Russia in Review
August 6, 2010
Belfer Center Programs or Projects: The US-Russia Initiative to Prevent Nuclear Terrorism
A digest of useful news from U.S.-Russia Initiative to Prevent Nuclear Terrorism for the week of July 30 - August 6, 2010.
I. U.S. and Russia priorities for the bilateral agenda.
Nuclear security agenda:
- Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov pressed other nuclear powers to take part in future multilateral efforts aimed at rolling back strategic nuclear stockpiles. "Remaining one of the leaders in disarmament, the Russian Federation is urging all countries without exception, and primarily those which possess nuclear arsenals, to join the efforts made by Russia and the U.S. to actively contribute to the disarmament process," Sergei Lavrov wrote in a commentary published in the magazine Mezhdunarodnaya Zhizn. (GSN, 08/03/10).
- While other nuclear powers are unlikely to join the next round of nuclear arms cuts by U.S. and Russia, they should at least agree to some of the verification measures provided for by the New START treaty, according to senior researcher at the International Security Centre of the Institute of World Economy and International Relations of the Russian Academy of Sciences Maj. Gen Vladimir Dvorkin. (Interfax, 08/06/10).
Iran nuclear issues:
- Iran has obtained four S-300 surface-to-air missile systems despite Russia's refusal to deliver them to Tehran under a valid contract, a semiofficial Iranian news agency claimed Wednesday. The Fars news agency said Iran received two S-300s from Belarus and two others from another unspecified source. The fudgy wording of the Fars report here implies Iran possesses only the missiles themselves - with no mention of the rest of the launch complex required or even semi-trailer erector-launchers. Even assuming the launch complex is there, in perfect conditions only four missiles could stop a maximum of four aircraft - hardly representative of a robust air defense. (AP, 08/04/10, Nukes of Hazard, 08/06/10).
NATO-Russia cooperation, including transit to Afghanistan:
- The U.S.-led international coalition has failed to achieve a single goal in Afghanistan and has only compounded the situation in the region, said Lt. Gen. Vladimir Shamanov, Russian Airborne Troops Commander. "Over the next one to three years, the (coalition) troops will pull out. Certainly, they will leave not in the best humor because they have not achieved a single goal they set for themselves," Shamanov said. (Interfax, 08/02/10).
- The U.S. and Russia are planning a joint exercise to see how well they can coordinate their efforts in the event of an international hijacking. Military aircraft from Russia and the North American Aerospace Defense Command will track a plane across the Pacific, at one point handing off responsibility for tracking the plane from the U.S. to Russia. (AP, 08/02/10).
- The U.S. military is on the verge of activating a partial missile shield over southern Europe, part of an intensifying global effort to build defenses against Iranian missiles amid a deepening impasse over the country's nuclear ambitions. Pentagon officials said they are nearing a deal to establish a key radar ground station, probably in Turkey or Bulgaria. Installation of the high-powered X-band radar would enable the first phase of the shield to become operational next year. (Washington Post, 08/01/10).
Ratification of the New START treaty:
- Senator John Kerry said he has enough votes to ratify a treaty with Russia to cut nuclear weapons, a priority for President Barack Obama, though he delayed a committee vote to round up more bipartisan support. Kerry put off a roll call by the Foreign Relations Committee until after the Senate returns in September from a month-long recess. (Bloomberg, 08/03/10).
- U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley told reporters that "the administration remains optimistic about the prospects for New START. We have said all along that we hope to have the Senate approve the treaty by the end of the year, and we believe they are on track to do that," Crowley said. (GSN, 08/05/10).
- President Barack Obama must show greater commitment to modernizing the U.S. nuclear arsenal to gain Republican support for the treaty, the Senate's No. 2 Republican said on Wednesday. Senator Jon Kyl denied setting a price to support the treaty. But he told reporters the commitment he was seeking could cost up to $10 billion more than the amount the administration has pledged to modernizing U.S. nuclear weapons. (Reuters, 08/04/10).
Energy exports from CIS:
- No significant developments.
Access to major markets for exports and imports:
- Russia will soon send revised terms for its accession to WTO to interested WTO member states reflecting its plans to join as part of a customs union with Belarus and Kazakhstan, Moscow's chief WTO negotiator Maxim Medvedkov said on Tuesday. (RIA Novosti, 08/04/10).
- An agreement to allow U.S. poultry exports to Russia hit a snag last week as importers made new demands, according to U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. (Bloomberg, 08/04/10).
II. Russia news.
- At least 52 people have died and 2,000 homes have been destroyed in the blazes. Russian officials have admitted that the 10,000 firefighters battling the blazes aren't enough. Dozens of flights were grounded and others were diverted away from Moscow's Domodedovo and Vnukovo airports, as smog brought runway visibility down to 200 meters. (AP, 08/06/10).
- The total area on fire increased to 196,000 hectares Thursday, a gain of around 7,000 hectares from the previous day, as 373 new fires appeared and 254 were extinguished, the Emergency Situations Ministry said. In all, 589 separate blazes were burning throughout Russia, 70 more than Wednesday, despite 162,000 emergency workers deployed to fight the flames. The fires have consumed more than 2,000 dwellings and left around 4,000 people homeless, while causing an estimated $154.3 million in damage. (WSJ, 08/05/10).
- Russia's chief nuclear industry official offered strong assurances on Wednesday that the wildfires in the vicinity of Sarov, a Russian town housing a federal nuclear center, posed no threat of a nuclear explosion or a radiation leak. "All of the explosives and all of the radioactive substances have been evacuated from it," Sergei Kiriyenko, head of Rosatom, the state corporation running the country's nuclear industry, said at a meeting of the Russian Security Council called to consider fire prevention measures for strategic facilities. "It can be guaranteed that, even in an extreme situation, with a gale force wind that means a natural catastrophe - even then there will be no threat to nuclear security, no threat to radiation security, no threat of explosions, no threat of environmental effects on the premises of the center," he said. (Interfax, 08/05/10).
- Wildfires are not posing any threat to the federal nuclear center in Sarov, Russian Deputy Defense Minister Col. Gen. Dmitry Bulgakov told journalists on Wednesday. "The situation there is tense but not critical. The nuclear centre is not in danger. There is no need to worry," Bulgakov said. (Interfax, 08/04/10).
- A reactor at the Novovoronezh power station was shut down on Wednesday because transformers broke due to high air temperatures. (Reuters, 08/04/10).
- President Dmitry Medvedev reprimanded the head of the navy on Wednesday and sacked several senior navy officers for a major fire at a navy base outside Moscow. A forest fire destroyed at least 13 hangars containing aviation equipment at the navy base last Thursday. (Reuters, 08/04/10).
- Defense Ministry has refuted media allegations that wildfires destroyed the General Staff communications centre in Moscow Region's Kolomna district. (Itar-Tass, 08/05/10).
- Benchmark wheat futures rushed to a 23-month high on Thursday after Prime Minister Vladimir Putin announced a temporary ban on the export of grain and related farm products from the drought-wracked country. (Reuters, 08/05/10).
Politics, Economy, and Energy:
- President Dmitry Medvedev said on Monday he had not yet decided whether to stand for re-election in 2012, but confirmed he would not run if his mentor Prime Minister Vladimir Putin was also on the ballot. "I do not know what will happen in 2012; I don't know who will run," Medvedev said. "It may be Medvedev, it may be Putin, it may be somebody else." 27% of 1,600 Russians polled by the Levada Center last week said they would vote for Putin if presidential elections were held in August, while 20% opted for Medvedev. The Communists' leader Gennady Zyuganov was far behind with only 4%. (Reuters, 08/02/10).
- Russia will miss a 2012 deadline for eliminating its chemical weapons stockpiles due to cutbacks caused by the global financial crisis, Russia's Kirov region involved in the disarmament process said on Monday. (Reuters, 08/02/10).
- The International Monetary Fund (IMF) said on Tuesday it expected Russia's economic growth to resume in 2010 and reach 4.25 % after a 7.9 % fall in 2009. (RIA-Novosti, 08/03/10).
- The corruption turnover amounts to about 50% of Russia's GDP now, according to Yevgeny Arkhipov, chairman of the Association of Russian Lawyers for Human Rights and one of the authors of a newly-released report "Corruption in Russia: independent annual report." (Itar-Tass, 08/02/10).
- The Airborne Troops will capable of "landing an airborne or airmobile assault division by parachute by 2017," the troops' commander Lt. Gen. Vladimir Shamanov said. (Interfax, 08/02/10).
- About one-third of Russian armed forces fatalities in the 2008 Russian-Georgian war were so-called "non-combat losses," deaths caused by negligent handling of weapons, friendly fire or road accidents, the Center for Strategy and Technology Analysis said. (Interfax, 08/05/10).
- Testing of the Bulava intercontinental submarine-launched ballistic missile will resume sometime on August, 11-14, a source in the Russian defense industry told journalists in Moscow on Friday. (Interfax via BBC 07/30/10).
- Doku Umarov, a Chechen rebel leader who has claimed responsibility for a string of deadly terrorist attacks in Russia, said in an Internet video posting that he would not step down as the leader of an Islamist insurgent network in the North Caucasus region, reversing an earlier announcement. (New York Times, 08/04/10).
- President Dmitry Medvedev has proposed restoring the prerevolutionary name for Russia's police force. Russia's police force still goes by the communist-era name "militsia." (RFE/RL, 08/06/10).
- Three militants broke into the home of a senior investigator in Russia's restive North Caucasus region on Sunday and shot him dead after binding his wife and son with tape in the next room, police said. (AP, 08/01/10).
- President Dmitry Medvedev met with his South African counterpart, Jacob Zuma, on Thursday in Moscow, where the two oversaw deals in the metals and nuclear industries. Under the deal, Russian state uranium trader Tenex will sell enriched uranium to Eskom Holdings for use at South Africa's Koeberg nuclear station. Under the new contract, deliveries will begin in 2011 and last until 2017 to 2018. Russia hopes eventually to control 45% of the low-enriched uranium market in South Africa, Rosatom head Sergei Kiriyenko told reporters. (Moscow Times, 08/06/10).
- Almost all Western leaders have admitted in private discussions that Georgia invaded South Ossetia in August 2008 and that Russia's response to Tbilisi's attack was lawful, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said.( Interfax, 08/05/10).
- Kyrgyz forces fired live ammunition, tear gas and stun grenades into the air to disperse hundreds of anti-government protesters Thursday and arrested their leader, raising fears of new instability in the turbulent Central Asian nation. (AP, 08/05/10).
- Iran's president told the leaders of Afghanistan and Tajikistan on Thursday that the three neighbors could provide a counterweight to NATO in Asia once foreign troops quit the region. (Reuters, 08/05/10).
- Reports of a possible supply by Moscow to Baku of S-300 surface-to-air missile systems are a bluff, a high-ranking source from the Russian Defense Ministry said. (Interfax, 08/02/10).
- Russia has officially confirmed its readiness to demarcate its border with Ukraine. (RFE/RL, 08/04/10).
- Ukrainian Fuel and Energy Minister Yuri Boiko said nuclear energy production in Ukraine will increase by 2.5 times in 2030. (Interfax, 07/30/10).
For more information about this publication please contact the The US-Russia Initiative to Prevent Nuclear Terrorism at 617-496-0518.
For Academic Citation: