In response to a State Department arms control report last week accusing Russia of violating the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, the Russian Foreign Ministry issued an angry and defensive blast denying the charges.
Welcome to our column, Russia Update, where we will be closely following day-to-day developments in Russia, including the Russian government’s foreign and domestic policies.
The previous issue is here.
Russia This Week:
– Is âNovorossiyaâ Really Dead?
– From Medal of Valor to Ubiquitous Propaganda Symbol: the History of the St. George Ribbon
– What Happened to the Slow-Moving Coup?
– Can We Be Satisfied with the Theory That Kadyrov Killed Nemtsov?
– All the Strange Things Going On in Moscow
– With Cash and Conspiracy Theories, Russian Orthodox Philanthropist Malofeyev is Useful to the Kremlin
– Alexey Navalny On the Murder of Boris Nemtsov
– Theories about Possible Perpetrators of the Murder of Boris Nemtsov
– Novaya Gazeta Releases Sensational Kremlin Memo
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Oleg Kashin, the prominent Russian blogger who has lived abroad in Geneva, Switzerland for the last two years, has returned to Russia “for good,” he told TV Rain in an interview yesterday June 10.
A prolific and critical writer, Kashin was forced to go abroad after an attack that put him in the hospital in a coma in 2010. He had written about the movement to save the forest in Khimki from construction of a highway, and suffered an attack from unknown forces. The journalist Mikhail Beketov who also wrote about Khimki was brutally beaten as well in 2008 and eventually died of his wounds in 2013.
Yevgeniya Chirikova, the environmental activist who led the opposition to the forest’s destruction, was forced to flee to Estonia this year.
Kashin said he was returning to Russia because his wife, Tatyana Suvorova completed a contract for a Western firm. They recently had a son. Kashin said he was able to obtain eye surgery to address an injury from his 2010 beating, which he could not have done in Moscow, and now “with a new son and a new eye, I am returning home.”
He mentioned that as a person whose case, along with that of Beketov, was mentioned in the US Magnitsky Act that provides sanctions against Russian officials accused of serious human rights abuse, he would not have had any trouble getting asylum in the West. But he never sought it.
Kashin explained that while abroad, he remained immersed in Russian life, never commenting on Swiss politics, for example. As he put it:
Because it seems to me to be a great danger when you live, for example, in Riga, and continue to follow Russia, then you look — aha, today here’s Nil Ushakov doing something interesting, let me write about Nil Ushakov and then I’ll write something else. And then it turns out you’re no longer Russian but not yet a Latvian. And that sort of person who’s not clear — that is what I really feared for myself and deliberately avoided.
Kashin reiterated his position in support of the annexation of Crimea which has cost him readers and opposition supporters.
Kashin spoke of 15 people that he had banned, de-friended on Facebook and such, which Anton Zhelnov jokingly called “the Kashin List” and Kashin agreed.
But once again, it’s some kind of situational things, because naturally, Ukraine has divided many. I won’t hide the fact that I regard the annexation of Crimea as an annexation, but even so as a restoration of a historical justice. Crimea is, of course, ours. My generation, at least, in its social iteration, dreamed of this all these years since I was 11. That is, Crimea was always an unjust loss, and many of my friends for many years don’t agree with this, up to the point that they’ve stopped saying hello to me.
Kashin said he wouldn’t go to work again for a newspaper like Kommersant as such, but hopes to continue his own blog and have his columns placed in various media outlets as they are now at Slon and other publications. Kashin said he had 120,000 followers on Twitter, 50,000 on Facebook (with the maximum of friends, 5,000).
Media is a person. When the general director of Kommersant was Demyan Kudryavtsev, once at some public event we argued about this and I said to him, “I am a brand, and the fact that I work for you — that’s just a coincidence. I will not sell myself as a person from Kommersant. I will sell myself as Oleg Kashin.” He argued but in the end neither he nor I are there now, and I go on selling myself as Oleg Kashin now, and apparently I was right. Because in the current situation when, I’m sorry, today there’s Lenta.ru in which you are special correspondent Ilya Azar or Andrei Kozenko and tomorrow there’s no Lenta.ru. That’s it. Where can you go? In fact the closure of Lenta.ru became an impulse for me, the initial stimulus for creating my site, because I thought, “OK, I’ll wake up tomorrow and there are no publications where I write. What can I do? Where can I put my theory?”
Then today TV Rain featured a debate between Kashin and Mustafa Nayyem, the Ukrainian journalist who was among the founders of the Maidan protest in Kiev, and who today has a seat in parliament.
Kashin posted an excerpt from his TV Rain interview with the quotation about “Crimea is ours” and Nayyem commented.
Nayyem asked Kashin in a comment whether the “historical injustice” of Crimea had a date — because such injustices could be found further back in history “Some of our people believe that in principle Moscow, is our very developed province, and they even point to the grave of Prince Dolgoruky in Kiev” — a reference to the fact that ancient Rus’ was founded in what is now Ukraine.
Kashin: Well, imagine if 100 Russian soldiers came to Ivano-Frankivsk. Will people be glad to see them there? But in Crimea they were.
Ivano-Frankivsk is a predominantly Ukrainian city and stronghold of Ukrainian patriotism.
Nayem fired back:
I think that if 100 Chechen soldiers came to Moscow they would definitely find some supporters glad to see them. In fact a lot, and of different nationalities. I think that’s an excellent excuse for a referendum. The rest is a technical matter.
Kashin conceded that Crimea was seized “extremely aggressively, the referendum was fictitious, and international law was infringed, and so on. Even so, it’s ours.”
To which Nayyem said:
“By that logic, a rape victim also has no right to a just trial since the rapist was certain that “she was ours.” There isn’t any contradiction in this after all; ‘the rape was extremely aggressive, her honor and the law were violated and so on. Even so, she’s ours.”
— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick
The Foreign Ministry discounted charges made by the US that Russia is no longer complying with the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.
On June 5, the State Department released its annual “Report on Adherence to and Compliance with Arms Control, Nonproliferation, and Disarmament Agreements and Commitments” with complaints about Russia’s non-compliance:
The United States noted concerns about the Russian Federation’s compliance with the INF Treaty in earlier, classified versions of the Compliance Report. In the 2014 Report, the United States published its determination that the Russian Federation was in violation of its obligations under the INF Treaty not to possess, produce, or flight-test a ground-launched cruise missile (GLCM) with a range capability of 500 km to 5,500 km, or to possess or produce launchers of such missiles
The United States determined the cruise missile developed by the Russian Federation meets the INF Treaty definition of a ground-launched cruise missile with a range capability of 500 km to 5,500 km, and as such, all missiles of that type, and all launchers of the type used to launch such a missile, are prohibited under the provisions of the INF Treaty.
In 2013 and 2014, the United States raised these concerns with the Russian Federation on repeated occasions in an effort to resolve U.S. concerns. The United States will continue to pursue resolution of U.S. concerns with Russia.
The report also contained a number of statements that Russia had violated the Vienna agreement on refraining from the use of force in Ukraine, and its amassing of troops and armor near the Ukrainian border without notification also violated that agreement.
As AP reported on June 4, that the Obama Administration was looking at a range of responses to Russia’s “alleged violation of a Cold War-era nuclear treaty.”
The options go so far as one implied – but not stated explicitly – that would improve the ability of U.S. nuclear weapons to destroy military targets on Russian territory.
It all has a certain Cold War ring, even if the White House ultimately decides to continue tolerating Russia’s alleged flight-testing of a ground-launched cruise missile with a range prohibited by the treaty.
One of Carter’s nuclear policy aides, Robert Scher, testified in April that “counterforce” means “we could go about and actually attack that missile where it is in Russia.” Another Pentagon official, Brian McKeon, testified in December that this option involved potential deployment in Europe of ground-launched cruise missiles.
Scher said another option would involve “not simply attacking” the Russian missile but seeing “what things we can hold at risk within Russia itself.” Hans Kristensen, a nuclear weapons expert at the Federation of American Scientists, said this could mean further improving the ability of U.S. nuclear or conventional forces to destroy Russian military targets in addition to missiles deemed to violate the INF treaty.
Kristensen said the public discussion of these options amounts to “one hell of a gamble” that Putin will back down on INF.
AP noted that much of the subject was classified, including a Pentagon assessment of the threat posed by Russian violations. As indicated from the State Department’s report, where the violations were only prompting “raising of concerns,” AP said the Obama Administration has been “relatively gentle in poking Moscow publicly on the INF issue”:
The State Department’s top arms control official, Rose Gottemoeller, has called the alleged Russian violations a “very grave concern.” In December she argued against declaring the treaty dead, saying America’s allies also are opposed to that approach.
The Foreign Ministry’s response to this “gentle poke” was an angry and verbose denial that didn’t address the charges substantively (translation by The Interpreter):
We note that the US continues to play the role of a supreme “certifier,” having arrogated to itself the right to annually put “grades” on other stats for their “diligence” in fulfilling their treaty and convention obligations in arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation.
Obviously, such documents are designed to serve above all the political interests of Washington. In that connection they inevitably are notable for open subjectivism, prejudice, and tendentiousness. They are characterized by an abundance of conjectures, exaggerations, stretches, false premises and distortions. Taking into accounting these features, the 2015 report as in fact the previous analogous document can hardly be called a serious document reflecting the real state of affairs in the area of non-proliferation and arms control.
We note in particular that the US made a point of using the publication of the report to accuse Russia of “occupation” and “attempt at annexation” of the Crimea and also “provocations against Ukraine” in violation of our obligations in OSCE, including the Vienna document of 2011. Such a phrasing of the issue at root contradicts reality and stands everything on its head.
The return of Crimea to the Russian Federation took place in full compliance with current international law as a result of the free expression of will of the residents of the peninsula, during which more than 96% expressed support for reunification of Russia.
As for the accusations that Russia supposedly continues provocations against Ukraine in general, such statements do not have any basis and only distract the international community from understanding the true reasons for the Ukrainian crisis. This is all the more strange to hear from a state which constantly declares its adherence to the support and strengthening of international peace and security, which for the last several years has had a hand in the extremely destructive destabilization of the situation both in Ukraine and other regions.
In advancing such specious accusations, the USA, unlike Russia, not only does not take any real efforts to settle the Ukraine crisis and prevent a humanitarian disaster in Lugansk and Donetsk regions but essentially pushes the current Kiev authorities to continuing the fratricidal internal state conflict.
The State Department once again makes specious accusations against Russia of non-compliance on the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. Essentially, from the American report it follows that in 2014, our country had, produced and tested ground-based cruise missiles of a range from 500-5,500 kilometers and also launch systems for such missiles.
This claim totally does not correspond to reality. It is no accident that the American government cannot site in support of its claims any concrete facts and only cites certain “reliable classified sources” whose reliability by definition is impossible to verify.
The Foreign Ministry goes on to claim the US only makes such claims to “discredit Russia” and to distract from its own Standard-3 anti-missile system and Tomahawk missiles.
The US doesn’t have any Tomahawk missiles deployed in Europe, but Poland is seeking to obtain them from the US or elsewhere to place on three submarines it plans to purchase by 2030, according to the New York Times.
This has fueled a constant barrage of Russian propaganda about US deployment of the Tomahawks.
The current controversy is reminiscent of the conflicts regarding the “Euromissiles” of the 1980s, when the US deployed cruise missiles to counter Soviet missiles, tanks, and submarines, despite protests from mass peace movements, at a time of worsening repression of dissidents after the detente of the 1970s.
In the end, what made it possible to sign the treaty was the change of the Kremlin itself, when Mikhail Gorbachev came to power and instituted the reforms of glasnost and perestroika, bringing about more free media, civil society and free enterprise. This led to the collapse of the Soviet Union and ultimately what could be characterized as Vladimir Putin’s counter-revolution.
— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick