Within Russia, news about the Paris terror attacks led to much analysis and reflection on the changing contours of international security in the modern world.
People pay their respect to the victims at the site of the attacks on restaurant Le Petit Cambodge (Little Cambodia) and the Carillon Hotel on the first of three days of national mourning in Paris, Sunday, Nov. 15, 2015. Photo: AP
As can be expected, the Paris terror attacks of Nov. 13 dominated media coverage in Russia over the weekend. The terrorist attacks from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Greater Syria (ISIS) unleashed a storm of public commentary in the Russian media on what the Russian authorities should do next to show solidarity with the French.
The aftermath of the terrorist attacks in Paris
Russians and the Russian press did not remain aloof from the mourning ceremonies in the wake of the Nov. 13 terror attacks, with many people bringing flowers to the representative offices of France in Russia, and the Russian-speaking part of the Internet became filled with condolences and offers of assistance to the French.
The business newspaper Kommersant believes that ISIS has now declared war not only on France, but also on the entire civilized world, and all countries must respond to this challenge. The only way to answer this challenge is via joint efforts to combat ISIS in the territories under its control, as well as imposing “zero tolerance” for all accomplices of terrorism in France. The time of half-measures has passed, and the time has come for a real war – for total destruction of this menace.
Kirill Martynov, a columnist for the opposition Novaya Gazeta, believes that the main goal of the terrorists is to deny the civilized world its freedom and other cherished values. The danger, according to the author, lies in the possible reaction of the Western world, which can now start a “new crusade.“ This cannot be allowed, because if such a strong reaction takes place, it will be a major blow to the freedom of Europeans, many of whom are practicing Muslims and are also grieving for the victims of the terrorist attacks in Paris.
The Internet website of the Echo of Moscow radio station quoted the famous journalist and politician Konstantin Remchukov, who insists on the need to finally start a real war on terror, a war without borders and compromises. After all, terrorists have launched a war against humanity, and we just have to fight back.
The tabloid Moskovsky Komsomolets sought the opinion of an expert at MGIMO-University, Ahmet Yarlykapov. This expert fears that, with the terrorist attacks in Paris, the terrorists have achieved two goals: they have intimidated the Europeans and caused a serious split in society (those who understand the danger of the persecution of Muslims, and those who demand immediate punishment).
Moreover, Yarlykapov believes that even combining military efforts of different countries is not enough to defeat ISIS since “using bombs” cannot stop the spread of the ideology of the so-called Caliphate.
The G20 Summit in Turkey
On Nov. 15, the G20 Summit started in Antalya, where leaders of the 20 largest economies of the world met to discuss the most pressing problems in the global economy and politics.
The business newspaper Kommersant reported that the main difference between this meeting and the others was the vast political agenda.
As a rule, the G20 countries focus on trade and economic issues, but the host, Turkey, has made a significant contribution to the development of the agenda, including as part of it issues of terrorism, Syrian refugees, and settlement of the crisis in Syria.
The Turkish authorities attribute this to their high vulnerability to the conflict in Syria. In fact, Turkey has taken in more than 2 million refugees, and is now almost the main staging post on the road of these people fleeing the conflict in Syria.
However, the publication, referring to Russian experts on international affairs, believes that the political agenda for the G20 countries will remain secondary, because these are the issues that are the most difficult to reach an agreement on.
The publication Arguments and Facts also noted that against the background of the terrorist attacks in Paris and in Turkey, as well as the ongoing war in neighboring Syria, the issues of terrorism and security have clearly overshadowed the trade and economic agenda of the summit.
The publication also emphasized that, due to the busy schedules of Russian President Vladimir Putin and his U.S. counterpart Barack Obama, these two did not have time to fully communicate face to face on the sidelines of the summit. However, Arguments and Facts expects that the short “quick” meeting between the leaders may have been extremely productive.
The business publication RBC stresses that terrorism has “stolen” from the summit the primacy of economic and financial problems, which were scheduled to be discussed there. That coordination of actions against international terrorism was discussed at the most important meetings of the summit, including in the conversation held between Putin and Obama.
The publication cites the opinion of respected Russian experts, who believe that, in fact, to reach agreement on an anti-terrorist coalition will remain difficult for the potential participants, even after the terrorist attacks in Paris, because there is no consensus among them.
At Moskovsky Komsomolets, Elena Egorova focused on the attitudes of the G20 participants towards Vladimir Putin. A year ago, he was obviously an outcast, the newspaper writes, while today his image has improved considerably, but he still cannot be called the “darling of the family.” The Russian President has a long way to go to reach the popularity enjoyed by Obama, but at least in the general picture, he no longer stands on the very edge, emphasizes the publication.
Russian Forbes stresses that probably the main event of this summit was the short (about 35 minutes) conversation between Putin and Obama, which took place in the presence of only translators. This business publication reports that the two presidents discussed Syria and Ukraine.
The international doping scandal involving Russian athletes
Last week, the Russian sports industry was shaken by a major scandal. A report submitted by the World Anti-Doping Agency reported numerous violations of the rules on the use of doping agents by Russian athletes and their coaches.
At least five athletes and coaches are facing a lifetime ban, and this has jeopardized the participation of the Russian athletics team at the Olympic Games in Brazil in 2016. The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) has suspended Russian athletes from international competitions. Russia denies the charges, considering them as politicized, but President Putin has nevertheless ordered a thorough investigation of the available facts.
Vladimir Mozgovoy, an observer at Novaya Gazeta, believes that Russia has for far too long ignored the obvious signals being sent by international sports organizations, hinting at the need for reorganization of the corrupt “doping” in the sports industry. This is not the first doping scandal, as the author points out, but Russia did not make any conclusions from the previous times, and has once again come under attack.
The author believes that it is unfair to punish, for mistakes of the past years, the “clean” part of the team, but lays the blame squarely on the Russian authorities, who for so many years had pointedly ignored the problems in this industry.
The pro-government Channel one talked about the decision to ban as unfair to the athletes, arguing that this punishment constitutes an unprecedented degree of absurdity – to disqualify an entire country. Quoting Russian sports officials, the channel notes the lack of opportunities that Russia was given to state its case, and the biased approach followed by the international sports authorities.
Irina Stepantseva, writing for Moskovsky Komsomolets, notes that punishment, although really severe, is nevertheless fair, and suits the “crime”. The extent of corruption in sports is difficult to overestimate in Russia, emphasizes Stepantseva. However, the author adds that we should not forget that for the IAAF, this is an excellent opportunity to remind people of its importance, because the organization is going through hard times, and needs to confirm in people’s minds the seriousness of its activities.
Negotiations on Syria in Vienna
On Nov. 14, another round of talks on Syria was held in Vienna, in which foreign ministers of the U.S., Russia, as well as European and Arab countries, participated. The sides reached some important agreements, including provisions on the promotion of direct contacts between the Syrian government and opposition groups, as well as the organization of general elections in eighteen months.
The business newspaper Kommersant stressed that, despite some progress, many differences remain, in particular, the negotiations again “stalled” on the question of the leadership of Assad, as well as on the list of organizations that each of the parties considers as terrorists. The newspaper also said that the agenda of the talks has been significantly affected by the events in Paris, demonstrating the need for joint efforts to combat ISIS.
The pro-government Rossiyskaya Gazeta writes about the unexpected procedural obstacles in the negotiation process, which arose due to disputes about the figure of Bashar Assad, and the lists of terrorist organizations. This, in particular, was due to the creation by the American side of additional working groups, without notifying the Russians.
Moscow called the move of the U.S. delegation a “surprise,” and expressed its disapproval. Citing officials from the Russian Foreign Ministry, the publication emphasized the less than constructive U.S. approach in the negotiations, and the desire to impose their views on all the rest.
Quotes of the Week
Vladimir Putin on the terrorist attacks in Paris: “This tragedy is another piece of evidence of the barbaric nature of terrorism, which defies human civilization. It is obvious that an effective fight against this scourge requires real joint efforts by the entire international community.”
Fyodor Lukyanov, head of Council on Foreign and Defense Policy (CFDP), on the terrorist attacks in Paris: “What was really shocking was the revelation that this was no camouflaged misanthropy – nor were there any demands or even slogans voiced, but simply manslaughter. Earlier generations at least claimed specific political objectives, but now this cover for terrorism has been discarded as useless. This is terror in its pure form – in order to spread fear, to break the will of the people.”
Sergey Lavrov on the role of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad: “The terrorist attack in Paris has shown that it does not matter if you are for Assad or against Assad – everyone is an enemy of ISIS. So, this has nothing to do with Assad.”