|Russia and the CIS News Digest
Primakov: Korea Talks Exemplary
In a commentary for the Feb. 24 Moscow News, Russian former Prime Minister Yevgeni Primakov wrote that the real strategic importance of agreements achieved at the Six-Party talks on Korea, held in Beijing, was the U.S. shift from its "regime change" policy towards North Korea, and when, "in the end, the United States faced up to reality and started moving away from its 'unipolar' line." Given this breakthrough, Primakov wrote, a grouping of the U.S., and the Eurasian leaders of Russia, China, India, with the EU, might be formed for resolving the Iran crisis.
Primakov, who first put forward the Russia-China-India "strategic triangle" idea of Eurasian leadership, in 1998, emphasized that the Six-Party talks took place just after President Putin's speech on international security in Munich, which stated the unacceptability, and impossibility, of a "unipolar" world. While much still has to be done to resolve the North Korean nuclear issue, what happened in Beijing was "nothing short of success, but this success should not only be reduced to North Korea's nuclear weapons problem. I am confident that no matter what might happen in the future, the Beijing breakthrough has a broader dimension."
Putin's speech at the Wehrkunde meeting in Munich last month "showed that Russia should not be underestimated as a global power," Primakov wrote. "Could the emerging prospects for resolving the crisis around North Korea's nuclear program help bring this message home to Washington?" The key would be to apply the lesson to Iran, he wrote.
Lavrov Concerned About Cheney
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, twice in late February, singled out menacing statements by U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney, as of particular concern to Moscow. "I am concerned that forecasts and predictions of strikes on Iran have become frequent," Lavrov said at a Feb. 26 government meeting. "In particular, the U.S. Vice President mentioned the possibility in his recent statements." Two days later, addressing an audience at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO), Lavrov said: "Everything must be done to prevent a war, and this is exactly what we are doing now. So far, neither Tehran nor Washington has responded effectively enough. We cannot ignore statements made by top officials in the U.S. Administration, primarily Vice President Dick Cheney, who say any scenario is possible, including the use of force. We will do everything possible to stop that from happening."
In a Feb. 25 op-ed in the Washington Post, Lavrov addressed Russian-American relations directly, refuting the media spin on Putin's Munich speech as having represented "anti-American rhetoric to spark another Cold War." "If you read the president's entire speech," Lavrov countered, "you will see that Putin was neither attacking the United States nor proposing Russia as a counterbalance to U.S. unilateralism. Instead, he called for a world with many centers of influence where different interests work together, multilaterally, to shape a common denominator on global issues. The recent six-nation agreement on North Korea's nuclear program proves that this pragmatic approach can work."
Lavrov continued, "As Russians struggled with the chaos and weakness that dogged us in the first post-Soviet years, some might have gained the impression that our voice would never be heard on the world stage. A stronger, more vibrant Russia has emerged from the rubble of the 1990s.... Russia is ready to work with the United States on an equal and mutually respectful basis. Another Cold War? Certainly not. A democratic world in which a strong Russia coexists with a strong United States, as well as a strong Europe, China, India, Brazil, and others? That is Vladimir Putin's visionand it is well worth considering."
Russians Discuss Nuclear, Rail Cooperation in Japan
Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov visited Japan starting Feb. 28 for talks on nuclear power and other cooperation. He carried a letter from President Putin to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, calling for a "qualitative build-up of trade and the economic interaction, increase in investments, including in the regions of Urals, Siberia, and the Russian Far East." The two sides are planning a large-scale investment forum for this purpose, Putin wrote.
Japan is now one of Russia's ten leading investors, with 2006 investment quintupling to $2.5 billion. Abe announced at a joint press conference that the two sides are "beginning talks on a cooperation agreement in the civilian nuclear energy sector," and want to increase cooperation in railroad transportation and aviation. Novosti reported Feb. 28 that Russia has set up a joint venture to enrich uranium for Japanese nuclear power plants on Russian soil. According to Kommersant, Russian Transportation Minister Igor Levitin invited Japanese business to invest in a $90 billion project for a tunnel between Sakhalin island and mainland Russia.
Russia Signs Nuclear Power Agreement With Namibia
Russian nuclear agency head Sergei Kiriyenko told reporters in Namibia Feb. 23, after a meeting with President Hifikepunye Pohamba, that the Russian enterprise, Renova, had won a tender to develop two uranium deposits in the Africa country. "We agreed to found a joint venture to prospect and produce uranium," Kiriyenko said. He also stated that Russia "is present on all continents in the sphere of atomic energy, but we had left out Africa." Not any more. Last week, during a visit there, Kiriyenko announced uranium and nuclear deals with South Africa. Kiriyenko also said that Russia is "ready to build" a floating nuclear power plant for Namibia. Prime Minister Nahas Angula said his nation and Russia are discussing the use of Russian nuclear technology; Namibia expects a reduction in energy supplies from South Africa, and could have a 300 MW deficit in the next three years.
Russia Consolidates Space Defense Weapons
The Russian Military and Industrial Commission will consolidate all research and engineering entities for air defense in the new effort for Russia to create a weapon that would simultaneously secure aircraft, missile, and space defense. This project was set out on Feb. 27 by First Vice Prime Minister (and former Defense Minister) Sergei Ivanov at the Commission meeting. The weapons designer will be Almaz-Antey Consortium, and the Commission has just met with its Almaz Research and Production Enterprise division. A head office at Almaz-Antey will consolidate Air Forces, Navy, Army, Automatic Control Systems and Ballistic Missile Defense research and engineering. This is "a very serious, expensive and innovatively unique project," Ivanov said, setting a deadline of 2015.
Ukrainian 'Orange' Figure Tymoshenko Meets Cheney
Ousted Ukrainian "Orange Revolution" leader Yulia Tymoshenko visited Washington and New York the week of Feb. 25, for meetings with Vice President Dick Cheney, National Security Advisor Steven Hadley, and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. Tymoshenko became Prime Minister after the Orange Revolution in January 2005, but was ousted nine months later. On Feb. 8, her parliamentary bloc signed a cooperation agreement with President Victor Yushchenko's Our Ukraine, who is at loggerheads with the current government of Victor Yanukovych.
In the same week, Prime Minister Yanukovych visited Germany. He said on the eve of his trip, that Ukraine wanted integration with the European Union, but also strategic partnership with Russia.