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
The U.S. media claims to promote freedom of information but it merely stokes information wars and wars plain and simple
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:
The Russian news website Life.ru included Zakharova in its list of the world's 100 sexiest women for 2016. Life.ru mentioned that the "sexiest part" of her body is her mind.
"I have talked to Western reporters today. The main question they had was about BuzzFeed's brilliant report on Russia's alleged attempts to influence the US presidential election," Zakharova wrote on her Facebook page. She then added: "I have fully expressed my attitude on this crazy rubbish, it is hard to tolerate this inhuman nonsense."
(Tass.com, January 11, 2017)
While commenting on the statement that the actress Meryl Streep made at the Golden Globe Awards ceremony, Zakharova wrote: "The stunning Meryl Streep said, 'This instinct to humiliate when it's modeled by someone powerful on a public platform, it filters down into everyone's life because it seemingly grants permission for other people to do the same thing…when the powerful use their position to bully others, we all lose." She then added: "But can't this be said about the outgoing administration? Of course, it can. Offend and humiliate, even if it doesn't make sense and leads to unwanted results - this is the motto of the outgoing team."
(Tass.com, January 10, 2017)
"It seems to me that 'Russian hackers' hacked only two things in the U.S. which are Obama's brains and the very report on the 'Russian hackers."
(Tass.com, January 9, 2017)
Pushkov's Tweet Storm
Senator Alexey Pushkov (@Alexey_Pushkov) wrote on his Twitter account: "The U.S. democratic process was undermined not by Russia, but by the Obama administration and mass media, which supported [Hillary] Clinton over [President-elect Donald] Trump. The threat to democracy comes from within the U.S. itself."
(Source: @Alexey_Pushkov, January 6, 2017)
In The News:
Comments On Obama Farewell Speech – Senator Klinstevich: 'In His Last Address Barack Obama Said Nothing New. Moreover, He Said Nothing At All'
First deputy chairman of Russia's Federation Council's Committee on Defense and Security, Frants Klintsevich, commented: "In his last address Barack Obama said nothing new. Moreover, he said nothing at all, but for the same old habitual phrases about the United States' greatness, attempts to belittle the potential of other countries (first and foremost, Russia and China), and attempts to excuse attempts to spread democracy around the world." He then added that Obama will go down in history as one of the weakest U.S. presidents and "future generations will hold him responsible for the current appalling condition of Russian-US relations, which made joint struggle against the Islamic State impossible. He has failed to realize to this day that the interests of two great powers may overlap or even clash not because of some intrigues by Moscow, but because it is a natural process having geopolitical causes."
(Tass.com, January 11, 2017)
On The Expulsion Of The Russian Diplomats - Senator Klintsevich: 'It Is Often The Best Way To Respond To Such Actions By Not Reacting In Any Way, Thus Illuminating Their Inadequacy'
On December 29, the Obama Administration sanctioned Russia's security services and military intelligence and declared 35 diplomats persona non grata, calling Moscow's "malicious cyber-enabled activities" a "national emergency." Nevertheless, Russian President Vladimir Putin decided not to expel US diplomats from Russia and not to take any other counter measure in response to Washington's moves. Senator Konstantin Kosachev, head of the Russian Federation Council's International Affairs Committee, commented: "[Putin] demonstrated to the entire world the responsible approach taken by the Russian leadership to international politics, where business and constructive relations between Russia and U.S. must work for global interests, despite provocations by failed politicians and pressure from politicos who already came to terms with defeat." He then added: "I proceed from the assumption that this non-standard, powerful and constructive signal will be read correctly by US President-elect [Donald] Trump."
(Tass.com, December 31, 2016)
Senator Klintsevich noted: "It is clear that Russia in this case was also guided by pragmatic considerations, leaving a wide room for maneuver for the U.S. President-elect. However, there is more to that. We acted flawlessly from the moral point of view, as a power that understands its strength and rightness." He then added: "By expelling Russian diplomats from U.S. under a made-up pretext, the Barack Obama Administration undoubtedly counted on a reciprocal response. However, it is often the best way to respond to such actions by not reacting in any way, thus illuminating their inadequacy."
(Tass.com, December 31, 2016)
(Source: @RussianEmbassy, December 30, 2016)
The Russian Embassy in the UK tweeted: "MFA: American people humiliated by its own President"
Kremlin Denies Having Compromising Materials On Trump – Peskov: ‘This Is Pulp Fiction’
The Kremlin denied having compromising materials on US President-elect Donald Trump (See CNN article “Intel chiefs presented Trump with claims of Russian efforts to compromise him”, and Buzzfeed report “These Reports Allege Trump Has Deep Ties To Russia”). Presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: "No, the Kremlin has no compromising materials on Trump.” He then added: "This is absolutely fake information, a fabrication and complete nonsense. The Kremlin does not engage in gathering compromising materials. This is called pulp fiction." According to Peskov, one has to respond to this "with certain humor," "although there is also a sad side to this: indeed, there are those who are instigating this hysteria, who are going overboard to maintain this state of the 'witch hunt.'"
Peskov added that "the continuation of this hysterical condition" is aimed at leaving the Russian-US relations "in the course of degradation and not allowing anyone simply to think about how much this corresponds to the interests of both countries and how much this corresponds to the interests of the global community and what can be done to switch over from total confrontation to constructivism in relations [between Russia and the United States]."
(Tass.com, January 11, 2016)
Senator Konstantin Kosachev, chair Federation Council International Affairs committee, whose name was mentioned in the report, said: “They got my official position wrong (I have not worked in the State Duma for five years). I do not know Michel Cohen [attorney for Donald Trump and The Trump Organization] and I have not even heard that name until today. I have not been to Prague or any other Czech city for at least five years if not more.” Kosachev wrote on his Facebook page: “Such inconsistencies allow me to conclude that the report is fabricated by the provocateurs, who do not possess the information and pluck it out of thin air.
(Kosachev’s Facebook page, January 11, 2016)
Russia In Syria
Russian Chief of Staff Valery Gerasimov: We Are Reducing Our Military Presence in Syria
The Russian Ministry of Defense released for publication footage of a Russian commanding officer in Syria reporting to the Chief of Staff on the operational results of the Russian aircraft carrier group's presence in Syria. Russian Chief of Staff and Deputy Defense Minister Valery Gerasimov officially confirmed that the aircraft carrier group was leaving the region. The footage was uploaded to the official MOD YouTube channel on January 6, 2017.
See MEMRI TV clip No. 5835, Russian Chief of Staff Valery Gerasimov: We Are Diminishing Our Military Presence in Syria, January 5, 2017.
Ceasefire in Syria
On December 20, 2016, the Russian, Iranian, and Turkish defense and foreign ministers met in Moscow to discuss potential solutions to the Syria crisis. Following the meeting, the ministers announced that they had approved the Moscow Declaration, which Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu described as a roadmap devised by Russian experts to resolve the crisis. This move comes at the same time as another recent initiative proposed by Russia – that the Syrian regime and the Syrian opposition conduct negotiations in Kazakhstan's capital Astana.
See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 1292, Russian Efforts To Exclude U.S., Europe From Political Solution In Syria And Create A Framework For Bypassing Geneva I, December 23, 2016.
Russia, Turkey and Iran announced a ceasefire in Syria at the Astana meeting. However, the process is problematic, since Turkey and Iran have different goals, while Russia has to strike a balance between the agonistic positions of its partners. Turkey has accused the Assad regime and Hizbullah of breaking the ceasefire and thus endangering the Astana talks. The Iranian Foreign Ministry retorted that "the irresponsible" Turkish statements against Iran may complicate the situation in Syria and hamper political reconciliation.
(Ria.ru, January 4; Ria.ru, January 6)
Vk.com/supercartoon, January 10, 2017.
Attempts at imposing democracy in the Middle East merely exacerbate regional conflagrations
Philippines President Duterte Asks Russia To Be His Country's Ally And Protector
Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte checks out the Admiral Tributs, a Russian antisubmarine vessel on a goodwill visit to Manila, at Pier 15, Port Area in Manila. Joining him is Lt. Cmdr. Artem Kolpashchikov, Russian Ambassador Igor Khovaev, Lt. Gen. Glorioso Miranda and Vice Adm. Ronald Joseph Mercado. (Source: Globalnation.inquirer.net)
From January 2-7, Russian vessels Admiral Tributs, an anti-submarine warship, and the tanker Boris Butoma docked at Manila South Harbor for a four-day goodwill visit that will include talks. The Admiral Tributs' crew demonstrated anti-terrorism capability.
Rear Admiral Eduard Mikhailov, deputy commander of the Russian Navy's Pacific Fleet, said: "Our governments will maybe discuss in some period of time the possibilities of our maritime exercises. The biggest problem now in the world is terrorism and piracy, and all our exercises we have, for example, with you we will have to fight these problems and we will show you what we can do and we will see what you can do and show us. For sure, in the future we'll have exercises and build exercises with Philippines. Our government will be discussing… the possibilities of our maritime exercises… maybe just only maneuvering or maybe, use of combat systems and so on."
(Philstar.com, January 4, 2017)
While touring the Russian vessels, Philippines' President Duterte said to the deputy commander of the Flotilla of the Russian Navy Pacific Fleet, Rear Adm. Eduard Mikhailov: "We welcome our Russian friends. Anytime you want to dock here for anything, for play, for replenish supplies or maybe our ally to protect us." After signing a guest book, Duterte said "Friends, long live!" He added: "That's from the heart; I hope you can come back more often."
(Scmp.com, January 6, 2017)
The Russian Ambassador to the Philippines Khovaev said that Moscow is willing to help Manila advance its military capabilities. Igor Khoraev said: "I think it's time to get rid of outdated clichés. It's time to get rid of prejudices. As far I understand the Philippines, there is an objective need to diversify the range of circle of your foreign partners."
(Rt.com, January 6, 2017)
Russian Ambassador Igor Khovaev (right) shakes hands with Rear Admiral Eduard Mikhailov, deputy commander of a flotilla of Russia's Pacific Fleet (2nd from right) shortly after the Russian Navy vessel Admiral Tributs docked. (Update.ph, January 3)
Russian Marines' show-of-force demonstration in the Philippines. (See YouTube video: Manila Bulletin Online)
In September 2016, The Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte said that his country would establish alliances with China and Russia as part of his independent foreign policy. The Philippines's media outlet Philstar.com reported that the Philippines and Russia agreed "to speed up work on a legal framework and plan of action for cooperative activities aimed at enhancing Philippines-Russia defense engagement." Philippines's Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana visited Moscow in December 2016, and discussed the expansion of Philippines-Russia defense cooperation with Russian Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov. The Philstart.com reported: "The visit was a first for a Philippine defense chief since the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries 40 years ago. It also came on the heels of a meeting between President Duterte and President Vladimir Putin in Lima, Peru last November 19."
(Philstar.com, January 5, 2017)
Vice President Leni Robredo said she had no problems maintaining close relations with Russia and China, but expressed concern that it could come at the expense of the Philippines' ties with other allies (.i.e. the U.S.). Robredo said: "I don't have a problem for us to maintain close relations with China and Russia, but I hope it's not at the expense of severing our ties with other allies. My main worry is that we might be doing that at the expense of our friendship with stable allies in the past." Robredo also added: "For me I think it will be beneficial to the country if we cultivate friendship with other countries aside from the U.S. I think it will be good for all of us if the Philippines tries to make more friends."
(Newsinfo.inquirer.net, January 7, 2017)
Russia offered to sell a submarine to the Philippines along with drones as part of a military hardware package designed to boost the country's military modernization program.
(Philstar.com, December 31, 2016)