Russia in Review
April 6, 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 30 - April 6, 2012.
Russia in Review: a digest of useful news from U.S.-Russia Initiative to Prevent Nuclear Terrorism for the week of March 30 – April 6, 2012
I. U.S. and Russian priorities for the bilateral agenda.
Nuclear security agenda:
· Russia and the United States could conclude verification arrangements by the end of the year for their agreement on disposition of surplus weapons plutonium, a U.S. official said last month. (Arms Control Today, April 2012).
· The U.S. Cooperative Threat Reduction Program over three months helped facilitate dismantlement of one ICBM and three submarine-launched ballistic missiles. (GSN, 04.06.12).
Iran nuclear issues:
· Iran's nuclear program is growing, breaching United Nations resolutions amid an "alarming" escalation over the country's plans, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said. (Bloomberg, 03.30.12).
· Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said there can be no time limit on efforts to end the confrontation over Iran's nuclear program. "After all we have no smoking gun that underpins accusations" Iran is seeking nuclear weapons, Ryabkov said. (Reuters, 03.30.12).
· Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov has described the U.S. and E.U. policy of stepping up sanctions against Iran as "total surrealism." "Our partners in the E.U. and European Union regard sanctions like, for example, groups of teenagers in various societies, who are very much fascinated by amulets and talismans," Ryabkov said. (Interfax, 04.03.12).
· Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said that the date and place for talks with Iran on its controversial nuclear programme have not been set, despite a U.S. announcement over the first such meeting in more than a year. (AFP, 04.02.12).
· "It is hard to predict consequences (of military action), but they would obviously be very serious and negative," Sergei Lavrov said. "Should anyone want to do this (attack Iran), they won't take it to the U.N. Security Council because they know that the Security Council will not authorize the use of force," Lavrov added (FNS, Interfax, 04.02.12).
NATO-Russia cooperation, including transit to Afghanistan:
· Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko will be appointed Russia's next ambassador to NATO, a diplomatic source has said. (RIA Novosti, 04.06.12).
· The projected Ulyanovsk transit base for NATO supplies to and from Afghanistan will remain under Russian customs control and will have no NATO personnel, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said. (RIA Novosti, 04.05.12).
· No significant developments.
· Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has called a statement the U.S. ambassador in Moscow, Michael McFaul, that the United States would accept “no limitations” on its missile defense plans “arrogant.” (Moscow News, 04.04.12).
· Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said: “Not only is there no chance of reaching agreement without giving the guarantees a legally-binding character, but there is no chance of reaching agreement unless these guarantees are accompanied by objective criteria that the U.S. missile defense is not targeted against our interests.” (Interfax, 04.03.12).
· NATO-Russian theatre missile defense exercises ended on March 30th. (Interfax, 04.03.12).
· NATO allies plan to announce at their May 20-21 summit in Chicago that the European missile interceptor system has reached an“interim capability,” a senior U.S. official said. (Arms Control Today, April 2012).
Nuclear arms control:
· "We are not ready so far to negotiate (that issue) but we are ready for a serious discussion of what it should look like," Under Secretary of State Rose Gottemoeller said of tactical nuclear arms during her visit to Moscow. (Xinhua. 03.30.12).
· The White House never asked for options about shrinking the U.S. nuclear arsenal to just 300 deployed warheads, says Steven Pifer, a former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, citing conversations with Defense Department officials. (U.S. News and World Report, 04.03.12).
· Writing an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal, Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl suggested that Obama was looking to compromise U.S. missile defense capabilities in Europe to gain another round of arms reductions with Russia. (The Hill, 04.03.12).
· The defense satellite launched by Russia on March 30 was the last second-generation vehicle of the missile attack warning network. Thus, Russia has run out of old satellites for monitoring U.S. missiles. (Interfax, 04.02.12).
· No significant developments.
Energy exports from CIS:
· No significant developments.
Access to major markets for exports and imports:
· Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry said that he supports joining replacing longstanding human rights sanctions on Russia with new human rights sanctions on Russian officials. Russia will react in strong terms if the USA replaces the Jackson-Vanik amendment with new anti-Russian restrictive measures, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said. (Foreign Policy, 03.30.12, Interfax, 04.03.12).
· The Russian side may draw up a set of symmetrical retaliatory measures if the USA fails to abolish the Jackson-Vanik amendment, deputy head of the Federation Council Committee for International Affairs Valeriy Shnyakin said. (Interfax, 04.04.12).
Other bilateral issues:
· Russia lashed out on Friday over the sentencing of convicted Russian arms trafficker Viktor Bout to 25 years in prison, calling the decision by a New York court “baseless and biased” and warning that it could hamper relations between Moscow and Washington. (New York Times, 04.06.12).
· Russia charged a reserve colonel with espionage on Tuesday for selling what officials said were classified topographical maps to the Pentagon. (New York Times, 04.05.12).
· The scale of funding provided by the United States to Russian groups and movements is becoming a problem in the bilateral relationship, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said. (Interfax, 04.03.12).
· Vice President Joe Biden said of Mitt Romney’s comment that Russia is America’s No. 1 geopolitical foe: “He acts like he thinks the Cold War is still on, Russia is still our major adversary. I don't know where he has been.” Romney policy director Lanhee Chen quickly jumped to his candidate's defense. “Vice President Biden appears to have forgotten the Russian government's opposition to crippling sanctions on Iran, its obstructionism on Syria, and its own backsliding into authoritarianism,” he said. (AP, Reuters, 04.01.12).
· The Russian Foreign Ministry has received a request from the United States, regarding the safety of U.S. Ambassador Michael McFaul, and is conducting an inquiry. (Interfax, 04.02.12).
· "The Church should try to fill the 'reset' with something substantive from the point of view of the humanitarian, humane dimension," Patriarch of Moscow and All-Russia Kirill said at a meeting with U.S. ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul. (Interfax, 03.30.12).
· Russian Embassy officials defended their country's defense of the Syrian regime in a meeting with congressional staffers on Capitol Hill on Tuesday. (Foreign Policy, 04.03.12).
· Over the past four years, Russians and other citizens of the former Soviet Union have signed contracts to buy more than $1 billion worth of residential real estate in the United States, according to estimates from lawyers and brokers. (New York Times, 04.03.12).
II. Russia news.
Domestic Politics, Economy and Energy:
· Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Tuesday signed off on a new law that makes it easier to register political parties, cutting the required number of members to 500 from the previous 40,000. (Reuters, 04.04.12).
· Yevgeny R. Urlashov, an anticorruption crusader supported by a panoply of opposition leaders, declared a victory over his Kremlin-backed opponent in an election for mayor of Yaroslavl. (New York Times, 04.02.12).
· Russia's top investigative agency says that a Russian plane crash that killed 31 people most likely was caused by a failure to de-ice the aircraft. (Business Week, 04.05.12).
· The Bank of Russia reported that capital outflows reached $35.1 billion in the first quarter, nearly double the $19.8 billion seen a year earlier. (Wall Street Journal, 04.05.12).
· Economy Minister Elvira Nabiullina told ministers she was cutting the GDP forecast to 3.4 percent from an earlier 3.7 percent. The economy ministry has also raised its forecast oil price in 2012 to $115 from $100 a barrel. (Reuters, Interfax, 04.06.12).
· Russia’s Techsnabexport showed a record-breaking amount of foreign currency proceeds from uranium product sales that totaled $3.34 billion in 2011 compared to $3.25 billion in 2010. (SKRIN, 04.06.12).
· Western investors are considering teaming up with the Moscow city government to invest in an $800m venture designed to overhaul the Russian capital's healthcare system. (Financial Times, 04.05.12).
· Seventy-three percent of Russians believe that they get all the news that they need from the national television channels, Levada Center pollster said. (Moscow Times, 04.05.12).
· Russia ranks as the 76th happiest country in an international list of some 150 countries, according the World Happiness Report by the Earth Institute of Columbia University. (RIA Novosti, 04.05.12).
· Russia’s former finance minister Alexei Kudrin announced the creation of an independent committee to shape policies alternative to those of the government. (AP, 04.05.12).
· No significant developments.
Security and law-enforcement:
· Russian economic crimes police have discovered a case of embezzlement worth almost 200 million rubles allocated for developing the country’s nuclear weapons sector. (RIA Novosti, 04.03.12).
· Russian security forces killed five Islamist rebels suspected of plotting suicide attacks in the capital of the republic of Ingushetia on Tuesday. (AP, 04.03.12).
· Russia and Pakistan could use their potential to tackle nuclear-related challenges and also to address terrorism, Moscow Defence University Professor Oleg Kulakov said during a “Pakistan-Russia Nuclear Dialogue.” (The Express Tribune, 04.04.12).
· India has added a Russian Nerpa nuclear submarine to its navy, becoming the sixth country to operate underwater nuclear-powered vessels. (AP, 04.04.12).
· Russia could support a U.N. Security Council motion on Syria if it doesn’t contain ultimatums to Bashar Assad’s government, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Laverov said Thursday. (AP, 04.04.12).
· Russia’s foreign minister Sergey Lavrov said Monday Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government must take the first step toward settling the country’s conflict by pulling out troops from cities. (AP, 04.02.12).
· "We never defended Assad," Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said. "If his exit becomes part of some internal Syrian solution, initiated by all Syrian sides, then why not?" (Bloomberg, 03.30.12).
· Over 20 warships and support vessels will take part in a joint Russian-Chinese exercise, Naval Cooperation 2012, in the Yellow Sea on April 22-29. (Interfax, 03.30.12).
· Pyongyang has invited Russia's Federal Space Agency (Roskosmos) to send its representatives to the planned launch this month of North Korean satellite Kwangmyongsong-3 but will ignore the invitation. (Interfax, 04.04.12).
· British intelligence agency MI5 has issued a public warning that exiled Chechen rebel envoy Akhmed Zakayev, who lives in London, had been targeted in a murder plot. MI5 said Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov ordered Zakayev's death. But Zakayev said that the pro-Moscow Chechen leadership has nothing to do with the recent assassination plot against him. (Moscow Times, 04.05.12, BBC, 04.06.12)
· A 60-year-old civil servant at the Dutch foreign affairs ministry has been arrested on charges of selling government information to a couple living in Germany who are alleged to be spies for Russia. (DutchNews, 04.02.12).
· In March 2012 Ukraine reported completing removal of HEU from its territory, fulfilling the pledge made by the president of Ukraine at the 2010 Nuclear Security Summit. A small amount of HEU, however, remained in Ukraine at the Kharkov Institute of Physics and Technology. (IPFM Blog, 04.05.12).
· NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has reaffirmed that Georgia's accession to the alliance is an irreversible process and has no alternative, Georgian Deputy Foreign Minister Tornike Gordadze said. (Interfax, 04.03.12).
· Freedom House has said after meeting Ukraine's jailed former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko that it's seriously concerned for her health. Ukrainian prosecutors say they are probing whether Tymoshenko was involved in ordering a 1990s contract killing. (RFE/RL, 04.04.12, Financial Times, 04.02.12).
· Former Ukrainian environment minister Heorhiy Filipchuk has been sentenced to three years in jail for abuse of power. (RFE/RL, 04.06.12).
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