Russia in Review
October 22, 2010
Belfer Center Programs or Projects: The US-Russia Initiative to Prevent Nuclear Terrorism
An update from U.S.-Russia Initiative to Prevent Nuclear Terrorism for the week of October 15-22, 2010.
A digest of useful news from U.S.-Russia Initiative to Prevent Nuclear Terrorism for the week of October 15-22, 2010
I. U.S. and Russia priorities for the bilateral agenda.
Nuclear security agenda:
- Moscow and Washington on Friday presented at the United Nations a preliminary resolution calling for the prohibition of all nuclear test detonations, among other measures. (GSN/RIA Novosti, 10/18/10).
- Ukraine, Russia and Slovakia have agreed on transportation of nuclear materials between Russia and Slovakia through the territory of Ukraine, the Rosatom state corporation, Russia, said. (Ukrainian News, 10/22/10).
- The National Anti-Terrorist Committee of Russia on Thursday launched an anti-terror exercise, dubbed "Atom-2010" at one of Russia's largest nuclear facilities - the Siberian Chemical Combine located in the Tomsk region. Personnel of the Federal Security Service, Interior Ministry, Ministry of Emergency Situations, and Federal Corrections Service are participating in the exercise, according to a report on Rosatom's official web site. (Belfer Center, 10/22/10).
Iran nuclear issues:
- "We call on Tehran to finally respond officially to an invitation [to Group of Six talks] from the EU's High Representative Catherine Ashton," Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said. (IRNA, 10/22/10).
NATO-Russia cooperation, including transit to Afghanistan:
- Russia's Dmitry Medvedev, France's Nicolas Sarkozy and Germany's Angela Merkel met in Deauville, France for a two-day summit on Monday. At the meeting Medvedev agreed to attend the NATO summit in Lisbon in November in order to discuss missile defense cooperation with NATO. Medvedev said Tuesday his country is considering a proposal to help develop a U.S.-led anti-missile shield for Europe - but says the whole idea still worries him, AP reported. The trio agreed to hold such tripartite summits regularly, but signed no documents at the summit. Following the meeting, Sarkozy said he sees: "common economic EU-Russia space, end of visa requirements and a common security concept" in 10-15 years, Reuters reported. (Belfer Center, 10/22/10).
- On Friday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel welcomed the presence of Russian President Dmitri Medvedev at next month's NATO summit, but warned against expecting too much. "It means talking of partnership," she said, while adding, "We mustn't expect too much of each other." (AFP, 10/22/10).
- "Do you really think that you will be called, that you will be asked for advice, that you will manage to hold a NATO meeting and vote on the use of this system? Nothing of the kind. You have one button and 28 fingers. I even know which finger will press the button", said Russian Ambassador to NATO Dmitry Rogozin, questioning how a potential alliance missile defense system would realistically be operated. (GSN, 10/18/10).
- The Munich Security Conference has urged Russia to join NATO in a bid to form a security commonwealth. President Dmitry Medvedev met with Munich Security Conference experts at his residence near Moscow on Wednesday. Poland's former foreign minister and expert of the Stockholm Institute of Peace Research Adam Rotfeld told Medvedev that "a proposal has been made to advance a new initiative and urge Russia to cooperate in building a cooperative security system." (Interfax, 10/21/10).
- The US ambassador to Kyrgyzstan has said that the USA has no plans to set up a military base in the south of Kyrgyzstan. (BBC, 10/21/10).
- No significant developments.
- Russia will continue contacts with the US and NATO in the short term over prospects for missile defense cooperation, Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksandr Grushko said on Wednesday. Commenting on the agenda of the upcoming Russia-NATO summit in Lisbon, Grushko said any possibilities of missile defense cooperation "will be discussed". (Itar-Tass, 10/20/10).
- State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said: "We are not pursuing a missile defense agreement with Russia." (GSN, 10/20/10).
Ratification of the New START treaty:
- Three U.S. Senate seats will immediately change hands after the election, complicating efforts to reach the still-elusive 67-vote threshold needed to ratify the treaty. Three sitting Democratic senators were appointed to ride out the terms for their retiring colleagues and will hand over their seats immediately after the Nov. 2 election. (Foreign Policy, 10/21/10).
- Prospects for ratification of a new U.S.-Russian nuclear arms control treaty could suffer if the Obama administration fails to turn over records of undisclosed missile defense discussions with Moscow, six Republican senators told Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in a letter Monday. (GSN, 10/20/10).
- A nuclear arms treaty between Russia and the United States could collapse unless Washington ratifies it before next month's elections due to the change in the Senate's composition, said Konstantin Kosachyov, chairman of the international affairs committee in Russia's lower house of parliament. (Reuters, 10/17/10).
- In a letter to the Senate Armed Services Committee Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. James Cartwright wrote that "the treaty limitation of 700 deployed strategic delivery vehicles imposed by New START provides a sound framework for maintaining stability and allows us to maintain a strong and credible deterrent that ensures our national security while moving to lower levels of strategic nuclear forces." (Nukes of Hazard, 10/18/10).
Energy exports from CIS:
- Russian Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin said in Turkmenistan that the Gazprom gas giant could join in the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas-pipeline project. Sechin, who is accompanying President Dmitry Medvedev on a visit to Turkmenistan, said Gazprom officials are in talks with Turkmenistan about possibly participating in building the nearly 1,700-kilometer pipeline that would carry some 33 billion cubic meters of gas from Turkmenistan to Multan, Pakistan, and then further to Fazilka, India. (RFE/RL, 10/22/10).
- Russian and Polish negotiators have agreed to a new gas supply deal conforming to European Union rules, easing worries that the Continent might face shortages during the coming winter. (Reuters, 10/18/10).
Access to major markets for exports and imports:
- Russia will probably join the World Trade Organization within a year even though the largest economy outside the trade arbiter has yet to complete talks with other member countries, Lawrence Summers said. "We are certainly hopeful that well before 12 months from now the process will have been completed," Summers, the departing director of the U.S. National Economic Council, told reporters in Moscow after meeting with officials including First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov and Kremlin adviser Arkady Dvorkovich. "I can now say that the end is in sight." (Bloomberg, 10/20/10).
- Chairman of the Federation Council International Affairs Committee Mikhail Margelov hopes for the soonest invalidation of the Jackson-Vanik amendment for Russia."We need a legal foundation of the reset, as many bilateral agreements were reached five or ten years ago and should be reviewed, primarily for the benefit of business," he said. (Interfax, 10/21/10).
Other bilateral issues:
- Russia will borrow U.S. experience to cure and treat the growing army of drug addicts who the chief anti-drug official estimated are close to nine million people. The experience "is not only acceptable, but is already used in the Russian Federation," Viktor Ivanov said in Washington on Thursday. He also said the Russian and U.S. anti-drug agencies differ on the idea to eliminate illegal drug plantations in Afghanistan, but agreed to target drug laboratories and join efforts and counter money laundering by drug barons. (Itar-Tass, 10/22/10).
- The chairman of the Russian State Duma Committee on Foreign Relations, Konstantin Kosachev, is not ruling out the possibility of Russian-American relations worsening after the November election to the US Congress. "Frankly speaking, I fear this prospect. It is quite realistic and this will mean that temperature in our relations will be falling, I hope not until the freezing point, but until a point of cooling," the Russian MP said. (Russia Today, 10/19/10).
- President Dmitry Medvedev awarded Russia's highest state honors on Monday to a group of sleeper agents who were deported from the United States in a Cold War-style spy swap in July. (Reuters, 10/18/10).
- The United States intends to "watch very closely" planned Russian-Venezuelan nuclear collaboration while trusting Moscow to honor its commitments to international nuclear nonproliferation regimes. Responding to a reporter's question on whether the Obama administration had any worries about the atomic trade deal -- given Venezuela's warm relations with Iran -- State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said "this is something that we will watch very closely." (GSN, 10/18/10).
- Russian and U.S. scientists are working together to send colonies of resistant bacteria from Earth to Phobos, one of Mars' moons, director of the Institute of Space Research, Lev Zelyony, said. (Interfax, 10/18/10).
II. Russia news.
Domestic Political, Social and Demographic News
- Moscow needs more open government to combat corruption and bureaucracy, new mayor Sergei Sobyanin said on Thursday as the longtime lieutenant of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin was formally approved by the city council. (Reuters, 10/21/10).
- Prime Minister Vladimir Putin picked Vyacheslav Volodin, a veteran of his United Russia party, to become his chief of staff after Sergei Sobyanin, who had held the job since 2005, and took over as mayor of Moscow today. (Bloomberg, 10/21/10).
- Prime Minister Vladimir Putin should not stand in Russia's 2012 presidential election so that President Dmitry Medvedev can fulfill his modernization drive, Igor Yurgens, the head of Medvedev's think-tank said on Thursday. (Reuters, 10/21/10).
- In 1990, Russian households spent 41 % of their income on food; last year that share had fallen to 35 %. Relative to developed countries, however, Russian households still spend a sizable chunk of their income on food. Some 46 % of income went to nonfood goods purchases in 1990, compared to 38 % in 2009. The share of services doubled from 13 % in 1990 to 27 % in 2009. The strong growth in services indicates just how underdeveloped the service sector remained during the Soviet era and how rapidly the sector expanded thereafter. (Bank of Finland, 10/15/10).
- The Kremlin has approved the idea of reducing punishment for non-violent crimes. In 68 articles of the Criminal Code, incarceration will no longer be mandatory. (Vedomosti, 10/22/10).
Economy, and Energy:
- The Russian government is close to approving a $59 billion privatization program, as the Kremlin seeks to cut the state's role in the economy and raise money to balance the budget.
- Final approval for the program is expected in coming weeks or months, government representatives said Thursday. The plan reflects a growing shift in Kremlin policy since the financial crisis, which exposed the fragility of Russia's dependence on high prices for oil and other commodities and on big inflows of cheap foreign credit. (Wall Street Journal, 10/22/10).
- The ruble hit a new year low of 36.30 against a basket of dollars and euros Thursday, as government officials pointed toward a rising tide of imports and stagnant exports as a key cause of the currency's recent slide. (Wall Street Journal, 10/21/10).
- Russia is preparing to introduce a new profit-based tax on new oilfields from 2012, Sergei Shatalov, the deputy finance minister said, in a move that could quell fears of production decline due to the current tax regime. (Financial Times, 10/20/10).
- Russia may produce more than 500 million metric tons of oil this year, Energy Minister Sergei Shmatko told reporters in Moscow today. Output is seen at about the same level next year, he said. (Bloomberg, 10/21/10).
- The Russian government has submitted a bill to the State Duma, "Regarding the ratification of the Russian-Japanese intergovernmental agreement on cooperation on peaceful uses of nuclear energy," according to the electronic document database of the parliamentary lower house. (Interfax, 10/20/10).
- Russia, which last year posted its first budget deficit since 1999, needs the price of oil to average at $100 per barrel to balance its state budget, according to Erik Berglof, chief economist at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. (Bloomberg, 10/19/10).
- Russia's TNK-BP , half-Owned by BP, said on Monday it would acquire BP's production and pipeline assets in Vietnam and Venezuela for $1.8 billion (1 billion pounds).
- The company will use its own funds to finance the new acquisitions, TNK-BP said in a statement. (Reuters, 10/18/10).
- The Russian government seeks to create equal conditions both to domestic and foreign companies, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said on Monday. "As concerns investor rights and interests, we never distinguish Russian business from foreign one," Putin told the consultative board on foreign investments. The government, he said, seeks to create "comfortable conditions for everyone." (Itar-Tass, 10/18/10).
- Russia and China will notify each other of (some) ballistic missile and space launches - the intergovernmental agreement, signed on October 13, 2009 in Beijing is making its way through the ratification process and will probably enter into force some time soon. (Russian strategic nuclear forces, 10/21/10).
- The Russian government has strongly denied reports claiming that Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov is resigning. (Interfax, 10/21/10).
- Servicemen of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) Collective Operational Response Force (CORF) deterred an attack of a large 'illegal armed group' in Interaction 2010 exercises. (Interfax, 10/21/10).
- Islamic insurgents attacked Chechnya's parliament Tuesday in a brazen suicide raid that left six people dead and 17 wounded, defying Kremlin claims of stability in the volatile southern region. The attack may have been staged by a shadowy warlord who some observers said could escalate violence as 40-year-old Khusein Gakayev moves to assert his supremacy over the divided rebels. In the attack, "the goal here is to demonstrate Gakayev's authority," said Yulia Latynina, a Moscow-based columnist and Caucasus expert (AP, Reuters, 10/19/10)
- One policeman and three militants were killed Wednesday in a shoot-out in Russia's Kabardino-Balkaria province in the mainly Muslim North Caucasus, news agencies reported. Reuters, 10/20/10).
- A majority of the Finnish people think that pupils in the eastern part of the country should be allowed to learn Russian instead of Swedish. 62 percent of the participants in a poll by TNS Gallup think that pupils in schools close to the Russian border should be allowed to swap Swedish for Russian. Only 21 percent say an absolute "no" to this, Finnish newspaper Hufvudstadsbladet reports. (Barents Sea Observer, 10/22/10).
- Russian forces pulled out of the Georgian village of Perevi, near South Ossetia, after 26 months of occupation, a spokeswoman for Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili said. (Bloomberg, 10/19/10
- A Kyrgyzstan opposition party rallied in Bishkek on Tuesday, accusing authorities of cheating it of seats in parliamentary elections and warning of possible upheavals in the former Soviet Central Asia state. (AP, 10/19/10).
- The EU has ratcheted up pressure on Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych to reverse what appears to be an intensifying crackdown against independent media and opposition ahead of local elections on October 31. (RFE/RL, 10/22/10).
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