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
Russia, Iran and Turkey make order in Syria as a dismayed U.S looks on. (Source: Ria.ru, November 23, 2017)
In The News:
Meetings In Sochi: A New Yalta That Excludes The Americans
Putin with Rouhani and Erdogan. (Source: Kremlin.ru)
On November 20, 2017, Russian President Vladimir Putin met with Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad in Sochi. Two days later, on November 22, Putin met with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Sochi, for а tripartite meeting, reaffirming their cooperation in Syria.
Presidential spokesperson Dmitry Peskov stated that Putin wanted to meet Assad, before the tripartite meeting with his Iranian and Turkish counterparts, in order to lay the groundwork for a common understanding.
Peskov then added: "The political settlement in Syria is Possible only in the most inclusive format, that is, with the participation of all the political actors in Syria. It can be achieved by the participants of the internal political process and only on the basis of mutual consensus, i.e. mutual agreements and compromise."
During the meeting with Putin, Assad thanked Russia for its military support and voiced his hope that the support would continue against foreign interference. Assad said: "At this stage, and especially after our victories over the terrorists, we are interested in promoting the political process. We believe that the political situation that has developed in the regions offers an opportunity for progress in the political process. We hope Russia will support us by ensuring the external players' non-interference in the political process, so that they will only support the process waged by the Syrians themselves."
Concerning the tripartite meeting, the three heads of state agreed in a joint statement that the de-escalation areas in Syria have been "quite efficient and greatly helped to reduce violence." They also acknowledged that the Astana format become an "effective instrument for contributing to peace and stability in Syria". The three Presidents decided that Iran, Russia and Turkey would continue "their coordinated efforts to ensure that the progress in reduction of violence is irreversible." They then reiterated their commitment to "sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity" of Syria.
Russian commentators were generally jubilant. Some compared Sochi to the Yalta Conference in 1945 that sought to establish the ground rules for the world once victory over the Axis countries had been achieved. The difference being that at Yalta Great Britain and the United States shared the spotlight with the Soviet Union, now they had been reduced to extras. The victors were dubbed the "axis of order" –undoubtedly a dig on George W. Bush's "axis of evil" –who had sacrificed to uphold the principles of international law and state sovereignty.
See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 7197, Russian Media Comments Following Tripartite Sochi Summit: A New Yalta That Excludes The Americans, November 27, 2017.
Sudan-Russia Relations – Sudan Asks Russia To Become Its Protector Against The U.S.
Sudan's President Al-Bashir: 'Sudan May Become Russian's Key To Africa'
Russian President Vladimir Putin with President of the Republic of the Sudan Omar Al-Bashir. (Source: Kremlin.ru)
On November 23, 2017, Russian President Vladimir Putin held talks in Sochi with Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir,. During the meeting, the two leaders exchanged opinions on the development of Russian-Sudanese relations. Al-Bashir also divulged that after his meeting with Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu, an agreement was reached on the upgrading of Sudan's armed forces with Russian assistance.
Al-Bashir also met with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. Following the talks with Medvedev, several agreements were signed, including a nuclear cooperation one. It should be recalled that the International Criminal Court has issued an indictment against Al-Bashir for his role in the Darfur massacres. Russia is one place that he can travel to freely without fear of extradition.
Following are excerpts from the transcript of Al-Bashir's meeting with Putin:
Vladimir Putin: "… I know that you are also planning to meet with the Prime Minister of Russia and to sign documents. But it is already possible to state that our relations, primarily economic relations, continue to develop. Total volumes remain unimpressive, but the pace is good. Last year, there was a 66 percent growth, and over 80 percent in the first nine months of 2017.
"The Sudan is a major buyer of Russian grain. This year, we are expecting to boost Russian grain supplies to your market to one million tons.
"We have very good prospects in the energy sector, including geological prospecting, production and resource exchanges. The hydrocarbons sector, the power industry and the development of the civilian nuclear power industry also have good prospects. On the whole, we have many cooperation venues.
"We are very happy to see you, and I am glad to have this opportunity to discuss cooperation in all these possible areas. I am confident that your visit will benefit expanded interstate ties."
Omar al-Bashir: "First, I would like to thank you for the invitation to visit Russia. We have long been dreaming about this visit.
"We attach great importance to the development of relations with friendly Russia. Our friendship is a long-standing tradition. We are grateful to Russia for its position at international venues. We appreciate its efforts to protect the Sudan.
"Our positions coincide on the majority of issues. We are primarily opposed to U.S. interference in the domestic affairs of Arab countries, in particular U.S. interference in Iraq.
"We believe that the problems the region is now facing have been caused by U.S. interference. We think the situation that developed in our country (the same applies to Darfur and South Sudan) has the same roots – U.S. policy. As a result, our country split into two parts, which made a bad situation worse. We need protection from aggressive U.S. actions.
"We believe that what is happening in Syria today is also due to U.S. interference, which resulted in such a disaster there.
"We think peace cannot be achieved without President Bashar al-Assad. We believe that Syria would have been lost without Russia's assistance.
"In this context, we favor development of cooperation with Russia in all areas.
"As for defense cooperation, the weapons we have are of Russian make. This is true both of our land troops and aviation.
"We had a very good meeting with the Russian Defense Minister in the morning. Now we are launching a large program to reequip our armed forces and we agreed with the Defense Minister [Sergei Shoigu] that Russia will help us in this. We would like to augment our presence in Russia by sending more military attaches here.
"We are also concerned about the situation in the Red Sea. We believe US interference there is also a problem. We would like to discuss the use of military bases in the Red Sea.
"As for the re-equipment of our armed forces, we will exchange experts, as we agreed with the Defense Minister.
"In addition, we would like to talk about the work of Russian companies, in particular, in geology, peaceful uses of nuclear energy and construction of nuclear power plants. We are interested in these areas and have the potential for developing them.
"As for the grain imports that you mentioned earlier, one million tons is a very good figure for us, and we are very grateful to you. We are highly interested in developing relations with Russian business in oil production, agriculture and railways.
"Sudan has extensive ties in Africa and we can help Russia develop relations with African countries. Sudan may become Russia's key to Africa. We are a member of the African Union. We have great relations with all African nations and we are ready to help. We are also interested in developing relations with BRICS."
(Kremlin.ru, November 23, 2017)
Sudanese President Meets Russia's PM Medvedev – Al-Bashir: 'We Confirm Our Striving And Strong Desire To Advance Our Relations To The Strategic Level'
On November 24, Al-Bashir met with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.
Below are excerpts from the meeting's transcript:
Medvedev with Al-Bashir (Government.ru, November 24, 2017)
Dmitry Medvedev: "… Last year, Russia and Sudan marked 60 years of diplomatic relations, which are based on a very strong foundation. Yesterday, you held talks with President Putin in Sochi. I would like to point out once again that the Republic of the Sudan is an important partner for Russia among the Arab and African countries. In the past years, Russia's relations with the countries in the region have intensified. Our governments can also make a contribution to expanding our relations. Next month, the intergovernmental commission is meeting in Khartoum to discuss current issues. Today we are signing a substantial portfolio of documents, including two intergovernmental agreements, one on civilian nuclear power industry and another on visa-free travel for holders of diplomatic passports…"
Omar Al-Bashir: "Mr. Prime Minister, ministers, I am happy to meet with you. It is a great honor for us to come to Russia, and we are pleased to be here. This visit comes as evidence of our relations of friendship and mutual understanding that have developed between our countries and are growing stronger. We confirm our striving and strong desire to advance our relations to the strategic level, in keeping with our aspiration. We are also grateful for Russia's support for the Sudanese national dialogue, the final session of which was attended by Special Presidential Representative for the Middle East and Africa Mikhail Bogdanov."
(Government.ru, November 24, 2017)
Russia And Sudan Sign Nuclear Cooperation Agreement
On November 24, soon after the meeting with Medvedev, Russia and Sudan announced the signing of a nuclear cooperation agreement for peaceful purposes. The agreement was signed between the Rosatom and the Sudanese Minister of Water Resources, Irrigation and Electricity Muataz Musa.
Commenting on the agreement, Rosatom said that it "is a starting point for an active dialogue between the two countries in the nuclear sphere and allows them to begin practical implementation of certain cooperation projects."
(Aawsat.com, November 25, 2017)
See the list of the main agreements signed by Russia and Sudan:
− Agreement between the Government of the Russian Federation and the Government of the Republic of the Sudan on Cooperation in the Peaceful Use of Nuclear Energy
Signed by CEO of Rosatom State Nuclear Energy Corporation Alexei Likhachev and Sudanese Minister of Water Resources, Irrigation and Electricity Muataz Musa Abdalla Salim;
− Memorandum of Understanding between the Russian Ministry of Energy and the Sudanese Ministry of Petroleum and Gas on Cooperation in the Oil and Gas Industry
Signed by Russian Deputy Minister of Energy Kirill Molodtsov and Sudanese Minister of Oil and Gas Abdul Rahman Osman Fadul;
− Memorandum of Understanding between Rosgeologia JSC and the Sudanese Ministry of Petroleum and Gas
Signed by Rosgeologia CEO Roman Panov and Sudanese Minister of Oil and Gas Abdul Rahman Osman Fadul;
− Agreement on the assignment of license blocks for geological exploration purposes between Kush for Exploration and Production Co. Ltd. and the Sudanese Ministry of Minerals
Signed by CEO of Kush for Exploration & Production Co. Ltd. (Kush E&P) Yevgeny Aleksandrov and General Manager of the Geological Research Authority at the Sudanese Ministry of Minerals Mohamed Abu Fatima Abdullah;
− Concession agreements on gold mining between Russian company M Invest and the Sudanese Ministry of Minerals
Signed by Regional Director at M Invest (Russia) Mikhail Potyopkin and Sudanese Minister of Minerals Hashim Ali Salim.
(Government.ru, November 24, 2017)
Al-Bashir's Interview With RIA: Sudan Needs Russia's Protection From The U.S.; Sudan Requested Su-30 And Su-35 Fighter Jets
In an interview with RIA, Al-Bashir commented that he hopes that Russia will protect Sudan, against Washington's intention to divide Sudan into 5 parts.
Al-Bashir said: "We have information that the U.S. desire is to divide Sudan into five states if we don't find protection." He then added that Sudan faces "great pressure" from Washington, which he accused of "ravaging the Arab world".
Al-Bashir also mentioned that Sudan wants to buy Russian fighter jets. "We requested Su-30 [fighters] because they cover the Sudanese airspace, as well as [the more advanced and more expensive] Su-35. We have no intentions to carry out aggression abroad, we want to protect our country," al-Bashir said.
(Rt.com, November 25, 2017)
Al-Bashir Discussed With Putin Setting Up A Military Base On The Red Sea
Al-Bashir said that he discussed with Putin setting up a military base on the Red Sea. "We are not willing to attack any country, but want to protect ours… I discussed with the Russian president and minister of defense the possibility of setting up a military base on the Red Sea," Al-Bashir said.
(Aawsat.com, November 26, 2017)
Senator Klintsevich: In The Near Future, More Countries Will Approach Russia To Establish Military Bases
Commenting about the possibility of a Russian base in the Red Sea, First Deputy Chairman of the Defense and Security Committee of Russia’s Federation Council, Senator Frants Klintsevich, said:
"I think that an increasing number of more countries will become interested in the near future and will approach Russia to establish military bases on their soil. From my point of view, the number of such proposals will grow shortly. Nevertheless, the decision remains with our president… Certainly, this decision can only be made by the president. We must understand that Russia views its security and global presence very seriously and such a base in Sudan will not be redundant - this is definite, considering our mutual relations. We should address circumstances as they develop."
(Tass.com, November 26, 2017)
Senator Bondarev: Cooperation With Sudan In The Defense And Technology Sphere Is Developing Proactively
The chairman of the Russia's Federation Council's Defense and Security Committee, Senator Viktor Bondarev, said: "It is important for us to strengthen positions in the macro region. Sudan can become one of key intermediaries in further meaningful interaction between Russia and Islamic world. In any case, our cooperation with Sudan in the defense and technology sphere is developing proactively and has an almost 50-year history… I believe our cooperation will reach a new level now, when Sudan initiates re-equipment of the army. This is evidenced by agreements reached during the meeting of Russia’s defense minister with the leader of Sudan… I think that our export of arms and materiel to this country will grow. This will meet interests of international security and economic interests."
(Tass.com, November 26, 2017)
Sudan's Foreign Minister Ghandour: 'There Is Nothing To Prevent Sudan From Cooperating With The United States While At The Same Time Pursuing Strategic Relations With China And Russia'
The Sudanese Paris-based Sudan media outlet reported:
"Sudan's Foreign Minister Ibrahim Ghandour… minimized a request by the Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir for Russian protection from the United States saying it was about attempts to ban Sudan's gold exportation.
"President al-Bashir returned to Khartoum on Friday [November 24, 2017] evening from Russia after a two-day visit where he held a controversial meeting with his counterpart Vladimir Putin. During the meeting, Al-Bashir asked Putin to protect his country against U.S. diplomatic efforts targeted at his country at the UN Security Council.
"In statements at Khartoum airport, the Sudanese top diplomat [Ghandour] said the visit was 'successful and historic'. He added that Bashir thanked Russia for its support to Sudan in the Security Council. 'Sudan has been targeted since 1990 and until now in successive resolutions led by some Western countries where Russia and China have been supporting Sudan in the Security Council,' he said. 'So, (Bashir's) talk about protection came in the context of the targeting that meant to stop the export of gold, which is Sudan's first export,' he added.
"The minister was alluding to a report by attempts to release a confidential report by UN panel of experts on Darfur in April 2016 about the gold mining in the western Sudan region. The report said that Musa Hilal, a notorious tribal leader and his militia earns $54 million a year.
"At the time, Russia blocked the publication of the report saying the experts were not neutral and considered it as part of a campaign to punish and weaken Khartoum rather than promoting peace and security in Darfur.
"In February 2016, Russia and China had opposed an attempt by the United States and the United Kingdom to adopt the panel's recommendations to sanction individuals and entities that impose illegal taxes on artisanal gold miners beside people engaged in the illegal exploitation and trafficking of gold.
"Gold is the primary source of hard currency revenue for Sudan since the secession of South Sudan in 2011.
"Speaking about the impact of this visit on the relationship with the United States, the foreign minister said that Sudan's relations with a country do not depend on its relations with another and that Sudan develops its relations with all countries of the world.
"He said that Washington and Moscow have strong relations and economic cooperation, pointing that the U.S. President Donald Trump and Putin recently discussed the situation in Syria. 'So there is nothing to prevent Sudan from cooperating with the United States while at the same time pursuing strategic relations with China and Russia,' Ghandour said. 'The era of blocs and the time of polarization in the world are over and now the world is open to cooperation for the benefit of all,' he concluded."
(Sudantribune.com, November 25, 2017)
Russia-U.S. Media War
Russia's Federation Council supported a bill requiring foreign media outlets such as Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and others to register as foreign agents. The bill was adopted by MPs of the State Duma on November 15. In the bill, "foreign media performing the functions of a foreign agent," are defined as entities distributing "to unlimited audience, print, audio, audiovisual and other messages and materials."
The bill is in retaliation for Washington's demand to have RT register under its Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). In mid-November RT fulfilled the request.
News In Brief
- Pyotr Tolstoy, the deputy speaker of the State Duma, says Moscow will consider banning Google from collecting advertising revenue in Russia, in response to the company's recent actions against Russian media outlets." (Meduza.io, November 21, 2017; Read full article)
- "A State Duma committee has approved draft legislation that would empower the parliament to ban certain foreigners from entering Russia. The ban would apply to foreign citizens who have committed acts "threatening Russia's national interests or infringing on the interests of Russian individuals, society, state, or nationally recognized historical, spiritual, cultural, or social values'." (Meduza.io, November 22, 2017; Read full article)
- The Communications Ministry wants to grant civil registry access to Russia's federal media regulator, so it can audit the media owners' relatives (Meduza.io, November 14, 2017; Read full article)