|Russia and the CIS News Digest
Lavrov: Putin's Kennebunkport Proposal Was Unprecedented
Dec. 26 (EIRNS)Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, in a year-end interview published in today's Vremya Novostei, advised looking back to President Vladimir Putin's early February speech at the Munich Security Conference, for insight into the most important strategic events of 2007. That speech was misrepresented throughout the international media as marking a return to the Cold War, but EIR's Feb. 23, 2007 issue documented that Putin was not attacking the United Statesindeed, it was the first of several occasions this year on which he invoked the policies of Franklin Delano Rooseveltbut rather the perversion of American policy by traitors to the real identity of the USA, and that he called for cooperation among nations to solve world problems. Said Lavrov, "The main purpose of Munich was to put the matter of mutual understanding into focus," to call for "honest, open dialogue ... without hidden agendas."
In his interview, Lavrov termed certain other major events "derivatives of the Munich speech." These included Russia's decision to stop observing the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty, which others had not ratified: "We were not being listened to. We put the situation into focus, and thereby moved things from a standstill. It is still not solved."
Most dramatic in Lavrov's interview is his discussion of the "unprecedented proposal Putin made at Kennebunkport"the Bush family compound in Maine, where Putin was hosted last Summeron anti-missile defense. "Putin proposed a qualitatively new approach, implying mutual trust and complete openness regarding intelligence data gathered by each side using its most advanced technologies. The proposal was to unite capabilities that are defining for each side's security. That means 'to overcome vestiges of the past in oneself,' and embark on a level of partnership and cooperation that was absolutely inconceivable before. We have not lost hope, that this approach will be accepted, though the chances of that are declining."
Asked if that meant the USA had failed to "overcome the past," Lavrov emphasized, "I would not say that we, either, have entirely overcome those vestiges. But that is what the President called for.... That was his determination and political willto overcome the vestiges of the old way of thinking. Few people in the West understood that. But it was really unprecedented."
The other leading developments for Russia's foreign policy this past year, according to Lavrov, were breakthroughs within the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS)despite the organization's being practically split in two, and attempts by Western countries to aggravate that split. Lavrov said that common interests in economic cooperation, energy and transport infrastructure, were bringing a reversal of centrifugal trends in the CIS. At the same time, he underscored the importance for Russia of cooperation in the part of the CIS zone that is grouped in the Eurasian Economic Community (EurAsEc) and the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO): Belarus plus the Central Asian nations.
After discussing Kosovo and negotiations around Iran, Lavrov ended his interview with a lengthy review of the deterioration of Russia's relations with Britain, blame for which he laid squarely at London's doorstep.
Russia Test-Fires Asymmetric Weapon; Warns vs. U.S. ABMS In Europe
Dec. 26 (EIRNS)Russia successfully tested a new type of ballistic missile yesterday, which converts into a cruise missile in the descent phase, making it almost impossible to intercept with conventional anti-missile missile systems. The launch was a signal of Russia's continuing displeasure with U.S. plans to station anti-missile defense systems in Poland and the Czech Republic, and of Moscow's stated intention to develop asymmetric response systems. Russian officials also said a land-launched RS-24 missile with multiple warheads had been successfully test-fired from the Plesetsk range in northern Russia, and that a rocket carrying the last three satellites for the GLONASS mapping and navigation system to rival the U.S. Global Positioning System had been launched.
The new hybrid missile, known as the RSM-54, or Sineva, was launched from the nuclear missile submarine Tula in the Barents Sea, and hit a target on the Kamchatka peninsula in the Far East. It was the second launching in a week of the new type missile.
At the same time, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamynin lambasted once again the U.S. plans to build anti-missile systems in Poland and the Czech Republic. Kamynin responded directly to an interview by Czech Foreign Minister (Prince) Karel Schwarzenberg, published at the end of last week, in which the Czech official said he wanted the U.S. radar to guarantee surveillance of Russian territory. Kamynin said this was more proof that the U.S. missile defense system in Eastern Europe is being built solely to disrupt the strategic balance and gain the edge over Russia, not to defend against a non-existent threat of Iranian missiles.
Poland, Russia Push Diplomacy To Mend Ties
Dec. 26 (EIRNS)With the intensely anti-Russian Kaczynski regime gone in Warsaw, Poland and Russia are moving quickly to improve their relations. The change may have far-reaching strategic consequences, as in the case of the new Prime Minister Donald Tusk's remarks about any missile-defense system in Poland needing to meet Poland's own interests (rather than merely the alleged interests of the USA that would emplace them).
On Dec. 24, Tusk said that he might visit Moscow on Feb. 8, 2008. The same day, Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski announced that "normalizing" relations with Russia is one of the government's top foreign policy priorities. Today, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko rejoined, "We have felt real readiness by the new Polish government to resolve problems through dialogue, rather than megaphone diplomacy."
Tusk already reversed the Kaczynski government's opposition to Russia's joining the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Moscow responded by dropping a two-year-old ban on Polish meat imports, which has held up talks on Russia-EU partnership because Poland is an EU member. Said Russian envoy for Russia-EU relations Sergei Yastrzhembsky on Dec. 18, "Tusk's government has done more for Polish-Russian relations than was done in the past two years."
Lavrov: Kosovo Independence Is Death-Knell for UN
Dec. 26In his year-end Vremya Novostei interview, published today, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov found little optimistic to say about the crisis around Kosovo, the province of Serbia whose looming declaration of independence has been backed by the USA and several countries in Europe. Russia and these Western power have such different premises and different objectives regarding Kosovo, said Lavrov, that negotiations have stalled.
Lavrov put an even sharper point on the crisis, telling the same Vremya Novostei on Dec. 21, "If NATO and the EU now state, after ignoring all legitimate legal mechanisms that exist in the United Nations, that they will decide on how to divide Serbia, how to bite Kosovo off from it, and how to prevent Serbs who live in Kosovo from expressing their opinion on the matter, they will put themselves above international law." Lavrov added that this "dangerous game" would mean that these Western countries no longer respect the UN, and intend to decide major matters outside of it.
Speaking on Vesti-24 TV Dec. 21, Lavrov warned once again thatthough he said it is not Russia's policy to promote thisindependence for Kosovo will be taken as a precedent by the administrations of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, autonomous regions within Georgia that are "in fact functioning on their own" already.
Georgia Alleges Coup Plot Ten Days Before Election
Dec. 26 (EIRNS)The situation in the Republic of Georgia, already headed for a tumultuous start to 2008 with early elections scheduled on Jan. 5, became even more tense on Dec. 24, when the incumbent regime accused one of the candidates of engineering a coup attempt. Georgia's prosecutor general released a taped conversation in which Badri Patarkatsishvili allegedly attempts to buy control over security forces for $100 million. Yesterday, Patarkatsishvili's election staff was charged with preparing a "coup" through vote-fraud protests beginning on Jan. 6. The alleged conversation allegedly took place in London, where Patarkatsishvili's ex-business partner, Russian moneybags Boris Berezovsky, lives in exile.
Patarkatsishvili has played a big, but murky role in the Georgia crisis since early November, when street demonstrations and the formation of a ten-party opposition coalition forced the 2003 Rose Revolution's protagonist, Columbia University law grad Michael Saakashvili, to call early elections and resign in order to run for re-election. It was the arrest of Patarkatsishvili's associate, former security official Irakli Okruashvili, that triggered the demos, though the turnout of tens of thousands proved the population's underlying rage at Saakashvili's miserable leadership, obsession with his geopolitical project of joining NATO, and failure to improve the economic situation. Saakashvili and his group accuse Patarkatsishvili of being an agent of Moscow, but his associate Berezovsky is a sworn enemy of President Vladimir Putin.
The Georgian crisis is all the more explosive now, in that the two autonomous regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, whose leaders do not take orders from the central government in Tbilisi, have threatened to move for full independence, if Kosovo province in Serbia does likewise.
Tymoshenko Teeters on One-Vote Margin, Calls Cheney
Dec. 26 (EIRNS)"Instability and leadership conflict" were forecast for Ukraine on Dec. 18 by Victor Yanukovych, leader of the Party of Regions and outgoing prime minister. His party was the highest vote-getter in Ukraine's fifth Parliamentary election within three years, butafter another two months of maneuveringa government coalition with a paper-thin majority has now been formed by Orange Revolution demagogue Yulia Tymoshenko's bloc and President Victor Yushchenko's Our Ukraine.
Tymoshenko was returned to the premiership on Dec. 18 by 226 votes in the Supreme Rada, a one-seat majority. The Party of Regions and other major parties, including the Communists and the Socialists, did not attend the session. Since the Rada forbids voting by proxy, it is not clear that Tymoshenko will be able to transact business if even one or two members of Parliament are ill at any one time.
The new PM promptly announced an anti-corruption campaign, which Yanukovych charged would be a political purge. One of her first phone calls, Tymoshenko's office announced, was to U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney to discuss "energy independence." In early 2007, Tymoshenko had talks with Cheney in Washington, after which she returned to Kiev and began trumpeting that the USA backed a return of Ukraine to the agenda of the Orange Revolutionincluding a fast track to NATO membershipthat Project Democracy backed in 2004.