Russia in Review
August 31, 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 August 24-31, 2012.
Russia in Review: a digest of useful news from U.S.-Russia Initiative to Prevent Nuclear Terrorism for the week of August 24-31, 2012
I. U.S. and Russian priorities for the bilateral agenda.
Nuclear security agenda:
· U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar and former Sen. Sam Nunn were honored Wednesday for their role in helping ex-Soviet states secure and dismantle huge stocks of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. The prize was awarded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York philanthropic foundation and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace think tank. (AP, 08.29.12).
Iran nuclear issues:
· Iran's first nuclear power station has begun operating at full capacity, Russian contractor Atomstroyexport said on Friday. (RIA Novosti, 08.31.12)..
NATO-Russia cooperation, including transit to and from Afghanistan:
· One promising area for cooperation between a Romney administration and the Kremlin on the national security front would be a joint effort to prevent the destabilization of Central Asia, said Leon Aron, a key architect of Mitt Romney’s Russia policy. “The Russian leadership publicly—starting with Putin—expressed concerns about NATO’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, and for good reason,” said Aron. (RIA Novosti, 08.31.12).
· A Romney administration would likely redouble the U.S. commitment to building a missile defense system in Europe, said Leon Aron, a key architect of Mitt Romney’s Russia policy. (RIA Novosti, 08.31.12).
· Anatoly Shlemov of the United Shipbuilding Company said Friday that the Kremlin “has definitely assigned a task” for Russia’s defense industry to come up with naval missile interceptor similar to the U.S. Aegis system. (AP, 08.31.12).
· Upon visiting the Azeri capital for talks, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin denied a report by Regnum news agency that a liquidation commission will be set up in the near future because Baku and Moscow failed to agree on extension of the lease of the Gabala early warning radar by Russia from Azerbaijan. (Zerkalo.az, 08.22.12).
Nuclear arms control:
· President Vladimir V. Putin said that Russia would be willing to negotiate new reductions in nuclear arms with the United States but that Washington must first change its plans for a missile defense system in Europe strongly opposed by the Kremlin. The United States welcomes Moscow's willingness to further reduce nuclear weapons and reiterates that American missile shield in Europe is not aimed against Russia, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of State said. Victoria Nuland said U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will possibly discuss Putin's statement in more detail next week during the 2012 APEC summit that will be held in Vladivostok. (New York Times, 08.24.12, RIA Novosti, 08.29.12).
· The State Department is launching what it's calling the Innovation in Arms Control Challenge, which urges "garage tinkerers and technologists ... gadget entrepreneurs and students," to come up with innovative new ideas to support U.S. arms control and nonproliferation efforts.(CNN, 08.28.12).
· U.S., Canadian and Russian militaries worked together this week at the North American Aerospace Command headquarters to confront a common enemy: terrorist hijackers. Vigilant Eagle 12 was the third exercise of its kind designed to promote collaboration in detecting hijacked aircraft and scrambling military jets to intercept and escort them to safety. (American Forces Press Service, 08.30.12).
· U.S. Air Force has announced purchase of the viral software which would be used to destroy enemy's computer networks and control centres. The Russian Foreign Ministry referred to the move as "the first round of the cyber arms race." (Kommersant via BBC, 08.31.12).
Energy exports from CIS:
· Gazprom is to shelve its flagship project to develop the vast Shtokman gas field in the Arctic sea together with France’s Total and Norway’s Statoil because of surging costs. (Financial Times, 08.29.12).
· The Russian Economy Ministry cut its 2012 gas export forecast to 193 billion cubic metres due to sluggish European demand while Deputy Economy Minister Andrei Klepach said this week that the gas export forecast will be reviewed, as the U.S. shale gas boom and ample supplies of liquefied natural gas boost competition against high-priced Russian pipeline gas exports. (Reuters, 08.29.12).
· A planned interruption of Russian natural gas flows to Europe via an overland pipeline in Poland serves as a first display of Russia’s newly gained ability to uphold gas delivery to the important German market via Nord Stream even as supply to neighboring transit states in central and eastern Europe are cut. (Wall Street Journal, 08.29.12).
Access to major markets for exports and imports:
· No significant developments.
Other bilateral issues:
· Mitt Romney accepted the U.S. Republican party’s nomination for president Thursday, vowing to toughen Washington’s dealings with Russia and President Vladimir Putin should he win the White House.“Under my administration, our friends will see more loyalty, and Mr. Putin will see a little less flexibility and more backbone,” Romney told the Republican National Convention. When asked to comment on Romney's speech, Vladimir Putin’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov blasted his anti-Russian statements and said relations between the countries must not become hostage to the politician’s election battle. (RIA Novosti, Russia Today, 08.31.12).
· Should Romney win the U.S. presidency this November, his administration would intensify pressure on the Kremlin over a range of issues, including those related to democracy and human rights, said Leon Aron, a key architect of the candidate’s Russia policy. Aron conceded the White House has few levers with which to influence Russia’s domestic political developments. “There’s only one country ultimately whose opinion matters to Russia, and that’s the United States,” said Aron, resident scholar and director of Russian studies at the conservative American Enterprise Institute in Washington, DC. “ … Khrushchev did not say ‘Let’s catch up with and overtake France.’” (RIA Novosti, 08.31.12).
· During an event at this week’s Republican Convention, Pierre-Richard Prosper, a special adviser to the Romney campaign on foreign policy issues, reiterated that Russia remains a U.S. foe.“They have chosen a path of confrontation, not cooperation,” Prosper said. (RIA Novosti, 08.31.12).
· "Russia is a significant geopolitical foe. Governor Romney recognizes that," Romney advisor Rich Williamson said at a Tuesday afternoon event hosted by the Foreign Policy Initiative. "That's not to say they are the same sort of direct military threat as they were." (Foreign Policy, 08.28.12).
· Senator John McCain wrote: “I travel all across the world, and everywhere I go, our friends and allies tell me they want more of America... This is the feeling across Central and Eastern Europe, where Vladimir Putin's Russia still casts a long shadow, but where many of our allies believe their national interests are being sacrificed by the administration's repeated, and largely unrequited, attempts to reset relations with Moscow.” (Foreign Policy, 08.28.12).
· A victory for Mitt Romney in this year's U.S. presidential elections may drive Russian stocks down as much as 10 percent, according to Citigroup Inc. In case Romney as president pursues a "Cold War-style agenda," Citigroup expects a "powerful reaction" from President Vladimir Putin, according to the note. (Bloomberg, 08.29.12).
· The Foreign Ministry fired a new salvo at the United States over the Viktor Bout affair Tuesday, saying the U.S. government had no right to jail the Russian businessman for "conspiring" to sell arms but to only slap a fine on a U.S. company, formerly named Blackwater, that actually broke the law with arms sales. (Moscow Times, 08.29.12).
· The United States would like Russia to clearly state that it will stop supplying Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime with weapons, a spokeswoman for the U.S. State Department said in a statement on Wednesday. (RIA Novosti, 08.30.12).
· A U.S.-Russian agreement on simplifying the countries’ visa programs will go into effect on Sept. 9. The agreement allows Russians and Americans to get three-year multi-entry visas under which they can stay for up to six consecutive months. It also eliminates Russia’s requirement that visitors get a letter of invitation, although tourists will still need to show advance accommodation bookings. (AP, 08.29.12).
· Overseas weapons sales by the United States totaled $66.3 billion last year, or more than three-quarters of the global arms market, valued at $85.3 billion in 2011. Russia was a distant second, with $4.8 billion in deals. (New York Times, 08.26.12).
II. Russia news.
Domestic Politics, Economy and Energy:
· President Vladimir Putin said Russia must counter a serious threat from nationalists who he said were taking advantage of democratic freedoms to gain influence in a country with a fragile mix of ethnic groups. He rebuked local authorities, saying recent outbreaks of ethnic violence were “primarily the result of the inaction of law enforcement organizations and irresponsibility of bureaucrats.” (Reuters, 08.24.12).
· A spokesman for Vladimir Putin has dismissed a recent report by opposition politician Boris Nemtsov criticizing the Russian president's luxurious lifestyle as a "pseudo-exposé.""It is regretful that such attempts at pseudo-exposure are associated with opposition activity," Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Friday. (RIA Novosti, 08.31.12).
· The Economic Development Ministry has published innovation programs for state corporations that say they will spend $131 billion by 2020 on the effort. The Expert RA agency reviewed and rated the innovation programs of these companies in June. Rosatom, which took first place in the rating, plans to increase its research and development spending from 3.9 percent to 4.5 percent of its turnover. (Vedomosti, 08.29.12).
· Total car industry sales in Russia rose 70% last year to nearly $60 billion. Sales for the General Motors Co. unit are up more than threefold in Russia since 2009 and the company expects to sell 80,000 cars in the country this year, many produced at its factory outside St. Petersburg, Russia. (Wall Street Journal, 08.30.12).
· The combined wealth of Hong Kong's billionaires is equivalent to more than 70% of Hong Kong's GDP. Nos. 2 and 3 by that measure are Lebanon and Russia, with ratios of 33% and 25% respectively.(Wall Street Journal, 08.31.12).
· Self-exiled tycoon Boris Berezovsky lost his multibillion-dollar legal battle against fellow Russian mogul Roman Abramovich on Friday after a British judge ruled that he didn’t tell the truth in the clash over vast oil wealth. (AP, 08.31.12).
· Sergei Sokolov, the Soviet defense minister fired after a German teenager landed his plane on Moscow’s Red Square in the 1980s, died in Moscow on Friday. He was 101 (AP, 08.31.12).
Security and law-enforcement:
· A top Muslim religious leader and five of his followers have been killed by a suicide bomber in Dagestan. Said Afandi was a leader of Sufi Muslims and had often publicly criticized the Wahhabi sect that is the core of the insurgency in the republic. 100,000 people attended his funeral. (AP, 08.28.12, Gazeta.ru, 08.30.12).
· A border guard gunned down seven servicemen and injured six others at a checkpoint in Dagestan before being shot dead himself. An unidentified law enforcement official said Sergeant Ramzan Aliyev might have been an Islamist militant. The official said Aliyev's superiors had tried to dismiss him three times for reading fundamentalist Muslim literature. (Moscow Times, 08.30.12).
· More than 3,000 Russian citizens have gone missing during the conflicts in the North Caucasus, according to International Committee of the Red Cross. (Some 700 servicemen of the Armed Forces and law enforcement agencies went missing during the conflict in the region, it said. (Interfax, 08.30.12).
· Ukrainian authorities have extradited to Russia Kazakh citizen Ilya Pyanzin, accused of plotting to kill President Vladimir Putin by bombing his motorcade in Moscow after the March 4 presidential election. (Moscow Times, 08.27.12).
· The Military Board of Russia’s Supreme Court ruled on August 28 to cancel acquittal of former 12th GUMO general Yuri Gaidukov by a jury in a Russian court of lower instance, order his retrial on charges of corruption and bar the former commander from leaving the city he is residing in without permission of investigators. (Gazeta.ru, 08.28.12).
· Soviet submarine K-27 was dumped in the Kara Sea in 1982 following a serious reactor accident that killed nine crew members. A joint Norwegian, Russian expedition now sails from Kirkenes to study how to lift the submarine safely before radiation starts to leak into the Arctic Seas. (Barents Sea Observer, 08.28.12).
· Speaking ahead of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Vladivostok next week, First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov called on Russia on Tuesday to shift a large chunk of its trade and economic focus east in order to make the most of the growing Asian economies. (Moscow News, 08.29.12).
· Georgian officials said on Thursday that the heavily armed militants who penetrated the border from Russia and took five local residents hostage were Muslim fighters who wore camouflage uniforms and carried Russian passports and copies of the Koran. Georgian security forces engaged in a fierce gun battle with the band of about 20 militants on Wednesday, killing 11 of them. Three Georgian soldiers were also killed. (New York Times, 08.30.12).
· Uzbekistan lawmakers on Thursday approved a foreign policy bill which bans the creation of foreign military bases in the Central Asian country or its participation in military blocs. (AFP, 08.30.12).
· Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev told international conference titled “From Prohibition Of Nuclear Tests to a World Free of Nuclear Weapons” in Astana that the absence of clear, unambiguous norms in the fields of control over national nuclear programs "casts the shadow of suspicion of nuclear ambitions and even support of nuclear terrorism on practically any states seeking to use a peaceful atom.” (Itar-Tass, 08.29.12).
· The military component of the member states of the Collective Security Treaty Organization will be partially reorganized to increase combat components, Russia’s Nikolay Makarov said after a meeting of chiefs of the general staffs of CSTO members.(Interfax, 08,28.12).
· Turkmenistan is planning to hold its first-ever military maneuvers on the Caspian Sea. (RFE/RL, 08.30.12).
· Lawyers for jailed former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko have presented their client's case to the European Court of Human Rights. (RFE/RL, 08.28.12).
For more information about this publication please contact the Allan Friedman.
For Academic Citation: