|Russia and the CIS News Digest
Russia To Form 'Atomprom'
Speaking to the annual conference of the Nuclear Society of Russia on June 28, Sergei Kiriyenko, the head of Russia's national nuclear energy agency, Rosatom, confirmed plans to set up a vertically integrated holding company for the nuclear industry. Its provisional name, Kiriyenko announced, is Atomprom (analogous to Gazprom, "prom" being short for the Russian word for "industry"). Kiriyenko linked the move with Russia's already announced hopes to build 40 to 60 nuclear power plants in other countries, as well as a similar number inside Russia. (See Marsha Freeman's report on his recent press briefing, "Russian Official: Our Future Belongs to Nuclear Energy," EIR Online, June 6.) "Russia cannot continue to be active in that market through separate fragments," Kiriyenko told the meeting, "Russia ought to work in this international market as a single, integrated company."
Kiriyenko said, "A renaissance of nuclear energy is beginning in the world, and we face the task of breaking into it." According to Rosatom spokesman Sergei Novikov, Atomprom will unite organizations engaged in the extraction, enrichment, and disposal of nuclear fuel, in the construction, operation, and maintenance of nuclear reactors, and electricity transmission of the power. Nearly 100 separate companies are involved. Unlike Gazprom, which has some foreign shareholders, Atomprom will remain 100% state-owned.
Putin Addresses Russia's Diplomats
In his biannual meeting with ambassadors and permanent representatives of the Russian Federation, held June 27, President Vladimir Putin delivered a speech on Russia's foreign policy. After the collapse of "the bipolar world order, the potential for conflict in the world continues to grow," Putin said. One continues to hear talk of an unavoidable conflict of civilizations that could "become a long-term confrontation on the lines of the Cold War.... Russia does not want confrontation of any kind. And we will not take part in any kind of a 'holy alliance'. We support all initiatives to develop dialogue between civilizations. This is also the objective of the World Summit of Religious Leaders that will take place soon in Moscow."
Putin reiterated his rejection of current harping at Russia's handling of its energy exports: "To be honest, not everyone was ready to see Russia begin to restore its economic health and its position on the international stage so rapidly. Some still see us through the prism of past prejudices and, as I said before, see a strong and reinvigorated Russia as a threat. Some are ready to accuse us of reviving 'neo-imperialist' ambitions or, as we heard recently, have come up with the accusation of 'energy blackmail.' We propose a different road: that of evaluating the foreign policy of any country on the basis of international law and a common set of universal standards."
Concerning foreign policy, Putin followed the outline of his annual Message to the Federal Assembly, delivered in May. He emphasized the importance of Russia's relations with the CIS countries, then stressed the Russian-European and Russia-China relations, as well as the importance of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which, he said, "is effectively resolving important economic and counter terrorist issues."
Concerning U.S.-Russian relations, the Russian President said, "If we want these changes to be positive, politicians from both countries must realize the axiom that partnership between countries such as Russia and the USA can be built only on equal rights and mutual respect." He urged that work begin on a strategic arms treaty to replace START, which expires in 2009.
Putin also emphasized that the Asia-Pacific region in general is becoming increasingly important for Russia, and that Russia will take part in maximum regional integration through the region's institutions and forums including APEC, ASEAN, and other forums. And finally, that the countries of Latin America and Africa are playing an evermore active part in the global process.
Kissinger 'Not Happy With' SCO
Henry Kissinger sees the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) as all bad. He was interviewed June 21 on the "Charlie Rose Show" on PBS-TV in the United States, shortly after he visited Moscow and met President Vladimir Putin. Kissinger expressed the mad geopolitical perspective that "Central Asia now runs the risk or at least the prospect of becoming the Africa of the 21st Century,... as a scene of semi-colonial struggles, where everybody wants access to the energy reserves that are in Central Asia.... You can see why Russia might want to join China for tactical reasons, as a kind of way to reflect that the United States is hanging over both of them, and say 'superpower' with great self-assurance.... I mean, they will play with China."
Rose: "And play it close to the line."
Kissinger: "And they may try to get as close to the linethere are a number of things that I am not happy with at all, like the Shanghai Cooperation Council, which has the states of Central Asia, Russia, and China but excludes us.... So those blocs in which we are not invited to participate give me concern for the future."
Otherwise in the interview, Kissinger styled himself as more reasonable than Dick Cheney (who isn't?), evincing understanding of Russia's 300-year-old pride "in being defender of the Slavs." About Cheney's diatribe against Russia, delivered in April in Lithuania, Kissinger said, "If I had been asked, I would not have recommended that a speech like Cheney's be made.... I wouldn't in general recommend that we make public speeches about Russia in which we sound as if we were grading them for their fitness." Still, said Henry, "I think the Administration is trying to do the right thing."
Uzbekistan Joins Collective Security Group
Uzbekistan, which only a few years ago was seen by interested Western circles as the centerpiece of anti-Russia operations in Central Asia, has now officially joined the Collective Security Treaty Organization, of Russia, Belarus, and other Central Asian republics. The announcement was made June 23 in Minsk, Belarus, where summits of the CSTO and the Eurasian Economic Community (EurAsEC) were held.
Rice Caught as Nagging Harpy, in Moscow
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice did a good imitation of Dick Cheney's anti-Russia beast-man while sitting next to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov at the G-8 Foreign Ministers' luncheon in Moscow on June 29. Unbeknownst to Condi and her staff, the conversation was taped, due to an audio feed that was "accidentally" left on. And reporters were treated to a full broadcast of Rice at her nagging best. Some reporter(s) then prepared a full transcript of the audio feed, and distributed it to the rest of the press, which set up Rice and her spokesperson to be caught in a lie. Just after Rice's aide told reporters that "there was absolutely no friction whatsoever" between her and Lavrov, the transcript was produced to the "flabberghasted" aide. Parts of it were published in the Washington Post June 30.
The tape heard a frustrated Rice nagging Lavrov, "in a hard voice," demanding that Russia drop reference to the need for more security in Iraq for diplomats, in the draft in the G-8 communique, and telling him that he was exaggerating the importance of the death of four Russia diplomats last week, when, "on a daily basis we [the U.S.] lose soldiers." She accused him of undermining the reputation of the Iraqi government. Lavrov wouldn't back down, telling her, "I don't believe security is fine in Iraq, and I don't believe in particular that security at foreign missions is okay." Condi let loose a diatribe: "There is a need for improvement of security in Iraq, period.... The problem isn't diplomats.... The problem is you have a terrorist insurgent population that is wreaking havoc on a hapless Iraqi civilian population that is trying to fight back.... I understand that in the wake of the brutal murder of your diplomats, that it is a sensitive time...." But, she told him, he should not imply "that it isn't being addressed."
Lavrov also opposed Rice's position that the G-8 should require Iraq to fulfill a series of goalslike the ones put on Afghanistanin order to get international aid. Lavrov instead suggested the creation of a forum "of neighboring governments to oversee reconciliation in Iraq." This provoked Rice even further, and she accused Lavrov of inviting other countries to meddle in Iraq's affairs. The bickering went on and on, with other diplomats stepping in to offer compromise phrases to shut Condi up.
At the G-8 Foreign Ministers' collective press conference, later that day, Lavrov calmly ridiculed other of Rice's inane remarks, such as her statement that she had "noticed many changes" since her first visit to Russia in 1979.
Ukraine's Parliament Blockaded
During the week of June 26, members of the Supreme Rada from Ukraine's Party of Regions (POR), the top vote-getter in the March elections, prevented leaders of a would-be revived Orange Revolution coalition of Our Ukraine, the Bloc of Yulia Tymoshenko, and the Socialist Party, from reaching the rostrum and holding a vote on the formation of a new government, with Tymoshenko as Premier. The POR accuses them of "usurping power." President Yushchenko has declined to call new elections.