|Russia and the CIS News Digest
Lavrov Warns of Danger of U.S. Attack on Iran
On March 30, Russian First Channel TV coverage of the crisis in the Persian Gulf led with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov being asked point-blank, about the reports of a specific date for a U.S. attack. Lavrov said that in the situation around the Iranian nuclear program, as in all other tense situations in the world, Russia is working for a peaceful solution.
The broadcast went on to show British Prime Minister Tony Blair, standing against a London backdrop, and threatening total isolation of Iran if Tehran refuses to release 15 detained British sailors; this was followed by an interview with British Ambassador Anthony Brenton, saying that London is asking Russia to make use of its good connections with Iran, to obtain the release of the British sailors. Brenton visited the Russian Foreign Ministry for discussion of the matter. (See this week's InDepth for "Brits Drive World War III Provocations in Gulf," by Jeffrey Steinberg.)
LaRouche, Primakov Warn of Re-Balkanization of Balkans
Referring to a March 13 op-ed in the Washington Post by former U.S. Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, Lyndon LaRouche said March 30 that Holbrooke was a "catastrophe," whose policy amounts to re-Balkanization of the Balkans, and is against the nation-state. This is contrary to the U.S. Constitution, LaRouche said, and we don't need Holbrooke or other lackeys, such as Al Gore, making U.S. foreign policy.
With respect to the potential crisis in the Balkans, recall that former Russian Prime Minister Yevgeni Primakov was on his way to Washington to meet with President Clinton and try to avert the war over Kosovo in the Spring of 1999, when then-Vice President Al Gore phoned him to say that NATO bombing of Belgrade was starting, thus forcing Primakov to turn his plane around over the mid-Atlantic. Primakov wrote about the current situation in the Moscow News of March 23, 2007. Under the headline "Opening Pandora's Box in Kosovo?" he reported on "informal, but extensive" talks he had just had in Belgrade with President Boris Tadic and Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica. "Some Western politicians may have hoped that President Tadic would put EU membership above Serbia's territorial integrity," wrote Primakov, but, "That did not happen." Now, "the two Serb leaders are opposed to the plan proposed by [UN Special Envoy] Martti Ahtisaari" (see InDepth, "Brits Drive World War III Provocations in Gulf," for more on this).
Primakov noted three points in the Serbian position: 1) preservation of Kosovo's de jure status within Serbia, with increased autonomy, but no actual change in national borders; 2) continuing commitment to "integration into Europe" on the part of Serbia itself; 3) continued negotiations with the Kosovo Albanians, to harmonize positions and achieve a compromise formula that would be acceptable to both sides, which the Ahtisaari plan is not. Primakov said he thought that "not all negotiating avenues have been exhausted," and suggested that haste to adopt the Ahtisaari plan was attributable to the Bush Administration's desire to balance the "stigma" of failure in Iraq, with some "victory" in the Balkans, "meaning that the air strikes on Belgrade eight years ago were not in vain." (Coming from Primakov, this observation stresses the continuity from Gore to Bush/Cheney.)
Primakov explicitly took up the Holbrooke column: "While I was in Belgrade, Richard Holbrooke made a statement, predicting that delay in resolving the Kosovo issue would lead to more bloodshed. 'This is not an analysis, but a scenario,' a senior Serb government official said." While Primakov said he did not agree that Holbrooke would be pushing such an option, he warned of its consequences, including a renewal of violence throughout the Balkans: "Should, God forbid, the scenario be played out, many questions are bound to arise. One of them will be as follows: NATO forces and police have been deployed in Kosovo for the past eight years, therefore hasn't this entire international operation, initiated by the United States, failed to establish stability in the province? ...
"Finally, I would like to draw attention to yet another problem. Once Kosovo is granted independence, the Bosnian state, created with so much difficulty, could start coming apart at the seams. It cannot be ruled out that centrifugal trends will reemerge and start picking up pace. Bosnian Serbs could start gravitating toward Serbia, while a similar trend among Bosnian Croats with respect to Croatia could result in their secession from the Croatian-Muslim federation in Bosnia. In this situation, Bosnian Muslims will perforce reach out to independent Kosovo, which will further radicalize politics. Under the Ahtisaari plan, Kosovo will not join other states, but then others could join Kosovo. All of this requires thinking."
Kremlin Describes Putin-Bush Phone Call
In what the Kremlin described as a "thorough and frank" telephone conversation, initiated by the White House on March 28, Presidents Putin and Bush discussed U.S.-Russian differences over the planned U.S. installation of anti-missile facilities in Europe, as well as Kosovo. Their discussion also covered the Iranian nuclear stand-off.
Russian Weather Service: Global Warming Good for Siberia
The head of Russia's weather service, Rosgidromet, Alexander Bedritsky, said March 27 that global warming is a problem that one must certainly deal with, but deal with in a scientific way. He opposes talking about a "catastrophe" before all the facts are on the table. Experts are still studying the implications of the warming on Russia, preparing an assessment of what situation Russia will be faced with in 2015. There may be negative effects of the warming, along with positive ones, Bedritsky said. For example, large parts of Russia could benefit from warming: farmers in Siberia, for example, who could start growing heat-loving plants in regions that have been cool in the past. For the Siberian north, the fact that the average March temperature is up to minus 2.2 Celsius, as compared to minus 4 Celsius ten years ago, is a great favor from nature, Bedritsky said.