|Russia and the CIS News Digest
Russian PM Discusses America-Eurasia Link Over the Arctic
Nov. 30 (EIRNS)Russian Prime Minister Victor Zubkov has made a two-day visit to Canada, where his talks with Prime Minister Stephen Harper focussed on transport corridors between North America and Eurasia, and the development of the Arctic. On Dec. 11, EIR will address those same topics at its Ottawa conference on "The Strategic Importance of the Eurasian Land-Bridge: Canada and the Coming Eurasian World," which will feature a megaproject that was not explicitly on the Russian-Canadian agenda: the multimodal transport tunnel between Alaska and Russia under the Bering Strait.
Zubkov's and Harper's joint declaration highlighted Arctic cooperation. They talked about shipping options through the famed Northwest Passage. "We are neighbors across the Arctic Ocean," a Russian government source told Itar-TASS yesterday, "and will be discussing the dovetailing of routes and infrastructure across the Atlantic, Pacific, and Arctic Oceans, including the creation of an Arctic Bridge between the Ports of Murmansk and Churchill." Murmansk is Russia's port on the Barents Sea, while Churchill, in northern Manitoba on Hudson Bay, is Canada's only Arctic Port.
In past centuries, Arctic Sea routes have periodically opened up when the ice cover retreats, the most recent time being in the early 20th Century. Russia has highly developed icebreaking technology, and other equipment for use in the Arctic, as seen earlier this year when two Russian bathyscaphs mapped the area under the North Pole. That mission, aimed at showing that Arctic seafloor ridge areas are extensions of the Russian continental shelf, and thus Russia's to develop, was in the background of this week's talks. But Zubkov emphasized a cooperative approach. The business daily Vzglyad today quoted him, "Russia calls upon Canada to develop the Arctic Shelf in the Arctic Ocean together."
Also on the agenda, as Zubkov met leaders of the parliament and the business community, besides government ministers, were nuclear energy and overall economic cooperation. Zubkov said, "Cooperation is very important for us.... We signed agreements on agriculture, fisheries, nuclear power, and trade financing, as well as the Arctic and northern regions."
Besides building up Arctic port infrastructure, Zubkov and Harper looked at other "untapped potential" in bilateral economic relations; Russian-Canadian trade was worth barely US$2 billion last year. Russia's Atomredmetzoloto and Canada's Cameco will cooperate on uranium exploration and mining. Sergei Kiriyenko, head of the state agency Rosatom, announced: "We have signed an agreement to establish two joint ventures. Diversification of uranium supplies is extremely important for Russia. We want not only to get uranium from Canada, but also we want to have an opportunity to invest in production of uranium in Canada." There are gold- and silver-mining joint ventures, and cooperation in aircraft and agricultural implements manufacturing was discussed.
Zubkov said he wanted to change the lopsided investment flows, whereby Russian investment in Canada has exceeded flows in the other direction sevenfold in recent years, due to events like Norilsk Nickel's acquisition of the Canadian nickel and gold company LionOre. His urging that Canadian firms get active in the Russian market brought some of Canada's less savory institutions to the fore during this visit, as well. The real estate company SITQ, a specialist in office buildings and business centers, has set up a $200 million partnership with Russia's VTB (formerly Foreign Trade Bank) to pursue commercial real estate projects in Russia. And Scotia Bank (the Bank of Nova Scotia, a core Britain-American-Commonwealth banking institution) announced the opening of its office in Moscow, to coordinate activity of its subsidiaries specializing in "stock market and financial deals involving precious metals" and "global mergers and acquisitions in the oil and gas sectors," Prime-TASS reported.
Russia's Lavrov: U.S. BMD Proposal Is 'Major Setback'
Nov. 27 (EIRNS)Following a meeting this morning with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov criticized the proposal on ballistic-missile defense cooperation, offered last week by the United States. "The formal proposals we have received and are continuing to study," Lavrov said, "are a major setback from what we agreed [to] in Moscow in early October." He said that the administration did not appear to be seeking Russian cooperation in assessing possible threats (which the U.S. had appeared to accept at the time): "If by cooperation they mean pursuing their unilateral plans to build missile defense facilities in Eastern Europe and invite us to share our information, that is not what we have in mind, when we propose jointly analyzing threats and the subsequent measures to be taken."
Lavrov said Russia still hoped a compromise could be reached at upcoming expert-level talks, the date for which has not yet been set.
Putin Denounces Electoral Meddling from Outside
Nov. 26 (EIRNS)President Vladimir Putin today accused the U.S. State Department of coercing the Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) to abandon its monitoring of Russia's parliamentary campaign, as a means of trying to undercut the perceived legitimacy of the elections. "According to information we have, it was again done at the recommendation of the U.S. State Department, and we will take this into account in our inter-state relations with this country," Putin was quoted in wire reports, "Their goal is the delegitimization of the elections. But they will not achieve even this goal.... We will not allow anyone to poke his snotty nose into our affairs."
Russia Ready To Supply Iran's Nuclear Power Plant
Nov. 30 (EIRNS)International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors wrapped up their work of inspecting the first consignment of nuclear fuel for the Bushehr nuclear power plant in a company in Novosibirsk city. The inspectors have approved the quality of Russian nuclear fuel for delivery to Iran, Konstantin Grabelnikov, deputy head of Russia's Novosibirsk Chemical Concentrates Plant, said Nov. 30. "Inspection of fuel rod arrays confirmed the enrichment of uranium-235 to lower than 5 percent," he added, noting that the fuel will be sent to Iran once it is required. The exact time of commissioning the plant is not determined yet, but upon agreements, the fuel should be delivered six months prior to the commissioning of the plant.
The announcement of the approval of the fuel rods came the same day that Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, and EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana met in London to continue discussions of Iran's nuclear program. The talks are taking place prior to a meeting in Paris on Dec. 1 between the six countries mediating in the Iranian nuclear dispute, to discuss new, tougher sanctions against the Islamic state, which has ruled out any possibility of halting uranium enrichment, a principal demand of the Bush Administration.