|Russia and the CIS News Digest
Russian Governors Discuss Regional Development
A July 21 meeting of Russia's State Council addressed Federal-regional government interaction for "comprehensive socio-economic development of the regions." On the eve of the session, Gov. Alexander Khloponin of Krasnoyarsk Territory met with President Putin for talks that featured an interesting reference to American economic policy precedents. Krasnoyarsk is the giant area of central Siberia, which includes hydroelectric resources and the Norilsk Nickel complex, of which Khloponin is former CEO.
The government daily Rossiyskaya Gazeta wrote that "over 50 governors have analyzed the situation, concluding that Russia lacks an economic development strategy for its regions." Therefore, "Khloponin proposed adoption of a Federal law to create a strategic planning commission for regional development (analogous to the USA's)." The reports did not elaborate, but it is hard to imagine that Khloponin was talking about anything other than the institutions of the New Deal (especially in light of Putin's own invocation of FDR, in his Message to the Federal Assembly in May), and not any current U.S. practices. Khloponin stated that he believes Russia can develop its regions using internal means. According to Rossiyskaya Gazeta, he said that "around 250 private companies are prepared to invest around 440 billion rubles [about $17 billion] in the Siberian Federal District, but the money is not going there because the infrastructure is lacking."
Industrial Coalition Forms in Russia
On July 13, a new Coalition for Industrial Development met in Moscow for a discussion titled, "Corporate Raids vs. Russia's Industrial Development." Sponsors were the AKS-Real Sector and Rosbalt information agencies. Speakers were the general directors of several military-industrial and other companies, including machine-tool and power-equipment producers, as well as Yuri Krupnov, head of the Movement for Development, and Jonathan Tennenbaum, science adviser to American economist Lyndon LaRouche.
The Coalition's manifesto states, "The government's announced goal of making the transition to the post-industrial stage of development really means the deindustrialization of the country, and the ruination of promising enterprises and entire sectors of the economy. The Coalition for the Industrial Development of Russia proposes to counterpose to the doctrine of post-industrial society, a doctrine of super-industrial society. This means not only preserving the main achievements of the industrial stage, but also introducing breakthrough technologies in manufacturing." AKS coverage of Tennenbaum's remarks, headlined "Corporate Raids Are One of the Most Serious Problems on a World Scale," highlighted his depiction of such raids as "an economic plague of locusts, which inexorably devours medium and small businesses." Also noted was his comparison of today's super-cartelization of the world economy, with the activity of the Synarchist banks that sponsored fascism in 1920s and 1930s.
Russian Anti-Globalists Cite LaRouche
Besides the much-publicized "The Other Russia" extravaganza, held on the sidelines of the St. Petersburg G-8 summit, the smaller II Forum of Anti-Globalists took place in Moscow on July 7. This group, cofounded by members of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation and the League of Orthodox Citizens, focusses on financial tyranny and the destructive effects of pop culture. The meeting adopted the "Leningrad Charter," which asserts the rights of the lower 80% of the world's population, in economic status, as against the "golden billion." Prof. Yelena Borisova, a leader of the anti-globalists, notes that Point 2 of the manifesto is based on the publications of Lyndon LaRouche and his movement: "Over 90% of financial turnover has no connection with production. The dominance of the dollar, which has real backing only of 4%, makes inevitable the financial collapse of the globalized economy. Nations should conclude a new agreement on currency parities, and ban trade in financial derivatives, which are securities having no direct connection to production."
Participants in the meeting welcomed a greeting from LaRouche, which was read aloud: "Globalization is actually an attempted revival of the form of empire which we associate with the memory of the period of the Crusades. It is intended to be a world empire controlled by bankers, backed by private armies, in the tradition of medieval Venice, bankers who are a continuation of the same set of financial institutions which were behind the fascist regimes of 1922-1945. To defeat this evil enemy of civilization, the people must defend the institution of a system of cooperation for progress among sovereign nation-states. The development of such cooperation, from the European shores of the Atlantic to the shores of the Pacific and Indian Oceans, is the keystone around which to build a global system of progressive sovereign nation-states today."
Russia, USA Will Negotiate Nuclear Energy Agreement
U.S. President George Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin released a joint statement July 15, saying that "strengthening cooperation in civil nuclear energy is in the strategic interest of both our countries." Both nations have proposed initiatives to develop "global nuclear energy infrastructure," under IAEA non-proliferation safeguards. Russia has been stressing the establishment of international centers focussed on uranium enrichment, and the U.S. has proposed a Global Nuclear Energy Partnership to develop international centers using "innovative fuel cycle technologies," including reprocessing. The joint statement defines the goal as "to allow all nations to enjoy the benefits of nuclear energy without pursuing uranium enrichment and spent fuel reprocessing capabilities." Russia is to be included in U.S.-led nuclear R&D projects to develop more advanced Generation IV technologies, according to the head of Russia's nuclear agency, Sergei Kiriyenko.
Kiriyenko announced that the first international uranium enrichment center would be built in Angarsk, in Siberia's Irkutsk region. The center would be ready for operation next year, he said. Some members of the G-8 are less thrilled with these technological-apartheid nonproliferation initiatives. A Canadian diplomat said that Canada will likely oppose the effort to prevent non-nuclear weapons states, like itself, from developing uranium enrichment facilities.
Chinese, Malaysian Oil Companies Buy Stakes in Rosneft
The long-awaited IPO of Rosneft, the Russian state-owned oil company, began July 19 on the London Stock Exchange. Rosneft is selling 13% of its shares, expecting to raise $10.4 billion. Among the initial purchasers were Petronas of Malaysia, which bought $1.1 billion of Rosneft stock; BP (which co-owns TNK, another large Russian oil firm), at $1 billion; the Chinese National Petroleum Company, buying $500 million worth of shares; and Russian tycoon Roman Abramovich, who often coordinates his investments with the Kremlin, at $300 million.
High Tension Around South Ossetia
After the Georgian Parliament's July 19 resolution demanding withdrawal of Russian peacekeepers from South Ossetia and Abkhazia, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said, "We are seriously concerned about the latest escalation of the situation around the peacekeepers." Recent incidents, he said, "raise suspicions of a military operation being prepared against South Ossetia." Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, during a tour of Arctic coastline strategic nuclear facilities, said July 20 that Russian forces would hold exercises in the North Caucasus, practicing operations for the eventuality of attacks on Russian peacekeepers in South Ossetia. Russian forces in the two autonomous districts, which border Russia, operate under a mandate from the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), dating from the civil strife there in the early 1990s. Ninety percent of South Ossetia's population has sought and been granted Russian citizenship.
On July 9, Oleg Alborov, head of the South Ossetian Security Council, was assassinated by a bomb planted near his house. South Ossetian officials blamed the central Georgian government. On July 14, another bomb went off in Tskhinvali, the South Ossetian capital, killing two teenagers. This prompted a Russian Foreign Ministry complaint about the escalation of tension by the Georgian government, while the Georgians accused Russia and South Ossetia of setting off the blast in order to inflame the situation. On July 16, Lavrov said that Georgian President Michael Saakashvili appeared to be losing out to the "war party" of Defense Minister Irakli Okruashvili.
Subsequent incidents included the July 14 detention of a Russian diplomatic convoy by Georgian military police ("for their own protection"), during a trip from Tbilisi into South Ossetia. Some hope of cooling out the situation is linked with a meeting between Saakashvili and Russian President Putin in the setting of a July 21-22 informal CIS summit in Moscow. Saakashvili, however, has his own agenda: On July 11, he informed reporters that Dick Cheney will visit Georgia "in the months ahead," having promised this during Saakashvili's recent visit to Washington.