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
Russia Calling! Investment Forum (Source: Kremlin.ru)
In The News:
- Russia Calling! Investment Forum
- United Russia Meeting
- Russia-Iran Relations
- Russia-Spain Relations
- Russia-Serbia Relations
- 'Foreign Agents' Bill
- News In Brief: Russia-Turkey Relations; Russia-Saudi Arabia Relations; Russia-Egypt Relations; Defense; Mercenaries In Syria; Chechnya; Russia-Cuba Relations; Russians Abroad
Russia Calling! Investment Forum
Putin: Sanctions Have Benefited Our Economy
On November 20, Russian President Vladimir Putin attended the plenary session of the 11th VTB Capital Russia Calling! Investment Forum that focused on building bridges over the waves of de-globalization.
Putin said: "… The [US] sanctions actually forced us to focus on import substitution, especially in industries we deemed critical for the country's security. This is a wide range of industries: agriculture, medicine, pharmaceuticals, and the defense industry. And in general, we have achieved very serious and positive results.
"I will be honest with you, and I can already say this frankly and publicly: the first steps of the sanctions policy made me feel somewhat uneasy. I would like to thank all my colleagues, and the people I do not know, but who work, each at their workplace, in various industries, at plants, design bureaus, and research institutions. They have taken a huge step towards increasing our economic and technological sovereignty. In this sense, all these restrictions have benefited our economy.
"But there is a downside of course, and that downside sours things for everyone. It cost billions of dollars. For example, for Europe, in my estimate, and according to the estimates of the Europeans themselves, their losses stand at about 50 billion. By the way, we have lost far less in our relations with Europe. The same holds true for the States. The restrictions that the Administration has introduced in recent years, I don’t remember how many, more than a dozen restrictions have been introduced, affecting more than 400 companies and almost 300 individuals – you know, it had a boomerang effect. For example, they forced their companies to discontinue their participation in offshore projects. What for? These companies had invested certain funds in a particular project and were then forced to leave these projects and lose their money. Who was punished? They punished themselves, shot themselves in the foot, and that was it.
"What plans do we have for our relations? I believe that we have many interests in common with the United States. The United States is a great country, and we have always respected it. We were allies in two world wars. It is our common history, and it is a positive history. Of course, we also want to maintain cooperation with it in technology and the economy in general. However, under President Obama – I think I have mentioned this before – our trade plummeted to $20 billion. Over the first two years of President Trump’s term, it increased to $25 billion. Is this a lot or a little? Our trade with Turkey is $25 billion, and we have the same volume of trade with the United States. This is little, of course.
"We have common interests in the economy, not to mention energy. We have common interests in the field of international security, because Russia and the United States are the world’s largest nuclear powers. This is the case, for now. This factor must be taken into account. We are cooperating, one way or another, in the fight against terrorism, and we maintain operational interaction in Syria. The same is true about our fight against organized crime and in the field of environmental protection.
"Our colleague just mentioned that the United States has withdrawn from the Paris Agreement. I believe that this is a mistake. But I can understand the logic behind this decision, because the previous US Administration assumed obligations regarding [carbon emission] limits that were difficult for the United States. The Paris Climate Accord is a framework arrangement that is not binding, and the US Administration could have adjusted its obligations within this framework. But the current US Administration has decided differently.
"Nevertheless, we should try to involve the current US Administration in these matters. It is another area for our cooperation. I believe we can do this. President Trump has said more than once that he is not planning to destroy the global environment but that balanced solutions must be found, in the interests of the American economy. I believe this is something we can discuss as well.
"In other words, there are many common platforms where we can work together. We are ready for this as long as our American partners are.
"But we see what is still going on there. Thank goodness we are no longer being accused of interfering in US elections; they are accusing Ukraine now. Let them settle this matter between them. However, the factor of internal political struggle is still having a negative effect on Russian-US relations. I hope this will end at some point. We are ready for this."
(Kremlin.ru, November 20, 2019)
United Russia Meeting
Putin at United Russia Party meeting called for ejecting windbags and quick buck artists from the party.
Putin said: "It is precisely results and not words or empty promises that should be the party's major argument in the course of the upcoming election campaign on all levels: from the municipal to the State Duma."
He then called for disposing of the windbags and quick buck artists, "who - if they could - would sell out not only the party but the country," and to torment and shake the regional bureaucrats, who do not see the pressing problems of failed hospitals and schools.
(Mk.ru, November 23, 2019)
- On November 23, United Russia's 19th party congress took place in Moscow. The preparations for the 2021 Duma elections had officially started. One of the priority goals is preserving a constitutional majority in parliament, which would be over 300 seats. An ambitious goal, indeed. (Vesti News, November 25, 2019; watch the video)
The Minister of Energy Aleksander Novak reported on a loan request from Iran in the sum of 2 billion USD that will be used for power stations, railroads, and passenger cars for the metro. The finance ministry is looking over the request.
(Kommersant.ru, November 23, 2019)
Iran may buy advanced weapons in 2020, Pentagon says. Tehran evaluating purchase of military hardware from Russia and China, report by Pentagon suggests. (Aa.com.tr, November 20, 2091; read the full article)
Russian FM Sergey Lavrov denies knowledge of Russian espionage activity in Catalonia, in conjunction with the referendum of 2017. The Russian ambassador to Spain Yuri Korchagin called the publication in El Pais fake news and a product of the author's imagination.
(Vesti.ru, November 23, 2019)
Another spy scandal erupted in Serbia involving the Serbian army. Serbian President Vucic while acknowledging the seriousness of the matter, moved quickly to prevent the crisis from escalating. Vucic said: "I am certain that President Putin was not informed of this action."
"Serbia does not forget what Putin did for Serbia in the international organizations and likewise in equipping the Serbian army...We will never and not in any way put our friendship with Russia under threat ,and this why I ask the Russian friends and I asked the same question of the Russian ambassador for what purpose? I do not see any logic to this."
(Novayagazeta.ru, November 22, 2019)
Russian anti-liberal philosopher Alexander Dugin delivered a lecture at the University of Defense in Serbia on November 22, the Serbian Ministry of Defense reported. The lecture was organized by the ministry's Institute of Strategical Research. Dugin talked about the Eurasian geopolitical discourse and the security of European space. Dugin assessed that the emerging multipolar world has already been formed by Eurasian Russia, the West, and China. He also added that India and the Islamic world, which do not have a unique state, could emerge as actors of political multipolarity.
Dugin added that today's Russia, headed by Putin, favors a multipolar world and considers neither Europe nor America an enemy. He clarified that Russia is not fighting the West, but globalism.
Taking Serbia as an example, Dugin explained that in the multipolar world, all threats to Serbian sovereignty are external threats to its defense, and those who work on weakening Serbian state integrity are an internal threat.
(Mod.gov.rs, November 22, 2019; read the full report)
Dugin with Serbia's Minister of Defense Alexander Vulin. (Source: Facebook.com/alexandr.dugin)
On November 25, Dugin wrote in his Facebook account:
"In Beograd [Belgrade] with Minister of Defense of Serbia Mr. Alexander Vulin. [A] Deep, wise and brave man. In the exhibition of the 20 years of Serbian genocide by NATO killers. Blood of innocent children, of civilians, of women and elders, of heroic soldiers of sacred Serbia -- all that we will never forget and never forgive. Sometimes they say Russians and Serbians are alike. I think sometimes Serbians are somehow better...
"The shame for traitor Eltsine [Boris Yeltsin]. The cold crime of the Western hypocrites is disgusting as are their disfigured with hatred faces. We will certainly revenge. I've made many predictions in the field of geopolitics that proved to be correct -- with time. So I clearly see in the future the revival of dear tragic and beautiful Serbia -- proud, free and great. I foresee the return of king Lazar and eternal Serbian ancestors coming with Krstna Slava. They could win the body but Serbian soul and heart never. Damn NATO. Damn Clinton. Damn globalists. Damn Soros. Damn BHL [Bernard-Henri Levy]. You will repent. Once you will cry over the smoking ruins of what you for certain time thought to be "your world". No. The world it is not yours. Kosovo je Srbija [Kosovo is Serbia] and always will be…"
(Facebook.com/alexandr.dugin, November 25, 2019)
- Kremlin assures that nothing will be able to cast a shadow on the Serbian leader’s Russia visit. Bulgarian journalist Christo Grozev earlier uploaded a video to YouTube allegedly featuring an unnamed officer of the Serbian army and a representative of the Russian military attaché office in Serbia exchanging plastic bags in a parking lot. (Tass.com, November 22, 2019; read the full article)
- Serbia remains committed to military neutrality and will not join NATO or the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic told a press conference. "We will not change our policy toward Russia. We remain in brotherly relations, we will not change policy, we will not join NATO or CSTO," Vucic said. (Tass.com, November 22, 2019; read the full article)
- Russian President Vladimir Putin is a true friend of Serbia, the country’s President Aleksandar Vucic told reporters. "As far as President Putin and my visit are concerned, we are getting ready… I believe that President Putin is a sincere friend of Serbia," he said. (Tass.com, November 23, 2019; read the full article)
- In October, Vucic hosted the Prime Minister of the Russian Federation Dmitry Medvedev who stayed for a one-day official visit to Serbia. (Predsednik.rs, October 19, 2019; read the full report)
'Foreign Agents' Bill
The Russian Federation Council approved amendment that will give the Russian authorities the power to label reporters who work for organizations officially listed as foreign agents as foreign agents themselves.
(Rferl.org, November 25, 2019; read the full article)
Under the amendments Russians, who participate in outlets already designated foreign agents such as Radio Free Europe or the Voice of America, can be designated as foreign agents but this will not be automatic. The coauthor of the amendment Leonid Levin said: "If a person writes some materials connected with the social political situation then there are possible risks that the status of a foreign agent will arise…
According to attorney Maxim Chernavin, the law is so broadly constructed that many people can fall afoul of it . "It does not matter who the foreign legal personality is even if it is your grandma from Latvia who sent you money to pay for your studies then you are a foreign agent."
Konstantin Dobrynin, a senior partner at the KA Pen & Paper Law Firm, also complained about the law's vagueness. Dobrynin said: "In a law, all the definitions must be clearly prescribed with understandable criteria; there should not be a broad expanse for discretion, because in our country it leads to corruption and the violation of civil rights and freedoms. As currently drafted, any internet user, who expresses his view on the political situation or simply reposts a report from media on the 'black list', can find himself within the scope of the law. Civic activists are partially in the risk zone, because from a perusal of the law it follows that it can target them and this signifies a risk of manipulation, because the formulations used in it are extremely abstract."
Another possible implication is that somebody, reposting something from a blogger designated a foreign agent while working at a research institute that receives foreign grants, can find himself in the category of foreign agent.
(Vedomosti.ru, November 21, 2019)
Kommersant FM columnist Viktor Loshak was struck by the law's fundamental lawlessness. He wrote: "It is known for a long time that no one hinders the country's future like its journalists. Just as soon as our armored train picks up speed on the way to a bright day then some article, blog, or radio voice slips a stone into the furnace… Apparently finding no other problems in Russia, parliament has seriously taken on the journalists. Some of these after the passage of the new law may receive the special mark of people who are foreign agents. They are again attempting to show the public that everything would be completely fine with us if the crafty foreigners did not interfere. Unfortunately, despite all the efforts of the special parliamentary commissions, the sociologists show that the citizenry don't believe very much in foreign interference…
It is clear that events are developing in such a direction and at such speeds that today the stigma of a foreign agent can be fastened on journalists, tomorrow on filmmakers, and the day after on any citizen. And here the parliamentarians are closer to repeating not the Americans but our 'beloved' neighbor [former Ukrainian president] Petro Poroshenko who dreams of introducing to Ukraine the stigma of 'agent of Russian influence'.
And what is still more striking: the fundamental lawlessness of this law. In the entire history of the new Russia, the parliamentarians of various legislatures strove that legal acts of parliament should leave the minimal chink for corruption in other words not to allow a situation, where differing interpretations would arise among the bureaucrats and hence their personal decisions."
(Kommersant.ru, November 21, 2019)
The journalist Aleksandr Plyuschev commented: "It is a very unusual feeling that the authorities in your homeland are developing and passing an entire law against you concretely. Well, not only against you precisely, but you are in that very small group of people. We all fall under various laws, but here to enter a special list with your first and last name – that is quite another matter. It is like someone, who falls under personal sanctions in connection with Magnitsky or due to the Donbass, he feels the same, still there [with the Magnitstky Act or in relation to Donbass] a foreign government is acting against you, and here it is your own."
(Newizv.ru, November 20, 2019)
The author and screenwriter Oleg Kozirev tweeted: "Send to the State Duma a package of laws about the ability to designate birds of the sky, fish in the sea and forest-based and domestic animals as foreign agents. Migratory birds who can receive foreign food are not excluded. Likewise cats arouse reasonable suspicion."
(Twitter.com/oleg_kozyrev, November 21, 2019)
Aleksandr Malkevich the chairman of the Social Chamber committee on developing the information society, mass media and mass communications, defended the measure as a necessary response to the West.
Malkevich wrote: "Our citizens must understand that there are mass media outlets financed by other governments and they have their own interest in the coverage of these or other events occurring by us. They themselves choose the angle for presenting information. Up to now they have no restrictions. The new law should be seen exclusively in the form of mirror response measures against the actions of the Westerners that we have observed for over a year. The [United] States initiated this when they compelled RT to register as a media foreign agent…
"The law also obligates registering one's activity and providing the necessary accountability bringing them under Russian jurisdiction. Incidentally, in the US the enforcement of this law is highly selective: RT and the Chinese television CGTN are designated foreign agents, the BBC is not because it has an independent editorial board."
(Ria.ru, November 21, 2019)
News In Brief
- Putin’s visit to Turkey planned for January. (Tass.com, November 25, 2019; read the full article)
- Russia is ready to take part in developing Turkish fighter jets of 4++ and fifth-generation and offer its technologies, the head of Russia’s Federal Service for Military and Technical Cooperation Dmitry Shugayev told reporters at Dubai Airshow-2019. (Tass.com, November 17, 2019; read the full article)
Russia-Saudi Arabia Relations
- The talks on building a plant for producing legendary Kalashnikov rifles in Saudi Arabia are at the final stage, and the sides are now discussing the details of this project, CEO of Russia's state hi-tech corporation Rostec Sergei Chemezov told reporters at Dubai Airshow 2019. (Tass.com, November 18, 2019, read the full article)
- Senior Russian diplomat slams US plans to build up military presence in Saudi Arabia. (Tass.com, November 20, 2019; read the full article)
- Russia, Saudi Arabia negotiating terms of implementation of contract for S-400 systems. (Tass.com, November 17, 2019; read the full article)
- Russia slams US threats to Egypt for purchasing Su-35 fighters as ‘aggressive behavior’ (Tass.com, November 21, 2019; read the full article)
- Putin may visit Egypt in 2020, envoy says. (Tass.com, November 18, 2019; read the full article)
- Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu visited Cairo, on November 12. (Tass.com, November 12, 2019; read the full article)
- Russia is determined to continue active cooperation with Egypt in matters of strengthening security and stability in the Middle East and North Africa, and increasing the republic’s defense capability is a priority task of military and military-technical cooperation between Moscow and Cairo. (Mil.ru, November 12, 2019; read the full article)
- Russian Defence Ministry is ready to help Egypt to strengthen the country's defense. It was announced by Russia's Minister of Defense General of the Army Sergei Shoigu during a meeting with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in Cairo. (Mil.ru, November 12, 2019; read the full article)
- President Putin: Top Priority is Modernizing the Military. (Vesti News, November 25, 2019; watch the video)
- Senator Aleksey Pushkov wrote in his Twitter account: “Unpleasant news for Pompeo. Yet, after he had explained that the American systems operate randomly, that should have been expected. In comparison to “Patriots” our S-400 operates constantly, and not randomly”. (Twitter.com/Alexey_Pushkov, November 17, 2091; read the full tweet)
- The Baltic Fleet may become the third naval force in Russia after the Black Sea and Pacific Fleets, for which shipbuilders will build a series of Project 636.3 stealth submarines armed with Kalibr cruise missiles, two sources in the shipbuilding industry said. (Tass.com, November 14, 2019; read the full article)
- The first-ever joint naval drills of Russia, China and South Africa started in southern Africa on November 25. A joint parade of the ship crews from the three countries at the central quay of Cape Town opened the event. (Tass.com, November 25, 2019; read the full article)
- The strategic arms reduction treaty New START will most probably cease to exist in February 2021, the director of Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), Sergei Naryshkin, said at a roundtable conference at the Baltic State Technical University, devoted to the history of Russia’s rocket-building industry… "In the current alarming situation we are obliged to step up efforts to strengthen our country’s defenses. ‘If you want peace, prepare for war,’ the saying goes," he said. (Tass.com, November 15, 2019; read the full article)
- Many U.S. allies have in the recent past purchased weapons from Russia, which is the second-largest arms exporter in the world. Russia has sold its weapons to 166 of the 190 UN-member countries, according to the Rosoboronexport, the only authorized exporter of Russian arms. The principal buyers of Russian weapons are India, Vietnam, China and Bangladesh in Asia; Iran and Iraq in the Middle East; Algeria in Africa and Nicaragua in Latin America while a number of NATO countries and U.S. allies also have acquired Russian military products. (Aa.com.tr, November 24, 2019; read the full article)
Mercenaries In Syria
- Journalists say Russian mercenaries in Syria tortured, beheaded, and burned a deserter from Assad's army. For fun. (Meduza.io, November 20, 2091; read the full article)
- ‘Traitors, gossips, and schizophrenics’ Transcript: Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov says spreading rumors online should be punishable by death. (Meduza.io, November 8, 2019; read the full article)
- Speaker Valentina Matviyenko said that the Russian Federation Council adopts a resolution every year demanding that the US blockade on Cuba be lifted. (Tass.com, November 16, 2019; read the full article)
- Izvestia: Moscow proposes setting up a council to protect Russians abroad. (Tass.com, November 15, 2019; read the full article)