Russia in Review
March 23, 2012
Belfer Center Programs or Projects: The US-Russia Initiative to Prevent Nuclear Terrorism
Russia in Review: a digest of useful news from U.S.-Russia Initiative to Prevent Nuclear Terrorism for the week of March 16-23, 2012.
Russia in Review: a digest of useful news from U.S.-Russia Initiative to Prevent Nuclear Terrorism for the week of March 16-23, 2012
I. U.S. and Russian priorities for the bilateral agenda.
Nuclear security agenda:
· President Barack Obama and his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev are among about 50 world leaders attending the Nuclear Security Summit in South Korea on March 26-27. North Korea and Iran will loom over the meeting ostensibly about the perils of nuclear terrorism. (Bloomberg, New York Times, 03.23.12).
· Russia will remove the last of Ukraine's highly enriched uranium by Sunday, Russian nuclear chief Sergei Kiriyenko said on Friday. (RIA Novosti, 03.23.12).
· Rosatom rules out the possibility of weapons-grade plutonium production in Belarus. (Interfax, 03.21.12).
Iran nuclear issues:
· Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned Tuesday that Iran would have no option but to develop nuclear weapons if it came under attack from either the United States or Israel over its contested atomic program. (AFP, 03.21.12).
· Rosatom has no plans to build new nuclear power plants in Iran, the agency’s chief Sergei Kiriyenko said. (Interfax, 03.21.12).
NATO-Russia cooperation, including transit to Afghanistan:
· President-elect Vladimir Putin is unlikely to attend NATO's summit in Chicago due to his busy schedule at home, the alliance's top official said. (AP, 03.22.12).
· President Dmitry Medvedev urged NATO on Friday to increase cooperation with the Collective Security Treaty Organization and hit out at the West over what he said was its willingness to “use arms…to impose its own opinions on those who do not agree.” (RIA Novosti, 03.23.12).
· The average shipping cost of a container from Afghanistan to Karachi is $7,200, but by the northern routes it costs $17,500. (RFE/RL, 03.21.12).
· No significant developments.
· President Medvedev will discuss Europe's missile defense shield and the crisis in Syria with his U.S. counterpart Barack Obama at a nuclear security summit in Seoul. (RIA Novosti, 03.23.12).
· “The door is not closed for talks on missile defense,” President Dmitry Medvedev said at a Euro-Atlantic security forum in Moscow. “We still have time, but it is running out.” “They keep telling us 'this system is for you', but how should we use it?” (RIA Novosti, 03.23.12).
· President Dmitry Medvedev said Tuesday:”We need to be fully armed by 2017-18 ... we must get ready for a serious rearming of the armed forces so that we could be in a due shape and capable to respond to the missile defense in Europe.” (AP, 03.22.12).
· A high-ranking U.S. Department of State official said on Thursday that “no classified missile defense information was provided to Russia.” The Moscow daily Kommersant reported last week that a visit by US State Department Special Envoy Ellen Tauscher included handover of a package of missile-defense information that Russian military specialists evaluated as “[expletive] useless.” (RIA Novosti, 03.23.12, Christian Science Monitor, 03.22.12).
· On May 3-4 the Russian Ministry of Defense will hold an international conference on missile defense in Moscow. From the Defense Ministry's presentation it follows that the SM-3 interceptor missiles launched from the territory of Poland and from the Baltic Sea would threaten the Russian strategic nuclear forces if travelling at the speed of 4 km/s. With an antimissile missile speed of 5 km/s, the possibility of interception will grow significantly. (Kommersant, 03.21.12).
· Andrei Klimov, deputy chair of the State Duma's international affairs committee, said: “If this anti-missile system is really not directed against Russia, why not sign a legal document declaring that? Why not to give Russia access to real monitoring of the system?” (Christian Science Monitor, 03.22.12).
Nuclear arms control:
· No significant developments.
· No significant developments.
Energy exports from CIS:
· No significant developments.
Access to major markets for exports and imports:
· Four more senators joined the opposition to repealing the Jackson-Vanik trade sanctions law against Russia on Friday, unless that repeal is accompanied by a new law s targeting human rights violators inside the Russian government. (Foreign Policy, 03.16.12).
Other bilateral issues:
· Russian President-elect Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Barack Obama have agreed to meet soon after Putin is sworn in on May 7. (RIA Novosti, 03.21.12).
· “The U.S. government has never financed and will not finance Russian political parties, movements, candidates or politicians,” the U.S. embassy in Moscow cited U.S. Ambassador Michael McFaul in its official Twitter account. (RIA Novosti, 03.20.12).
· The rise of anti-Americanism during the Russian presidential campaign came as an unpleasant surprise to the United States but would likely do no damage to long-term bilateral relations, said U.S. Ambassador to Moscow Michael McFaul. (RIA Novosti, 03.23.12).
· The Foreign Ministry on Friday condemned the U.S. ambassador to Estonia for “grossly distorting the history of World War II” in a statement posted on the embassy's website to mark the 68th anniversary of the bombing of Tallinn. (Moscow Times, 03.19.12).
· A Russian Defense Ministry official took a swipe at the U.S. practice of treating soldiers with anti-depressants, noting that the Russian military, in contrast, does not use medication to treat psychological health issues. (Moscow Times, 03.19.12).
II. Russia news.
Domestic Politics, Economy and Energy:
· President Dmitry Medvedev proposed a bundle of measures Thursday to carry forward the fight against thriving corruption, although he admitted that eliminating the problem is a goal for the future, as some of his recent initiatives failed to bear fruit. In the opinion of 81 percent of respondents, the level of corruption in the country is high. (Moscow Times, Interfax, 03.23.12).
· President Dmitry Medvedev ordered the government and central bank to devise a plan to cut their holdings in state-owned lenders to below 50 percent. (Wall Street Journal, 03.23.12).
· Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin, is set to leave the government on Dmitry Medvedev becoming prime minister, four sources told business daily Vedomosti. Sechin will be possibly replaced by head of Rosatom Sergei Kirienko. (Business New Europe, 03.19.12).
· Vladislav Surkov as White House chief of staff, Vladimir Pligin as minister of justice, and Tatyana Golikova as minister of finance. They are being tipped for posts in Dmitri Medvedev's new government. Minister of Internal Affairs Rashid Nurgaliyev will almost certainly lose his post. (Gazeta.ru, 03.15.12).
· With the passing of a new law easing restrictions on registering political parties, more than 100 new parties are expected to form before Russian parliamentary elections next year. (Russia Profile, 03.22.12).
· Fulfilling Vladimir Putin’s campaign promises without busting the Kremlin’s budget would require oil to reach and sustain a price it has never yet achieved — $150 a barrel, according to Citigroup. (New York Times, 03.16.12).
· According to a poll conducted by the Levada Centre on 16-19 March, the number of Russians who generally approve of Vladimir Putin's work has increased from 65 percent in February to 68 percent. (Moscow Times, 03.21.12).
· The middle class—highly educated people earning more than 30,000 rubles ($1,000) a month—accounts for more than 27 percent of the country's population, according to the Strategy-2020 report prepared by an independent group of advisers for Vladimir Putin. (Moscow Times, 03.19.12).
· The number of Russians using the Internet has increased by 17 percent in a year. (Gazeta.ru, 03.20.12).
· Asked by the Levada Centre in February whether “democracy exists in today's Russia,” 8 percent of those polled said yes. Some 40 percent said there was “partial” democracy. (RIA Novosti, 03.19.12).
· The Russian government on Thursday appointed state-owned enterprise NO RAO to manage operations with nuclear waste on the national level. (Prime, 03.22.12).
· President Dmitry Medvedev said at the annual collegium of the Defense Ministry on Tuesday the reform of the armed forces had been practically completed. He said Russia will spend at least 2.8 percent of GDP on defense over the next eight years. Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov said tensions in the military-political sphere are increasing the risk of Russia being drawn into armed conflict.(Itar-Tass, 03.21.12, RIA Novosti, 03.20.12).
· Russia on Wednesday said it had destroyed slightly more than 60 percent of its 40,000-metric-ton stockpile of chemical warfare materials. (GSN, 03.22.12).
Security and law-enforcement:
· Three militants were killed in a firefight with police in Kabardino-Balkaria. (Moscow Times, 03.19.12).
· An explosion has killed a Muslim cleric and his bodyguard in the southern province of Dagestan. (Voice of America, 03.23.12).
· A Euro-Atlantic security community is still a myth but must become a reality, President Dmitry Medvedev said on Friday at the Euro-Atlantic Security Conference in Moscow. (RIA Novosti, 03.23.12).
· In a major diplomatic blow for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Russia and China joined the Security Council on Wednesday in voicing support for U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan's bid to end violence in Syria. (Reuters, 03.21.12).
· Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov took aim at Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Tuesday, saying Syria's leadership had ignored Russia's warnings and made “very many mistakes” that helped drag the country to the brink of civil war. (Reuters, 03.21.12).
· Kofi Annan, joint special envoy of the United Nations and Arab League, will travel to Moscow and Beijing this weekend for talks on the crisis in Syria. (Reuters, 03.23.12).
· Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has rejected reports claiming that Russian warships visited Syrian ports, saying such “fairytales” are aimed at disrupting the mission of U.N.-Arab League Special Envoy Kofi Annan. (Russia Today, 03.20.12).
· Russia and Europe are close to endorsing visa-free travel, the country's top migration official told the State Duma on Wednesday. (Moscow Times, 03.22.12).
· Russia's ability to restart long-delayed work at India's Kudankulam nuclear plant has paved the way for a deal with Delhi to build two more atomic reactors in the near future, Russia's nuclear chief said on Wednesday. (Reuters, 03.21.12).
· Russia's LUKoil and South Korea's Samsung have signed a deal worth some $1 billion to develop Iraq's West Qurna-2 oil field. (RFE/RL, 03.23.12).
· The first batch of steel has arrived at Chernobyl for the giant arched structure that will protect the ruined power plant and enable its dismantling. (World Nuclear News, 03.20.12).
· Russian government has approved a proposal to renounce an agreement with Kyrgyzstan on simplifying the naturalization of Kyrgyz citizens in Russia. (RFE/RL, 03.21.12).
· A Philadelphia man accused of being a member of an Islamist militant group seeking to overthrow the Uzbek government has been arrested on charges of conspiracy to provide support to a terrorist organization. (Reuters, 03.19.12).
· Uzbekistan's parliament has moved back the country's presidential polls from December 2014 to the first half of 2015. (RFE/RL, 03.23.12).
· A high-level delegation of Turkmen officials has arrived in Washington for two days of meetings as part of annual bilateral consultations with the United States. (RFE/RL, 03.23.12).
· Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka says he believes the trial and execution of the two alleged Minsk subway bombers, who were put to death last week, was “transparent and fair.” The Belarusian regime has faced a torrent of international criticism in the wake of the weekend executions, amid questions about evidence in the case and concerns about the legal rights of the convicts. (RFE/RL, 03.21.12).
· On Belarus, the EU ministers added 29 firms and 12 people to some 230 Belarusians already blacklisted in response to repression of the political opposition by President Alyaksandr Lukashenka. (Reuters, 03.23.12).
· An annual U.S. government report is adding Tajikistan to a list of the worst violators of religious rights. (AP, 03.19.12).
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