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
Photo Of The Week
At the ASEAN Summit in Manila, 13-14 November 2017. (Source: Vk.com/politics_today)
Quotes Of The Week
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said:
"President Trump is prevented from exercising his presidential powers, in particular, with regard to cooperation on cyber-security with us… In [the G-20 summit in] Hamburg, the possibility of reviving cooperation on preventing cybercrime was indeed discussed. President Trump found this proposal to be very promising. However, the Congress immediately raised a hue and cry - how can the White House cooperate with the Russians who meddled in the sphere in question, that is, the U.S. cyber-security, hacking the Democratic Party servers. That’s why, of course, we can reach agreements, but, unfortunately, they immediately become elements of internal political struggle, internal political games with a view to making President Trump’s life and performance as difficult as possible."
(Tass.com, November 8, 2017)
The leader of the Russian Liberal-Democratic Party (LDPR) Vladimir Zhirinovsky said:
"Had it been Hillary [Clinton], she would have run things smoothly. But today there is Trump, who can’t govern. The reason is that he is not fit for the job. The U.S. electoral system works against Americans…
"We have just another chance to see that the system of government in the United States is not presidential, the country is actually a warped parliamentary republic, since Congress makes all the decisions. If so, there is a need to amend the Constitution so the Congress can elect a president. It would be cheaper and faster."
Zhirinovsky then added: "In fact, the people also oppose Trump, as well as the Congress. But he is the president. What kind of democracy is that?"
It is worth noting that when U.S. President Donald Trump was elected, the LDPR celebrated his victory with champagne toasts. Now, the Russian news agency TASS reported that Zhirinovsky said he would celebrate a Trump’s possible impeachment.
(Tass.com, November 8, 2017)
Liberal Democratic Party of Russia leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky, and his fellow party members toast Trump's victory.
(Source: Vedomosti.ru, November 9, 2016.)
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova is one of the most-quoted Russian officials. She is known for using colorful language when describing Russian foreign policy in her weekly press briefings. The following are Zakharova's quotes of the week from her press briefing:
In a speech at the annual Lord Mayor's Banquet in London, UK Prime Minister Theresa May warned of the Russian threat. Zakharova fired back:
"We have taken note of the statement concerning Russia made on 13 November by the British Prime Minister Theresa May at the Lord Mayor’s Banquet 2017. This time our country is ranked first among 'threats to the international community', not just equal to others as before. Thus, the United Kingdom is making an attempt to claim global leadership in deterrence of Russia, in order to protect the existing world order, as PM Theresa May put it.
"The assertions are not brand new, but the main common point behind them is the irresponsible and groundless nature of accusations against Russia. The idea of protection of world order sounds particularly cynical from the British Prime Minister. It is enough to recall the aggressive actions of the United Kingdom in Iraq and Libya which have led not to strengthening of the international law, but to numerous casualties and sufferings of millions of people and destabilization of whole regions. At the same time London shows fundamental incomprehension of current processes in the world and of the essence of the very UN Charter-based international legal order that the United Kingdom is vowing to protect.
"The British society is currently not going through its finest hour due to the ongoing process of exiting the EU and internal splits. It is understandable that an external enemy is direly needed to distract public attention for which role Russia has been chosen. It is deeply regrettable, especially now that the United Kingdom, considering its ambition to turn into a 'Global Britain', would benefit from multi-directional, pragmatic and efficient foreign policy. Such an approach would give UK extra opportunities on the emerging markets as well as strengthen its global standing through the development of dialogue with other countries. The path of confrontation chosen by London is unlikely to contribute to the achievement of these goals."
(Mid.ru, November 14, 2017)
Tweet Of The Week
Following Theresa May's remarks, the Russian Embassy to the UK (@mfa_russia) published the following post on Twitter:
"#UK Prime Minister @theresa_may on @Russia: 'We know what you are doing'. We know what YOU are doing as well. Dear Theresa, we hope, one day you will try Crimean #Massandra red wine."
(Twitter.com/RussianEmbassy, November 14, 2017)
(Source: Twitter.com/RussianEmbassy, November 14, 2017)
The Duma Dialogues
Communist Party MP Nikolay Kharitonov: "I think it would be very objective, if the State Duma made a statement and suggested that the government break diplomatic relations and close [Russia’s] airspace to U.S. flights."
"They’ve [the U.S.] got some nerve! We should issue this statement [about cutting diplomatic relations] at least on behalf of State Duma. Believe me, it is necessary to do this - to break diplomatic relations if we are strong and sovereign, along with denying their planes access to [Russian] airspace."
Speaker of the State Duma Vyatcheslav Volodin: "Nikolai Mikhailovich [Kharitonov], you are raising very important issues … It seems that you need to meet face to face with [U.S. Senator and anti-Russia hawk] McCain and look each in the eye. Then you two could make a joint statement first in the U.S. Congress and after that - right here [at the State Duma]."
(Tass.com, November 10, 2017)
MP Nikolay Kharitonov (Source: Kprf.ru)
In The News
Putin Fears U.S. Interference In The 2018 Presidential Elections
Speaking to the workers of Chelyabinsk Compressor Plant, Putin said that he fears Washington's interference in the 2018 Russian presidential elections. Putin stated:
"What concerns me? When will the Olympics take place? February, isn’t it? And when is the presidential election? March. I suspect that all of this is done to create conditions on someone’s behalf to provoke sport fans’ and athletes’ anger that the state allegedly had something to do with it. And now it is paying for it.
"Today’s international sport organizations, including the International Olympic Committee, all of them depend on many different elements, first of all sponsors, then people who acquire television rights, advertisers and so one. It is a big web of ties and dependences.
"The controlling interest lies in the U.S., because this is where the main companies that order and pay for television rights are and where the main sponsors, main advertisers and others are.
"That is why I strongly suspect that, in response to our alleged interference in their elections, they want to create problems during the presidential elections in Russia, and if this is true, it is very bad, because it undermines the essence of the Olympic movement."
(Kremlin.ru, November 9, 2017)
Putin at the Chelyabinsk Compressor Plant (Source: Kremlin.ru)
Russia In Syria
Meduza.io reported: "Russia’s Defense Ministry says it is investigating the publication of a videogame screenshot presented as evidence of American collusion with ISIS in Syria. Officials say the Defense Ministry's tweets (one in Russian and another in English) were written by a civilian employee.
"Defense officials still assert, however, that the U.S. military in Syria is aiding terrorists. In a revised tweet, Moscow published more 'irrefutable evidence' allegedly recorded by drones, repeating the government’s earlier claim that 'the U.S. are [sic] actually covering ISIS combat units to recover their combat capabilities, redeploy, and use them to promote the American interests in the Middle East.'"
(Meduza.io, November 14, 2017)
(Source: Twitter.com/mod_russia, November 14, 2017)
Commenting on the mistake, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said:
"Mistakes do happen and they’re no big deal, if they are corrected in a timely manner… I would not blow its [the recent mistake’s] significance out of proportion."
(Tass.com, November 15, 2017)
FM Lavrov: 'The United States Has No Intention Of Leaving Syria After The Defeat Of The Terrorists'
During a press conference, Russian FM Sergey Lavrov answered a question about possible collusion between the coalition and ISIS.
Q: "The U.S.-led international coalition has admitted that about 300 ISIS militants might have left Raqqa during the evacuation of local civilians. Is it possible to talk about collusion between the coalition and ISIS? How will this incident influence the Syrian Army’s operation being conducted in eastern Syria with the support of the Russian Aerospace Force?
Sergey Lavrov: "Regarding the U.S.-led Western coalition’s admission that about 300 ISIS terrorists might have left Raqqa during the evacuation of civilians from the city, I have heard that, as you know, the BBC, which is not a foreign agent in the United States, has circulated much more definite reports noting that many more terrorist militants, rather than 300, have indeed left the city.
"I cannot talk about collusion. We are dealing in facts. We have no evidence of any possible collusion. But the real situation that has taken shape as a result of this exodus of militants who have escaped unharmed has already influenced the situation on the ground. This is absolutely so. Of course, this has hampered the operations of the Syrian Army, supported by the Russian Aerospace Force, to eliminate surviving ISIS militants, and it will take more time to achieve these tasks.
"We need to find out whether this was collusion or not. We have sent the relevant inquiry to Washington DC, but this inquiry is formulated in the context of a broader problem that I have already mentioned. The problem is that the operation to destroy ISIS, which we have been repeatedly told is the only U.S. goal, is nearing completion. We are hearing more and more statements by high-ranking officials, including senior Pentagon officials and the U.S. special representative for countering ISIS, which the United States has no intention of leaving Syria after the defeat of the terrorists, but that it intends to stay there until it makes sure that the political process is proceeding in the right direction."
(Mid.ru, November 16, 2017)
Macron In Saint-Petersburg: What If France Would Propose To Lift Sanctions Against Russia?
The French language website of RT commented on French President Emmanuel Macron’s decision to accept Russia's invitation to attend the Saint-Petersbug Economic Forum in 2018.
RT wrote: "Macron is sending a strong signal: the restoration of the dialogue with Russia will take place in the economic field in which sanctions constitute a major hurdle.
"No doubt that it is very symbolic… If, on one hand, this can be interpreted as a new sign of the intention, shared by Moscow and Paris, to improve the quality of the French-Russian dialogue, despite some important points of contention, this trip of the French President will undoubtedly raise the thorny issue of the European sanctions against Russia…
"If Vladimir Putin's visit to Versailles, in May 2017, had to be considered akin to a diplomatic summit, Emmanuel Macron's visit to Saint-Petersburg will take place under the banner of economics.
"The economic cooperation between France and Russia is showing signs of improvement although political tensions may induce us to neglect this fact. After a period of sharp decline, trade exchanges between the two countries have increased by about 6% during the first six months of 2016, rising to 6.9 billion dollars (6.1 billion Euros), according to the Russian ministry of Economic Development. In 2016, France remains the main foreign investor in Russia with 2 billion dollars, outside the offshore centers (1.72 billion Euros)….
"However, the lifting of the European sanctions against Russia will not take place only by means of the vitality of the French-Russian economic exchanges. Nevertheless, Emmanuel Macron's choice to attend the economic Forum of Saint-Petersburg shows the importance of this issue. Moreover, when he was François Hollande's minister of Economics, in January 2016, Emmanuel Macron seemed to believe that economic rationality should prevail over diplomatic stances. He even announced that he would have lifted the sanctions before the summer of 2016…
"Obviously, as a candidate and, later, as the president of the Republic, Emmanuel Macron has been compelled to introduce some changes in his speeches…
"By participating to the economic Forum of Saint-Petersburg in 2016, former president Nicolas Sarkozy had already pleaded in favor of the lifting of the sanctions. However, this idea can be sustained with greater difficulty when you are held by the obligations of power. Will president Macron remember the intentions he expressed when he was minister of the economy? The role of Head of State obliges him to consider the issue of sanctions not only from the economic aspect. Probably he hasn't got as free a hand as he would like to bypass all the other factors. From this angle, the possibility of a thaw and the adoption of a position favoring the lifting of the sanctions appears to be a decision requiring a degree of political courage. It remains to be seen to what extent Emmanuel Macron is willing to exhibit it, and if he will dare to take the first step."
(Francais.rt.com, October 31, 2017)
Putin with Macron (Source: Sputniknews.com)
Russia's Army Base In Cuba
As a response to the deployment of U.S. missile systems near Russia’s borders, Senator Franz Klintsevich, First Deputy Chairman of the Russian Federation Council’s Defense and Security Committee, said that Moscow should restore its military base in Cuba. Klintsevich stated: "I think we should spare no effort in order to have a naval and an air base in Cuba again. This is a key moment."
(Rbc.ru, November 5, 2017)
Head of the State Duma Defense Committee, Gen. (ret.) Vladimir Shamanov said that "definitely, such structure [military bases] in a close proximity to our 'colleagues' (the U.S.A.), as it is customary to call them now, would surely suit us". However, Shamanov added that the official position taken by the Cuban leadership rules out a Russian military base on Cuban territory. "Should that position change, we will possibly consider it."
(Ria.ru, November 5, 2017)
News In Brief
- A State Duma delegation may visit North Korea on November 27-December 1 (Tass.com, November 16, 2017; Read full article)
- Submarine scandal surfaces between Russia and India (Tass.com, November 9, 2017; Read full article)
- Putin said that Western countries collect bio samples of Russian individuals. Putin said: "Do you know that biological material is collected all over the country, from different ethnic groups and people living in different geographical locations of Russia? But what for? They do it purposefully and professionally. We are an object of very great interest. Therefore, what I said in the first part and this is all interconnected. We need to treat it without fear. Let them do it, and we must do what we must. Taking into account your comments, we will arrange this work." (Kremlin.ru, October 30, 2017; Read the full speech)
- The Pentagon says it needs Russian biomaterials for medical research (Meduza.io, November 1, 2017; Read the full article)
- Commenting on Putin's statement bio samples, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said: "This information comes from the special [security] services. Some people indeed conduct such activities". (Iz.ru, October 31, 2017)
- MP Gennady Onishchenko, former General Sanitary Inspector of Russian Federation, said that a draft law on "biological security" will be introduced shortly. Onishchenko said: "The mere fact that today they collect tissues and organs of our compatriots is a proof that the U.S. did not halt their offensive military program". (Interfax.ru, October 31, 2017; Read full article)
- The newspaper Kommersant quotes Konstantin Severinov, a professor at the Skolkovo Institute of science and technology. He explains that theoretically it is possible to create genetic weapon aimed at people with a narrow set of genes, but "in practice such technology does not exist, and the most important thing is that it's impossible in principle to create a weapon aimed at Russians". The professor said that there is no such a thing as a genome of a Russian." (Kommersant.ru, October 30, 2017; Read full article)