Russia in Review
Russia in Review: a digest of useful news from U.S.-Russia Initiative to Prevent Nuclear Terrorism for the week of April 27 - May 4, 2012.
Russia in Review: a digest of useful news from U.S.-Russia Initiative to Prevent Nuclear Terrorism for the week of April 27 – May 4, 2012
I. U.S. and Russian priorities for the bilateral agenda.
Nuclear security agenda:
· A top Kremlin foreign policy adviser repeated Russia's criticism of North Korea's attempted long-range rocket launch last month. He also said that Russia had had "no direct contact" with North Korea's new, young leader, Kim Jong-un. "It’s clear that this [rocket] decision was the decision of swindlers and scammers,” he said. "They are not our friends. They have never done anything good for Russia. We, more than the Americans, more than anyone else, are concerned with the North Korean nuclear issue. After all, they are on our border," he insisted. " (RIA Novosti, 05.03.12).
· The U.S. Cooperative Threat Reduction program in March supported security for three nuclear-weapon train shipments and disposal of 51 metric tons of chemical nerve agent, Senator Richard Lugar announced. Lugar, first elected to Senate in 1976, is on track to lose his primary on May 8. (GSN, 05.01.12, Wall Street Journal, 05.03.12).
Iran nuclear issues:
· A top Kremlin foreign policy adviser said the Iranian nuclear program was of great concern to Russia. "This is not just a problem for the United States and Israel - this is our common problem," he said. Their rockets can reach us. That's why we have been working with them and will continue to do so." (RIA Novosti, 05.03.12).
· Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov pressed Russia’s case against new sanctions over Iran's nuclear programme on Friday, saying an European Union ban on purchasing Iranian oil would end up hurting the bloc's member countries. (Reuters, 04.27.12).
NATO-Russia cooperation, including transit to Afghanistan:
· Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin was to discuss Afghan problems with NATO Deputy Secretary General Alexander Vershbow in Moscow on Thursday. (Interfax, 05.03.12).
· No significant developments.
· International conference “ Missile Defense Factor in Establishing New Security Environment” held by Russian Ministry of Defense in Moscow on 05.03.12-05.04.12.
- "I am certain that we are capable of finding a formula that would allow us to avoid any division into winners and losers," Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev quoted Russian President Dmitry Medvedev as saying in his message to the conference participants. (Interfax, 05.03.12).
- With U.S. President Barack Obama, "I am sure we will reach an agreement that brings no harm to them or to our security," a top Kremlin foreign policy adviser said. (RIA Novosti, 05.03.12, Wall Street Journal, 05.04.12).
- Russia's defense minister Anatoly Serdyukov warned Thursday that talks between Moscow and Washington on the U.S.-led NATO missile defense plan in Europe are "close to a dead end.” (AP, 05.04.12).
- Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov said: "I am firmly convinced that we are capable of achieving a positive result [in talks over missile defense] and solving the problem. We only need the political will.” (Interfax, 05.03.12).
- Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov said Russia could offer use of its massive Don-2NP radar system at Sofrino, Moscow Region as part of an agreement with NATO on the missile defense plan. (RIA Novosti, Interfax, 05.04.12).
- Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov said: "The American missile defense system is of a global nature. We see what is happening in the Asia Pacific region today, and we are certainly thinking together with our Chinese friends what response should be given to potential new threats and challenges.” (Interfax, 05.03.12).
- Chief of General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces Nikolai Makarov threatened to carry out a pre-emptive strike on U.S.-led NATO missile defense facilities in Eastern Europe if Washington goes ahead with its controversial plan to build a missile shield. "Taking into account a missile defense system's destabilizing nature -- that is, the creation of an illusion that a disarming strike can be launched with impunity -- a decision on pre-emptive employment of the attack weapons available could be made when the situation worsens," Gen. Makarov said.
- Chief of General Staff Nikolai Makarov said: “We have concluded that it will be very difficult, if not impossible for Pyongyang and Teheran under the current conditions of international sanctions to commission intercontinental ballistic missiles.” (Slon.ru, 05.04.12.)
- Chief of General Staff Nikolai Makarov said that Russia has no plans to abrogate the INF treaty over the missile defense issue. (Gazeta.ru, 05.03.12).
- Participants of the conference were shown a presentation by the Russian General Staff that contained computer-generated images depicting the reach of radars and interceptor missiles to be deployed as part of the shield. "I must say that I am not convinced," said NATO Deputy Secretary-General Alexander Vershbow said of the presentation. (AP, 05.03.12, Slon.ru, 05.04.12).
- State Department special envoy Ellen Tauscher said that the United States would not agree to any restrictions on NATO's planned missile defense system in Europe that may be sought by Russia. However, the United States is willing to give written guarantees and make a political statement that the planned defense will not be directed against Russia, Tauscher said. Tauscher said a missile defense cooperation deal between NATO and Russia must precede such guarantees about the European system. (Washington Post, AP, Xinhua, 05.03.12, Interfax, 05.03.12, Slon.ru, 05.04.12).
- State Department special envoy Ellen Tauscher played down Makarov's threat of a pre-emptive strike. "We've heard it before," she said. She also said that that neither country can afford another arms race. “Your 10-foot fence cannot cause me to build an 11-foot ladder,” Tauscher said. (Washington Post, AP, 05.03.12).
- State Department special envoy Ellen Tauscher said: "We'll spend the next nine to 10 months trying to work through some of these technical aspects of what's a very complex proposal," she said (Washington Times, 05.04.12).
- Madelyn Creedon, U.S. assistant secretary of defense for global strategic affairs said: "The Russian strategic deterrent is now, and will remain, secure," she said. (AP, 05.03.12).
· Related statements
- Responding to General Makarov’s comments, State Department spokesman Mark Toner said the United States has "made clear for many years now that there's no intent, desire or capability [for missile defense] to undermine Russia's strategic deterrent." (Washington Times, 05.04.12).
- Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said: "Missile defense is an illusion - no matter how much money you invest in it.” (RIA Novosti, 05.04.12).
- NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the alliance remains hopeful of reaching a deal with Russia on missile defense. (AP, 05.03.12).
- U.S. Senator John McCain lashed out at Russia’s plans to deploy missiles in Kaliningrad. (AP, 05.03.12).
- NATO's planned European missile defense was the dominant subject at a meeting in Moscow on Wednesday between Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov and State Department special envoy Ellen Tauscher. (Interfax, 05.03.12).
- A recent assessment by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences’ says the Obama administration's European-based missile defense shield could effectively defend Europe and U.S. troops based there against short- and medium-range missiles from Iran if the system uses an interceptor that is fast enough. But it dismisses the administration's claims that the system eventually will offer protection to the United States as well. (AP, 05.03.12).
Nuclear arms control:
· "The concept of nuclear deterrence exists today, and whoever criticizes it and however you and I together would like the world to be without nuclear weapons, one cannot implement this idea instantly, in one moment," Russian Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov said. (Interfax, 05.03.12).
· No significant developments.
Energy exports from CIS:
· No significant developments.
Access to major markets for exports and imports:
· No significant developments.
Other bilateral issues:
· U.S. National Security Advisor Tom Donilon was to visit Moscow on May 3-4 to hold consultations on upcoming U.S.-Russian high-level meetings. Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin are expected to meet on the sidelines of the G8 summit on May 18-19. (Interfax, AFP, 05.03.12).
· A top Kremlin foreign policy adviser praised President Obama's "new way of thinking on politics" for the reset. "There has been a rethink on political confrontation. They have stopped viewing our relations through the prism of NATO." He said Obama is a "very, very sensible politician.” (RIA Novosti, 05.03.12).
· Russian will not leave U.S. "attempts to interfere in our domestic affairs" without response, Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said on Thursday, referring to visa sanctions imposed on Russian officials allegedly linked to the controversial death of Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky in a Moscow pretrial detention center. (RIA Novosti, 05.03.12).
· A new report on media freedom by U.S.-based group Freedom House put Russia in 172nd place, tied with Zimbabwe. Mikhail Fedotov, the head of the Russian presidential human rights council, does not find the report to be objective. (RFE/RL, 05.01.12, Interfax, 05.02.12).
II. Russia news.
Domestic Politics, Economy and Energy:
· Around 2,000 guests, including Vladimir Putin's best foreign allies Silvio Berlusconi and Gerhard Schroeder, are expected to attend his inauguration ceremony on Monday. Arnold Schwarzenegger will also reportedly attend. (Guardian, 05.04.12).
· At its last sitting Vladimir Putin’s cabinet approved a tax maneuver that the outgoing premier touted during his campaign. The approved tax increase nearly doubles rates for Gazprom and more than quadruples duties to be paid by the country's independent producers by 2015. The change also envisages a higher tax burden on those who lead a luxurious lifestyle, while providing the incentive of lower taxes in some other areas. (Wall Street Journal, 05.02.12,Moscow Times, 05.03.12).
· President Dmitry Medvedev has signed the laws introducing gubernatorial elections and lowering hurdles for running in parliamentary and presidential elections. (Moscow Times, 05.03.12).
· The Kremlin-backed candidate for prime minister, Dmitry Medvedev, expects to rally 300 State Duma votes during a vote on his candidacy next week, which means opposition deputies need to be persuaded to join United Russia and the LDPR. (Izvestia, 05.03.12).
· President Dmitry Medvedev has accepted an offer to take over the United Russia party, all but guaranteeing his election at a special convention next month. (Moscow Times, 05.28.12).
· What information is available to Vedomosti indicates that First Deputy Premier Igor Shuvalov will probably remain in the government after Dmitry Medvedev becomes the prime minister. Sources close to the Defense Ministry maintain that Anatoly Serdyukov will probably retain his post. As for deputy premiers Victor Zubkov and Igor Sechin, it is said that their time is up and they will retire. Finance Minister Anton Siluanov and Minister of Industry Denis Manturov will probably retain their posts. Elvira Nabiullina will become a deputy premier for social issues. There will be probably no place in the new government for Sergei Shmatko (energy), Yuri Trutnev (natural resources), Vitaly Mutko (sports and tourism), Igor Levitin (transport), and Yelena Skrynnik (agriculture). (Vedomosti, 05.04.12).
· The Renault-Nissan alliance will spend $750 million to take control of OAO AvtoVAZ, the Russian car giant in one of the largest foreign investments in Russia outside the oil and gas sector. (Wall Street Journal, 05.03.12).
· Russia plans to eventually equip all of its active nuclear-armed submarines with the newest generation of the Sineva ballistic missile -- the Liner SLBM. (GSN, 05.02.12).
· Russia and China will continue the practice of holding joint naval drills, Chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces Army Gen Nikolay Makarov has said. (BBC, 05.03.12).
· Russia’s Defense Ministry says five soldiers have been killed and three wounded when munitions they were loading onto a vehicle exploded at a firing range in Mulino, about 350 kilometers east of Moscow. (AP, 05.02.12).
Security and law-enforcement:
· Bombs hidden in two vehicles exploded outside a police station in the Russian republic of Dagestan, killing at least 13 people. Authorities said Friday it was probably a suicide attack by Islamic insurgents. More than 130 people were hospitalized, 16 of them in critical condition. (AP, 05.04.12).
· Two former directors of Rosatom’s RosRAO subsidiary have been charged with abuse of office causing the corporation some 5m dollars' worth of damage, the press service of the Russian Interior Ministry's investigations department said. A total of 110 corruption cases originated in Rosatom in recent years. (Interfax, 05.27.12, BBC, Vesti Nedeli, 04.29.12).
· The 2008 election of Dmitry Medvedev as president was the start of a deliberate effort by the Russian authorities to present a more liberal face to the world and overcome "irrational" U.S. and European policies toward Moscow, a top Kremlin foreign policy adviser said. (RIA Novosti, 05.03.12).
· China called on the United States and Russia to make further "drastic" cuts in their atomic arsenals. (Reuters, 04.30.12).
· Russian and Chinese delegations have signed 27 contracts worth some $15 billion. Chinese Vice Prime Minister Li Kequiang made the announcement on April 28 during a Russian-Chinese business forum in Moscow attended by hundreds of Chinese businessmen. (RFE/RL, 05.28.12).
· Recent polls show Serbian presidential candidate Boris Tadic neck-and-neck with Tomislav Nikolic, whose Serbian Progressive Party is close to Russian leader Vladimir Putin's United Russia, ahead of Sunday's national polls. (Wall Street Journal, 05.04.12).
· In a move this week that could make it particularly difficult for individuals accused of human rights abuses in Russia to enter the UK, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office announced a change to British immigration rules in its annual Human Rights Report this week. (Financial Times, 05.01.12).
· Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambaev said keeping a U.S. air base in his country beyond June 2014 depends on the course of developments in Afghanistan and whether Washington is prepared to pay higher rent. (RFE/RL, 05.03.12).
· Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said the Ukrainian opposition figure Yulia V. Tymoshenko was welcome to receive medical treatment in Russia. (New York Times, 05.04.12).
· Numerous European officials, including from Germany, have suggested a boycott of matches in Ukraine during this summer's Euro 2012 soccer championships over alleged mistreatment of Yulia Tymoshenko. (RFE/RL, 05.04.12).
· A Ukrainian judge has ruled that Yulia Tymoshenko cannot be tried in absentia, and has delayed her tax evasion trial until May 21. (RFE/RL, 05.28.12).
· Senior officials in Turkmenistan say Central Asian nation plans to sign a natural gas sales agreement with Afghanistan, Pakistan and India this month. (AP, 05.04.12).
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