|Russia and the CIS News Digest
Blame Cheney and Soros for Ukraine's Gas Shut-Off
Jan. 14 (EIRNS)Throughout the week of Jan. 12, Russian Gazprom's exports to Europe failed to flow beyond Ukraine, the result of a provocation against Russia engineered by Dick Cheney, and advocated by George Soros, in the British press, as early as 2006. Today, Alexander Medvedev, the number two official at Gazprom, revealed the existence of a U.S.-Ukraine Charter on Strategic Partnership, signed Dec. 19, 2008. "We don't have all the details of it," he told the press, "... but we do know that part of this agreement referred to the transit ... through Ukraine to Europe, which is especially suspicious. Now we could make some guess why Ukraine has behaved in such an unreasonable way."
Section III of this agreement states that Ukraine and the U.S. "intend to work closely together on rehabilitating and modernizing the capacity of Ukraine's gas transit infrastructure." A recent RIA Novosti article referred to the agreement in these terms: "The U.S. would modernize Ukraine's crumbling pipelines and could receive control of the network." Novosti reports the defensive response by Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, that Ukraine will not relinquish control of the network to foreign control or privatization.
Cheney visited Ukraine in September, one month after Georgia's attack on South Ossetia. On Sept. 19, Ukrainian President Victor Yushchenko visited the U.S. and met with President Bush.
Back in April 26, 2006, Soros authored a call in the Financial Times of London for Europe to wage a gas war against Russia. Europe should use its role as the market that Russia depends on for gas export as leverage "to break up the Russian gas monopoly and inhibit the currently prevailing devious arrangements," he wrote. "Russia is in the driver's seat," but if Europe sticks together they could break Russia's monopoly and influence and "improve the balance of power."
Prominent Russians Optimistic on U.S. Relations
Jan. 14 (EIRNS)The officially sponsored TV station Russia Today has quoted U.S. Secretary of State-designate Hillary Clinton's Jan. 13 Senate testimony, highlighting her call for "cooperative engagement with the Russian government on matters of strategic importance." The coverage came in a pattern of statements by Russian foreign affairs advisors, officials, and legislators about their hopes for an improvement of U.S.-Russian relations. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov's October 2008 article, which said, "Everybody needs the U.S.A. of Roosevelt and Kennedy," was the subject of an Oct. 15 commentary by Lyndon LaRouche, as being "of crucial importance for every U.S. patriot seeking a present way out of the general breakdown crisis."
Lavrov elaborated, in his article for the Russian Diplomatic Yearbook, released Dec. 15 by the Foreign Ministry: "In the era of globalization, the vocation of a strong state is ... being a constructive generator of positive change, as was the case with the New Deal in the United States and the reforms of Alexander II in the Russian Empire." Russia is ready for "full-format cooperation with the United States."
About Clinton's testimony, Novosti quoted Victor Kremenyuk, deputy director of the Russian Academy of Sciences U.S.A.-Canada Institute: "Clinton's address shows U.S. willingness to establish good, constructive relations with Russia." He pointed up the need for cooperation on the global economic crisis, saying, "The Americans realize that they will not be able to resolve financial issues without Russia."
Novosti also quoted Andrei Kortunov of the New Eurasia Foundation in Moscow, who said, "We can approach the future development of relations with the U.S with cautious optimism." A meeting between Presidents Dmitri Medvedev and Barack Obama is anticipated to take place very soon after Obama's inauguration, although the date is not yet set. Mikhail Margelov, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of Russia's Federation Council, has said he intends to be in Washington in February for meetings with his new counterpart, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Medvedev Televises Statement on U.S. Relations
Jan. 15 (EIRNS)Russian President Dmitri Medvedev met today with the permanent members of Russia's Security Council for a policy discussion, of which the only announced agenda item was relations with the United States. Medvedev also talked with Sergei Kislyak, Russia's Ambassador to the United States. The Russian President's remarks on Russia's hopes for progress under the Obama Administration were nationally televised. Medvedev said that Moscow has seen in Obama's words and his appointments "the intent to develop our relations." From Russia's standpoint, he added, there are three priority areas "in which we are simply obligated to cooperate": the world financial crisis; the fight against terrorism, crime, and narcotics; and arms proliferation.
Russian Paper Reflects on Bad Economic Choices
Jan. 14 (EIRNS)Just as Lyndon LaRouche's strategic document "How Russia Was Surprised" (EIR, Jan. 9) pointed out the ongoing tragedy caused by the refusal of the Russian leadership to confront the fallacy in their dependence on the revenue from raw material exports, the Russian daily Nezavisimaya Gazeta on Jan. 12 carried a feature on the "economic disintegration" faced by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and President Dmitri Medvedev. In the article, "Authorities' Ill-Considered Actions Lead to Economic Disintegration of Russia," Nezavisimaya presented the picture: "Moscow's economic policy has largely been based on the redistribution of income from exports of Siberia's natural resources.... Apart from the resource-extracting regions, those who ultimately received the biggest dividends from this were in Central Russia, and first and foremost Moscow and the Moscow region.... Now, because of the fall in world prices for the country's main export commodities, this pattern has failed."
"During the years of economic prosperity," it continued, "Moscow did not bother to establish motor vehicle manufacturing, or the mass production of high-tech products in general in Siberia and the Far East, through granting some kind of concessions to potential investors." The article linked the lack of Far East development with the large-scale protests there in December. When Putin's government, faced with the almost overnight shutdown of Russia's auto assembly plants in southern and central Russia, slapped new tariffs on foreign automobile imports, mass protests broke out in Primorsky Territory on the Pacific, and its capital, Vladivostok, where an estimated 100-200,000 people are employed in importing, reconfiguring, and servicing Japanese used cars. With some of the demonstrators carrying placards calling for Putin's resignation and even the secession of the Far East from the Russian Federation, the Ministry of Internal Affairs flew OMON units (SWAT teams) from Moscow and Dagestan to break up the demos on Dec. 21.
Russian Investment Fund Spending Slashed
Jan. 14 (EIRNS)On Jan. 12, the Russian government announced a nearly 50% cut in spending by the national Investment Fund in 2009 (from 113 billion rubles or $3.6 billion, to 64 billion or $2 billion; with 15 projects instead of 21). As warned during government discussions in November, only those projects which were already started will go forward. Deputy Prime Minister Dmitri Kozak tried to find a bright side to the budget cuts, saying that the 15 surviving projects would create 20,000 jobs around Moscow, in the Far East, and elsewhere. But Russia lost hundreds of thousands of jobs in December alone.
Moscow has already sunk 9.9 trillion rubles ($317 billion) into "fighting" the financial crisis, with 7 trillion ($224.3 billion) going to the banking sector; 1 trillion rubles ($32 billion) to the real sector; and 300 billion ($9.6 billion) to the financial markets. Another 1.35 trillion rubles ($43.3 billion) has been promised to help corporations and banks refinance their foreign debts. However, infrastructure projects have not gotten anything extra.
SCO To Meet on Afghan Drugs and Terrorism
Jan. 12 (EIRNS)The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) has called a special international conference on terrorism, drug trafficking, and organized crime in Afghanistan, to be held in March at the level of deputy foreign ministers of the member nations, Kazakstan's Foreign Ministry announced today. There will be a planning meeting to prepare the conference, in Moscow Jan. 14.
The SCO nationsRussia, China, Kazakstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, with Iran, India, Mongolia and Pakistan as observersare all hard hit by the massive opium flow from Afghanistan, as well as by the unending war. Since 2004, the SCO nations have proposed setting up an "anti-drug security zone" around Afghanistan, as the only way to bring drug production under control, but this has not been carried out. The nations surrounding AfghanistanTajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan, as well as Pakistan and Iran (Afghanistan also has a short border with China)are themselves impoverished and unable to control the drug flows. The last time the security belt was proposed, was at the NATO summit in Bucharest in April 2008.
Today, Voice of Russia reported that Tajikistan's counter-narcotics officials had to acknowledge that the entire amount of Afghan drugs they were able to confiscate in 2008six tonswas just a "tiny drop in a mighty stream." Of the six tons, 1,600 kilos was high-grade heroin.