Russia in Review
May 13, 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 May 6-13, 2011
A digest of useful news from U.S.-Russia Initiative to Prevent Nuclear Terrorism for the week of May 6-13, 2011
I. U.S. and Russia priorities for the bilateral agenda.
Nuclear security agenda:
- No significant developments.
Iran nuclear issues:
- The first reactor at Iran’s Bushehr nuclear power plant has gone into operation, the Russian state company that built the complex, Atomstroyexport, said. The reactor was brought to “the minimum controlled power level” and tests of control and protection systems will now be conducted. (AP, 05.10.11).
- Iran has received another shipment of nuclear fuel from Russia for use at its Bushehr nuclear power plan. Hamid Ghaemi, spokesman for Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, said 30 tons of fuel was shipped from Russia by plane in three phases on May 4, 8, and 10. (Reuters, 05.11.11).
- Russia is objecting to the publication of a confidential UN Security Council report that finds Iran has been breaking a UN arms embargo by shipping weapons to Syria, Western diplomats said. Russia reportedly wants the report to be discussed by the Security Council’s Iran sanctions committee before being released to the public. (Reuters, 05.12.11).
- Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that Iran must engage in “serious conversation” with global powers to dispel concerns it could be seeking nuclear weapons. (Reuters, 05.13.11).
NATO-Russia cooperation, including transit to Afghanistan:
- No significant developments.
- “The liquidation of terrorists, even on the level of ... bin Laden, has a direct relationship to the level of security on the territory of our state,” Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said in his first public comments on the al Qaeda leader’s killing. Medvedev also told the country’s top security officials to beef up the security at Russia’s foreign missions in the wake of the death of Osama bin Laden. (Reuters, AP, 05.11.11).
- President Dmitry Medvedev and Pakistani president Asif Ali Zardari pledged to work together to fight terrorism in Central and Southern Asia, just one of the areas of cooperation the two leaders discussed during Zardari’s trip to Russia. (Ria Novosti, 05.12.11).
- Russia and the United States must work hard to bridge major differences over the divisive issue of a European anti-missile shield, General Nikolai Makarov, the head of Russia’s military general staff, said. “We need to seek common approaches and breakthrough positions on this issue,” Makarov advised. (Reuters, 05.06.11).
- Under Secretary of State Ellen Tauscher remains the top administration official in charge of missile defense negotiations with Russia despite reports to the contrary, a senior administration official told The Cable. (Foreign Policy, 05.06.11).
- Efforts to improve U.S.-Russian relations may be damaged unless the Obama administration agrees to a treaty guaranteeing that a proposed missile shield won’t target its former Cold War foe, Russia’s envoy to NATO said. “No one can give us a guarantee that the words of one president will be respected by the next president,” Dmitry Rogozin said. Without a binding deal, “we’ll have to spend a lot of money on new weapons systems, and the U.S. will get zero from political dialogue with Russia and new problems for its security.” (AP, 05.06.11).
- In a speech, Under Secretary of State Ellen Tauscher said: “We want Russia inside the missile defense tent so that it understands that missile defense is not about undermining Russia’s deterrent.” (U.S. Department of State, 05.10.11).
Nuclear arms control:
- “As for what’s next, our goal is to move our relationship with Russia from one based on Mutually Assured Destruction to one on Mutually Assured Stability,” Under Secretary of State Ellen Tauscher said. “We are also preparing for the next steps in nuclear arms reductions, including – as the President has directed – reductions in strategic, non-strategic, and non-deployed weapons.” (U.S. Department of State, 05.10.11).
- The U.S. House Armed Services Committee approved legislation containing provisions that might restrict the Obama administration’s ability to implement the New START treaty. One amendment would prevent the White House from spending funds between 2011 and 2017 to retire any nuclear warhead covered by the latest pact unless the Defense and Energy secretaries provide joint certification that the remaining arsenal is being modernized. The measure would also ban unilateral reductions in deployed or nondeployed nuclear weapons below the levels set by the treaty and prohibit any reductions outside the treaty until the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement site at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico and the Uranium Processing Facility at the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tenn., are operational. (Washington Post, 05.11.11).
Energy exports from CIS:
- According to a report by the US Energy Information Administration, unconventional gas resources in Europe have the potential to reshape the continent’s supply by reducing Europe’s dependency on Russia and the Middle East. The report estimated the technically recoverable resources in Europe at 624 trillion cubic feet compared with 862 trillion cubic feet in the US. (Financial Times, 05.06.11).
- A Japanese consortium led by the trading company Itochu is considering building a plant in Vladivostok, Russia, to produce liquefied natural gas for shipment to Japan. (New York Times, 05.10.11).
- Russia may raise its export duty on most crude shipments by 2.8% on June 1 as oil prices climbed toward the record set in 2008. According to estimates by Bloomberg, the standard duty will increase to between $463 and $466.40 a metric ton ($63.60 a barrel) from $453.70 a ton in May. The discounted rate on oil pumped via Russia’s East Siberian-Pacific Ocean pipeline to Asia and from the Caspian Sea may reach between $218.20 and $220.50 a ton from $211.70 in May. (Bloomberg, 05.11.11).
Access to major markets for exports and imports:
- No significant developments.
Other bilateral issues:
- The U.S., Russia and other nations agreed to coordinate Arctic search-and-rescue missions, a small step toward international cooperation in a fast-changing frontier threatened by looming fights over resources and military dominion. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the agreement among the eight-nation Arctic Council highlights the growing importance of the Arctic, where climate change is creating new shipping routes, fishing grounds and oil and gas drilling opportunities. (AP, 05.12.11).
II. Russia news.
Domestic Politics, Economy and Energy:
- Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has proposed creating a “broad popular front” ahead of Russia’s parliamentary election, in an apparent attempt to counter growing public discontent with his political party and solidify support. (AP, 05.06.11).
- Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s ruling party called on Sergei Mironov, speaker of Russia’s upper house of parliament, to resign as tensions between pro-Kremlin parties rise ahead of the March 2012 presidential election. (Reuters, 05.06.11).
- BP took a big step toward solving a blocked Arctic exploration deal when it said it was open to sign the contract with Russia’s Rosneft through its unit TNK-BP — giving up on its earlier claim to participate directly. (AP, 05.06.11).
- Access Industries’ $3.3 billion winning bid to buy Warner Music Group Corp adds another media company to billionaire and former Soviet citizen Len Blavatnik’s empire and sets the stage for a possible bid for rival EMI Group. (Reuters, 05.06.11).
- Russia is the main sales focus for 14% of major global corporations, according to an Ernst & Young survey. The report says that “Russia’s relative importance has declined,” with Russia falling out of the top 10 for North American firms, though it remains in 5th place for Western European firms. India and China top the sales focus survey. (Reuters, 05.11.11).
- President Dmitry Medvedev took aim at Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s “All-Russian People’s Front,” saying no party can consider itself dominant by default and vowing to ensure political competition. “The electoral fray is still ahead. No single political force can consider itself dominant.” (Reuters, 05.12.11).
- Russia remains at the bottom of the World Bank’s 183-country ranking for the ease of obtaining construction permits, despite numerous complaints from developers and government attempts to cut red tape. Obtaining a permit required 54 procedures taking a total of 704 days in Russia in 2009-2010. Obtaining a similar permit in one of the 30 top economies involves 15-16 procedures taking about 166 days. (Ria Novosti, 05.13.11).
- The Russian and Ukrainian naval forces are planning to stage naval missile firing drills in the Black Sea in the summer of 2011. (Interfax, 05.06.11).
- The first missile regiment of the Strategic Missile Troops Teykovo missile division continues to be rearmed to carry most modern Yars ground mobile missile systems, Col Vadim Koval, said. “In 2011, this regiment will be brought to full strength,” Koval said. (Interfax, 05.10.11).
- The Russian Northern Fleet’s large anti-submarine ship Vice Admiral Kulakov and Norwegian frigate Helge Instad will practice artillery shooting and interception of high-speed motorboats during a five-day Pomor-2011 exercise due to begin in the Barents and Norwegian Seas on May 11. (Interfax, 05.10.11).
- President Dmitry Medvedev has demanded a boost in funding for Russia’s industrial defense sector. (GSN, 05.11.11).
- Moscow will start sending new weapons to a chain of islands claimed by both Russia and Japan later this year and complete building two military posts there in 2012, General Nikolai Makarov, armed forces chief of general staff, said. A Japanese Foreign Ministry official said the visit to the Kuril Islands was unacceptable. (Reuters, 05.11.11).
- Russia’s defense industry has failed to fulfill major arms contracts, President Dmitry Medvedev said on Tuesday, warning top government and industry officials they would be held responsible. A day earlier, Russia marked the anniversary of the end of World War Two in Europe with its annual display of military might and parade through Moscow’s Red Square. (Reuters, 05.11.11).
- A Russian task force led by Northern Fleet’s destroyer Severomorsk will start patrolling pirate-infested waters in the Gulf of Aden in June, the Russian Defense Ministry said. The Udaloy class destroyer left its home base in northern Russia on May 8, and will be joined on route to the Gulf of Aden by the Yelnya tanker from the Baltic Fleet and a tug boat from the Black Sea Fleet. (Ria Novosti, 05.13.11)
- A second regiment equipped with advanced S-400 Triumf air defense systems will be put on combat duty near the Russian capital on May 15, the Defense Ministry said. The first S-400 regiment has been deployed in Electrostal as part of the air and missile defense network around the Russian capital. The S-400 (SA-21 Growler) air defense system is expected to form the cornerstone of Russia’s theater air and missile defenses by 2020. (Ria Novosti, 05.13.11).
Security and law-enforcement:
- A Russian police officer and eight insurgents have been killed in clashes in the country’s south, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry of the province of Dagestan said. (AP, 05.08.11).
- Six senior regional police officers lost their jobs Tuesday in the latest round of Kremlin-ordered sackings at the Interior Ministry, giving some observers hope that reform was really taking shape within the police force. (Moscow Times, 05.11.11).
- President Dmitry Medvedev, speaking at an annual celebration of the defeat of Nazi Germany, said that a rising generation of young Russians were “working to reinforce bonds of friendship, cooperation and fraternity” with the countries that fought alongside Russia. (New York Times, 05.10.11).
- China’s growing military might compelled Japan and Russia, long at odds over a territorial feud, to take a time out from their longstanding tiff in 2007 and embrace a more cooperative view towards one another, according to a U.S. diplomatic cable released on the WikiLeaks website. (Wall Street Journal, 05.11.11).
- Lithuania has published a trove of documents detailing KGB activities while the Baltic state was in the Soviet Union online, a move likely to reopen political wounds from that era and irk neighboring Russia. (Reuters, 05.11.11).
- Russia rejected calls for a special UN Security Council meeting on Syria to condemn its crackdown on protesters, noting that the opposition was resorting to violence as well. (AFP, 05.11.11).
- President Dmitry Medvedev and his Pakistani counterpart Asif Ali Zardari signed a joint statement calling for broader economic and political ties during Zardari’s 3-day trip to Russia. Russia also discussed Pakistani involvement in a pipeline from Turkmenistan to Afghanistan and expressed interest in helping it modernize a steel plant in Karachi and explore for gas. (AP, 05.12.11).
- Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called for negotiations between Libyan rebels and Muammar Gaddafi’s government and emphasized Moscow’s opposition to foreign interference in Syria or other regional states. Lavrov said that efforts to end the bloody confrontation in Syria were complicated by “the desire of some participants in these processes to attract external forces to support their actions.” Lavrov also said there were “too many violations of the UN Security Council Resolution” in Libya (Reuters, 05.13.11).
- Russia said that the U.N. Security Council must decide how to free up and distribute
Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s frozen assets, adding that they should not be used to arm any side in the war-torn country. (Reuters, 05.13.11).
- A shortage of fuel in Russia is hurting millions beyond its borders in Central Asia, where former satellite states still rely almost completely on Moscow’s gas supplies. (AP, 05.06.11).
- Kyrgyzstan, still shaky after last year’s revolution and ethnic riots which killed hundreds, asked NATO to help protect its porous borders and secure arms depots in a region lying next door to Afghanistan. (Reuters, 05.10.11).
- Mongolia, Japan, and the U.S. discussed the possibility of constructing a spent fuel disposal facility in Mongolia. (Fissile Material Blog, 05.10.11).
- The exchange rate of cash-strapped Belarus’ currency plunged by 30 percent after the government completed its devaluation, a move that will lead to price rises and eat into salaries. Russia said it has rebuffed Belarus’s request for a $1 billion stabilization loan. (AP, 05.11.11).
- A team of U.S. State Department officials visited Uzbekistan for talks on securing nuclear materials and preventing WMD proliferation. (GSN, 05.13.11).
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