Russia in Review
March 18, 2011
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 March 11 - 18, 2011.
A digest of useful news from U.S.-Russia Initiative to Prevent Nuclear Terrorism for the week of March 11-18, 2011
I. U.S. and Russia priorities for the bilateral agenda.
Nuclear security agenda:
- Russia's State Duma on Friday endorsed a 1996 treaty prohibiting the presence, assembly, acquisition and use of nuclear weapons on the African continent. (GSN, 03.14.11).
- U.S. Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen told a hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee that France's and Russia's "irresponsible" behavior with nuclear know-how could allow atomic weapons to fall into the hands of rogue states and terrorists. "Russia and France are the most irresponsible in this regard, with their most senior officials acting as salesmen for their state-owned nuclear corporations," she said. (AFP, 03.17.11).
Iran nuclear issues:
- No significant developments.
NATO-Russia cooperation, including transit to Afghanistan:
- The head of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) said the ongoing instability in Afghanistan poses a serious threat to Central Asia and foreign troops need to stay in that country. (RFE/RL, 03.17.11).
- The Russian Foreign Ministry has welcomed the UN Security Council Sanctions Committee's decision to list prominent North Caucasus warlord Doku Umarov on March 10 as "being associated with Al-Qaida, Usama bin Laden or the Taliban" pursuant to paragraph 2 of resolution 1904. (Interfax, 03.11.11).
- Russia and the United States will build separate training centers in southern Kyrgyzstan to counter the threat to regional security from Islamist militants, Kyrgyz President Roza Otunbayeva said on Tuesday. (Reuters, 03.15.11).
- Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said: "I share the opinion that it would be desirable to reach an agreement this year." "The situation has become somewhat different. We have a clearer idea of the limits of what can be achieved on both sides. We are trying to envisage a form in which this mutual understanding could be put down in writing, what the wording could be,” he said. (Ekho Moskvy via BBC, 03.17.11).
- Deputy Foreign Minister Ryabkov said: "I would not say that the U.S. position has recently undergone any changes in this issue and the issue of guarantees that the U.S.-NATO missile defense system does not target our nuclear forces.” "The main point at issue is the guarantees that the U.S.-NATO missile defense system does not target Russian nuclear forces," he added. (GSN, 03.16.11).
- The U.S. missile defense network in Europe does not endanger the Russian strategic potential, the general designer of Moscow Thermal Technology Institute (MIIT) Yuri Solomonov. "All these 'Aegis' and associated things do not present any threat to the Russian strategic nuclear forces," he said. "The European missile defense agitation is created by politicians on one side and the other for gaining certain concessions and resolving totally unrelated problems with package agreements," Solomonov said. "All that fuss" around U.S. missile defense elements in Europe "is totally senseless. It is a political game and it is not very smart. Someone needs it to achieve one's goals," he said. (Interfax, 03.17.11).
- By pursuing a new 10-warhead ICBM Russia is making the same mistake that the Soviet Union did “in relation to Ronald Reagan's well-known SDI program," said MIIT’s general designer Solomonov. It is "an absolutely pointless pursuit," as it would be based on outdated technologies, Solomonov said, "I can assure you that the missile would employ a 30-year-old technology," he said. This is an absolutely far-fetched decision, which has been made to please some high-ranking persons," Solomonov said. Preparation of the new ICBM is to be finished by 2013, he said. (Interfax, 03.17.11, Vedomosti, GSN, 03.18.11).
- Russia's plans to develop a new 10-warhead ICBM would throw Russian-U.S. relations back to the Cold War times and would dash the chance to set up a common missile defense system in Europe, said Alexei Arbatov, the head of the international security center at the Russian Academy of Sciences' Institute of World Economy and International Relations. (Interfax, 03.17.11).
Nuclear arms control:
- A U.S. team may arrive in Russia next month to inspect the country's latest range of nuclear missiles under the New START, the foreign ministry said Thursday. MIIT’s general designer Solomonov said the first inspectors would check on Russia's latest RS-24 Yars ICBM. (AFP, 03.17.11).
- Russia on Thursday said Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov and U.S. Undersecretary of State Ellen Tauscher presided over the talks the Arms Control and International Security Working Group of the U.S.-Russia Bilateral Presidential Commission in Moscow. "The session addressed a wide range of key issues of a military-political nature. Special attention was paid to the problem of missile defense, the launch of the practical realization of the New START treaty, as well as the modernization of the conventional weapons control regime in Europe," the Russian Foreign Ministry stated. (GSN, 03.14.11).
Energy exports from CIS:
- Russia on Thursday weighed alternatives for its ambitious South Stream gas pipeline project amid reports that Turkey was purposely delaying its approval of the route through its Black Sea waters. Russian Energy Minister Sergei Shmatko suggested that liquefied natural gas for the project could be transported from Russia's Far Northern Yamal peninsula, a distance of around 4,500 kilometers .(AFP, 03.17.11).
Access to major markets for exports and imports:
- Russia could in theory be admitted to the World Trade Organization (WTO) without Georgia's consent but that would be unprecedented, Georgian Deputy Foreign Minister Nino Kalandadze said on Monday. "This is stipulated under the WTO statute whereby any state may become a member of the Organization in circumvention of one [member] country," she said. Her comments came in response to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov's remarks on Sunday that Russia could become a WTO member without Georgia's approval. (RIA Novosti, 03.14.11).
- Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan, which have formed a customs union, are in talks to join WTO, guided by agreed positions, First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov said Monday. (Interfax, 03.15.11).
Other bilateral issues:
- U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates will travel to Russia, arriving on Sunday, and will meet on Tuesday with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. Gates will hold talks with Medvedev and Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov on issues including military reforms, missile defense, arms control, Afghanistan and Iran, the Pentagon said.“He’s very much looking forward to going back and having this final official engagement” in Russia, said Defense Department spokesman Geoff Morrell. (Bloomberg, 03.18.11,Reuters, 03.18.11).
- The Kremlin has sent a proposal to cancel visas to the White House before last week's surprise announcement by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. (Moscow Times, 03.14.11).
- Andrei Khlychev, retired Colonel of the Russian Ministry of Defense, has been convicted of state treason, sentenced to 18 years in prison and stripped of his rank and medals earlier this month for passing Russia’s nuclear secrets to U.S. secret services, according to the Rosbalt news agency. According to the Kommersant daily, however, Khlychev was jailed giving up “Russian agents” - who had worked in the United States - to the U.S. government. Russian secret services developed an interest in Khlychev when he returned to Russia in 2008 and got a job at the Federal Agency of Atomic Energy where he didn’t have access to secret information, according to the daily. Russian secret services are interested in exchanging Khlychev for its agents - that were caught in the U.S, according to Kommersant. (Rosbalt news agency, 03.06.11, Kommersant, 03.10.11).
- Russia is raising the amount it charges NASA to fly astronauts to the International Space Station by more than 20 percent to nearly $63 million each, under a new contract signed Monday. (Reuters, 03.14.11).
II. Russia news.
Response to the nuclear crisis in Japan:
- "If you look at what has happened in Japan, it is of course a colossal national disaster, a catastrophe," President Medvedev said on Thursday. The president offered to host Japanese citizens displaced by last week's massive earthquake at Russian resorts, adding that Moscow should consider offering work to those who lost jobs as a result of the quake. (Wall Street Journal, 03.18.11, Reuters, 03.17.11).
- Prime Minister Vladimir Putin ordered checks at all Russian nuclear facilities and a review of plans to develop nuclear energy on Tuesday. (Moscow Times, 03.16.11).
- Prime Minister Putin ordered officials on Tuesday to accelerate a Rosneft-led Sakhalin-3 oil and gas project to cope with future Japanese demand for energy. (Reuters, 03.15.11).
- On Wednesday, a Russian Ministry of Emergency Situations plane delivered rescue workers and a group of specialists from the Russian state nuclear corporation Rosatom to Tokyo. As of Wednesday Russia had a 161-strong rescue team working in Japan. (RIA Novosti, 03.16.11).
- Russia and the United States agreed on Friday to share information on developments at Japan's troubled Fukushima nuclear plant. The agreement was made during a telephone conversation between Rosatom head Sergei Kiriyenko and U.S. Deputy Energy Secretary Daniel Poneman. (RIA Novosti, 03.18.11).
- Kiriyenko said Rosatom had calculated that even in the "maximally, crazily unfavorable scenario" of all the units and the stored fuel at the reactors melting down and being released into the atmosphere, "there is no threat" to residents in Russia's Far East. (Wall Street Journal, 03.18.11).
- Russia’s Ministry of Emergency Situations has organized 400 special stations to monitor radiation level in the Far East. (Itar-Tass, 03.17.11).
- Water authorities in Vladivostok said fresh-water mussels installed in the city's water-purification plant to detect heavy-metal pollution also protect against radiation. (Wall Street Journal, 03.18.11).
- In Russia's Far East near Japan, residents bought pills to ward off radioactive isotopes, and military units prepared to evacuate towns on concerns of nuclear fallout, even as the government insisted that radiation levels in Russia remain at safe levels. (Wall Street Journal, 03.15.11).
- Russia hasn't evacuated its nationals from Japan, but it did evacuate family members of the Russian embassy to this country. (Gazeta.ru, 03.16.11).
- Troops of the Eastern Military District will be ready to evacuate the population of the Kuril Islands and Sakhalin in case of emergency, according to commander of the Russian ground forces Col Gen. Alexander Postnikov. (Interfax, 03.15.11).
- Kiriyenko said the crisis was likely to have a negative impact on Russia's booming overseas nuclear power construction business. (Reuters, 03.16.11).
- President Medvedev said on Wednesday that nuclear energy is safe, provided power stations are built in the right place and are designed and managed properly. Medvedev was speaking at a briefing with Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan about Russian plans to build Turkey's first nuclear power station. The two leaders reaffirmed these plans. (Reuters, Gazeta.ru, 03.16.11).
- Shares of Australian uranium miner Mantra Resources fell the most in Sydney in more than two years after a unit of Rosatom said it is seeking to renegotiate a $1.2 billion takeover offer because of Japan's atomic crisis. (Bloomberg, 03.18.11).
- Although the world's worst nuclear accident happened on the territory of the then-Soviet Union, the successor countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States appear undeterred in their determination to pursue or to continue to operate nuclear power plants on their territories, despite the unfolding disaster in Japan.
o Prime Minister Putin oversaw the signing of a deal in Minsk on Tuesday that gives Belarus a $9.4 billion loan to finance construction of a two-block nuclear power plant by Rosatom.
o Earthquake-prone Armenia said on Friday that it would improve safety at its Soviet-era nuclear power station after the disaster in Japan raised fears of a potential catastrophe.
(AP, 03.15.11, AFP, 03.14.11, IHS Global Insight Daily Analysis, 03.18.11).
- Greed in the nuclear industry and corporate influence over the U.N. watchdog for nuclear power may doom Japan to a spreading nuclear disaster, one of the men brought in to clean up Chernobyl said Tuesday. Slamming the Japanese response at Fukushima, Russian nuclear accident specialist Iouli Andreyev accused corporations and the United Nations' International Atomic Energy Agency of willfully ignoring lessons from the world's worst nuclear accident 25 years ago to protect the industry's expansion. (AP, 03.16.11).
Domestic Politics, Economy and Energy:
- Out of 546 mandates that were put up for a vote in 12 Russian regions on Sunday, the United Russia won 375. The Communist Party was next with 71, followed by A Just Russia (46), the LDPR (33) and Patriots of Russia (10). The United Russia party managed to win 50% or more of votes only in five out of 12 regions that held elections on that day. In comparison the United Russia won half or more of votes in 5 out 6 regions during the 2007 regional elections. Both Communists and A Just Russia did better in the March 2012 elections than in the 2007 elections (Moscow News, New York Times, 03.14.11).
- A Russian think tank published a proposed campaign platform for its chairman, Medvedev, urging him on Tuesday to seek re-election The “Securing the Future. Strategy 2012” pamphlet, by the Institute of Contemporary Development (INSOR) suggests Medvedev restore popular elections of regional governors and abolish mandatory military service by 2018 if re-elected. The pamphlet calls for broader democracy and reform of the security services, including the abolition of the Interior Ministry and Federal Security Service. First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov called the report a "provocation.” (Reuters, 03.15.11, RIA Novosti, 03.16.11).
- Russia's political system has "some weaknesses" that weigh on the economy and hinder growth, Shuvalov said. (Bloomberg, 03.16.11).
- Goldman Sachs Group Inc. Chief Executive Officer Lloyd Blankfein said Moscow's traffic jams are the biggest obstacle to turning the capital into a financial hub. Blankfein and President Medvedev discussed investment opportunities in Russia and Medvedev's plans for the capital at a March 15 meeting outside Moscow that Pankin attended. 17 (Bloomberg, 03.17.11).
- As a place to do business, Tatarstan came in first and Moscow last in a survey of 10 regions released Tuesday. Conducted by the New Economic School, the survey used World Bank methodology to evaluate business environment. (Moscow Times, 03.16.11).
- Oil prices may surge to between $150 and $200 a barrel as a result of political turmoil in the Middle East and the crisis in Japan in a "speculative and short-lived" increase, Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin said. (Reuters, 03.17.11).
- Russia may delay a 7.6% state-held stake in OAO Sberbank, a government minister said Monday, as dramatically higher oil prices shrink the budget deficit and reduce fiscal pressure. (Wall Street Journal, 03.14.11).
- The number of taxpayers who in 2010 declared their income for 2009 to exceed R1bn was 15 percent down on the previous year, a deputy head of the Russian Federal Tax Service, Svetlana Andryushchenko, has told journalists. (Interfax, 03.15.11).
- The State Duma waved through an amendment Friday that eases registration rules for foreigners, passing the new law in both a second and third reading. The new rules say foreigners only have to register seven, not three, working days after arrival in the country, thus removing a lot of red tape for businessmen and tourists. (Reuters, 03.14.11).
- President Dmitry Medvedev said Friday that Russia will spend the equivalent of $700 billion by 2020 to modernize the military's aging arsenals, but sternly warned arms industries against jacking up prices. Medvedev, speaking at a meeting with the top military brass, harshly criticized domestic arms makers for failing to meet Russia's weapons orders last year and said that the culprits will be punished. Medvedev didn't give details, but Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov said last month that arms companies produced only five of 11 military satellites that were supposed to be delivered last year. (AP, 03.18.11).
- "The combat vehicle arsenal, artillery systems and small arms produced by the domestic defense industry fall behind NATO and even Chinese arms," commander of Russian ground troops Postnikov said. Postnikov particularly cracked down on the Russian T-90 tank, which, as he said, "was a 17th modification of the Soviet T-72 tank produced since 1973.” According to the official, a tank like that currently costs $4 million. "It would be easier for us to purchase three Leopards from Germany for this money," he said. (Pravda.ru, 03.16.11).
- All of the brigades within the Russian Land Forces will be split into three categories: heavy, medium, and light, Postnikov said. (Interfax, 03.15.11).
- "Within the structure of the Land Forces, combined Test flights of the Bulava naval-based intercontinental ballistic missile will take place in June 2011, MIIT’s general designer Solomonov said . (Interfax, 03.17.11).
Security and law-enforcement:
- Nearly 2,000 people were convicted of receiving bribes in Russia in 2010, the chairman of the Supreme Court, Vyacheslav Lebedev, has said. (RIA Novosti, 03.16.11).
- The number of Russians concerned at the threat of terrorism rose considerably from 6 to 16 percent, Levada Centre said of its February 2011 poll. Overall, Russians believe that the main threats to the country remain price rises and the impoverishment of broad sections of society - 81 percent and 59 percent of people polled, respectively. (Interfax, 03.11.11).
- The U.N. Security Council on Thursday authorized "all necessary measures" to stop Moammar Gadhafi in Libya — including strikes by sea and air — hours after he vowed in harrowing terms to launch a final assault and crush the weeks-old rebellion against him. Five nations abstained, including Russia and China, which hold veto power on the council. (AP, 03.17.11).
- President Medvedev has barred Gaddafi and his family from Russia, the Kremlin said on Monday. (Reuters, 03.14.11).
- More than 10,000 antigovernment protesters rallied in the Armenian capital of Yerevan on Thursday, demanding new elections and the release of their incarcerated colleagues. (AP, 03.17.11).
- Azeri security forces have detained about 150 people in Baku at two separate rallies, including one by anti-government activists who were inspired by the Arab uprisings to use social media to call for the street protest. (Reuters, 03.14.11).
- Azerbaijan and Armenia on Thursday exchanged prisoners detained by the two sides after the conflict over the breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh region. (Reuters, 03.17.11).
- The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe urged Armenia and Azerbaijan on Monday to withdraw their snipers from areas around the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave. (Reuters, 03.15.11).
- Azerbaijan has threatened to shoot down civilian planes flying to Nagorno-Karabakh if the sole civilian airport in the disputed region reopens as planned. The Karabakh Armenian leadership dismissed the threat, saying that the first commercial flights between the territory and Armenia in two decades would start as planned in May. (RFE/RL, 03.16.11).
- U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden visited Moldova to encourage reform in the impoverished nation and push for a peaceful settlement of its separatist conflict. Biden, the highest-ranking U.S. official to visit Moldova since the country declared independence from Soviet rule, heaped praised on Prime Minister Vladimir Filat and his pro-Western government. He said Washington firmly supported Moldova's efforts to introduce reforms after violent post-election riots ousted long-ruling communist leaders in 2009. (RFE/RL, 03.11.11).
- Standard & Poor's Ratings Services cut its long-term foreign-currency rating for Belarus to single-B from single-B-plus, warning that the country was rapidly running out of foreign currency, while residents lined up at exchange offices in the capital seeking to convert their rubles. (Wall Street Journal, 03.15.11).
- Human Rights Watch said Tuesday that it has been forced to close its office in Uzbekistan after facing years of harassment by the nation's authorities. (RFE/RL, 03.16.11).
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