Excerpts from the Briefing by Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova

June 10, 2016

US Department of State's Country Reports on Terrorism in the part concerning Russian anti-extremism legislation

We have noted to the annual Country Reports on Terrorism issued by the US State Department on June 2 in its part concerning the Russian anti-extremist legislation.

Unfortunately, while reviewing the part of the document that concerns Russia, we must once again state the authors' attempt to make this document politically charged, and to do this by making use of the traditional groundless accusations against Russia as well.

Here are a few examples. Unfounded accusations over Russia's persecution of "peaceful citizens and organisations" under the guise of fighting terrorism and extremism absolutely contradict the actual state of affairs. The bogus statements are made despite the fact that Russia, unlike the United States, has never fought terrorism in circumvention of the international law, the UN Charter, the UN Security Council decisions, and the country's own legislation in this area. The incontestable efficiency of Russia's actions in this area is evidenced by specific results, with the main one probably being the military and ideological victory over the epicentre of international terrorism in Russia's North Caucasus. I am sometimes tempted to add that this happens to the annoyance of many our western partners. Our experience in developing optimal legal, organisational and tactical practices in tackling terrorism and extremism is highly sought after by our international partners. We explain to all those who want to listen the core and the specifics of applying and using the laws and our experience by Russian competent state agencies.

Apparently, the Country Reports on Terrorism refers to the efficient Russian Federal Law No 114-FZ On Countering Extremist Activities of July 25, 2002. The report also mentions the Strategy for Countering Extremism in the Russian Federation until 2025, approved by Russian President Vladimir Putin on November 20, 2014. We have to note that Russia’s approach to the concept of extremism, comprehensively featured in these two documents, lays the groundwork for treating this phenomenon primarily as an ideology and practice, as well as propaganda of non-legitimate violence and activities to stir up ethnic, racial and religious animosity and hatred. We should note that the aforementioned documents contain a clear legal definition of the term "extremism". The main criterion for considering specific actions as "extremist" is their danger to society. Moreover, it is preventive efforts, including education and information campaigns aimed at averting extremist activities, that are a priority for our country. It would be a good thing if our American colleagues realised this.

In such conditions, the "analysis" of the Russian law by the Americans appears just plain unprofessional and absolutely subjective. It seems the US State Department chooses to consistently use political clichés instead of being governed by interests of counteracting terrorism and violent extremism. I think that the State Department would only benefit from channeling its energy into resuming interaction with Russia in the antiterrorism sphere instead of publishing such biased reports.

Naturally, as could have been expected, the report omits to mention the shortsighted Western tactic that has become popular of late of using extremist movements in some countries to achieve short-term political and geopolitical objectives, including the fight against "undesirable" regimes. Entire regions of the world have fallen victim of this approach, and now extremists and terrorists of all stripes fill the political and legal vacuum that has been created as a result.

The suspension of ABM dialogue with the US and NATO

Over these past few months, we have observed the United States’ unabated interest in the missile shield agenda. As in the preceding instance, it does not seek to promote the negotiation process or analytical approaches but keeps piling accusations on Russia – particularly of stopping the ABM dialogue with the United States and NATO. We will continue to pay close attention to this theme and not merely offer prompt responses but raise the issue regularly because what we are dealing with is not the truth.

Since US officials allege that Russia has stopped the nuclear shield dialogue with the United States and NATO unilaterally, I would like to remind you the real stage-by-stage development of the situation.

To begin with, it was the United States that announced leaving the ABM Treaty in 2001 – not Russia but the United States. In 2002, no longer bound by the treaty, Washington began implementing its plans for a global anti-missile system. Despite these unilateral moves and the emerging situation, Russia was still guided by the global goal of minimising the damage to strategic stability and worked for a long time to continue the dialogue with the United States on this agenda.

When President Vladimir Putin met with then US President George W. Bush in Heiligendamm and Kennebunkport in 2007, he suggested building an anti-missile shield together. I think the American side remembers it. The matter was recorded. I would like to say that the US side rejected this initiative although we were advancing practical proposals and were ready to discuss in detail how to organise efforts in that area. Later, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of Defence Robert Gates visited Moscow to make counterproposals, particularly on Russian observers’ presence at ABM sites and the use of monitoring equipment. However, even these palliative measures were soon forgotten.

In September 2013, Russia made proposals to Washington again concerning its idea of the tentative settlement of the ABM issue, proceeding from guarantees, based on verifiable geographic and military technical data, that the US anti-missile system is not spearheaded against Russia. Three years have passed since then, but America has not yet given a response to the practical and realistic project which, we believe, takes US security interests into consideration.

The ABM agenda came under intense discussion by ad hoc teams of the Russian-US Bilateral Presidential Commission, established in 2009. However, Washington froze its activity unilaterally in March 2014, and its decision has not been revised to this day. At that time, Defence Department spokesmen declared officially that since the dialogue with Russia on military issues has been suspended, the ABM dialogue would also stop.

In May 2016, the Pentagon flatly rejected again the opportunity to provide legally binding guarantees that the ABM system is not directed against Russia. At about the same time, Russia was named among the greatest threats to the United States.

We have now assessed the Moscow-Washington dialogue on the ABM problems, and promoted a similar multilateral discussion proactively. It was at Russia’s initiative that the heads of state and government ordered, during the Lisbon summit of the Russia-NATO Council in 2010, to make a joint and comprehensive analysis of the possible framework terms for partnership in that sphere. The summit also reached an understanding on anti-missile theatre defence interaction and joint assessment of the ballistic missile threat.

Regrettably, this understanding did not bear practical fruit due to principled differences between the parties’ approaches to the problem. The Russian position envisaged joint elaboration of a concept and architecture of the missile shield with Russia as fully-fledged participant because, as we see it, our equal participation is at the essence of Russia’s approach.

The NATO approach is different. It envisages an entirely autonomous ABM system with opportunities to undermine eventually the strength of the Russian strategic deterrence forces. Our colleagues advise us to remove our concerns through practical interaction which, as we realise, would boil down in practice to extremely limited information exchanges with the American ABM architecture preserved intact.

The two sides’ threat assessments turned out to be diametrically opposed to each other. Specifically, NATO, just as the United States, chose to focus on Iran’s alleged aggressive schemes (and we have also talked about this at length), while Russia’s suggestion was to deal with hard facts based on real data.

Preparations for joint comprehensive analysis were also fruitless: Even its basic principles were not formulated as our Western partners were not ready for practical cooperation.

The situation brought the Russia-NATO Council anti-missile dialogue into a deadlock. We said so to our partners in October 2013. However, Russia did not shut the door on the dialogue. The council programme for 2014 included an item that envisaged further discussion of the ABM agenda as may be required, including the Lisbon instructions.

However, the NATO countries’ foreign ministers determined on April 1, 2014 to suspend practical cooperation with Russia, so it was none other than the US-led West that put an end to the practical ABM dialogue in the given format.

The US side is certainly aware of all these facts, and we don’t see why Washington is eager to shift the responsibility for the situation it has made onto Russia. All this looks bizarre, to it mildly. We think that these steps are merely another attempt to retouch the deplorable results of the outgoing US Administration’s foreign policy, which only deepened the ABM problems instead of addressing them. On the whole, the strategic stability cause has suffered a loss with that policy.

Western guarantees of NATO’s non-expansion to the east

There is another theme that has been raised by our past and present US colleagues: It is their circulation of the idea that Russia is responsible for NATO’s eastward expansion. There is a dualism here. On the one hand, there are official representatives of government agencies and former US diplomatic representatives who spare no effort in shifting the responsibility for everything onto Russia. On the other hand, there are people active in the media who belong to what is known as old-school diplomacy with its intellect, responsibility and analytical approach. It appears that two concepts are duelling in the media, Internet and social networks.

We have noted an interview of France’s former Foreign Minister Roland Dumas carried by the Foreign Affairs magazine, where he comes down on the United States for breaking its political pledge not to expand NATO to the east. During the unification of Germany, the powers agreed that NATO troops would not approach the former borders of the communist world. Now, the diplomat says, Americans allege that it was not so and the obligation was not recorded in writing. Roland Duma says that it does not matter at all. What really matters is public mentality. At that time, there was talk of easing tensions, which supposes the withdrawal of troops and arms as far as possible. Now we have to state that the United States and NATO did not keep their word. One can also remark cynically that NATO survives while the Warsaw Treaty Organisation was disbanded.

I would also like to site the views of another French spokesman, incumbent Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, who told the same magazine that there had certainly been some misunderstood gestures, for instance, the way the United States organised NATO’s expansion during George Bush’s presidency. The Russians may have regarded it as provocation rather than response to the interested countries’ lawful wishes. The diplomat says that they can reproach themselves on the loss of historical intuition. Some people wanted the collapse of the USSR to spell the end of history. Now, he says, we know that this was not so.

Former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger spoke in the same vein in an interview to the Mezhdunarodnoye Obozreniye television programme. Specifically, he pointed out the absence of relevant formal documents and admitted that the Russian leadership received informal comments. He believes that the Russian leaders cannot be accused of inventing such comments.

As for NATO’s expansion closer to the Russian borders, he thinks it cannot be justified by the illusory Russian threat to certain Eastern European countries. The American diplomat and political expert says it must be realised that Russia should not be treated as a country that is out to finish NATO.