Tass.com, May 15, 2018; Read the full article)
  • Threats by US administration representatives to impose sanctions against European companies for cooperation with Iran are nothing more than flagrant and unabashed blackmail, Chairman of the State Duma Committee for Foreign Affairs Leonid Slutsky said. ((Tass.com, May 14, 2018; Read the full article)

Russia’s Federation Council: Since 2011The U.S. Has Acted To Topple Putin

The Committee in Defense of State Sovereignty is due to present a draft report to the Federation Council purporting that since 2011 (i.e. already before Russia's annexation of Crimea) the US has had a concrete goal of impeding president Putin from running for office. According to the senators, the American attempts to influence Russian citizens were made long before Donald Trump took office and the declaration in U.S. law that Russia was "an official adversary of the collective West". The report claims that in order to achieve the goal of impeding Putin to run for additional terms, definite attempts were made "to discredit Putin's personality and his internal and foreign policies... to drive a division of president's inner circle including his long-time friends and colleagues". Moreover, according to Andrey Klimov, the committee chair, there were attempts to isolate the Russian president in the global arena as well as in the Russian Federation.

Klimov stressed that the unfriendly policy towards Russia included organizing and hyping through the press and by other means scandals and problems including far-fetched ones, in order to provoke Russian leadership to act inadequately, "to provoke our leadership into making unacceptable mistakes. "

(Ria.ru, May 14, 2018)

Russia’s Army And Navy

The Russian Navy will get the Poseidon nuclear-armed unmanned underwater vehicles as part of the current State Armament Program for 2018-2027.

(Tass.com, May 12, 2018)

On May 15, 2018, Putin met with Defense Ministry senior officials in the first of a series of meetings on the development of the Armed Force.

Putin: "… Clearly, we need to keep moving, consistently modernize the Army and the Navy, develop them in all core areas.

"The strategic nuclear forces undoubtedly are critically important for defense and security. In accordance with the State Armament Program we will continue the scheduled replacement of expired Topol missile systems with cutting-edge Yars systems. Fourteen missile regiments will have to be equipped with them by the end of December.

"During the year the air component of the “nuclear triad” will be reinforced with upgraded Tu-95MS and Tu-160 missile carriers that will carry modern long-range cruise missiles Kh-101 and Kh-102. The construction of Borei strategic missile submarines is to proceed strictly according to schedule.

"One of the priorities is improving means of countering high-precision weapons and their carriers. We must actively develop and enhance technological capabilities in air defense, continue modernizing the Pantsir complex, and complete the design and preparations for batch production of the newest S-500 system which is capable of operating at ultra-high altitudes including near space.

"Please report on how work is progressing in these areas.

"Absolute priorities include increasing the Navy’s combat capabilities, primarily by equipping vessels with Kalibr missiles, and installing cutting-edge reconnaissance and target designation systems. Their use will considerably enhance precision and will ensure a high concentration of strikes on target.

"And it is definitely crucial to develop the Land Forces. They play a special role in ensuring Russia’s security. They must be prepared to promptly and effectively neutralise potential threats in all strategic areas.

"We must continue to provide units with cutting-edge weapons and equipment including combat vehicles based on the Armata, Kurganets-25, Bumerang, and Taifun unified platforms, and to provide personnel with Ratnik infantry combat gear…"

(Kremlin.ru, May 15, 2018)

During the second meeting on the development of the Armed Forces, Putin said:

"… The scope of the Navy’s tasks has increased noticeably over the past few years. The area of its operation has also expanded, primarily in the Mediterranean, North Atlantic and the maritime area of the Asia-Pacific region.

"I will especially note the efficient and coordinated actions of the crews of our ships and submarines during the military operation in Syria. The cruise missile attacks and the effective work of the carrier aviation dealt a serious blow to the terrorists, destroying important infrastructure facilities.

"The accomplishment of these and other complicated and important tasks was largely possible due to the high combat and technical readiness of the Navy.

"The build-up of the Navy’s combat potential and the practice of long-distance naval campaigns, exercises and maneuvers should certainly continue.

"This year’s plan includes 102 expeditions of ships and submarines. At the same time, with the continuing threat of attacks by international terrorists in Syria in the Mediterranean Sea, our ships armed with Kalibr cruise missiles will be on a constant military watch.

"It is necessary to strengthen the naval component of the Strategic Nuclear Forces – this will increase the role of the Navy in terms of nuclear deterrence.

"The development of multipurpose naval groups to reliably ward off military threats from the sea remains an important task.

"At the same time, special attention should be paid to coordinating the actions of such groups with the Aerospace Forces, and other arms and services of the Armed Forces.

"We will certainly continue to equip the Navy with cutting-edge systems of weapons, communications, reconnaissance and targeting as part of the state armament program.

"As before, the requirements for quality and deadlines for fulfilling the state defense order should remain the most stringent.

"There are certainly issues here, concerning both the development of new equipment and the repair of surface ships and submarines…"

(Kremlin.ru, May 16, 2018)

Ilya Kramnik is somewhat skeptical of this optimistic prognosis in an article that he wrote for Izvestia:

"If everything keeps proceeding as it is going now, then by 2030 Russia will essentially remain without a naval fleet. Of course, there still will be a military branch called the Military Naval Fleet of Russian Federation, but the maximum it will be capable of is to defend its own bases, parts of the coast line and rare demonstration actions outside the immediate seas. Moreover, the fleet's capacity to meet the important task of providing the combat resilience of the strategic nuclear forces' naval component will be questionable."

Kramnik writes further that naval modernization projects such as supplying Borei and Yassen class nuclear submarines have failed to meet the production deadlines, and delivery to the fleet is 1-3 years behind schedule. Moreover, the delivery of surface ships has also been disrupted. Of the 35-40 surface vessels scheduled for delivery by 2020, only 14 will be probably delivered on time. Many other modernization/repair programs have also failed to meet the deadlines and delivery requirements. According to Kramnik, plans for building a new aircraft carrier and the "Leader" destroyer project were essentially scrapped.

(Iz.ru, April 25, 2018)

News In Brief

  • President of France Emmanuel Macron will pay an official visit to St Petersburg on May 24–25 at Vladimir Putin’s invitation. He is due to attend the St Petersburg International Economic Forum as a guest of honor. (Kremlin.ru)
  • On May 25–26, Vladimir Putin will meet with the Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe. (Kremlin.ru)
  • On May 14, General of the Army Sergei Shoigu, the Russian Acting Defense Minister, held negotiations with Colonel General Sedki Sobhy, the Defense Minister of Egypt. "We see stable progress of expanding cooperation in the military sphere. We salute Egypt’s aspiration to equip its armed forces with modern armament and military hardware made in Russia," Sergei Shoigu stressed. (Eng.mil.ru, May 14, 2018; Read the full article)