|Russia and the CIS News Digest
Russian Ambassador: 'In the Spirit of the Elbe'
Russia's Ambassador to the United States Yuri Ushakov wrote in the Washington Times of April 13 that Russian and American veterans of World War II will meet again on April 25, this time at Arlington National Cemetery, to commemorate the 60th Anniversary of the meeting of the Soviet and U.S. armies on the Elbe River in Germany. When Russian and U.S. soldiers met, they drank toasts to Russian-American friendship, and they swore an oath of peace, Ushakov notes. He says that "the fact of history is that the fate of the world during World War II was decided on the battlefields of the Great Patriotic War" (as the Eastern Front is known in Russia), but he adds that this does not mean "that we divide victory into yours and ours."
"It only means that we will never forget that the Soviet Union paid the highest price for that victory27 million lives. Such a terrible toll gives us a moral obligation not to let the memory of that great sacrifice fade into obscurity." The Ambassador then warned against some current attempts to re-write the history of the war and to downplay the Russian role, with some even trying to equate the Soviets and the Nazis. He calls for the U.S. and Russia to build a relationship now which would make the two true allies, as in World War II, and to recommit themselves to keeping alive the spirit of the Elbe.
Arbatov: U.S. Policy Dangerously Ignores International Treaties
U.S. policy is "even dangerous" in ignoring international treaties, said Alexei Arbatov, the Russian intellectual and former member of the Duma, who spoke April 12 at the School for Advanced International Studies of Johns Hopkins University. He pointed to the fact that whereas Russian President Putin often names international terrorism as the major threat facing Russia, the 2003 White Book of the Russian Ministry of Defensethe first one ever producedputs such political/military issues such as NATO expansion, way at the top of the list, and terrorism is only #24. Arbatov warned that the White Book reflects what the thinking really is.
Since the subject of the forum was governance and democratic accountability in nuclear policy, covering six case studies: Russia, the U.S., China, Israel, India, and Pakistan, Arbatov also stressed that this Bush regime has abandoned all attention on arms control and nuclear limitation. There have been no serious talks. In comparison, the "late 1980s and late 1990s," when there was a big emphasis on arms control talks between the U.S. and Russia, there was much more civilian engagement on the Russia sideeven when the Soviet Union still existed. The U.S. should resume such talks.
Arbatov singled out the unilateral cancellation of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty by the U.S. as an example of the problem. He then said that he was sure that people in Washington would not agree with him, but that "the posture of the U.S." is not only counter-productive to national security, but the U.S. attitude toward arms control and international treaties is even dangerous.
Russia Hits BP/TNK with $790 Million Tax Bill
Britain Petroleum's joint-venture operation in Russia, BP-TNK, was hit with a bill for TNK's back taxes of 22 billion rubles, or about $790 million, for the year 2001 alone. This is again severely ruffling the "confidence of the investment community," complained the Wall Street Journal April 12, in that it raises the specter of a repeat of the government operations against Yukos Oil. This is the second fine against TNK-BP within a year. Russia just also just passed a law requiring companies bidding for Russian drilling rights to be at least 51% owned by Russians, whereas TNK is a 50-50 concern. In early April, the Ministry of Natural Resources cancelled tenders for the prospecting and development rights to several promising oil-deposit areas, in a move widely seen as aimed to block BP-TNK from snapping them up.