Russia in Review
May 18, 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 May 11-18, 2012.
Russia in Review: a digest of useful news from U.S.-Russia Initiative to Prevent Nuclear Terrorism for the week of May 11-18, 2012
I. U.S. and Russian priorities for the bilateral agenda.
Nuclear security agenda:
· The United States Enrichment Corp has been bailed out in an Energy Department accord designed to keep that facility open one more year. USEC’s deal to blend down highly enriched uranium from decommissioned Russian nuclear warheads runs out next year, and competing companies can enrich uranium more cheaply. (Washington Post, 05.16.12).
· Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Countryman said: “It remains our goal to finish the removal of HEU stocks from Belarus by 2014.” Countryman also described Kazakhstan as America’s “model” non-proliferation partner in Central Asia. (Arms Control Today, May 2012).
Iran nuclear issues:
· Former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar said on Wednesday that Russian President Vladimir Putin told him in the past that Russia was not worried about Iran getting a nuclear weapon because Israel would prevent such a scenario by attacking Iran’s nuclear facilities. (Washington Post, 05.17.12).
NATO-Russia cooperation, including transit to Afghanistan:
· The war in Afghanistan, an "interim capability" of a missile shield for Europe, and the pooling of military resources in times of austerity top the agenda of the NATO summit in Chicago on Sunday and Monday. “Nothing will be said there that would be unacceptable,” according to chairman of the Foreign and Defense Policy Council Sergei Karaganov. Zamir Kabulov, who heads a Russian Foreign Ministry department in charge of Afghanistan, will most likely attend the summit. (AFP, Interfax, 05.16.12, Kommersant, 05.14.12).
· No significant developments.
· GOP amendments to the FY 2013 National Defense Authorization Act require the Pentagon to start work on a missile defense system to protect the East Coast. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the cost for 20 interceptors would be only $3.6 billion from 2013 to 2017. The House is to hold a final vote on Friday. The Democratic Senate will probably neuter the bill. (Washington Post, 05.16.12, Nukes of Hazard, 05.18.12).
· Acting Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov said: "The self-safe Iskander can deal with neutralizing the means that may stand in the way of our missiles." (GSN, 05.14.12).
· In a commentary published by the Wall Street Journal Senator Jon Kyl called on President Barack Obama to refrain from making even a political guarantee to Russia on the usage of U.S. missile interceptors planned for deployment in Europe. On Tuesday Kyl again urged Obama to refrain from giving Russia and China any assurances about possible limits to U.S. missile defenses. (Reuters, GSN, 05.15.12).
Nuclear arms control:
· President Barack Obama threatened on Tuesday to veto the amended FY 2013 National Defense Authorization Act that would authorize higher Pentagon spending, require construction of a plutonium pit production facility and could block implementation of parts of the New START nuclear arms reduction treaty with Russia. The House began consideration of the bill on Thursday and plans to complete action on amendments and hold a final vote on the bill on Friday. (Reuters, 05.15.12, Nukes of Hazard, 05.18.12).
· NATO should use the coming high-profile summit in Chicago to commit to new engagement with Russia over the two former Cold War antagonists' tactical nuclear arsenals, the foreign ministers of Poland and Norway urged in a Monday letter published in the New York Times. (GSN, 05.15.12).
· In a paper published by Global Zero General James Cartwright says the U.S. and Russia should cut their nuclear weapons to about 900 within 10 years. This big reduction should be accompanied by a move by the U.S. and Russia to increase warning and decision times over the possible launch of weapons. The Minuteman ICBM force would be eliminated, as would all U.S. tactical nuclear weapons, according to the paper. “I don’t agree with his assessment nor the study,” said Gen. Norton Schwartz, the Air Force chief of staff. (Financial Times, 05.16.12, Defense News, 05.17.12).
· No significant developments.
Energy exports from CIS:
· Turkey says it is close to an agreement to bring gas from the Caspian Sea to Europe, a deal seen as marking the end of the road for Nabucco. (Financial Times, 05.17.12).
· Doubts over the Nabucco gas pipeline's future are growing, after Germany warned it may follow in Hungary's footsteps and walk out of the project. (Russia Today, 05.15.12).
Access to major markets for exports and imports:
· No significant developments.
Other bilateral issues:
· Barack Obama will miss an Asia-Pacific summit in Russia hosted by [President] Vladimir [Putin] during the same week in September as the Democratic national convention in North Carolina, the White House said on Monday. The U.S. announcement followed the Russian president's decision to pull out of a G-8 to be hosted this weekend by Mr. Obama. Both countries have denied using summit decisions to snub the other. The Kommersant newspaper reported Thursday, citing U.S. sources, that Dmitry Medvedev's talks with U.S. President Barack Obama at the G-8 summit had been sharply downgraded by the U.S. side after Putin's non-show. Medvedev’s aide Arkady Dvorkovich dismissed the idea of the downgrade, calling the issue "inappropriate.” (Financial Times, 05.14.12).
· President Vladimir Putin is showing U.S. President Barack Obama his displeasure over the criticism of Russian elections and the lack of progress on a planned missile shield by skipping the Group of Eight summit for the first time as president, said Alexei Pushkov, the head of the foreign-affairs committee in the lower house of parliament. (Bloomberg, 05.15.12).
· Russian and Afghan police seized more than four tons of narcotics in a joint operation, assisted by U.S. law-enforcers, director of the Russian drug control service Viktor Ivanov said. Ivanov said that up to 40 percent of the GDP in Central Asia comes from criminal activities, particularly the illegal narcotics business. (Itar-Tass, 05.18.12).
· The Russian Foreign Ministry has warned that the possible enforcement of the so-called Magnitsky list in the U.S. would imply gross interference in Russia's internal affairs, and Moscow hopes that this will not happen. (Reuters, 05.15.12).
· The U.S. may consider an application to transfer Viktor Bout, sentenced to 25 years in jail, to serve his prison term in Russia should one be received, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said. Earlier this week, the U.S. Bureau of Prisons announced that it was reconsidering its plan to send the Russian businessman to the high-security Supermax prison in Florence, Colorado. (Russia Today, 05.17.12).
· Twenty-two Russian army paratroopers are in Colorado for two weeks of training on basic soldier skills ranging from firing weapons to making parachute drops with the 10th Special Forces Group at Fort Carson. Next year, an equal number of U.S. soldiers from 10th Special Forces Group are expected to go to Russia for similar exercises. (AP, 05.17.12).
· Russia increased investments in U.S. Treasuries March 2012 to $146.7 billion from $144.8 billion for February, the U.S. Federal Reserve and Department of the Treasury said in their materials. (Interfax, 05.16.12).
· The harsh anti-American tone that sounded so loudly here over the past six months has grown quiet. (Washington Post, 05.17.12).
II. Russia news.
Domestic Politics, Economy and Energy:
· Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev proposed a new Cabinet to President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday. The names of the cabinet members would become public soon after Medvedev returns from the Group of Eight summit. Acting Deputy Prime Ministers Igor Sechin and Viktor Zubkov will not be part of the new cabinet, an unnamed government source told Interfax. Kremlin economic aide Arkady Dvorkovich is to become a minister or deputy prime minister, the source said. Acting First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov and acting Deputy Prime Ministers Vladislav Surkov, Dmitry Kozak and Dmitry Rogozin are likely to stay, the source said. Surkov will take the chief of staff position with the rank of a deputy prime minister, Kommersant reported Tuesday. It looks like acting Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and acting Finance Minister Anton Siluanov will also stay put, the source said. Another source that Interfax didn't identify said acting Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliyev, acting Natural Resources and Environment Minister Yury Trutnev, acting Energy Minister Sergei Shmatko, and acting Transportation Minister Igor Levitin would lose their jobs. The same source estimated that acting Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov's chances of retaining his position are 50-50. (Moscow Times, 05.19.12).
· President Vladimir Putin said he would make Igor Kholmanskikh, a tank factory worker who had offered to come to Moscow with fellow laborers to disperse opposition protests, the presidential envoy to the Ural Mountains region. (AP, 05.18.12).
· Dmitry Mezentsev, who ran a failed bid to get on the presidential ballot earlier this year, has resigned from his job as Irkutsk region governor. The Irkutsk governor becomes one of around 20 regional heads to have been removed from their posts since late last year. A recently passed law reinstating popular elections for governors is set to take effect June 1. (Moscow Times, 05.18.12).
· The future of an anti-Kremlin encampment on Kudrinskaya Ploshchad looked grim Thursday, as a city lawmaker said local residents wanted it removed. The opposition's Chistiye Prudy encampment was cleared early Wednesday by police after the Basmanny District Court ruled in favor of local residents who called it a safety hazard and a nuisance. (Moscow Times, 05.18.12).
· A group of prominent writers strolled along a Moscow boulevard Sunday, and thousands of white-ribbon-wearing fans joined in. The peaceful stroll was all about rigged elections, political corruption, and President Vladimir Putin. (Washington Post, 05.13.12).
· In an attempt to deflect criticism against crackdowns on political protests at home, senior Russian officials on Monday shot back at Western critics, lambasting racism and xenophobia in Europe. Foreign Ministry and State Duma officials joined researchers and members of nongovernmental organizations in urging representatives of the European Union present at a round-table discussion not to use Russia's human rights record as a political tool. (Moscow Times, 05.15.12).
· Russia's economy grew 4.9 percent year on year in the first quarter of this year, defying expectations that a cooling global economy would sap growth. (Financial Times, 05.16.12).
· Russia saw $42 billion worth of net capital outflows in the first four months of the year but there are hopes in the markets that may ease and turnaround over the coming months as a new government is installed. Capital outflows in the first three months totalled $35.1bn, compared with about $80bn in 2011. (Financial Times, AP, 05.16.12).
· Russia’s MICEX benchmark has shed nearly 3 percent to hit its lowest point since Oct. 5, as oil prices keep falling. The ruble has erased most of its 2012 gains and is down more than 6 percent against the U.S. dollar since the presidential elections. (Wall Street Journal, AP, 05.17.12).
· Russia will confront a persistent protest movement and a steady decline in oil revenues over the coming years as Brent crude will come down to $85 a barrel in 5 years, Citibank said. Russia's break-even oil price—the point at which the budget will balance—is currently about $120 a barrel. (Moscow Times, 05.17.12).
· Diminishing the principle of state sovereignty is fraught with the destruction of the world order and a full-scale war, even with the use of nuclear weapons, warns Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. (Russia Today, 05.17.12).
Security and law-enforcement:
· The Sverdlov Regional Court in the city of Yekaterinburg handed an eight-year prison sentence to Alexander Gniteyev, a worker at a defense company dealing with automatic systems, for passing Bulava SLBM secrets to foreign intelligence. (AP, 05.18.12).
· Russia's National Antiterror Committee has announced the killing of Gusein Mamaev, 24, who was linked to a double bomb attack in Makhachkala on May 3 that killed at least 13 people, many of whom were security officers. (RFE/RL, 05.16.12).
· Vladimir Putin will start the first foreign trip of his third Russian presidential term in neighboring Belarus, visiting this country on May 31-June 1. From Belarus, Putin is expected to visit Russia's leading trade partner Germany, then France, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and China. (RFE/RL, 05.17.12).
· Russia proposes to discuss issues related to global terrorism at the G8 summit in Camp David in Maryland, which kicks off on Friday, the Russian government said. (ARKA, 05.18.12).
· China intends to buy an unspecified number of Russian S-400 air-defense units. (GSN, 05.11.12).
· President Vladimir Putin told a summit of the Collective Security Treaty Organization in Moscow on Tuesday that the influence of CSTO in regional affairs will increase and indicated that Russia would take a lead role in forming the organization's new policies. The CSTO summit was held simultaneously with an informal meeting of CIS leaders. (Moscow Times, 05.16.12).
· Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili says he expects the upcoming NATO summit to note the progress Georgia has made toward membership. (RFE/RL, 05.17.12).
· Sixty-two percent of Ukrainian citizens interviewed in a recent survey are opposed to their country's membership in NATO. (Interfax, 05.17.12)
· Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych has signed a decree establishing a constitutional assembly. The constitutional assembly is charged with making changes to the country's constitution. (RFE/RL, 05.18.12).
· Ukraine's president has suggested it was time for a "pause" in relations with the European Union. (Financial Times, 05.12.12).
· Ukraine’s Prime Minister Mykola Azarov said Wednesday that the European Union can send experts to assess both the medical state of his jailed predecessor Yulia Tymoshenko and the legal process that led to her conviction and seven-year sentence. (AP, 05.16.12).
· Ukraine has picked Royal Dutch Shell and Chevron Corp as partners in projects to explore and develop two potentially large shale gas fields. The arrangement could lead to $370 million in investment and result in Ukraine producing up to 10 percent of the gas it uses by 2020. Ukraine will increase natural-gas production by as much as 25 percent in the next three years. (Wall Street Journal, 05.15.12, Reuters, 05.11.12).
· Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov acknowledged that the April 2010 Kharkiv natural-gas deal with Russia brought no reduction in price of Russian gas. “There was rent for the [Sevastopol] base of [Russia's] Black Sea Fleet. But it gave us breathing room." (RFE/RL, 05.17.12).
· Georgia’s opposition candidate Bidzina Ivanishvili is spending more than $1 million in recent months on a U.S. lobbying campaign ahead of pivotal parliamentary elections in Georgia this fall. (Washington Post, 05.16.12).
· Officials in Tajikistan have announced that a trial of 17 suspected members of the banned Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan has started behind closed doors in a local detention center. (RFE/RL, 05.16.12).
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