|Russia and the CIS News Digest
Russian Chief of Staff Warns of Nuclear Scenarios
Dec. 15 (EIRNS)Gen. Yuri Baluyevsky, Chief of the Russian General Staff, warned today that U.S. interceptor missiles placed in Poland could trigger a Russian nuclear counterstrike. "If we suppose that Iran wants to strike the United States, then interceptor missiles, which could be launched from Poland, will fly towards Russia," he said, according to RIA Novosti. Since their flight trajectory would look very similar to that of ICBMs, they could trigger Russia's automated warning systems. "The issue of Confrontation with Russia, including a direct confrontation, is, to put it mildly, unfortunately still regarded by my counterparts from the Pentagon as relevant," he said, adding that U.S. missile-shield plans for Central Europe are aimed at changing the security system in Europe, not against possible missile attacks by so-called rogue nations.
Baluyevsky's remarks come about a week after he returned to Moscow from Washington, where he met with top Pentagon officials on a number of important bilateral issues, including discussions on Putin's missile defense proposal. Baluyevsky was addressing a press conference in Moscow when he made these remarks. He was accompanied at the press conference by Sergei Kislyak, the Deputy Foreign Minister and the chief negotiator on the missile-defense talks. Kislyak said that in spite of the seeming deadlock, both sides were intent on continuing the dialogue. Kislyak also said that Russia had no intention of increasing its forces on its borders, in spite of having opted out of the treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe.
One Washington Russia specialist, just back from talks in Moscow with top officials of the Putin Administration, added to the picture of growing sources of U.S.-Russian conflict. He reported being told that Russia has two "red lines" which, if crossed, could trigger war. One is the independence of Kosovowith the endorsement of Western powers. The other is a U.S. attack on Iran. While frictions between Washington and Moscow are real, and are being further stoked by continuing vicious British provocations against Putin, there are also indications of continuing U.S.-Russian channels of cooperation. Despite the stalemate on the missile defense issue, sources close to both governments have reported that the past week's meetings between Baluyevsky and Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Adm. Michael Mullen went extremely well, and a good personal rapport has been established between the two military commanders.
Russia Orders Shutdown of British Council Offices
Dec. 12 (EIRNS)Russia has ordered all 15 regional offices of the British Council, which ostensibly promotes British culture abroad, to suspend their operations beginning next month, the Russian foreign ministry announced. Only the council's Moscow head office will be allowed to remain open. Britain immediately vowed to defy the order at two of the offices, setting the stage for a potential police showdown in the new year. The British Embassy in Moscow warned of serious consequences.
The move was immediately labelled in the U.K. and by most of the Western media as fallout from last year's mysterious death of the ex-KGB defector Alexander Litvinenko in London. However, the British Council is notorious in Third World countries as a tool for promoting "regime change," using foreign money through NGO-like campaigns against governments unwilling to serve British interests. The Kremlin has always been conscious of the possibility of a repeat of the Orange Revolution in Ukraine, which it has seen as having been fomented by foreign NGOs using foreign money.
In addition, the British Council, offices of which were raided by Russian tax personnel in 2004, has been involved in three years of legal wrangling with Russian authorities over non-payment of taxes and questions over its legal status in Russia.
CSIS Scripts Time and Place of Putin's Assassination
Dec. 14 (EIRNS)The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington released a report dated November 2007, titled "Alternative Futures for Russia," authored by CSIS academic Andrew Kuchins. Of interest is a chapter titled "Alternative Scenarios for Russia 2017," which says how "Putinism without Putin" will affect Russia.
One of the scenarios described by Kuchins is the assassination of Putin: "Russia and the world were stunned by the assassination of Vladimir Putin as he walked out of a midnight mass at the Christ the Savior Cathedral in Moscow on January 7, 2008. Rumors flew about a Chechen-ordered hit, possibly involving support from exiled oligarch Boris Berezovsky, but like so many high-profile Russian murders, the Putin killing was never solved. Acting president and former prime minister Viktor Zubkov disappeared from public view for more than a week, apparently suffering a small heart attack, although many believed it was a nervous breakdown...."
The author included a disclaimer that these scenarios were not supposed to be predictive, but their dramatic and sensational content led to major coverage in the Russian media, which treated the publication as a forecast. Since that Russian reaction was a foregone conclusion, the question is: What was Kuchins trying to achieve with his apocalyptic scenario for Putin and Russia?