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.
Cartoon Of The Week
Quote Of The Week:
Ret. Lieutenant General Buzhinsky: We Face The Beginning Of A Strategic Containment Era
Talking about Russia-US relations, retired Lieutenant General Evgeny Buzhinsky, vice president of the Russian International Affairs Council, said:
"… In the current situation it's impossible to get back to previous strategic partnership. We face the beginning of a strategic containment era, underpinned by Russian asymmetrical measures. Of course, no one will be dragged into a new arms race, asymmetrical measures will fully suffice to provide [Russia's] security."
(Kommersant.ru, October 24, 2018)
In The News:
- Bolton's Visit To Russia
- Reactions To Trump's Pledge To Pull Out Of The INF Treaty
- Russia, Turkey, Germany and France Meeting On Syrian Settlement
- Russia-Italy Relations
- Unveiled In Russia A "Wall Of Remembrance" With The Names Of More Than 6 Thousand Victims of Stalin's Repression
- News In Brief
Bolton's Visit To Russia
On October 23, Russian President Putin met with U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton. Russian participants at the meeting were Presidential Aide Yury Ushakov, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev.
Earlier that day, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu met with John Bolton. On October 22, Nikolai Patrushev and Sergei Lavrov also had talks with the Assistant to the US President.
During the meeting, in commenting on U.S. policy, Putin teased Bolton, asking him whether the eagle on the Great Seal of the United States had eaten the olives on the olive branches – a symbol of peace – leaving only the arrows.
Bolton also teased Putin, reminding him that the U.S. motto is "E pluribus unum," – "out of many, one."
See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 7727, Russia This Week – Focus On The INF Treaty – October 24, 2018.
During US National Security Adviser John Bolton's visit, Russian presidential aide Yuri Ushakov said that an agreement was reached to organize a Russian-US summit with Trump and Putin, in Paris on November 11 on the sidelines of the centennial celebrations of the armistice that endedWorld War I.
(Tass.com, October 24, 2018)
Summary Of Bolton's Visit
Nezygar Telegram channel summarized as follows Bolton's visit:
"The visit is considered to be a productive one. The agreement to hold a meeting in Paris is the major result. Bolton has provided the Russian side the opportunity to announce it. It immediately became clear that Moscow attaches high importance to this meeting.
"There was no detailed discussion regarding intermediate range missiles. The sides have merely indicated their positions. It's clear that Trump really needs to pull out of the treaty before the midterm elections to Congress. The US proposes concluding a new tripartite treaty – the US, China, and Russia. The American side insists that Russia has been breaching the agreement for six years and there is no way back to the treaty.
"The Americans are bothered by Russian-Chinese relations. Apparently, president [Putin] has succeeded to "sell" the issue of Russian-China alliance for the second time. Bolton let it be understood–more than once – that it would be more useful for Russia to cooperate with the US and the Western world. The major thing – Russia should not resort to actions that annoy the Western world.
"The Americans have got guarantees regarding Russian non-interference in Congress elections. Bolton has assured that the FBI has no claims against Russia. Moreover, Washington is more worried about Chinese cyber-attacks. Russia is a minor player in the US-China Great Game.
"Bolton has presented the Jamal Khashoggi case to Moscow.
"The Americans have a positive appreciation of the access Russian –Turkish agreements regarding Idlib [province in Syria]. The US made it clear that Washington would not dispute Russia's role and significance in Syria. They do propose a coalition against Iran again. The discussions [on the issue] will continue.
Bolton also made it clear that the sanctions are a negotiable issue and it's possible to progress here.
Reactions To Trump's Pledge To Pull Out Of The INF Treaty
U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev signing the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty in the White House on December 8 1987. (Source: Wikipedia)
Russian Deputy FM Ryabkov: INF Treaty Will Dominate the Agenda of the Putin-Trump Meeting
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov told Channel One that the issue relating the INF Treaty will top the agenda at the meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Donald Trump in Paris on November 11. "I am confident that this topic [US withdrawal from the INF Treaty] will dominate the agenda. We need to understand where the US is going with this issue," Ryabkov said.
(Tass.com, October 25, 2018)
Russia's Ambassador to the US Antonov:
Russia's Ambassador to the US Anatoly Antonov addressing students at Brigham Young University in Utah said the following:
"The international community took note with concern of the statements made several days ago about the US intent to withdraw from the INF Treaty, signed back in 1987. I would like to remind that, thanks to the Treaty, two missile types with ranges from 500 to 5,500 kilometers were eliminated…
"The signing of the Treaty proved the possibility to escape the dangerous situation of the nuclear standoff, which back then was becoming more and more volatile, that the two nuclear superpowers were able to overcome the psychological barrier…
"International stability is still recovering from the US withdrawal from the ABM Treaty. Today, it is argued that nothing will happen to international security if the United States pull out of the INF Treaty. But it seems that the demolition of treaties has never contributed to improving international situation, nor has it ever strengthened peace and security…
"Another alarming issue. The fate of the New START Treaty is uncertain. Back in Helsinki Russian President Vladimir Putin suggested to thoroughly consider a possibility of extending the New START for another five years. I wish to remind that the document was previously recognized by the majority of countries as 'a golden standard' in disarmament…
"[Issues relevant for security of both Russia and the US] include development of global missile defense system, prospects of placement of weapons in space, situation with long-range sea-launched cruise missiles and long-range high-precision systems, the future of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, state of affairs in non-proliferation of the WMD and means of their delivery. Reestablishing a full-scale dialogue between us with a view to maintain international stability is a matter of immediate priority."
(Tass.com, October 25, 2018)
Russian Expert Vasiliev: The US Wants Russia To Capitulate
Vladimir Vasiliev, chief researcher at the Institute of the USA and Canada, said:
"The planned US pullout from the INF treaty, aside from an attempt to gain a new military superiority, has a political subtext. It's not just about missiles or warheads. By discarding the INF, which served as part of the previous partnership's foundation, the US is transferring Russia to the category of a politically illegitimate country, like N. Korea."
He then added: "Just like it used to be back in the 90s, when the USSR was falling apart, the US currently tries to deliver a clear message to Moscow: make us an act of unconditional surrender since we are anyway stronger. That was what president Trump was talking about when he demanded of Russia 'to come to its senses' as a precondition for renewed normalization".
(Kommersant.ru, October 24, 2018)
Russian Expert: Russia Is No Longer Considered A Rival In Technology
Pavel Zolotaryev, Head for Research at the Institute for US and Canada Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, said:
"In a situation where the United States has established itself as a global leader in technology and science, Russia is no longer considered a rival. To preserve its dominant position in the world, the United States has no need to bind itself to treaties, especially given its interest in medium-range missiles to deter China. They needed a special reason to exit the INF Treaty, and Russia gave them one. The point is not whether the accusations against Russia were fair. The point is that the Russian side has not taken enough measures to prove its case. I am certain all avenues to do so were not explored."
(Pircenter.org, October 22, 2018; See more reactions in the PIR Center website)
Putin: We Will Go Back To Pershings In Europe
During a joint press conference with Prime Minister of Italy Giuseppe Conte, Putin stated that if the United States withdraws from the INF Treaty, Russia will have to respond symmetrically.
Below are excerpts from Putin's statements:
Question: "I have a question on the INF Treaty, the subject being discussed these past few days not only in our country and in the US, but also in Europe.
"Due to the specifics of these arms –intermediate and short-range missiles – the Europeans could become hostages to the US if Washington withdraws from the treaty, as my colleague said yesterday.
"It is not clear yet if Washington is withdrawing or is revising the format of this document, however, whatever the case, if Trump and his administration move beyond words, what steps will you take?"
Vladimir Putin: "This problem did not come up yesterday or even three days ago when the US President announced it. It came up earlier, and as you might have noticed, and we did notice, the United States Congress had already earmarked expenses for R&D on intermediate and short-range missiles.
"This means the decision has been taken. Once research and development is underway – and they do not do it so it can sit on the shelf and collect dust, it means that the next step will also be made.
"The budget was passed, the Congress approved it while a political statement was made several days ago. Yes, indeed, there are certain questions regarding progress in missile technology and the limitations undertaken only by the United States and the Soviet Union, now the Russian Federation.
"However, what worries us is that the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty has been scrapped. Now we are talking about the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. And the future of a new START Treaty on limiting strategic offensive arms is unclear.
"If all that is scrapped, then nothing will remain to limit arms growth. The situation will then become very dangerous, in my view. There will be nothing left but an arms race.
"Now regarding Europe. Of course, the key question, if the United States withdraws from the INF Treaty, the main question is what will they do with any new missiles?
"If they deploy them in Europe, we will naturally have to respond symmetrically, and the European countries that agree to this, if it goes as far as that, must realize that they will put their own territory at risk of a retaliatory strike. This is an obvious situation. We will go back to Pershings in Europe.
"I actually do not understand why Europe should be brought to such a high degree of risk? I see no reasons for that, but let me reiterate, this not our choice, we are not pursuing this. In answer to your question as to whether we will be able to respond – yes, we will, and this will happen very quickly and efficiently.
"What is the formal pretext for our partners' withdrawal from the INF Treaty? Accusations that we are allegedly violating it. However, as usual, no evidence of this is produced, whereas the United States has already violated it by deploying Aegis anti-missile defense launchers in Romania, by placing them on land, on the territory.
"What have they done? The Aegis launchers can be used for offensive missiles, not anti-missiles. They only need to update the software and that's it. This can be done in hours. We will not even be able to guess what is happening, we will not be able to see it from the outside. The US has already violated the treaty.
"How about unmanned aircraft? This is in essence also a direct violation. Drones are no different than intermediate and short-range missiles in this respect. This is an old trick, when nobody shouts 'Stop thief!' louder than the thieves do, but it will not work in this case.
"We are carefully analyzing everything that is going on in real life. But let me repeat, we are ready to work on this with our US partners without any hysterics. What matters is what will follow, which decision will be taken.
I hope we will be able to talk about all these issues with the President of the United State at least on the sidelines of the meetings in Paris on November 11."
(Kremlin.ru, October 24, 2018)
Russia, Turkey, Germany and France Meeting On Syrian Settlement
See the video of the meeting.
On October 28, the leaders of Russia, Turkey, Germany and France met in Istanbul, to discuss the crisis in Syria.
Commenting on the meeting the Russian expert, Konstantin Truevtsev, senior researcher at the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, wrote in the Valdai Club website:
"No one expected any breakthrough solutions from the Putin-Erdogan-Merkel-Macron quadripartite summit in Istanbul. Anyway, the summit results significantly exceeded skeptics’ expectations.
"The mere fact that a common statement was released was a surprise: the initial differences in the parties’ positions foreshadowed seemingly insurmountable obstacles. However, they managed to overcome at least some of them. As a result, the statement reflects positions acceptable for the four parties and, equally importantly, it is acceptable to the Syrian government and other participants in the political process in Syria. The main provisions of the statement – the principle of territorial integrity and respect for Syria’s sovereignty, the unacceptability of military solution of the conflict, and the recognition of peaceful settlement as the only way to resolve it – all this creates additional international guarantees that there will be no territorial-political fragmentation of the country, and the presence of any foreign troops on its territory can only be considered temporary.
"It is especially important that these principles, which formed the basis of the Astana-Sochi process, are now confirmed by the two largest members of the European Union, which are also main European members of NATO. This position is also noteworthy, because Trump’s shadow was looming behind Merkel and Macron: before the summit, Macron announced that he had a telephone conversation with Trump, and they coordinated a common position.
"However, the shadow of Trump was, apparently, silent: the United States today does not have an agenda for Syria, which corresponds to the present realities and it will not have such until the elections to the Congress on November 6…"
(Valdaiclub.com, October 29, 2018)
See the video of the meeting
On October 24, Putin met with Italy's Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, in Moscow. The parties exchanged opinions on expanding bilateral cooperation in energy, investment, culture, the humanitarian sphere and other areas. Putin and Conte also discussed a range of international and regional matters, including developments in Syria and Libya, as well as the two countries' cooperation in the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in light of Italy's 2018 OSCE chairmanship.
(Kremlin.ru, October 24, 2018)
During the meeting, Conte has invited Putin to pay a visit to Italy in the near future. Conte said: "I will begin our meeting with a suggestion. My wishes are as follows: I would very much like you to visit Italy in the near future. You haven't visited us for a long time. I would not like the Italian people to get the impression that you do not pay proper attention to it."
(Tass.com, October 24, 2018)
Concerning the EU sanctions against Russia, Conte said:
"Despite the persisting conditions that resulted in the EU sanctions in this sensitive time for the global economy, I consider it right to maintain economic ties between Italy and Russia, in particular, to support the activity of numerous Italian companies that work in Russia in the interests of both our countries.
"In addition, I repeatedly said and want to confirm again here that sanctions have never been a goal for Italy; they are a tool that must be abandoned as soon as possible because dialogue is the best solution."
(Kremlin.ru, October 24, 2018)
Unveiled In Russia: A "Wall Of Remembrance" With The Names Of More Than Six Thousand Victims of Stalin's Repression
On October 27, a memorial "Wall of Remembrance" was unveiled at a former shooting range near Moscow. The memorial lists the names of the more than 6,000 victims who were shot and buried in that area between 1937 and 1941 during the Stalinist repression.
(Newsru.com, October 27, 2018)
News In Brief:
Russia in Syria
- The drones that attacked Russia's Hmeymim airbase in Syria back in January were operated from the US Poseidon-8 reconnaissance plane, Russian Deputy Defense Minister Colonel General Alexander Fomin said at a plenary session of the Beijing Xiangshan Forum on security. "Thirteen drones moved according to common combat battle deployment, operated by a single crew. During all this time the American Poseidon-8 reconnaissance plane patrolled the Mediterranean Sea area for eight hours," he noted. (Tass.com, October 25, 2018; read the full article)
A Short History Of The Attacks Involving Drones Near The Hmeymim Airbase
- On September 4, 2018, TASS reported: "During nighttime on September 4 the Hmeymim base's air defenses shot down two attack drones away from the airfield. Over the past month 47 drones launched by militants have been eliminated near the base." (Tass.com, September 5, 2018; read the full article)
- On September 3, 2018, TASS reported: "State-of-the-art weapons, including drones, were supplied to terrorists in Syria by foreign sponsors via bogus companies, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in an address to the participants in an anti-terror conference in Moscow that was read out by Deputy Foreign Minister Oleg Syromolotov." (Tass.com, September 3, 2018; read the full article)
- On August 16, 2018, TASS reported: "Russian Defense Ministry official Major-General Igor Konashenkov said the past month saw an increase in attempts at committing terrorist attacks involving drones… 'This is a sure sign that some country having the relevant knowhow has shared it with international terrorist groups. However improvised they may look, the drones were assembled in accordance with all essential rules and requirements and laws of aerodynamics and the principles of how automatic control systems work,' Konashenkov said while demonstrating [to journalists] the drones, one of them made of wood." (Tass.com, August 16, 2018; read the full article)
- On August 11, 2018, TASS reported: "The Russian military has shot down a drone launched from an area controlled by militants not far from the Hmeymim airbase, head of the Russian Center for Reconciliation of the Opposing Sides in Syria, Maj. Gen. Alexei Tsygankov, said." (Tass.com, August 11, 2018; read the full article)
- On August 9, 2018, TASS reported: "Russian servicemen in Syria downed an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that was approaching Russia's Hmeymim air base from the militant-controlled territory, a senior Russian military official said." (Tass.com, August 9, 2018; read the full article)
- On July 21, 2018, TASS reported: "The anti-aircraft defense of the Russian airbase Hmeymim in Syria shot down an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) launched from the area controlled by militants in the Latakia province in early hours of July 21, Major General Alexei Tsygankov, the head of the Russian center for reconciliation of conflicting sides in Syria." (Tass.com, July 21, 2018; read the full article)
- In January, TASS reported: "Combat UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) attacking Russian military facilities in Syrian Hmeymim and Tartus overnight into January 6 were launched from the de-escalation zone in Idlib, according to Russia's Defense Ministry." (Tass.com, January 10, 2018; read the full article)
Russia's Orbit – Russia-Moldova Relations
- Talks with President of Moldova Igor Dodon. Vladimir Putin met with Igor Dodon, the President of the Republic of Moldova, who arrived in Russia on an official visit to discuss Russia-Moldova trade relations, the economy and culture, as well as important regional issues. (Kremlin.ru, October 31, 2018; read the full article)
- NATO should not be present in Moldova as the country's official position remains that it is a non-aligned state, Moldovan President Igor Dodon told TASS in an interview. (Tass.com, October 31, 2018; read the full article)
- Moldova has received an invitation to attend the summit of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) as an observer. (Tass.com, October 31, 2018; read the full article)
- During Dodon's visit to Russia, Russian Patriarch Kirill honored the Moldovan President with a Russian religious order. Dodon has backed the Russian patriarchate in its squabble with Constantinople. (Adevarul.ro, October 31, 2018; read the full article in Romanian)
- Russian Embassy Press Officer's reply to a media question concerning comparisons in Britain between Russian and Saudi Arabia's reactions to the Skripal case and the Khashoggi case. (Rusemb.org.uk, October 22, 2018; read the full statement; see also MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 7723, Renowned Russian Telegram Channel SerpomPo: The Skripal Case And The Khashoggi Case – Triggers For Harsh Western Reaction, October 22, 2018)
- Russia's Defense Ministry plans to deploy 16 Samarkand electronic warfare systems in 13 military units, a document published on the ministry's state procurement website said. Three types of Samarkand electronic warfare systems will be sent to Kaliningrad, Murmansk and other areas of northwestern Russia, and also to the Far East's Primorye Region. (Tass.com, October 28, 2018; read the full article)