Russian media roundup: In addition to speculating on the future of Greece and the Eurozone, Russia’s top journalists also considered the impact of moving up Duma elections to September 2016.
A supporter of the "No" vote waves a Greek flag after the first results of the referendum at Syntagma square in Athens, Sunday, July 5, 2015. Photo: AP
More about Greece crisis and its implication for Europe, Russia and the U.S. read here
In addition to analyzing the twists and turns of Greece’s financial crisis, the Russian media also analyzed a number of other events with potential foreign policy implications – including Vladimir Putin’s July 4th phone call to Barack Obama and the release of a new U.S. military doctrine that portrays Russia as a “revisionist state.”
On the domestic front, the Russian media analyzed the continuing controversy over the decision to speed up the timetable of Duma elections to September 2016 as well as the potential significance of a high-profile firing of an American professor from the University of Nizhni Novgorod.
Referendum in Greece
On July 5, Greece held a referendum on reforms proposed by the country’s troika of creditors. In a resounding vote, a majority of Greeks said “No” to economic reforms proposed by the Eurogroup. As a result, the business newspaper Kommersant writes that Greece is already bankrupt, and if it fails to implement reforms, it would then become formally bankrupt. After that, there would no longer be any sense in talking about a positive outcome for Greece’s talks with the Eurogroup, or even for the entire Greek economy.
The website of the radio station Echo of Moscow talks about the absurdity of the situation itself, in which borrowers are setting conditions for their creditors, while refusing to pay their debts. The radio station notes that right behind all this political farce, will come a similar farce – in which the EU will yet again grant a reprieve to Greece and the Greek government will make it appear as if it will seriously undertake reforms, while nevertheless, continuing to live beyond its means.
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Moskovsky Komsomolets writes about the long history of crises in Greece, acknowledging that this current situation is so unprecedented, and thus it is unwilling to make a forecast about the country’s future. Moskovsky Komsomolets points out the Greek “talent” for being able to create intrigue on a global scale, the results of which could have serious impact on both the EU and the entire world monetary and financial order.
Moving parliamentary elections in Russia from December to September 2016
Last week, Russia's Constitutional Court, followed by the Russian Parliament, endorsed and approved moving elections to the State Duma from December to September 2016.
During the last few months, there was much talk about the possible changing of the date that the elections would be held, although many Russian journalists and experts believed these were only rumors and idle chatter. Nevertheless, the date of holding elections was changed, which provoked much negative commentary on the part of the opposition and independent media.
Thus, the independent media publication Slon wrote with indignation that the change in the elections date violated several federal laws and even the Russian Constitution, and that those responsible for this infraction were the parliamentarians themselves as well as the members of the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation. The publication noted that, “The Kremlin has lost all sense of proportion,” suggesting that it is willing to consider all measures as admissible, if these lead to preserving the government in its current form.
“We can assume... this whole idea arose as a result of the current foreign policy problems, Western sanctions, the collapse in oil prices and budget cuts, and as a result, there is no guarantee that in six months or a year, the population will not start feeling discontented,” says the author of the article, Tatiana Stanovaya.
The opposition newspaper Novaya Gazeta writes about the weakness of the arguments made by the Constitutional Court and members of parliament, and even about their absurdity. The newspaper, in particular, points to the ludicrous (from the point of view of the authors) reference to the bad weather conditions in Russia in December, which do not allow citizens to come out and vote. The article claims that this decision was purely political, and the Constitutional Court was assigned the role of inventing the legal justification.
The pro-government press has paid very little attention to this topic, emphasizing the legitimacy of the decision.
Dismissal of an American professor from the University of Nizhni Novgorod
Last week, the University of Nizhni Novgorod (UNN) dismissed the American professor Kendrick White, who held the post of vice-rector for innovation development at the university. White was fired after a program called “Vesti Nedeli” (“News of the Week”) was broadcast on a Russian TV channel. In this program, they claimed that the professor was promoting the “brain drain” from Russia, and directing it towards the United States.
In the 1990s, Kendrick White created one of the first Russian training centers for aspiring entrepreneurs. Source: Personal archive
The business publication Vedomosti believes that this dismissal was politically motivated, and point to a direct link with a certain “stop-list” (a list of undesirable foreign organizations and individuals operating in Russia), on which Professor White appeared.
The pro-government newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta reported on the removal of Mr. White, noting that he was only removed from the position as the vice-rector, but that he remains an employee of the university. The publication states that this move had nothing to do with the airing of the TV program.
The business newspaper Kommersant writes about the extremely rampant anti-American propaganda broadcast on Russian TV, which leads to hasty and ill-considered decisions, many of which are dictated solely by political expediency.
The website of the radio station Echo of Moscow published an article by White’s colleague – Vladimir Antonets, who defends the American professor and accuses Dmitry Kiselev, the creator of “Vesti Nedeli,” of lying and distorting facts.
Talks between John Kerry and Sergey Lavrov
Last week, John Kerry and Sergey Lavrov met in Vienna. During the meeting, according to media reports, these two discussed settlement of the Ukrainian crisis, the struggle against ISIS, and Iran’s nuclear program - an agreement on which is now in its final stages.
The business newspaper Kommersant talked about how Russia would be affected upon successful completion of the “Iranian Process” – increased competition in the oil markets, and the possible removal of Russia from important international debates. The publication tells it readers not to be hasty in making forecasts, because, according to the experts that its reporters interviewed, the negotiations are far from finished, and the agreed upon actions – are from being implemented.
The pro-government publication Rossiyskaya Gazeta focuses on the topic of the joint struggle against terrorism, suggesting that the need to counter ISIS might well “reconcile” Russia and the United States.
Telephone conversation between Putin and Obama
Held at the initiative of the Russian side, a telephone conversation between Vladimir Putin and Barack Obama was the first such direct contact between presidents of the two countries since February of this year. According to Russian media, the conversation mainly focused on the situation in Ukraine.
Moskovsky Komsomolets claims that this was a constructive dialogue, and quoted President Putin’s press secretary, who noted that during the conversation, Vladimir Putin had once again to deny the presence of Russian troops in Ukraine.
The business newspaper Kommersant focused on the discussion the presidents had on the issue of combating terrorism, and in particular, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Greater Syria (ISIS).
The pro-government Channel One reported on how the Russian leader “pointed out to his American counterpart the ongoing actions of extremists, which with impunity, intimidate civilians, government agencies, and law enforcement services” in Ukraine.
New American military doctrine
A new U.S. military doctrine was published last week, which has sparked interest in the Russian media. The opposition Novaya Gazeta analyzed the text of the document and reported that Russia was placed in the ranks of “revisionist states,” alongside North Korea, Iran and China.
Novaya Gazeta also focused on the sections of the new doctrine that point to the “undermining of Russian regional security.”
Moskovsky Komsomolets writes indignantly about Russia being included on the list of “revisionist states” and, quoting Franz Klintsevich, member of the State Duma Defense Committee, calls such a decision “hypocritical.”
Quotes of the Week
Gennady Zyuganov, Chairman of the Communist Party, on moving the Duma elections three months ahead: “Moving the elections to the month of September is an unconstitutional action. It is unfortunate that the Constitutional Court has forgotten how to count: five years multiplied by 12 months equals 60 months, and not 57 months. If the Constitutional Court confirms that five years now equals 57 months, then tomorrow these may equal 45 months, and the day after tomorrow – perhaps 70 months.”
Sergey Lavrov, after his talks with John Kerry: “We agreed to continue these consultations [on the fight against terrorism in the Middle East], including with the involvement of countries in the region.”
Anton Siluanov, Head of the Russian Ministry of Finance, on Greece and the Greek financial crisis: “Greece and the Russian Federation are not connected with financial obligations, as currently we are not involved in borrowing on foreign markets. Therefore, if Greece defaults on its debts, this will have a negligible influence on Russia. Of course, this may very well indirectly influence the Russian financial sector.”