Excerpts from Briefing by Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova
The anti-Russia statements by CIA Director Mike Pompeo
We could not but take note of and comment on the June 24 statement by CIA Director Mike Pompeo during his NBC interview. The statement dealt with Russia’s alleged longtime attempts to undermine the American democracy and meddling in US elections. It appears that in his opinion, Russia’s longtime attempts to undermine US democracy have culminated in the interference in US elections.
As we know, the issue of Russia’s meddling in the election process has become a favourite media story and an obsession in the United States. This story has been adopted by anti-Russia propagandists. This issue continues to pick up momentum and is mentioned in statements by officials who are trying to accuse Russia of engaging in unlawful actions but who have failed to produce any evidence to date. We would like to remind them about some outstanding pages of US history. Unlike the Americans, we have real facts at our disposal, and we know what we should focus on.
It is common knowledge that since the early 1990s the United States had voiced its intentions to establish a Jeffersonian democracy in Russia. But the very fact of setting such a task completely runs counter to the ideas of Thomas Jefferson, one of the founding fathers of the American nation and democracy. All of us know that he called for respecting various forms of government, chosen by other nations, and said the United States would not impose its will anywhere. He was mistaken. Thomas Jefferson referred to the idea of dictating the form of government to an independent country as arrogant, brutal and outrageous. It appears that the ideologists of the present-day America have very poor knowledge of their own history and the foundations of their statehood, if the concepts of “exporting democracy” and “humanitarian intervention” have become their favourite method for conducting an aggressive foreign policy and part of their national concept. For decades, dozens of countries all over the world have been suffering fr om US-imposed state system formulas that are trying to equate all countries under one and the same pattern, without any consideration for what makes each of them unique. This policy and experiments cannot be called harmless. In the past few years, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Egypt, Syria and Ukraine have fallen prey to this concept. Needless to say, al- Qaeda in all its manifestations, ISIS and other radical terrorist groups of all religious denominations evolved on the fertile soil created by the Americans and in fact often were the brainchildren of these forces.
Generous financial injections in the form of projects and grants through numerous foundations and NGOs is another “grey zone” through which the United States has been trying to influence political processes all over the world for many years. Russia virtually tops the list of these allocations. Various government and non-government organisations, including the Peace Corps, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the National Democratic Institute, the International Republican Institute and many other similar agencies, have been planting their agents for decades in order to penetrate the Russian political establishment and media community and to influence public opinion. According to some sources, the United States had spent $5 billion for these purposes in the 1990s alone. It is very strange that, while making such statements, Mr Pompeo forgets that many decisions stipulating the allocation of funding were approved by his own agency.
It is strange that Washington forgets the fact that in the run-up to the 1996 Russian presidential election, the Federal Reserve Bank delivered $500 million in cash to the US Embassy in Moscow under a far-fetched pretext of avoiding frenzied demand during the exchange of old $100 notes. Operatives fr om the CIA’s Moscow Embassy station, headed by Michael Sulick, virtually slept on the money bags, while guarding them. Foreign-made cars delivered small batches of money fr om the Embassy to certain individuals. Who did the US sponsor using this money? I believe we will also learn this someday.
Here are only a few examples of diverse US activities aiming to undermine stability in various regions worldwide and in those areas that are not ready to follow American instructions. We are in no way demanding that Mr Pompeo should stop his rhetoric because this is in the realm of fiction. One should simply understand that every action has a reaction. We are ready.
Closing a US neo-Nazi website’s Russian domain
We took note of media reports on August 16 that the US neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer has moved to a Russian domain. The Russian Embassy in Washington has received numerous petitions. For some reason, all newspapers immediately learned about this Russian domain. In this connection, I would like to draw your attention to the decision of the Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media (Roskomnadzor) to deny this website a domain on Russian territory. We completely support the statement issued by the service.
We would like to reiterate that there is no place for extremist ideology and the propaganda of extremist ideas in our country. We will pursue a consistent policy in this regard, fighting the manifestations of hatred and racial superiority wherever they may come fr om. We urge the authorities of other states to act with the same speed and determination with regard to similar websites spreading content that Russian courts have deemed extremist, with the connivance of corresponding foreign agencies.
What an interesting setup! When the Russian Federation time and again makes official statements on its territory and at international organisations and when it makes representations in certain countries where opportunities are opened up and provided for extremist websites to operate in their internet space – websites targeting Russia and calling for extremist activity on its territory, nobody is interested in covering these issues. Nobody pays attention to this. Just five to 10 years ago, websites were opening practically every day, including in the Scandinavian countries – some of them are still active – promoting extremist activity, in particular in Russia’s North Caucasus. It was simply impossible to get the media to focus on this issue. It was as if the issue did not exist in the Western media space. When Russia tried to explain its position, we were told that we were violating freedom of expression. We are not violating anything. Freedom of expression is sacred for us, but there is extremism, which we will fight.
Answers to media questions:
Question: Can you please explain how Russia will control the reduction in the numbers of employees of US diplomatic missions in Russia? Will the US have to provide a list of employees who left?
Maria Zakharova: The US said it will officially respond to Russia’s proposal within the specified time. We are waiting for official statements, for explanations from the US side (I do not know in what form they will do this). This was mentioned more than once in the course of our diplomatic contacts.
Question: The New York Times yesterday named the developer of the malware that attacked employees of the US Democratic National Committee. The Ukrainian hacker has already given up to Ukrainian authorities and is providing evidence to the FBI. Despite this, the newspaper still blames it on Russian special services. Can you comment on this? Do you think this is somewhat reminiscent of the situation with the North Korean missile engines, wh ere it was proved that Kiev had supplied the technology to Pyongyang, but Russia was still accused?
Maria Zakharova: As for US accusations of Russia interfering in the election, of hacking and online attacks, we have often commented on this in detail and at all levels.
In a couple of months, it will be a year since these elections in the United States, when the still incumbent Obama administration immediately accused Russia of hacking attacks. As you remember, a month after the elections, Russian diplomats were expelled and other moves made. So I have one question of late: if they are so sure, if they do not listen to our explanations, do not provide facts, and nothing we say or do can change their opinion – have any administrative measures been taken inside the US, the US administration and the government? Was anyone fired from the relevant US services for allowing this to happen? For so many years the United States has been the world leader in Internet technologies and information security; it is a major country with practically unlimited potential.
In 2005, when we worked side by side with our colleagues from the US Permanent Mission to the United Nations, I was amazed that, unlike Russian diplomats, all American employees had cellphones of a specific brand with a special badge. When I asked what the badge meant, I was told that every cellphone used by representatives of the Permanent Mission, from the head to the staff, needed to be checked by the relevant services. That is why I wonder if anyone was actually fired for letting another country allegedly change the results of elections in their own country? Have you heard of any such high-profile dismissals? It should not be about administrative punishment, but rather about criminal prosecution. If you follow the American logic, for many years the country has been spending money (you can look up how much has been allocated for cyber defence, information technology and security) on a totally ineffective system, if one or several hackers could change the situation in the country. I have not heard of any dismissals, nor about high-profile cases against people who were engaged in the protection of information technology in the United States for many years (Barack Obama’s eight years in office). Everyone knows that information security is part of any country’s national security. So I will ask, just like one Russian author: when will we see people going to prison? Have you heard anything? Nobody has, because nothing has happened. All we know is that there is a potential hypothetical criminal somewhere at large abroad, but inside the country, no one is to blame. That is, in the US, no one was punished for the fact that the country was absolutely unprepared for cyber threats from abroad.
Let me remind you that we are not talking about a small country that has delegated its security to a certain alliance, a group of countries or a more powerful state that offers protectorate. We are talking about a major power that has always been a leader in the field of technology. The lack of real cases concerning people who worked on national information security proves one thing: all accusations against Russia are nonsense. They needed an excuse, a political target and a tool that helps regularly raise this issue and organise internal political haggling.
As for the second question – about the pretty obvious situation with Ukraine supplying technology to North Korea, or at the very least having something to do with its nuclear technologies ending up there, something the media have written about, and about Kiev again accusing Russia of everything – I can argue that it won’t take the Kiev regime long before accusing Russia of masterminding the second Maidan as well. It sounds funny now, but you'll see that they will. They will say that Russia was behind the current authorities in Kiev and behind those who came in 2013-2014 and made a constitutional coup in that country, too. Russia will be to blame for everything that is happening now in Ukraine’s political life, and for its insane reforms, too. But, I repeat, they will start with attributing Maidan to the ‘Kremlin’s hand.’ The global enemy will once again be found when the situation reaches a peak, when they will have nothing to surprise its own population with and no more resources to maintain the situation more or less in balance.
Question: Are there any threats to businesses from our opponents? If there have been such cases, how does the Foreign Ministry respond?
Maria Zakharova: It is odd you are asking this question in 2017. You should have asked it a long time ago.
When the so-called policy of Russia’s isolation by the West and by Washington, in particular, started and we could see its first signs, I participated in an international media event as a guest speaker and afterwards spoke to journalists covering international issues. We got talking about this strange approach that was not so aggressive and obvious at the time. I asked the European journalists why they thought it was happening and why was Russia being attacked by Washington and other countries that are one way or another under the patronage of the United States? In the past 20 years there has never been a period when they were pleased with Russia. There would always be problems, many of them imaginary, and what was happening in reality was brought to a global political scale. The journalists answered that the reasons were obvious. There is fierce financial and economic competition and attempts to prevent any potential investment into Russia. As you understand, Russia is like Klondike for SMEs and foreign investment. A huge number of industries did not even exist here 30 years ago.
There are many interesting and attractive projects here now, too, and they can bring fantastic profit and dividends. This constant building up of pressure around Russia, portraying it as the enemy hits potential investors. If we see companies operating in Russia being driven out of the Russian market as a result of almost targeted efforts or getting the toughest obstacles for working in our country, what do you think is happening to investors looking for opportunities to invest in the global market? This was the answer of the western journalists.
We have talked about this extensively, too. Minister Lavrov has frequently mentioned in his interviews and speeches that we have evidence showing how US officials and agencies pursued a policy of blocking access of small, medium or large businesses to Russia, using tactics ranging from intimidation to creating unbearable conditions. We know that US embassies sent letters to economic and finance ministries in the countries of presence around the world in which they warned about impossibility and danger of participation of representatives of those countries and businesses in Russian forums – specifically, in economic forums. We all know this based on the results of various Russia-hosted business events, forums and conferences. You are well aware that Latin American countries, Asia and Africa send large and high-profile delegations while the United States is very poorly represented. That being said, we have so many things in common. There are a great number of people who have dual Russian and US citizenship, have families and relatives in both countries. We have great potential; however, the US delegations are absurdly small and the level of official representation is low. All this is an indication of the policy of containment that is based on their idea of competition.
Question: The US press and some social media accounts link the so-called alt-right leaders involved in violent clashes in Charlottesville, Virginia, with Russia and even President Vladimir Putin. We know that the Russian Foreign Ministry does not comment on domestic US issues, but perhaps you could say something if Russia is now being accused of involvement?
Maria Zakharova: Are we also involved there? I know about this indirectly because, as my colleagues told me yesterday, the Russian Embassy in the United States received identical inquiries on a similar issue from various US media outlets, seeking to find out the forms and extent of Russia’s involvement and its ability to influence the situation. Quite possibly, they were sent certain claims, and some media outlets decided to ask the Embassy, for the sake of a clear conscience, whether Russia was also involved in these developments or whether Russian diplomats decided to sit this one out.
All this fits conceptually with the totally bizarre, rabid anti-Russia hysteria being whipped up in the United States. The motives and reasons for doing this are clear. In fact, the establishment is split; there is a problem inside of it. Instead of subsiding, the post-election situation is still being whipped up. As a result, the hobbyhorse of one presidential candidate’s campaign policies is becoming the main topic during the post-election period. Actually, our forecasts are coming true. They will not abandon this issue, and it will continue to be whipped up in all conceivable, and even inconceivable, facets and angles.
Question: You said anti-Russia hysteria was being built up in the United States. And regarding CIA Director Mike Pompeo’s statement, you said that “every action has a reaction.” Do you believe that there is an opportunity to improve relations between Russia and the United States? If so, then how? If not, why not?
Maria Zakharova: This discussion could take a couple of hours. Don’t you see for youself? We do not simply see it. You know there are situations wh ere you see but do not say. Here, we see it, and keep talking about it, and calling, and proposing. We did not close doors to the United States even during the previous administration. Even in the most difficult, extreme and bizarre moments, we always said that cooperation and collaboration, wh ere it is mutually beneficial and helpful, remain our priority. Our only conditions are compliance with international law, cooperation based on mutual respect and, most importantly, based on the UN Charter. We have always emphasised this, even when we could no longer understand why the US administration acts one way or another. We never shut the door even when they were openly rude.
I think the deportation of Russian diplomats during the last days of December 2016 and blocking access to our property in the United States are very telling examples. Russia did not give an emotional and instant response. The United States was given more than six months to settle this situation without emotion, impulsive actions or revenge – that is, to find a way out of the situation and save face. You know how it ended. The new administration did not take any action. We could talk forever about how their work is being blocked and how they are being prevented from doing this, but the fact remains, we have taken as much time as possible to give them the opportunity to switch from confrontation to cooperation. But I want to stress once again that this confrontation was one-sided. Even after the initiation of the sanctions policy and the declaration of a crusade against Russia with banners of isolation, we always underlined our commitment to engagement and cooperation. As you know, the United States has turned to Russia many times when it needed to, and almost daily in the past two years. We maintain a dialogue.
I would rephrase what you said. We do not just see the areas wh ere we can cooperate and work together. Frankly, we do not see any major problems in the way of cooperation with the United States in any area, which we have been doing. So we are not the party to answer this question. Our views have not changed.
We understand the internals of the United States very well and we understand that in the past decade, Washington has increasingly needed a foreign policy resource to resolve domestic political issues. This is why we have taken everything that is going on there with a lot of patience and sometimes healthy sarcasm. We were ready and are still ready to cooperate in addressing international crises and unfreezing the entire range of bilateral relations, from security and the economy to culture and politics. But we have not changed our stance. Something is going on in the United States.