|Russia and the CIS News Digest
Russian Newspaper Spells Out Doomsday Scenario
Many Russian commentators, as well as Chief of the General Staff Gen. Yuri Baluyevsky and also (indirectly) President Putin himself, have spoken out against the Keir Lieber/Daryl Press article in the March/April Council on Foreign Relations Foreign Affairs magazine, with its claim that the U.S. has "nuclear primacy"that the Russian nuclear deterrent is defunct. At the same time, leading analysts like Sergei Karagonov of the Defense and Foreign Policy Council and Academician Sergei Rogov, in their writings, have been taking stock of the marked deterioration of Russian-American relations.
A particularly chilling rebuttal of Lieber/Press appeared in Izvestia of March 30 from the pen of military commentator Dmitri Litovkin. Under the headline "Illusions of Supremacy," he acknowledged many of the Lieber/Press article's points about the expired service life of many Russian ICBMs, the amount of time Russian nuclear-armed submarines sit in port, and so forth. But then he described the precise capabilities of two new Russian nuclear systems. One is the mobile version of the Topol-M, MIRVed with retargettable-in-flight warheads, which is able "right out of the box" to "head off into the endless spaces of Russia, and missiles can be launched from any point on its journey. Experts know that finding the Topol-M in the endless forests and swamps would be hopeless."
Secondly, there is the Bulava SLBM with similar warhead characteristics, which may be launched from the new #955 "Borey"-class submarines, of which the first (of three under construction) will be commissioned next year. Like the former Soviet #941 "Typhoon"-class subs, it "will be able to fire from under the thickness of the Arctic ice, breaking through with its hull with a special charge,... without revealing its location until the very last moment.... Washington would sleep through this launch."
Litovkin concluded the article with the doomsday scenario of an attempted U.S. first strike on Russia: "In the event of the start of large-scale aggression, Russia retains the right to use nuclear weapons against the attacking side. There are 542 intercontinental ballistic missiles ready for immediate use. Moreover, that would happen even if the United States nonetheless managed to deliver a disabling first strike and knocked out all the control points for Russian nuclear deterrence forces. The fact that the 'link' with the center is lost would in fact bring the last element of the Russian triad into actionspecial missiles that would fly from the East to the West and from the West to the East, automatically launching from the silos every missile that survived. And then it no longer would make any difference that the Americans can destroy us ten times, while we can destroy them only twice."
Lavrov: Russia Should Promote Tolerance
Russia's unique mission is to promote tolerance in international affairs, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told the 10th World Russian People's Assembly in Moscow on April 4. "Russia must again play a decisive role in building the architecture of international relations. This includes a spiritual role in building a balance of forces and interests and asserting the idea of tolerance in the international arena.... Now that the ideological fetters have fallen, we have again acquired real freedom to fulfill our mission in the modern world," he said. Russia has evolved into an important factor in international politics which "fully reflects its national and religious uniqueness," he added, noting that Russia's current task is to "protect its uniqueness from the onslaught of globalization." Attempts to set Russia and the Islamic civilization against one another are "a threat to internal stability in our multi-ethnic state.... It is important "to bring diplomatic policies into line with Russia's national interests."
The meeting was addressed by Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexi II, who emphasized that Russia's mission in the 21st Century is to use its experience in building "a unified civilized space" out of diverse cultures and religions, to help build a world "where various models of civilization will interact peacefully and in harmony."
Common Economic Space Set To Go
Russian President Vladimir Putin announced April 4 that the Common Economic Space (CES)a form of common marketbetween Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine will proceed in the near future. These largest nations of the Commonwealth of Independent States had agreed in February 2003 to establish a CES, in which there is to be free movement of goods, services, capital, and people. At the press conference following his meeting with Kazak President Nursultan Nazarbayev, who was visiting Moscow, Putin announced that the first 38 documents creating the CES will be signed soon between Kazakstan, Russia, and Belarus, and he expects "our Ukrainian friends" to be present and sign some, but not all, of the documents.
Nazarbayev and Putin discussed bilateral trade, and economic and political relations. Putin praised their relations, and agreed with his guest that they should discuss "cooperation within the framework of the integration structures in the post-Soviet space," as Itar-Tass put it. Nazarbayev, who said there were no "unresolved, thorny issues," but "a lot of solved ones," said he had to visit Moscow again, the second time this year, because of all the accumulated documents that had to be signed. He said they would also discuss the Russian use of weapons ranges in Kazakstan, as well as the Baikonur rocket launch pad.
Ukraine: A Eurasian Bridge?
At a March 28 meeting of the German Council on Foreign Relations in Berlin on March 28, Alexander Chaly, former Deputy Foreign Minister of Ukraine, commented on the likely policies of a future Ukrainian government, and on the recent turn toward a much more skeptical attitude toward the European Union, as well as NATO, on the part of not just Ukraine, but also Poland, the Czech Republic and other East European countries. Chaly is now Vice President of a Donetsk-area steel holding company, which has acquired a large plant in Poland, but lost out to the transnational Mittal concern in last year's bidding for Ukraine's own Kryvorizhstal.
Chaly declared that whatever coalition comes to power now, there is a consensus in the Ukrainian elite to pursue an independent policy in the national interest, fostering close relations both with Russia and the West, especially Germany. He said that Ukraine should act as a kind of bridge in a Euro-Asian context, maintaining a status of neutrality and independence. He criticized the European Union for demanding economic measures which "would be very bad for Ukraine," and suggested a "multidirectional" economic policy, including integrating key sectors of its high-technology industry, especially aircraft and rocket and space industries, with Russia. He also recommended the creation of a "Russian-Ukrainian-German gas consortium"an idea supported by former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.
Chaly noted growing public sentiment against NATO, with only 15% of the population favoring membership and with the Parliament having passed legislation excluding any Ukrainian participation in NATO maneuvers and banning the presence of all foreign military forces from its territory. "The romantic ideas about NATO and the EU, which used to be strong in Ukraine, have disappeared."
Commenting on Chaly's remarks, the head of the Eastern Commission of German Industry (Ostausschuss), Daimler-Chrysler executive Klaus Mangold, endorsed the idea of Ukraine as a bridge between Europe and Russia. Germany is Ukraine's number-two trade partner after Russia, and German industry has a big market for modernizing machinery and industrial plants in Ukraine. Also, "we should stop shouting so loudly about democracy in Ukraine, Russia, and other Eastern countries," Mangold said. "Developing democratic institutions takes time, as we well know in Germany."
Likely To Fail: 'Orange' Coalition Replay in Ukraine
Nearly two weeks after inconclusive parliamentary elections, Ukrainian President Victor Yushchenko's Our Ukraine movement announced April 6 that it had signed a "protocol" on forming a new government coalition with the Bloc of (former Prime Minister) Yulia Tymoshenko, and Alexander Moroz's Socialist Party. As one Russian commentator leered, it was not clear if the other two parties to the prospective agreement have signed on. Tymoshenko has said loud and clear that she'll settle for nothing less than the Premier's chair. Yushchenko, sounding hesitant, called the document "the beginning" of negotiations to form a coalition.
Taras Chornovil, speaking for the top vote-getting Party of Regions, said again April 5 that he expected the government negotiations to drag on until May, when the new Supreme Rada convenes. He still believes that a coalition between Our Ukraine and the Party of Regions is a strong possibility.
Frozen Conflicts Heat Up
On March 31, leaders of the Transdniester region of Moldova announced they will hold a referendum on the status of the district and its future relations with the Moldovan government in Chisinau. The Russian-populated area bordering Ukraine does not recognize Chisinau's authority, and OSCE officials had announced the suspension of Moldova-Transdniestria talks the day before. Valeri Litskay, speaking for the Transdniestrians, said that they consider the current final-status negotiations on Kosovo as a model. "The independence of Transdniestria is being decided in Kosovo and this will happen very quickly," he said.
Two weeks earlier, the leader of South Ossetia, Eduard Kokoiti, said he intends to move formally to apply for membership in the Russian Federation, seceding from Georgia.
Coincidence on not, the Russian Federal Service for the Protection of Consumer Rights and Human Welfare, at the beginning of April, asked the Federal Customs Service to block imports of wine from both Georgia and Moldova, alleging that the wine was adulterated. Wine industry officials on both sides of the Russian border are in an uproar over the shutdown of business, based on what they say are unsubstantiated claims.