|Russia and the CIS News Digest
Lavrov: Russia Doesn't Need Knee-Jerk Anti-Americanism
"Russia has regained its foreign policy independence. ... Russia is beginning to protect its national interests in full, probably for the first time in its history, using all of its competitive advantages." Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov made these assertions in a March 17 speech before the 15th meeting of the Russian Council for Foreign and Defense Policy (SVOP). RIA Novosti featured a full transcript of the speech, for several days afterwards.
"We want for the world what we want for ourselves: an evolutionary development without shocks," Lavrov said at the conclusion of his speech. While he was very critical of the proposed deployment of U.S. anti-missile systems in Europe (in place of which he noted the alternative of "a European theater defense system involving NATO and Russia"), Lavrov spoke strongly against knee-jerk hostility to the U.S.A. "Anti-Americanism is dangerous and intellectually deficient," he said. "At the same time, we should address the origins of the problem, i.e., the current actions of the United States in international affairs. The fact that the U.S. Administration is following the lead of neo-conservatives, however, should not influence our fundamental attitude to the United States."
The Foreign Minister further developed the U.S.-Russian relationship, saying that Russia "would not like the United States to retreat into itself because of the Iraq catastrophe, but to take part in renewing its partnership with Russia on the basis of equality and mutual benefit." The two nations can work together on combatting nuclear terrorism, on "the initiatives of our Presidents on the safe development of the global nuclear power industry, and on allowing all countries, wishing to make use of the benefits of nuclear generation, to access those technologies on the condition that they comply with their non-proliferation commitments."
Russia will not accept being pushed into confrontation with the Islamic world, he said, and he stated his conviction that "the choice by Russia and other leading countries, including those that constitute a single civilization, such as India and China, in favor of a unifying policy, will become the main factor working against the division of the world."
Russia Denies Stopping Fuel Deliveries to Bushehr
The New York Times wrote March 20 that Russia had given Iran an ultimatum, threatening to withhold nuclear fuel for the nearly completed Bushehr power plant, unless Iran suspends its uranium enrichment program, citing U.S. and Iranian officials. The ultimatum was supposedly delivered the previous week by Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov. Additionally, AP reports that Russia is pulling out its technicians and engineers from Bushehr; a spokesman for the Russian company working on the Bushehr project acknowledged that 100-150 Russian experts returned to Russia over the past week. The same day, Iranian state television described Russia as an "unreliable partner," adding, "It is clear that Russia has stopped construction of this plant under pressure and for political reasons."
In Moscow, Ivanov called in the Iranian ambassador to complain about "the appearance in the Iranian media of several unfriendly statements and publications, which do not correspond to reality," around Bushehr. He stressed that problems "have to do exclusively with financial technicalities," and are being calmly worked out. A Foreign Ministry spokesman, when asked about the Times article, cited comments issued by the Russian Security Council press office, that the Times report is inaccurate. That commentary said that there was no "ultimatum" to Iran, and that, "Furthermore, the language of ultimatums is not the style of Russian diplomacy."
Putin: Develop New Weapons with Foreign Partners
Speaking at a March 20 session of the Technical and Military Cooperation Commission, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Russia should develop new weapons in cooperation with foreign partners. India and China currently account for some 80% of Russia's weapons exports, but Russia is also looking to Latin America and Southwest Asia. "Our primary objective is to find new forms of cooperation," Putin said. "The priority here is certainly joint weapons development and their subsequent serial production, both for the domestic and export markets. Another goal is to set up joint servicing ventures." On Jan. 18, Putin made the state-run firm Rosoboronexport the sole authorized arms exporter.
The new Russian Defense Minister Anatoli Serdyukov was appointed to represent Russia at bilateral meetings on military cooperation with China and India. Serdyukov will be in Beijing April 2, and will visit New Delhi soon thereafter.
Floating Nuclear Plants on Fradkov's Agenda in Namibia
Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov arrived in Namibia March 18, for talks during which he intensified Russian efforts to contract for construction of a nuclear power plant there. He had talks with President Hifkepuniye Pohamba, following which, Fradkov told reporters that Russia was considering the construction of mini-plants and floating nuclear power plants that would use uranium. "These are issues still to be discussed," Fradkov said.
As EIR reported March 23 ("Changing World Map For Nuclear Fuel," by Marsha Freeman), Russia's Renova Group and Vneshtorgbank have already established a joint venture to produce uranium in Namibia, which was visited by Russian nuclear energy chief Sergei Kiriyenko, with a large delegation, in February. Russian Natural Resources Minister Yuri Trutnev said that Russian companies aim to set up similar joint ventures in South Africa and the Democratic Republic of Congo.