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.
Russian foreign policy comment was not limited exclusively to Donald Trump as the Netherlands, Turkey and Israel also claimed attention. There was even some brave criticism of Putin's appearance before the Valdai Discussion Forum.
Cartoon Of The Week
Vitaly Podvitsky, Ria.ru, November 10, 2016
US Intelligence agents: "We do not understand what he is all about. And that scares me"
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:
'Improving Bilateral [Russia-U.S.] Relations... Means An Immense Amount Of Work To Be Done By Professionals'
Question: "Does Russia feel optimistic or, perhaps, cautiously optimistic in connection with Donald Trump's election as US President? Will this lead to an improvement in Russian-American relations?"
Maria Zakharova: "...We should understand that improving bilateral relations (and in this case we are speaking not so much about improving relations as about leading them out of a deadlock) means an immense amount of work to be done by professionals. Of course, a dismissive and amateurish approach is out of the question here, because it is indeed a serious task that must be addressed. We are fully ready for this. Moreover, despite all the electioneering, before the vote and the declaration of the returns, we not just sent signals through our representatives or passed unofficial messages, we had a clear position ready, which consisted in that we were ready for cooperation and for developing normal relations and, most importantly, that we understood it was simply criminal to let this runaway train continue on its downhill plunge and watch it gain speed. I am referring not only to the ambitions of certain overseas politicians, who may have felt offended by something, although lacking any real reasons for that. The thing is that it is other people who fall hostage to these ambitions. You can see the slow-down in humanitarian projects (and "slow-down" is a mild word in this context). We see our Western colleagues pay a lot of attention to issues of culture and cultural cooperation. But was there any cultural cooperation in recent years? There were neither the prerequisites, nor the right atmosphere. Neither was there the relevant infrastructure, including legal guarantees. This is just one aspect out of many. I think that people are tired and want to 'shed the old skin' of aggression and lies."
(Mid.ru, November 10)
Quotes Of The Week:
Commenting on Trump's victory, Russian Professor at Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO), Valery Solovei, said: "Putin and Trump are mentally alike. Both of them have this macho image, very muscular. Thus, psychologically they should suit each other. For example, Obama and Putin are total anti -pods. They did not like each other even on the personal level, to put it mildly. So, Putin and Trump may have quite good relations."
(Kp.ru, November 9)
Commenting on recent U.S. Presidential elections, the President of the Moscow-based Russian Center for Policy Research (PIR Center) is a Moscow-based PIR Center President Vladimir Orlov wrote: "It will be a reset in US-Russian relations, no doubt now. Simply because US people voted for it. Don't take me wrong: Russia was the last thing they thought about when they went to vote. But the result is crystal clear: There will be a reset in US dealing with the world. Unpredictable at times. Messy, quite frequently. But it will be a new, refreshing story, and it will affect Russia in this way.
"Will Russian-US relations win from yesterday's vote? Not necessarily. But they would have definitely lost if Hillary would have won. For Russia, it was a choice between 'bad' and 'even worse.' Oh yeah, it could have gone much, much worse from today's very low point.
Starting January 20, opportunities will be there. But both Moscow and Washington should be creative to avoid a messy, fruitless, disappointing reset.
For bilateral arms control, there definitely are positive options now. But no illusions! It would be a hard work, "for which both sides should yet to prepare and express political will. New templates will be needed. Arms control, whether one likes it or not, will be closely linked to other strategic bilateral agenda items.
"But now there is at least some chance, in bilateral strategic relations, to make a turn from crisis management to a dialogue on reducing confrontation."
(Pircenter.org, November 11)
Tweet Of The Week:
RT editor-in-chief and CEO Margarita Simonyan (@M_Simonyan) wrote on her Twitter account: "If Trump recognizes that Crimea is ours, agrees with us on Syria and set Assange free, I'll retire. Because the world will be beautiful."
(Twitter.com/M_Simonyan, November 9)
MI5 Director General Andrew Parker said recently in an interview with the British daily The Guardian that Russia poses an increasing threat to the stability of the UK. Parker said: "It [Russia] is using its whole range of state organs and powers to push its foreign policy abroad in increasingly aggressive ways - involving propaganda, espionage, subversion and cyber-attacks. Russia is at work across Europe and in the UK today. It is MI5's job to get in the way of that."
(Theguardian.com, November 1)
The Russian Embassy in the UK (@RussianEmbassy) has reacted to the interview in its twitter account as follows: "Director General of MI5 Parker interview for @Guardian: saddened to see a professional trapped to his own propaganda-created world." Underneath the Russian Embassy posted a poster of the1966 DeLuxe Color American Cold War spoof "The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming."
(Twitter.com/RussianEmbassy, November 1)
Commenting on Parker's statements, Zakharova wrote on her Facebook account that that she had a question for The MI5 Director: "Does he think that Kremlin was behind the appointment of Boris Johnson as the head of the British Foreign Office?"
(Facebook.com/maria.zakharova.167, November 1)
In The News:
Russia's Reactions To Trump's Victory
See MEMRI Special Dispatch No.6672, Russia's Official Reactions To Trump's Victory - Part I, November 10 2016.
See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 6673, Russia's Official Reactions To Trump's Victory -Part II, November 11, 2016.
Russia accused a Dutch submarine of spying on the Russian fleet in the Mediterranean. The Russian Ministry of Defense said: "[The Russian] Naval search-and-assault group of large anti-submarine vessels, 'Severomorsk' and 'Vice-Admiral Kulakov,' spotted the diesel-electric submarine (presumably 'Walrus') of the Netherlands' Navy, [which] tried to approach the carrier battle group of the Northern Fleet for monitoring." The Ministry of Defense also said that "awkward attempts to dangerously maneuver in close proximity to the Russian naval group" could lead to "serious navigation accidents."
(Rt.com, November 9)
Russia- Turkey Relations
On November, 1, the Russian Chief of Staff Valery Gerasimov met in Moscow with Turkish Chief of Staff Hulusi Akar to discuss regional developments including the Mosul operation and the situation along the Iraq-Turkey border. According to the Ministry of Defense press release this was a constructive meeting: "The sides have a mutual understanding regarding the promotion of further contacts between the General Staff directorates' and contacts at the experts' level".
(Ria.ru, November 1)
Colonel-general (ret.) Leonid Ivashov, President of the Academy of Geopolitical Studies, said: "Obviously, the Turkish General Staff is highly susceptible to the Pentagon and the US in general. We have to tear Turkey away from the adventurous US policy. They are shifting in choosing sides: on the side of the West, on the side of the US or to play an independent game. They try to play independently but they won't succeed. In order to stabilize the Middle East we need close cooperation between Russia, Iran and Turkey. Then we need to drag Egypt and other countries... They need to figure out on what side they play - with the West that is on the way out, or will they play independently with the Eastern forces Russia, Iran, China, India and others."
(Ria.ru, November 1)
Medvedev Visits Israel
On November 10, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev visited Israel, to mark the 25th anniversary of the restoration of diplomatic relations between Israel and Russia. During his meeting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Medvedev said:
"The 25th anniversary of restoring relations is a decent amount of time, but we should look ahead.
"Our countries are linked by common values. We have a shared understanding of the outcome of World War II, of the critical importance of the victory over Nazism, and of anti-Semitism and all xenophobia as unacceptable.
"However, we also face common challenges, primarily terrorism. Today it is threatening the whole planet but is particularly pronounced in this region. The Russian Federation also suffers from terror. This terror has the same roots, which is why we must counter it together. I'm referring to the coordination of our efforts to build up security and defence, which has been raised to a completely new level in recent time. The Russian Federation also opposes the proliferation of nuclear weapons. We must work together (and we are ready to cooperate with all interested states) to destroy the core of terrorism, which is currently represented by Daesh or ISIS.
"Israel is our major trade partner in the region but we have done little so far to promote trade, economic and investment cooperation. Today we have signed documents to this end. We are interested not simply in increasing our trade, which went down recently, but in qualitatively changing the character of our relations...."
On November 11, Medvedev also met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. In an article, published in the Russian government's website, Medvedev wrote: "It is extremely important to expedite the resumption of the Palestinian-Israeli dialogue in order to finally resolve the issue of the coexistence of two equal states. Moscow will never abandon this position of principle."
(Government.ru, November 10-11)
Medvedev with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu (Government.ru)
Medvedev at the Western Wall (Gazeta.ru)
Medvedev with Abbas (Government.ru)
Reactions to Putin's Speech At The Valdai Club
On October 27, Russian President Vladimir Putin took part in the final session of the Valdai International Discussion Club's 13th annual meeting in a session lasting three-and-a-half hours.
On October 28, the opposition Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta published an article, by Russian columnist Kirill Martynov, commenting on the recent speech by Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Valdai International Discussion Club's 13th annual meeting. According to Martynov, at the Valdai forum, Putin appeared to be an ambiguous peacemaker. Martynov wrote:
"The 'hawks' are upset, and this is definitely good news. Another good piece of news is that Putin's words [at the Valdai Forum] contradict, at least partially, his own statement made in one of his recent interviews - that he must be what the people want him to be. TV and propaganda experts have convinced Putin for many months that the people want to see him as a military leader waging a global armed struggle against all the forces of the West, and here he refuses to be one.
"The bad news is that the president's speech at the Valdai Discussion Forum, which was initially conceived as an open and modern platform for the exchange of expert opinions, can now be dedicated in all seriousness to such issues as war. Is Russia going to attack other countries? The president answers negatively, but nobody is surprised by the fact that this question is even asked. In this sense, we live up to the expectations of the Russian TV propaganda and even those of The Daily Mail. The word 'war', if you repeat it a thousand times, begins to seem quite ordinary. Another piece of bad news is that the president's line of reasoning is built upon pragmatic concerns only. We cannot win the war with NATO, they have more divisions, i.e. population. Besides, Russia does not have a propaganda machine that could equal that of the West, the president complains. The 'hawks' are having their wings clipped, but only because it's too early to fly? We don't know if this speech was intended for those who have the above-mentioned expectations or if Putin actually thinks this way...
"Putin's warning shout to 'hawks' has one specific feature that makes it stand out - he is the Supreme Commander-in-Chief. People who dream about rattling their sabers will find it rather hard to pretend to be civil society or freedom-loving and democratically elected regional administrators. They will have to receive a direct and unequivocal order from the president.
"By the way, his speech hasn't stopped the movement of [the aircraft carrier] Admiral Kuznetsov across the Mediterranean, or the redeployment of the NATO troops, or the war in the Middle East. But what's more important - it has not made the world believe that the sheer madness of warmongers is forever excluded from the international political agenda. Perhaps the question should have been phrased more precisely. If Putin is firmly determined to be what the people want him to be, it is the people who have the right to say an emphatic 'no' to war."
(Novayagazeta.ru, October 28)
Strange But True
Hollywood movie star and martial artist Steven Seagal was granted Russian citizenship and may count on a pension worth about 5,000 rubles (or roughly $80). A representative of Russia's Pension Fund said: "He is entitled to receive a retirement pension but only when he attains the age of 65 and only if he has a registered place of residence in Russia. The minimum pension is about 5,000 rubles. But he will also receive an additional payment to meet the minimum pensioner's living standard in the region where he is registered."
Seagal's family on his father's side originally came from Vladivostok.
(Tass.com, November 3)
Steven Seagal becomes a Russian citizen. (Ria.ru, November 3)