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memri
May 26, 2018 No.
7493

Russia This Week – May 27, 2018

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


Russian President Vladimir Putin and French President Emmanuel Macron took part in the Russia-France Business Dialogue panel discussion at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum. (Source: Kremlin.ru)

Putin Says


(Source: Kremlin.ru)

During the Russia-France Business Dialogue panel discussion at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, Russian President Vladimir Putin said:

"I will disappoint Emmanuel: Germany is no longer our number one partner. China has long snatched first place in terms of investment and trade. Our trade with China is approaching $850 billion. Sorry, it is $86 billion. I would like to say that our trade with the EU used to be $450 billion, but it has plunged by half over the past few years, while our trade with China has grown. It has backslid a bit, but it is still growing consistently. It will definitely grow to $100 billion soon. Sorry, 850 billion was a slip of the tongue."

(Kremlin.ru, May 25, 2018)

Quote Of The Week

Secretary of Russia’s Security Council Nikolai Patrushev said at a meeting with his counterparts from the Shanghai Cooperation Organization:

"The U.S. and its allies are stepping up military and political, economic and information pressure on the new centers of power, using propaganda campaigns, the policy of confrontation, sanctions and provocations. The result of this line is the unprecedented growth in the conflict potential in international relations…

"Given this circumstance, the strategic role of the SCO in forming a polycentric world order is growing. Only coherent and coordinated work will contribute to the growth of the organization’s authority on the international arena."

(Tass.com, May 22, 2018)

In The News:

Sanctions

The State Duma has passed legislation adopting counter sanctions against the U.S. in a third and final reading – according to the adopted law the government upon the decision of the Russian Federation's President is entitled to take various measures that do not extend to life-saving products having no substitutes produced in Russia. The president may take appropriate measures upon the advice of the Russian Federation's Security Council such as restricting the import certain goods and services to Russia from "unfriendly states". In contrast to the original draft, the final version of the law does not specify product and service categories and as mentioned exempts life-saving goods.

(Tass.ru, May 22, 2018)

Read More:

  • The First Deputy Head of the ruling United Russia faction, Andrei Isayev, told reporters that the chairman of the Council for Legislation at the State Duma has discussed the possibility of making any compliance or support for the introduction of sanctions against Russia the equivalent of treason,. This followed a council session at which the MPs discussed the draft law on criminal responsibility for the implementation of the U.S. sanctions in Russia. (Tass.com, May 23, 2018; Read the full article)

Russia-UK Relations

The House of Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee issued a report, dubbed "Moscow's Gold: Russian Corruption In The UK." The document calls on the British government "to sanction more Kremlin-connected individuals."

Commenting on this same report, Russian Presidential Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said:

"We are witnessing Great Britain’s rather unprecedented Russia-hating mania, which manifests itself in various ways. You can see for yourself that the tidal wave of hate against Russia does not stem from any events regarding Great Britain and its citizens, but it was triggered by a provocation staged by the UK - I mean the so called Skripal case."

(Tass.com, May 21, 2018)

The Russian Embassy in the UK Press Officer commented on the new report on Russia by the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee:

Q: "Today the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee published a report “Moscow’s Gold: Russian Corruption in the UK”. How would you comment on that?"

Russian Embassy in the UK: "We are carefully studying this report and its recommendations. Meanwhile, one cannot help but notice at first sight that it is another anti-Russian undertaking by the parliamentary committee aimed at supporting the UK claims to play a leading role in the Western bloc to 'deter Russia'. The 2015 National Security Strategy, Prime Minister’s Banquet Speech in November 2017, unsubstantiated accusations against Russia of poisoning Sergei and Yulia Skripal, the 'fusion doctrine' outlined on 1 May by National Security Adviser Sir Mark Sedwill are all integral parts of the reckless policy of UK political leadership against Russia.

"Instead of cooperating with Russia in tackling corruption and money laundering, which normally would be in everyone’s interests, the British side prefers to use this issue to fuel its anti-Russian campaign.

"We would like to remind MPs that these are UK authorities, not Russia, that illegally harbor more than 60 Russian nationals charged in Russia with different offences, including financial crimes, and refuse to extradite them under artificial human rights-related pretexts.

"It looks as if the purpose of this report is not to help tackle corruption in the UK, but to try to ensure a long-term negative impact on Russian companies and individuals operating under English jurisdiction.

"The report champions the idea of mounting pressure against the Russian state and business. London has been trying to achieve this within the framework of G7 and G20. In the latter case it seems complicated as many of its members do not share British interpretation of international law and are not subject to the Western bloc discipline, as one could witness in the case of the Skripals’ poisoning and during the strikes against Syria conducted by the US, UK and France in flagrant violation of international law.

"We have to state that the blatant anti-Russian policy of the British government will have a long-term negative effect both on the United Kingdom and our bilateral relations."

(Rusemb.org.uk, May 21, 2018)

Read More:

  • Peskov said that London’s actions in preparing a report on ‘dirty money’ from Moscow, provide evidence that investors from other countries contributing money to the UK economy may face a similar threat. (Tass.com, May 21, 2018; Read the full article)

Russia-Germany Relations – Der Spiegel: Berlin Needs A Realpolitik Approach When It Comes To Moscow

On May 9, the German news magazine Der Spiegel published an article, titled "Is Germany's Special Relationship with Russia Ending?"

Below are excerpts from the article:

"… The relationship between Germans and Russians has long been a particularly emotional one. As absurd as it might sound, World War II did not alienate the Germans and the Russians from one another, but rather brought them closer together. No other country was as enthusiastic about the Gorbachev era and the end of the Soviet Union as the Germans. That could help explain why there is now such great disappointment at the fact that the distance between the two countries has begun growing again.

"It's little wonder, then, that the new foreign minister's tone has provoked a debate in Germany. In a recent interview with Der Spiegel, [German Minister of Foreign Affairs Heiko] Maas claimed that Russia was 'increasingly hostile.' He rejected the partial dismantling of sanctions… and suggested that the West increase the pressure on Russia when it comes to Syria…

"It shows how tense the situation has become. For the first time since the end of World War II, Berlin expelled Russian diplomats absent any suspicion of espionage but rather as punishment for the nerve agent attack on ex-spy Sergei Skripal in London. In recent years, Germany has imposed sanctions, increased its military spending and, as a member of NATO, stationed troops in the Baltics. They are all part of a policy of containment, one which has also involved efforts to maintain dialogue with Russia…

"What, then, should be done? The Russia question is no longer some academic exercise in foreign policy circles. Ever since the right-wing populist party Alternative for Germany has adopted the issue as a central plank in its political platforms, German-Russian relations have become a crucial election issue, particularly in eastern Germany.

"Indeed, there is a deep division in Germany that runs between the east and the west and between Russophiles and Russia skeptics. The division cuts through the country's established parties, particularly the Social Democrats but the disconnect is also apparent in the CDU and even within the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP). The Russia issue is one that crosses party lines…

"If the SPD sees Ostpolitik as its defining principle then for the CDU, it is the alignment with the West. After all, it was Konrad Adenauer, Germany's first postwar chancellor and the man who led the CDU into the new era that guided Germany into the European Community and NATO…

"Finally, Putin wants the West to finally accept that Moscow regards the former states of the Soviet Union -- with the exception of the Baltic countries -- as part of Moscow's sphere of interests in which the Kremlin demands a say.

"Germany, of course, cannot offer such an official recognition, but it would make sense to de facto take these interests more into account. The fate of Ukraine shows that it is useless for the West to continue to insist on its principles when it cannot defend them against an unscrupulous Russia. Berlin needs a Realpolitik approach when it comes to Moscow.

"That also means that it is finally time not just to talk about dialogue but to actually practice it. A first step would be to revive government consultations such as those Germany holds with other countries, including non-democratic states like China. That could also help overcome the loss of trust between Moscow and Berlin. As a precondition, though, Russia would have to refrain from misleading the West with strategic lies."

(Derspiegel.de, May 9, 2018; Read the full article)

Russia-Bulgaria Relations


The President of Bulgaria, Rumen Radev, with Putin (Source: Kremlin.ru)

On May 22, Bulgarian President Rumen Radev met in Sochi with Putin.

Putin: "… As you know, President Radev came on our invitation to attend the events linked with the 140th anniversary of the liberation of the Bulgarian people from the Ottoman yoke, and the end of the liberation war. These are landmarks in the history of both Bulgaria and Russia.

"During our conversation, which was very detailed both in the restricted and expanded formats, I informed Mr. President about our priorities in building bilateral relations and Russia’s approaches to a number of international issues.

"I think Mr. President’s visit is a good signal for resuming full-fledged Russian-Bulgarian relations…"

President of Bulgaria Rumen Radev: "Mr. President, first of all, I would like to thank you for your invitation. The goal of our visit is to try to resume the top-level dialogue between our countries.

"Restoring trust will be very difficult, because we will have to do this after three major projects that were suspended because of confrontation between the European Union and NATO on the one hand and Russia on the other hand, in conditions of sanctions and restrictions.

"However, we have made the first step towards this. President Putin and I have conducted a strategic review of relations between our countries and identified the traditions and the huge potential of our countries in trade, energy, tourism, cultural development and transport.

"This will be a positive impetus for the Bulgarian Government, for taking a realistic stand and assuming a responsible attitude to the development of relations between our countries. This impetus will be taken up by Prime Minister Boyko Borissov, who plans to visit Russia soon.

"We also discussed international security issues of mutual concern. Bulgaria will do its best to promote dialogue and mutual understanding between our countries, because nobody wants to go back in the past and see a cold war between Russia and the EU. Therefore, we will work on this positive impetus in all spheres of our relations.

"There is still much we must do on the issues where we have problems and differences. I would like to repeat my invitation to President Putin to visit Bulgaria in this year of the 140th anniversary of Bulgaria’s liberation and victory in the Russo-Turkish War."

(Kremlin.ru, May 22, 2018)

On May 21, Radev met with the Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. In that occasion, Radev said that Bulgaria hopes that direct gas supplies from Russia to this country via the Black Sea will be reviewed. Radev said: "Russia has always been our strategic partner in the energy sector - as a supplier of natural gas, oil, and nuclear fuel, as a participant in the modernization and support of Bulgaria's nuclear power capacities."

On December 1, 2014, during his visit to Ankara, Putin said that Russia was abandoning the South Stream gas pipeline project, which was to be laid along the Black Sea to Bulgaria in order to supply gas to the countries of Southern and Central Europe. This decision was made in connection with the fact that the project faced opposition from the European Commission, which demanded that the project needed to be brought into line with the European antimonopoly legislation. At the same time, it was announced that it would be replaced with a similarly powerful pipeline that would pass through Turkey (it was later was called the Turkish Stream project).

(Tass.com, May 21, 2018)

Read More:

  • Bulgarian President Rumen Radev said that Bulgaria needs direct shipments of Russian gas via a pipeline through the Black Sea. He noted that such aspirations are no different from those of Germany with Nord Stream 2 and that such a project would benefit both Sofia and the EU in general. (Sputniknews.com, May 21, 2018; Read the full article)
  • After Russian-Bulgarian annual trade turnover declined from $5 bln to $2.1 bln in 2013-2015, it started growing again reaching $3.4 bln by late 2017. In January-March 2018, this figure stood at $882.3 mln, a nearly 8% decrease compared with last year. (Tass.com, May 21, 2018; Read the full article)

Russia-Venezuela Relations

The Russian MFA made the following comments after the elections in Venezuela:

"Venezuela held a presidential election on May 20. According to the National Electoral Council, 5.8 million voters supported the current head of state, Nicolás Maduro, and 1.8 million voted for the main opposition candidate, Henri Falcon.

"Despite the fanned up hysteria, the election took place in a calm and peaceful atmosphere, which points to the high civic responsibility of those Venezuelans who came to the polling stations and their commitment to the democratic procedure of the expression of will.

"Regrettably, the outside factor played a negative role in the election process. The United States and a number of other countries openly and officially, including at the government level, declared their refusal to recognize a priori the results of the voting. Understandably, this attitude is fraught with serious long-term repercussions. Indicatively, this campaign was conducted also against those who were ready to come to ballot boxes and show their preferences in a peaceful manner even despite their refusal to accept the current Venezuelan realities.

"This has created a dangerous precedent, when the legitimacy of the election process is made dependent not even on the position of international observers invited to monitor the elections (300 experts from 40 countries of Latin America, Asia, North America and Europe and a number of international organizations) but on the viewpoint declared by certain states in advance. We believe it is very important to consider this circumstance for Latin American countries that experience at times difficult periods in their history.

"There is no doubt that appeals not to recognize the results of the election are bound to create a government vacuum, which is fraught with serious destabilization inside the country and beyond. Every state should have a government, in particular, as a guarantor of socioeconomic rights and needs of the population. The way to fully fulfill them in Venezuela lies in nationwide dialogue and reconciliation.

"We believe this approach will become the foundation for the activities of the new government that will be formed after the election. Importantly, the logic of the development of domestic processes and actions of all political forces in the country should strictly conform to the provisions of the Constitution and norms of national legislation."

(Mid.ru, May 21, 2018)

Read More:

  • Vladimir Putin sent a congratulatory message to Nicolas Maduro on the occasion of his re-election as President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. (Kremlin.ru, May 21, 2018; Read the full statement)
  • Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Pankin said that imposing sanctions on Venezuela will not help resolve the crisis in the country. Pankin said: "It is counterproductive trying to aggravate the situation in Venezuela and exert pressure on the country threatening to impose sanctions, moreover, it is illegal from the standpoint of international law." (Tass.com, May 22, 2018; Read the full article)