Russia in Review

May 24, 2013

Russia in Review: a digest of useful news from U.S.-Russia Initiative to Prevent Nuclear Terrorism for May 16-24, 2013.

Russia in Review: a digest of useful news from U.S.-Russia Initiative to Prevent Nuclear Terrorism for May 16-24, 2013

    I. U.S. and Russian priorities for the bilateral agenda.

      Nuclear security agenda:

      • If the new U.S.-Russian Cooperative Threat Reduction agreement is not signed before June 16, it would be solely due to bureaucratic causes, not political problems, U.S. Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Kenneth Handelman said. “Hopefully, this will happen earlier than in the end of this year,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said in reference to the new accord. (Itar-Tass, Interfax, 05.24.13).
      • The U.S. House of Representatives on Monday overwhelmingly approved legislation to complete U.S. ratification of the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism and o bring the United States in line with a 2005 amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material. (GSN, 05.21.13).
      • Russia’s National Anti-terrorist Committee held on Tuesday “Atom-Izotop-2013” exercise in Leningrad region to practice cooperation of law-enforcement agencies in interdicting an attempt by terrorists to stage an attack on a nuclear facility. (Rosatom’s web site, 05.22.13).

      Iran nuclear issues:

      • No significant developments.

      NATO-Russia cooperation, including transit to and from Afghanistan:

      • Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu told a conference on European security in Moscow on Thursday: “Not everything is working out well with eliminating the North Atlantic Alliance’s superiority in terms of conventional weapons. The desire to tie control over these weapons to the settlement of conflicts and attempts to contain Russia led to the death of the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe.”
      • Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov told a conference on European security in Moscow: “The mechanism we, in Russia, and NATO keep arguing about is dead. I am referring to the CFE treaty… The cold war is over, there must be new mechanisms.” (Itar-Tass, 05.23.13).
      • Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told a conference on European security in Moscow: “Russia’s initiative to sign a European security agreement is not a time-serving one and is still on the agenda.” (Itar-Tass, 05.23.13).
      • Russia's military intelligence agency, the GRU, expects the Taliban influence in Afghanistan to grow after international coalition forces are pulled out, while rising radicalism in Syria could lead to the country's disintegration, the GRU chief said on Thursday. (RIA Novosti, 05.23.13).
      • Russia, predicting instability once NATO-led troops withdraw from Afghanistan by the end of next year, is considering deploying border guards on the Tajik-Afghan border, Moscow’s envoy to Kabul said. (Reuters, 05.21.13).
      • “The Russian side proposed (to NATO) holding an expert meeting to share our experience in organizing the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan,” Russian Deputy Chief of General Staff Col-Gen Aleksandr Postnikov-Streltsov said. (Interfax, 05.17.13).

      Missile defense:

      • Moscow will insist on legally binding guarantees on the non-direction of the U.S. missile shield at Russia. The Russian General Staff concluded that an additional agreement on the missile shield transparency can not fully guarantee Russia's security.  That conclusion was sent to to the Russian president's administration ahead of the departure of Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev, who delivered the reply of Vladimir Putin to Barack Obama's letter.  (Interfax, 05.24.13).
      • Chief of Kremlin staff Sergei Ivanov told a conference on European security in Moscow that “only judicially binding international agreements can provide a working mechanism of arms control,” he said. (RIA Novosti, Xinhua, 05.23.13).
      • Transparency of the United States in building the missile shield can not settle all of Russia’s concerns, Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov told a conference on European security in Moscow. (Interfax, 05.24.13).
      • Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told a conference on European security in Moscow: “If we want to get rid of mutual suspicions over the intentions towards each other, current risks should be studied jointly and collective approaches should be worked out for their elimination, but unilaterally developed decisions should not be imposed as the only correct ones. This concerns the missile defence and a long-term military planning, as well as crisis settlement.” (Itar-Tass, 05.23.13).
      • America’s view is that “missile defense (in Europe) is specifically and definitely limited,” and thus incapable of hindering Russia’s defense abilities, said the U.S. chief missile defense negotiator, Under Secretary of State Rose Gottemoeller at the conference on European security in Moscow. (The Moscow Times, 05.24.13).
      • The General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces sees no reason to believe that threats to Russia’s security have been reduced, despite the fact that the USA has adjusted its plans for a European missile defense system, Deputy Chief of the General Staff Col-Gen Aleksandr Postnikov said. (Ekho Moskvy, 05.18.13).
      • Republicans lawmakers are proposing a measure that would bar the Obama administration from sharing classified missile defense data with Russia. (AP, 05.21.13).
      • The first portion of a major Pentagon policy bill unveiled Tuesday by a key House committee excludes any mention of a controversial East Coast missile shield proposal. (Defense News, 05.21.13).

      Nuclear arms control:

      • Chief of Russian General Staff Valery Gerasimov told a conference on European security in Moscow: “Russia will cut its strategic attack force only when it is certain that the United States’ development of global missile defense will not undermine its nuclear deterrent potential.” “We can’t take the path of cutting only strategic nuclear arsenals and leaving outside the framework of talks other weapons, in which some of our partners have an indisputable quantitative and qualitative advantage,” he said. (RIA Novosti, AP, 05.23.13).

      Counter-terrorism cooperation:

      • Russia’s Interior Minister Nikolai Kolokoltsev met with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder in Washington, DC. The U.S. and Russia have a lot in common, including combat against terrorism, organized crime, and other issues related to law and order, and the U.S. is grateful to Russia for assistance in investigating the Boston terrorist attack, Holder said. (Interfax, RIA Novosti, 05.24.13).
      • Chechen man Ibragim Todashev with ties to Boston Marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev was shot and killed by an FBI agent in Orlando while he was being questioned about an unsolved triple homicide in Waltham, MA. (Boston Globe, 05.22.13).
      • F.B.I. agents investigating the Boston Marathon bombing have repeatedly questioned Musa Khadzhimuratov, a Chechen refugee and former separatist fighter. (New York Times, 05.17.13).

      Cyber security:

      • Russia and the United States may set up joint working groups to counter cyber and other emerging crime threats, Russia’s Interior Minister Nikolai Kolokoltsev said after meeting the head of the FBI, Robert Mueller, and Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano.  (Interfax, RIA Novosti, 05.24.13).

      Energy exports from CIS:

      • .Russia’s exports of diesel to northwest Europe via the Baltic Sea have risen to nearly 500,000 barrels a day from 300,000 barrels a year ago. (Wall Street Journal, 05.20.13).
      • The South Stream pipeline that will transport natural gas from Russia to the European Union is a reality and is on schedule to be built by the end of 2015, the chief executive of the offshore section of the line said. (Reuters, 05.16.13).

      Bilateral economic ties:

      • Russia’s nuclear power corporation Rosatom controls 20 percent of all uranium reserves in the United States, the corporation’s chief, Sergei Kiriyenko said. (RIA Novosti, 05.23.13).
      • U.S. satellite phone company Iridium has re-entered the Russian market after a 13-year hiatus. (Moscow Times, 05.17.13).
      • U.S. lender JP Morgan will act as a consultant to Russia’s Finance Ministry with the aim of boosting the country’s credit rating and improving the image of the economy as a whole. (Moscow Times, 05.24.13).

      Other bilateral issues:

      • Presidents Vladimir Putin and Barack Obama will meet at a G8 summit in June and during the U.S. president's visit to Russia in September, Putin aide Yury Ushakov said. (RIA Novosti, 05.24.13).
      • Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev held meetings in Washington this week with U.S. national security adviser Tom Donilon and U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel. During the meeting with Donilon, Patrushev handed over a letter from President Vladimir Putin to U.S. President Barack Obama. Obama and Patrushev “discussed the importance of deepening counterterrorism cooperation and the need for a negotiated political settlement in Syria,” according to National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden. Pentagon press secretary George Little said that Hagel and Patrushev discussed missile defense, broader military cooperation and the continuing crisis in Syria. (Itar-Tass, 05.23.13, RIA Novosti, 05.23.13).
      • Russian presidential aide Yuri Ushakov said Vladimir Putin’s response to Barack Obama’s letter reflects Moscow’s position on the missile defense problem and the need for security services of the two countries to cooperate. (Itar-Tass, 05.23.13).
      • The sale by Russia of S-300 air defense systems to Syria would be “destabilizing” for the region, US Secretary State John Kerry said. (RIA Novosti, 05.23.13).
      • General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, said the supply of sophisticated Russian Yakhont missiles could encourage Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad to believe he is safer from outside military action than he is. (Financial Times, 05.18.13).
      • The Foreign Ministry has dismissed as “politicized” a critical U.S. State Department report about religious freedom in Russia and cautioned that such reports incite religious conflicts. The annual report mentions Russia among countries that it says imposed restrictions on freedom of religion last year.  (RIA Novosti, 05.24.13).
      • Moscow expects U.S. President Barack Obama to live up to his promise to shut down the Guantanamo Bay detention camp in the future, the Russian Foreign Ministry’s commissioner for human rights Konstantin Dolgov said. (Interfax, 05.24.13).
      • Thomas Firestone, former senior Justice Department official at the American Embassy in Moscow was declared “persona non grata” and barred from Russia this month. (New York Times, 05.20.13).
      • Central Intelligence Agency spy Ryan Fogle, exposed by the Federal Security Service, left Moscow on Sunday. (Interfax, 05.19.13).

        II. Russia news.


          Domestic politics, economy and energy:

          • Former Kremlin foreign policy adviser Sergei Prikhodko has been appointed as a deputy prime minister and government chief of staff, filling positions vacated with the resignation of Vladislav Surkov. (The Moscow Times, 05.23.13).
          • Russia’s economy grew at 1.6 percent in the first quarter compared with a year earlier, its slowest growth rate since 2009. (Financial Times, 05.17.13).
          • Leonid Brezhnev, the Soviet leader of 1964-1982, is the most popular in Russia, Levada Center said. Some 56 percent of the respondents said they liked Brezhnev. Joseph Stalin was the first runner-up (supported by 50 percent). The anti-rating was topped by Mikhail Gorbachev (disliked by 66 percent of the respondents) and Boris Yeltsin (64 percent). (Interfax, 05.22.13).
          • The Levada Center, Russia’s only independent polling agency says it may have to close after prosecutors described its opinion research as “political activity.” (Moscow Times, 05.20.13).
          • A total of 59 percent of Russians use the Internet, up 3 percentage points since last year, according to the results of a survey published Monday. (RIA Novosti, 05.22.13).


          • Russia could postpone its ambitious military spending program as an economic slowdown forces the government to review its spending plans, the country’s finance minister indicated Wednesday. (Wall Street Journal, 05.22.13)
          • Russia will decommission and scrap two of the largest Project 841 submarines in the world by 2018. (RIA Novosti, 05.21.13).

          Security and law-enforcement:

          • Russian security forces said they killed two Islamist militants and wounded a third in a shootout outside Moscow on Monday, after they learned the men were planning a terrorist attack in the Russian capital. A law enforcement source said the men had undergone training in North Waziristan, in northwest Pakistan, and might be affiliated with the banned Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. (Wall Street Journal, Moscow Times, 05.21.13).
          • Two car bombs exploded in front of the Court Bailiffs’ Directorate in Makhachkala, killing several people and wounding more than 20. (RFE/RL, 05.20.13).
          • Moscow announced an alleged ally of Doku Umarov has been killed. Russia’s Anti-Terrorism Committee says Dzhamaleil Mutaliyev was killed along with another militant in Nazran. (RFE/RL, 05.22.13).
          • A police officer and his brother, suspected of collaboration with militants, have been detained in Makhachkala.  (Interfax, 05.19.13).
          • A prominent figure in the Chechen diaspora in Turkey was shot at his Ankara office late on Wednesday, a North Caucasus refugee association said, the latest in a series of killings of Chechens and their sympathizers in the country in recent years. (Reuters, 05.23.13).
          • The case of the 2006 killing of Russia’s prominent investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya is set to be tried again in court.  (RFE/RL, 05.21.13).
          • The planned inquest into the death of Alexander Litvinenko, an ex-KGB spy, has been thrown into doubt after the coroner ruled he was unable to hear secret evidence on whether the Russian state ordered the killing. (Financial Times, 05.18.13).

          Foreign affairs and trade:

          • Russia’s Foreign Ministry says Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government has agreed in principle to attend an international peace conference in Geneva proposed by Russia and the United States.  (RFE/RL, 05.24.13).
          • Radical groups in Syria will continue to impose their conditions of forming a government system even if the election of a new president is held in the republic, and this can provoke the collapse of the country, the chief of Russia’s military intelligence  Igor Sergun said.  (Interfax, 05.23.13).
          • Tanzania is demanding almost $206 million in taxes from Russian state uranium company ARMZ, which has won a license to build the East African country’s first uranium mine. (Moscow Times, 05.24.13).
          • People’s attitudes to Russia’s global role continue to deteriorate, particularly in the U.S., according to a poll conducted in 25 countries by the BBC. Overall, only 30 percent of the international respondents viewed Russia in a positive light, 1 percent less than in a similar poll one year ago. There has been a sharp rise in negative attitudes toward Russia in the U.S., from 47 percent a year ago to 59 percent now. The most favorable attitudes to Russia were registered in Ghana and China, with 56 and 44 percent, respectively. (The Moscow Times, 05.23.13).

          Russia's neighbors:

          • The Kyrgyz government has decided to cancel the U.S.-Kyrgyz agreement on NATO’s use of a transit center near Bishkek as of July 2014. (RFE/RL, 05.21.13).
          • Ukraine has opened the rocket engine airframes disposal facility in Dnepropetrovsk oblast.  Its operation allows for disposal of the RS-22 (SS-24) missile components. (PRNewswire, 05.21.13).
          • Authorities in Idaho have arrested an Uzbek national on federal terrorism charges. Fazliddin Kurbanov is accused of conspiring to provide “computer software and money to the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and of possessing “a hollow grenade, hobby fuse, aluminum powder, potassium nitrate and sulfur.”  (CBS, 05.16.13).
          • Officials from Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan have confirmed that nationals from both those countries have been found recently fighting on the side of the rebels in Syria’s ongoing civil war. (RFE/RL, 05.24.13).
          • “We are determined to provide Russia with as much help as possible to ensure the 2014 Olympics are held safely,” Georgian Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili told reporters on Friday. (Interfax, 05.24.13).
          • Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili says the tiny Pacific island nation of Vanuatu has withdrawn its recognition of Georgia’s breakaway region of Abkhazia.  (RFE/RL, 05.21.13).


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          For Academic Citation:Russia in Review.” News, , May 24, 2013.