|Russia and the CIS News Digest
Ivashov: LaRouche's Economics Are the Standard
Gen. Leonid Ivashov, formerly head of the international department of Russia's Ministry of Defense, is currently in the news with his high-profile, relentless warnings about the danger of a U.S. and/or Israeli bombing attack on Iran. At the same time, Ivashov continues to come out with other articles and interviews, in which he grapples with the overriding question, for him, of Russia's survival as a nation. One such article, posted on the website KM.ru on April 5 under the title "The Russian Question Is Fundamental," concerned the future of the Russian Federation, and the Russian people within it.
To situate Russia's existential crisis, Ivashov used the criterion of potential relative population density, introduced by Lyndon LaRouche in his book So, You Wish To Learn All About Economics? (1984), which was published in Russian in 1993. Ivashov wrote, "The American economist L. LaRouche says, 'The growth of a country's population, and the growth of the population density per square kilometer, is the only reliable criterion for judging one policy or another.' The reduction of our population by increments of millions, leaving huge expanses of territory empty: that is the real measure of the policies of those in power in Russia at the present time."
Ivashov went on to argue that this demographic contraction was "merely a consequence," of the impoverishment and scattering of the nation-forming Russian people. "We have a population, or an electorate," he said, "but no people."
For more on General Ivashov's views, see InDepth, "Bush Fiddles While Cheney Plots More Wars," by Jeffrey Steinberg.
Russia Is Key Player in Global Nuclear Energy Renaissance
At an April 9 cabinet meeting chaired by President Putin, Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov announced that the country's first floating nuclear power plant would be commissioned in 2010, and supply electricity to the Arctic port of Severodvinsk. He said there were plans for seven more such plants to be located on the northern and eastern coasts of Russia.
Also reported in early April, was that Russian Aluminum (Rusal), which became the world's largest aluminum company, acquiring its rival SUAL and the Swiss-based Glencore International, will participate in a joint nuclear reactor project with the state nuclear agency, Rosatom. The reactor will be integrated with an aluminum smelter in Russia's Far Eastern region, and as a public-private partnership will be entitled to government-backed financing. "The program will provide a platform for an economic upturn across large areas of the country," according to Rosatom's president Sergei Kiriyenko. Rusal's CEO Alexander Bulygin told the Financial Times of London that, "this is a pilot project for cooperation between the state nuclear agency and a private company. It is an absolutely new model."
Also of note, were April 9 discussions between Indian Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon and visiting Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Denisov, on increased civilian nuclear cooperation, including Russia's assistance in the construction of nuclear plants in India. This was a follow-up to President Putin's January visit to India, in which he agreed to build four new nuclear reactors in the state of Tamil Nadu and more at other sites to be identified later. Russia is already helping to build two plants at Kudankulam.
Rosatom head Sergei Kiriyenko began a visit to Japan on April 9, following up on Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's meeting with Russia's Mikhail Fradkov in February. The purpose is to start talks on a bilateral agreement that will allow nuclear cooperation between Russia and Japan. Negotiations could conclude by the end of this year, Kiriyienko indicated. In a written response to questions from Kyodo news agency before he left, Kiriyenko said he has proposed a joint venture with Japan in Russia for uranium enrichment. This is in line with Putin's proposal, now to include participation by Kazakstan, to use underutilized Russian uranium enrichment capacity as the core of an international nuclear fuel center.
Khristenko: No Gas-OPEC
Gas-producing and -exporting countries met April 9 in Qatar, at the Gas Exporting Countries Forum (GECF). Forum members include Algeria, Indonesia, Iran, Qatar, Russia, and Venezuela, which together control 72% of the world gas reserves and 42% of production. Russian Minister of Industry and Energy Victor Khristenko explained why they do not intend to set up a gas cartel similar to OPEC for oil-exporting countries. Almost all gas supplied to global markets these days is sold on the basis of long-term contracts, Khristenko said, therefore the idea of a "Gas-OPEC," as suggested in January by Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, does not make practical sense. Participants in the meeting discussed ways of improving cooperation among their countries in the gas industry and of fostering dialogue between producers and consumers.
Academy of Sciences Fights for Its Integrity
On March 28, a General Assembly of the Russian Academy of Sciences voted up a new Charter of the Academy, rejecting an attempt to subjugate the nearly 300-year-old institution to market-economy performance criteria. The vote was nearly unanimous, with only one member abstaining.
The Russian Ministry of Education and Science had drafted a charter that would have put the Academy, founded in 1724, as a result of Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz's collaboration with Tsar Peter the Great, under a Supervisory Council of outside bureaucrats, to monitor the profitability of Academy work. Said Academy of Sciences President Yuri Osipov, "Under the law, the Russian Academy of Sciences is entitled to draw up its charter independently. We took into account the ministry's proposals, but many of them can by no means contribute to the further development of science."
Glazyev Leaves Politics To Work Through Science Academy
Sergei Glazyev, who as a young economist became the only member of the first post-Soviet Russian government to quit, in vehement opposition to the "shock therapy" ravages of monetarism, has announced he will not take part in "public politics" any more. As recently as 2003, Glazyev's political party Rodina (Homeland) exploded onto the scene with an unexpectedly high vote in State Duma elections. Rodina was subsequently factionalized, being partially coopted by Kremlin maneuvers, and eventually merged into the Fair Russia party of Federation Council leader Sergei Mironov. In a March 22 interview with Novaya Gazeta, Glazyev said, "I'm leaving because public politics, in the sense of free elections, is dead. It's turned into a television show with a predetermined outcome." Glazyev is still a member of the Duma.
Asked about Rodina's promises to its voters, Glazyev said, "We have managed to achieve something: For example, our key campaign ideareturning windfall profits from natural resources to the statehas become a reality. This has been implemented, and 85% of natural resources rentfrom hydrocarbon exports, at leastgoes into the state treasury." Nonetheless, Glazyev said, Russia does not currently have "state monopoly capitalism," but rather "a criminal monopolist economy. Inflation seems to be built in, the mafia takes advantage of any pretext. Criminal middlemen make 200-300% profits."
Glazyev said he will work chiefly through the Russian Academy of Sciences. Referring to the current fight around the Academy's Charter, he added, "Clearly, an academic community cannot function like a bureaucratic organization. It is valuable for its independent views and unconstrained research." He said that continuing the battle of ideas in this form meant that he was not really leaving public affairs: "The point here isn't that I have decided to leave, but the fact that I'm choosing the most effective form of activity from the standpoint of making our policy goals a reality. The only ideas we managed to push through the Duma were those where we persuaded the President to agree."
Russia Prepares for 1812 Anniversary
Russia will begin to prepare celebrations for the 200th anniversary of the defeat of Napoleon this year, five years ahead of the anniversary in 2012. Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov has put out an announcement that discussions, research, conferences, restorations, and book publications should all be launched already, Kommersant newspaper reported. "The decision to prepare for the anniversary in advance has been made in view of historical significance of the date for Russia and to ensure top-grade preparation of cultural, historically educational, and civil actions," Moscow City Hall announced. Moscow school children and university students will be taken on tours of the battlefields of the Patriotic War of 1812. The anniversary marks a watershed in Russian history, being the time of Alexander Pushkin's Classical movement in Russian literature, in the wake of the defeat of Europe's first fascist military dictator, Napoleon Bonaparte.