|Russia and the CIS News Digest
Foreign Minister Lavrov: Cheney's Attack 'Unfounded'
Speaking May 6, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Dick Cheney's criticisms, made in speeches in Vilnius, Lithuania, and Kazakstan, that the Kremlin is backtracking on democracy and using energy to blackmail ex-Soviet states, were unfounded.
"We have heard comments like this from the mouths of a politicians of a lower rank, but the Vice President of the United states probably should have information that in the last 40 years our country has not once, neither the Soviet Union nor Russia, violated a single contract for the supply of oil and gas abroad," he said. "Obviously, this information somehow hasn't been brought to the Vice President's attention." Lavrov was audibly scornful of the inanity of Cheney's rant, especially his call to regain the alleged positive momentum of the 1990s. "That would be the period when our country was in danger of disintegration," Lavrov noted.
As for Cheney's declaration that, "No one can justify actions that undermine the territorial integrity of a neighbor," Lavrov noted in an interview that Russian troops played a role in ending conflicts that erupted after the collapse of the Soviet Union. "In the early 1990s, Russian peacekeepers gave their lives to stop bloodshed in Georgia and Moldova, saving the territorial integrity of these states. I would suggest that forgetting about this is profanation."
Kremlin: Non-Nuclear ICBMs 'Extraordinarily Dangerous'
According to wire reports from Moscow May 11, Kremlin chief of staff Sergei Sobyanin followed up comments made by President Vladimir Putin in his State of the Federation speech the day before, calling the possible development of plans to arm intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) with non-nuclear warheads "extraordinarily dangerous." "A nuclear state might not be able to react adequately to the firing of such a rocket. There is nothing written on it to say what sort of warhead it iswhether it is conventional or nuclear," Sobyanin told reporters.
The Pentagon released a strategy paper in February, suggesting conversion of "some submarine-launched Trident missiles to carry conventional ... warheads to enable the U.S. to respond adequately to a wider range of global threats," the Associated Press reported May 11.
Hints of a Grand Coalition in Ukraine
Recent suggestions in various media, that an "all-orange" coalition under Yulia Tymoshenko as Prime Minister is increasingly unlikely, were backed up May 6 in a front-page article in the Neue Zuercher Zeitung daily of Switzerland. It reported that acting Prime Minister Yuri Yekhanurov, of President Victor Yushchenko's "orange" Our Ukraine party, proposed breaking the post-election paralysis through a Grand Coalition following the German example. It would be a four-party coalition, including the Party of the Regions of former Prime Minister Victor Yanukovich.
Since Yanukovich's party has 186 of the 450 seats of the national Parliament, forming the biggest group there, he has a justified claim on the Premiership, therefore. Tymoshenko, the would-be Premier, already faces strong resistance especially from among Our Ukraine, which is the reason why she still has not been voted Prime Minister. The Grand Coalition proposal is the more interesting, as President Yushchenko and other leaders like Tymoshenko discussed the "orange-only" option recently, with visiting U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney. Apparently, what Cheney was told, or what he believed, was not the full picture.
Georgia, Ukraine Threaten To Leave CIS
On May 2, Georgia's "Rose Revolution" President Michael Saakashvili instructed his cabinet to produce, within two months, an assessment of what it would cost Georgia to quit the Commonwealth of Independent States, and what benefits might accrue from doing so. Saakashvili is engaged in ongoing squabbles with Moscow over everything from the rate of Russian military withdrawal from Georgia, to the Russian ban on Georgian wines, and now mineral water, due to adulteration. Saakashvili was a featured speaker at the Vilnius meeting where Dick Cheney fulminated against Russia. Saakashvili crowed, "The Vilnius meeting signalled a major political victory for Georgia.... The Russian media and political reaction was hysterical."
On May 5, some 5,000 people demonstrated against Saakashvili in Tbilisi, under the banner of the "Anti-Soros Movement."
Kostyantyn Tymoshenko, an adviser to Ukrainian President Victor Yushchenko, said May 5, that Ukraine's Presidential Secretariat is also considering withdrawal from the CIS. In his May 10 message to the Federal Assembly, Russian President Putin stressed the importance of the CIS in the 1990s, but did not take up these current challenges in any detail.