Russia in Review
April 13, 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 April 13-20, 2012.
Russia in Review: a digest of useful news from U.S.-Russia Initiative to Prevent Nuclear Terrorism for the week of April 13-20, 2012
I. U.S. and Russian priorities for the bilateral agenda.
Nuclear security agenda:
· Chairman of the House of Representatives’ Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee Rodney Freylinghuysen said of Obama administration's Fiscal Year 2013 budget request for core nuclear material security programs: "Funding for Nonproliferation, although below the request, actually increases for some core programs. $100 million is provided to support new uranium enrichment activities." (Nukes of Hazard, 04.19.12).
Iran nuclear issues:
· No significant developments.
NATO-Russia cooperation, including transit to Afghanistan:
· NATO has invited Russia to take part in a meeting on Afghanistan on sidelines of the NATO summit in Chicago, but Moscow says it is still undecided whether to accept the invitation. (RIA Novosti, 04.19.12).
· Russia's foreign minister sharply criticized NATO's plan to withdraw its forces from Afghanistan by 2014, saying Thursday that coalition troops should remain in the country until Afghan government forces are capable of ensuring security. (AP, 04.19.12).
· "NATO is painting us a rosy picture, one showing that everything is fine and dandy. In fact, however, the situation is quite bleak," a source within the Russian Foreign Ministry said of Afghanistan. "Terrorist activeness remains high. The Talibs pose a threat to Central Asian countries... some even make it into Russia. As for NATO, it overlooks all our calls and appeals to it to start going after poppy fields." (Kommersant, 04.19.20).
· Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov attacked NATO by accusing it of spreading instability in Libya and neighboring countries. (Moscow Times, 04.19.12).
· No significant developments.
· A source within NATO HQ said that NATO leaders meeting in late May in Chicago might make a joint political declaration to the effect that the European ballistic missile defense system would pose no threats to the Russian strategic potential or for that matter to the existing strategic parity. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said a written political declaration, as offered by NATO, was insufficient and that the guarantees should be based on "objective military, technical and other" criteria. Lavrov said Moscow would stage a public evaluation of the missile shield's technical capability during a major conference planned by the Defense Ministry for May 3 and 4 in Moscow. NATO officials said the alliance had been invited but a decision had yet to be made on who would attend. (Moscow Times, 04.20.12, Kommersant, 04.19.12).
· “There actually are [Russian] capabilities that we could benefit from. It's primarily...their large sensors that they have for their homeland defense,” Director of the Missile Defense Agency Lt. Gen. Patrick O'Reilly told the Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee. (RIA Novosti, 04.19.20).
· Russia failed to sway Italy on NATO’s missile defense shield that is to be deployed in Europe, Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov said on Friday. (RIA Novosti, 04.20.12).
· Poland and the Baltic states voiced concern over Russia's missile defence plans in the Kaliningrad enclave. (AFP, 04.17.12).
Nuclear arms control:
· In the next few weeks, the Republican leadership on the House Armed Services Committee is expected to try to block implementation of the New START Treaty unless the Obama administration agrees to further increase spending on the U.S. nuclear weapons infrastructure. Blocking U.S. implementation of New START, as Strategic Forces Subcommittee chairman Rep. Michael Turner (R-Ohio)'s bill H.R. 4178 threatens to do, would likely result in Russia doing the same. (Arms Control Today, 04.20.12).
· A reciprocal reduction of tactical nuclear weapons of Russia and the United States can be discussed only after Washington returns this type of weapons from Europe back to its territory and dismantles all the necessary infrastructure for its use, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has said. According to Lavrov, this topic was discussed at the meeting of the Russia-NATO Council., and Moscow's position was heard. (Interfax, 04.19.12).
· No significant developments.
Energy exports from CIS:
· Exxon has teamed up with Rosneft to develop oil and natural gas fields in Russia and North America. The companies could invest over $500 billion in their joint venture. They said recoverable hydrocarbon reserves at the three key Arctic fields are estimated at 85 billion barrels of oil equivalent. (AP, 04.18.12).
· Russia is willing to give a prominent role to foreign companies ready to develop some of the oil fields in the Arctic Sea, energy czar Igor Sechin said in New York. Sechin said that by 2030 up to 40 percent of Russia's oil production could come from currently untapped areas such as the Arctic Sea and Black Sea. (Wall Street Journal, 04.18.12).
· The consortium developing Azerbaijan's Shah Deniz gas field will go ahead with the Front End Engineering and Design phase of the estimated $25 billion stage II project, BP said. (Reuters, 04.17.12).
Access to major markets for exports and imports:
· No significant developments.
Other bilateral issues:
· An updated bill imposing a visa ban and asset freeze on Russian officials allegedly linked to the death in custody of Russian tax lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, as well as on "individuals responsible for other gross violations of human rights" in Russia has been introduced in the U.S. Congress. (RIA Novosti, 04.20.12).
· U.S. Senator Benjamin Cardin (Democrat-Maryland) says he expects a "macho" response from Moscow should Congress pass legislation punishing Russian officials implicated in the death of lawyer Sergei Magnitsky. (RFE/RL, 04.19.12).
· Units of the Russian and U.S. airborne troops will take part in joint anti-terrorist exercise at Fort Carson, Colorado, United States from May 24-31, 2012, a Russian Airborne Troops spokesman said. (Interfax, 04.19.12).
· “The world is better off when the United States takes the lead. We should not be playing ‘Mother, may I?’ about sanctions on Iran and relations with China and Russia,” said Richard Williamson, a top Mitt Romney foreign policy adviser. (AP, 04.18.12).
· Gallup asked residents in more than 130 countries in 2011 whether they approved or disapproved of the leadership of five nations, including the U.S. and Russia. The polls showed that median worldwide approval of U.S. to be highest at 46 percent. The leadership of Russia 28 percent. (Gallup, 04.19.12).
· Russian businessman Boris Zingarevich has acquired United States battery manufacturer Ener1, which was granted subsidies by the U.S. government as part of a stimulus. (Moscow Times, 04.13.12).
II. Russia news.
Domestic Politics, Economy and Energy:
· State Duma may confirm Dmitry Medvedev as Russia’s prime minister on the next day after Vladimir Putin’s May 7 inauguration. (Kommersant, 04.19.12).
· A new development plan for Russia's depressive eastern Siberia and the Far East will usher in a mega-corporation partially exempt from federal legislation and subordinate only to the president. (RIA Novosti, 04.20.12).
· President Dmitry Medvedev does not see a clearly formed protest movement in Russia, but he pledged to heed the opposition sentiment. Medvedev said at an Open Government meeting on Tuesday that he has no clear idea of "who representatives of the so-called protest movement are." (Interfax, 04.17.12).
· Some of Dmitry Medvedev's promised moves to open up the political system have been weakened: Parties won't be allowed to form blocs that could boost electoral chances. Kremlin retains influence in screening which candidates can run. Kremlin is to appoint the top official of the public TV network. (Wall Street Journal, 04.19.12).
· President Dmitry Medvedev signed a decree on Tuesday to establish a national public television channel that is due to go on air on Jan. 1, 2013. (Moscow News, 04.18.12).
· Industrial production in Russia rose 2 percent from a year earlier, compared with a 6.5 percent increase in February, the federal statistics service in Moscow said Monday in an e-mailed statement. (Bloomberg, 04.17.12).
· The Federal Service for Ecological, Technological and Nuclear Oversight increased the number of inspections of nuclear power plants by 50 percent after the accident at the NPP in Fukushima. The number of violations of federal regulations at these facilities have increased, but the overall number of violations of accounted violations remained at the level of previous years. This year the service is to host an IAEA mission that will inspect the service’s work as a regulator. (Rostekhnadzor, 04.17.12).
· Fifteen Russian nuclear energy managers lost their jobs over corruption in 2011 compared to 35 in 2010. (Proatom.ru, 04.16.12).
· Half of Russia's adult population uses the Internet. Among people under 34, the Internet is the most used media, even ahead of television, according to a Public Opinion Fund poll. Russia now boasts the most Internet users among European countries, and is sixth in the world, according to the TNS media research company. (Moscow News, 04.18.12).
· Opposition leader and anti-corruption blogger Alexei Navalny was the only Russian named by Time magazine as one of the world's 100 most influential figures. (Moscow Times, 04.19.12).
· Russian mining magnate Alisher Usmanov has become Russia's wealthiest businessman according to the 2012 Rich List published by the Russian edition of Forbes magazine on Thursday. Over the year, the number of dollar-denominated billionaires fell by five to 96. The aggregate wealth of Russia's top 200 entrepreneurs amounted to $446.3 billion in 2012 ($498.6 billion in 2011). (RIA Novosti, 04.19.12).
· United Russia's Grigory Anikeyev ranked as the best-earning State Duma deputy with $92 million earned in 2011 after the legislature published income statements by its members Saturday. (AP, 04.16.12).
· According to one Knight Frank and Citibank, in the next five years the share of Russians worthy over hundred million dollars will grow by 76 percent. (Valdai Club, 04.17.12).
· McDonald's plans to open 45 restaurants in Russia in 2012. In 2011, the company launched 37 restaurants in Russia. Currently, the McDonald's network embraces 314 restaurants in more than 85 cities. (Itar-Tass, 04.16.12).
· The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute said Russia overtook Britain and France to become the world's third largest arms spender, to the tune of some $8 billion — a 9.3 percent increase over 2010. (AP, 04.16.12).
· Russia plans to establish 20 new Arctic border posts to control its Northern frontier and the Northern Sea Route. (Russia Today, 04.16.12).
· China and Russia will conduct a joint maritime drill on April 22-27 in the Yellow Sea off China’s eastern coast. (AP, 04.17.12).
· The Russian nuclear shield "while securely protecting the Fatherland and the nations historically close to us in spirit, at the same time serves the cause of peace, maintaining most important balances, which deny others the right and the opportunity to go unpunished when using lethal nuclear weapons," Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill said. (Interfax, 04.16.12).
Security and law-enforcement:
· The Investigative Committee has set up a special department that will investigate crimes committed by police and other law enforcement officers. (RIA Novosti, 04.20.12).
· The chief of Russian nuclear reactor design bureau Gidropress, a subsidiary of the State Atomic Energy Corporation Rosatom, has been detained on suspicion of an 18-million-ruble ($600,000) fraud. (RIA Novosti, 04.18.12).
· Russia continues its probe into the murder of Anna Politkovskaya in 2006, the Investigative Committee said, expressing "astonishment" at comments by the Interior Ministry that the case is almost solved. (Bloomberg, 04.16.12).
· Vladimir Putin’s government ended supplies of weapons including anti-tank missiles and grenade-launchers to Syria after reports in January of a Russian shipment of ammunition to Syria provoked criticism from the U.S., according to a person close to the Defense Ministry in Moscow (Bloomberg, 04.18.12).
· The Security Council voted unanimously Saturday to send up to 30 U.N. blue berets to Syria. A day after these monitors arrived in Syria, Russia said that a fragile cease-fire was under threat from “external forces.” (AP, 04.17.12).
· Syria faces a catastrophic civil war if both sides in the crisis that has gripped the country for over a year fail to take advantage of the current fragile ceasefire there, Russia's Foreign Ministry said on Friday. (RIA Novosti, 04.20.12).
· Russia’s foreign minister insisted Wednesday that only the United Nations can assess how well international envoy Kofi Annan’s cease-fire plan is being implemented in Syria. (AP, 04.18.12).
· Iran’s semiofficial Fars news agency says Russia and China have asked Tehran to provide them with information on a U.S. drone captured in December. (AP, 04.19.12).
· Turkish authorities have confiscated a small quantity of cesium 137 after following up on information indicating the radioactive material had been trafficked into the nation from Georgia. (GSN, 04.17.12).
· Members of a suspected terrorist group arrested this month in Azerbaijan had links to al-Qaeda and some trained in neighboring Iran, officials said Thursday. (AP, 04.19.12).
· The trial of 47 men charged with terrorism has ended in the western Kazakh city of Atyrau. (RFE/RL, 04.18.12).
· Tajikistan has rejected requests by foreign powers to allow them to set up military bases on its territory because it does not want to upset Russia, its president said Tuesday. (Reuters, 04.18.12).
· A suspect in the Feb. 22 assassination attempt on Abkhazia's president, Alexander Ankvab, committed suicide in a pretrial detention center overnight Wednesday, a day after the former head of Abkhazia's Interior Ministry shot himself and another suspect tried to cut his own throat. (Moscow Times, 04.19.12).
· Ukraine has begun the first hearing in a new trial against former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. Tymoshenko is accused of tax evasion and attempted theft related to her activities as the head of a major gas-trading company in the 1990s. (RFE/RL, 04.19.12).
· Russia has agreed to reopen its borders to Ukrainian cheese imports. (Reuters, 04.17.12).
· The Armenian government has decided to extend the operation of the country’s sole nuclear power plant until a new nuclear reactor is built. (AP, 04.19.12).
· The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) has welcomed the outcome of the latest round of negotiations between Moldova and its breakaway Transdniester region which ended on April 18 with an agreement on principles and procedures for future negotiations. (RFE/RL, 04.18.12).
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