|Russia and the CIS News Digest
Russia Wants Eurasian Energy Dialogue
Russia wants to start an energy dialogue with India, China, and other Asian energy consumers, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said June 21. "The Foreign Ministry of Russia is actively participating in the development of an energy dialogue with the United States and hopes to start this dialogue with China, India, Japan, and Korea in the future," Lavrov said at an investors conference in Moscow. Russia sees broad possibilities for attracting foreign investment in sectors like construction and the modernization of energy facilities, he said.
New Delhi sources report that during the Vladivostok talks among the foreign ministers of Russia, China, and India on June 2, Lavrov told his Indian counterpart K. Natwar Singh that Russia would permit its oil to reach India via Iran, in return for major Indian investments in Siberian oilfields. India has already invested $2.5 billion in the Russian oil industry and has taken a stake in the Sakhalin-2 project, and is keen to enter auctions for Sakhalin-3. But Russia wants India to invest $12-14 billion for exploring for new deposits in Siberia.
At Vladivostok, there was discussion of Russia, China, and India forming an international oil cartel to ostensibly resist U.S. and Western oil monopolies and stabilize prices. It is said that Moscow would contribute to the cartel by way of increasing domestic output and exploring new fields in Siberia.
Russia Reasserts Leadership in Space
After ten years of the near-destruction of its capabilities in spacecraft design and production, the new leadership of the Russian space agency and space industry plans an ambitious flow of new space projects, including Mars exploration, launch vehicles, and manned spacecraft.
At the Paris Air Show last week, Russian space agency (Rosaviakosmos) head Anatoly Perminov introduced a mock-up of Russia's new multi-use vehicle, the Clipper. The new manned craft, to replace the Soyuz capsule the Russians have used since the 1961 launch of Yuri Gagarin, will be reusable. It will accommodate up to six space travellers, bring crews to the International Space Station, and be parked there as an emergency return vehicle. It can also be modified to take crews to the Moon and Mars.
Perminov stated on June 15 that Europe and Japan have expressed interest in joining the development program. This would give them manned access to space without depending upon the U.S., for the first time. Perminov also stated the new craft would be ready in the 2010 time frame, and could be launched from Russia's Baikonur spaceport, or the European site in French Guiana.
At the Air Show, Perminov also said that Russia and the European Space Agency will team up to build a new heavy-lift rocket, to put large spacecraft into orbit. Deputy Defense Minister Alexei Moskovsky, who headed the Russian delegation to Paris, promoted more international cooperation at a press conference there, pointing to the Su-30 MKI military plane, which was built in Russia for India, in association with French aircraft designers.
Russian space analyst Jim Oberg pointed out, in a June 10 MSNBC report, that Russia is developing a new unmanned cargo vehicle to replace the Progress, "while NASA is mired in endless paper studies." The "Parom" (ferry) will be a reusable automated cargo-transfer vehicle parked in orbit, to transfer cargo containers launched into orbit, to the space station. It can return cargo to Earth, and be used again.
On June 17, RIA Novosti reported that an "epic movie" about the world's first astronaut is being made. During a function at the State Duma, Eduard Sagalayev, President of the National Association of TV Broadcasters, said it would be a series about Yuri Gagarin, who is a more glorious personality than Howard Hughesthe subject of the Hollywood production "The Aviator." There has also been talk of resurrecting Russia's reusable space shuttle, the Buran, which was mothballed a decade ago, after two successful unmanned test flights. With NASA planning to phase out the Space Shuttle in 2010, the field is open to develop a replacement.
Brazilian Astronaut Will Fly to Russian Space Station
The head of Russia's space agency, Anatoly Perminov, reported on June 21 in Moscow that, at the Paris Air Show last week, an agreement was reached with the Brazilian space agency to fly its astronaut, Air Force Major Marcos Pontes, to the International Space Station, within the next two years. Pontes has been training as a Mission Specialist at the Johnson Space Center since 1998. His NASA flight was to be in exchange for hardware Brazil would contribute to the station, but Brazil's economic crisis has all but halted that work. The stand-down of the Shuttle since the early-2003 Columbia accident has also stretched out the time all of the astronauts have to wait to fly.
According to the Russian space agency, Pontes will have to complete 18 months of cosmonaut training in Star City to become familiar with the Russian Soyuz booster that will put him into orbit. So far, he has been trained only for travel aboard the Shuttle. The initial Russian offer to fly Pontes to the station was made last year when President Putin visited Brazil.
Moscow Worried Over Possible U.S. Weapons Sales to India
Moscow is increasingly concerned about U.S. efforts to make inroads into Indian arms purchases. India is presently holding a tender for the order of 126 multi-purpose light-weight fighters for the Indian Air Force, Pravda.ru reported June 19. There are four bidders for the project: Russian MiG for the MiG 29M/M2; Lockheed Martin for the F-16; SAAB for the fighter Grippen; and Dassault for the Mirage-2000.
What worries the Russians is that, for the first time in history, the United States is making an offer of joint production of fighters to a country that is neither a NATO member-state, nor has American planes deployed on its territory. Russians worry that the U.S. strategy is to gradually force Russian, Ukrainian, and Chinese arms suppliers out of the region by making lucrative offers of modern weapons systems to buyers.
The Russian defense industry believes that India may stop buying Russian military aircraft and air-defense systems altogether. The United States has already hinted at a potential sale of the Patriot-2 air defense system to India.