Russia in Review
April 27, 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 20-27, 2012.
Russia in Review: a digest of useful news from U.S.-Russia Initiative to Prevent Nuclear Terrorism for the week of April 20-27, 2012
I. U.S. and Russian priorities for the bilateral agenda.
Nuclear security agenda:
· Russia's military leadership has for the first time acknowledged a nuclear threat from Iran and North Korea.“The threat is always there, so we closely monitor the nuclear program developments of many countries," Army General Nikolai Makarov, the chief of the General Staff, said."The analysis that we conducted together with the Americans confirms that, yes, there is a probability that the threat exists. And we agreed that it is necessary to create a missile defense system,” Makarov said.“Many countries that claim not to possess nuclear weapons do in fact have them,” Makarov said.“Certainly, if it gets into the hands of extremists, it represents a threat to international security,” Makarov said. (RIA Novosti, 04.24.12.).
· There are no concerns with regard to the security of nuclear materials or storage facilities in Russia, said the Russian Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Vitaly Churkin. (Itar-Tass, 04.20.12).
· Prevention of nuclear terrorism attempts is one of the major tasks being addressed by the Strategic Missile Forces in view of the existing terrorist threats, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Col. Vadim Koval said. “From 2012, the pace of re-equipping the Strategic Missile Forces facilities with new protection and defence systems will increase significantly, at least doubles," Koval said. (Interfax, 04.23.12).
· Russia's Defense Ministry is collecting information about developments on the North Korean nuclear program and analyzing them "but it is too early to draw any conclusions," Defense Minister Serdyukov said. (Interfax, 04.25.12).
· In about five years, the United States will not have a single active engineer with actual nuclear weapons testing experience, according to Thomas D’Agostino, the Administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration. (The Foundry, 04.26.12).
Iran nuclear issues:
· Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said on Wednesday that Iran and Western nations had shown interest in Russia’s "step-by-step" resolution to the dispute over Iran's nuclear program, but suggested it had not been the focus of talks this month. (Reuters, 04.25.12).
NATO-Russia cooperation, including transit to Afghanistan:
· Russian warships will be equipped with NATO navigation and communications systems to improve coordination in anti-piracy missions around the world, first of all in the Gulf of Aden, Chief of the Russian General Staff Nikolay Makarov said. The issue was up for discussion at a meeting of the NATO-Russia Council in Brussels. (Barents Observer, 04.26.12).
· Guaranteeing NATO cargo transit from Afghanistan to Europe via Russia requires a political decision, which may be taken this year, chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces Gen. Nikolai Makarov said on the sidelines of a NATO-Russia Council meeting in Brussels. (Interfax, 04.26,12).
· U.S. Vice President Joe Biden said: “Russia gave us permission to transit Russian territory and airspace with weapons and supplies for American troops in Afghanistan - the only other source and now the sole source, hopefully, only temporarily.” (White House, 04.26.12).
· No significant developments.
· The House of Representatives' Armed Services Strategic Forces subcommittee mark-up adds $357 million to the Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) program, for a total of $1.3 billion. Of the new funding, $100 million is for the Defense Department to evaluate three possible locations selected for a covered missile defense site on the East Coast of the United States. The Obama administration is expected to oppose the East Coast site as unnecessary. The Missile Defense Agency’s 2013 budget request was $7.8 billion. (Defense News, Reuters, 04.26.12)
· The House of Representatives' Armed Services Strategic Forces subcommittee voted to hold back 25 percent of funds authorized for certain missile defense shield expenses until the NATO allies spell out their contributions. (Reuters, 04.26.12).
· President Barack Obama’s missile defense shield program designed to protect the United States and Europe from an Iranian missile attack, faces major delays, cost overruns and critical technological problems, according to reports by the Defense Science Board and Government Accountability Office. The GAO report, which was released on Friday, warned that the Defense Department is committing to technologies before they are proven and said that the administration is risking “performance shortfalls, unexpected cost increases, schedule delays and test problems.” (AP, 04.21.12).
· Outgoing President Dmitry Medvedev on Wednesday relieved Dmitry Rogozin of his duties as Russia's representative to NATO over a planned U.S.-led missile shield in Europe, the Kremlin's press service said. (RIA Novosti, 04.25.12).
· "The missile defence development system adopted as part of the four stages may disrupt the stability of the strategic forces of the Russian Federation and stability in Europe from 2017-2018 at the latest," chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces Army Gen Nikolay Makarov told journalists at the NATO headquarters in Brussels, where he took part in a meeting of the Russia-NATO Council at the level of chiefs of general (main) staffs. (Interfax, 04.25.12).
· The missile defense system in Poland does not jeopardize Russia’s nuclear forces, Army General Nikolai Makarov, chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces, said.“However, if it is modernized…it could affect our nuclear capability and in that case a political decision may be made to deploy Iskander systems in the Kaliningrad region,” he said. (RIA Novosti, 04.24.12).
· Participants from 50 countries will attend a missile defense conference in Moscow on May 3-4, Chief of the Russian General Staff, Army Gen. Nikolai Makarov said. NATO Deputy Secretary General Alexander Vershbow will attend the conference. (RIA Novosti, 04.26.12, Moscow Times, 04.24.12).
Nuclear arms control:
· In an April 26 letter to President Barack Obama, 12 freshmen Republican senators say the administration is not funding nuclear modernization at the levels it promised when the New START Treaty was ratified.“A failure to honor past nuclear modernization commitments will impact our willingness to support New START implementation and any future treaties related to our nuclear weapons complex,” the senators say. (Defense News, 04.26.12).
· The Nuclear Risk Reduction Center, established in 1988 so that Washington and Moscow could alert each other to missile tests and space launches that could be mistaken as acts of aggression, would take a central role in a new US-Russian cyber agreement. The secure channel would be a milestone in the effort to ensure that misperceptions in cyberspace — where it is difficult to know who is behind a digital attack or even whether a computer disruption is the result of deliberate action — do not escalate to full hostilities, say U.S. officials and experts from both countries. The agreement would not address cyber-espionage and cyber-theft issues, or political differences. (Washington Post, 04.26.12).
Energy exports from CIS:
· Italy's Eni and Rosneft of Russia have signed a pact to jointly develop vast offshore reserves in Russia's Barents and Black Seas. The deal will grant Eni a 33 per cent stake in a joint venture for developing two big blocks in the Barents Sea and the Val Shatsky field in the Black Sea. (Financial Times, 04.26.12).
Access to major markets for exports and imports:
· The Obama administration should intensify its push to grant Russia permanent normal trade relations, which would benefit U.S. companies, Dave Camp, the Republican chairman of a House committee that oversees trade issues said. (Bloomberg, 04.26.12).
Other bilateral issues:
· After intense lobbying from top Obama administration officials, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry decided not to put the Sergei Magnitsky bill on the agenda of the next business meeting, delaying consideration of the bill until May at the earliest, after the visit to the U.S. of Russian President-elect Vladimir Putin. The U.S. State Department says it is in favor of punishing Russian officials implicated in human rights abuses, but does not necessarily support the bill. (Foreign Policy, 04.24.12, Moscow Times, 04.26.12).
· Both the U.S. and Russian governments are concerned with what is going on in the other country, but there is no need to "demonize" Washington and accuse it of trying to dominate Russia's political life, outgoing Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said on Thursday. Medvedev also reiterated his belief that the past four years were "the best in the history of Russian-U.S. relations." (RIA Novosti, 04.26.12).
· Marco Rubio, Florida senator, continued his audition as a potential Republican vice-presidential candidate saying the US had "gotten precious little" in return for nuclear concessions to Moscow. (Financial Times, 04.26.12).
· "Unfortunately, Gov. Romney's apparent determination to take U.S.-Russian relations back to the '50s also causes him to misstate the facts," Vice President Joe Biden said of presumed Republican nominee Mitt Romney’s recent observation that Russia is America’s "No. 1 geopolitical foe.” (Washington Post, 04.27.12).
II. Russia news.
Domestic Politics, Economy and Energy:
· President-elect Vladimir Putin will take the oath of office on May 7. The current president, Dmitry Medvedev, is expected to take up Putin's current post of prime minister on the next day. (RIA Novosti, Guardian, 03.25.12).
· President Dmitri Medvedev said his political partnership with Vladimir Putin would remain in place "for a long time." "We have already announced certain plans, so it seems to me that everyone should relax," Mr. Medvedev said. "This will be in place for a long time." He also admitted disappointment over some of the goals of his four-year presidency, saying that his anticorruption drive was stymied "because officials are a corporation, and they do not want anyone to meddle in their affairs." (New York Times, 04.27.12).
· Russian President Dmitry Medvedev accepted an offer to lead the ruling United Russia Party Friday after President-elect Vladimir Putin resigned from the post. (UPI, 04.27.12).
· The Russian parliament on Wednesday passed a Kremlin bill restoring gubernatorial elections, with opponents saying the new law will still allow the president to screen out undesirable candidates. (AP, 04.25.12).
· Nearly 30% Russians reckon that Vladimir Putin will remain the president until 2024, according to Levada-Center sociologists, (Kommersant, 04.26.12).
· Russia's shadow economy is gradually shrinking and is now estimated at about 15%, according to the Federal Statistics Service. (Interfax, 04.25.12).
· President Dmitry Medvedev has relieved Russian Air Force Commander Alexander Zelin of his post and fired him from the military in a move that could end in the Air Force’s merger with the Air and Space Defense Forces. Medvedev also dismissed the Ground Forces Commander Aleksander Postnikov-Streltsov from his post, appointing him deputy chief of General Staff. Former commander of the Central Military District Vladimir Chirkin was made head the Ground Forces. (Russia Today, 04.27.12).
· All contracts as part of this year's state defense order have already been agreed on, except for a deal on the purchase of the Borei Project missile carrying submarines, Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov. A cost dispute would probably prevent the ministry from finalizing the deal this month, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said. (Interfax, 04.26. 12, GSN, 04.25.12).
· Russia will draft a new concept for the development of its defense industry that reflects existing and potential threats to its national security by the end of 2012, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said on Tuesday. Rogozin has denied media reports that cited him telling reporters on Tuesday that Russia has a new military doctrine in its plans for this year. (RIA Novosti, Interfax, 04.26.12).
Security and law-enforcement:
· The Russian Interior Ministry reform has just begun; the general condition of law and order cannot be judged by individual lawbreakers, President Dmitry Medvedev told Russian television on Thursday. (Interfax, 04.26.12).
· Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Monday pardoned a man accused of head-butting a police officer during an anti-Kremlin demonstration, but left uncertain the fates of 31 other prisoners championed by the opposition as he prepares to leave office. (Wall Street Journal, 04.24.12).
· China and Russia on Friday ended their first joint naval exercises, which included live fire drills. The six days of drills off China's eastern coast were the first between the two countries dedicated to naval exercises. China deployed 16 naval vessels and two submarines for the exercises while Russia dispatched four warships and three supply ships. (AsiaOne, 04.27.12).
· While China would be happy to buy new S-400 air defense missile systems ready now, Russia could sell them to China no earlier than 2017, Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov said. (Interfax, 04.26.12).
· Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov was in Beijing on Tuesday to attend a meeting of defense ministers from Shanghai Cooperation Organization member states. (Interfax,04.24.12).
· Chinese Vice Premier Li Keqiang arrived in Russia Thursday to meet President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. (Wall Street Journal, 04.26.12).
· The situation in Syria is gradually improving mainly due to the efforts of the UN observers monitoring the ceasefire, a spokesman for Russian Foreign Ministry said. (RIA Novosti, 04.26.12).
· The United Nations Security Council unanimously approved increasing the number of cease-fire monitors in Syria. (New York Times, 04.22.12).
· Russia’s second-largest oil producer Lukoil has begun drilling in one of Iraq’s biggest and most promising oil fields in the south. (AP, 04.25.12).
· Russian parliamentary deputy Andrei Lugovoi – who is widely suspected of murdering the former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko - has reportedly passed a lie detector test administered by the UK Polygraph Association. (Financial Times, 04.26.12).
· At least four blasts have been reported in the eastern Ukrainian city of Dnipropetrovsk, injuring 27 people. (RFE/RL, 04.27.12).
· Ukraine's jailed former prime minister, Yulia Tymoshenko, declared a hunger strike on Tuesday after what she said was an assault by prison guards that left her black and blue. The EU's foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, said she is "deeply preoccupied" by the situation of Tymoshenko. Russia's Foreign Ministry issued a statement on Tuesday that Moscow is concerned about the deteriorating health of Tymoshenko. (AP, RFE/RL, Nezavisimaya, 04.26.12).
· Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych took part in a ceremony to inaugurate the initial assembly of a steel-arch to cover the remnants of the exploded Chernobyl reactor No 4. (Bellona, 04.26.12).
· Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili said he was willing to tender his resignation if Russia gives up control of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. On a more bizarre note, Saakashvili said he was even willing to sacrifice parts of his body that Moscow has "shown interest in" -- a hint at then-President Vladimir Putin's infamous 2008 pledge to "hang Saakashvili by the balls." (RFE/RL, 04.27.12).
· Georgia’s breakaway region of Abkhazia has declared the head of the European Union's Monitoring Mission in Georgia "persona non grata." (RFE/RL, 04.25.12).
· Three Armenian servicemen were killed when gunmen shot at a military vehicle along the border with Azerbaijan early on April 27. (RFE/RL, 04.27.12).
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