|Russia and the CIS News Digest
Russia-Europe Economic Diplomacy Steps Up
Preparing for the May 10 European Union-Russia summit in Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov arrived in Luxembourg on April 2, to meet with officials of the EU and its member nations. On the agenda were plans to sign the EU-Russian strategic economic partnership agreement at the summit. Whether or not that occurs, Russia seeks to advance its relations with individual EU countries, especially France, Germany, and Italy. On March 18, President Vladimir Putin attended a summit in Paris, with the leaders of France, Germany, and Spain.
On April 10, Putin and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder were set to open the Hanover Industrial Fair, a traditional annual event for Germany industry, this year with a special focus on the Russian high-tech sector, and projects to increase deliveries of German machines and machine-tools to Russia. The participation of 160 Russian companies marks the biggest ever such showing at an industrial fair outside of Russia. German press stressed that Russia wants to present itself as seeking not just to earn export revenues from raw materials sales, but to export industrial products as well.
Oliver Wieck, managing director of the Russia Trades Committee of the German Industry, said that "we expect Russia to develop beyond its role as a supplier of raw materials and of energy, into a partner for technologies." And Klaus Mangold, chairman of the same committee, said he expects direct German industrial investments in Russia to see another significant increase this year, after a record high of $2.5 billion in 2004.
On April 11, Russia and France were to sign a ten-year cooperation agreement on space technology, in Paris.
Akayev Resigns, Kulov Warns of Countercoup in Kyrgyzstan
"Askar Akayev has just signed a resignation from the post of Kyrgyzstan President, effective April 5," Kyrgyz Deputy Sadyk Djaparov told reporters outside Kyrgyzstan's embassy in Moscow on April 4. The official resignation ceremony took place at the Kyrgyz embassy. A resignation protocol signed by Akayev and a Kyrgyz parliamentary delegation pledges unconditional compliance with constitutional provisions on the President; deals with elections; and mentions international guarantees on the implementation of the protocol. These guarantees will be given by Russia and Kazakhstan, ITAR-TASS reported.
Also on April 5, Felix Kulov, a former Vice President of Kyrgyzstan turned political prisoner, warned that drug mafias might organize a countercoup, beyond the ouster of Akayev. Kulov announced he'll run for President. Like Akayev, he has roots in northern Kyrgyzstan, while Kurambek Bakiyev is recognized as the candidate of the south. Kulov also warned that (southern-based) Islamic radicals, especially the underground group Hizb-ut-Tahrir, were poised to step up their activities in hopes of establishing an Islamic-oriented government in the country.
Kulov told EurasiaNet that infighting in Kyrgyzstan's provisional government exposes the country to a counter-revolution, most likely carried out by "criminal structures." He said, "There are individuals who will attempt to take advantage of instability to retain influence. Maybe not in terms of politics, but they are losing money. Therefore, they will try to resist the new authorities and hamper attempts to restore order."
Russia and China Want To Stabilize Kyrgyzstan
In a March 28 telephone conversation, Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing and his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, "reaffirmed the resolve of both sides to give all possible help to efforts to normalize the situation [in Kyrgyzstan] and restore law on the basis of the Constitution," the Russian Foreign Ministry reported. The Hindu newspaper reports that Russian President Vladimir Putin has told the Russian military to go ahead with the Collective Security Treaty Organization wargames with Kyrgyzstan and other Central Asian states, planned for April in Tajikistan.
Visiting Beijing on April 2, former Russian Prime Minister Yevgeni Primakov said that the events in Kyrgyzstan will not affect Russian-Chinese relations. He attributed the regime change there to socio-economic discontent and a lack of democracy, as well as fraud in the parliamentary elections, because many of Akayev's relatives had won seats, RIA Novosti reported. "I hope the CIS [Commonwealth of Independent States] will see no more revolutions," Primakov said.
Primakov was visiting in his capacity as president of the Russian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and honorary chairman of the Russian-Chinese committee for friendship, peace and development, and spoke at the Diplomatic Academy of the Chinese Foreign Ministry.
Medvedev Warns of Disintegration
Dmitri Medvedev, chief of Russia's Presidential Administration, warned in an interview with Ekspert magazine that continued infighting in Moscow's corridors of power could lead to the disintegration of the country. "If we do not manage to consolidate the elite, Russia could cease to exist as a unified state," he said in the interview, quotations from which were widely circulated in an AFP wire. "We have managed to strengthen the state's unity and to ensure enough stability for economic growth over recent years. But if we relax now and let ourselves be carried whichever way the waves go, the results would be disastrous. There are still serious problems that could cause public upheaval and lead to social cataclysms," when Russia goes to the polls in 2008 to choose a new President, Medvedev admitted. "The main risk is destabilization of public life due to terrorism or primitive economic mistakes and accompanied by widespread infighting among the elite," he pointed out.
Vulture Fund Threatens Russia
The Shipston Group, a Bahamas-based "investment group," has threatened legal action in the U.S. if minority shareholders in the Russian Yukos oil company are not compensated with a stake in Yuganskneftegaz, the Yukos production subsidiary. Yuganskneftegaz was sold at a government auction last year, to satisfy Yukos's huge tax arrears. Its new owner is the Russian state-owned oil company Rosneft.
The Shipston Group claims to be representing mutual funds; its threat is the first since Yukos's main shareholder Leonid Nevzlin promised more actions against Putin, after a U.S. bankruptcy court refused jurisdiction in the case. The Shipston threat looks toward a U.S. court decision for asset seizures of Rosneft/Yugansk oil deliveries, an action similar to vulture fund threats against the Argentine government.
Falin Continues Exploration of World War II History
"Immediately after [Franklin] Roosevelt's death, the priorities of U.S. foreign policy drastically changed," said Russian historian and former Ambassador to Germany Dr. Valentin Falin, in the most recent of his fascinating interviews with RIA Novosti military commentator Viktor Litovkin, on the Eastern Front in World War II and the launching of the Cold War.
"In [FDR's] last address to the U.S. Congress (March 1945), he warned, 'We shall have to take the responsibility for world collaboration, or we shall have to bear the responsibility for another world conflict.'"
But FDR's successor, Harry Truman, had a totally different policy, which was to break with FDR's ally the Soviet Union as fast as possible, and, under the tutelage of Winston Churchill, launch the Cold War. Truman wanted to break the U.S. alliance with Moscow as early as April 23, 1945, eleven days after FDR's deathwhich "could have happened if not for the opposition on the part of the U.S. military," said Falin. "The break-up with the Soviet Union would have meant that the Americans had to fight against Japan on their own" (the Soviet Union declared war on Japan on Aug. 8, 1945). U.S. generals "actually prevented a political catastrophe in April 1945. Not for long, though."
Falin said that the enormous Soviet effort to capture Berlin, and finally end the fighting (primarily with fanatical SS troops from all over northern Europe), was not only to bring the war to an end, but also "to make all possible efforts to foil a political gamble envisioned by the British leader [Churchill] with the support of influential U.S. circles, and to prevent the transformation of World War II into World War III, where our former allies would have turned into enemies." This plan had a name, Falin said: "Operation Unthinkable." "In the beginning of April 1945 (or end-March), Churchill issued an order to plan urgently Operation Unthinkable. The new war was scheduled to start on July 1, 1945. American, Canadian, and British contingents in Europe, the Polish Expeditionary Corps and 10-12 German divisions (the ones that had not been disbanded and kept in Schleswig-Holstein and Southern Denmark) were supposed to participate in the operation.
"Fortunately, President Truman did not support this, delicately speaking, Jesuitical idea. He had at least two reasons to reject Churchill's proposal. First, the American public was simply not ready to accept such a cynical betrayal of the common cause established by the very concept of the United Nations....
"[T]he major reason [was that] the American generals managed to convince Churchill to continue collaboration with the Soviet Union until Japan's surrender. Besides, the U.S. military brass and their British colleagues realized it was easier to start the war against the Soviet Union than to finish it triumphantly. The risk was too great for them to bear.... If you want, the Berlin operation was the Soviet response to the Operation Unthinkable, and the sacrifices made by Russian soldiers and officers were a warning to Churchill and his colleagues."