|Russia and the CIS News Digest
Rice Agreement with Ukraine; Security Talks with Georgia
Dec. 19 (EIRNS)The U.S. and Ukraine today signed a "strategic partnership statement," outlining areas of cooperation, and again asserting eventual NATO membership for Ukraine. Although non-binding, the statement is a blatant attempt by the Bush Administration in its final days to undermine any new direction in policy toward Russia by the Obama Administration. The statement was signed by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Ukrainian Foreign Minister Volodymyr Ogryzko, at the State Department. It touches on broad areas of cooperation, including economic development and defense, promising to enhance U.S. training and equipping of Ukraine's military through NATO.
The document is intended to send a message to Russia, said Deputy Assistant Secretary of State David Merkel. "It is a clear signal from the U.S. and from Ukraine that the partnership is strong and the path toward democracy and European integration is strong," Merkel said. It also includes a statement by Ukraine welcoming the U.S. intention to open a new "diplomatic presence" on the Crimean peninsula, the Ukrainian region where Russia's Black Sea Fleet is based.
Similarly, Rice clone Matthew Bryza is running around Georgia, telling his interlocutors that the U.S. will sign a new security pact with them. While Bryza says that the two parties are still at a preliminary stage of discussion, he did indicate the direction the talks are taking. "What we talked about in detail, was U.S.-Georgia cooperation on security and strategic partnership," Bryza said. "We're still working through how to reflect the beautiful words 'strategic partnership' in our actual actions and actual life." When EIR several weeks ago had asked Bryza about the Turkish Caucasus Initiative, he replied, "The U.S. will never support such an initiative. We won't directly go out and attack it, but we will work to undermine it."
Bush Team Holds Final Defense Talks with Russians
Dec. 20 (EIRNS)U.S. Assistant Secretary of State John Rood held the last in a series of talks with his Russian counterparts in Moscow this week, on the proposed missile defense architecture in Eastern Europe, but achieving little toward an agreement. The discussions dealt chiefly with the missile defense issue and with a possible follow-up to the START Treaty on the limitations on nuclear weapons, which will run out at the end of next year.
On missile defense, the U.S. has put forward a proposal which would allow a Russian liaison team to conduct visits at both the Polish and Czech sites, and, according to Rood, they have gotten agreement to this from the Poles and the Czechs. Nevertheless, it is still not enough for an agreement, and, as Rood himself indicated, the Russians feel that there may be a new configuration when the Obama Administration takes over. Rood said that even a new administration would have difficulty walking back from such an agreement, since even the NATO foreign ministers, in their conference in early December, said they considered the Polish bases as important for NATO's defense posture.
But disagreements also characterized the discussion on a new strategic arms treaty, a treaty which both parties are eager to achieve. The U.S. has thrown a monkey-wrench into the works by insisting that only warheads be included in the count; the Russians want to include not only the warheads, but also delivery systems like bombers, submarines, and launchers. The U.S. is insisting that these have also a conventional use and therefore should not be included in the reductions. The Russians counterpose that no one can tell if these delivery systems are armed with nuclear or conventional weapons, and therefore they should be included. This again will have to be decided by the new team that Obama will put into place.
Sen. Dick Lugar (R-Ind.), also returning from Moscow, indicated some understanding of the Russian position, saying that even the issue of the counting rules was "worthy of serious discussion." "I would not preclude any subject from being part of START negotiations," Lugar said, at a press conference after his visit.
Russia To Build Turkey's First Nuclear Plant
Dec. 20 (EIRNS)A Russian-led consortium has passed another hurdle in its bid to build Turkey's first nuclear power plant, which is expected to be built in Mersin's Akkuyu district and have a capacity of 4,000 MW. The consortium was the only one responding to a Turkish tender for such a plant. The Turkish Atomic Energy Agency (TAEK) announced today, that the proposal by Turkish-Russian Joint Venture Atomstroyexport-Inter Rao-Park Teknik, was technically sufficient, after finalizing its analysis of the consortium's letter detailing the technical properties of the plant.
TAEK has been analyzing the technical details of the project since November, to see if they are in compliance with security criteria set by the agency including the use of proven state-of-the-art technological innovations and compliance with international norms set by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). According to a report in today's Turkish periodical Zaman, the next step will be the evaluation of the consortium's bidding details, and when that is approved, it will submit the consortium's bid to the Cabinet for approval.