RUSSIAN EMBASSY WEEKLY #155
We had to do that in response to the US deployment of the strategic anti-missile system that potentially could actually neutralize and reduce to nothing all of our nuclear potential.
I remember monitoring the launch of the first experimental gliding block in Plesetsk back in June 2001. That launch was a success.
In the ensuing years we made every possible effort to achieve agreements with the US side on stopping work on the strategic anti-missile defence system or on its joint implementation in missile-threat directions, including with European countries’ participation. However, all our attempts proved futile.
In this context, in 2004 we launched large-scale work. We publicly informed everyone about that; I spoke about it publicly. To all appearances, no one believed us back then. They thought we would not be able to do it.
In December 2018, the final launch was made. Thus all the testing was successfully completed.
Vladimir Putin sent greetings to Russia’s Jews on Rosh Hashanah.
The message reads, in part:
“Followers of Judaism in our country deeply respect the invaluable historical and spiritual heritage of their ancestors, and carefully pass on their ancient, distinctive religious and cultural traditions from generation to generation. Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, is rightfully considered one of the most important occasions in the life of the Jewish community. On these days, people look back on the path travelled and make plans for the future. They aspire to purity of thoughts and deeds, and help others.
I would like to note that Jewish religious associations are doing great and important work implementing socially significant charitable, educational and patriotic projects. I would like to highlight their tireless concern for strengthening peace and harmony, mutual respect and neighbourliness between people and, of course, their contribution to the common fight against the threat of the novel coronavirus infection.”
Vladimir Putin sent a message of greetings to President of the Republic of South Ossetia Anatoly Bibilov on its national holiday – Republic Day.
The President of Russia noted that 30 years ago the South Ossetian people bravely withstood ordeals and defended their right to freedom and independence.
“I am confident that relations between our countries will continue to unfold in the spirit of the Treaty of Alliance and Integration.
On its part, Russia will continue providing comprehensive assistance to South Ossetia in resolving current socioeconomic challenges and in safeguarding national security,” the President stressed in his message, wishing Anatoly Bibilov good health and success in state activities and the people of the Republic – peace and prosperity.
Russia is rightfully considered a leader in the global helicopter industry. Our outstanding fellow citizens stood at the beginnings of it, creating technologies ahead of their time and introducing original engineering solutions.
Today Russian aircraft-building companies, research centres and designer bureaus carefully preserve and develop these amazing creative and working traditions and confidently maintain the high quality while offering new products and services and promoting them on the domestic and international markets.
The robust capabilities of HeliRussia are fully involved in this large and necessary work. The exhibition always attracts the attention of specialists, experts and wide audiences and serves as a reputable platform to strengthen international cooperation, promote mutually beneficial contracts and launch promising projects.
Vladimir Putin met with President of the Republic of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko, who arrived in Russia on a working visit, at the Bocharov Ruchei residence in Sochi.
President of Russia Vladimir Putin:
<…> we are aware of the internal political developments in Belarus related to these elections. You are well aware of our position: we are for the Belarusians themselves, without any suggestions or pressure from outside, calmly and in a dialogue with each other, sorting this situation out and come to a common decision on how to organize their work in the future.
We are aware of your proposal to begin work on the Constitution. I think it is a logical, timely and proper thing to do. We are also aware of the position that your representatives most recently voiced at the OSCE in connection with the work on the Constitution. As far as I recall, a corresponding body has already been created, which is headed by the Deputy Chairman of the Constitutional Court. I am confident that, with your experience of political work, work in this area will be organized at the highest level, which will allow you to break new ground in improving the country's political system and, thus, create proper conditions for further development.
Russia remains committed to all our agreements, including the agreements arising from the Union State Treaty and the CSTO Treaty. We regard Belarus as our closest ally and, of course, as I have told you many times in our telephone conversations, we will honour all our commitments.
We undertook these commitments mutually in 1992 and, I believe, in 1994. Anyway, in 1994 you were already President; I wasn't, but it doesn't matter. What matters is that Russia undertook certain commitments, as I said, and regardless of who is in power at a particular point, the country must honour these commitments. You are aware that we have repeatedly stated that we will do so <…>
— Berdsk rocks (coordinates: 54.5918, 83.9067)
— Marble Lake in Abrashino (coordinates: 54.2296, 81.716)
— Central Siberian Botanical Garden (coordinates: 54.825, 83.1094)
— Akademgorodok (coordinates: 54.8495, 83.106)
— Big Novosibirsk Planetarium (coordinates: 54.9801, 83.035)
— Bugrinsky bridge (coordinates: 54.97607, 82.9611)
Look for even more interesting places in Russia.Travel blog
— There are 1.6 million citizens here. It is the most popular city in the Asian part of Russia.
— Here is the shortest street in Russia - Sibstroyput street. Its length is 40 meters.
Question: I would like to begin this conversation with Russia-US relations. If I may, my question will be on the upcoming elections in the United States in less than two months. The American elite, regardless of party affiliation, often talks about the exceptional role of their country as an absolute global leader. To what extent does this domestic agenda affect the US foreign policy, its relations with its allies and partners, including its relations with Russia? In your opinion, how does the principle of American exceptionalism affect international processes?
Sergey Lavrov: Overall, I think that everyone has already drawn their conclusions. I am referring to those who keep a close eye on the political struggle within the country, or have a professional duty to do so. Positions adopted by the republicans and the democrats have always been rooted in this political struggle. What we are witnessing today is not an exception. What matters the most is to have as many arguments as possible to outperform the competition in the media space, in rhetoric and controversies. The candidates of the Democratic and the Republic parties will soon face off in debates. The “Russian issue,” the question of Russia’s “meddling” in US internal affairs (this has become a cliche) are already at the top of the agenda. Truth be told, over the past couple of weeks or probably months we have been sidelined by the People’s Republic of China, which now proudly tops the list of America’s adversaries intent on doing everything to wreak havoc on the United States.
We have got used to this over the past years. It did not start with the current administration, but during Barack Obama’s presidency. It was he who said, including in public that the Russian leadership was intentionally seeking to damage relations between Moscow and Washington. He also said that Russia interfered in the 2016 elections. He also used this as a pretext for imposing sanctions that were totally unprecedented, including seizing Russian property in the United States in what amounted to a hostile takeover, and expelling dozens of Russian diplomats together with their families, and many other actions.
Both democrats and the republicans share the idea of American exceptionalism, as do all other political forces in the United States, as far as I can see. What can I say? We have said on numerous occasions that history has already witnessed attempts to pose as the ruler of destinies for the entire humanity, pretending to be without sin or fault, and to understand everything better than others. They did not yield any positive results.
We reaffirm our approach which by the way applies to all countries and their domestic policy: this is an internal affair of the United States. It is sad that its domestic policy is imbued with so much rhetoric that fails to reflect the actual state of affairs on the international stage. It is also a pity that those who contradict the US representatives on the international stage are faced with illegal sanctions for the sake of wining as many points as possible in electoral races, which is done without hesitation or scruple. Unfortunately, this “instinct” for sanctions in the current administration (although Barack Obama was also active on this front) is spilling over into the European continent with the European Union using the sanctions “stick” more and more.
The conclusion is quite simple: we will work with any government elected in any country. This also applies to the United States. However, we will discuss all the questions in which Washington is interested only based on the principles of equality, mutual benefit, and commitment to respecting a balance of interests. Presenting ultimatums is pointless. If someone still fails to understand this, they are not fit to be politicians.
Question: In addition to disagreements with our Western partners regarding current developments, there are interpretations of history which we refuse to share with them. The widespread protests and demonstrations in the United States have led to more radical developments. In fact, a sizable portion of the US and world history and culture has come under revision. Monuments are being desecrated. Descriptions of events are changing. Such attempts were made and continue to be made regarding WWII and the role of the Soviet Union in it. What can the attempts to revise history eventually mean for the United States? What might the global implications be?
Sergey Lavrov: You are absolutely right. We are worried about what is now going on with regard to world history and the history of Europe. Truth be told, we are witnessing an aggression against history aimed at revising the modern foundations of international law that were formed in the wake of World War II in the form of the UN and the principles of its Charter. There are attempts to undermine these very foundations. They are primarily using arguments that represent an attempt to equate the Soviet Union with Nazi Germany, aggressors who wanted to enslave Europe and turn the majority of the peoples on our continent into slaves with those who overcame the aggressors. We are being insulted by outright accusations that the Soviet Union is more culpable for unleashing WWII than Nazi Germany. At the same time, the factual side of the matter, such as how it all began in 1938, the policy of appeasing Hitler by the Western powers, primarily France and Great Britain, is thoroughly swept under the rug.
There’s no need to talk a lot about this, as much has already been said. In a generalised form, the well-known article written by President Putin contains our key arguments. Based on documentation, it convincingly reveals the senseless, counterproductive and destructive nature of attempts to undermine the outcome of WWII.
By the way, the overwhelming majority of the international community supports us. Every year, at the UN General Assembly sessions, we introduce a resolution on combating the glorification of Nazism. Only two countries vote against it, namely, the United States and Ukraine. Unfortunately, the EU abstains, because, as they tell us, the Baltic states don’t want them to support this resolution. As the saying goes, a guilty mind is never at ease. This resolution does not mention any country or government. It’s just that the entire international community is encouraged not to allow any attempts to glorify Nazism and not to allow the destruction of monuments, etc. That’s all there is to it. But this means that the countries that demand that the EU not support this absolutely obvious and straightforward resolution, with no strings attached, feel that they cannot subscribe to these principles. In fact, this is what’s happening. We see the SS troop marches and the destruction of monuments. Primarily, our neighbours in Poland are involved in this. In the Czech Republic, similar processes are underway. This is unacceptable. In addition to the fact that this undermines the outcome of World War II enshrined in the UN Charter, it also grossly violates bilateral treaties with these and other countries that focus on protecting and maintaining military burial sites and monuments in Europe in memory of WWII victims and the heroes who liberated the respective countries.
Importantly, those who oppose our policy of cutting short the glorification of Nazism tend to bring up the issue of human rights. They claim that freedom of thought and expression that exists in the United States and other Western countries is not subject to any kind of censorship. So, if this freedom of thought and speech is limited by the unacceptability of glorifying Nazism, this will violate those laws. But let’s be straight about this: what we are now seeing in the United States probably has something to do with what we are saying about the unacceptability of revising the outcome of World War II. Rampant racism is clearly part of American life and there are political forces that are trying to stoke the racist sentiment and use it in their political interests. We see this happen almost daily.
You mentioned other history-related matters that fell prey to fleeting political interests. On the spur of the moment, those in the United States who want to destroy their own history and dismantle monuments to the Confederates because they were slave owners, had the monument to the first governor of Alaska, Alexander Baranov, in Sitka which enjoyed the respect of the local residents and guests visiting Alaska, removed from the town square.
True, we heard the Governor of Alaska and the Sitka city officials say the monument would not be destroyed. It will be relocated, as we were assured, to a historical museum. If this happens as promised, I think we will appreciate Sitka’s approach to our common history. I hope that the monument to Alexander Baranov in the historical museum will make it possible to hold a special additional exhibit about the history of Russian America.
We have taken note of the controversy arising at the instigation of Berlin, Paris, Stockholm and, perhaps, Washington, as the main “keeper” of Euro-Atlantic “solidarity,” the controversy over the requests by the Russian Prosecutor General's Office and the Foreign Ministry regarding the findings about the alleged poisoning of Alexey Navalny with an agent from the Novichok group, which were made by the OPCW-certified laboratories in Germany, France and Sweden.
We get a negative impression from the Federal Republic of Germany’s refusal to assist the Russian law enforcement bodies and its secret transfer of Navalny's biomaterials to its trusted partners. Clearly, this was done for political reasons so that Paris and Stockholm could automatically confirm Berlin's unfounded accusations against Russia.
Today, it is hard not to recall the events of 2018 when Sweden, at the high point of a drawn-out hysteria in the West concerning the Skripal case, assured us that the research lab at the Defence Research Agency in the Swedish town of Umea, which has now allegedly confirmed Mr Navalny’s poisoning, did not have and could not have any Novichok samples. In fact, as it turned out, the Swedish specialists were competent enough to determine “with 100 percent accuracy” the presence of this toxic agent in the Russian blogger’s biomaterials. Asa Scott, a representative of this institute, told Spiegel that they can “unequivocally confirm that Mr Navalny's samples contained a neurotoxin from the Novichok group. Neurotoxins from the Novichok group are highly toxic. One drop can kill.”
Importantly, throughout the past week, the OPCW Technical Secretariat’s official representatives shrugged their shoulders in response to our questions saying the OPCW was in no way involved in this Navalny affair. Meanwhile, the Franco-Anglo-Saxon functionaries who dominate the Technical Secretariat carried out an entire covert “operation” to collect additional biomaterial from Navalny, which was submitted for analysis to two more designated OPCW laboratories. We will not be surprised if these end up being the Swiss Spiez and British Porton Down laboratories which featured prominently in the Skripal case.
Regrettably, we have to state that the Western countries have crossed all the lines and turned the once authoritative OPCW into a dirty tool for pursuing their destructive designs.
Question: Since we started talking about the international attitude towards Russia, let’s go over to our other partner – the United States. The elections in the US will take place very soon. We are actively discussing this in Russia. When asked whether Russia was getting ready for the elections in the US at the Paris forum last year, you replied: “Don’t worry, we’ll resolve this problem.” Now that the US elections are around the corner, I would like to ask you whether you’ve resolved it.
Sergey Lavrov: Speaking seriously, of course we, like any other normal country that is concerned about its interests and international security, are closely following the progress of the election campaign in the US. There are many surprising things in it. Naturally, we see how important the Russian issue is in this electoral process. The Democrats are doing all they can to prove that Russia will exploit its hacker potential and play up to Donald Trump. We are already being accused of promoting the idea that the Democrats will abuse the mail-in voting option thereby prejudicing the unbiased nature of voting. I would like to note at this point that mail-in voting has become a target of consistent attacks on behalf of President Trump himself. Russia has nothing to do with this at all.
A week-long mail-in voting is an interesting subject in comparing election systems in different countries. We have introduced three-day voting for governors and legislative assembly deputies in some regions. You can see the strong criticism it is subjected to, inside Russia as well. When the early voting in the US lasts for weeks, if not months, it is considered a model of democracy. I don’t see any criticism in this respect. In principle, we have long proposed analysing election systems in the OSCE with a view to comparing best practices and reviewing obviously obsolete arrangements.
There have been instances in the US when, due to its cumbersome and discriminatory election system, a nominee who received the majority of votes could lose because in a national presidential election the voting is done through the Electoral College process rather than directly by the people. There have been quite a few cases like that. I once told former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in reply to her grievances about our electoral system: “But look at your problem. Maybe you should try to correct this discriminatory voting system?” She replied that it is discriminatory but they are used to it and this is their problem, so I shouldn’t bother.
When the United States accuses us of interference in some area of its public, political or government life, we suggest discussing it to establish who is actually doing what. Since they don’t present any facts, we simply recite their Congressional acts. In 2014, they adopted an act on supporting Ukraine, which directly instructed the Department of State to spend $20 million a year on support for Russian NGOs. We asked whether this didn’t amount to interference. We were told by the US National Security Council that in reality they support democracy because we are wreaking chaos and pursuing authoritative and dictatorial trends abroad when we interfere in domestic affairs whereas they bring democracy and prosperity. This idea is deeply rooted in American mentality. The American elite has always considered its country and nation exceptional and has not been shy to admit it.
I won’t comment on the US election. This is US law and the US election system. Any comments I make will be again interpreted as an attempt to interfere in their domestic affairs. I will only say one thing that President Vladimir Putin has expressed many times, notably, that we will respect any outcome of these elections and the will of the American people.
We realize that there will be no major changes in our relations either with the Democrats or with the Republicans, as representatives of both parties loudly declare. However, there is hope that common sense will prevail and no matter who becomes President, the new US Government and administration will realize the need to cooperate with us in resolving very serious global problems on which the international situation depends.
NATO has increased the intensity of not only naval forces in the Black sea, but also strategic aviation, as well as air and naval intelligence means. This was announced today at a briefing at the National Centre for State Defence Control of the Russian Federation by first Deputy Chief of the General staff of the Russian Armed Forces - Chief of the Main Operational Directorate of the General Staff Sergey Rudskoy.
On August 28, September 4 and September 14, US Air Force B-52H planes worked out how to use cruise missiles over the waters of the Black and Azov seas, delivering conditional missile strikes against targets in the Southern Military District. During these flights, American planes approached the Russian border at a distance of up to 11 kilometers.
Nikkei Asian Review: Is Russia ready to consider US proposals (to constrain all nuclear warheads, including non-strategic nuclear weapons, as well as stronger verification measures) in exchange for Washington’s readiness to extend the New START Treaty? Is Russia going to tell the US to constrain their missile defense systems?
Anatoly Antonov: First of all, I would like to note that three meetings held this summer as part of a strategic dialogue between Russia and the United States were certainly useful. The parties aimed at better understanding each other’s approaches and ‘red lines.’ They showed their interest in identifying a list of issues on which further progress is possible.
However, Russian and American priorities at this stage differ significantly.
One of the most serious stumbling blocks is the issue of New START extension. This Treaty is the last existing agreement limiting the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals. In fact, it is the only thing that prevents the escalation of the multilateral nuclear and missile arms race. If the Treaty fails to be extended in 2021, we will face a period of uncertainty. The mutual understanding regarding the other side’s strategic nuclear arsenal will diminish. The reduced transparency and fewer communication channels will increase the possibility of unintended use of nuclear weapons as well as of a conflict to escalate to a nuclear level.
Our position is very clear. As early as in December 2019 the Russian Federation announced its readiness for immediate extension of New START Treaty without any preconditions. At the same time, I would like to emphasize that our country needs this agreement as much as the United States does. It is a fundamentally wrong policy to set a ‘price’ for its extension. Our national security will be guaranteed even without the Treaty. At the same time, we are not going to start an arms race.
Washington is not considering the possibility of an unconditional extension of New START. In exchange for its consent the United States puts forward – in the form of an ultimatum – a set of demands on which it expects concessions from Russia. In fact, the US wants to rewrite the verification mechanism of the Treaty.
In addition, Washington insists on the conclusion of a political agreement regarding a future legally binding arms control treaty. It implies freezing the levels of all nuclear warheads (including non-strategic ones) and introduction of an extremely tough verification regime. It is not clear which American weapons will be subject to such restrictions. In the long term, the United States does not give up pressure on China in order to involve it in negotiations in this area.
We are ready for further interaction with the US on arms control, but only on a basis of parity and the principle of mutual respect for each other’s interests and concerns. In this regard, we are in favor of an integrated approach to arms control agreements which takes into account key factors influencing strategic stability. Among them are missile defense, ground-based intermediate-range and shorter-range missiles, Global Strike weapons, hypersonic delivery systems, future space weapons, etc. <…>
We have noted an interview of Gen. Timothy Ray, head of Air Force Global Strike Command, published on September 13.
At a time when the whole world is mourning and commemorating the victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the US, Gen. Ray, in fact, equates the "threat" from Russia and China with the challenge posed by terrorism. According to the Global Strike Commander this "danger" is linked to the modernization of our nuclear forces.
Remarkably, such claims are made while Washington continues large-scale and cost-intensive efforts to improve its own nuclear weaponry. At the same time, the US is lowering the "threshold" of nuclear weapons use. In 2019, the Pentagon deployed low-yield W76-2 warheads on a number of Trident II SLBMs. Such actions increase the risk of potential conflict escalation.
We call on our US partners not to further fuel anti-Russian sentiments and focus on productive interaction for the sake of strengthening global stability and security.
The statements provided in the NBC News report about the U.S. involvement in “Ukrainian units fighting Russian forces in Crimea” were noticed with grave concern by the Embassy.
In other words, unnamed US officials speak about their country’s support of terrorist activities in third countries. In this case, they talk specifically about Russia.
If it is true (and not the channel’s geographical myopia), we then demand the U.S. side to clarify whether or not Washington directly or indirectly has facilitated the SBU in organizing terrorist attacks against the people of Crimea.
Russia is committed to continue dialogue on Syria-related issues with the US officials both in the UN and bilaterally. The goal of these contacts is to promote political process based on UNSCR 2254.
Currently we witness a lot of pending problems in post-war Syria that require our joint efforts and should not be politicized. Those include urgent need for reconstruction of basic civil and economic infrastructure, demining, improvement of humanitarian conditions for IDP (internally
displaced persons) camps. We also hope that the US Government at some point will realize the disastrous effect of American sanctions against Syrians.
Moscow supports normalization of ties between Damascus and representatives of the Northeastern Syria. For instance, on August 31 Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov discussed restoring Syria’s unity and territorial integrity with co-chair of the “Syrian Democratic Council” Ilham Ahmed. And we expect that the US administration will not hinder potential dialogue between central authorities and Northeastern political entities.
We reckon that eventual withdrawal of the US forces will be a positive development for both Syrian and American people. Especially taking into account the US administration commitment to bring US soldiers home from the Middle East. Once it happens the Syrian Government will be able to assume its legitimate duties to ensure security on the eastern bank of Euphrates river.
R.I.P. Stephen F. Cohen
Stephen F. Cohen, professor emeritus of Russian Studies and Politics at NYU and Princeton, died at the age of 81.
Russia lost one of its true friends in the U.S. Read his article from 2018.
HAVE A NICE WEEK
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The heroism and dedication of the Soviet and American participants of the Alaska–Siberia Airway will not be forgotten. It is our civic duty to express our deep respect to those whose efforts led to the program’s success and, in the process, brought the war to a close. This is our history. Future generations should be brought up with a respectful spirit of patriotism to understand this history of cooperation between our countries. This edition will preserve awareness of that massive effort for all time.
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