|Russia and the CIS News Digest
FSB Chief Hits Foreign Sponsorship of Terrorism Against Russia
April 9 (EIRNS)Addressing Russia's National Anti-Terrorism Committee (NAC) April 8, director of the Federal Security Service (FSB) Nikolai Patrushev charged that foreign NGOs were assisting "international terrorists" in recruiting Russian citizens for their operations. Patrushev said that this assertion is based on evidence gathered in Russia's Southern Federal District, which includes Chechnya and the rest of the North Caucasus.
Patrushev's statements were the latest in a series of indications that Russian authorities are increasingly looking, in their counterterror efforts, in directions that lead to London. In a commentary earlier this year, analyst Boris Mezhuyev wrote that last year's heightening of tension between Moscow and London was connected with Russian security agencies' discovery of a "British trail" in the destabilization of the North Caucasus. At the end of March, Patrushev warned about likely Islamist attacks on targets in Russia's Ural industrial region, citing the activity of Hizb ut-Tahrir al-Islami, which happens to be harbored in London.
Also speaking at the NAC session was Alexander Torshin, deputy chairman of the Federation Council. He told Novosti information agency that there are 59 NGOs that support Chechen and other anti-Russian insurgencies. "Foreign NGOs often turn into platforms for recruiting terrorists and extremists. What is particularly alarming is that in most cases they recruit young people," Torshin said in an interview after the NAC meeting. He cited anti-Russian events in Poland, Denmark, the Netherlands, Turkey, and some of the Baltic and Scandinavian countries.
Human Rights Watch and the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) were among the NGOs to protest Patrushev's statement.
Uzbekistan Supports Russian Initiative on Afghanistan
April 8 (EIRNS)President Islam Karimov of Uzbekistan, a Central Asian nation bordering Afghanistan, on April 4 endorsed the Russian plan to allow non-military supplies across Russian territory into Afghanistan. Speaking after his discussions at the Bucharest NATO summit that same day, Russian President Vladimir Putin had stressed the importance of the agreement reached on the overland transit question, in the Russia-NATO Council.
Saying that such NATO supply convoys would be able to cross Uzbekistan, as well, Karimov further called for revival of the "6+2 stabilization process," involving the countries that ring Afghanistan, according to Eurasianet reports. At Bucharest, talking about concerns for the whole Central Asia region, Karimov said, "We in Uzbekistan are acutely aware that the decisive factor for security is the attainment of peace and stability in Afghanistan," and that stabilizing Afghanistan would create "big opportunities for the resolution of vitally important problems of the stable socio-economic development of the entire Central Asian region.... There is no alternative here, since the aggravation of the confrontation represents a serious challenge to global security and international stability."
Karimov talked about the 6+2 process, which included China, Iran, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, as well as Russia and the United States. This group was founded in 1997, but stopped functioning after 9/11 and the U.S. move into Afghanistan. Karimov proposed recasting it as "6+3," including NATOapparently with Russian approval. Uzbekistan has also just ratified the Collective Security Treaty (CSTO), a security arrangement that unites Russia, Belarus, and Armenia with Central Asian countries. On the eve of Bucharest, a CSTO advisory board meeting had featured discussion of NATO being allowed to function in Central Asia under a cooperation agreement with the CSTO.
The "6+2" group includes Turkmenistan, which is an economic partner of Afghanistan on such projects as the proposed Turkmenistan-to-India pipeline via Afghanistan and Pakistan, and an Afghan proposal to build a ring railroad around Afghanistan, to unite all railroads in the region.
Mongolia and Russia Discuss Eurasian Development
April 11 (EIRNS)The prime ministers of Russia and Mongolia met today in Moscow to discuss economic cooperation to develop nuclear energy, rail projects, and development of Mongolia's mineral resources.
Lyndon LaRouche has emphasized the great wealth of natural resources still unexploited in northern Eurasia, and the necessity to build transport and energy infrastructure to develop them. Mongolia is a poor and underpopulated country, which lies between Russia and China. In the 1990s, Mongolia had turned to "shock therapy" globalization, with disastrous results for its underdeveloped economy.
Mongolia and Russia intend to use their pre-1991 Soviet-era cooperation in developing Mongolia's uranium resources, to build nuclear power plants, Prime Minister Sanjiin Bayar told Itar Tass in an interview before he arrived in Moscow. "In Soviet times, much work was done for developing uranium deposits. And now the time has come to use information for mutual advantage." The Russian nuclear energy concern Rosatom's general director Sergei Kiriyenko, who held talks with Bayar, said that Russia may build a low or medium-capacity nuclear power plant. Rosatom is "to sign a joint action plan for cooperation in the sphere of nuclear power with Mongolia's trade minister," providing for the exploration of uranium deposits in Mongolia, joint investments in their development, and training of Mongolian personnel for the nuclear power industry. The Mongolian government in Ulan Bator estimates that just some of its explored deposits alone contain 60,000 tons of natural uranium, but overall reserves of natural uranium may prove as big as 120,000-150,000 tons. Other key joint projects will be for coal, copper, and silver mining, and interstate projects such as the Ulan Bator Railway.
Mongolia depends on imports, especially from Russia, for 70% of its grain and flour supplies. Bayar was to discuss with Russian Prime Minister Victor Zubkov "agreements on the easy-term supply to Mongolia of Russian consumer goods, including grain for the stabilization of prices on the Mongolian national market," Itar Tass quoted a Russian source. Bayar told the agency he hoped Russia would provide 200,000 tons of grain in the next two years.
Bering Strait Tunnel Popularized in Russia
April 9 (EIRNS)It's not known with certainty, whether Russian President Vladimir Putin brought up the project for a multimodal transport connection across the Bering Strait, when he met with President George Bush at Sochi on April 6. Scores of Russian press articles had anticipated that he would, citing a Sunday Times of London report that put together a Kremlin official's mention of "a real bridge" between the USA and Russia, with Chukotka Region Governor Roman Abramovich's purchase of a giant tunnel-boring drill. The Bering Strait was not mentioned at the post-summit press conference, nor in any releases, but the Russian publicity has not abated.
The transportation website www.kolesa.ru ("kolesa" means "wheels"), on April 7, noted that "it wasn't on the official agenda," but "it very well may be that there was discussion at Sochi of the somewhat extravagant, but nonetheless truly impressive, project of joining the two continents through an underground link." Argumenty i fakty, Russia's most widely circulated print publication, had an article the same day, titled "Chukotka-Alaska: a Map of the Crossing." This article stated in tones of certainty, that the project "should be started in the near future." Besides the bore acquisition by Abramovich's Infrastruktura company, AiF reprised the history of the Bering Strait project since the turn of the 19th to 20th centuries, including the creation of the Interhemispheric Bering Strait Tunnel and Railroad Group. It gave a cross-section graphic of the Bering Strait showing a tunnel, albeit with only cars, not rail. The AiF article was picked up by Pravda.ru, among others, and further circulated today.
The surge in popularization of the Bering Strait project comes amid efforts by people in Russia who have advocated infrastructure and manufacturing as key to the nation's future, to ensure that already planned such projects are continued under the new leadership, when Putin moves to the premiership and President Dmitri Medvedev takes office, on May 7.
Russia Is Not Developing New Generation of Skilled Labor
April 11 (EIRNS)Russia is not developing anywhere near enough skilled labor, Prime Minister Victor Zubkov told an April 11 Cabinet meeting with the Ministry of Education and Science. Russia has a "misbalance" between the people its labor market needs, and the graduates coming out of its universities and other educational institutions. "Out of 1.2 million university graduates, around 40% are lawyers and economists," Zubkov said, according to an Itar Tass report. "I say graduates, rather than specialists, since their diplomas are often not in compliance with the level of their knowledge. At the same time, industry is experiencing a dire shortage of technologists, metallurgists and other specialists."
Only 33% of school graduates enter specialized secondary schools and only half of them go in for technical professions, he said. "On the other hand, the real sector of the economy is experiencing a great need for skilled specialists. The country is developing, and it needs highly skilled personnel."
Russia also has a severe problem of juvenile delinquency, and the Ministry of Education and Science should take this on, Zubkov said. The Interior Ministry reports that the "police annually detain 600,000 minors, a considerable part of whom use drugs, while one-third of them have no permanent place of residence."