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September 4, 2016 No.
6598

Russia This Week - Part II - August 29 - September 4, 2016

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

Vk.com/13studiya, August 25, 2016.

Putin smashes NATO's newly established strategic positions to Obama's dismay.

In The News:

G-20 Summit In China

On September 3, ahead of the G20 Summit in Hangzhou, China, Russian President Vladimir Putin had a meeting with President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan to discuss the restoration of full-scale bilateral cooperation. During the meeting, Putin informed his counterpart that accompanying him to the G20 was a "powerful delegation" that included the heads of Russia's leading energy companies - Gazprom, Rosneft and Rosatom - the energy minister, the head of the sovereign investment fund, and the economy and foreign ministers. Kremlin's spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said that the two leaders discussed the Turkish Stream gas pipeline. Meanwhile, charter flights between Russia and Turkey have already resumed.

(Kremlin.ru, September 3)

Putin met with Chinese President Xi Jinping. The Chinese news agency Xinhua reported that two leaders called for "firm support in each other's efforts to safeguard sovereignty".

They also discussed strategic cooperation, and dovetailing China's the Belt and Road Initiative (Economic Belt and Silk Road) with the Eurasian Economic Union championed by Russia. Xi also said that China considers "Russia's prosperity and development," as a boost to China's "own chance to develop."

In a friendly note, Putin has brought a box of Russian ice-cream as a gift to the Chinese President, who is a fan of Russian ice-cream.

(Xinhua, September 4; Rt.com, September 4; Sputniknews.com, September 4)

 
Presidents Putin and Xi (Source: Sputniknews.com)

On September 5, Putin and US President Barack Obama met in a one-on-one meeting behind closed doors. The meeting was longer than planned and focused on Ukraine and the Syrian settlement.

(Tass.ru, September 5)

On September 4, Putin met with French President Francois Hollande. In the meeting, the French President told Putin: "I think we should discuss the situations in Syria and Ukraine, since we are all involved in addressing these problems. As for Ukraine, we need to discuss further cooperation in the Normandy format. As for Syria, here we need to move towards full-fledged dialogue."

(Kremlin.ru, September 4)

Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel met late at night on September 4 on the sidelines of the G20 summit. The two leaders discussed the situation in Eastern Ukraine and the Syrian settlement. Concerning Ukraine, they focused on the implementation of the Minsk agreements.

(Tagesschau.de, September 4) 

On September 4, Putin met as well with British Prime Minister Theresa May. This was the first time the two leaders met. Putin expressed his wish to take Russia-UK bilateral relations "to a higher level relative to where they are now." May answered that while differences between the two countries exist, there are "some complex and serious areas of concern and issues to discuss."

During the meeting, the two leaders reportedly discussed security, counter-terrorism, the Syrian settlement, and aviation safety. The two leaders agreed that a UK Transport Ministry delegation would visit Moscow soon to continue the discussion of aviation safety and that Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov would meet his British counterpart Boris Johnson in New York at the session of the UN General Assembly.

 (Kremlin.ru, September 4, Sputniknews.com, September 4) 

On September 4, Putin met with the deputy Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammad Bin Salman Al Sa'ud, the son of the current Saudi king and the country's defense minister.  The two countries are supporting the opposing sides in Syria.

Putin stressed that Russia believes that "without Saudi Arabia no serious issue in the region can be resolved," adding that it is important that two parts maintain a regular dialogue. Bin Salman also stressed the importance of Russia-Saudi relations. The Crown Prince said: "For us, the relations between Russia and Saudi Arabia are also of great importance. They are certainly strategic in nature and, therefore, cooperation and coordination between Russia and Saudi Arabia are essential."  Bin Salman also stated that Saudi Arabia belives that Russia is not only an important "world player," but also "a great power." He said: "As for our cooperation with Russia, it proceeds on a privileged basis. That is why our work together brings a lot of benefits to the Middle East. We would certainly prefer to avoid any negative scenario in the Middle East, and so would you. We would like to ramp up economic cooperation and want it to not just continue, but to progress faster."

(Kremlin.ru, September 4)

 On September 4, Putin had several meetings. An informal meeting between BRICS leaders (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) took place, before the beginning of the G20. During the meeting, Putin stated: " The BRICS states have already increased their total share in the IMF capital to 14.89 percent, very close to the blocking threshold of 15 percent. And they certainly need to continue in this direction, advancing the reform of the IMF."

(Kremlin.ru, September 4)


The BRICS leaders in a group photo at the summit (Source: Sputniknews.com)

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said that a meeting between Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and US State Secretary John Kerry on the sidelines of the G20 summit is possible if the US officially differentiates between terrorists and opposition groups in Syria. "At the moment, we do not have the timing set for such contact, but the main point is not the timing, it is the fact that we are doubtful that our American colleagues are able to overcome what is the main obstacle now for reaching the final agreement on Syria - mainly, the long-standing issue of differentiating between Daesh terrorists and those groupings that the US military structures work with. This is the main obstacle for the resolution of [the] Aleppo situation," Ryabkov said.

(Sputniknews.com, September 3)

Before the start of the G20, the Russian ambassador to China Andrey Denisov gave an interview to CNTV Panview, discussing relations between Russia and China. Speaking on the role played by Sino-Russian cooperation, Desinov said: "Concerted action within the G20 framework is an important factor in the Russia-China strategic partnership. And this is already a pretext for the two countries to play an important role in establishing a reasonable framework for global economic governance." The Russian ambassador also recalled that Putin paid an official visit to China on June 25, adding: "Given the rapid development of the comprehensive strategic partnership of cooperation between the two countries, the leaders have many common tasks and topics to exchange opinions with each other on a regular basis."

(Cctv.com, September 2)

Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok

 
Putin at the plenary session of the Eastern Economic Forum. (Source: Kremlin.ru)

The Eastern Economic Forum (EEF) took place in Vladivostok on September 2-3, immediately before the G20 summit began. The  EEF was established by a Presidential Executive Order in 2015 to promote the accelerated economic development of the Russian Far East and the expansion of international cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region. 

At the summit, Putin stressed that the summit means "a growing interest to Russia in the political and business circles of the Asia-Pacific region and other regions; an interest in our Far Eastern agenda in general." He also stated that Russia has to set a "big goal": to make the Far East one of the centers of Russia's social and economic development. Putin also tackled the issue of demography. The Russian President said: "There is the main consolidated and most valuable indicator of ongoing changes in the Far East - the emerging demographic surplus. For the first time in a quarter century, Khabarovsk Territory, Sakhalin, Yakutia and Chukotka have seen an increase in population. For the third year in a row, the birth rate in the Far Eastern Federal District exceeds the death rate, and fewer people are leaving the Far East."

Putin also explained that he sees the Far East at the epicenter of dynamic integration processes. In this regard, he mentioned the Russia is working to develop the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) and expand its international ties. In October this year, Moscow will host the second round of talks on a trade and economic cooperation agreement between the EAEU and the People's Republic of China.

He then added that the Kremlin supports the initiative of Russian, Japanese, South Korean and Chinese companies to create "an energy super-ring linking our countries as one". Putin said: "We propose setting up an intergovernmental working group in order to move ahead more rapidly and dynamically on this project. Let me note that Russia is ready to offer its Asia-Pacific region partners competitive energy prices and long-term fixed price contracts."

(Kremlin.ru, September 3)

At the meeting, Putin described relations between Russia and Washington as "frozen," stating that Moscow is not to blame for this situation. However, he added that Russia is "ready to fully unravel our cooperation any second."

(Sputniknews.com, September 3)

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said at MGIMO University that Russia looks at developing relations with the Asia Pacific region, stressing the importance of the EAEU in the process of developing Eurasian economic integration. Lavrov stated:

"I reiterate that the EU remains our largest partner. But we'd be remiss not to take advantage of the vast opportunities opening up as a result of a rapid growth of economy, logistics and transport in the Asia-Pacific region, especially so, since promoting Eurasian economic integration is among our policy priorities. This is much more than just achieving all the goals set by the leaders of the Eurasian Economic Community. It is also a continuation of integration processes in the open mode.

As you know, the President of Russia Vladimir Putin has put forward an initiative for a project, which is tentatively called the Great Eurasian Partnership. The project envisages not just a larger number of EAEU partners willing to establish free trade zones with the EAEU, but also the development of stable systemic ties with the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)...

"We are a Eurasian power by virtue of history, nature, and above all, our great ancestors. Therefore, given our history, we must focus on all areas as we strive to provide the best possible external environment for developing our country and improving our people's living standards." 

(Mid.ru, September 1)

Russia-Japan Relations

The meeting in Vladivostock was also an opportunity for Putin to meet with Japanese President Shinzo Abe, and tackle the issue of the Kuril Islands dispute. Concerning Russia-Japan relations, Putin said: "We are natural partners with Japan, absolutely natural partners in the development of trade-economic ties and in the resolution of issues of regional security. And we [Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe] understand this very well."

(Sputniknews.com, September 3)

 
Vitaly Podvitsky, Vk.com/13studiya, July 11, 2016.

The cartoon refers to the Kuril Islands dispute between Russia and Japan. A Japanese samurai prodded by an American hand: I protest! These are our islands! The Russian bear : He who own the tanks, also owns the islands.

On the sidelines of the Eastern Economic Forum, Lavrov said that the talks between Putin and Abe addressed all aspects of the relationship without exception. He added that Russia closely cooperates with Japan at the UN. Lavrov recalled that thanks to Russia's support, Japan became a member of the International Syria Support Group (ISSG). Answering a question about the Kuril Islands, Lavrov said: "we have long urged our Japanese colleagues to address these matters. Some time ago (under the previous cabinet of ministers) the approach toward this was more cautious. Today we feel that our Japanese partners are willing to discuss not only matters concerning joint economic activity on the islands but also exchanges between people and cultural ties. In the course of the consultations that I mentioned, as well as during future rounds, many important aspects of a peace treaty will naturally be addressed."

(Mid.ru, September 2)

 The Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun reported that Putin and Abe and their interpreters met behind closed doors for 55 minutes, during which it was decided that the two leaders would meet in December in Japan, in Abe's home prefecture. Putin and Abe will also meet on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum summit meeting to be held in November in Peru.

(Asahi.com, September 3)

In an interview with Bloomberg, in Vladivostok, Putin discussed the Kuril Islands dispute. Putin said: "We do not trade territories although concluding a peace treaty with Japan is certainly a key issue and we would like to find a solution to this problem together with our Japanese friends. Back in 1956, we signed a treaty and surprisingly it was ratified both by the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union and the Japanese Parliament. But then Japan refused to implement it and after that the Soviet Union also, so to say, nullified all the agreements reached within the framework of the treaty.

"Some years ago our Japanese counterparts asked us to resume the discussions of the issue and so we did meeting them halfway. Over the past couple of years the contacts were practically frozen on the initiative of the Japanese side, not ours. At the same time, presently our partners have expressed their eagerness to resume discussions on this issue. It has nothing to do with any kind of exchange or sale. It is about the search for a solution when neither party would be at a disadvantage, when neither party would perceive itself as conquered or defeated."

(Kremlin.ru, September 1)

Russia's Demographic Abyss

According to the estimates of UN experts, by 2030, Russia's population will decrease by almost 8 million and will total about 138,652,480 (As of January 1, 2016, it stood at 146,544,710, according to Rosstat [the Russian Statistic Service]). Russia's Supervisory Council of the Institute for Demography, Migration and Regional Development, Yuri Krupnov said that the migration "time bomb" is ticking fast and may go off at any moment. Krupnov:

"All this is the consequence of a false assumption in the concept of state migration policy - that migration is, allegedly, a blessing. We are constantly assured that the newcomers bring about improvement in economic and demographic indicators. But after 25 years of such pro-migrant policy we are losing both the demographics and the country. The migration lobby, of course, gambles on the fact that migration is a natural and global process.

"But in fact, our migration traffic is the direct consequence of the collapse of the USSR, catastrophic de-industrialization, and the country being pushed to the periphery of world economy...We need a full-scale migration reform and a radical change of the state policy on the whole. This is the question of national security, and solving it should start with setting strategic goals. According to experts, there are at least 12 million illegal migrants in the territory of Russia... Additional waves of newcomers await us. Central Asia migrants are almost exhausted as a resource, there are now plans to involve the Chinese - about 10-15 million...Today we hear lots of enthusiastic speeches about demographic growth, but it is only a temporary peak, a warm 'greeting' from the late 1980s. In fact, by 2025 we will find ourselves in another demographic abyss. And it will be deeper than the previous one...

"There will be fewer child-bearers, that is, the number of women of childbearing age will decrease. This in turn, is the product of the demographic abyss of the 1990s. The number of newborn babies in 2025 compared with 2012 will decrease by at least 40%. The birth rate will not exceed 1.8 children per woman. The net result is that the economically active population total will decrease by 10 million. In other words, the GDP will fall by 10% for this reason alone. But what are the conclusions drawn? That we must increase migration. In order to keep the number of Russian citizens at the same level - I'm not even talking about increasing it - we must increase the number of multi-child families sevenfold - from 7 to 50% - in the next 20 years. Many will say that it is impossible, it is not serious. Yes, it is a fundamental historical challenge, an unprecedented task. But we will have to do the impossible...

"We ourselves are to blame for the fact that a demographic catastrophe exists in Russia. If we placed our bets on migration and are not going to organize a demographic revolution, then by the end of the century there will be only about half of us left, at best. That is why it is necessary to cultivate large multi-generational families as the only way to avoid catastrophe. And a huge flow of benefits, bonuses, etc. should be directed towards families with four children..."

(Izvestia.ru, August 9) 

Russians In The World


Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev speaking at the forum "In Unity with Russia" in Moscow.

(Rt.com, August 29)

Speaking at the international political forum in Moscow, "In Unity with Russia", Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said: "The protection of the rights and interests of Russian citizens in foreign nations remains among our most important tasks... I want you all, as well as the rest of our country's citizens, to feel every minute that you are backed by the Russian Federation - the country that never leaves its people 'behind the red line.'"

(Rt.com, August 29)

 
Vice-Speaker of the Duma Sergey Zheleznyak (Source: Ria.ru) 

Speaking during the forum "In Unity with Russia", Sergey Zheleznyak, vice-speaker of the Duma, said that it's very important for Russia to support its compatriots abroad who are defending their right to preserve their ethno-cultural identity, language, values and tradition. "Both individual citizens and entire Russian-speaking communities need to have [their] interests protected," said Zheleznyak.

(Ria.ru, August 28)

Speaking at the same forum, Konstantin Kosachev, who chairs the Federation Council's International Affairs Committee, claimed that the Russian world was encountering unprecedented pressure and this necessitated that Russians the world over and those who consider themselves spiritually and culturally Russians unite in support "for the Russian world as a civilizational basis for the global nation". He added that the concept of the Russian world is not an expansionist but a unifying one.

(Ria.ru, August 28)


Senator Konstantin Kosachev (Source: Ria.ru)

Russia-West Relations: Pushkov: 'The Level Of Fierce Collision...Is Higher Than It Used To Be During The Cold War'

Speaking at the international forum "In Unity with Russia", Alexey Pushkov, chair of the Duma's international affairs committee, said: "As for the possibility of American nuclear weapons transfer from Turkey to Romania ...many Eastern European countries discuss that question. In Poland in particular the minister of defense raised the question of deploying US nukes in the country. The Russian position regarding this is quite simple. We have always said that countries which choose to host American nuclear weapons - countries in a close proximity to our borders - naturally increase their degree of vulnerability...Naturally, this will be a part of our operational planning - thus the governments, which make such decisions, bear responsibility for the consequences including [the consequences] for their own security".

(Ria.ru, August 28)


Head of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the State Duma Alexey Pushkov (Source: Ria.ru)

Pushkov added that the current Western demonization of Russia surpasses the Cold War era: "It's not just about 'the Cold War' - though some forms of Western foreign policies do recall the 'Cold War'". He explained that it's not a Cold War per se, since back then there was a collision between economic and political-ideological systems - and this is not happening now. Pushkov then explained: "Nevertheless the level of fierce collision - especially from our Western counterparts' side - is higher than it used to be during the 'Cold War'years...We have never faced such a level of anti-Russia demonization campaign. We have never faced a demonization campaign against Russian leadership at such a level. Things never reached the stage of personal sanctions I would call it 'a campaign of international McCarthyism'".

(Ria.ru, August 28)

Speaking at the same forum, MP Vyacheslav Tihonov told the audience that the situation is much worse than during the Cold War: "During the Cold War, American units, NATO units were not quartered in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Bulgaria. There has never been so thick a flow of lies and disinformation concerning Russia - it's happening not because we are doing something wrong, but because Russia has arisen from its knees".

(Ria.ru, August 28)


MP Vyacheslav Tihonov (Source: Ria.Ru) 

Deputy Prime Minister Dmitri Rogozin called Russia "the fist on the West's throat". Rogozin said: "When they say that the sanctions are temporary in nature - that's untrue. Anti-Russian sanctions will be present forever as long as Russia exists - because we are like the fist in their throat with our appraisal of life our independence, huge rich territory and unbreakable people." He went on that the West "always hindered, is hindering and will hinder Russia's power, will and independence."

(Ria.ru, August 28)

 
Deputy Prime Minister Dmitri Rogozin (Source: Ria.ru)

Russia-Ukraine Relations

During the Eastern Economic Forum, Putin said: "We believe that the Minsk agreements should by fully implemented without any restrictions, limitations and substitution of concepts. And we will sincerely strive for that. But we cannot achieve this alone; the Normandy format participants and the United States should to do it with us, because only they have a real influence on the current Kiev authorities. Of course, without the political will of the Ukrainian leadership it is also impossible. And ultimately it depends on them,"

(Sputniknews.com, September 3) 

The ceasefire agreement between self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk people's republics in eastern Ukraine and the Kiev authorities comes into force at midnight August 31.

(Sputniknews.com, August 31)

A Ukrainian court has issued a warrant for the arrest of Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu.

(Kommersant.ru, September 1)

 Special Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office in Ukraine Martin Sajdik will be in Moscow on a working visit on September 8-9 to meet with Lavrov.

(Mid.ru, Aug. 31)

The OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs Igor Popov (Russia), James Warlick (US), Pierre Andrieu (France) and Personal Representative of the Chairperson-in-Office Andrzej Kasprzyk will hold consultations in Moscow on September 8.

(Mid.ru, Aug. 31)

Drills

During a snap inspection the Russian Ministry of Defense runs tests in other ministries, the Central Bank as well as in other executive authorities. All the authorities involved are expected to test their ability to function under "war time constrains".  The drills involve calling up reserves, and drawing military and heavy equipment from warehouses in the Southern and Central Commands and in the Northern Fleet.

(Ria.ru, August 29)

During the same snap check over 50 warplanes have delivered a massive air strike against a notional enemy at the Ashuluk training range near Astrakhan in south Russia in a combat readiness check, the press office of Russia's Defense Ministry reported on Tuesday.

"The crews of fighter, bomber and attack aircraft of the Southern Military District have accomplished a massive air strike with rockets against ground targets at the Ashuluk training range near Astrakhan in a snap combat readiness check," the ministry said.

(Tass.com, August 30)

An additional set of drills involves another 14 diverse firing ranges. Ina statement obtained by the Russian nes agency TASS, the Defense Ministry said: "Tactical and special tactics exercises are being conducted at 14 combined-arms training ranges of the Southern Military District with live-fire, the rehearsals of troops'practical actions and training to counter a notional enemy's subversive and reconnaissance groups, control exercises in the training subjects such as driving combat vehicles and tanks, firing, tactical, engineering, technical, medical and airborne drills".

At the Kapustin Yar training range near Astrakhan in south Russia, the troops will practice repelling a notional enemy's massive air strike while sailors in the Black and Caspian Seas will destroy a group of enemy warships. Also, marine infantry will practice boarding large amphibious assault ships and landing on unprepared terrain. 

TASS reported that 4000 personnel and 1500 units of combat equipment are involved in this series of drills. (Tass.com, August 30; Tass.ru, August 29)

It has also been reported that during the snap inspection, Russian MIG29 and Su-34 aircraft have located and intercepted targets in the stratosphere at an altitude above 11 kilometers

(Tass.ru, August 29)  

During the same set of drills in the Southern Command, the MOD is conducting a penetration test for the Southern Command's air-defense units. Flying at various altitudes, more than 30 different aircraft - including long range aviation - are simulating the "red team" role.

(Tass.ru, August 27; Ria.ru, August 30) 

Military Cooperation With Uruguay

Russia announced that it was preparing a draft military cooperation agreement with Uruguay. The initial draft was compiled by the defense and foreign affairs ministries. Should the draft be adopted by the Uruguayan side, it will be signed immediately. The draft agreement's main objective is the fight against terror and an exchange of information.

(Ria.ru, August 29)

Russia's Economy

Russia needs oil prices for 2017-2019 to stabilize at the level of 50-55$ per barrel otherwise it will prove impossible to balance the federal budget. In case oil prices will be at the 40$ level, all the reserve funds will be quickly depleted: "We will have nothing to eat", says a source in the ministry of economic development."

(Vedomosti.ru, August 30)

Russia has frozen part of pension payments for 2017. The state was expected to transfer funds on behalf of the pension insurance companies but froze the move for the fourth time running. The freeze effectively means that the state is borrowing money from the future pensions of private citizens.

(Vedomosti.ru, August 31)

According to the Federal Accountability Office during the last three years more than 36 billion USD were illicitly transferred abroad from Russia.

(Vedomosti.ru, August 30) 

Interview Of The Week

As mentioned above, Putin gave an interview to Bloomberg in Vladivostok. In the interview also Kaliningrad enclave was discussed:

Q: "...Would you consider giving back Kaliningrad as a tribute?"

Putin: "...You have mentioned Kaliningrad."

Q: "It was a joke."

Putin: "All jokes aside. If someone is willing to reconsider the results of World War II, let us discuss this. But then we will have to discuss not only Kaliningrad, but also the eastern lands of Germany, the city of Lvov, a former part of Poland, and so on, and so forth. There are also Hungary and Romania on the list. If someone wants to open this Pandora's box and deal with it, all right, go for it then."

(Kremlin.ru, September 1)


Russian President Vladimir Putin during the Bloomberg interview (Source: Kremlin.ru, September 1)

Strange But True

The French actor Gérard Depardieu, who got Russian citizenship after a dispute with the French government over tax, inaugurated a cultural center named after him. The center was opened in Saransk, the capital city of the republic of Mordovia, a city of 300.000 inhabitants, located at a distance of 600 Km from Moscow, where the actor is officially registered as a resident. "It's a pity that I cannot come here more often. In Mordovia, I feel like being a true Russian. I live in Saransk and I'm going to vote in the next [Duma] elections," - added the movie star.

(Leparisien.fr, August 29)