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.
Quotes Of The Week
Putin: '[Trump] Is Not My Bride, And I Am Not His Groom Or Fiancé'
Speaking before Russian journalists at a press conference following the BRICS summit in China, Russian President Vladimir Putin answered a question on Russia-U.S. relations and whether he is disappointed with Donald Trump since his election as U.S. President.
Putin: "Now, about the President of the United States. I think that it would be inappropriate for us to discuss how the situation in the U.S. could play out on the domestic front. This is none of our business, and something the United States has to deal with on its own.
"As for whether I am disappointed or not, your question is very naïve. After all, he is not my bride, and I am not his groom or fiancé. We hold public offices, and each country has its own interests. Trump is guided in his activities by his country’s national interests, and I am guided by my country’s interests."
(Kremlin.ru, September 5, 2017)
Putin: 'The Number Of American Diplomats In Moscow Should Be Not 455 But 155 Fewer'
In the same press conference Putin also threatened to expel more U.S. personnel.
Putin: "I would like you to take note of the fact that this figure, 455 Russian diplomats working in the United States, also includes (provisionally) the 155 Russians working at the United Nations. Strictly speaking, they are not diplomats accredited at the US Department of State but diplomats working at an international organization.
When the United States wanted the UN to be headquartered in New York, it pledged to properly ensure its operation. So strictly speaking, the number of American diplomats in Moscow should be not 455 but 155 fewer, if we are talking about parity."
(Kremlin.ru, September 5, 2017)
Putin: '[Tillerson] Has Fallen Into Bad Company'
Talking about U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson at the Eastern Economic Forum, Putin said:
"We once gave the Order of Friendship to… Mr. Tillerson, but by all indications, he has fallen into bad company and is going astray somewhat. I hope that the winds of cooperation, friendship and engagement will eventually put him back on track."
(Kremlin.ru, September 7, 2017)
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 many faces of Zakharova (Sources clockwise: Mid.ru, Armradio.am, Mid.ru, Mid.ru)
"'Not all American presidents have reached the end of their term,' Zakharova told the host of the state-run Rossia-1 television channel Vladimir Solovyov. "It could be worth remembering, considering the government we are dealing with in today’s historical times."
"Her comments to the channel’s flagship 'Voskresny Vecher' (Sunday Evening) program followed a remark from Solovyov that 'no American president has ever gone this far'."
(Themoscowtimes.com, September 4, 2017)
On September 9, 2017, Zakharova posted on her Facebook page a selfie wearing an abaya and her hair covered, during her trip to Saudi Arabia. The photo gained attention in social media. Zakharova was part of the delegation accompanying Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to Saudi Arabia. Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud is expected to visit Russia for the first time next October.
When in Saudi Arabia (Facebook.com/maria.zakharova.167, September 9, 2017)
In The News
Russia's Reactions To The North Korean Nuclear Weapons Program
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un hosted a gala celebration to honor the successful test of the country's sixth and most potent nuclear bomb, and called the test a "great victory." (Northkoreatimes.com, September 10, 2017)
Russian Amb. To The UN Nebenzya: Russia Does Not Accept N. Korea's Claims Of Nuclear Power Status
On September 11, the UNSC adopted a resolution tightening sanctions on North Korea. The US-drafted document was supported also by Russia and China. Russian Permanent Representative to the United Nations Vasily Nebenzya said: "Russia does not accept North Korea’s claims of nuclear power status, it supported all the UN Security Council resolutions demanding that Pyongyang put an end to its nuclear and missile programs in order to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula… Accordingly, we have been supporting sanctions imposed by these resolutions, aimed at making North Korea fulfill the Security Council’s demands."
(Tass.com, September 12, 2017)
Putin: 'Diplomacy Is The Only Way To Solve The North Korean Nuclear Problem'
During a press conference for the Russian speaking press following the BRICS summit, Russian president Vladimir Putin commented on the Korean peninsula crisis:
Q: "Returning to the DPRK, what is your position? It looks like neither talks (the diplomatic process), nor threats, nor sanctions work. How can the DPRK situation be resolved?"
Vladimir Putin: "This is the simplest question today.
"I discussed this with my colleagues in private, but I do not think there is any need to conceal anything here. I will repeat what I said in private and official conversations, and, in fact, what everyone should be aware of and anyone with common sense should understand.
"Everyone remembers well what happened to Iraq and Saddam Hussein. Hussein abandoned the production of weapons of mass destruction. Nonetheless, under the pretext of searching for these weapons, Saddam Hussein himself and his family were killed during the well-known military operation.
"Even children died back then. His grandson, I believe, was shot to death. The country was destroyed, and Saddam Hussein was hanged. Listen, everyone is aware of it and everyone remembers it. North Koreans are also aware of it and remember it. Do you think that following the adoption of some sanctions, North Korea will abandon its course on creating weapons of mass destruction?
"Russia condemns these exercises on the part of North Korea. We believe they are provocative in nature. However, we cannot forget about what I just said about Iraq, and what happened later in Libya. Certainly, the North Koreans will not forget it.
"Sanctions of any kind are useless and ineffective in this case. As I said to one of my colleagues yesterday, they will eat grass, but they will not abandon this program unless they feel safe.
"What can ensure security? The restoration of international law. We need to advance towards dialogue between all parties concerned. It is important for all participants in this process, including North Korea, not to have any thoughts about the threat of being destroyed; on the contrary, all sides to the conflict should cooperate.
"In this environment, in this situation, whipping up military hysteria is absolutely pointless; it is a dead end. Besides, North Korea has not only medium-range missiles and nuclear weapons, we know they have that, but they also have long-range artillery and multiple rocket launchers with a range of up to 60 kilometers.
"It is pointless to use missile defense systems against these weapons. There are no weapons in the world that can counteract long-range artillery or multiple rocket launchers. And they can be located in such a way that they are virtually impossible to find.
"In this context, military hysteria will do no good, but may lead to a global, planet-wide disaster and enormous casualties. Diplomacy is the only way to solve the North Korean nuclear problem."
(Kremlin.ru, September 5, 2017)
Putin: 'It Does Not Make Sense To Put Us On The List Alongside North Korea And Then Ask Us To Help With Sanctions Against It; But It Is Being Done By People Who Confuse Austria And Australia '
At the same event, Putin was asked about his opinion on the fact that the U.S. put on Russia new sanctions alongside North Korea and then asked Moscow to help with sanctions against it. It is also worth noting that on August 22, the U.S. Treasury Department expanded the anti-Russia sanction lists. Four Russian citizens and one Russian company face restrictions, over their support for the North Korean regime.
Q: "My question is also related to North Korea. The U.S. has declared that it wants to toughen sanctions and urged Russia to join them. How can such statements be evaluated given the renowned sanctions law where Russia is put on the same list as North Korea and Iran?"
Vladimir Putin: "True, it does not make sense to put us on the list alongside North Korea and then ask us to help with sanctions against it. But it is being done by people who confuse Austria and Australia and then ask their President to persuade Russia to toughen sanctions.
"But that is not the point, we are not going to pout, hold a grudge or laugh at anyone. Our position on this issue, as well as on all other issues, is based on principles.
"The point is not that we have been put on the same list with North Korea, which is absolutely absurd. I already said why I think (and our Foreign Ministry spoke about that too) that sanctions have reached their limit and are completely ineffective.
"There is also the humanitarian side to this issue. No matter which option we choose to influence North Korea, its leaders will not change their policy, whereas the suffering of millions could increase many times over.
Regarding Russia, there is nothing to say here. Absolutely nothing, because our trade is almost zero. I asked the Energy Minister, who told me that we only send them 40,000 tons of oil and petrochemicals per quarter.
As a reminder, Russia exports over 400 million tons of oil and petrochemicals to the global market, so 40,000 tons a quarter is as good as nothing. Moreover, none of our large vertically integrated companies exports anything to North Korea. This is the first thing I wanted to say.
"The second issue concerns the North Korean workforce. Indeed, we have some 30,000 North Korean workers in Russia. Is this a lot? No, this is perishably few. Should we leave these people without a means of subsistence? Besides, the Russian Far East needs more hands. Therefore, there is nothing to talk about. As the Foreign Ministry has said, the usefulness of sanctions has been exhausted.
"Of course, we are willing to discuss details, but we need to consider them first. We will work on this. We are cooperating with all those involved in this process. Actually, Russia co-authored a relevant resolution, at least it became a co-author during the debates on this resolution, which has been adopted and came into force. We are complying with this resolution in full."
(Kremlin.ru, September 5, 2017)
Russian Deputy PM Trutnev: The U.S. Constantly Rattles Its Saber In Close Vicinity To North Korea
Russian Deputy Prime Minister and Presidential Envoy for the Far East Yuri Trutnev said: "My personal opinion is that there would have been no conflict at all if the United States had put an end to continuing the conflict… Every time North and South Korea seem to be close to coming to terms with tensions starting to ease up, some naval drills immediately begin that even stipulate a training plan aimed at seizing Pyongyang, which is a direct provocation… the United States is a large country who constantly rattles its saber in close vicinity [to North Korea]… What kind of response can North Korea give? They express their readiness to use the weapons that they have, because they understand what will happen the day after someone takes Pyongyang… They can see perfectly well what happened to other countries, so their behavior is understandable."
(Tass.com, September 4, 2017)
Russian Expert Lukin: 'Moscow Will Side With China In This Game'
Artyom Lukin (a political science Ph.D., and an Assistant Professor at the Department of International Relations of the Eastern University – School of Regional and International Studies of the Far Eastern Federal University) wrote for the pro-Kremlin think tank Russian Council for International Affairs that the issue goes beyond support for the North Korean ally:
"China is not going to let North Korea disappear from the political map, and will continue to view that country as its geopolitical asset for at least as long as Beijing's rivalry with Washington for the Korean Peninsula and all of East Asia continues.
"What about Russia then? It appears that Moscow will side with China in this game. An important signal to that effect came in the form of a joint statement by the Russian and Chinese foreign ministries on the Korean Peninsula's problems, which was adopted on 4 July during Russian President Vladimir Putin's meeting with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping in Moscow. In the document, the parties place equal responsibility for the Korean Peninsula escalation on Pyongyang and Washington, and propose a joint initiative for a gradual settlement of the nuclear problem. The statement was probably the first instance in the history of Russia's strategic partnership with China when the two countries demonstrated a willingness to act in unison on the Korean Peninsula in no uncertain terms.
"The unprecedented nature of the joint statement is also evident from the statement to the effect that the two countries 'are paying sufficient attention to the maintenance of the international and regional balance and stability, and emphasize that allied relations between separate states should not inflict damage on the interests of third parties. They are against any military presence of extra-regional forces in Northeast Asia and its build-up under the pretext of counteracting the DPRK’s missile and nuclear programs.'
"In effect, Russia and China explicitly called on Washington to leave Northeast Asia. One could argue that these extremely stern words offered by the two foreign ministries are just diplomatic phrases, which are unlikely to be followed by any serious actions. Then again, Putin's Munich speech was at first perceived by many in the West and in Russia exclusively as an exercise in rhetoric and not as a warning."
(Russiancouncil.ru, August 23, 2017)
Editor-in-Chief Of Echo Of Moscow Venediktov: Russian Leadership Decided We Need To Support N. Korea In Order To Create A Further Point Of Tension With The Americans
Aleksey Venediktov, editor in chief of Echo of Moscow radio station, wrote in his telegram channel, following the N. Korean missile tests at the end of August:
"The Russian Security Council has just discussed the N. Korean problem. Without going into military-technical details, which are also considered to be classified information, it was acknowledged that the N. Korean missiles do pose a threat and sharply increase regional instability. From a military point of view we need to form an alliance between us, China, Russia, Japan (as a U.S. ally), and naturally with S. Korea in order to reduce tension. Yet, from the political point of view the conclusion was that it is 'essential' to support N. Korea in order to create a further point of tension with the Americans rather than collaborate with them as was done in Syria. The policy of confrontation has prevailed on this issue as well. We'll watch."
(Tlgrm.ru/channels/@aavst55, August 29, 2017)
South Korea’s president Moon Jae-in: Putin Embodies The Spirit Of A Siberian Tiger
At the Eastern Economic Forum that took place in the Russian Far East, South Korean President Moon Jae-in told Putin in the Plenary session: "On my flight here, I saw overgrown forests. It reminded me of a tiger that runs from Siberia to the Paektu mountain range in Korea. Since ancient times Koreans have considered the tiger a sacred animal and love it very much. Mr. President, many people think that your spirit is similar to the Amur [Siberian] tiger. 'In' in my name – Moon Jae-in – also means 'tiger'.
"We are much alike in the courage and bravery of a tiger. And if we work together and develop the Far East, we will succeed, won’t we?"
(Kremlin.ru, September 7, 2017)
Tigers burning bright – Putin tags Siberian tiger soulmate (Kremlin.ru)
News In Brief:
- U.S. Probes Russia's Sputnik News Agency for Foreign Agent Law Violations (Themoscowtimes.com, September 11, 2017; See full article)
- A source close to Russia's 'troll factory' says Facebook has deleted 80 percent of its groups (Meduza.io, September 7, 2017; See full article)
- Facebook declares war on Russia's 'troll factory' (Meduza.io, September 8, 2017; See full article)