Russia in Review
Russia in Review: a digest of useful news from U.S.-Russia Initiative to Prevent Nuclear Terrorism for the week of May 4 - 11, 2012.
Russia in Review: a digest of useful news from U.S.-Russia Initiative to Prevent Nuclear Terrorism for the week of May 4-11, 2012
I. U.S. and Russian priorities for the bilateral agenda.
Nuclear security agenda:
· A number of Russia's atomic and scientific sites last month welcomed a team of U.S. officials led by Assistant Energy Secretary Peter Lyons under an initiative aimed at facilitating nonmilitary nuclear cooperation between the former Cold War rivals, the U.S. Embassy in Moscow announced. (GSN, 05.04.12).
· Mikhail Ulyanov, the head of Security and Disarmament Department at the Russian Foreign Ministry, told the first session of the Preparatory Committee for the 2015 NPT Review Conference: “Russia stands for consistent implementation by all countries of the provisions of the UNSC Resolution 1540 aimed at countering the WMD "black" markets, preventing such weapons and related materials, technologies and means of delivery from falling into hands of non-state actors, primarily, terrorist organizations.” (BBC, 05.10.12).
Iran nuclear issues:
· No significant developments.
NATO-Russia cooperation, including transit to Afghanistan:
· The U.S. Army has a $375 million contract to buy 21 Russian-made MI-17 helicopters for the Afghans from Russia’s Rosoboronexport, Pentagon Undersecretary for Policy James Miller said in a previously undisclosed March 30 letter to a lawmaker opposed to the deal. “The MI-17 acquisition effort is critical to building the capacity of Afghanistan security forces,” Miller wrote. At the same time, he acknowledged “that Rosoboronexport continues to supply weapons and ammunition to the Assad regime” and “there is evidence that some of these arms are being used by Syrian forces against Syria’s civilian population.” (Bloomberg, 05.09.12).
· No significant developments.
· Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, criticized House Armed Services Committee on Thursday for adding billions of dollars to President Barack Obama’s defense budget, including money for a new East Coast missile defense site that the military says is unnecessary. (AP, 05.09.12).
· A target ballistic missile was downed near Hawaii late on Wednesday by the latest Raytheon Co-built Standard Missile-3 interceptor, the Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency (MDA) said. (Reuters, 05.10.12).
· NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has dismissed warnings from Moscow regarding NATO's plan to construct a missile-defense system in Europe as "negotiation tactics." NATO’s chief has earlier called Russia’s threat of a pre-emptive strike on European missile defense systems “unjustified.” (RFE/RL, 05.11.12, RIA Novosti, 05.04.12).
· U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Philip Gordon said that “while we strive for cooperation, we have also been frank in our discussions with Russia that we will continue to develop and deploy our missile defenses, irrespective of the status of missile defense cooperation with Russia.” (RIA Novosti, 05.11.12).
· Russia will only be able to adopt a new 100-ton liquid-propellant intercontinental ballistic missile intended to penetrate the U.S. missile defense system by 2022, the manufacturer said on Tuesday. (RIA Novosti, 05.08.12).
Nuclear arms control:
· Frustration with North Korea's ongoing nuclear weapons and missile programs has pushed Congress to reopen the debate in Washington over whether the United States should reintroduce tactical nuclear weapons in South Korea. (Foreign Policy, 05.10.12).
· Hackers shut down a United States online video company on Wednesday that was being used by Russian activists to stream live video of protests in Moscow, prompting the company’s leaders to launch a Russian-language version of the site. (New York Times, 05.10.12).
· The Pentagon is expanding and making permanent a trial program that teams the government with Internet carriers to protect defense firms’ computer networks against data theft by foreign adversaries. (Washington Post, 05.11.12).
Energy exports from CIS:
· Norway's Statoil ASA on Saturday signed a deal with Russian state oil company OAO Rosneft to develop Russia's mostly untapped offshore energy resources in the Arctic, in a venture that could require an investment of as much as $100 billion over decades. (Wall Street Journal, 05.07.12).
Access to major markets for exports and imports:
· Former president Dmitry Medvedev argued just before a parliamentary vote on Tuesday that confirmed him as prime minister that proposed one-year postponement of Russia's ratification of its accession agreement with the World Trade Organization would be unnecessary. (Interfax. 05.08.12).
Other bilateral issues:
· Russian President Vladimir Putin told his U.S. counterpart Barack Obama that he could not take part in the G-8 summit to be held in Camp David on May 18-19 due to the formation of a new government in the country. Russia will be represented by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. The presidents confirmed the commitment to maintaining the dialogue in the spirit of the resetting policy, agreeing to meet on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Mexico on June 18-19. During a telephone call on Thursday, Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, assured Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton that the cancellation was “not political.” Kremlin watchers suggested that Mr. Putin’s decision reflected frustration over other irritants, including statements from the State Department about the protests that greeted Mr. Putin’s inauguration. (Itar-Tass, Interfax, 05.10.12, New York Times, 05.10.12).
· In his meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama's top security aide Tom Donilon on Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin “emphasized that in developing the relationship with the United States, Russia is ready to go really far, on condition that the Americans will act on the principles of an equal and mutually respectful partnership," Putin’s foreign policy aide Yuri Ushakov said. (Reuters, 05.05.12).
· Moscow wants to bring cooperation with Washington "to a truly strategic level" but relations must be based on "equality, non-interference in internal affairs and respect for one another's interests," according to a decree on foreign policy priorities signed by President Vladimir Putin on Monday. Russia will "consistently stand up for its policy in connection with the creation by the United States of a global missile defense system, seeking firm guarantees it is not directed against Russia's nuclear deterrent forces," the decree said. (Reuters, 05.07.12).
· The United States hopes that the process of democratization will continue in Russia and that the rights of Russian citizens will be respected, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said of the recent protests in Moscow. (RIA Novosti, 05.08.12).
· “We are troubled by reports of violence in Moscow during the protests on May 6 and by the arrests that have been carried out over the last three days," State Department spokesman Mark Toner said. (Sahara India Television, 05.09.12).
· U.S. Senator Richard Lugar has lost his Republican Party primary in the state of Indiana to a challenger from the Tea Party movement -- ending nearly four decades in the Senate. Lugar's career was highlighted by his work on nuclear nonproliferation in former Soviet Union. (RFE/RL, 05.09.12).
II. Russia news.
Domestic Politics, Economy and Energy:
· Vladimir Putin took the oath as Russia's president on Monday with a ringing appeal for unity. (Reuters, 05.07.12).
· Russia’s parliament approved on Tuesday former President Dmitry Medvedev as prime minister with a vote of 299-144. (AP, 05.06.12).
· President Vladimir Putin has announced 11 Executive Orders within hours of his inauguration. These orders set Russia's strategic aims in foreign, domestic, social and military policy. A new system of strategic analysis and planning is to be implemented in order to counter threats to national security. Steps will include modernizing weaponry, improving naval communication and intelligence, especially in the Arctic and the Pacific, as well as devoting extra attention to Russia's nuclear and space defense forces. Another Executive Order details Russia's main foreign policy goals, ensuring the central role of the United Nations, as well as bolstering cooperation within the framework of BRICS, the G20, the G8, and SCO. The flurry of decrees also ordered Russia's government to boost investment and shake up state-run industries. Putin ordered the government to take measures to raise capital investment to no less than 25 percent of GDP in 2015, from the current level of 20 percent, and to create 25 million high productivity jobs by 2020. (Russia Today, Reuters, 05.08.12).
· A demonstration by at least 20,000 people on the eve of Vladimir Putin’s inauguration as president turned into a battle with police Sunday. Police said over 200 arrests were made Tuesday and overnight Wednesday. Moscow City Hall on Thursday announced plans to clamp down on protests, while jailed opposition leaders urged some 200 people rallying for a fifth day in downtown Moscow in a row not to give up. (AP, 05.06.12, Washington Post, 05.09.12, Moscow Times, 05.11.12).
· President Vladimir Putin has proposed the first tax breaks for pumping unconventional reserves such as shale oil. (Bloomberg, 05.08.12).
· Russian Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin will join the board of the state oil and gas holding Rosneftegaz company, a sign he is likely to keep a leading role in the world's largest energy industry even if he quits the cabinet. (Reuters, 05.11.12).
· Search teams found at least 12 bodies Friday near the wreckage of a Russian-made jetliner that crashed in Indonesia during a demonstration flight for potential buyers. (AP, 05.12.12).
· Outgoing Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has dismissed the commander of the Russian Navy, Admiral Vladimir Vysotsky and appointed Vice-Admiral Viktor Chirkov for the position. Medvedev also appointed Major-General Viktor Bondarev, 52, as the new Air Force commander. (RIA Novosti, 05.07.12).
· The Voronezh-type early warning radar near Armavir will be put on combat alert duty by the end of this year. (Interfax, 05.05.12).
Security and law-enforcement:
· Russian agents have foiled terror attack plans on the Black Sea resort of Sochi. The FSB said it suspects the attacks targeting Sochi were being masterminded by Chechen rebel leader Doku Umarov, whom it alleges has close ties to Georgia’s secret service. However, Shota Khizanishvili, chief of staff at Georgia’s Interior Ministry, denied any links between Georgia and Umarov. (AP, 05.10.12).
· Speaking at the annual military parade at Red Square, the newly inaugurated president, Vladimir Putin, said on Wednesday that the country had “a great moral right” to the respect of other nations, particularly on matters of global security. (New York Times, 05.09.12).
· German Chancellor Angela Merkel says people in Ukraine are living under dictatorship and repression just like those in its authoritarian neighbor, Belarus. (Voice of America, 05.10.12).
· President Viktor Yanukovych bowed to a boycott by a dozen European leaders angry over treatment of opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko, indefinitely postponing a prestigious summit meeting it was to have hosted this week in the Crimean resort of Yalta. (CSM, 05.08.12).
· Belorussian President Alexander Lukashenko, under pressure from the West over human rights, called for dialogue with the European Union on Tuesday and described the bloc as "an important partner." (Reuters, 05.08.12).
· Armenian President Serge Sarkisian’s party has won a majority of seats in a parliamentary election that international observers said Monday were competitive and peaceful, but undermined by organizational problems and some interference by political parties. (AP, 05.07.12).
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