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.
This part of the weekly focuses on Russian foreign policy. Acrimony with NATO and the West continues and Soviet diplomat Yevgeny Primakov is touted as true patriot and role model for condemning NATO atrocities in the former Yugoslavia.
Cartoon Of The Week
Vitaly Podvitsky, Ria.ru, August 3, 2016.
U.S. President Barack Obama dressed as Santa Claus meets with terrorists, who ask for new military equipment.
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 newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda described Zakharova as a dress code offender. On her Instagram account Zakharova wrote: "Komsomolskaya Pravda has labeled me an extreme dress-code offender. It began back at school: I got straight As in classes, but they did not know how to evaluate my behavior." Komsomolskaya Pravda wrote underneath her picture: "The official representative of the Foreign Ministry, Maria Zakharova, likes mini-skirts. We must say she looks good in them."
US-Russia Relations in Syria
"We sincerely hope that the US administration will lean toward a rational approach rather than rash actions that could bring unpredictable military and political consequences. We will closely monitor, as before, Washington's actions, that tend to put a nation's [Syria] fate at stake to satisfy its geopolitical ambitions in a gamble where, as a rule, it is unscrupulous about the tools it uses to remove governments not to its liking.
"I dare remind our American partners again that they voted for UN Security Council Resolution 2254, which envisages a political settlement of the Syria conflict, and approved the relevant decisions of the International Syria Support Group, which the US co-chairs with Russia. It is as if Washington recognizes only in word that peace talks have no alternative while accusing Russia of meddling with the Obama administration as it chooses peaceful settlement options. Indeed, as we have seen, the alternatives do not rule out one of the most doubtful behind-the-scenes options including direct aid to the militants... Regrettably, only few people in Washington - at least, among the decision-makers - have drawn a lesson from the sad experience of military and financial support of the Mujahedeen in Afghanistan, which Al-Qaeda used eventually against the US itself. The public understands and remembers this, and does not want to repeat it, while the lobbyists and decision-makers are ready to run the risk again."
(Mid.ru, October 27)
Quote Of The Week:
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov during his interview with Rossiya 1 (Source: Mid.ru, October 31)
On October 31, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov gave an interview for the Rossiya 1 television network documentary entitled "My mind is set: Yevgeny Primakov". The documentary is a tribute to the policy of Russian politician Primakov (29 October 1929 - 26 June 2015), who was one of the Soviet Union's leading Arabists and upon the fall of the Soviet Union served as foreign minister and prime minister of the Russian Federation in the 1990s. During the interview Lavrov said:
"It was a period in the 1990s, immediately after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the Warsaw Treaty Organization and the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (CMEA), when Russia was trying to find its place in the new situation and see the new boundaries while experiencing major internal pressure for more decentralization and the drive for sovereignty. You may remember that several new republics were proclaimed, such as the Urals and the Far Eastern republics. It was a very difficult period. Our partners [i.e. the West], as President Vladimir Putin said in his recent statements [at the Valdai International Discussion Club], saw these developments as their victory in the Cold War and acted as absolute winners, even though they have always rejected this publicly. They were absolutely convinced that from then on Russia was in their pocket, considering Russia's economic and foreign policy leaders at the time. They believed that Russia would obediently do the Western bidding...
"When Yevgeny Primakov, a true patriot, an experienced politician and statesman and a person with a strong intuition, encyclopedic knowledge and deep perception, learned that the United States had decided to bomb Yugoslavia, he could not carry on business as usual. At that time, he was flying to the United States for important but not extraordinary talks with Vice-President Al Gore. His decision to turn the plane around was a reminder that Russia's only role in the world is to stand up for the truth together with other powers, but exclusively on equal terms and mutually beneficial agreements.
"The bombing of Yugoslavia was clearly an act of aggression. It was also the first armed attack against a European state after [the end of WWII in] 1945. Since we are talking about this, I would like to say that the developments in and around Syria have encouraged our Western partners, primarily the Americans but also the British, to resort to public insults against Russia in their hysteria, using such terms as barbarism and war crimes. I would like to remind you that the aggression against Yugoslavia included attacks against very many civilian facilities, including the TV center of Serbia, passenger railway bridges and many more. Thousands were killed, including several hundred children, and a quarter million people became refugees, but nobody seems to remember about them anymore. ... By taking his decision, Primakov forced Russia to show its mettle and take the only correct stance in that situation."
(Mid.ru, October 31)
Yevgeny Primakov (Source: Themoscowtimes.com)
Tweets Of The Week:
On October 22, the Russian Embassy in the UK (@RussianEmbassy) tweeted: "If Russia is in decline, why worry? Maybe, real worry is West's decline and that we manage things better"
(Source: Twitter.com/RussianEmbassy, October 22)
Commenting on US-Russia relations, Senator Alexey Pushkov (@Alexey_Pushkov) wrote on his Twitter account: "According to Pew research data, 57% of the Americans want 'the US to concentrate on its own problems.'. But the US political elites are sick with interventionism. Incurable."
(Source: Twitter.com/Alexey_Pushkov, October 23)
In The News:
Comparative Analysis Of Implementation Of Russia-US Agreement
Russia has recently published a comparative analysis of implementation of Russia-US agreement. The Russian Permanent Mission to the United Nations Office and other International Organizations in Geneva published the following explanation: "The public sphere is recently actively used to force Anti-Russian rhetoric in the context of the Syrian crisis. There are attempts to diminish Russia's role and depict our country as the prime cause of all the troubles in Syria. It is speculated that Moscow counts on the military solution of the conflict. The aim of this campaign is simple - to conceal the true culprits of the failure of the Cessation of Hostilities (CoH) in Syria and disguise the true causes of the non-fulfillment of the Russia-US agreements.
"The Russian Federation made a thorough fact-based comparative analysis of implementation of the Russia-US agreements. It includes all aspects such as compliance with and monitoring of CoH, granting of humanitarian access to besieged areas, joint fight against terrorism.
"The conducted analysis clearly shows that Russia has responsibly fulfilled all of its obligations within the agreements in a timely manner. Here are some examples.
"Russia guaranteed the implementation of the CoH by the Syrian government. The US on the other hand were not capable to insure the implementation of the CoH by the armed groups. From February to September the opposition groups that are supposed to be under the US control committed 2,031 violations of the CoH, which claimed lives of 3,532 military personnel and 12,800 civilians.
"Furthermore, the US failed to fulfill their February promise to separate Al-Nusra Front from 'moderate' opposition. Russia on the other hand since March has been prepared to transfer to Washington the maps showing the zones where according to our data the terrorists are holding territory. In the list of groups that confirmed their commitment to the CoH presented by Washington 2 belong to ISIS and 8 to the Al-Nusra Front. The American list is discredited by the inclusion of cutthroats from Ahrar al-Sham and Nour al-Din al-Zenki. Besides the US probably didn't receive any written guaranties to respect the CoH from the groups they allegedly control.
"Washington failed to establish a valuable exchange of information about the CoH violations. In return for the detailed 'on the ground' reports from Khmeimim Reconciliation Center (containing coordinates and evidence) the Russian side received 'runarounds' filled with information sourced from the mass media and social networks.
"When it comes to the humanitarian access to East Aleppo the things are not any better. As it was agreed, Russia ensured the Syrian Governmental forces withdrawal from Castello, twice, on the 15th and 16th of October 2016. A SARC-manned check point for trucks inspection was established. The US failed in both cases..."
During her weekly briefing, Zakharova commented as follows:
"...In order to put an end to all those allegations, the Russian Federation has decided to circulate in the UN Security Council, in the UN headquarters in New York, as well the UN Office in Geneva, and in other UN bodies and agencies, an official document that sets forth all the relevant facts showing that Russia has fully implemented its obligations under the Russia-US agreements, while the US has not. This document contains facts, dates and figures, and is quite voluminous. It has been already circulated in Geneva by the Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations Geneva Office, and the Russian Permanent Mission to the United Nations in New York will do the same today.
Let me point out that we have time and again raised the issue of using photographs and other visual material as evidence of what is happening in Syria. We see how our US colleagues and US media use these materials. We note that while using materials that were prepared in advance, fabricated and orchestrated, huge volumes of information provided by the Russian Federation are disregarded, despite the fact that they are publicly available, including on the social media that the US and other partners refer to so often..."
(Mid.ru, October 27)
Lavrov's Meeting With The Syrian and Iranian Foreign Ministers
On October 28, Lavrov met with Syria's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates Walid Muallem and Foreign Minister of the Islamic Republic of Iran Mohammed Javad Zarif. During the joint press conference, Lavrov said that he and Zarif reaffirmed their support of "the sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity of Syria." He then added: "We stated that the responsibility for the deterioration of the economic situation of the Syrian people lies not only with terrorists, but also with the countries that imposed illegal unilateral economic sanctions on Syria, which primarily affect ordinary people in that country.
(Mid.ru, October 28)
A representative office of a state transportation firm, Russian Railways, will soon open a representative office in Iran. In Iran, Russian Railways was awarded a $1.30-billion contract for a railway line between the Iranian cities of Garmsar and Incheh Borun.
(Sputniknews.com, November 1)
During a visit of the Finnish President Sauli Niinisto to Iran, the Iranian President Hassan Rouhani stressed that Iran can help Finland to get access to the Persian Gulf by rail. Rouhani said: "Today, Iran's railroad is connected to Russia via Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan, and we are trying to complete a connection through Baku as well. We welcome the connection of that railroad to Helsinki, so that Finland would be also linked to the Persian Gulf, the Sea of Oman and the Indian Ocean."
(Xinua, October 27)
Russia Loses Seat At The UN Human Rights Council
The UN General Assembly held the election for Human Rights Council (HRC) did not reelect Russia as a member-state. Russian ambassador to the UN commented: "It was a very close vote and very good countries competing: Croatia, Hungary. They are fortunate because of their size. They are not as exposed to the winds of international diplomacy. Russia is quite exposed. We have been there [in HRC] for a number of years. I'm sure next time we are going to get it."
(Russiaun.ru, October 28)
Discussing the US presidential elections, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said: "I don't want to indulge in speculation but it looks like there will be big difficulties in returning to stable and positive relations between the United States and Russia in the next four-year period... I don't mean to say it is absolutely excluded. We will spare no effort to tweak the new administration that way. [However] all objective data point that such a scenario is highly improbable... We are likely to face a high degree of inertia in the American politics on the Russian track, with a hostile course kept in place. We should be ready for that, including in what concerns the anti-Russian sanctions the Barack Obama administration has imposed, goes on imposing and threatens to impose at the very end of its office term."
(Tass.com, October 25)
Ryabkov also said: "As for the reaction of the US administration, they have felt that hostile actions against Russia will not remain without consequences... We will not cooperate with them if this does not meet our interests. I am convinced that the [US] administration understands this."
(Tass.com, October 25)
Reactions To The US' Deployment of 300 Troops In Norway
The Norwegian government confirmed that the US will deploy over 300 troops in Norway. The Norwegian media outlet Thelocal.no wrote: "The 330 Marines, to be stationed on rotation around 1,000 kilometers from the Russian border, will be engaged in training and maneuvers in almost Arctic conditions... The deployment, which will begin in January, is a US initiative which Oslo is presenting as a trial to be evaluated during 2017." The Russian embassy in Norway expressed surprise at Oslo's decision "taking into consideration the numerous statements by Norwegian officials saying Russia poses no threat to Norway."
During an interview with the Norwegian TV2 channel, deputy chairman of Russia's defense and security committee, Frantz Klintzevich said: "How must we react? Of course, we never, under no circumstances, thought of Norway in the context of aiming our strategic capabilities at it, but if there is further development, then, of course, the population of Norway will suffer because we will have to respond to the installed military facilities and possible opposition, and we have the means to respond. I have to say it."
(Thelocal.no, October 25; Tass.com, October 26, Tass.ru, October, 31)
Frantz Klintzevich (Source: Tass.ru)
Kissinger Becomes A Member Of The Russian Academy Of Sciences
Former US Secretary of State and Nobel Prize laureate, Henry Kissinger (93), has been elected to the Russian Academy of Sciences.
(Tass.com, October 28)
Henry Kissinger (Source: Tass.com)
EU-Russia Relations And NATO-Russia Relations
During a meeting with representatives of the Association of European Businesses, Lavrov discussed EU-Russia relations and NATO-Russia relations.
Concerning NATO, Lavrov said: "The current situation, which is far from being optimistic, to put it mildly, is a direct consequence of the pernicious practices of geopolitical engineering, interference in the internal affairs of sovereign states and regime change for objectionable governments, sometimes by force. We are sincerely disappointed that after the end of the Cold War the United States and some of its allies did not give up the archaic policy of deterrence. We are deeply concerned over actions that affect Russia's national security, such as NATO's steps to draw its military infrastructure and military presence closer to our borders and the deployment of the missile defense system in Europe and Asia."
He then added: "It looked like new rules were written after the end of the Cold War, when the Russia-NATO Council was created. They included equal and indivisible security, and the parties' obligation not to infringe on the security of others when trying to strengthen one's own security. This political commitment was adopted and declared at the top level. But then we saw the development of the ballistic missile defense system and our American partners' withdrawal from the ABM Treaty. President Putin recalled many times how the then US President George W. Bush, when asked why they were doing this, answered that the United States was fighting Iran. If this infringes on Russia's security, he said, Russia is free to take any response measures. We are not your enemy, he said, and Russia can do anything it deems necessary to ensure its security. This is what he said... It became clear that NATO expansion was an ideological and geopolitical course aimed at containing Russia and separating it not only from its neighbors but also from all other states that wanted to cooperate with us. That rule, which was formulated specifically for the post-Cold War period, did not work."
Discussing the Minsk Agreements, Lavrov said: "There are attempts to use the Ukraine crisis for self-interested geopolitical objectives, in defiance of the principle of equal and undivided security, which only aggravates the complicated situation on our common continent. Russia is consistently working toward a political and diplomatic settlement of the internal crisis in Ukraine based on the fair and comprehensive implementation of the Minsk Agreements. To this end, as was reaffirmed for us at a recent Normandy-format meeting in Berlin, Kiev must take consistent steps on its part of the way: enshrine in law a special status for Donbass, carry out constitutional reform, grant an amnesty, and organize local elections. We look to deal with these issues in the framework of the Normandy Four, but to be sure, the intra-Ukrainian format will have the final say. This format was created in the form of the Contact Group and its corresponding subgroups."
Commenting on the recent accusations made by German chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois that Russia is committing "war crimes" in Syria, Lavrov said: "Naturally, we are surprised by the fact that pragmatic EU members, who have traditionally been known for their commitment to realpolitik, are now demanding - following the lead of a Russophobic minority - that politics be put above economics in relations with Moscow. At least, we are surprised to hear statements to that effect from the German leadership. We were probably wrong when we made assessments about the German character based on our centuries-old ties with that great country... However, we believe that the EU should first put its own house in order. Therefore we were greatly surprised by the fact that European Council President Donald Tusk, during a press availability, regardless of his status, which should dictate a generalized approach, dared to speak [on October 21], as it were, on behalf of all EU members and express openly Russophobic positions, characterizing the discussion in Russophobic terms. He even claimed he has no doubt that Russia's main objective is to weaken the European Union. These groundless allegations could not be further from the truth. We have repeatedly stated and proved at the practical level that we want to see the EU united, cohesive, and independent. We are convinced that this is the only key to the full realization of this colossally important project. I hope that the short-sighted view, including the one I just described and that was laid out by EU President Donald Tusk, will not be supported, as it has a negative impact on the entire system of Russian-EU ties, above all on their trade and investment component... I will only say that by destroying established ties, Brussels in effect is abandoning the concept that has underpinned our dialogue over the past two decades: two interconnected and complementary economies steadily growing closer in the interest of making them more competitive due to the natural advantages that they possess..."
(Mid.ru, October 25)
Lavrov with Greek PM Alexis Tsipras (Source: Mid.ru)
On November 2, Lavrov visited Greece. Commenting the Cyprus settlement, during his meeting with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, Lavrov said: "We are firmly committed to the principles the UN Security Council has approved as the foundation of a settlement in Cyprus. We reject all attempts to revise or reinterpret them, set artificial deadlines or interfere in the talks between the two Cypriot communities."
During the joint news conference with Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias, Lavrov stated: "We discussed the condition of bilateral relations, first of all in the context of the agreements reached during the visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin to Greece last May. We noted the vigorous development of political dialogue and contacts between relevant ministries and departments, including, of course, our foreign ministries. You have just attended the signing of the plan for foreign ministry consultations in 2017-2019. This alone shows that our planning covers a fairly long period and that we are not limited to immediate problems in international relations." He then stressed the interconnection between the histories of Russia and Greece. "Descendants from ancient Hellas founded many cities in the south of Russia, for instance Novorosiysk and Gelendzhik. The Russian presence on Mount Athos is virtually a thousand years old. Having found themselves in the other country, ethnic Russians and Greeks felt at home and acquired a new homeland. One of the brightest examples is Ioannis Kapodistrias, whole role in the history of Russia and Greece is difficult to exaggerate," Lavrov added.
(Mid.ru, November 2)
On October 31, Lavrov met with Cyprus' Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides. Lavrov explained that Kasoulides went to Russia as part of Cyprus' preparations to assume the chairmanship of the Council of Europe's Committee of Ministers. "Therefore, we logically focused on Cyprus's priorities and our cooperation in the Council of Europe in the next six months," Lavrov said.
He then added: "For our part, we have reaffirmed Russia's firm stance in favor of a fair and viable solution in Cyprus based on the voluntary agreement of the Cypriot communities and UN Security Council resolutions. We will support the solution on which the Cypriots themselves agree. We believe that external interference in Cyprus and any attempts to pressure the sides will be counterproductive and will only prevent the parties in the intra-Cypriot talks from finding a compromise solution."
For his part, Kasoulides stated: "We know that Russian position is alike ours on the need to fully withdraw the foreign troops from the Cyprus territory."
(Mid.ru, October 31; Sputniknews.com, October 31)
Shoigu's Visit To India
During a recent visit of Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu to India, the Defense Minister stressed that the international community should abandon double-standards when fighting terrorism. Shoigu said: "One thing is absolutely unacceptable on the anti-terrorist front - this is the use of double or sometimes triple standards. The same terrorists cannot be terrorists on Monday and become moderate opposition on Tuesday. Undoubtedly, we need all sane forces to consolidate in order to fight this evil of the 21st century." Concerning, India-Russia military cooperation, Shoigu said: "We are already registering considerable progress in our major projects, such as the Kamov-226 helicopter, the Brahmos missile, and the S-400 Triumph anti-aircraft system."
(Sputniknews.com, October 26)