|Russia and the CIS News Digest
Ivanov: State Must Promote Infrastructure, Manufacturing
Elevated to the post of First Deputy Prime Minister of Russia in February, Sergei Ivanov on April 19 presented to a Financial Times of London interviewer his concept of his area of responsibility, which is "the real sector of the economy, minus energy" (but, including nuclear power). Ivanov laid out how the state ought to act in the national interest, through the large industrial holding companies whose creation he is overseeing.
Ivanov disputed the notion that Russia is happy with current high oil and gas prices. In fact, he said, "high oil prices are more of a minus, than a plus for our economy," because they postpone a decisive "move towards innovation and a knowledge economy." Ivanov said his main task is "to develop a more diversified economy," through transport infrastructure, nuclear power, space, telecommunications, and commercial use of the Glonass satellite positioning system. In some of these sectors, like nuclear power and space services, he added, Russia can be competitive on the world market, under its own steam. Ivanov cited other sectors, like the aircraft industry, where Russia has successful joint ventures with Boeing, or Italy's Finmeccanica.
Ivanov elaborated why it is essential that the state play a major role in some sectors: "Not because we want to leave everything under the control of the state," but because there are some sectors, like nuclear power, which are inseparable from military industry, and others, like rail or shipbuilding, where there will be a 75% or higher state role "by definition."
"People often say, as a reproach," added Ivanov, "that Russia is creating huge holding companies in aerospace, shipbuilding, nuclear power, spacesupermonsters, monopolies that are suppressing the market. But the private sector does not go into these markets. We waited for 15 years and understood that the private sector will not go there. The private sector goes into mobile phones. But wherever there's a need for huge resources and long-term credits with subsidized interest rates, because it takes five or seven years to build a modern ship, and when it will make a return on investmentwell, you understand. Private business just doesn't invest in this, and we need to create such holdings." The state will promote transport infrastructure, he said, in order to develop whole regions of Russia that are underpopulated. There is an area equal to two-thirds of Russia's total, in which only 20 million people (out of 142 million) live. There will have to be immigration, but Russia needs people to immigrate to these regions, not only to Moscow.
In the second half of his Financial Times interview, Ivanov developed several themes from his own recent speeches, as well as those of Putin. Among these were the threat of a new Cold War, Russia's understanding of planned U.S. and NATO military deployments as aimed against Russia, and the U.S. State Department's announced plans to step up funding of NGO activity in Russia as "practically interference in our internal affairs."
Putin Speaks at Kurchatov Institute
Visiting the Kurchatov Federal Nuclear Center on April 18, Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed nanotechnology research as "an area of activity in which the state is ready to invest on a grand scale." Nanotechnology, already in use in high-technology industrial sectors, medicine, transport, and space research, is also to be used to develop new weapons systems, both offensive and defensive, Putin said. Science and Education Minister Andrei Fursenko said the ministry has drafted a nanotechnology development program, now being studied by the Finance Ministry. The Kurchatov institute should lead the research, he said, and the program is being outlined for up to 2015. In 2007, 1.66 billion rubles [$63.8 million] will go into this field.
Berezovsky Openly Plots Putin's Violent Overthrow
One of Russia's nastiest exiled oligarchs, Boris Berezovsky, is openly bankrolling and fomenting violent revolution against the Putin government. Berezovsky made his role in the attempt to overthrow the Russian government public in an April 13 interview in the London Guardian, bringing an immediate renewal of Russian demands for his extradition from London, where he has lived since 2001. Said Berezovsky, "We need to use force to change this regime. It isn't possible to change this regime through democratic means. There can be no change without force, pressure." When the Guardian reporters who interviewed BerezovskyIan Cobain, Matthew Taylor, and Luke Hardingdirectly asked him if he was fomenting revolution, he responded, "you are absolutely correct."
Within hours, Berezovsky apparently realized he had gone too far. He attempted to backtrack, claiming that he was not advocating violence, just "direct action" like the so-called rainbow revolutions in Georgia and Ukraineboth of which were run with the backing of Western governments and well-financed NGOs. Berezovsky's "correction" was also discredited when the Guardian posted audio extracts from the interview on their website April 13, along with the interview, and in his own voice, he could be heard promoting violent action against Putin.
Tymoshenko Wants Cold-War Containment Policy vs. Russia
Ukrainian ex-Premier Yulia Tymoshenko, a key figure in the current political crisis in her country, has written an article for the May/June issue of the New York Council on Foreign Relations journal Foreign Affairs, headlined "Contain Russia." With that title, she deliberately invokes George Kennan's famous Mr. X Foreign Affairs article on containment of the Soviet Union, which became a founding document of the Cold War. Thus, Tymoshenko joins Estonian diplomat Mart Helme in calling explicitly for a new Cold War; Helme's exhortation to the United States and its Anglo-Saxon allies, Great Britain, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, to adopt a new Truman Doctrine, against Russia, appeared earlier this month in the Brussels Journal.
Tymoshenko writes that failing to contain Russia will replicate the appeasement of the Nazi regime in 1939. The text was pre-released by Foreign Affairs. On April 16, the Russian Foreign Ministry released a statement on the publication, refuting Tymoshenko's theses, and commenting that the article "confirms the timeliness of Russian President V.V. Putin's call, in his February 2007 speech in Munich, for serious and frank dialogue. And the Russian leader spoke directly and openly, while those who are behind the article commissioned from Yu.V. Tymoshenko do not have the courage to act with similar decency."
Tymoshenko visited the CFR during her trip to the United States in February, during which she also met Vice President Dick Cheney. She then helped launch the current showdown between President Victor Yushchenko and the Supreme Rada, Ukraine's Parliament, by declaring that Cheney and other U.S. officials fully back the holding of new parliamentary elections in Ukraine.
Russia-China-Mongolia Nuclear Cooperation
Rosatom, Russia's nuclear power agency, announced April 13 that it had signed with Mongolia's Industry and Trade Ministry "a protocol on development of cooperation in the field of geological prospecting, production and processing of uranium ores." Novosti reported that Mongolia is estimated to have 37,000 metric tons of uranium-molybdenum ore. Meanwhile, AK&M.ru reported that Russia's Atomstroiexport is completing assembly of the Tianwan nuclear reactor project in Jiangsu Province, China, which, when finished, will be the biggest nuclear plant in China.
Highest-Level Russian Visit to Pakistan in Decades
For the first time in 38 years, a top Russian government official has visited Pakistan, and signed regional economic cooperation deals that hold out the promise of Pakistan's integration in Eurasian development corridors. On April 11, Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov met with Pakistan's Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, signing a wide-ranging series of cultural, security, and economic cooperation treaties. Among the highlights: plans for Russia to build new railroad lines in Pakistan, including lines linking Pakistan and Iran. The talks included discussion of bringing Iran into the new arrangements, with Iran serving as the transit corridor between Russia and Pakistan. The two Prime Ministers emphasized the importance of Russia's observer status at the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) and Pakistan's observer status at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).
Belarus President Visits India
Belarus President Alexander Lukashenka began a visit to India April 15, underscoring his nation's commitment to make strategic relations with India, China, and Russia the cornerstone of his nation's foreign policy. In an exclusive interview with the Hindustan Times, Lukashenka said: "We have a huge technological potential, much more than our own requirements, and we are ready to share it with India. Relations with India are the pride of our foreign policy." He backs India as a candidate for full membership in the permanent UN Security Council. Lukashenka also told the paper that he was optimistic about trilateral defense cooperation among India, Russia, and Belarus, and that he wants India to revive the Non-Aligned Movement.