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
(Source: Vk.com/politics_today, September 25, 2017)
Quote Of The Week
Konstantin Blokhin (Source: Riss.ru)
At an event hosted by the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies (RISS), a think tank established by the President of the Russian Federation, Konstantin Blokhin, an expert in Russia-U.S. relations, made the following comment:
"The preconditions for such a normalization [of Russia-U.S. relations] are simply nonexistent. Trump himself, since assuming the presidency, has visibly changed – he began to be part of the political mainstream establishment. He became even more aggressive than the previous administration. The Congress has an anti-Russian bias. So, by and large, we don't have friends in the U.S. … [American] Liberal interventionists and neocons perceive Russia as a revanchist state, which impedes the U.S. from forming liberal world order, where Washington has a lead. So, they want to punish Russia… The U.S. is entering a turbulent period of losing its might. Simultaneously, the U.S. does not want to lose its positions – on the contrary, it seeks to prove to the entire world that it remains a hegemon… Russia and the U.S. are [again] starting a very familiar period in their relations – a period of confrontation. This period is clear and comprehensible to us – we know how to act, how to contain the U.S. Our main goal is – together with China - to preserve the world order from relapsing into chaos".
(Riss.ru, September 29, 2017)
In The News
Reactions To Trump's U.N. Speech
Lavrov: Trump Said That He Respects Sovereignty And Equality In International Affairs; 'It Was A Remarkable Statement'
Trump at the UNGA (Source: Sputniknews.com)
On September 19, 2017, U.S. President Donald Trump gave his first speech to the UNGA. During an interview with TASS and the AP, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov had positive comments to offer on Trump's speech:
Q: "What is your opinion of President Trump's speech at the UN General Assembly, particularly, his statement that the U.S. stands ready to totally destroy North Korea?"
Sergey Lavrov: "We heard the statements from President Trump about North Korea in the same vein many times. We do not doubt that the United States has the capacity to do something very destructive.
"But I paid attention to another part of the president's speech when he said that he respects sovereignty and equality in international affairs, that the United States wants to lead by example and not otherwise, and that the U.S. would not impose its way of life on others and would accept the diversity of the nations, cultures and civilizations. I think it's a very welcome statement which we haven't heard from the American leaders for a very long time."
(Mid.ru, September 20, 2017)
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s responds to questions from the Russian media, New York, September 19, 2017. (Source: Mid.ru)
During another meeting with the Russian media, Lavrov elaborated further on various issues mentioned in Trump's speech:
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Q: "How would you describe the ongoing UN General Assembly session, in particular, the remarks by U.S. President Donald Trump, who said the United States has the strength to totally destroy North Korea, if it is forced to defend its allies?"
Sergey Lavrov: "Regarding the statement by U.S. President Donald Trump, it was remarkable. Some of it was probably intended for domestic audiences, in addition to foreign audiences. We have taken note of the clear expression of support for the principles of sovereignty and equality in international affairs, as well as the intention to let the United States shine as an example for everyone to watch, that the United States does not seek to impose its way of life on anyone and that it respects the right of every other sovereign nation to determine its future, or form of government. As I said, it was a remarkable statement. Now we will see whether these words are translated into action…
"U.S. President Donald Trump also spoke about other countries besides Ukraine, which he described as 'rogue regimes,' and he said what the United State could do with regard to North Korea. Our position of principle is that we do not demonize anyone but try to get to the bottom of the problem. Some are concerned about their security, others are focused on developing relations with their neighbors, and still others are dealing with an internal conflict. Condemnation and threats will only antagonize the countries that we want to influence. Therefore, we prefer to work with all concerned parties, to encourage them to enter into a dialogue, both regarding domestic conflicts or problems like the nuclear threat on the Korean Peninsula.
"It is particularly alarming that President Trump has reaffirmed the irreconcilable U.S. position and criticized the international action plan that helped settle the Iranian nuclear problem. The foreign ministers of the six countries that worked with Iran to develop the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) will meet tomorrow. These six ministers – five permanent UN Security Council members plus Germany – and the Foreign Minister of Iran will discuss the implementation of the JCPOA. We will rely on the professional assessment provided by the IAEA, whose director general has said more than once that Iran is faithfully implementing its obligations. We will uphold this document and the consensus, which the international community happily accepted and which has strengthened regional security, as we see it, as well as broader international security."
(Mid.ru, September 19, 2017)
Senator Kosachev: I Was Disappointed By Trump's Speech
Senator Konstantin Kosachev wrote in his Facebook account:
"I was openly disappointed by Trump's appearance before the UNGA. Yes, it could have been gladdening that Trump, contrary to his predecessor, has not put Russia on the roster of the main threats to the mankind. He has even commended our country for cooperating in the UNSC on the N. Korean issue. But this is definitely not enough.
"[I would] like to hear either American action plan for the foreseeable future – if the U.S. pretends to be the leader – or at least [I would like to hear] the positive confirmation of those healthy thoughts Trump introduced during his elections campaign.
"In my opinion, neither the first nor the second expectation was fulfilled. I've got an impression that [Trump's] speech was written by different people –the first part pertained to the genre of a preacher, the second to a judicial verdict.
"The glaring inconsistency– [the U.S.] on the one hand repeatedly enunciated the principle of national equality and respect for sovereign rights in independent [paths to] development, while on the other hand the U.S., impudently pretends to define who is entitled for those sovereign rights and who's not. In other words: 'Everything for the friends, the law for the enemy.'
"In addition to [aforementioned things] – there are very dangerous statements about "total annihilation of N/Korea" and about quitting "the disgraceful deal with Iran, the worst for the U.S." Take also [the mention] of Syria, Cuba and Venezuela as almost the worst dictatorships in human history..
"There are slogans on the one hand, and labeling on the other. What next – that remains unspoken. It more likely [reflects] bewilderment by the speechwriters, including the U.S. president. This is most deplorable and most dangerous in a complicated situation we are living in for the last years. "
(Facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002123135703, September 19, 2017)
United Russia MP Sergei Zheleznyak, a member of the State Duma Committee for International Affairs, said: "Trump has not succeeded in implementing the positive potential of the beginning of his presidency in the international arena. Threatening from the UN podium to destroy a sovereign state, which N. Korea is, despite all its peculiarities, is an irresponsible and unconstructive step... Reaching peace, which Trump was talking about, through threats and weapons deliveries to destructive regimes, including the current regime in Ukraine, is a road to apocalypses rather than to civilized and safe development."
(Ria.ru, September 20, 2017)
Political Expert Daniuk: Trump Is A World Renowned Provocateur
Nikita Daniuk, deputy director of the Institute for Strategic Research and Prognosis, at the Peoples' Friendship University of Russia, said:
"When the president of the U.S., standing on high podium, proclaims his readiness to eradicate a sovereign state [i.e. N. Korea] – this is perceived as quite bizarre. Most likely this is merely rhetoric. It's clear that any conflict along Russia's or China's borders will be perceived as a direct threat to their national security. Donald Trump is a well-known provocateur, he tosses out handouts to the media with such pompous statements, and then, when the wave abates, he just forgets about his own words, since he does not treat them seriously."
(Ria.ru, September 19, 2017)
Anecdote: My Elevator Ride With Putin
Vygaudas Usackas (Source: Twitter.com/usackas_v)
EU ambassador to Russia Vygaudas Usackas, a former Lithuanian minister of foreign affairs, in an interview with the Russian TV Rain channel shared a story about his chance encounter with Russian President Putin:
"We traveled in an elevator after negotiations. The only people were Putin, me, [the former] head of the EU Commission José Manuel Barroso and couple of guards," said Usackas.
Usackas explained that, while in the elevator, he had "a tough conversation" with Putin, regarding Russia-Lithuania relations. According to EU ambassador, at some point Putin asked him: "Why is she coming down on me all the time?" referring to Lithuanian president Dalia Grybauskaite. The response of the EU ambassador, as he himself describes it, was: "How can we not to come down on you? You threaten Ukraine, you threaten Lithuania, you've introduced sanctions against Lithuanian agricultural products and exports… What else should we do?" The diplomat did not divulge further details of the conversation.
(Mk.ru, September 29, 2017)
Presidential spokesperson Dmitry Peskov could neither confirm or deny that the conversation took place: "I can neither confirm nor deny, since I was not there [during the conversation] and I know nothing about it."
(Gazeta.ru, September 29, 2017)
Russia In Syria
During a roundtable discussion titled, "Two years of Russian Aerospace Force's operation in Syria: Analysis," lead researcher of the International Security Problems Institute at the Russian Academy of Sciences, Alexei Fenenko: "[Taking into account] that Russia has the upper hand in Syria and knowing the Americans, I can say they will merely get infuriated." He then added: "We should get prepared for the U.S. revenge, which will be very serious… Measures should be taken right now… the Americans consider in earnest the destabilization of Central Asia. They view Tajikistan as the most vulnerable."
Fenenko also stated: "There is a threat in Georgia along with NATO's teeming activity in Armenia, where evident attempts are made to grow opposition… To drive a wedge in the CSTO [Collective Security Treaty Organization, an assembly of post-Soviet republics] is one of the options to avenge… Also, I would not rule out a flare-up of the Transnistrian conflict, with Romania, as a NATO member, being dragged into it."
(Tass.com, September 27, 2017)
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov considered that the main goal of the U.S. in Syria is not the war on terror: "We've seen for ourselves again that, while proclaiming its interest in liquidating the IS (Islamic State), a terrorist organization outlawed in Russia, and in defeating terrorists in Syria, the American side actually testified otherwise by some of its actions, namely, that some political and geopolitical tasks are more important to Washington."
(Tass.com, September 25, 2017)
Ryabkov also said that the death of Russian General Valery Asapov in Syria, killed in a mortar shelling attack, is as a direct result of Washington's policy in Syria. Ryabkov said: "The tragedy that we witnessed, the death of a Russian commander, is the price paid in blood for this double-dealing in the U.S.' policy [in the war on terror]."
(Tass.com, September 25, 2017)
Earlier, the Russian Defense Ministry accused the U.S. special forces of coordinating their actions with the Islamic State in the Deir-A-Zor region. The Russian Defense Ministry wrote in its Facebook account: "Without any resistance from the Islamic State (IS) militants, the [U.S. backed primarily Kurdish] Syrian Democratic Forces are moving further along the left shore of the Euphrates River towards Deir ez-Zor." The Russian defense spokesman added: "In the aerial photo images, taken between September 8 and 12, 2017, at the positions of IS forces, many U.S .armored Hammer vehicles, used by the US special forces, can been seen. Though the U.S. military units' positions are in the areas of IS location, they do not have any signs of organized combat security." The Russian Defense Ministry further stated: "The pictures show clearly that units of the U.S. special force are located in strongholds, which the IS militants had equipped."
(Tass.com, September 24, 2017)
See also an overview by Russian independent media outlet Meduza.io on Russia-U.S. relations in Syria, Russian and American troops are coming face to face in Syria, and some major accusations are already flying, September 21, 2017.
News In Brief
- Putin congratulated the President of Abkhazia Raul Khajimba on Independence Day. (Life.ru, September 30, 2017)
- Kazakhstan plans to shift to the Latin alphabet. "The idea of switching from Cyrillic script to Latin script was first voiced by Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev in his 2012 state-of-the-nation address. Earlier this year, he instructed the government to develop and endorse a single Latin-based version of the Kazakh alphabet by the end of 2017." (Astanatimes.com, September 18, 2017; See full article)