|Russia and the CIS News Digest
Russian Commentator: FDR Policy 'Inevitable' for Russia
March 29 (EIRNS)Yevgeni Komisarchuk, an analyst who is active with the Moscow "Realists' Club" and a group called "Collegium of Military Experts," wrote an important assessment of where Russian economic policy stands, which was published March 24 on the iamik.ru website. According to the headline of Komisarchuk's article, "Further Intensification of the 'Roosevelt Policy' Is Inevitable for the Future Government" of Russia.
Komisarchuk wrote that, after the excesses of ostensible "democratization" during the 1990s, the most important shift during the eight years of Vladimir Putin's Presidential tenure was that Franklin Roosevelt became "our ideological ally," as Kremlin aide Vladislav Surkov put it. Komisarchuk quotes Surkovwho most observers consider likely to retain his Kremlin post under incoming President Dmitri Medvedevon the importance of Roosevelt's fight against the oligarchy, and his belief that, as Surkov said, "the financial monopolies, speculative capital, and unrestrained banking dealers ... tried to seize control of the government and create a new despotism."
Of course, noted Komisarchuk, Medvedev has a reputation for free-market "liberalism." But, why stick any "ism" label on the new President? "Ultimately, the policy of the country will be set not so much by D.A. Medvedev, as by life itself," he concluded, adding that Russia's survival and prosperity will depend upon the strength of the "Rooseveltians" within the country.
Regional Development Discussed at Academy Conference
March 30 (EIRNS)The Russian Academy of Sciences scheduled a national scientific conference for April 4, to discuss regional development policies for Russia. Two of the people most closely associated with Russia's national and international infrastructure projects were among the listed speakers: Russian Railways CEO Vladimir Yakunin, fresh from his current visit to Iran for talks on the North-South International Transport Corridor; and Academician Alexander Granberg, the regional development specialist who heads the Council for the Study of Productive Forces (SOPS), and has been a major force behind the Bering Strait intercontinental transport link and other big Siberian infrastructure projects.
The announced title of Yakunin's talk was "Major Economic Infrastructure Agencies and the Development of Russia's Regions," while Granberg's was "Foundations of a Concept of Development for the Areas of the Russian Federation and Contours of a Fundamental Research Program." Specialists from the Academy and other scientists prepared scores of papers for the conference, on various aspects of real economic development.
Yakunin Visits Iran for North-South Corridor Talks
March 29 (EIRNS)Vladimir Yakunin, CEO of the state-owned company Russian Railways, visited the capital of Iran beginning March 23, for talks with the rail system executives from Iran and Azerbaijan, according to Russian media reports. These countries are major components of the North-South International Transport Corridor, a Eurasian Land-Bridge route that travels from India, up along the Caspian Sea (skipping Pakistan, but touching on Persian Gulf states via sea transfer), into Russia, and thence to Finland.
With regard to the North-South corridor, the business newspaper Vzglyad quoted Yakunin as saying that their attention would be focussed on the 168-km Kazvin-Resht-Avtara (Iran)-Avtara (Azerbaijan) link. Iran Railways President Hossein Ziari reports that this segment has been started and is 15% completed by the Iranians. Yakunin remarked that completion of this link will make the corridor operational from Helsinki to the Persian Gulf, but that it was important to look towards incorporating Pakistan, as well as links to China, into the system.
In addition, Yakunin held talks on Russian-Iranian cooperation on railway electrification in Iran, and other areas of bilateral cooperation on rail.
New Southeast Europe Rail Link Boosts Eurasian Bridge
April 4 (EIRNS)A new step in the development of the Asia-Europe continental bridge is being taken, with the signing of an agreement among the railroad companies of Russia, Slovakia, and Austria. They will build a wide-gauge rail link, connecting Russia's Trans-Siberian Railroad to Central Europe. (Railroads in the former Soviet Union are built with wider-gauge tracks than those in the rest of Europe.) The new rail link will make passenger and freight transport on the Asia-Europe Transport Corridor both faster and less costly in the near future.
The agreement was signed during the visit of Russian Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov to Slovakia April 3-4. Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico wants the broad-gauge railway to be extended at least as far as the capital, Bratislava, a Danube River port just 60 km from Vienna. "Expert groups from Austria, Slovakia, and Russia are engaged in intensive work on this project, which will have a total value of more than 4.3 billion euros," Fico said today. "Unless some unforeseen obstacles arise, construction of this project can be expected to start in 2010." The rail line, from the eastern border of Slovakia to Austria, will create an entire new logistics center on the Danube.
The new link is a big step toward creating a single railway network for all Eurasia, linking ports on the Pacific with the Baltic Sea and with Atlantic Ocean, Voice of Russia reported. In January, the Beijing-to-Hamburg trans-continental bridge was launched, whereby a special train ran from northern China through Mongolia, Russia, Belarus, and Poland, to Germany, in record time. All six nations had agreed to resolve border and customs problems to prove that unhindered freight cars could move much faster across Eurasia by land, than around it by sea.
The new Russian-Central European rail link will eliminate the current five- to seven-hour wait for axle changes at the border of Ukraine and the Central European countries.
The head of Russian nuclear corporation Rosatom, Sergei Kiriyenko, was also in Bratislava to propose upgrading existing nuclear facilities.
Bush in Ukraine; Vitrenko Points To Economic Crisis, in Anti-NATO Demo
March 31 (EIRNS)President George Bush arrived in Kiev this evening on his state visit to Ukraine. Five thousand police were deployed for his security, while an equivalent number of demonstrators from Natalia Vitrenko's Progressive Socialist Party of Ukraine (PSPU), the Communist Party, and the Kiev Rus Party held an anti-NATO rally in Independence Square, then marched on the U.S. Embassy. Tomorrow Bush will have separate meetings with President Victor Yushchenko and with Prime Minister Yuliya Tymoshenko, who are both pushing for this week's NATO summit to adopt a membership action program for Ukraine, and with the leader of the Parliamentary opposition, Victor Yanukovych of the Party of Regions.
While the most visible features of the PSPU-CP demonstration were placards against Bush as a "dictator," and the trampling and burning of a NATO flag, Vitrenko also took the bullhorn to give a speech on the economic crisis. According to a PSPU press release, she presented the huge U.S. foreign debt of $12.5 trillion and the collapsing dollar pyramid, as being "the motive for the aggressive expansion of NATO to the East, to seize the natural resources of Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia, in order to save the collapsing U.S. economy." In 1997, the economist Vitrenko and Schiller Institute founder Helga Zepp-LaRouche co-initiated the call for a New Bretton Woods conference.
The population of Ukraine continues to be largely against joining NATO. Even Yushchenko and Tymoshenko say that joining would be a decade-long process, including a national referendum. But, according to a report in tomorrow's Rossiyskaya Gazeta, the pro-NATO former foreign minister, Boris Tarasyuk, is campaigning to speed up the process and skip a referendum. Said Tarasyuk, only three countriesHungary, Slovakia, and Sloveniaheld referendums before joining NATO. "In our case," he added, "the institution of a referendum is just something that the elites hide behind, when they're afraid to make a decision themselves."
Russian Security Chief Warns of Islamist Hits
March 31 (EIRNS)Nikolai Patrushev, chairman of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB), today warned that there is reason to anticipate stepped up threat levels from the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) and Hizb ut-Tahrir al-Islami (Party of Liberation), inside Russia itself. Speaking at a session of anti-terrorist agencies from the Ural Federal District and the State Borders Commission, Patrushev reported that operatives of these organizations have been detained in the Tyumen and Chelyabinsk regions during the past year.
The FSB chief said his warning was urgent, in view of the next Russia-EU summit, in June, being held in Khanty-Mansiysk in the northern Ural Region. He said that attempts have been observed by the two aforementioned organizations "to carry their criminal activity onto Russian territory, including in the Ural Region." Over 80 of their members have been identified in Tyumen and Chelyabinsk Regions.
"Hizb ut-Tahrir al-Islami calls for overthrowing the constitutional order in Tajikistan and forming a new state, an Islamic Caliphate, in Central Asia," said Patrushev, citing Tajik intelligence reports on Hizb's ties to the IMU. As EIR has reported, Hizb ut-Tahrir is one of several Central Asian organizations that maintains a major office in London, and for which there is a record of its being funded out of Britain, as well as sources in Saudi Arabia.
The Kazakstan National Security Committee held a special meeting on threats from these same organizations, and the associated Islamic Movement of East Turkistan, on March 27. Its focus was providing assistance to China against Uighur separatist terrorist threats. [See also InDepth article by Ramtanu Maitra.]