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May 16, 2016 No.
6432

Russia This Week - May 9-16, 2016

Russia This Week is a new weekly review by the MEMRI Russian Media Studies Project, covering the latest news and analysis concerning Russia from media in Russia, the Caucasus, Central Asia, and Eastern Europe.

Cartoon Of The Week


On the briefcase: "Pentagon"
U.S. President Barack Obama: "Doc, they're threatening us from space!"
Psychiatrist: "Who? Aliens!"
Obama: "No, Russia and China!"
Source: vk.com/13studiya, May 10, 2016.

Zakharova Dixit

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova is one of the most-quoted Russian officials. She is known for her colorful discourse in describing Russian foreign policy in her weekly press briefings. The following is Zakharova's quotes of the week:

"We continue to view the unconstructive activities of the United States and its allies in the area of missile defense [in Romania and Poland] as a direct threat to international and regional security and stability." - Zakharova's Weekly Press Briefing, Mid.ru, May 12, 2016 

"What we see from our Western partners cannot be considered as a betrayal. Only people close to you are able to betray you. What happened [regarding the anti-ballistic-missile defense sites in Europe] is that there were some mean moves, breaking different agreements: [The West] doesn't accept our position, [and] behaves like a card sharper regarding the anti-ballistic-missile defense sites - The West has always claimed [that the anti-ballistic-missile defense sites in Europe] are not against Russia, but rather [against] Iran." - Right to Know program on TVC channel, Lenta.ru, May 15, 2016

In The News

Russia-U.S.-NATO Relations: The "Aegis Ashore" Missile Defense System Becomes Operational In Romania

On May 13, construction officially began of the NATO's "Aegis Ashore" anti-ballistic-missile defense site in Redzikowo, Poland. At the groundbreaking ceremony, U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work said that the system is for the protection of NATO members and is not directed at Russia.[1] The site will be able to host 300 U.S. troops and is to be completed in 2018.

On May 12, the NATO's "Aegis Ashore" Missile Defense System became operational in the U.S Naval support facility in Deveselu, Romania. In a meeting in Bucharest with Romanian officials, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Defense Policy and Verification Operations Frank A. Rose said that "combined with the missile-defense-capable ships in the Mediterranean, the site provides a significant enhancement to the coverage of NATO from short- and medium-range ballistic missile threats originating from outside the Euro-Atlantic area." Rose added that "NATO and the United States have explained this to Russia many times over the years."

Romanian President Klaus Iohannis said that the ballistic missile defense shield in Romania is not targeted against any state, stressing that it has a strictly defensive role. "I am saying it once more as clearly as it can be: "Aegis Ashore" is not directed against any state, it has a strictly defensive role. This is to ensure Romania's and the European allies' defense against some possible threats of ballistic attacks from outside the Euro-Atlantic space... This system at Deveselu has strictly defensive capabilities...it cannot be used offensively...Each [NATO] member protects each member, the 360-degree approach, as NATO must be prepared to face all challenges and all risks. We are not talking about Russia here. We know Russia uses the occasion to be very vocal, but they know as well as we do that the system is not in any way directed against Russia; but NATO must be prepared to deal with other incidents, coming from another area, from outside the Euro-Atlantic space."[2]

The deployment of NATO's missile defense base in Romania prompted strong criticism in Russia. Russian Permanent Representative to NATO Alexander Grushko said, "Making the Deveselu base operational is another step in the series of measures creating considerable risks to the Russian Federation's security."[3] On May 13, in a meeting with the Defense Ministry leadership and defense industry representatives, Russian President Vladimir Putin said, "Now, after the missile defense systems are built there, [Russia] will be forced to consider ways to prevent any threat to the Russian Federation."[4]

The MEMRI Russian Media Studies Project will soon publish a comprehensive review of Russian reactions to the "Aegis Ashore" Missile Defense System deployment in Romania.

On May 11, joint Georgia-NATO military drills were officially launched in Georgia. The two-week Noble Partner exercises opened at the Vaziani military air base with the participation of 500 Georgian, 650 U.S. and 150 British soldiers. The military drills were regarded as one of the most important events in Georgia-NATO relations.[5]

On May 11, in an interview with Radio Poland, U.S. Ambassador to Poland, Paul W. Jones said. "I think Russia's goal is to divide the NATO alliance and the transatlantic community and introduce uncertainty into the relations among countries."[6]

On May 10, Russia's Strategic Missile Force (SMF) Commander Sergey Karakayev said that Russia is developing new intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) with special focus on their ability to penetrate the U.S. missile shield. According to the Russian official, "threats from the U.S. missile defense system in Europe" do not critically reduce the combat capabilities of the Russian Strategic Missile Forces, because Russian missiles are constantly upgraded.[7]

On May 10, the Russian news agency Tass.ru reported that a state-of-the-art heavy liquid-propelled intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), the RS-28 Sarmat missile, is currently being developed for the Russian army. According to the report, it "is designed to replace the old Soviet R-36M missile Voyevoda, codenamed Satan by NATO, as the heavy silo-based component of Russia's nuclear deterrence. The RS-28 has been in development since 2009 and is scheduled to start replacing the old ICBMs in 2018."[8] The Russian media outlet Zavtra.ru mentioned that the RS-28 Sarmat and the R-36M missile Voyeyoda are both capable of wiping out territories as big as Texas and France. However, the testing of the Sarmat has been postponed, for unidentified reasons.[9]

On May 10, on a visit to Canada, Polish President Andrzej Duda, stressed the importance of consolidating NATO's presence in Poland and other member states in Central and Eastern Europe. He said that support is still needed, "not only for Poland being in NATO, but for NATO being in Poland."

On May 9, NATO launched the "Platinum Lion 16-3" exercise at Bulgaria's Novo Selo Training Range (southeastern Bulgaria).Bulgarian media outlet Novinite.com reported that the one-week military drill was part of the Black Sea Rotational Force 16.1 training exercise. The drill involved about 315 troops: 90 from Bulgarian ground forces, 150 from the U.S. Marine Corps, 25 from the Romanian Army, 40 from the UK armed forces, and 11 from the French Army.[10]

On May 9, Polish Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski said that Central European countries should form a lobby to press for their interests in the EU and NATO. "We would like this region to develop within the European Union and NATO, [we want] countries in the region to form a lobby group in these institutions working for the implementation of our security interests, our economic and infrastructure interests," Waszczykowski said.[11]

Sanctions On Russia: Crimean Tatar Leader Calls On EU To Impose Embargo On Russian Oil

On May 13, U.S. President Barack Obama hosted the leaders of five Nordic nations - Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Iceland. In a joint statement, the leaders agreed that "sanctions against Russia for its actions in eastern Ukraine cannot be lifted until Russia fully implements its Minsk commitments," adding that the Crimea-related sanctions are to remain in force until Russia returns Crimea to Ukrainian control. The statement stressed that the U.S. and the Nordic countries are "concerned by Russia's growing military presence in the Baltic Sea region,[12] its nuclear posturing, its undeclared exercises, and the provocative actions taken by Russian aircraft and naval vessels."[13]

On May 13, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said that he expects the international community to impose tougher sanctions on Russia, mentioning the deterioration of the human rights situation in Crimea, especially concerning the rights of Crimean Tatars. Crimea was incorporated into Russia in 2014.

On May 9, Refat Chubarov, leader of the Crimean Tatar National Movement Organization, called on the EU to consider imposing a temporary embargo on Russian oil.[14] On April 26, Crimea's Supreme Court designated the Crimean Tatar Majlis an extremist entity and banned its activity in Russia.[15]

On May 9, during a visit to Poland, Croatian Foreign Minister Miro Kovač said that sanctions should be imposed on Russia in response to its "occupation" of Ukraine.[16]

Russia and Ukraine: Ukraine Presents Anti-Russia Song At Eurovision Song Contest

On May 14, Ukrainian singer Jamala (Susana Jamaladinova), an ethnic Crimean Tatar, won the Eurovision Song Contest with the song "1944," which criticized Russia's annexation of Crimea and focused on the Soviet 1944 deportation of the Crimean Tatars from Crimea to Central Asia. Since Crimea's annexation in 2014, the international community has accused Russia of discriminating against the Tatar minority in Crimea.[17]

Ukraine's win in the Eurovision contest was criticized in Russia and seen as a politically driven decision by the European countries. Alexey Pushkov, head of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the State Duma, said that Eurovision was no longer a contest, but a political battlefield.[18]

Russia and Iran: Russian S-300 Anti-Missiles System Deployed to Iran

On May 10, the Iranian news agency Tasnim News reported that Iranian Minister of Defense Hossein Dehghan announced that Iran's Khatam Al-Anbiya Air Defense Base had been equipped with Russian S-300 anti-missile defensive system.[19] The Iranian news agency Mehr also reported that Dehghan rejects the hypothesis that Iran seeks to buy S-400 missile systems from Russia.[20]

Russia and Afghanistan: Russia's Ambassador To Pakistan: Soviet Intervention in Afghanistan Was a "Tragic Mistake"

On May 12, addressing a seminar on "Russia's Position on Afghanistan and Syria" at the Area Study Centre at the University of Peshawar in Pakistan, Russia's Ambassador to Pakistan Alexey Y. Dedov called the 1979 Soviet intervention in Afghanistan a "tragic mistake." He then added that there is no parallel between the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan and Russia's support for the "legitimate regime" of Bashar Al-Assad in Syria. He said that Russia considered ISIS a threat to its national security, because some 3,000 of its citizens had joined it, causing problems in the Russian region of Dagestan and other North Caucasus areas.[21]

Russian Economy: The Russian Economic Ministry's Recipe To Pull Out Of The Recession

A revised draft of the macroeconomic forecast of the Russian Economic Ministry for 2016-2019 has been published. The Ministry's recipe for pulling out of the recession is wage restraint in 2016-2017, sustained growth of corporate profits in 2018-2019, with budget and National Wealth Fund investments in "strategically important and effective investment projects," and reduction of energy consumption.[22]

Press Freedom: Three Top RBC Editors "Leave" Their Positions Under Political Pressure

Three top editors from Russia's RBC media group have "left" their positions under political pressure, after conducting investigative reporting on Russian offshore money. According to the Russian newspaper Vedomosti, the Kremlin recently demanded that the RBC change its editorial policy. Some RBC journalists stated that they will leave their positions if their articles are censored.[23] The Kremlin denied that there was any pressure on its part.[24]

WWII Remembrance Day (Victory Day)

On May 9, Russia marked the 71st anniversary of the Soviet victory in World War II - known in the country as Victory in the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945 - with a military parade in Red Square. In a speech marking the anniversary, Putin said that WWII Victory Day is a "warning to all who would consider challenging Russia."[25]

Russia And Latvia

On May 12, Russian Ambassador to Latvia Alexander Veshnyakov was summoned to the Latvian Foreign Ministry. The Latvian daily Vesti Segodnya published an interview with Amb. Veshnyakov in which he stated that "demonization" of Russia is underway in Latvia and other Western countries. Latvian Foreign Minister State Secretary Andrejs Pildegovičs pointed out that in recent remarks the Russian ambassador had has overstepped the boundaries of what is acceptable in professional diplomatic conduct.[26]

Anti-Terror Legislation In Russia: State Duma Passes New Laws

On May 13, the Russian news agency Tass.ru reported that Russia's State Duma had passed, in the first reading, an anti-terrorism package of bills that include life imprisonment for involvement in international terrorism, 15-20 year prison terms for aiding and abetting terrorists, and revocation of Russian citizenship from dual nationals convicted of terrorism.

Strange But True

"Little Obama" Ice Cream Bar For Sale In The Russian Republic Of Tatarstan

A chocolate ice cream bar for sale in the Russian republic of Tatarstan has been named after U.S. President Barack Obama. The ice cream, called Obamka (Little Obama), has recently appeared in shops. A vodka called Putinka, named after Russian President Vladimir Putin, was launched in Russia in 2003.[27]


Source: Themoscowtimes.com, May 5, 2016.


Obama is eating Obamka ice cream, while in the middle of the table there's a bottle of Putinka vodka.
Obama: "Can someone explain to me why 'Putinka' is a vodka, and 'Obamka' is just an ice cream bar?"
Man: "I assume it's because vodka gives you hope and makes you into a hero, and ice cream... ice cream is covered with chocolate coating [referring to Obama's skin color]"
Source: Vk.com/13studiya, May 5, 2016.

Kalashnikov Concern, The Largest Weapons Manufacturer In Russia, Joins The World Of Fashion

Kalashnikov Concern, the largest weapons manufacturer in Russia, plans to release a clothing and accessories line by the end of 2016.[28]

 

 

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Endnotes:

[1] Defense.gov, May 13, 2016.

[2] Agerpres.ro, May 12, 2016.

[3] Tass.ru, May 12, 2016.

[4] Kremlin.ru, May 13, 2016

[5] Agenda.ge, May 11, 2016

[6] Thenews.pl, May 11, 2016

[7] Tass.ru, May 10, 2016.

[8] Tass.ru, May 10, 2016.

[9] Zavtra.ru, May 11, 2016.

[10] Novinite.com, May 9, 2016.

[11] Thenews.pl, May 9, 2016.

[13] Whitehouse.gov, May 13, 2016.

[14] Thenews.pl, May 9, 2016.

[15] Rt.com, April 26, 2016.

[16] Thenews.pl, May 9, 2016.

[17] Ecfr.eu, December 3, 2015

[18] Twitter.com/Alexey_Pushkov, May 15, 2016.

[19] Tasnimnews.com, May 10, 2016.

[20] Mehrnews.com, May 15, 2016.

[21] Ndtv.com, May 14, 2016.

[22] Kommersant.ru, May 10, 2016.

[23] Vedomosti.ru, May 13, 2016.

[24] Tass.ru, May 12, 2016.

[26] Mfa.gov.lv, May 12, 2016.

[27] Themoscowtimes.com, May 5, 2016.

[28] Sputniknews.com, May 6, 2016.