Archive for the ‘Russia’ Category


April 14, 2010

13 January 2010
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DJ: There was no clickable Contents in #7. I did not have the time
to put it together. This may happen again in the future. It’s a rather
lengthy process to code the "new" JRL. And I am having to devote
considerable time to issues that recipients are having in
receiving the "new" JRL. And today I simply can’t get the coding

behave correctly. Sending out in any case. Sorry. No clickable

Contents again.

  1. Russian circus: peep into tricks of trade.
  2. RIA Novosti: Russians shocked by new TV drama showing darker side
of school.
  3. ITAR-TASS: New Russian Movie To Be Released In France.
  4. ITAR-TASS: Russia Lives Through Winter Better Than Last Year –
Arrangement of forces and new political agenda. 2010 AS THE DECISIVE
  6. Paul Goble: Window on Eurasia: Freedom of Speech Exists in
Russian Media Despite Little Demand for It, Journalist Says.
  7. Vedomosti: MEDVEDEV BROUGHT NO FREEDOM. Freedom House
released its Freedom in the World 2009 survey. Russia was listed among
non-free countries.
  8. Izvestia: Vyacheslav Nikonov, About the self-fulfilling prophecies.
(re STRATFOR’s forecasting)
  9. Nezavisimaya Gazeta: TRICK. The Kremlin suggests a fairer distribution
of commanding heights in regional legislatures between all political parties.
  10. ITAR-TASS: Creation Of Legal Framework For Anti-corruption
Examination Of Laws To Continue.
  11. Medvedev’s Gubernatorial Choices Sending Negative
Message. (Vladimir Milov)
  12. Moscow Times: David Kramer, Putin Is Medvedev’s Biggest Spoiler.
  13. Vremya Novostei: AMENDMENTS TO BE CONTINUED. Presidential
draft law on non-governmental organizations is criticized for being too vague.
  14. RIA Novosti: Russian rights activists to march for slain lawyer,
journalist despite ban.
  15. Business knocks on government’s door.
  16. Rossiyskaya Gazeta: Russian Natural Resources Minister
Interviewed on Climate Change Challenges.
  17. Yezhednevnyy Zhurnal: Boris Zhukov, Word and Deed of the State.
Ecological Results of 2009 in Russia.
  18. RBC Daily: DVORKOVICH TO HELP. The government commission for
economic development and integration is formed and about to convene its
first meeting.
  19. Interfax: Russian Audit Chamber issues anti-crisis spending
breakdown for 2009.
  20. Nikolas Gvosdev, Can Russia fix itself by 2012?
  21. Moscow Times: Martin Gilman, A Promising Economic Start to a
New Decade.
  22. Moscow Times: U.S. Dethroning Russia as Gas King.
  23. ITAR-TASS: Russia Never Stopped Energy Supplies To Europe – Lavrov.
  24. OSC [US Open Source Center] Analysis: Russia Seeks Some
Control of Turkmen Gas; Turkmenistan Seeks Options.
  25. Voice of America: Obama: Resetting Relations with Russia.
  26. Yezhednevnyy Zhurnal: Mikhail Margelov, Results of the Year.
It Was Not Weakness That Prompted the US Toward ‘Reset.’    
  27. ITAR-TASS: Russia, US Several Steps Away From New START –
  28. Interfax: Russian ban on US poultry imports may backfire –
Russian experts.
  29. Pundit: Chinese Expansionism Marks ‘Brilliant Strategic
Victory’ Over Russia. (Andrey Piontkovskiy)
  30. Jeffrey Mankoff, Long Pipelines Make
Bad Neighbors. Why Russia is feuding with Belarus and what it
means for Europe’s security.
  31. Interfax: Less Than 5% Ukrainians Believe Presidential Election
Will Be Fair – Poll.
  32. Interfax: Ukraine Needs to Be Western-oriented to Achieve
European Standards of Living – Yanukovych.
  33. RIA Novosti: Presidential hopeful Yanukovych seeks Russian
gas deal revision.
  34. Reuters: Election tension mounts as Ukraine PM cries foul.
  35. ROAR: "Ukraine goes from chaos of
orange revolution to strong power." (press review)
  36. New data on RussiaVotes:
  37. IREX  Short-Term Travel Grant Reminder.]
January 11, 2010
Russian circus: peep into tricks of trade
Russia’s proud circus tradition goes back over 200 years and binds generations of talent together. Now the cream of Russia’s performer crop reveals for RT what lies behind the secrets of their magic.
The Great Moscow State Circus has it all: acrobats, clowns, camels and Dalmatians ‘ maybe not 101, but still plenty ‘ but it’s the big cats that make the audience gasp.
"You have to have the courage," said Giya Eradze, a trainer with 20 years of experience.
"But you have to make them trust you. If they fear you, they won’t work. As one famous trainer said, ‘if a tiger falls asleep in the cage, it means he trusts you.’"
It was in Soviet times that the circus turned into a true national entertainment with its own traditions.
"The Swiss circus is known for its trained animals, like elephants and rhinos, the British one is about excellent horses, the Chinese about acrobats," said Leonid Kostuyk, Director of the Great Moscow State Circus. And the modern Russian circus is about everything – our artists work in every genre, and usually excel at all of them.
So it’s not surprising that Russian performers have become a hit abroad – including starring in the legendary Cirque du Soleil.

Their show’s most risky act is "Russian Swings" and the name says it all. The safety harness is there during rehearsals, but for the audience those daredevils defy gravity at their own peril.
"Once during a performance, a jumper leapt too high and wasn’t going to reach the platform," said "Russian Swings" coach Sergey Risuyev. I caught him -I wasn’ thinking of any risk at the time, only that we had to save him. Russian acrobats are known for their impressive training, but they also make a very strong team -that’ why they’e so popular.
Impressive training indeed -hours of rehearsals and years of hard work, and some insider tricks you have to know.
"You should never sit with your back turned to the arena. It’s about showing respect for the place, explained juggler Aleksandr Kulakov. "And if you don’t see what’s going on there, it can be dangerous with all these people flying around! Also, if an artist is about to enter the arena during a performance, you can never cross their way, it’s a bad sign."
But no matter how much you learn to become a professional, circus has to run in your blood – at least that’s what magician Anton Krasilnikov, a fourth generation circus artist, believes.
"Someone who wasn’t born to a circus family doesn’t realize how hard it is," said Krasilnikov. "They expect a fairytale, dream of making big money. But it doesn’t always happen. Just like 200 years ago, circus means constant touring, disruption of your everyday life, lots of disorder. Outsiders usually leave after a year."
But those who stay say it’s all worth it. And even if you don’t plan to run away and join the circus, you might want to treat yourself to a show. These artists promise you won’t be disappointed!
Russians shocked by new TV drama showing darker side of school
MOSCOW, January 13 (RIA Novosti)-A new television series depicting the harsh reality of school life in modern Russia has sparked heated public debate, with some people and politicians demanding the creators be punished.
On Monday, nationwide Channel One launched School, a 60-part fictional series by young director Valeria Gai Germanika that was shot in a real Moscow school and includes large amounts of documentary-type footage.
Producers described School, showing the seamy side of the life of schoolchildren openly smoking and drinking beer, harassing their classmates and snubbing teachers, as "a radical series about teenagers."
The educational system, once the pride of the Soviet Union, has fallen into decay since the Communist empire collapsed in 1991. President Dmitry Medvedev, who took office in 2008, has made reviving quality schooling one of his priorities.
State-controlled Channel One said in a statement that School was seeking to help Medvedev, who has proclaimed 2010 the Year of the Teacher, rather than challenge his plans.
"We do not think the Year of the Teacher … is a pretext for concealing or disguising problems in schools, but a reason to understand them," it said.
Some politicians are not convinced and have called for heads to roll over the series.
"I have watched the first episodes and confirmed this is a preplanned subversion of our children and youth," Communist deputy Vladislav Yurchik told the State Duma lower house of parliament, which opened its spring session on Wednesday.
He urged those responsible be punished for what he described as making contemporary youths "a morally crippled generation."
Reaction to the first two episodes on a teachers’ online forum ranged from "shocking and outrageous" and "a blow to the entire education system" to "sad and exaggerated."
"I am shocked at the two episodes I have seen, at how schoolchildren behave and how they treat teachers… My God! Children at our school are angels," a teacher of English from south Russia’s Rostov Region wrote.
New Russian Movie To Be Released In France
PARIS, January 13 (Itar-Tass) – A movie by Russian film director Pavel Lungin, The Czar, is released to the public at large in France Wednesday.
The movie reaped applause and critics’ laudations at Cannes last year and the French spectators are looking forward to watch Lungin’s new work now.
He is known to European spectators for his previous movie, The Island.
The Czar has big chances to become a cultural event of the year in France, a film reviewer told Itar-Tass. It is not surprising therefore that it is released here at the start of the Russia-France Year.
The movie, in which Lungin raises the problem of relationship between faith and the supreme state power, seethes with tragic motives and intellectual complexity.
"I don’t rule out the Europeans have resolved the issue already but anyway it’s worthwhile looking at it again," Lungin told the French reporters.
The movie’s director of photography, Tom Stern, also directed photography for Clint Eastwood’s Invictus, due on release in France later this week.
It is noteworthy that Stern’s positive response to a proposal to film The Czar put off the filming of Eastwood’s movie for several months.
Russia Lives Through Winter Better Than Last Year – Minister
NOVO-OGAREVO, January 11 (Itar-Tass) — Russia is going through the winter heating season better than it did last year, Russian Minister of Regional Development Viktor Basargin said during his meeting with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Monday.
In Basargin’s words, "all the systems were prepared for the winter season by 99.9 percent. Staffers carried out systemic work for the winter holidays."
"By 2010, the situation was better than at the beginning of 2009," Basargin said, adding, "Only 17 incidents and three emergencies were registered by January 1 compared to 29 incidents reported by the same date in 2009."
"However, the number of failures in the work of the housing and public utilities grew from last year due to the crisis that caused under-financing of preparations for the winter heating season," the minister said.
"This season’s number of the above-mentioned failures has reached 2,400, which is 8 percent more than last time," Basargin said.
According to the official, seven incidents and 17 failures were registered during the New Year holidays. In his opinion, the most complex situation is in Siberia, the Trans-Baikal area, the Irkutsk region, the Primorye Territory, and in St. Petersburg.
"The incidents were mainly caused by man-triggered factors," the minister said. As for natural and climatic factors, they caused the problems in Sakhalin (heavy snowfalls) and in St. Petersburg (ground slide).
All in all, the number of incidents and emergencies decreased this season, as compared to the previous period, Basargin said, adding, "Such a result was achieved owing to coordinated work of communal services and local authorities, as well as upgrading of equipment and introduction of reserve power units."
January 13, 2010
Arrangement of forces and new political agenda
Author: Dmitry Badovsky, Dmitry Vinogradov, Mikhail Peterburgsky
[Restart of the national industry is the immediate task of
President Dmitry Medvedev’s modernization project, development of
industrial society is the objective.]
     Decisions regarding the future, i.e. the elections scheduled
for 2011 and 2012, will have to be made at the close of this year.
In fact, 2010 is going to be the decisive year of Dmitry
Medvedev’s presidency. The first half of his term of office will
be over come spring. From then on, the elites and the population
will start judging Medvedev from the standpoint of his strategic
projects and actual accomplishments.
     Vladimir Putin declared modernization a must in early 2008.
Medvedev’s "Forward, Russia!" became a manifesto, Message to the
Federal Assembly a "road map" of modernization.
     Where modernization is concerned, Medvedev’s mind is set.
Modernization is to be conservative in content, nonviolent in
methods, and democratic from the standpoint of reliance on the
existing democratic institutions. The political and socioeconomic
system will be spared revolutions. It will evolve instead.
     Development of new industrial society in Russia is the
objective. Restart of the national industry is the immediate task.
     Efficiency of the so called tandem meanwhile remains quite
commendable. Society even perceives it as a "tandem of
development" now that the program of modernization was adopted.
Putin’s conservatism (relative as it is to a certain degree) is
the basis and guarantee of Medvedev’s similarly relative
     The situation being what it is, it is not always possible to
draw a line between the affairs that are supposed to be handled by
the president and the ones that are in the premier’s jurisdiction.
It follows that some matters require joint decisions from the
national leaders. This interaction enables the political
establishment and all sorts of lobbyists to gauge the degree of
the tandem’s integrity.
     All attempts to throw the tandem out of synch are based on
deliberate misinterpretation of developments or statements rather
than on the inevitable differences in Medvedev’s and Putin’s
styles. CPRF leader Gennadi Zyuganov with his mantra on what he
calls "inefficiency" of the president-premier interaction is one
of the champions in this destabilization. Zyuganov regularly backs
the president and criticizes Putin with his Cabinet. In fact,
Putin’s resignation was the central demand of the mass protests
the CPRF organized on November 7.
     Medvedev and Putin usually duck questions on 2012 and
presidential election. This tactic prevents the elites from
rallying behind one participant in the tandem or the other, a
nuance that makes at least part of the establishment definitely
uncomfortable. It follows that attempts to expose controversies
within the tandem will most probably continue – without, however,
having the slightest effect on efficiency of the binary system
     The ruling tandem set new criteria of efficiency for the
elites and groups of interests within them. It should be noted
meanwhile that neither Medvedev nor Putin contemplate any analogs
of a "cultural revolution" i.e. aggressive destabilization of the
officialdom and upper management of state companies and
     The status quo is like a test for practically all groups of
interests, power structures, major businesses (both state-
controlled and private), political parties, and regional elites.
     First, it is a test for the ability to demonstrate new
quality of performance. To a certain extent, it encourages
competition whose outcome will show what groups and structures
within the system are adequate for the part and the status of
"locomotive forces of modernization", political and managerial
institutions of development.
     Second, it is a test for adequacy for niches in the power
vertical after 2012.
Window on Eurasia: Freedom of Speech Exists in Russian Media Despite Little Demand for It, Journalist Says
By Paul Goble
            Vienna, January 12 � Most discussions of media freedom in the Russian Federation focus either on the ways in which the government has imposed control over television or on the remaining possibilities for relatively free discussion on the Internet or in the relatively mall tirage print media.
            But in an essay posted online today, Irina Yasina, the head of the experts council of the Club of Regional Journalism, looks not at the supply side but on the demand, and she argues that while media freedom does exist in Russia, 95 percent of the Russian people show little or no interest in it, preferring instead to rely on government-controlled television.
            While there is little or no freedom of speech on television, which the government tightly controls because that is the source of information for �the basic part of the so-called electorate,� Yasina says, there is some media freedom on other TV outlets, radio, the print media and the Internet (
            REN-TV provides examples of this, as do Ekho Moskvy and City-FM radio, she argues. But tragically, Russians on the whole are not showing much interest in or making much use of these or similar electronic mass media outlets, preferring instead the �pablum� offered to them on the First and Second channels of television.
Newspapers also provide many examples of relative media freedom, but ever fewer Russians are reading them.  And there numbers are likely to dwindle as over the next 10 to 15 years, �the press in general disappears� not so much as a result of a government conspiracy as from the development of the Internet.
        The situation with regard to media freedom is not significantly different in the regions than it is in Moscow, at least if one is speaking about cities with a population of 100,000 or more.  That is because �the border passes not along the red zone or other geographic or political division.�
        The dividing line with regard to media freedom, she says, �passes where access to the Internet ends.  There where there is broadband Internet, there is freedom of speech.� But �again� in the regions as in Moscow, Yasina observes, only �if you need it.�  Consequently, while technology is on the side of media freedom, that lack of demand represents a serious challenge.
        �The problem in our country is not that we want something that the authorities won�t allow us;� she insists. �The problem is that we do not want� what media freedom can provide. �You and I,� she writes directing her comments to Russians �can by going online or turning on the radio find out in five minutes everything that is happening in the world.�
        �But 95 percent of the population [of the Russian Federation] does not need [this information] at all,� or so it appears from the media that Russians are interested in and actually turn to on a regular basis.
        As long as the current powers that be remain in office, Yasina says, they will try to control the media people turn to in order to protect their positions.  �But technology is on our side. Both the Internet and digital television which whether you like it or not all the same is coming to Russia,� thereby opening new possibilities.
        But realizing these possibilities, the expert on journalism says, will require Russians working in the new media and Russians more generally to work hard and to change, something that requires acknowledging that �the powers that be are [not] guilty in every case � that [Russians themselves] are guilty� because �we ourselves are not interested.�
        Approximately 1.5 to 2 million Russians listen to Ekho Moskvy, read �Novaya gazeta,� use the Internet for news, and tune in to REN-TV. That is not a small number in one sense, but relative to the total population, it is not very large, one reason why the authorities don�t close down such outlets because they are not a threat.
        However, as soon as the tirages of the publications with such news grow or the viewership of freer sources of news increases, then, Yasina writes, the powers that be �will become concerned.�  But until that happens, they don�t need to be, something that shows that �for the time being, the question [about the future of media freedom] rests with us, not them.�
January 13, 2010
Freedom House released its Freedom in the World 2009 survey. Russia was listed among non-free countries
Author: Vera Kholmogorova, Natalia Kostenko
     Freedom House published its annual survey on freedom in the
world. Judging by its conclusions, President Dmitry Medvedev’s
promises of democratization and war on corruption did nothing to
stop the advance on civil liberties in Russia. Authors of the
survey made special references to assassinations of lawyer
Stanislav Markelov, journalist Anastasia Baburova, and human
rights activist Natalia Estemirova, rigged elections, harassment
of the opposition, and the Kremlin’s "efforts to manipulate
     Freedom in the World 2008 had also commented on curtailment
of freedoms in Russia. This year survey placed Russia among non-
free countries again. By and large, Freedom House drew the
conclusion that the year of economic decline (2009) became the
year of the worst encroachment on human rights and civil freedoms
worldwide since 1995. Forty countries saw some degree of decline
in freedoms. Authoritarian states including Iran, Russia,
Venezuela, and Vietnam became even more repressive.
     "Decline in freedom is undeniable," Boris Nemtsov of the
Solidarity Coalition complained. He said that even though
comparing Russia with Belarus or Turkmenistan would have been
impossible to imagine only recently, it was a hard fact of life
now. According to Nemtsov, Medvedev is saying all the correct
words but words are all they are since he lacks influence.
     "The authorities promised to do better when investigating
assassinations of journalists. They even promised the media
defense from the officialdom. Unfortunately, nothing at all has
been done to keep these promises," Mikhail Fedotov of the Russian
Journalistic Union said.
     Konstantin Kosachev of the International Affairs Committee of
the Duma suggested concentration on what was being said about the
situation in Russia itself rather than on criticism from abroad.
"There are lots of organizations like Freedom House in the world,"
the parliamentarian said. "Besides, this one in particular is
sponsored by the U.S. Department of State."
January 13, 2010
About the self-fulfilling prophecies
By Vyacheslav Nikonov, president of the Politika Fund
The established American company, STRATFOR, which specializes in strategic forecasting and is often called "a shadow CIA"  marked the beginning of the new year with a report forecasting global development for 2010. Russia is predicted to have an unprecedented rise of power due to the strengthening of its position in the post-Soviet territory while the West remains stuck in the Afghanistan, Iraqi, Iranian, and North Caucasian problems. How should this forecast be treated and why did it surface precisely now? It should be treated in three ways.
First, this forecast reflects a certain reality, or at least a potential possibility. The Customs Union of Russia, Kazakhstan, and Belarus became effective on January 1 – despite the fact that it is currently being tested for the first time with the gas conflict between Moscow and Minsk, it is the most serious and advanced project in the history of the CIS. The Customs Union has the potential to expand by moving toward the already agreed upon by the three countries Common Economic Space (CES), as well as by the gradual accession of other countries of the EurAsEC. It is quite possible that this is the beginning of a formation of a truly integrated union with the shared market size nearly double that of Russia’s. The experience of China, which was able to successfully circumvent the crisis by stimulating domestic demand, serves as evidence as to how important it is to have a large domestic (or shared) market. Moreover, only a larger integrated market will give the post-Soviet countries a chance to play a role of a self-sufficient power center in the modern world.
Another reality is the inevitable shift of balance of political forces in Ukraine after its presidential election. Viktor Yushchenko will definitely no longer be the head of state, which is the best thing that could happen in the Russo-Ukrainian relations. The outgoing president showed himself as being the most audacious Russophobe and a nationalist. One could not say that Viktor Yanukovich, who is unquestionably leading in the election campaign, is completely pro-Russian – he is a pro-Ukrainian politician; although, clearly, the majority of pro-Russian politicians are members of the Party of Regions, which is under his leadership, meanwhile he has not been noted to be a Russophobe. If elections are fair, then Yanukovich will win by a landslide. It is possible that Yulia Tymoshenko will try to challenge the victory, and could try to organize another Maidan or force the other side to make concessions. But, the "orange" leadership is undoubtedly on its way out and there is a chance for a Russo-Ukrainian rapprochement.
The advent of the new year was followed by the renewal of the Russo-Turkmen partnership in the gas sphere, which is based on market principles. By securing itself with its gas supplies to China, Ashgabat began a
more relaxed and constructive work with Moscow. Russia, too, has good chances of expanding its economic presence in the CIS if it offers its neighbors help in the post-crisis reconstruction. We are basically the only country in the region that has financial resources (Azerbaijan also has a lot).
But, let us go back to STRATFOR�s forecast. Secondly, it should be treated as�a denunciation. Analysts have called the attention of the kind hearted, in their opinion, leaders of the Western world � who, in the recent years, have given negative evaluations to Russia’s intensified influence over the former Soviet republics � to the growing threat. �Russians are coming!� � and it is impossible not to notice it, impossible not to oppose it. In this sense, the forecast is more like a call to restrain Russia and act against it � if not immediately, then in the near future.
Thus, instead of looking at the global development forecast for the year, one should examine the development forecast for the 21 century, which was recently released by the head of STRATFOR, George Friedman. The book, �The next 100 years�, became the world�s best non-fiction seller. Due to the fact that the laws of geopolitics are grim and are beyond the human will, Freidman predicts an inevitable confrontation between Russia and the U.S. in the 2020s, the result of which will be the destruction of Russia. The conflict will begin due to our country, while following its geopolitical instincts, wanting to regain its position on the post-Soviet territory. The West will swallow Russia�s �hegemony� in Belarus and Ukraine, but when Moscow advances to the Baltic States, Washington, which at that time would have destabilized the Muslim world, will abandon its affairs in the Middle East and issue a harsh and a decisive response to Russia. Russia will be defeated and cease to exist; its territory will be divided between Poland, Turkey, and Japan. This long-term forecast could be regarded seriously or as nonsense. But in its context, the short-term forecast for 2010 seems to be leading up to the long-term one, while nudging Western leaders toward the scenario that STRATFOR predicts for the 2020s. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Finally, the third aspect. The talks about the drastic intensification of our positions in the CIS may very well be perceived as part of the currently ongoing major attack on Barack Obama in the United States. �Resetting� of Russo-American relations and the move towards signing a new strategic arms reduction treaty � are perhaps the major foreign policy achievements of the Democrats� administration. In the midst of the already launched midterm election campaign (one third of the Senate and the entire House of Representatives will be reelected in November) accusations � that Obama�s �softness� toward Russia led to nothing more than it beginning to enslave its neighboring countries and restoring its empire � are inevitable. It is no wonder that his main rival in the last presidential election, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), began this year by visiting Georgia, where he criticized Obama�s Russian policy. Shortly after, came the STRATFOR report on the strengthening of our power�
Thus, when you see predictions of great success, they are not always a reason to be happy. But, it would be nice to hope that the 2010 predictions did come to fruition, even if they are not to the liking of some.
Nezavisimaya Gazeta
January 13, 2010
The Kremlin suggests a fairer distribution of commanding heights in regional legislatures between all political parties
Author: Elina Bilevskaya
United Russia will have to share commanding heights in regional
parliaments with their political adversaries. What information is
available to Nezavisimaya Gazeta indicates that the draft law the
Kremlin is working on will state that the positions of legislature
chairman and his senior assistant should be held by
representatives of different factions. These days, these positions
throughout regional parliaments are mostly occupied by
functionaries of United Russia as the party of the majority. Some
experts even assume that this practice might be extended to the
federal Duma at some later date.
     Addressing the Federal Assembly, President Dmitry Medvedev
mentioned the necessity to distribute commanding heights in
regional legislatures among all factions represented there. The
Kremlin is working on a draft law to ensure it, these days. It
will amend the federal law "On general principles of organization
of legislative and executive power structures in subjects of the
Russian Federation". A source close to the Kremlin told this
newspaper that the initial version of the document included an
intriguing phrase to the effect that the positions of regional
parliament’s chairman and his senior assistant ought to belong to
representatives of different factions.
     Distribution of commanding heights in legislatures is a major
headache for the opposition – at all levels from regional to
federal. Duma Chairman Boris Gryzlov has ten assistant chairmen.
Only one of them is senior assistant chairman, and he is Oleg
Morozov of the United Russia faction.
     The impression is that the Kremlin decided to try a new
approach, first in the regions.
     LDPR faction leader Igor Lebedev commented that United Russia
was notoriously unwilling to share power and that its attitude was
making representatives of other political parties in regional
parliaments extra players at best. The lawmaker backed the idea of
shifting some functions to senior assistant chairmen from other
political parties. Lebedev said, however, that United Russia
should be watched – it could part with the position of senior
assistant chairman but make sure that he would be but a figurehead
who did not decide anything. At the same time, Lebedev questioned
expediency of extending this arrangement to the Duma afterwards.
He said he was absolutely contented with how things were arranged
in the lower house of the federal parliament.
     Valery Ryazansky, United Russia faction senior assistant
leader, assured this newspaper that the ruling party had never
tried to keep all positions of power in regional parliaments. To
listen to Ryazansky, United Russia was always happy to share.
"Anyway, an emphasis on this particular tendency will demonstrate
that the political system is quite democratic. It does not mean,
however, that United Russia is through with striving for being the
party of the majority," he warned. "I’d say that this is a natural
incentive for every political party."
     Vadim Soloviov of the CPRF faction admitted that this
approach was correct in theory but said that the law should be
made more specific. "The way I see it, the post of senior
assistant chairman should be reserved for the second largest
faction of the regional parliament," Soloviov said. "It will be
fair then. After all, the CPRF has fairly large and powerful
factions in most regions. United Russia meanwhile will probably
offer these posts to the LDPR or Fair Russia."
     Ilya Ponomarev of the Fair Russia faction of the Duma
commented that it would be nice to specify in the amended law that
the opposition ought to be entitled to chairmanship in budget
committees of the regional parliaments. (Ponomarev said that this
was how things were done in practically all European countries.)
He added that local electoral commissions should be chaired by
representatives of the opposition as well.
     This is where difficulties might be encountered. Aleksei
Makarkin, Assistant Director General of the Political Techniques
Center, pointed out that there was no exact definition of
opposition parties in Russia. "Sure, we know what a ruling party
is but not what a party of the opposition is," he said and warned
that this nuance might turn out to be an insurmountable hindrance.
     Mikhail Starshinov (Fair Russia faction) actually said that
regional legislators would solve the dilemma easily and simply
abolish the post of senior assistant chairman of the parliament.
     Political scientist Rostislav Turovsky suggested that this
formula was a device that neutralized the opposition rather than
advanced parliamentarism. "Opposition inevitably dwindles in the
regions where commanding heights are turned over to it." Turovsky
said that powers of the senior assistant chairman would be purely
nominal so that he would wield no real powers. The political
scientist suggested that this experience might even be applied to
the federal parliament at a later date. "Sure, it will be nothing
short of a revolutionary measure when applied to the Duma," he
said. "As matters stand, everything is decided by a single
political party. When, however, the senior assistant chairman is
from a different faction, it will necessitate constant dialogue
between political parties."
     Makarkin was more optimistic. He called it the first step on
the road to guaranteeing the rights of minorities in Russia and
not just showing respect for the rights of the majority. "In
principle, it is not what I’d call typical of Russia," Makarkin
mused. "It is actually an attempt to introduce European
experience, one guaranteeing the rights of the opposition. Of
course, everything depends on exactly what powers senior assistant
chairmen of regional parliaments will be permitted to wield. On
the other hand, local media outlets are more likely to cover and
broadcast statements of a representative of the opposition who is
senior assistant chairman of the regional legislature."
Creation Of Legal Framework For Anti-corruption Examination Of Laws To Continue
MOSCOW, January 11 (Itar-Tass) –The Russian Audit Chamber’ s Board has reviewed the results of monitoring and analysis of legislative and other regulatory acts and draft laws and draft regulatory acts for corruption as well as discrepancies and loopholes in Russian legislation.
The analysis shows that on the whole an integral and up-to-date regulatory anti-corruption framework has been created, a key structural element of which is anti-corruption examination of regulatory acts and their drafts. Federal Law "On Anti-Corruption Examination of Regulatory Acts and their Drafts" adopted by the State Duma on July 3, 2009 and Approved by the Federation Council on July 7, 2009 provides the legal basis for anti-corruption examination of legislation.
However the process of developing the legal framework for anti-corruption examination of regulatory acts and their drafts is not completed yet. The analysis exposed certain flaws, loopholes and discrepancies in Russian regulatory acts. For example, a number of issues pertaining to civil defence, emergencies response and fire safety remain unresolved. The technical regulation on fire safety has a number of gaps in regulating fire safety at target facilities. The Emergencies Ministry is considering more than 100 amendments and alterations to the regulation. The Federal Law "On Fire Safety" established the notion of municipal fire service but failed to empower local authorities for creating such service.
The Federal Laws "On Fire Safety" and "On the General Principles of Organisation of Local Government in the Russian Federation" obligates local authorities to ensure primary fire safety measures, but does not include the creation of municipal fire service units in the list of measures aimed at ensuring primary fire safety.
The Regulation on the Federal Fire Service has not been brought in compliance with the Federal Law "On Fire Safety" regarding the powers of federal fire authorities in terms of fighting fires in populated localities.
The Federal Law "On Anti-Corruption Examination of Regulatory Acts and their Drafts" allows people to carry out "independent examination of regulatory acts" on their own, and its results will be advisory for authorities. However the Justice Ministry and the prosecutor’s office will play the main role in this process.
Such examinations are carried out now. Legislative initiatives are checked for corruption-related provisions by the Duma and the Public Chamber, while the prosecutor’s office ensures that regulatory acts drafted in Moscow and regions comply with the law. However "often regulatory acts adopted by authorities and local self-government bodies contain provisions that formally do not contradict legislation but give civil and municipal servants broad discretionary powers without a precise decision-making criteria".
The president suggested carrying out anti-corruption legislation using a special methodology to be determined by the government.
Preventive policy to eliminate so-called regulatory causes of corruption should become an important aspect of the government’s work, presidential chief of staff Sergei Naryshkin said earlier.
"Regulatory acts, unjustifiably broad distribution powers without clear decision-making criteria and a clear-cut system of responsibility and control can create conditions for bribery and embezzlement," he said.
"We consider anti-corruption examination of regulatory acts and their drafts as an internationally tested and effective method of preventing conditions for corruption," Naryshkin said.
The purpose of anti-corruption examination is "not only to eliminate corruption provisions from regulatory acts but also sieve all effective regulatory and normative acts at the municipal, regional and federal levels", Naryshkin said, adding, "The first steps have already been taken".
The federal government has approved and uses rules and methodologies for carrying out anti-corruption examination, created expert groups in the government staff, the presidential administration, government agencies and regions.
Naryshkin said it is obvious that anti-corruption examination will be more effective if it involves the general public, law experts and civil society institutions.
To this end, the Justice Ministry has started accrediting independent public inspectors for participation in anti-corruption examination.
"Big and complex work, not for a year or two" is in store, the official said, adding, "Its results will not be visible at once, but they will be."
The law says that anti-corruption examination can be carried out by a prosecutor’s office, the Justice Ministry, organisations and officials. The government will determine the methodology for such examinations.
Prosecutors will be authorised to test regulatory acts concerning the rights, freedoms and duties of citizens or federal and municipal property, budget, tax, customs, forestry, water, land, town-planning, environmental, and licensing legislation.
The Justice Ministry will examine presidential decrees and government resolutions drafted by federal executive agencies.
Organisations and their officials will examine their own regulatory acts or their drafts during due diligence or application. They will be required to inform prosecutor’s office if corruption factors are exposed and their elimination is outside their jurisdiction.
Medvedev’s Gubernatorial Choices Sending Negative Message
January 11, 2010
Commentary by Vladimir Milov, president of Energy Policy Institute: "Message of Indulgence"
President Medvedev delighted all of us with a wonderful New Year’s gift. In fact, he even gave us two: He submitted the names of incumbent leaders Darkin of Maritime Kray and Berdnikov of the Altay Republic for consideration to the regional legislative assemblies for reconfirmation in their current positions.
It was a shocking personnel move on Medvedev’s part, an excellent reason to be convinced of the profound demagoguery of his declared wishes to "modernize" Russia and to fight corruption. By the standards of any modern developed country, Berdnikov should have been royally sacked following the poaching scandal involving the hunting of endangered animals on the Red List, which caused the demise of Aleksandr Kosopkin, the president’s plenipotentiary representative in the State Duma, a year ago. Darkin’s reputation precludes the need for any further comment, but think of all the froth the "political analysts" whipped up with their predictions of his "imminent dismissal"….
Medvedev is fully aware of all of this: This is obvious from the shameful way in which these personnel decisions were made in the middle of the New Year’s holidays and were quickly approved by the local United Russia leaders. The same can be said of the reappointment of Mari El leader Leonid Markelov, who was nominated by Medvedev on 29 December and was confirmed on 31 December. Markelov made a name for himself with an entire array of "achievements": the "elections" of 11 October, which may have been more outrageously lawless than any other October regional elections, with the exception of Derbent; the special resolution the European Parliament adopted in 2005 to condemn the infringements of freedom of the press, human rights, and democracy in Mari El; and all the far from isolated incidents of corruption. Several high-ranking officials in the region lost their jobs or were under investigation in recent years: former Minister of Internal Affairs Valeriy Krasnov, First Deputy Chief Vladimir Nasonov of the republic administration of the Ministry of Civil Defense, Emergencies, and Natural Disasters, division head Lidiya Yegoshina of the Mari El Pension Fund, and deputy heads of the republic Ministry of Internal Affairs Vladimir Militsa and Oleg Vlasov.
Medvedev talks about fighting corruption and about freedom and democracy, but he is reappointing the most loathsome governors.
He reappointed the heads of several other regions traditionally on the list of the most corrupt areas in Russia along with Maritime Kray and Mari El (starting with the regional corruption indices compiled several years ago by the Indem Foundation and Transparency International): Udmurtia and Astrakhan and Kurgan oblasts. Even in Volgograd Oblast, where Medvedev dismissed the "legendary" Nikolay Maksyuta, his proposed replacement was Anatoliy Brovko, Maksyuta’s deputy for … business and trade regulation.
God only knows the criteria by which Medvedev is guided when he reappoints previous regional leaders (8 of the 25 current regional leaders appointed on Medvedev’s recommendations have been reappointed). If fighting corruption is so important to the president, however, why would he not arrange for something on the order of a public corruption audit of government agencies in the regions where the possibility of keeping the current leader in office for another term is being considered? Appointing new personnel is one thing. Appointing officials who have been working for a long time in a region with a poor credit history because of corruption is another.
This is all the more important because the appointment of governors, in contrast to, for instance, officials of the presidential staff or the federal government staff or the heads of security and law enforcement agencies, is not one of the areas in which Medvedev is overly influenced by his obligations to Putin. This is precisely one area in which he might be able to act with relative freedom, at least in the case of the less important regions.
There were no public audits, however, and no public explanations of the reasons for the reappointment of Darkin in Maritime Kray, Volkov in Udmurtia, and Markelov in Mari El. On the contrary, this was done quietly, during the New Year’s holidays, so that no one would have time to voice the slightest objection.
Why am I saying all of this? I certainly am not trying to give Medvedev advice. He does not need any advice. He is guided by his own line of reasoning, focusing on considerations of loyalty rather than on integrity and professional competence. I am saying this so that all of the people who look for sincere intentions in the appealing speeches Medvedev regularly makes about the need to fight corruption will finally open their eyes.
A president who wants to fight corruption — even if only a little bit, only on the lower and middle levels of the bureaucracy — would never nominate Sergey Darkin for a third term as governor of Maritime Kray. NEVER.
This act is one of a series of unconditional taboos, which have been violated and have thereby put Medvedev’s corruption-fighting plans completely, irrevocably, and absolutely unambiguously to rest.
It is impossible to explain which of Darkin’s services could be interpreted as a compelling reason for his reconfirmation. Was it the reduction of the Maritime Kray population by 113,000 people during the years Darkin has been in the governor’s office? Was it the kray’s move from 18th place in Russia to 3d in terms of crimes committed per 100,000 residents? Was it the growth of the income gap between the richest 10 percent and poorest 10 percent of kray residents from 9 times to 12?
Furthermore, the previously cited examples prove that Darkin is not an isolated case.
What can we say about the decision to keep such diehards as Yuriy Luzhkov, Murtaza Rakhimov, and Leonid Polezhayev in office? Or about Eduard Rossel and Aleksey Lebed, who occupied cushy spots in the Federation Council and the State Duma after they left office, thereby sending a message to all other regional leaders: Anything is "permissible" as long as it is accompanied by a show of loyalty?
Finally, we have to say something about the grand style in which the new gubernatorial appointees are living: Samara Governor Artyakov recently used budget funds to buy an armored Mercedes worth almost 23 million rubles and he wears a Swiss DeWitt watch, estimated by experts to cost 225,000 Swiss francs before taxes.
This is another of those presidential "messages." They are much more important than the "modernization" messages sent to naive outside observers. These are messages he sends to his own people, to tell them what is "permissible." This is the disgraceful end of Medvedev’s widely publicized "campaign against corruption."
Mr. President began this new year of 2010 by taking some steps that he will never be able to pin on that "evil Putin." These steps are now part of his — Medvedev’s — personal biography. Now people will be referring to him when they talk about "the man that reappointed Darkin for a third term…."
Moscow Times
January 13, 2010
Putin Is Medvedev’s Biggest Spoiler
By David J. Kramer
David J. Kramer is a senior trans-Atlantic fellow with the German Marshall Fund of the United States. He served as a deputy assistant secretary of state responsible for Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova during the administration of former U.S. President George W. Bush. The views expressed by the author are his own.
Comments by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in late December must have come as an unwelcome surprise to Presidents Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev as they try to conclude a new U.S.-Russian arms control agreement to replace the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or START, that expired on Dec. 5.
But this was not the first time that Putin has thrown cold water on Medvedev’s efforts. In June, Putin stunned Medvedev and leaders in the West by announcing a change in Russia’s approach to pursuing membership in the World Trade Organization just when everyone thought that Russia was about to cross the WTO finish line. In both cases, Putin reminded Medvedev and the international community that if you want to get things done, it isn’t good enough to just have the Russian president on board. The prime minister has virtual veto power.
The latest problems arose following a meeting between Medvedev and Obama in Copenhagen on Dec. 18. They announced that their negotiators were close to reaching agreement on the START replacement treaty. Despite last-minute snags and sticking points over inspections and telemetry, both sides expected to finalize the agreement early in 2010 – that is, until Putin opened his mouth on Dec. 29 while on a visit to Vladivostok. Asked by a journalist to name the biggest obstacle to reaching agreement on the arms control treaty, Putin responded, "The problem is that our American partners are building an anti-missile shield and we are not building one."
This wasn’t the first time that Putin has tried to throw a monkey wrench into Medvedev’s efforts to finalize major agreements. During the St. Petersburg economic forum in June, where Medvedev was the main feature, the talk among Russian officials and international visitors was about Russia’s imminent membership in the WTO. Until that time, Russia remained the largest economy outside of the organization. But after extensive negotiations, U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk and other trade officials present in St. Petersburg were speaking more positively than ever about Russia being on the verge of ending its exclusion from the WTO.
But then within days after we heard these optimistic statements, Putin pulled the rug out from under Medvedev by announcing that Russia would seek membership in the WTO only in union with Kazakhstan and Belarus. Putin’s announcement came as a complete surprise to everyone, including those in his own government, and derailed a deal that finally had seemed to be within reach of Russia after many years of trying. Moreover, Putin had the temerity to blame the United States for blocking Russia’s WTO membership when he himself is responsible.
Depriving Medvedev of victories seems to have become an objective for Putin. This is a reflection of Putin�s deep sense of insecurity and manifests itself when he competes with Medvedev for global attention and glory. During his eight years as president, Putin failed to achieve membership in the WTO, while it appeared that Medvedev was close to reaching that goal at the start of his second year in office. Similarly, signing an arms control agreement with the United States would have marked another accomplishment for Medvedev and an early milestone in the "reset" in U.S.-Russian relations. It seemed that Putin feared that Medvedev could show him up in one of the most important areas in global affairs – nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation.
Beyond raining on Medvedev’s parade, Putin also seems intent on maintaining hardline positions on issues of importance to the United States, including sanctions against Iran. In contrast to Medvedev’s seemingly open position on sanctions, Putin has repeatedly made clear his opposition to getting tougher with the Iranian regime. Is Putin weighing in on the hopes of exacting last-minute compromises from the United States, assuming that Obama is desperate to get an agreement signed and might be willing to make key concessions to Russia? Perhaps Putin is intent on blocking the reset in bilateral relations because he needs to maintain the image of the United States as a "threat" to Russia to justify his autocratic vertical power structure.
Whatever the explanation, the U.S. State Department responded correctly to Putin’s year-end salvo in Vladivostok by flatly rejecting a link between post-START negotiations and missile defense. Maintaining a firm stand against provocations and bullying from Putin is exactly the right response. At the same time, the Obama administration should resist getting drawn into a corner in which it is forced to make a choice between Medvedev and Putin as "most-favored negotiating partner." It would be a mistake to assume that Medvedev would be more amenable than Putin to improving relations. Obama already made that mistake last summer when, on the eve of the summit with Medvedev, he made a sharp remark that Putin has "one foot in the old [Cold War] ways of doing business."
For the reset in U.S.-Russian relations to succeed, both Moscow and Washington must show interest in working together. Medvedev might be interested in this, but from all appearances Putin – the real power in the Kremlin – is not.
Vremya Novostei
January 13, 2010
Presidential draft law on non-governmental organizations is criticized for being too vague
Author: Mikhail Moshkin
The Public House is of the opinion that the presidential draft law
stipulating support of socially-oriented non-governmental
organizations needs certain corrections. Among other things, the
Public House suggests permission to these non-governmental
organizations to carry on business. This Monday, Duma Committee
for Public and Religious Organizations recommended adoption of the
draft law on non-governmental organizations submitted to the lower
house of the parliament. The Duma is expected to ponder the matter
today, at the first meeting of its spring session.
     Maria Slobodskaya and other members of the Public House
Commission for Civil Society claim that the draft law in its
present form "fails to give a clear answer" to whether socially-
oriented non-governmental organizations should be permitted to
carry on business. Public House experts suggested granting this
power to socially-oriented non-governmental organizations provided
that all the money made in this manner was used to promote the
objectives specified in their charters.
     The draft law in question is supposed to implement one of the
initiatives President Dmitry Medvedev put forth in his Message to
the Federal Assembly. Once it is adopted, the non-governmental
organizations recognized as socially-oriented and thus beneficial
to public welfare will be entitled to tax privileges and some
other preferences.
     Representatives of civil society meanwhile question precision
and impartiality of the criteria of selection state structures
will be using to decide which non-governmental organizations are
socially-oriented. The Public House is therefore convinced that
legislators should be much more exact on the procedures of
     Also importantly, experts point out that the draft law does
not even name the state structure that will keep tabs on non-
governmental organizations and select socially-oriented ones. "It
is also necessary to define and list all forms and kinds of
support [socially-oriented] non-governmental organizations will be
entitled to," they said. Besides, the draft law in its present
form fails to mention "… the right of the authorities at all
levels to make assets and property available to socially-oriented
non-governmental organizations."
     As a matter of fact, legislators themselves harbor analogous
misgivings. Vasily Zakhariaschev of the Duma Committee for Public
and Religious Organizations (United Russia faction) said that the
law needed a list of clearly formulated criteria of non-
governmental organization selection.
Russian rights activists to march for slain lawyer, journalist despite ban
MOSCOW, January 13 (RIA Novosti) – Russian rights activists are determined to go ahead with a march to commemorate a lawyer and journalist killed last year in central Moscow.
Stanislav Markelov, 34, who represented a family whose daughter was murdered by a Russian officer in Chechnya, and Novaya Gazeta journalist Anastasia Baburova, 25, were shot on January 19 in downtown Moscow, not far from the Christ the Saviour Cathedral. Markelov died at the scene and Baburova lost her struggle for life shortly afterwards in hospital.
An action group, including For Human Rights movement leader Lev Ponomaryov and Moscow Helsinki Group head Lyudmila Alekseyeva, asked the Moscow city government for permission to hold the march on January 19.
Permission was denied on grounds of a breach of procedure: City Hall said the request had been filed prematurely.
The For Human Rights movement said it had challenged the refusal at Moscow’s Tverskoi District Court and that the action would go ahead regardless.
"The action will go ahead in any event because it is our sacred duty to pay tribute to the anti-Nazi lawyer Stanislav Markelov and journalist Anastasia Baburova… and we can see no legal grounds for preventing us from doing that," the action organizers said in a statement.
Russian law requires the documents for a march be filed not more than 15 days and not less than 10 days before the event. The New Year public holidays only ended on January 11, meaning the window fell entirely within the vacation period.
The Moscow city government declined to comment on the issue.
Russian rights activists, politicians and public figures also asked the Moscow city authorities to establish a memorial at the site of the attack. A signature raising campaign in support of the move was launched on the Internet.
Last November, Nikolai Tikhonov, 29, and Yevgenia Khasis, 24, members of a radical neo-Nazi nationalist group, were charged in the murder.
The shooting occurred shortly after Markelov had given a news conference on the controversial early parole and release on January 15 of Russian officer Yury Budanov, convicted in the summer of 2003 of strangling 18-year-old Chechen Elsa Kungayeva and sentenced to 10 years in jail.
Police said Baburova was probably an "accidental witness." Media reports said she attempted to stop the killer, but he shot her in the head before making his escape.
The authorities in Moscow have a record of clamping down on unauthorized rallies. In the latest such event, the 82-year-old Alekseyeva, a 2009 winner of the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, saw in the New Year while in police custody.
She and some 50 other human rights activists were arrested on December 31 when they attempted to hold a "March of Dissent" in central Moscow’s Triumphalnaya Ploshchad several hours before New Year.
January 12, 2010
Business knocks on government�s door
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has agreed to allow the Russian business elite to officially attend government sessions.
The decision was made following his meeting with the head of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs (RSPP) Aleksander Shokhin. On Monday, Shokhin managed to convince Putin that representatives of large business should be invited to government meetings.
The head of the Russian government noted that Mikhail Shmakov, Chairman of the Federation of Independent Trade Unions regularly attends White House meetings.
�Perhaps, for the sake of fairness, it would not be a bad idea to invite businesses as well,� Shokhin was quoted as saying on the official website of the Russian government.
Putin�s answer was short. �Agreed,� he said.
According to Shokhin, 2010 �will still be very challenging,� therefore �many RSPP members are drawing up business strategies that focus on post-crisis development and modernization.�
�It is very important to ensure close cooperation with the government on routine issues, as well as with leading ministries and agencies,� he said.
Before the decision, which has already been dubbed �historic� by the Russian media, RSPP members could be invited to attend government meetings but not as official participants. And only White House functionaries could sit on the panel.
Until now, the only site for regular interaction between the government, trade unions and employers� representatives was the Trilateral Commission.
Aleksander Shokhin, who represents employers at the commission, said its work has been effective.
�At the government’s initiative � and this is very important � we submit for consideration key regulatory acts for discussion,� he said. �These are not only draft laws but also the government’s regulatory decisions, which are often hotly debated�However, we manage to reach compromises.�
At the same time, the RSPP head noted that very often the commission �considers draft decisions that the government has formally or virtually approved.�
�In these cases it is not easy for us to compromise and reach a consensus,� Shokhin added.
Business wants to be heard
RSPP participation in government meetings could be just the beginning of better interaction between business and power, but it was actually not the main point of the meeting with Vladimir Putin, Shokhin told RT.
�In fact, we were discussing the position of the RSPP and the government on key issues that business is interested in,� he said. That included the taxation system, insurance payments, new legislation, human capital, issues of financial recovery of companies and the future of state corporations.
A call for a better dialogue between the business sector and the government was voiced by Shokhin last year, during a meeting between President Medvedev and representatives of the RSPP.
�When they [the government] want to see us at discussions � they invite us, when they do not � they do it with functionaries only,� he told Medvedev as quoted on Shokhin�s official website.
According to what he said then, the business elite would like to see its dialogue with the authorities �more institutionalized and formalized.�
On Tuesday, in an interview with RT the head of the non-government organization reiterated his position and clarified what he meant by �institutionalization.� Shokhin said that he would like to see business representatives participating in draft laws and bills. Moreover, that right should be regulated by law.
In other words, simply participating in government meetings is not quite enough and the RSPP would prefer to be integrated into power.
The government, Shokhin said, would make a list of requirements that business unions would have to follow in order to take part.
�In return� the RSPP must present to the government the procedure of agreeing on the stance of business and working out a consolidated position so that it would not be just a point of view of certain companies,� he said. �It is very important that the government would trust our expertise,� Shokhin stressed.
He added that business should not slow down legislation and a limited time should be set for experts to draw their conclusions. In addition, �no one says the government would be obliged to consider business� point of view,� he said.
At the very least, �the business community would get a chance to be informed in time about draft laws being prepared and express their opinion on them,� Shokhin told RT.
The RSPP president noted that unlike big players, small business is already �institutionally� integrated into power.
Will Russia return to oligarchy?
The possibility of an increase of power of the wealthy raises some fears of a return to the situation in the 90s when oligarchs ruled the day in Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union. It was during this period that �oligarch� became a common name for the rich in Russia.
So, if the RSPP starts taking part in government meetings can they formally be called �oligarchs�?
According to Shokhin, today�s Russia should not be compared to what it was at the end of last century.
�To put it mildly, at that time business was not transparent when lobbying its interests,� Shokhin said adding that now the RSPP suggests a different, �transparent� approach.
As for a thorn in Russia�s flesh � corruption � the organization�s leader believes the risk would be smaller with business taking an active and open part in decision making.
�Business� lobbying of its interests would become clear and regulated,� he said.
Step is good, but small
Russia�s business representatives have generally welcomed the news.
However, according to Boris Titov, Chairman of the All-Russian Business Organization Delovaya Rossiya (Business Russia), �If we really want our country to follow the path of modernization and diversification of the economy, it is the process industry representatives that should be taking part in such meetings.�
Currently, he said, the RSPP consists mainly of those involved in the raw materials industry.
The move is a step in the right direction, though a �very modest step,� agreed Dmitry Oreshkin, Head of Mercator Group � a company that specializes in production of information graphics, presentations and videos for businesses.
�Putin has repeatedly said that Russia should build a liberal economy. And that is a correct approach since in such a country as Russia, the economy can only be liberal. It is too large and cannot be ruled from a united center,� he told RT.
�It is important to understand that the RSPP is a bureaucratic structure that seriously depends on the government. Therefore we cannot expect it to be uncompromising when fighting for the interests of business,� Oreshkin said.
Russian Natural Resources Minister Interviewed on Climate Change Challenges
Rossiyskaya Gazeta
January 11, 2010
Interview with Yuriy Trutnev, Russian minister of natural resources and ecology, by Tatyana Smolyakova: "Warm and Even Warmer"
Last year saw a landmark event determining Russia’s long-term climate policy: The country’s president signed the Climate Doctrine. So, the climate on the planet is changing and it is impossible to disregard this. What challenges face the world and our country? What is it necessary to prepare for, and how? Minister of Natural Resources and Ecology Yuriy Trutnev responds to Rossiyskaya Gazeta’s questions.
(Smolyakova) Yuriy Petrovich, scientists are still arguing about whether or not there is global warming, but Russia has already adopted a Climate Doctrine. Is this not premature?
(Trutnev) No, it is not premature. There are things that are perfectly obvious. The data from climatic observations demonstrate that in the last 100 years the planet as a whole has warmed up by 0.75 degrees while Russia has become almost 1.3 degrees warmer — even more in some regions. For example, West Siberia has become 1.5 degrees warmer. This process is taking place more dynamically in Russia because of its continental location.
The trends for cities look even more convincing: St. Petersburg and Kazan up by 3 degrees, Yakutsk and Omsk up by 4 degrees. There is no doubt here, no discrepancies in the data produced by scientists engaged in this problem: Global warming undoubtedly exists.
(Smolyakova) The only thing that we do not know is to what extent man is to blame. Which means that the titanic efforts to reduce emissions could turn out to be pointless.
(Trutnev) Only one thing can be said with absolute certainty — both cyclical variations in temperature affect the climate and there is a human factor.
Will we be able to clearly separate these two factors and say that such and such a percentage is attributable to one and such and such a percentage to the other? Obviously not. And this is indeed the principal problem because of which the arguments in the scientific community are not abating.
Humankind has being around for about 180,000 of the 4 billion years that there has been life on planet Earth. And humankind has been engaged in science for even less time — maybe a few centuries. This is an absolutely negligible period of time in comparison with how long the planet has been in existence. We are simply still too young to judge the extent of the human impact.
But there is an important indicator — the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. A graph showing the changes over 600,000 years makes it clear that the level of carbon dioxide has increased sharply during the recent period and is today twice as great as all historical highs. There are the normal natural fluctuations — and this figures in the numerous arguments — and there is the current trend.
(Smolyakova) And that reflects the human impact?
(Trutnev) I am afraid that it is impossible to explain it any other way. Because there have not been any other such surges. It can be clearly stated that humankind has affected the state of the atmosphere and the level of carbon dioxide in it, and extremely significantly. That is the first point. Second, nobody invented all the photographs of melting ice caps on mountains or shrinking ice floes; these photographs exist. So Dmitriy Anatolyevich Medvedev has already spelled out the most correct attitude toward climate change processes, saying that we do not know to what extent our efforts to counter climate change may be effective, but we do know that the instruments that we are employing in the course of this work are in general aimed at reducing harmful impacts on nature. This is necessary in any event; it will make the planet healthier and, thus, the life of subsequent generations more harmonious and longer too.
(Smolyakova) It is clear is that, no matter what the reason, the climate is changing. What should we be preparing for? And how? What does the Climate Doctrine say?
(Trutnev) Let us start with what might happen and when. One of the most significant risks associated with global warming is a rise in sea levels. The rise could be great — as much as 50 centimeters by as early as 2100. Or it could be less — around 20-25 millimeters. In the worst case problems could start arising as early as 2050 or so. And that is not so far off.
The consequences of global warming for our country, and also for the entire world, are ambivalent. There are downsides, and there are also advantages. Among the advantages we can certainly include the easing of conditions for shipping and the improvement in the ice situation in Arctic seas — opportunities are emerging for transporting freight and reducing energy expenditure during the heating season, conditions for plant ripening are improving in a number of parts of the country, forest productivity and stockraising efficiency is improving. And so forth.
At the same time risks are emerging, such as the degradation of the permafrost with damaging consequences for northern regions’ infrastructure (pipelines, transportation). There is an emerging threat of increased numbers of fires, primarily forest fires. The most important risk factor is an overall increase in extreme natural phenomena such as droughts, floods, snowfalls, hurricanes, and typhoons. We have calculations that testify absolutely clearly that we are seeing an increase in the rate of recurrence and intensity of dangerous weather phenomena.
And there is more. There are very significant risks associated with geopolitical tension triggered by processes of climate-related migration. I am referring to the fact that in some countries things will be bad for people or they will have simply nowhere to live.
Finally, scientists consider an increase in the number of diseases and epidemics associated with climate change to be absolutely likely.
(Smolyakova) What is to be done about, for example, the pipelines in permafrost? Is this a task for the distant future or does something need to be done right now to minimize the risks?
(Trutnev) There are already local ecosystems where irreversible things have happened because of certain mistakes. For example, areas have started to turn into bog, forests are disappearing, and deserts are emerging. So it is best is to prevent all negative processes. It is significantly harder and more expensive to combat them after they have begun.
The Climate Doctrine is more of a status document describing the risks and instruments for preventing and adapting to climate change. The document is of a general nature. The Doctrine and the action plan to implement it have given instructions to all ministers and government departments to develop a system of measures in their sphere of responsibility to prevent damage from climate change.
For example, the Ministry of Energy, after receiving the relevant predictions, has to calculate what we need to do so that our pipelines in the permafrost zone do not collapse and cause irreparable damage to the environment. In fact this is already being addressed. Pipelines have already started to be laid in such a way that they can withstand significant deformation. This has happened in Alaska. It is necessary to study world experience and develop our own technologies and it is necessary to formulate a system of adaptation measures in all areas. Such an instruction to ministers and government departments is spelled out in the Climate Doctrine.
(Smolyakova) There is quite a widespread view in society that in fact man’s share of the responsibility for climate change is vanishingly small. And that this entire story has been dreamed up and hyped by certain corporations that need to promote their technologies and products to us. And force us to dance to their tune. Do you not share that view?
(Trutnev) I have heard quite a few arguments on this subject, including that this is such an economic trap for Russia. I would merely like to ask the supporters of such a view one question: How do they intend to catch us in this trap? In accordance with the Kyoto Protocol we have virtually a controlling interest in planet Earth. We have reduced emissions by almost as much as all other countries put together. Some 34% of our Kyoto Treaty quotas are unused. And this is despite the fact that the question of a slowing of economic growth or sterilization of certain projects on climate-related grounds has not in fact been raised once in discussion. The only question that is being and needs to be raised is the question of improving energy efficiency. It is perfectly obvious that we must not develop only at the cost of unrestrained utilization of natural resources. So in my view the measures that humankind is currently developing to keep planet Earth in good shape are fully in keeping with Russia’s national tasks from the viewpoint of both ecology and economics. We need to become more energy-efficient; otherwise we will definitely cease to be competitive. This is perfectly clear.
(Smolyakova) Irrespective of the climate…
(Trutnev) We need to tackle this totally irrespective of the climate. And there are no economic risks here. We have enormous reserves. We are a country that can allow itself to tackle pretty confidently both climate change prevention issues and economic modernization in the interests of the country’s development.
(Smolyakova) What is your view on the subject of alternative energy? Is it present in our country to any visible extent, or can it only be seen under a microscope? And what kind of prospects does it have? There is a view that it is economically not advantageous.
(Trutnev) The proportion of renewable energy sources is extremely small. The task is to increase it by a factor of five by 2020. As for assessing the prospects, this is not a question for me. It is more of a technological question. This is currently a tricky process. If you take wind generators, first, they require large capital investments and, second, they are not that environmentally harmless. For example, they lead to rather significant problems — they cause changes to birds’ migration routes and nesting patterns and in general have a rather serious impact on the environment, strange as this may seem.
As for solar batteries, the ones in our country are currently fragile and cumbersome, and they are also quite expensive and cannot be used in all regions. If we learn how to obtain energy with relatively good economic indicators from renewable sources, we will probably win. Unfortunately this is not yet happening. Currently it is much more effective to obtain energy from gas and oil.
(Smolyakova) What tasks does industry currently face from the viewpoint of making production more environmentally friendly? Is it at all appropriate to talk about ecology in the conditions of the crisis, when everybody is only thinking about how to survive?
(Trutnev) First and foremost we are obliged to change all the legislation in the field of environmental protection, starting by changing the regulatory system. Such documents are currently being prepared, and we have to present them to the government in April. The ineffectiveness of the current system of environmental regulation in the Russian Federation is an important factor. It needs to be restructured.
As for the urgency of such a reform, first, I would still not overdramatize the situation. I hope that the economic crisis is already passing, and I wish to say that it is hardly comparable to what we experienced in the 90s. At that time we were really talking about survival, but what kind of survival are we talking about now?
Second, I wish to say something simple: If we want to emerge strong from the crisis, we need to modernize. Modernization without changing enterprises’ attitudes towards the environment is impossible. Nobody is engaging in modernization for the sake of the environment. But if, for example, we make new cars and engines that consume less gasoline and discharge fewer gases into the atmosphere, what are we doing this for? For the environment, yes. But primarily for the economy, because such an engine is more economical. And such an engine will be a better buy. This applies to everything: To our aircraft, which are distressingly voracious, and to our entire economy, which consumes a great deal of oil, a great deal of gas, a great deal of water, and a great many other natural resources. So these tasks are absolutely linked.
(Smolyakova) You represented Russia at the climate summit in Copenhagen. The "Greens" described it as a total failure. But what is your opinion? What impression did Russia make there? In your view, how should the climate negotiation process develop going forward?
(Trutnev) I think that Russia made a pretty convincing impression. We had things to say both about the implementation of the Kyoto Protocol and about possible initiatives by the Russian Federation in the post-Kyoto period. In assessing the overall results of the Copenhagen conference I have to align myself with the pretty widespread view that it was rather unproductive. In my view the conference was poorly prepared and poorly structured, and it was impossible to achieve with those instruments the agreements that people were trying to achieve.
Positions had not been prepared at all by the time that the heads of state arrived. In my view, attempting to achieve consensus across this entire world community was absolutely hopeless. It is clear that developing countries with minimal levels of emissions have one set of interests. They all said the same thing: Give us money for this or that. To attempt to formulate an agreement that would be binding on all the participants who came was an absolutely impossible task, in my view. They should have created a pool and agreed on some things and then, as was done with the Kyoto agreement, simply asked the rest to accede to an already formed structure. When countries with totally different potentials, totally different views, and totally different emission levels come together, I can honestly say that it was very hard to understand what in general we were all talking about together.
The algorithm for preparations needs to be changed. It is necessary to designate negotiators and give them some degree of responsibility. They need to have the opportunity to coordinate this process, report to their heads of state, and move gently forward toward constructing agreements that countries’ leaders and presidents can then consider.
(Smolyakova) So is it possible that the Kyoto Protocol will simply fade into oblivion after 2012?
(Trutnev) I think not. In my view, the Copenhagen meeting demonstrated that in a global framework we do not yet know how to agree on anything. We are simply agreement-proof in such a large framework. The whole of humankind still needs to learn how to listen to each other, to understand and think about other than one’s own interests. And also to think about what we want to do together, what legacy we want to leave behind us. Nevertheless I am on the whole optimistic because it seems to me that the stock of willingness to achieve agreements, at least among the leading players, is very great. And this is a good argument in support of the belief that we will agree sometime.
Russian Leaders Pay ‘Lip Service’ To Ecology in 2009
Yezhednevnyy Zhurnal
January 9, 2010
Commentary by Boris Zhukov: "Word and Deed of the State. Ecological Results of 2009 in Russia"
When, sometime not long before the onset of the active phase of operation "Successor-2," the top state leaders suddenly began demonstrating an irrepressible love for the environment, this was perceived with an understandable mistrust: In all previous years, the ruling team tirelessly weakened and dismantled the mechanisms that were called upon to protect this very environment. But in 2009, the attention of Russian leaders to questions of ecology clearly went outside the bounds of symbolic kisses with sleeping tigresses.
On 1 August in Listvyanka, on the shore of Lake Baykal, Vladimir Putin held a representative conference on questions of environmental protection. Russian premiers had not held such measures for 10 years now – since Yeltsin’s time. Even more surprising was the fact that representatives not of "pocket," but of real environmental protection organizations were invited to the conference – Russian departments of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and Greenpeace. As a result, they were able to come to agreement with the head of government on developing a draft law on a mandatory ecological expert study of especially dangerous industrial facilities (we may recall that a state ecological expert study as a separate procedure was eliminated in Russia 3 years ago), on making the procedure of state procurements ecologically friendly, and on holding the "Tiger Summit" – a meeting of heads of governments of countries where there are still tigers in the wild – in Russia in 2010.
Russia’s attitude toward the most "widely publicized" global ecology problem – climate change – also proved to be unexpectedly responsible. The country not only made a worthy presentation in Copenhagen, but also adopted the Climate Doctrine and a number of specific measures aimed at limiting greenhouse gas emissions. As of 1 January of next year, the Euro-4 ecological standard will be mandatory for automobiles imported into the Russian Federation and produced in it. The dialogue of the federal departments with ecology activists is gradually becoming customary: Within the scope of the preparations for the Winter Olympics in Sochi alone, there have been around 10 meetings with participation of environmental protection NGOs. As a result, specifically, it has been possible to resolve one of the main ecological complaints about the project – to remove the bobsled track from Grushevoy Ridge.
However, already in the Fall, public organizations suspended their participation in the "Olympic" consultations. The main reason for this was that the decisions made at these consultations most often remain merely on paper. Thus, the necessary geological surveys in places where Olympic structures are to be built have not been performed – despite the fact that the construction, whose feasibility was to be determined, is already underway. No system of ecological monitoring has been developed – they are promising to launch it as of 2012, when the main part of the work, whose effect on the natural ecosystems is to be appraised by the monitoring, will have already been completed. Construction of the combined (rail and automotive) Aller – Krasnaya Polyana road has been undertaken without a project plan, without an expert appraisal, and in violation of federal laws. (We might add that this project bears a somewhat mediated relation to the Olympics, but costs almost as much as all of the other facilities that are being built, combined). Our patience with NGOs overflowed in October, when activists and expert scientists who were trying to appraise the damage being inflicted by this construction at the site, were detained "for violating the border regimen." (The border regimen on the territory where the Olympic Games are to be held is in itself an example of Russian administrative absurdity, but for some reason no one recalled it either before or after the incident with the detainment of the ecologists.)
After the demarche of the ecologists, the federal authorities finally noticed the contradiction between the law and the accepted practice. And they resolved it in the spirit of the well-known maxim: "If drunkenness gets in the way of your work – quit your job!". On 23 December 2009, the Duma adopted a draft law – in the second and third reading at once – with the long and unintelligible name, "On Introducing Amendments Into Certain Legislative Statutes of the Russian Federation in Connection With Organization and Performance of the 2014 XXII Olympic Winter Games and the XI Para-Olympic Winter Games in the City of Sochi, and Development of the City of Sochi as a Mountain Climate Resort." The main sense of such a hastily adopted standard specifically comes down the fact that no more legislative limitations should get in the way of Olympic contractors’ cutting down "Red Book" (endangered species) trees in the national park.
The amendment of federal laws for the sake of one specific project in and of itself shows the degree of respect of the "Petersburg lawyers" for the institution of law. Unfortunately, such a thing is happening not only around the Olympic construction sites. In the opinion of the director of the Russian department of the WWF (we will note, this is far from the most radical ecology organization), Igor Chestin, the lack of correspondence between the words of the state leaders and their real actions is a typical trait of state policy in regard to the environment. For example, the distribution of anti-crisis financial infusions speaks of the fact that, despite all of their rhetoric about "modernization, "innovative technologies," and other manna from heaven, the Russian leadership is in fact still placing the stake on "dirty" types of production. (It appears that the idea of a "dirty uplift" has become something of a religious dogma for the Russian leaders: They continue to follow it, even though it has already demonstrated its total lack of promise for an entire decade now.) The height and symbol of this policy was the preparation of the Baykal Cellulose-Paper Combine (BTsBK) (yes, yes, that very same one – it too received state aid!) for launch in the regimen of an open water supply cycle. In recent days, the general director of OAO (joint-stock company of the open type) BTsBK publicly reported that the combine is ready for launch, and is only awaiting "a revision of the list of prohibited types of activity in the central ecological zone of the Baykal natural territory" – i.e., official permission to dump toxic waste into Baykal. (However, on that same day, the combine’s trade union organization announced that, several days before, a 20 cubic meter container had exploded in the evaporator shop, blowing out the windows along with the frames, and deforming the load-bearing structures. But the management of the BTsBK said that these were malicious fabrications by enemies of the enterprise. Who would have doubted that…)
Based on the impressions of leaders of Russian ecology organizations who spoke directly with the top state leaders, the discussion here is not even about hypocrisy – everything is much worse. "They understand the situation there, and want to change something, but it seems that they cannot overcome the inertia of the system," one of the leaders of the Russian environmental protection movement said in a private conversation. Having sacrificed all the democratic institutions to the infamous "power vertical," its architects, as we might expect, have turned into its hostages. It turns out that the incumbent head of state is incapable of moderating the appetites of either the offensive BTsBK (which is successfully blackmailing the federal authorities with the "ghost of Pikalevo"), or even their own economic managers. The scandalous situation surrounding Utrish — where, for more than a year now, the Presidential Affairs Administration has been trying by hook or crook to stick a new residence into the very heart of the already designed nature preserve — was already twice this year reported in detail to Dmitriy Medvedev. Moreover, the second time, he was also given a packet of supporting documents. Still, the answer is silence.
Of course, Utrish is an individual case, and this is not a question of the presidential level. But it is interesting in that the encroachment upon the only island of Mediterranean flora in Russia cannot be explained either by the "needs of economic development," or by "social tension," or by the "prestige of the country," or even by a shortage of funds or abuses of the executors. It cannot be explained by anything other than the simple and understandable desire to grab. So that the president’s silence sounds much more eloquent than all of the wise and correct words about the environment, uttered by Russian leaders this year.
RBC Daily
January 13, 2010
The government commission for economic development and integration is formed and about to convene its first meeting
Author: Inga Vorobiova
The government commission for economic development and integration
whose formation Senior Deputy Premier Igor Shuvalov proclaimed in
late 2009 is fully staffed. Chaired by Shuvalov himself, the
commission includes an impressive array of ministers and Vladimir
Mau of the Economic Academy representing the expert community. The
Kremlin delegated Presidential Aide Arkady Dvorkovich to the
     Prime Minister Vladimir Putin endorsed composition of the
commission. The panel will become the headquarters Russian economy
will be modernized from and integrated into global economy.
Shuvalov himself will chair the commission. Senior Deputy Premier
Victor Zubkov is the deputy chairman. It is fair to add that this
government commission replaced six previous ones, five of them
chaired by Shuvalov and the sixth by Zubkov.
     The commission includes Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin,
Economic Development Minister Elvira Nabiullina, Andrei Belousov
of the government’s Department of Finances and Economy,
Dvorkovich, and Sergei Sobyanin of the government apparat.
     Five other ministers are expected to contribute to
modernization of the national economy – Sergei Lavrov (foreign
affairs), Victor Basargin (regional development), Andrei Fursenko
(education), Victor Khristenko (industry and trade), and Tatiana
Golikova (health care and social development).
     Mau is going to be the only expert on the panel. There are no
bankers or financiers in the commission despite Shuvalov’s earlier
     The first meeting of the commission is scheduled for the
second half of January. Shuvalov said that its agenda included the
government’s anti-crisis action plan for 2010. Once this item was
taken care of, the commission would then set up working groups to
tackle basic agreements concerning the common economic area of
Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan. "We are talking the basis of our
macroeconomic policy, subsidies to economy and agriculture, access
to natural monopolies’ infrastructure, and policy of competition,"
Shuvalov said and explained that these twenty agreements would
change Russian economy beyond recognition.
     WTO membership is going to be one of the commission’s
priorities. Shuvalov promised to keep it in the focus of
Russian Audit Chamber issues anti-crisis spending breakdown for 2009
Yaroslavl, 12 January: The state in 2009 spent R4.2 trillion out of the federal budget and the Bank of Russia funds on implementing anti-crisis measures, Audit Chamber Chairman Sergey Stepashin said during his visit to Yaroslavl Region today.
State spending on anti-crisis measures has continued to increase. The amount for 2008 was R1.6 trillion out of the federal budget and the Bank of Russia funds and the figure for 2009 was R4.2 trillion, Stepashin said at a meeting of the anti-crisis commission in Yaroslavl Region today.
The result was that the macro-economic situation had been stabilized, conditions for the stable functioning of the financial and the banking systems had been created, the employment situation had been made less tense and social support for certain categories of the population had been provided. A number of regions are still facing quite a number of problems. However, the difficult expectations which we had at the start of the crisis were not fulfilled for our country last year after all," he said.
"A trend has evolved for industrial output volumes to be restored but not everywhere. A decrease in main capital investments has been achieved. This is a general trend for Russia. Monthly GDP figures have remained positive since last summer. The number of jobless persons has decreased substantially even though it is still rising insignificantly. Our estimates that unemployment figures would jump after the summer were not proven correct," Stepashin said.
He said that last year’s inflation totalled slightly over 9 per cent and that this was mostly due to a significant decrease in domestic investment and consumer demand.
January 11, 2010
Can Russia fix itself by 2012?
Nikolas Gvosdev is a professor of national security studies at the U.S. Naval War College. These views are his own private opinions. Find Nick at
In 2010, Russia is picking up the pieces after the train wrecks that derailed its express return to great power status�the near-collapse of its stock market, the aftereffects of the Georgia war, and the global financial crisis. The good news�for the Kremlin�is that despite major falls in the prices for energy and raw materials from their 2008 highs, the system set up by Vladimir Putin survived. It did not come crashing down as some had predicted. Unrest was contained and companies teetering on the verge of bankruptcy got bailouts that prevented their Russian owners (or the state) from losing control to Western banks.
The bad news: the rainy-day stabilization fund is set to run out of money by the end of the year, and the fund supporting an ambitious array of national projects will see the till run dry by 2012. So Russia is running against the clock. It needs to rebuild its budget reserves to pay salaries and pensions so that much of the middle class which depends on the state for its employment stays supportive of the regime. It must get its new ambitious energy projects into place�especially the Nordstream and South Stream pipelines that promise a direct avenue to Russia�s most important European customers�before alternatives that would erode Russia�s advantages can be solidified (e.g. a Nabucco pipeline that takes in energy from Central Asia and Iraqi Kurdistan). It must work to solidify its growing sphere of influence in the Eurasian space before Europe recovers from its expansion fatigue and resumes the eastward march of the Euro-Atlantic world. Most importantly, it must keep maintain the �Putin bargain� in place: giving the Kremlin effective control over the political process in return for prosperity and opportunity. With a weak banking sector and major infrastructure challenges posing two key threats to that bargain, and without record-high energy prices bringing in �excess� income�this will be a hard challenge to meet.
What�s also interesting to observe is how the crisis affected the relationship of Prime Minister Putin to President Dimitry Medvedev. In my own reading of the duumvirate, I interpreted Putin�s role as the protecting chrysalis, allowing Medvedev to build up the team and economic institutions that would carry Russia forward into the next decade. Eventually, Putin would pass sole power to Medvedev, who would be responsible for the �second stage� (a more liberalizing one) of the regime Putin constructed on the rubble bequeathed to him by Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin. But the crises besetting the country seem to have convinced Putin that �stage one� is still needed, with him at the helm, for a while longer. Whether Medvedev would accept the need for significant delay (relinquishing the presidency in 2012 to return to it in 2016, for instance) remains to be seen.
Russia has made it through the initial storms of 2008-09, but the Kremlin ship of state still has significant bad weather up ahead to navigate through.
Moscow Times
January 13, 2010
A Promising Economic Start to a New Decade
By Martin Gilman
Martin Gilman, former senior representative of the International Monetary Fund in Russia, is a professor at the Higher School of Economics.
The past decade has been a roller-coaster ride for the Russian economy. From the depths of its 1998 financial crisis, which tested the proverbial patience of the Russian people, to the credit-fed boom of 2007 to the seeming meltdown of the economy just a year ago to its still seemingly unbelievable rebound as we start the new year, one learns to expect the unexpected when it comes to Russia. This zigzag pattern was not a spontaneous occurrence, nor does it have to continue.
The key has been and will continue to be government policy. And for all the criticism that can be heaped on the authorities who could have done more or could have acted sooner, they do deserve some credit for reasonably good economic management. It didn�t have to turn out as well as it has.
In economics, it is rare to be able to conduct a controlled experiment in order to explore alternative hypotheses. But we do have history as a guide even if no two cases are exactly alike. In the run-up to the crisis, Russia, relative to spendthrift countries like Spain, Ireland or Ukraine, was running huge budget surpluses � thus, withdrawing stimulus that would have otherwise amplified the private sector�s euphoria with a veritable explosion of aggregate demand. It also saved the oil windfall for the most part so that it had a comfortable cushion to soften the blow when the global crisis erupted in late 2008. Other countries like Bulgaria, Hungary and Serbia that had no choice but to turn to the International Monetary Fund for support surely wished that they had Russia�s self-insured financial mattress to help survive the crisis.
Moreover, once the crisis emanating from the United States hit Russia, the policy response was adequate. Although too much public money was no doubt wasted on undeserving corporate bailouts, the brave decision was to devalue the ruble. This was not inevitable nor politically palatable. The ministeps to depreciate the currency between Nov. 11, 2008, and Jan. 22, 2009, took courage in view of both public opinion and powerful vested interests that owed considerable foreign currency denominated debt. The cushion of reserves meant that Russia had the luxury to soften the blow through a gradual adjustment that allowed time for worried residents and companies to switch into dollars and preserve their nest eggs or repay debt. Contrast this to poor Latvia, which hangs on to the overvalued lat while the real economy is ravaged with deflation.
At the outset of the new decade, Russia�s economy is coming back. Even after what was spent to soften the impact of the devaluation, the country still has roughly $450 billion in reserves � the third highest in the world after China and Japan. The RTS rose by almost 129 percent last year, more than markets in Brazil or China. For the first time in  more than a generation, the population did not decline last year, and the inflation rate fell to 8.8 percent, the lowest since the emergence of Russia as an independent country in 1992. Despite the additional emergency crisis spending and revenue decline, the budget deficit was maintained at an estimated 6 percent of gross domestic product, which was readily financed without borrowing by drawing on the oil stabilization fund. And after its initial plunge in the first quarter of 2009, real GDP and industrial production have subsequently grown on a month-on-month basis. Year-on-year numbers will soon turn positive, and GDP is likely to grow by 5 percent or more in 2010.
Such results did not happen of their own accord. Whatever the faults of the Russian government in many areas, its handling of macroeconomic policy has been laudable. The international environment is filled with traps that have ensnared the sophisticated, such as Britain and Denmark, and the incautious, such as Iceland. Monetary and fiscal policies have been executed with alacrity, at least relative to many others.
The outcome is that Russia is well poised to recover even in the context of a feeble global economy and should be able to display impressive performance among the emerging market economies over the next couple of years. Good luck is not the main explanation. Of course, Russia is a country richly endowed with natural resources, but so are Venezuela and Nigeria.
Indeed, the critical point is that Russia � perhaps having learned the hard way about the folly of unmanageable debt in 1998 and guided by an economic team led by Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin and Central Bank Chairman Sergei Ignatyev seasoned by that ordeal � has avoided the pitfall of debt that has engulfed countries from the United States to the United Arab Emirates in a colossal balance sheet crisis. Highly indebted countries could face years of stagnation while paying down their debt burdens. It is likely that the future will be all about balance sheet deleveraging in the advanced economies, whereas most of the emerging market world will be largely unscathed by the scourge of debt � with the exception of a number of smaller, more distressed economies such as some on the fringe of Europe.
For Russia, as one of the larger, low-debt, resource-rich emerging market countries, its time may be at hand. Whether this opportunity is seized or squandered will depend on two key elements: government policy and the external environment.
As in the past, Russia � unlike China � is too small to have a major impact on the global economy. Oil prices may well not remain in the current $80 per barrel range, and the dollar is subject to contradictory pressures as are the global markets in which Russia is enmeshed. Whatever it is, the external situation will be a given.
So the real issue is whether government policy can continue its reasonable job in riding herd on the crisis and confront what may lie ahead. Prospects are promising. With interest rates set to decline further and money supply and deposit growth in banks continuing to recover, banks are likely to start expanding credit in a �normal� economy where real interest rates are positive for the first time in years.
Large speculative capital inflows, as in many emerging markets, could present a challenge to avoid a monetary and credit surge. Lower nominal interest rates could help, and with stronger banks the Central Bank could use other steps to make foreign borrowing more expensive for Russian banks and companies. A tighter budget will also contribute to macroeconomic stability.
Post-Soviet Russia is not even a generation old. Some lessons have been learned the hard way since Yegor Gaidar launched Russia onto the path of a globalized market economy. Hopefully, those lessons will not be readily forgotten. A future fraught with uncertainty and volatility would be a challenge to any government, but in this new decade, where debt burdens could well be the decisive issue in determining the well-being of countries, Russia is well-placed.
Moscow Times
January 13, 2010
U.S. Dethroning Russia as Gas King
By Anatoly Medetsky
Russia has all but lost its title as the world�s biggest producer of natural gas to the United States, and Moscow appears unlikely to reclaim the No. 1 spot until Gazprom manages to capture new foreign markets.
Gas output dropped 12 percent to 582 billion cubic meters last year as demand in the key market, the European Union, slumped amid the economic crisis and an influx of cheaper supplies, the Energy Ministry announced late Monday.
The United States is set to top that figure because of booming shale gas production, the U.S. Energy Department�s Energy Information Administration said last month in the latest available statement on the matter. U.S. producers were expected to pump 624 bcm last year, it said at the time.
Russia may remain dethroned until at least 2015, said Andrew Neff, an energy analyst with IHS Global Insight consultancy in Washington.
European demand will not recover immediately, while it will take time for Gazprom, the state-run gas export monopoly, to access new markets, he said.
�It�s not going to happen with Asia in the short term and not going to happen in North America because of shale gas in the next five to 10 years,� Neff said.
Noel Tomnay, head of global gas at consulting company Wood Mackenzie, agreed that Russia had little chance of reclaiming the first spot soon.
�It�s inevitable that the U.S. will continue to be a larger producer than Russia in the next few years,� he said.
Efforts to supply gas to new markets are essential for Russia to regain its leadership in the industry, they said. Potential customers include China for pipeline gas and countries in Asia or the southern Mediterranean � such as Spain and Portugal � for liquefied natural gas, or LNG, they said.
LNG is gas chilled to a liquid for transportation by tankers.
Gazprom�s plans to take a share of the U.S. market through LNG supplies look unlikely, Tomnay said.
�Russian LNG projects will struggle to be competitive with indigenous gas,� he said.
Russia has been the No. 1 natural gas producer for seven years, since 2002, according to BP statistics. It also led the world in output from 1986 to 1996 and in 1999.
Hard-hit Ukraine is probably the biggest single disappointment for Gazprom�s sales last year because it vouched to import just 33.5 bcm, down from the regular annual 55 bcm. Gazprom�s sales probably contracted by a total of 60 bcm in Eastern and Western Europe and by another 20 bcm at home, Tomnay said.
Gazprom made some progress in diversifying its markets last year, starting shipments of liquefied natural gas to Japan, South Korea and the United States as part of the Sakhalin-2 project.
In addition, Gazprom reinvigorated its talks with China to build pipelines to supply gas to one of the world�s most energy-hungry economies. The talks had been stymied for several years because of disagreement over the gas price and are expected to move slowly, if at all, now as well.
Despite the drop in its own output, Gazprom agreed to buy as much as 30 bcm of gas from Turkmenistan this year in what analysts say is an effort to maintain its grip on gas supplies from Central Asia.
Degenerating gas production may be a blow to Russia�s prestige as a leading energy power, but it was softened by the country�s rise in the international oil hierarchy last year after it surpassed Saudi Arabia as the world�s largest oil producer. Saudi Arabia, a member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, cut output last year in line with OPEC efforts to maintain crude prices.
Russia pumped 494.2 million tons of oil � including gas condensate � last year, up 1.2 percent from the previous year, the Energy Ministry said in the announcement. Saudi Arabia produced 397 million tons of oil, without gas condensate, according to the International Energy Agency.
Russia Never Stopped Energy Supplies To Europe – Lavrov
MOSCOW, January 12 (Itar-Tass) — Russia has never stopped energy supplies to Europe, all discontinuities in supplies were the transit country’s blame, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Tuesday.
"We have never terminated the supplies under contracts with European partners," he said.
"When the EU suggested working out an early warning mechanism to forerstall possible problems with the supplies, we immediately agreed. The memorandum was singed in November, 2009. We have supported the early warning system and transit countries’ involvement in it from the very beginning."
As for the Energy Charter, Russia is "convinced it is necessary to work out a new international and legal base for cooperation in the energy sphere."
"President Dmitry Medvedev has outlined our conceptual approach at Russia-EU summits. Our partners in the European Union have confirmed it is necessary to continue negotiations on this issue. The approach here is based on the principle of maintaining a balance of producers’, consumers’ and transters’ interests," Lavrov said.
OSC [US Open Source Center] Analysis: Russia Seeks Some Control of Turkmen Gas; Turkmenistan Seeks Options
January 12, 2010
[DJ: Footnotes not here]
Russian President Dmitriy Medvedev and Gazprom officials agreed with Turkmenistan on the resumption of gas imports a week after Turkmenistan opened a major gas line to China and two and a half weeks before the scheduled opening of a second gas line from Turkmenistan to Iran. Open-source reporting suggests that Turkmenistan’s active search for gas export options motivated Russia to make concessions in order to keep some control over Turkmenistan’s gas exports.
Medvedev and Gazprom officials came to Ashgabat on 22 December where they signed multiple agreements, the most important of which was an agreement that Turkmenistan will resume sending gas to Russia in early January. Russia has not been importing Turkmen gas since April, initially because of a pipeline explosion.
Officials from Gazprom and the Turkmen state gas company signed changes to the long-term gas contract of 2003 in the presence of the Russian and Turkmen presidents. The current contract specifies that Turkmen gas deliveries will begin in January with an annual volume of up to 30 billion cubic meters (bcm), at a price determined "in full conformity with conditions in the European gas market." (1)
Russian President Medvedev emphasized the current economic cooperation between Russia and Turkmenistan as well as the commonality of their interests when he announced the agreement. Turkmen President Berdimuhamedow also spoke warmly of relations with Russia and expressed his desire to visit Russia. (2)
Gazprom Deputy CEO Aleksander Medvedev announced that Russia and Turkmenistan will "jointly implement" the proposed Caspian and East-West gas pipeline projects. (3) (4) (a) Proposals for joint exploration of the Caspian shelf were also discussed, but no agreements appear to have been signed. (5)
Russia Interested in Keeping Close to Turkmenistan
Decreased demand during the worldwide economic recession has sharply reduced Gazprom’s need to import Turkmen gas. Therefore, Russia’s plan to renew imports may have been a political decision, suggesting Russia is concerned about losing influence in Turkmenistan and access to Turkmen resources. The contracted volume of gas, at up to 30 bcm annually, is significantly less than the volume of 80-90 bcm annually that the previous contract stipulated for 2010, even though still more than Russia needs, according to Russian business daily Vedomosti. (6)
Business daily Kommersant cited Aleksandr Medvedev who said that Gazprom has contracted to buy up to 30 bcm of gas annually over the next few years, and "no less than 11 bcm" from Turkmenistan in 2010. An unnamed Gazprom source added that the purchase will be "no less, but also no more" than 11 bcm, an indication that Gazprom is only interested in purchasing the minimum necessary. (7)
When asked whether Russia had "surrendered" to Turkmenistan with this new agreement, Gazprom spokesman Sergey Kupriyanov responded that "Turkmenistan is undoubtedly our strategic partner in the gas sphere." He said that imports will resume on 9 January of up to 30 bcm annually, and that "all disputed issues…have been resolved," but that he could not discuss the details because they are "commercial issues." (8)
Another indication of Russian interests is the new formula for setting the price. The rumored price of $195 per thousand cubic meters is set by a formula based on the European price. This is the first time Russia has allowed such a pricing mechanism in its contracts with Turkmenistan. (9) The significance of this change is that formulas can be recalculated if market conditions change while a set price is more rigid. The 2009 contract price of over $300, in the conditions of lowered demand and price of gas on the European market, may have been the reason that Russia did not resume imports after the April explosion that interrupted the flow of gas on the Central Asia Center pipeline.
Aleksandr Medvedev refused to reveal the price, but announced that it will be calculated by a formula that "fully corresponds to the conditions of the European gas market." An unnamed source who took part in the negotiations told Kommersant that the price will be slightly higher than $195 per thousand cubic meters. (10)
Medvedev announced: "For the first time in the history of Russian-Turkmen relations in the gas sphere gas supplies will be carried out on the basis of a price calculation formula that fits in perfectly with the conditions of the European gas market." (11)
A statement from Gazprom’s information department emphasized that the prices paid to all Central Asian countries for gas are comparable, based on European prices less transportation costs, and added that Gazprom’s actions have the aim of "reinforcing the Company’s positions in this region. (12)
Turkmenistan Seeks To Expand Export Markets
Turkmenistan is expanding its access to international purchasers of gas through new pipelines to China and Iran, while emphasizing that cooperation with these countries extends beyond purely commercial ties.
The 1,833 km China-Central Asia gas pipeline from Turkmenistan through Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan to western China opened on 14 December. Turkmenistan will begin supplying China through this pipeline this year with increasing volumes of Turkmen gas up to 40 bcm along with additional gas from Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan of up to 10 bcm each when the pipeline reaches full capacity. (b)
Berdimuhamedow told Chinese journalists that, while energy is the main priority, Turkmen-Chinese relations "are multifaceted. They incorporate politics, economy, trade, culture, science, and education." (13)
The government website called the pipeline "not solely an economic project" but added that it has "social and political meaning" for "the future processes of international integration" and that it "embodies the idea of a restoration of the ancient Silk Road." It claimed that Turkmenistan and China share the same focus on "complete internal stability" as the key to the well-being of the citizenry. It welcomed Chinese investment in other spheres of the economy, such as telecommunications, technology, and transport. (14)
The timing and Turkmen officials’ comments about the opening of a new pipeline to Iran indicate that Turkmenistan views the pipeline as a vital part of diversifying market access for its gas.
Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinezhad visited Turkmenistan on 5 January to open the Dovletabad-Sarakhs-Hangeran gas pipeline, with a design capacity of 12.5 bcm annually. It will increase the total capacity that Turkmenistan can ship to Iran from 8 bcm, through a pipeline that has been in operation since 1977, to 20 bcm when both are at full capacity, but the new pipeline will ship only 6 bcm in 2010. (15)
Iran and Turkmenistan concluded the agreement to build this second pipeline in July 2009, after Turkmen gas shipments to Russia had been cut off for four months. The pipeline will take gas from the Dovletabad field, which was previously dedicated to supplying Russia. (16)
Turkmen TV showed Berdimuhamedow praising the "complete understanding" between Turkmenistan and Iran. He spoke of their "similar positions on issues of mutual interest concerning international and regional affairs" and the "full coordination between us in energy policies. (17) Ahmadinezhad was also shown saying that the pipeline "will open ways for energy exchanges between Turkmenistan and Iran, the Persian Gulf, Europe, and other regions of the world." (18)
A Turkmen Foreign Ministry press release said the pipeline is part of fulfilling Berdimuhamedow’s priority strategy of "diversifying its gas pipeline transportation infrastructure." The release said that Turkmenistan’s aim is the "balance of interests in the Eurasian energy space" and its "partners’ equal access" to Turkmen hydrocarbon resources." (19)
Russia Concerned About New Pipelines to China, Iran
While Russian officials downplayed the impact of the 14 December opening of the China-Central Asia gas pipeline, some statements indicated rising concern about competition for Central Asian resources.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin professed no concern about the proposed pipeline when asked about it by a Chinese journalist early in December, saying: "We do not think (it) will damage our plans" for energy cooperation with China. (20)
However, President Dmitriy Medvedev was shown on state-controlled Rossiya and Channel One television on 14 December warning Russian energy companies to prepare for "tough competition" from "serious contenders." (21)
In addition, nonofficial media were quick to point out that Russia pursued a resumption of gas imports from Turkmenistan out of fear of ceding control over Turkmen gas. (22)
Energy analyst Andrey Meshcherin asserted that Gazprom does not need Turkmen gas and cannot sell it but has agreed to a new contract in response to the China-Central Asia and recent Turkmen-Iran pipelines. He argued that Gazprom is storing the gas and reducing the amount it buys from Russian suppliers in order to keep control over gas supplies to Europe. (23)
Business paper Vedomosti said that Gazprom was motivated to make this new agreement only after Turkmenistan took concrete steps to increase gas exports to Iran and opened the pipeline with China. The article called the new contract "an attempt by a drowning man to grab on to a straw" and cautioned that Central Asia is turning to China, which may undermine Gazprom’s plans to sell gas to Europe. (24)
Business daily Kommersant said that, despite repeated meetings between Medvedev and Berdimuhamedow since the April break in Turkmen gas sales to Russia, they managed to agree to resume sales "only after the Turkmenistan-China gas pipeline was completed." (25)
(a) The proposed East-West pipeline is an internal Turkmen line that will bring gas from deposits in the eastern part of the country to the Caspian. The proposed Caspian pipeline is the subject of an existing agreement between Russia, Turkmenistan, and Kazakhstan, but construction has never begun. It is designed to bring gas around the northern Caspian through Russia, increasing Russian control over exports to Europe and possibly competing with the Western-proposed Trans-Caspian pipeline. See the 19 December 2008 OSC Report, Russia, Central Asia Media Claim Alternative Gas Export Route Planned (CEP20081220493001).
Voice of America
January 12, 2010
Obama: Resetting Relations with Russia
During the President Barack Obama’s first year in office, his administration sought to reset America’s relationship with Russia that had become strained under President George W. Bush
Peter Fedynsky | Moscow 
In March, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton presented Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov with a gift meant to underscore the Obama administration’s commitment to reset relations with Russia.  It was a button with "reset," supposedly translated into Russian.
HILLARY CLINTON: "We worked hard to get the right Russian word. Do you think we got it?"
SERGEI LAVROV: "You got it wrong. It should be ‘perezagruzka.’ This says ‘peregruzka,’ which means ‘overcharged.’"
Despite the mistranslation, independent Russian political analyst Alexander Konovalov welcomes better ties.  He says the Bush administration seemed to ignore Russia because of its relatively small economy and aging nuclear arsenal.
"The main difference of the Obama administration is that it realizes [the previous administration’s] purely mathematical approach was incorrect," he said.  "Russia’s significance in the world is actually much greater.  America needs Russia, just as Russia needs the United States."
Konovalov says both countries can cooperate in the war against terror, drug trafficking, Afghanistan, Iran’s nuclear program, and nuclear non-proliferation in general. 
In July, President Obama visited Moscow and signed a preliminary agreement to reduce the world’s two biggest nuclear arsenals by as much as one-third.
"We’ve taken important steps forward to increase nuclear security and to stop the spread of nuclear weapons. This starts with the reduction of our own nuclear arsenals," said President Obama.
Both countries are working on a replacement for the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, which expired in December.  The White House and Kremlin say agreement can be reached soon. 
Russia has welcomed President Obama’s decision to cancel plans for a controversial Central European missile defense system.  And in a concession to the United States, Moscow has allowed use of its territory to supply NATO troops in Afghanistan.  Nonetheless, Russian President Dmitri Medvedev said last month his country will develop new missile technology that raised concerns in Washington.
"When we draft and sign the agreement, we will still handle the issue of developing our strategic offensive forces. Without them, it is impossible to defend our country," said Medvedev.
Alexander Konovalov says U.S.-Russian relations clearly improved over the past year, but not enough to provide any true satisfaction.
"The road ahead is considerably longer than the one we covered during the past year.  What is needed above all is a completely new level of trust," he added.
Much of that mistrust is focused on former Soviet republics.  The Obama administration rejects Russian claims of special privileges in those republics and the Kremlin opposes any NATO expansion that would include Georgia and Ukraine.
Year-End Summary of US-Russia Relations, Course of Modernization
Yezhednevnyy Zhurnal
January 12, 2010
Article by Mikhail Margelov: "Results of the Year. It Was Not Weakness That Prompted the US Toward ‘Reset’"
Last year, both for us and for them, was spent in struggle with the crisis. Yet a certain part of our talking heads excitedly improvised on two topics that were left over from 2008 – the death of liberalism and America’s weakness. Both one and the other are greatly exaggerated, to put it mildly. The current crisis is an ordinary phenomenon, inherent to a free market. It is just that those who are impacted by the hardships of economic decline believe that specifically "their crisis" is the worst. Some of our popular experts are speaking not even about a crisis, but about a catastrophe. It is also understandable that a crisis is not the demise of liberalism, but a property of the free market. And state anti-crisis programs do not mean nationalization or establishment of State Plans in the capitals of liberal states. We should not even mention this, were it not for the passion with which liberalism was buried in this country all year long.
The other topic is America’s weakness. This affirmation is particularly amusing on the background of the talk about our modernization. We may recall that US specialists receive more patents for inventions and discoveries each year, than does the scientific-engineering world of all other countries combined. Starting in 1979, the World Economic Forum has recognized the US economy as being the most competitive in the world. That country has the eight best universities in the world, and the investments into higher education are two times higher than in that same Europe. And so forth, and so on. They began talking about America’s weakness in connection with the emergence of new economic centers – India, China, and the countries of Southeast Asia. But it is not China or India that reigns supreme in the sectors of industry of the future – in that same ‘nanotechnology’ and others – but the US.
Obviously, with the arrival of Obama, the US is following a policy of "looking back over its shoulder at the world." Because the Messianic tasks that the Republican Administration had tried to resolve have created entirely foreseeable difficulties both within and outside of America. And if we speak of the weakness of the US, then it is only in correlation to these problems. And the Republican methods of solving them.
And, of course, it was not weakness that prompted the Obama Administration to the "reset" of relations with Russia. And this, obviously, is the main event of 2009, because it influences Russia’s relations not only with the US, but also with the West as a whole. After all, no matter what they might say about America, it is specifically the undisputed leader of this "part of the world" that is united by common values. The new START Treaty will be signed, and our two countries will find themselves at the head of world "disarmament" policy. The problem for next year will be to give content to the "reset," so that everything is not limited to this treaty alone.
And there is content with which to fill it, despite all of the differences. But even the differences may become less acute. The parties have different foreign policy priorities. And this gives hope for compromises – a small concession by one side may mean much to the other, and vice versa.
Another important event of last year was the Lisbon Treaty. The European Union got a "president" and a "minister of foreign affairs." As yet, it is too soon to judge the degree to which this will strengthen the "political and economic subjectivity" of Brussels. In any case, following the Russian-American "reset," there will also be a Russian-European one.
For obvious circumstances, alienation of Russia is not advantageous to the European Union. Furthermore, President Medvedev’s initiative on collective European security is, if you will, a Russian civilizational choice in favor of what is called the North. And the North must already struggle in a certain sense, which, actually, is also reflected in the results of UN voting, and in conferences such as the "climate summit" in Copenhagen.
A discussion has developed in our country over the announced modernization. Here, those who are proposing to resurrect Stalin’s "managerial abilities" in the 21 st Century are being heard loudest of all. And this is sad. From this, it follows that the "quiet revolution of minds", which is necessary for unforced present-day modernization – that is, without any sharashkas (secret research laboratories in Soviet Gulag camps – translator’s note ), slave labor or murders – still lies ahead for us. But then anything is possible in Russia, and if we are driven into a corner, then such a revolution might be possible too. And therefore, those who are engaged in foreign policy should already start seeking the resources for modernization in this policy. Which does not mean, of course, a one-sided orientation toward Europe and America. There are many countries and peoples around us, from whom we also have something to learn.
Russia, US Several Steps Away From New START – Ryabkov
MOSCOW, January 12 (Itar-Tass) — Russia and the United States are still to make several steps towards each other to achieve accord on a new strategic arms reduction treaty, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told Itar-Tass on Tuesday.
"At the end of January or early February the official round of negotiations on a new strategic arms reduction treaty will be resumed," the high-ranking diplomat said. "We maintain contact with our American partners in a consultative fashion, we are comparing positions and clearing up the issues on which we are still to make steps towards each other. They are technical issues by and large," Ryabkov said.
Earlier on Tuesday Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that Russia and the Untied States would resume negotiations on a new START in the second half of January and for the time being the delegations were busy with what Lavrov described as ‘homework.’
"As the Russian and US presidents agreed at their meeting in Copenhagen late last December, the negotiations are to resume after the New Year and Christmas holidays in both countries," Lavrov told a news conference after talks with his Spanish counterpart Miguel Moratinos. "We are hoping this will happen in the second half of January."
"The teams of negotiators are now doing their ‘home work’," Lavrov said. "A document of such importance is to be legally reconciled and proofread impeccably. There must be no discrepancies between the Russian and English texts."
"The work is in progress. As soon as it is over, we shall declare the date when the new treaty will be signed," the Russian foreign minister said.
As State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said earlier Under-Secretary of State William Burns would pay a visit to Moscow on January 13-14 for a discussion of bilateral relations. It is expected that Burns will focus on the activities of the bilateral presidential commission, arms control and also Iran, North Korea and economic cooperation.
Burns and Ryabkov co-chair the working group for political coordination within the framework of the presidential commission, set up under last July’s agreement between Dmitry Medvedev and Barack Obama.
A new START is to replace the strategic arms reduction treaty (START-1), which expired on December 5, 2009.
Russian ban on US poultry imports may backfire – Russian experts
Moscow, 12 January: The ban imposed in early January by Rospotrebnadzor (the Federal Service for Consumer Rights Protection) on the treatment of poultry with chlorine has resulted in price increases for these products, market experts and importers have noted.
Unless the problem is resolved, Russia will face a shortage of poultry in early March because imports from the USA will stop, they think.
"There has been no interruption in supplies so far, ships are being unloaded, but their amount is going to fall," Yevgeniy Kogan, chairman of the board of the Food Trade Group company, told Interfax.
According to him, in the first two working days of January the measures introduced by Rospotrebnadzor caused severe price hikes for chicken thighs. For example, over the two days the wholesale prices for US-produced chicken thighs went up by 20 per cent to R67-70 (about 2.3-2.4 dollars) per kilogramme. The prices of Russian-produced chicken thighs have also gone up by 15 per cent, to R65-68 per kilogramme. "Even other types of meat, not affected by the chlorine problem, have become 10 per cent more expensive over these days," he noted.
Yevgeniy Kogan believes that "any ban can be imposed only if imports can be fully replaced by domestic products". "Presently, this is not possible," he said.
"It is not possible to replace the lacking amounts of US-produced poultry meat by imports from other countries as well. In Europe, for example, it is more expensive, and there are no spare volumes anyway," Andrey Terekhin, chairman of the Association of Operators of the Russian Poultry Meat Market, thinks.
The USA’s quota in 2010 is 600,000 tonnes of poultry meat, he recalled. "Unless a solution is found, the market will lose about 17 per cent of protein products intended mainly for low-income people. In the near future, domestic producers will not be able to replace such an amount of meat, and certainly not at the prices paid for US-produced poultry meat," he said.
According to Andrey Terekhin’s estimate, in the wholesale segment chicken thighs have already become 10 per cent more expensive, and one can expect more price hikes and shortages. By the end of the year, poultry meat may be 30 per cent more expensive, he predicted.
The Soyuzkontrakt company also thinks that chicken thighs already imported will last for two more months, but a shortage will be felt as early as the second half of February.
Experts think that the situation may be resolved following talks between Rospotrebnadzor and a representative American delegation, which, according to their information, will take place in Moscow on 19-20 January.
Earlier, Rospotrebnadzor head Gennadiy Onishchenko said: "These talks will be about the conditions on which the American side will meet Russia’s national requirements for the safe treatment of poultry meat supplied to the Russian market".
Initially, the measures aimed at reducing the use of chlorine for the treatment of poultry were supposed to enter into force in Russia on 1 January 2009, but later the decision was postponed to 1 January 2010.
Pundit: Chinese Expansionism Marks ‘Brilliant Strategic Victory’ Over Russia
January 11, 2010
Article by Andrey Piontkovskiy: "Island Siberia. China’s Secret Is Out"
"I can tell you frankly that maybe not everyone even likes the kind of strategic cooperation that exists between our countries. But we understand that this cooperation is in our peoples’ interests, and we will strengthen it in every possible way, whether some people like this or not!"
Dmitriy Medvedev.
A year ago I published an article (the last one, as I incautiously promised) on a subject which I regard as very important for our country’s security – more accurately, simply for its survival within its existing borders.
I really have not written about Russian-Chinese relations since then. On the other hand, Aleksey Yablokov, corresponding member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, and Aleksandr Khramchikhin, deputy director of the Institute of Political and Military Analysis, have spoken about them a great deal and in a very well-reasoned manner (about the economic and military aspects respectively).
To use Khramchikhin’s fair expression, the events of the past year in this sphere were "epoch-making," and it is simply impossible not to return to this subject despite the promise I gave.
The last year of the noughties cardinally accelerated the dynamics of the processes that had become apparent, focusing all the alarming trends of the past decade and determining the agenda of the next one.
To place the events of 2009 and their consequences in the necessary historical context, I will venture to provide excerpts from some records of past years (see the inserts on this page (not translated)).
In "epoch-making" 2009 the Russian leadership – military and political – finally had to poke its head up out of the sand. It did so in different ways, but I shall come to this a bit later on.
Whereas the 2006 exercises perplexed military experts, the larger-scale Kuyuae (as transliterated) 2009 military exercises (the largest in the PRC’s 60-year history) no longer left any doubts: The PLA (People’s Liberation Army) was deliberately demonstrating its readiness for a large-scale offensive ground operation on the territory of Russia.
This time approximately 50,000 Ground Force and Air Force servicemen participated in the exercises, which were conducted on the territory of four military districts, and the latest arms systems and the national satellite navigation system were tested. The depth of the combined-arms divisions’ push was increased from 1,000 km (in 2006) to 2,000 km.
The Chinese Army will not need such combat experience either in the Himalayas, or in the Formosa Strait, or in repulsing a hypothetical US attack from the air and the sea. Just as we assumed two years ago, the horizon of PRC military strategic planning has obviously shrunk by 10-15 years – the time earlier allocated to a military solution of the Taiwanese problem. The PLA is now faced with the following long-term tasks.
It has simply become impossible for Russian military chiefs to go on feigning indifference for the good of political principles. Little Red Riding Hood could no longer fail to ask herself why her Chinese grandmother has grown such long teeth.
On the Russian Federation Defense Ministry’s official website 23 September 2009, reflecting on the military threats to Russia in various strategic areas, Lieutenant General Sergey Skokov, chief of the Ground Forces Main Staff, expressed a perfectly obvious and even banal thought, but one that is absolutely inadmissible for a Russian semiofficial organ in the atmosphere of the past 15 years or so of strategic fraternization with China and the joint "struggle against the unipolar world": "…If we speak about the East, this can be a millions-strong army with traditional approaches to conducting combat operations – straightforwardly, with great concentration of manpower and firepower in individual areas."
It has to be thought that, before discussing such prospects on the web, the top military chiefs informed the country’s political leadership in detail about what is happening on our eastern borders.
They certainly familiarized the national leaders, at least in general outline, also with the official doctrinal principles of PRC military theoreticians regarding "living space," which, so they believe, "is used to ensure the country’ security, vital activity, and development" and "for strong powers, far transcends their state borders." The strategic borders of living space "must move as the state’s comprehensive might grows." Incidentally, is Medvedev’s foreign policy concept of "the zone of Russia’s privileged interests" not a crude copy of this doctrine? Thus, you know, it is pleasant, when "finding your feet," to discourse — on a conceptual plane, having nothing to your name — about your neighbors’ territories as the zone of your privileged interests.
How are you yourself to feel in someone else’s zone, if this someone, who possesses the world’s second economy, an army of many millions honed for in-depth ground offensive operations, and a serious nuclear missile potential, also wants to surmount the greatest geopolitical disaster of the 14th century – the collapse of the Mongol Empire – or, to begin with, at least the greatest geopolitical disaster of the second half of the 19th century.
No, not through direct military actions, of course, but exclusively in the spirit of the stratagems of Sun Tzu: "Effective control exercised for a long period of time over a strategic area that lies outside the geographic borders will lead, in the final analysis, to the shifting of geographic borders" (Jiefangjun Bao 10 March 1988, cited by A. Khramchikhin, 2009).
As the Russian Federation Regional Development Ministry rightly warned (and this was also, evidently, reported to the top political leadership) in a draft which it prepared ("Socioeconomic Development Strategy for the Far East, the Republic of Buryatia, Transbaykal Kray, and Irkutsk Oblast for the Period Through 2025"), the main "threat" and "challenge" to the region is "the danger that this territory will be turned only into a source of energy sources and raw materials for the countries of the Asia-Pacific region."
Possessing such knowledge, in which there is so much sorrow, what historic decisions does the top Russian political leadership adopt in the second half of 2009? Epoch-making ones. Ignoring all the experts’ warnings, it itself realizes the "threats" and "challenges" to Russian sovereignty by really turning the territory of the Far East and East Siberia only into a source of energy sources and raw materials, only not "for the countries of the Asia-Pacific region" but for one of the countries of the Asia-Pacific region. The very one that for some reason with persistent regularity convincingly demonstrates to us its potential for using its military might on the territory of Russia.
In response to that demonstration the Russian leadership capitulated in economic talks and agreed to the agreements that the Chinese side had been seeking from us for many years. At first PRC head Hu Jintao and President Dmitriy Medvedev solemnly signed the deal of the century (to use Medvedev’s expression) in the Kremlin – a 20-year contract for Russia to supply China with 300 million tonnes of oil at an overall price of $100 billion (less than $50 a barrel). Considering that it will still be necessary to construct an oil pipeline at a stated cost of $29 billion, the actual price for Russia will be considerably less and will clearly incur a loss. However, First Vice Premier Igor Sechin was quick to publicly proclaim it "fair." Indeed, this price may even prove very fair for Mr Sechin personally and for the other most august oil traders hiding behind the figure of Tim Chen Kho (as transliterated), some modest Vietnamese intermediary with a Bhutanese passport. At all events, the first important step was taken toward turning the Russian Federation into a raw materials appendage of the Middle Empire.
But our youthful president, who became accustomed to doing things on a grand scale, if he did anything at all, during the years of his immaculate service on the Foreign Relations Committee of St Petersburg City Hall and in Gazprom, naturally could not stop at this and in New York City 23 September 2009 (a chance yet highly symbolic coincidence with the date of General Skokov’s statement) he signed with the aforesaid Hu another epoch-making agreement – the "Program of Cooperation for 2009-2018 Between the Regions of Russia’s Far East and East Siberia and the Northeast of the PRC," which included more than 200 joint projects.
Under this program Russia gives up natural deposits of minerals for joint development, out of which China will set up production of iron, copper, molybdenum, gold, antimony, titanium, vanadium, silver, germanium, tin, and so forth. China is ready to construct processing facilities on Russian territory, too, if Chinese workers are employed there. In recent years China has concluded a whole slew of agreements with African dictators under roughly the same scheme. Admittedly, in Africa the agreements provided for the creation of a far greater number of jobs for locals.
The same program proposes the expansion of border crossing points and "the strengthening of Russian-Chinese cooperation in the sphere of labor activity." Right after it was signed a state company was set up in China to invest in agricultural production, presupposing the leasing/buying of land in Russia.
In fact, China has gotten everything it needs today – a license to digest over a "lengthy period" (nine years) "a strategic area that lies outside the geographic borders," plus stable deliveries of energy resources from the country it will be digesting. It will not come again for a repeat license. As its theoreticians rightly emphasize, "effective control over a long period of time will lead, in the final analysis, to the shifting of geographic borders." Henceforth the game will be played exclusively according to Chinese rules.
This is the second brilliant strategic victory in a row won in the classic traditions of Chinese military art – without a sword being uncovered and without a single shot being fired, unless you count the firepower mobilized during exercises. The ceremonial military parade in Tiananmen Square, unprecedented in terms of its scale and energy, devoted to the PRC’s 60th anniversary 1 October 2009, was essentially a parade marking the victory won in both the South and the North.
The secret of success Chinese-style is to understand the psychology of the Other, to subordinate his will, and to use his complexes, his ideologemes, his nobility, or his lowness in their own interests. In one case – to rely on the patriotic romanticism of the Taiwanese members of the Kuomintang and their desire to be part of the Great Motherland. In another – on the absolute cynicism and irresponsibility of the Kremlin kleptocracy, this last generation of the Soviet Communist nomenklatura, the final product of the process of its degeneration.
The complete Hu-ization of our little Pu-Me (Putin-Medvedev) and of us all together with them, the inevitability of which we warned about as much as five years ago, has come about. It really does fit in perfectly with the logic of the behavior of the Russian "elite" over the past 20-odd years. My colleague Leonid Radzikhovskiy recalled this well in a recent article devoted to the memory of Yegor Gaydar: "DUMPING OF BALLAST – this is what all the reforms, all the effort amounted to. Dumping – of unwanted ‘union republics’ (the ‘Central Asian underbelly’), the difficult social sphere, third-rate ‘Soviet industry,’ stagnant science and culture – the legacy of Empire…. Result? The reduction of the entire country to an oil and gas Range – and its administrative projection, the Vertical. We now seem to have dumped everything we could – but the balloon still is not ascending…."
Is it not true that East Siberia and the Far East also organically fit into and even thrust themselves into this semantic rank, into this vector of permanent reduction? In order to preserve Russia’s positions in this region in the face of an obvious existential challenge, the country’s population must be aware of themselves as the people, and a selfless and utterly devoted regime must offer them national guidelines and tasks. Is the Russian kleptocracy capable of this? All these – to use their own accurate definition – "mercenary officials and entrepreneurs who undertake nothing" – the second and third echelons of the former party and state security nomenklatura?
For the sake of their own personal enrichment these people have already "decanted" one state, to which they swore an oath – the Soviet Union – and created an ugly, mutant economy that enables them continuously to get still richer. To what end? In order to gather together and ecstatically spend their treasures in the very West that they always despised and that they despise today even far more for their historic defeat, for the vulnerability of their bank deposits abroad, for their own nothingness.
Having now decanted East Siberia and the Far East into the "Cooperation Program for 2009-2018," into the zone of China’s living space (Siberian zone), they have relinquished responsibility for the region’s fate in order to continue serenely finding their feet, twittering in liquid sh. about modernization, "flicking on the nose" now Georgia, now Estonia, and cutting up billions of Chinese dollars.
"It turns out that the fate of Russia’s Far East is being predetermined by the Kremlin without any open discussion. Somehow this dangerous ‘cooperation,’ which is humiliating to Russia, must be urgently stopped," Aleksey Yablokov rightly urges.
It will hardly be possible to stop it urgently. As Tomsk author Aleksandr Lukyanov remarked, one of the reasons for the "epoch-making decisions" adopted in the Kremlin "may have been the desire of the present Russian leadership to secure additional guarantees of the stability of its regime. The Chinese leaders must be well aware that in the event of regime change in Russia any government that replaces the present one, whether liberal, Communist, nationalist, red, white, green, or gray-brown-crimson with spots, will immediately raise the question of revising the terms of ‘cooperation’ which is so advantageous to China but runs directly counter to Russia’s national interests. Thus, China becomes a subject with a direct interest in ensuring that power in Russia continues to remain in the hands of the group of physical persons who so magnanimously let it have the resources of Siberia and the Far East."
The group of physical persons of one blood in question here recently bragged in public how in 2011 they will sit side by side on a bench and decide among themselves how they are to rule us for the next 24 years. But now not even the Chinese will tolerate them for 24 years. They simply will not have enough territories and people for decanting (reduction) for such a period.
There are a thousand reasons why the antinational, thoroughly corrupt, worthless, and vulgar Pu-Me regime, which is an insult to the dignity of Russia and the Russians, must go. But the first one alone is sufficient. This regime is Russia’s liquidation commission.
I do not know just how it will go. But it will definitely go. Choosing between it and Russia, Providence will prefer Russia.
January 12, 2010
Long Pipelines Make Bad Neighbors
Why Russia is feuding with Belarus and what it means for Europe’s security.
By Jeffrey Mankoff
Jeffrey Mankoff is an adjunct fellow for Russia studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.
Almost exactly a year after a payment dispute with Ukraine led Russia to cut off gas deliveries to its European customers in a misguided attempt to force Kiev to pay up, a similar dispute between Russia and Belarus threatens to disrupt deliveries of Russian oil to Europe. As with the Moscow-Kiev "gas war" in January 2009, which left vast swaths of central and southern Europe without gas, the dispute with Belarus is only in part about money. It is also a reflection of the changing relationship between Russia and its one-time partners in the former Soviet Union, many of which are seeking to escape their political and economic dependence on Russia. And the implications could be serious — not just for Russia, Belarus, and its neighbors, but also for the balance of power in Europe generally.
The Russia-Belarus dispute became public just after the new year, with the Dec. 31 expiration of an existing contract for deliveries of Russian oil to Belarus through the so-called Druzhba (Friendship) pipeline.
Under the terms of the contract, Belarus did not pay customs duty on oil imported from Russia. Minsk did not use all of these oil imports domestically, however, sending much of it on to Europe and keeping the customs receipts, despite participating in a customs union with Russia. The profits from reselling Russian oil have long been an important source of hard currency for the authoritarian government of President Aleksandr Lukashenko, making up around a third of Belarus’s export revenue.
In 2001, Belarus unilaterally canceled a contract that mandated the sharing of these revenues, leading to substantial losses for Russian pipeline monopoly Transneft and the Russian state budget. Now, Transneft is demanding that Belarus pay full import duties for the portion of Russian oil that it resells on the European market, a demand that could cost Belarus as much as $5 billion per year. The Belarusian government argues that the Russia-Belarus customs union obviates the need for Minsk to pay duty on imports from Russia. Although deliveries through the Druzhba pipeline have not, as of mid-January, been cut off, the prospect that Transneft (whose chairman is Russian Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin, a close confidant of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin) will turn off the taps to force compliance from Minsk is clearly one that has European leaders worried because the European Union imports about a third of its oil from Russia, mostly via Belarus. Already, the prospect of supply disruptions has driven U.S. crude oil prices to a 15-month high, presumably to Moscow’s delight.
Long Moscow’s closest ally among the post-Soviet states, Belarus in recent years has increasingly become a headache for the Kremlin. Along with the Russia-Kazakhstan-Belarus customs union, Minsk and Moscow are joined in the so-called Russia-Belarus "union state," a kind of halfway house on the way to political integration. Yet like Ukraine before it, Belarus has become wary of being overly dependent on Russia and has sought more room to maneuver internationally, particularly after the August 2008 war in Georgia. Like other post-Soviet leaders, Lukashenko is worried about the precedent of Russian troops intervening in a region that Russian President Dmitry Medvedev referred to as Russia’s "zone of privileged interests."
Lukashenko’s sudden yen for independence is largely due to Moscow’s clumsy attempts to pull Belarus closer. Following the Russia-Georgia war, Moscow put enormous pressure on Belarus to recognize the breakaway republics of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. But, like his counterparts elsewhere in the former Soviet Union, Lukashenko held out. Offering a carrot, Russian Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin announced last February that Moscow would lend Minsk $2 billion to help prop up the tottering Belarusian economy. Then, Russia instituted a boycott of Belarusian milk products in June in an attempt to pressure Minsk to fall into line. In response to the mounting financial crisis, Russia first delayed and then canceled altogether the final $500 million tranche of this loan. In response to the milk boycott and Russia’s vacillation with the promised loan, Lukashenko boycotted a June summit of the Collective Security Treaty Organization — a Russian-led NATO alternative for post-Soviet states — and openly expressed reservations over Russia’s plans to establish a joint rapid reaction force under the organization’s auspices.
Even more alarmingly from Russia’s perspective, Lukashenko announced that Belarus was interested in participating in the European Union’s Eastern Partnership, designed to craft free trade deals, looser visa rules, and strategic partnership agreements with a number of post-Soviet countries in Eastern Europe and the South Caucasus. The European Union reciprocated Lukashenko’s interest in warmer relations in part to keep the Belarusians from recognizing the breakaway republics and in part because Lukashenko’s sudden interest in rapprochement appeared to offer an opportunity to press for domestic liberalization in a country sometimes called "Europe’s last dictatorship." Despite its concrete focus on visa and trade issues, the Eastern Partnership is officially described as an attempt to promote adherence to "shared values including democracy, the rule of law, and respect for human rights" among the post-Soviet states along Europe’s borders. For Russia, which increasingly sees the promotion of liberal values as a means of strengthening the West’s influence vis-�-vis Moscow, the Eastern Partnership appears to be a transparent attempt to intrude on the Russian "zone of privileged influence."
The whole problem comes back to the subsidized energy prices Russia allows its former dependents as a dual system of patronage and control. The subsidies have created perverse incentives in recipient countries, which, like Belarus, have been able to resell Russian energy on their domestic markets at depressed prices, discouraging efficiency and propping up uncompetitive Soviet-era industries. At the same time, subsidized energy supplies have been a major source of corruption because the resale of Russian oil and gas abroad at world prices provides a major source of income for political insiders in Ukraine, Belarus, and other recipient countries.
The threat of withdrawing the subsidies is also one of Russia’s largest bargaining chips in the region. During an earlier payment dispute with Minsk over gas, Moscow moved aggressively to seize a share in Belarus’s gas pipeline network in exchange for maintaining (reduced) price subsidies. As part of Russia’s strategy for exerting pressure on Belarus at the time, Transneft decided to cut oil deliveries through the Druzhba pipeline. Given Belarus’s sclerotic economy and pre-2008 estrangement from Europe, Moscow knew that Lukashenko had little choice but to agree to its demands. The Kremlin has similarly sought to take advantage of Ukraine’s energy debts to gain control over the Ukrainian distribution network, a move that Kiev has thus far resisted.
Since Putin became president of Russia in 2000, the Kremlin has applied these subsidies selectively. Particularly between 2005 and 2008, when global oil prices were rising rapidly, Moscow pressed its neighbors to pay market prices for their energy deliveries, especially neighbors that were becoming foreign-policy headaches. In part, this development was a positive one. It was in line with International Monetary Fund demands that energy transactions take place at market rates and, if fully implemented, would have created real incentives for purchasers to reduce their profligate energy consumption. It would also place relations between Russia and its neighbors on a more predictable, market-oriented basis.
But though moving to market rates for energy makes sense in theory, put in practice by the Putin regime it has only contributed to uncertainty among the European states that purchase most of Russia’s energy. Market rates have been introduced for different post-Soviet states at different times, depending in large part on the purchaser’s relationship with Moscow. For Belarus, loyalty has long translated into some of the lowest energy prices of any Russian neighbor, even as Russian gas monopoly Gazprom and Transneft have ratcheted up prices on Ukraine and other states that have sought to leave the Russian orbit. With Belarus increasingly aware that its dependence on Russia has left it isolated and vulnerable, it too is finding that foreign-policy flexibility comes with a price.
Moscow’s long-term goal is to take control of energy distribution infrastructure throughout the former Soviet Union. This aim is clearly stated in Russia’s energy policy, and the previous round in the dispute between Belarus and Transneft-which also sparked a brief cutoff of Russian oil supplies-was ended in part by an agreement for the Russian pipeline monopoly to take a 50 percent stake in Belarusian pipeline operator Beltransgaz. Gazprom has exerted similar pressure on Ukraine over Kiev’s outstanding debts. If Moscow were to succeed in completely taking over the Belarusian energy distribution network, it would not only be in a stronger position to influence Minsk’s foreign policy, but the move would also improve Moscow’s market power, and hence its political leverage, vis-�-vis Europe. Uncertainty about deliveries through Belarus could also lead to higher global oil prices, just as Western economies are beginning to emerge from the recession. That in and of itself should be reason enough for the Europeans — and their U.S. allies — to pay close attention to a seemingly obscure customs dispute.
Less Than 5% Ukrainians Believe Presidential Election Will Be Fair – Poll
KYIV. Jan 12 (Interfax) – A large majority of Ukrainians believe the presidential election set for January 17 will be rigged, a joint poll conducted by Democratic Initiatives and Ukrainian Sociology Service has found.
According to the poll, 41.4% respondents believe that the election results could be manipulated; 29.5% believe there will be some violations that will not significantly affect the overall result; and 15.7% said they were certain that the entire vote would be rigged.
Only 4.5% believe that the election will be fair, while 9% could not answer.
This means that more than half of the respondents (57.1%) think that the election will be rigged.
A total of 2,010 respondents were polled nationwide between December 12-26. The margin of error is 2.3%.
Iryna Bekeshkina of Democratic Initiatives said the poll results suggest a sense of disappointment among the Ukrainian population concerning the election.
Ukraine has been in a state of disappointment for a long time now, Bekeshkina said.
Ballot stuffing and voter buying is likely to occur and voting from home is expected to help manipulate election results, said CEO of the Ukrainian Voter Committee Oleksandr Chernenko.
From a technical point of view, this year’s presidential election is the worst ever, with many polls likely to see their results being canceled, he said.
Ukraine Needs to Be Western-oriented to Achieve European Standards of Living – Yanukovych
DNIPROPETROVSK. Jan 12 (Interfax) – Partnership with Western countries does not hamper but helps Ukraine in its efforts to create better standards of living for Ukrainians, presidential candidate and leader of the Party of Regions Viktor Yanukovych said.
"I can unequivocally say that our relations with the West are doing no harm to us. For us it is a guide in both social and technical standards that we should strive for in creating a European life level in Ukraine," he said on the Dnipropetrovsk television on Tuesday.
Ukraine must build partnerships and mutually beneficial relations with Europe, Yanukovych said.
This involves creating a free trade zone, which is of interest to Ukraine, and visa-free travel between Ukraine and the EU countries, he added.
"Our policy must convince our partners both in the East and West to treat us with respect," he said.
Once acceptable standards have been met, Ukraine can consider the time for joining the EU, Yanukovych said.
"I think when the time comes and we achieve those standards that currently exist in Europe, the question will arise where we should be and then we will give an answer to it. But today this is an absolutely motivating, stimulating process we must aspire to," Yanukovych said.
Presidential hopeful Yanukovych seeks Russian gas deal revision
SIMFEROPOL, January 13 (RIA Novosti)-Ukrainian opposition Party of Regions leader and presidential candidate Viktor Yanukovych said on Wednesday he intends to revise gas deals with Russia if he wins the election.
Yanukovych, who was President Viktor Yushchenko’s main opponent in the 2004 race, said gas prices under the current contract with Russia were unfair for Ukraine and he intended to protect the country’s national interests and remedy the situation.
Presidential elections in Ukraine are set for January 17.
Russia, which supplies around one quarter of Europe’s gas, briefly shut down supplies via Ukraine’s pipeline system last January amid a dispute over unpaid bills and new prices.
The conflict was resolved when Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart Yulia Tymoshenko reached a deal on gas imports and transit in mid-January 2009.
President Yushchenko has consistently called for the deal to be reviewed, something that has been ruled out by both Russia and Tymoshenko, once an ally of Yushchenko but now a bitter rival.
As the election campaign in the ex-Soviet republic is nearing the end, the main contenders for the presidential post have stepped up their election rhetoric in a bid to gain more voter support.
Ukraine’s Central Election Committee has registered 18 candidates, including Yanukovych, Yushchenko, Tymoshenko, parliamentary speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn and former Rada speaker Arseniy Yatsenyuk.
Polls predict that no candidate will secure an outright majority in the first round, with Yanukovych expected to garner around 30% to 20% for Tymoshenko.
Election tension mounts as Ukraine PM cries foul
Ukraine leader accuses PM of seeking absolute power
By Richard Balmforth
KIEV, Jan 13 (Reuters) – Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko drove up tension on Wednesday ahead of a weekend election for president, accusing her main rival of preparing to carry out "monstrous" poll fraud to win power.
Her broadside against former prime minister Viktor Yanukovich, seen as her main challenger, raised the temperature further around the Jan. 17 presidential poll, the first since the mass unrest of 2004 sparked by a rigged election.
Tymoshenko was herself the subject on Tuesday of a vehement attack from President Viktor Yushchenko, her erstwhile ally in the 2004 "Orange Revolution" which propelled them both to power.
"A conscious disruption of the election process is going on," Tymoshenko told a government meeting, saying that Yanukovich’s party was organising mass fraud in the east of the country, his main power base. "Such monstrous falsification didn’t even happen in 2004," she said.
Yushchenko became president in an unprecedented third round of voting after mass protests against electoral fraud led to victory being denied to the Moscow-backed Yanukovich.
The last opinion polls published show Yushchenko has little chance of being re-elected. Yanukovich and Tymoshenko are expected to face each other in a Feb. 7 run-off vote.
Yanukovich, on a campaign trip to Crimean capital Simferopol, shrugged off Tymoshenko’s accusations.
"Tymoshenko’s comments … show that a guilty mind betrays itself," he told journalists. "How can the opposition falsify results? Only the authorities have that ability — they have the mechanism, structure, the interior ministry."
At stake in the election is the ex-Soviet republic’s future place in Europe and relations with former Soviet master, Russia, which have deteriorated under Yushchenko.
The country of 46 million is deep in economic recession and the political feuding, particularly between Yushchenko and Tymoshenko, has imperilled a $16.4 billion bailout from the International Monetary Fund.
The pro-Western Yushchenko made a dramatic appeal on Tuesday for the electorate to have faith in his "European policies" and said victory for either Tymoshenko or Yanukovich "will return us to the swamp for decades".
He renewed a charge that Tymoshenko and Yanukovich were part of a single Kremlin coalition of forces.
The bickering among the political elite in the run-up to Sunday’s election has highlighted the extent to which the "Orange" euphoria of 2004 has faded.
As Tymoshenko spoke during her cabinet’s meeting, several thousand supporters of Yanukovich’s Regions Party demonstrated outside the government building listening to World War Two-era songs and demanding higher wages and pensions.
But despite the mud-slinging and occasional protests, analysts doubted that mass rallies like that seen on Kiev’s Independence Square in 2004 would be repeated.
"No repeat of Independence Square is possible … There will be no resistance by an insolent administrative pressure and defenceless democrats. Things will be different. There will be a different distribution of emotions," said independent analyst Alexander Dergachev.
Tymoshenko said an unusually high number of voters in Yanukovich’s home region of Donetsk had opted to vote from home, showing the organising hand of his Party of the Regions.
Home voting was widely used in 2004 to skew election results because it allowed officials to bypass the secret ballot and did not require voters to prove their identity.
Eight members of the 14-member Central Electoral Committee were also in the pay of the Yanukovich camp, she said.
She said she intended to take her complaints to the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) which has sent election monitors to Ukraine.
January 13, 2010
ROAR: "Ukraine goes from chaos of orange revolution to strong power"
Russia is ready to work with whoever wins the presidential election in Ukraine as the present head of state has no chance to retain power, analysts believe.
Russian media and observers are interested in the outcome of voting in the neighboring country. The State Duma will send deputies to observe the first round of elections, due to be held on January 17.
The mission of the Commonwealth of Independent States established to observe the voting is headed by Aleksandr Torshin, Deputy Speaker of the Federation Council, the upper house of the Russian parliament. He has visited several polling stations in rural areas and said that Ukrainian voters lack general information about the election itself, especially regarding the work of local polling stations. Torshin attributed this fact to insufficient financing of the election.
However, no Russian analysts and media outlets doubt that Ukrainian voters know the main presidential candidates very well. The question is rather who will be the best president �from Russia�s point of view.�
At the same time many stress that this time, unlike in previous elections, Moscow does not want to influence the vote in one way or another and is ready to work with whoever wins.
Analysts agree that no candidate will be able to win in the first round. Maksim Grigoryev, President of the Foundation for Studies of Democracy Problems, stressed that the present situation in Ukrainian politics levels the chances of the two main candidates, Viktor Yanukovich and Yulia Tymoshenko. Yanukovich, head of the Party of Regions, now leads in the polls.
It is unclear how many votes �the candidates of the second or even third echelons will receive and to whom they will hand their votes in the second round,� the analyst told website. �There is [former parliament speaker and foreign minister Arseny] Yatsenyuk, there are other active people with big financial resources, and they all have a certain percentage of the electorate,� he said.
�Of course, different behind-the-scenes talks may have a profound effect,� Grigoryev said. He added that there is a �high probability of certain anti-constitutional activities from the incumbent president or other figures.� President Yushchenko should not be ignored. He may have little electoral support, but can boast of the advantage of administrative control, the analyst said.
Political scientist Sergey Markov also believes that the election campaign is going relatively smoothly, but the situation may change because �all sides are preparing for falsifications, especially those who have administrative leverage,� he told New Region news agency. �These forces are oriented to the president and prime minister,� he said.
�As far as I understand, everyone is preparing mass protest actions after the second round,� Markov said. He believes that after the chaos of �the orange revolution� Ukraine wants a strong power. �In the conditions of weak institutions a strong power inevitably turns into a strong personified power,� he added.
Markov described Tymoshenko as �the most likely candidate for personal dictatorship,� adding that Yanukovich is �too law-abiding for this role.� As for Yushchenko, he may become �the main catalyst for leaving the way of legal elections,� Markov said.
Some analysts predict that Yushchenko may even withdraw from the election, but others say that the president is hoping that several candidates will do just that in his favor. Gazeta daily wrote about �talks� that are allegedly under way, but stressed that so far no candidates have spoken about their desire to boost Yushchenko�s rating.
�During the last month of campaigning Yushchenko has been trying to attract Tymoshenko�s attention,� website said. However, she did not notice the president�s criticism, it added. Instead, Tymoshenko has spent most of her time criticizing Yanukovich, �who, in his turn, has ignored her,� the website said.
Whoever wins the election, one of the main problems for the next president will be mending ties with Russia, believes Sergey Mikheev of the Center for Political Technologies. The new head of state will have to take into account the �unsuccessful experience of Yushchenko�s orange presidency,�� he told
�It is quite clear that Yushchenko absolutely spoiled relations with Russia,� Mikheev said. �But the dividends that Ukraine has received from this policy are rather doubtful,� he added.
The West has been the main orientation for �the orange politicians,� �but they have not moved too far in that direction,� the analyst said. �I do not think we will get a pro-Russian president because there are no conditions for that,� he added. �Frankly speaking, we are not doing anything for it,� he said. �But I hope that it will be a sober-minded man, with less ideological prejudices than Yushchenko,� he said.
On the contrary, there are a lot of conditions for improving relations between Russia and Ukraine, Mikheev believes. �In fact, all the problems between the two countries exist in relations between representatives of ruling classes,� he added.
Aleksandr Brod, a human rights activist and member of the Public Chamber believes that Yanukovich is inclined to more close ties with Russia and is ready to defend Russian-speaking people in Ukraine. The leader of the Party of Regions has a more realistic approach �to the possibilities of Ukraine and its present difficult economic, social and political state,� Brod told New Region news agency.
Yanukovich may justify hopes of Ukrainians who have been disappointed during the past five years �when more attention has been paid to populism than to improving citizens� living standards or the modernization of the country,� Brod said.
�The Russian-speaking population [in Ukraine] is worried about the language and historical memories that are being discriminated against,� Brod added. �Over the last years the memory of the Second World War has been desecrated, Nazi accomplices have been rehabilitated,� he said.
The Ukrainian authorities have been closing Russian schools, TV channels and �making offensive statements against Russia and its historical heritage,� Brod said. �I think this has created a very serious ground for people�s distrust of the present authorities,� he said.
Maksim Dianov, General Director of the Institute of Regional Problems thinks that the leader of the Communist Party, Petr Simonenko, is more �pro-Russian� than Yanukovich. The Communists are �the only party that has always supported Russia,� Dianov said. Others have been �either for the West, or for nationalism, or for Russia, and they move in this circle.�
Meanwhile, the most pro-Ukrainian of all candidates is Yulia Tymoshenko, Valery Khomyakov, General Director of the National Strategy Council, told New Region. Moscow needs a �pro-Ukrainian rather than pro-American president because Russia and Ukraine have many common tasks,� he said.
Sergey Borisov, RT
From: "Munro, Dr Neil M. I." <>
Date: Tue, 12 Jan 2010 16:15:06 +0000
Subject: RE: New data on RussiaVotes
On RussiaVotes we have just uploaded results of a new Express survey conducted 18-22 December 2009.
For what’s new go to
CSPP/U. Aberdeen                Levada Center/Moscow.
From: Ana-Maria Sinitean <>
Date: Tue, 12 Jan 2010 1
Subject: Short-Term Travel Grant Reminder
IREX is pleased to announce that applications are now being accepted for the 2010-2011 Short-Term Travel Grants (STG) Program
STG provides fellowships to US scholars and professionals to engage in  up to eight weeks of overseas research on contemporary political, economic, historical, or cultural developments relevant to US foreign policy.
The STG application is now available online at:
Completed applications are due no later than 5 pm EST on February 2, 2010.
Postdoctoral Scholars and Professionals with advanced degrees are eligible to apply for the STG Program.
In addition to the pre-departure logistic support provided by IREX staff, the Short-Term Travel Grant also provides:
� International coach class roundtrip transportation
� A monthly allowance for housing and living expenses
� Travel visas
� Emergency evacuation insurance
� Field office support
Questions may be addressed to the STG Program Staff at or by telephone at 202-628-8188.
Countries Eligible for Research:
Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Georgia, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan
STG is funded by the United States Department of State Title VIII Program

David Johnson



January 20, 2010

(seems there is an archive, so I’ll just post the links to the original) – Maybe it increases the traffic to David’s site that way – and don’t forget, subscribe and donate!


1. AP: Russians brave minus 25 Celsius to plunge into icy waters in

2. ITAR-TASS: Number Of Abortions In Russia Comparable To Births —

3. Financial Times: Susanne Sternthal, Moscow’s stray dogs.

4. Nezavisimaya Gazeta: BETWEEN THE LINES. Russian and American

5. Moscow News: Mark Teeter, A real reset for Russian studies.


7. Moscow News: Anna Arutunyan, Gaidar’s lasting legacy.

8. ROAR: Russian parties preparing for

9. Svobodnaya Pressa: Seven Political Parties Suggest Ways of Reforming

10. Moscow Times: Alexei Pankin, Letters Speak Louder Than Cartoons.

11. Interfax: Civilians should head up Russian Interior Ministry – rights activist.

12. St. Petersburg Times: Award-Winning Mock Documentary Faces Ban

13. Moscow Times: Homeowners Get 3 More Years to Privatize.

14. Moscow News: High hopes for Russian IPO`s.

15. Financial Times Adviser: Focus: Russia.

16. Financial Times: Russian appetite for bling put to the test.

17. Nezavisimaya Gazeta: PUTIN, ARMY, AND INTERNET.

18. Dmitry Trenin and Boris Dolgin,

19. Estonian Free Press (Tallinn): Ilves "Russia Is Not a Threat for Estonia"

20. RIA Novosti: Russia hopes new Ukraine leader will not use ties

21. RIA Novosti: Gazprom sure of continued timely gas payment after

22. Vedomosti: FIGHTING FOR ALSO-RUNS. Victor Yanukovich and

23. Bloomberg: Yanukovych Woos Voters With Promises to Alter Program.

24. Voice of America: Next Ukrainian President: East or West?

25. Wall Street Journal: Ukraine Poll Leaders Set Sights on Swing Voters.

26. BBC Monitoring: Eliminated candidate holds key to outcome of

27. Interfax: Ukraine’s Rapprochement With NATO Will Slow Down

28. Samuel Charap, Seeing Orange. Why a Ukraine

29. RIA Novosti: Dmitry Babich, Yushchenko recognized as inadequate –

30. Paul Goble: Window on Eurasia: Latynina Sees ‘Catastrophe’ if

31. Dmitriy Orlov, Dmitriy Badovsky, and Mikhail Vinogradov,


January 19, 2010

18 January 2010
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  DJ: I have solved the spurious character problem (I think) and thought
thru using Firefox I had solved the clickable Contents problem but
that appears to require more attention.
  1. Reuters: Ukraine PM Tymoshenko to face old rival in runoff.
  2. AP: Yanukoyvch lead in Ukraine could be illusion.
  3. ROAR: "Ukrainian president sets world record
for losing voters." (press review)
  4. AFP: Russia should cut abortions to boost population.
  5. Interfax: Number of internet users in Russia increased by over 20
per cent in 2009 – poll.
  6. Opinion Poll Shows Print Media ‘Losing Ground’ to Internet
  7. ITAR-TASS: Another Bill On Shorter New Year Vacations Submitted
To State Duma.
  8. Interfax: We must beat corruption � Medvedev.
  9. Moscow Times: Medvedev’s Photo Outdoes Putin’s Painting.
  10. Moskovskiy Komsomolets: Ex-PM Primakov Lambasts Authorities,
Opposition, and Oligarchs.
  11. Interfax: Medvedev: START Treaty Must Be Ratified By Russia,
USA Together Or Not At All.
  12. Interfax: Russian Parliament Leaders Warn Against Nukes
Pact Giving Advantages to U.S..
  13. BBC Monitorig: Russian president drives armoured car, fires
machine gun, hears defence minister.
  14. ITAR-TASS: Medvedev Calls For Resizing Regional Parliaments.
  15. Speech at meeting with leaders of political parties
represented in the State Duma.
  16. RIA Novosti: Russian party leader-turned-governor explains
departure from politics, new role. (Nikita Belykh)
  17. Gazeta: New Channel One Serial on School Life Provokes State
Duma Controversy.
  18. Channel One TV Serial ‘The School’ Described As ‘Art
  19. Moscow Times: Moscow Finally Backs Rights Court.
  20. Interfax: Russian human rights activists analyses 2009, hopes
for best in 2010.
Legislation pertaining protest actions may be stiffened again.
  22. BBC Monitoring: Russian rights activists slam Duma bill on
single-person demos.
  23. RFE/RL: Moscow Approves Rallies For Murdered Lawyer, Journalist.   
  24. BBC Monitoring: Russian radio pundit Radzikhovskiy denounces
Stalin as symbol of inhuman state.
  25. Yeltsin’s Daughter Big Hit in Russian Blogosphere.
  26. ITAR-TASS: Gryzlov Against Progressive Income Tax In Russia.
  27. Moscow Times: Retailers, Banks Top Fund Managers’ List.
  28. Rossiyskaya Gazeta: Russian Business Leader Shokhin on
Modernization, Signs of Economic Recovery.
  29. ITAR-TASS: Russia Reduced Greenhouse Gas Emissions
By 30 Prc Over 17 Years.
  31. Bloomberg: NATO to Rebuff Russian Bid for Separate Treaty, Officials Say.
  32. Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Russia distances from Central Asia.
Countries of the region are drifting toward rich donors.
  33.  Washington Post letter: Dmitry Peskov, Don’t throw flames on
Russia-Belarus oil talks.
  34. Izvestia: OIL STAIN. Oil dispute with Belarus may result in the so
called Ukrainian Scenario and damage Russia’s image as supplier.
  35. Nezavisimaya Gazeta" SECOND ROUND PRESIDENT.
Victor Yuschenko’s Russophobic era is drawing to its end.
  36. Interfax: Russian Political Experts Think Yanukovych May
Become President If Makes No Mistake Preparing For Runoff.
  37. Interfax: Influence of External Factors Is Much Less At Current
Ukrainian Election – Russian Expert. (Sergei Markov)
  38. BBC Monitoring: Russian radio commentators look wistfully at
Ukraine election.
  39. Interfax: U.S. Analyst: Ukraine-Russia Relations Sure to Warm
Up After Ukraine Elections. (Ariel Cohen)
  40. Moscow Times: Yevgeny Kiselyov, President Yanukovych’s Dilemma.
  41. Wall Street Journal Europe: Christopher Granville, Ukraine Is Headed
for National Bankruptcy. Russia would be the natural partner to step in and
help, but at considerable cost to Kiev’s independence.
  42. Washington Times: Joseph Goulden, BOOKS: Spies eluding the KGB, Nazis.
EXPERTS By David C. Engerman)
  43. Nezavisimoye Voyennoye Obozreniye: Rogov Analyzes START Negotiations,
Says Opportunity Must Not Be Missed.]
Ukraine PM Tymoshenko to face old rival in runoff
By Yuri Kulikov and Natalya Zinets
January 18, 2010
KIEV (Reuters) – Ukrainian opposition leader Viktor Yanukovich and Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko will face each other in a run-off presidential election on February 7 and official results from Sunday’s first round suggest a close contest ahead.
The election will define how Ukraine, a former Soviet republic of 46 million people wedged between the European Union and Russia, handles relations with its powerful neighbors, and may help unblock frozen IMF aid for its ailing economy.
With 95 percent of ballots counted from Sunday’s poll, Yanukovich held a strong lead with 35.42 percent, well below the more than 50 percent needed for outright victory, the Central Election Commission said. Tymoshenko had 24.95 percent.
The results set up what could be a close February 7 contest. Analysts say Tymoshenko should pick up more votes from defeated first round candidates, while Yanukovich will have to fight hard to extend his appeal beyond his support base in the Russian-speaking east of the country.
Tymoshenko, 49, helped lead the Orange Revolution against Yanukovich’s rigged 2004 presidential election victory and is most popular in the European-leaning west of the country.
She hailed the voting pattern as proof that Yanukovich, a 59-year-old former mechanic, had no chance in the second round and immediately began wooing eliminated candidates.
"Tymoshenko did probably better than expected, and is probably the most likely to eventually win when you look at where the votes from the other candidates are likely to go to," said Joanna Gorska, deputy head of Eurasia Forecasting, Exclusive Analysis Ltd.
The votes of supporters of former central bank chief Sergey Tigipko who was in 3rd place with around 13 percent of the vote, according to results, was important to watch, Gorska said.
He, like 4th-placed former foreign minister Arseniy Yatseniuk, has been cool to overtures from the Tymoshenko camp. But he is an independent candidate with no party structure, so his supporters are free to vote for whom they wish.
Traders of the hryvnia currency took the election in their stride and said the market would be calm because the results of the poll were expected. A holiday in the United States would also dampen the volume of trades, dealers said.
The hryvnia was unchanged from Friday’s level of 8.075-8.175/$. The central bank offered to sell dollars on Monday — as it had done last week — at 8.01/$.
Tymoshenko rushed to Luhansk in the east of the country after oxygen tanks exploded in a hospital, her press service said. At least three people were killed, emergency officials said. Earlier, officials had said five died.
International election monitors, including a large party from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, praised the conduct of the election.
In a statement, the OSCE said the election had been "of high quality" and showed significant progress on previous polls in the ex-Soviet state.
But it said the law on electoral procedure had to be clarified. A last-minute court ruling on home voting and "unsubstantiated" accusations of large-scale fraud had shaken public confidence, it said.
Tymoshenko, a sharp-tongued populist, had been particularly strident in allegations before the vote that the Yanukovich camp planned massive electoral fraud.
Voters punished incumbent President Viktor Yushchenko, one of the architects of the Orange Revolution, for political in-fighting. Election results gave him around 5-6 percent.
Both leading candidates have pledged to seek better relations with neighboring energy supplier Russia, in part to avoid the rows of recent years which led to supply cut-offs affecting parts of Europe.
Yanukovich has called for a strong, independent Ukraine following a neutral path and not joining NATO or any other bloc. He accused Yushchenko of excessively confrontational policies toward Russia, and said Ukraine’s real enemy was poverty.
He was tarnished by a scandal in 2004, when he initially claimed victory in an election tainted by allegations of fraud and was subsequently swept aside by the Orange Revolution that brought Yushchenko to power.
Although Tymoshenko initially had stormy relations with Russia, she has tried to patch up her links with the Kremlin.
Analysts said that a Tymoshenko victory in February may be a more favorable outcome for the economy in that it would likely lead to a quicker resumption of the IMF bail-out program.
The Fund broke off its $16.4 billion program to Ukraine because Kiev breached pledges to control the budget deficit.
Analysts said if Yanukovich triumphed in February there would almost certainly be a new parliamentary election which would only delay action to get the country back on to its feet.
"If Tymoshenko wins, you are probably likely to see stability return faster because she already has a more dominant position in parliament," Gorska said.
Yanukoyvch lead in Ukraine could be illusion
January 18, 2010
KIEV, Ukraine – Voters in the first round of Ukraine’s presidential election appeared to hand opposition leader Viktor Yanukoyvch, the 2004 Orange Revolution’s chief target, a decisive victory over his rival, Orange heroine and Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko.
But that lead in Sunday’s vote could prove illusory when the two go head to head next month in the final round of voting.
No matter who wins the Feb. 7 runoff, when it comes to the most important policy issue facing Ukraine, relations with Russia, both candidates may have little choice but to follow the same path.
Analysts say Yanukovych’s 35 percent to 25 percent advantage over Tymoshenko, with more than 90 percent of votes counted Monday, is misleading, because she is likely to pick up most of the votes scattered among 16 also-rans.
Some analysts say that despite Tymoshenko’s second-place finish, her sharp political instincts will give her the edge in the runoff.
"Yanukovych’s voter base has been exhausted. Although it was strong and compact and never betrayed him, it did not grow," said Viktor Nebozhenko, director of the sociology institute Ukrainian Barometer. "Tymoshenko, as a great communicator, has a chance to win this election."
Some polls show Tymoshenko trailing Yanukovych in a head-to-head matchup, but analysts say Tymoshenko’s strength is difficult to measure because much of her support comes in rural areas.
In the final poll, analyst Oleksandr Dergachev said, many voters will turn against Yanukovych because of what he called "high levels of distrust" that have prevented him from getting more than 40 percent of the vote in nationwide elections.
"It is difficult to predict the outcome of the second round, but Yanukovych will find it harder to expand the electorate than Tymoshenko," Dergachev said.
Despite sharp differences and personal animosity, Tymoshenko and Yanukovych share a similar view of Ukraine’s relations with Russia, its giant neighbor to the east, by far Ukraine’s biggest trading partner and the region’s dominant military power.
In the future, NATO membership is out. There will be no more Kremlin-bashing in Kiev, and relations with Georgia will not be nearly as close as they were under Orange President Viktor Yushchenko, who was trounced in Sunday’s ballot, getting just 5.5 percent of the vote.
Five years ago many Orange protesters dreamed of breaking Ukraine’s historic dependence on Moscow and becoming part of Western Europe.
But they’ve had a rude awakening, in the form of a battle with Russia over energy prices, the 2008 Russia-Georgia war and one of the worst recessions in Europe.
All seemed to demonstrate that like it or not, Ukraine couldn’t get along without good relations with Moscow, its historic ally.
The blunt-spoken Yanukovych, a former electrician and factory manager, has pledged to scrap Ukraine’s NATO bid and elevate Russian to the status of a second official language alongside Ukrainian.
Tymoshenko, a heroine of the 2004 pro-Western Orange Revolution, in 2007 criticized what she called Russia’s imperial ambitions. But in the past year she has made peace with the Kremlin on energy and security issues.
Despite warnings of large-scale election fraud in the days leading up to Sunday’s vote, officials and international election observers said the ballot was fair and orderly.
"The polling in Ukraine yesterday was overall the same as polling in any other democratic country," Matyas Eorsi, chairman of the observation mission from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, said Monday. "It is the first time since independence (in 1991) that it has been possible to say this. Ukraine deserves enormous congratulation for this."
Joao Soares, president of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, said the election was "very promising for the future of Ukraine’s democracy."
Five years ago, fraud allegations sent tens of thousands of Ukrainians into the streets of Kiev, demanding an end to what they regarded as a corrupt regime. After weeks of protests, Yushchenko beat Yanukovych in a court-ordered revote.
Yushchenko’s win was hailed in the West as a victory by democratic forces over the cynical veterans of Ukraine’s Soviet regime. But in Moscow, many saw it as part of a Western plot to surround and weaken Russia.
After his election, Yushchenko became embroiled in political skirmishing that paralyzed the government and he failed to push through many of his promised reforms.
Yanukovych seemed elated by his victory over Yushchenko, his old rival, on Sunday. "Today marks the end of Orange power," he said. "There will be no room for (Yushchenko) in the second round. He has officially lost the faith of the people."
Ukraine’s currency crashed in 2008, the economy sputtered and the International Monetary Fund had to step in with a $16.4 billion (euro11.41 billion) bailout. Ukraine’s gross domestic product plunged by 15 percent in 2009, according to the World Bank, which estimates that the country will see anemic growth this year.
The next president will same the same problems.
Yury Yakimenko, an analyst at Razumkov Center, said the presidency itself is hopelessly compromised, because the office’s powers were given to parliament as part of a compromise that ended the 2004 conflict.
"Either Tymoshenko or Yanukovych will be forced to reform the Constitution to have real authority to overcome the crisis," Yakimenko predicted. "Ukraine is mired in political squabbles and fights. The economic situation is close to collapse. The situation could spiral out of control."
Yanukovych faces one of the biggest challenges, Yakimenko said, because if he becomes president he will have to work with Prime Minister Tymoshenko. "This will lead to a new political war and early parliamentary elections."
Associated Press writer Yuras Karmanau contributed to this report.
January 18, 2010
ROAR: "Ukrainian president sets world record for losing voters"
Russian observers weigh chances of Viktor Yanukovch and Yulia Tymoshenko taking other candidates’ votes in the Ukrainian presidential run-off.
In the second round, the two politicians will divide the votes of people who chose oher candidates
Hstorian Stanislav Tkachenko of St. Petersburg University says. "It seems that Tymoshenko will take the votes of former National Bank head Sergey Tigipko, and people who voted for ex-parliament speaker Arseny Yatsenyuk may support Yanukovich," he told 100TV channel. "However, it is still a riddle who will get President Viktor Yushchenko’s votes."
The results of the Ukrainian election will affect the fate of the post-Soviet space, Tkachenko believes. This election has attracted great attention because of the memories of the events of the Orange Revolution in 2004, he said.
The voting that took place on January 17 showed that the Orange Revolution has failed, the historian said. At the same time, it is still unclear who will win the election, he noted. Neither Yanukovich nor Tymoshenko has a considerable advantage, he said.
Dmitry Ayatskov, former governor of Saratov Region, supports Yanukovich, but stresses that the leader of the Party of Regions "lacks decision." "I still cannot understand how Yanukovich could make the third round possible during the previous election," Ayatskov told Kommersant Vlast weekly. Yanukovich could have won in 2004, the former governor believes. "Now the main thing is that Yuchchenko will not be the president," he added.
State Duma Deputy Gennady Gudkov, on the contrary, believes that Yanukovich is "a go-ahead fellow who is more consistent than others." He may have denied the results of the previous election, but he did not become a populist and "showed respect for Ukrainian law," the deputy said. As for Tymoshenko, she has changed her positions more often, Gudkov told the weekly.
Vadim Gustov, Chairman of the Federation Council on the Affairs of the Commonwealth of the Independent States, told the same source "Yanukovich is more preferable for Russia." However, the previous election showed that "he is not a very simple figure," Gustov said. "Sometimes he also makes a curtsey to the West trying to get something."
Many analysts believe that Yanukovich "has already collected all his votes," as commentator Mikhail Melnikov wrote in Argumenty i Fakty weekly. And Tymoshenko may add to her "modest" percentage the votes of supporters of Yatsenyuk and Yushchenko, he said. Among smaller candidates only the leader of the Communist Party, Petro Simonenko, "will support Yanukovich," the commentator said.
"Nevertheless, Yanukovich is fighting desperately for every ‘Orange’ vote," Melnikov said. "He has limited to minimum his pro-Russian rhetoric, forgotten about the intention to make Russian the second state language and is avoiding any harsh statements," he added.
Yanukovich does not risk losing much, and even if he fails to win in the run-off, he will remain the leader of the opposition in parliament, Melnikov believes. "But Tymoshenko, in case of defeat, will lose everything," he said.
"So, we are expecting another round of the sleaze war, more scandals, more agitators from neighboring countries," Melnikov said. He also believes that Tigipko may decide the fate of the run-off despite the fact that the candidate himself has already said he will support neither Yanukovich nor Tymoshenko in the run-off.
The situation resembles the 1996 presidential election in Russia when the country chose between the Communist Party’s leader Gennady Zyuganov and then-President Boris Yeltsin, the commentator said. General Aleksadr Lebed suddenly won the third place, and the main question of the run-off was who would get his votes. The general was appointed the Secretary of the Security Council and called on his voters to support Yeltsin, who managed to save his position.
This time in Ukraine the president has lost, and Yushchenko may have set a new world record, Argumenty i Fakty said. "No current head of state has ever collected so little votes as Viktor Yushchenko in 2010," it added.
The epoch of the man who tried to build an "anti-Russian Ukraine" is ending, said Vyacheslav Nikonov, executive director of the Russian World foundation. "Regardless of who wins the election, it is evident that a new character of relations between Russia and Ukraine will emerge," he told website.
Observers stress that during the campaign Yushchenko sharply criticized Tymoshenko, his former comrade in the Orange Revolution. The split on the camp of "the orange politicians" is partly responsible for the results of the first round where Yanukovich got almost 12% more votes than Tymoshenko, believes Yevgenia Voyko of the Center for Political Conjuncture.
Because of this split it is difficult to name the clear favorite of the electorate, Voyko said. Supporters of Yushchenko and Yatsenyuk will most likely give their votes to Tymoshenko, however this will depend much on the work of her team, the analyst stressed.
Part of Tigipko’s votes will go to Tymoshenko, but many of his voters will also support Yanukovich "as a man from the Eastern part of the country," she added.
Many analysts note that external influence during this election has been minimal. As for Moscow, its position is more flexible than in 2004 and Russia had "agreements with all favorites of the presidential campaign," Vedomosti daily said.
However, the media said that some in Ukraine have seen a sign of external influence in the so-called "observers from Georgia." Yanukovich and a number of other politicians described them as "officers of a Georgian special services police squad," RBC daily said.
At the same time, analysts stress that there have not been serious irregularities during the voting. They believe the repetition of protests like those of 2004 is "unlikely." However, the tents that had been prepared by some candidates may become useful after the run-off, RBC daily said. The frontrunners themselves are not interested in the protests, the paper said. But some "technical protest rallies" could not be ruled out, it added.
Nikonov of the Russian World believes that if the run-off brings a close result, Tymoshenko may try to organize new street protests. But he added that if one can lead people to the streets in modern Ukraine, "it is impossible to keep them there."
Sergey Borisov, RT
n4Russia should cut abortions to boost population  
January 18, 2010
MOSCOW, RUSSIA (AFP) – Russia should cut its high abortion rate to boost population growth, the health minister said Monday, amid government efforts to reverse a post-Soviet demographic decline.
"The topic of reducing abortions is definitely on today’s agenda. This won’t solve the birthrate problem 100 percent, but around 20 to 30 percent," Health Minister Tatyana Golikova said, quoted by Russian news agencies.
Golikova said that in 2008 there were 1.714 million births in Russia and 1.234 million abortions. Russia has long had one of the world’s highest abortion rates.
Russia’s population fell precipitously after the 1991 collapse of Communism, dropping from around 148 million then to some 142 million today due to various factors including economic difficulties and high alcoholism rates.
The government has taken a range of measures to fight the population decline including paying money to mothers for having babies and awarding medals of "parental glory" to parents of many children.
In late December, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin announced that Russia in 2009 had experienced its first annual population increase since 1995.
Number of internet users in Russia increased by over 20 per cent in 2009 – poll
Moscow, 15 January: As of autumn 2009, 42m internet users were counted in Russia, or 36 per cent of the country’s adult population.
The main body of internet users – the daily audience – is almost 24m people – this is approximately one-fifth of adult Russians (21 per cent), the Public Opinion Foundation (FOM) has reported, according to the results of its research published in the latest issue of the newsletter "Internet in Russia".
According to the sociologists’ data, in the last year (from autumn 2008) the number of internet users in Russia has risen by 22 per cent (7.6m people) and the growth of the daily audience is 35 per cent (6.2m people).
"Such growth rates for a crisis year can be regarded as very positive," head of FOM’s "Internet World" project Pavel Lebedev said. He also noted that from autumn 2007 to autumn 2008 the increase in the six-monthly audience was 17 per cent and the daily audience was 48 per cent. "In this way, despite a definite slump in the growth rates for the most active part of the internet audience (the daily audience), the growth rates of the wider group of internet users (the six-monthly audience) have even increased," the expert noted.
As the sociologists’ research shows, the proportion of internet users in Moscow has remained stable already for about a year and totals about 60 per cent of the adult population. Among the federal districts the leader is the North-Western – here 48 per cent of the population use the internet. The lowest proportion of users has been recorded in the Southern Federal District – 30 per cent.
As before, the typical Russian user of the World Wide Web is a young, educated person with an above-average income, but the rates of internet penetration in this category have slowed down whereas among groups with lower resources the rates have, on the contrary, increased. In this way, among the population with a lower income level, the proportion of those using the internet increased from 12 to 21 per cent in a year.
Representatives of the six-monthly audience are implied under internet users; that is, people who have used the internet at least once in the last six months.
Opinion Poll Shows Print Media ‘Losing Ground’ to Internet Publications
January 13, 1020
Editorial report: "Press of Regress"
On Russian Press Day, one must admit that print mass media, gripped in the vise of political restrictions and incapable of combining their professional mission (education, information, entertainment) with successful business, are degrading.
A poll conducted by the All-Russia Center for the Study of Public Opinion on Social and Economic Questions (VTsIOM) and published on Russia Press Day proved quite reassuring for traditional mass media but also one that does not reflect their objective conditions.
Most Russians (53 percent) believe that contemporary mass media offer diverse information capable of meeting even the highest expectations. In addition, in a group of young people aged 18-24, who, according to a popular opinion, practically do not read newspapers or magazines and "live in the Net," the proportion of those considering mass media diverse and interesting is even higher: 63 percent. Russians also has an optimistic view on the future of print publications: Two-thirds of those polled (66 percent) believe that there will always be people willing to pay for high-quality analysis and buy good newspapers and magazines. This opinion is held mostly by 25-34-year-old and well educated respondents (69 percent and 70 percent, respectively, in each group). Yet, more than half, 55 percent, of young people aged 18-24 think that new mass media will freeze out traditional ones. In this case, the favorable attitude of Russians toward traditional mass media clearly does not corroborate an optimistic view on the very condition of periodical print publications in Russia. After the appearance of Kommersant at the end of the Soviet era, very few significant positive events of national scale have taken place in this segment.
Such include the rise of Russia’s first tabloid made according to Western standards, the newspaper Tvoy Den (Zhizn), whose circulation amounted to millions of copies in an era when Soviet publications with multimillion circulations had to settle for hundreds or sometimes tens of thousands of copies. Such events include also a relatively successful rebirth of the Vokrug Sveta (Around the World) magazine, which was published back in the Russian Empire, and perhaps the creation from scratch of the Independent Media publishing house even though the Vedomosti newspaper is the only one of its publications that is actually a Russian brand (plus, it strongly imitates its famous partner The Financial Times).
Old national brands have either evidently degraded or, to put it mildly, not made any progress in recent years. On the other hand, the lack of progress in business terms is a worldwide tendency among print mass media.
Despite much greater financial affluence of our country compared to the 1990’s, no new noticeable print media have appeared in Russia in recent years. In addition, traditional mass media have been increasingly losing ground to Internet publications and other forms of Internet information in terms of explaining current events and the speed of disseminating the news. This is particularly noticeable in large cities and in the most active part of the population because it has access to the Internet. By the way, there are still relatively few Internet users in Russia (20-25 million in the population of 142 million residents). But this competitive advantage of print media, too, will evidently come to naught in coming years. In a country with huge territory, traditional mass media do not have sufficient channels of distribution.
But a much more difficult problem plaguing newspapers and magazines, especially those from the segment of the so-called high-quality press, is an ideological crisis. The Russian authorities did their best to make financing respected publications unprofitable, both economically and politically, for private investors. As a result, people who do not receive information from propaganda-maimed national television channels are forced to "migrate" not so much to domestic newspapers and magazines as to the Internet and foreign mass media, access to which fortunately has not yet been restricted by Soviet methods. At the same time, major national publications operate specifically according to Soviet principles, converting their loyalty to the authorities into direct or indirect (through state business structures) financial support. In other words, they are maintained by the state in exchange for their support of the regime.
The trouble is that the real development of traditional mass media (with their Internet versions, of course) in Russia is hardly possible without radical changes in the political system. On the other hand, a majority of the population will not likely be excited by freedom of speech if it comes amid major political upheavals accompanying such changes.
Traditional media in Russia proved to be in antiphase with the notions of relatively affluent life held by most Russians. Periods of real renaissance for traditional media were first of all Gorbachev’s perestroika and Yeltsin’s 1990’s, when many publications really transformed into opinion leaders and, on top of it, had huge circulations. However, if VTsIOM asked Russians whether they saw any link between glasnost and the collapse of the USSR or the hard life in the 1990’s, there is strong reason to believe that a majority of Russians would hardly find kind words about the free press.
Meanwhile, public control over the authorities is impossible in the modern world without free mass media, including traditional ones. On the other hand, uncontrolled authorities remain one of the main reasons of historical cataclysms that have permanently befallen Russia.
Another Bill On Shorter New Year Vacations Submitted To State Duma
MOSCOW, January 15 (Itar-Tass) — Another bill on shorter New Year vacations has been submitted to the State Duma, a source at the State Duma office told Itar-Tass on Friday.
This time the initiative comes from deputies of the Moscow Regional Duma.
The bill drafters suggested celebrating only on December 31, January 1, 2 and 7 instead of the first ten days of January. They also said that May vacations should grow with May 2 and May 8.
"The bill declares December 31, May 2 and 8 state holidays instead of January 3-5 for the sake of rational use of citizens’ free time," the drafters said.
The long New Year vacation in Russia was enacted in 2004 at the initiative of United Russia. Back then the State Duma cut the period of May vacations and extended New Year vacations instead. The law has been challenged every year, this time under the pretext of the financial crisis and alcohol abuse.
The State Duma will not cancel long New Year vacations, Speaker and Chairman of the United Russia Supreme Council Boris Gryzlov said. "Drinkers can harm their health anytime, regardless the duration of state holidays in a particular month. Unfortunately, it is hard to combat the tradition of toasting the end of each working week with alcohol," he said.
"The long New Year vacations are a good occasion to promote the development of fitness and sports. We should be guided with the interests of people who live a healthy life. I am positive Russia has many such citizens," Gryzlov said.
We must beat corruption � Medvedev
MOSCOW. Jan 18 (Interfax) – The suppression of corruption is a key goal of the Audit Chamber, President Dmitry Medvedev told Audit Chamber heads on Monday.
"In fact, the corruption problem remains very acute. We have nothing to boast about. Corruption is one of the most serious problems in this country," he said.
"We have taken a number of anti-corruption measures though," the president said. "Anti-corruption laws are now better than they were five or seven years ago."
"At the same time, the suppression of corruption is not efficient enough. The fight against corruption is our evergreen subject," he said.
"It is necessary to control the fulfillment of the federal budget and numerous budgetary expenditures, including those assigned for handling the crisis," he said.
"Anti-crisis funding will continue this year one way or another, although the situation is slightly improving," Medvedev said.
Social expenditures must be another focus of the Audit Chamber, he said. "Despite the crisis, we have almost preserved the amount of social expenditures and have fully met our social commitments. Some of the social commitments have even enlarged," he said.
"Control over pension money and education and health care allocations is a top priority of the Russian authorities, including the Audit Chamber," Medvedev said.
Moscow Times
January 18, 2010
Medvedev’s Photo Outdoes Putin’s Painting
By Irina Filatova
President Dmitry Medvedev’s photo fetched 51 million rubles ($1.7 million) at a charity auction in St. Petersburg on Saturday, surpassing Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s record for a painting sold at the same event last year.
The signed, black-and-white aerial photograph in a silver frame, "Tobolsk Kremlin," depicts the Siberian city’s 18th-century fortress. It was sold to Mikhail Zingarevich, a board member at St. Petersburg-based Ilim Group, after heated bidding quickly sent the price to 40 million rubles.
"It’s going on the office wall," Zingarevich said after the bidding. St. Petersburg news portal reported that the rarely seen Zingarevich attended the auction specially to purchase the work by his former colleague.
Medvedev became Ilim’s legal affairs director in 1993, while teaching at St. Petersburg State University, and later joined the board of its Bratsk Paper Mill subsidiary. He left both positions in 1999 before moving to Moscow to join Putin’s first government as deputy head of its administration.
Experts said the stunning price tag for the photo was indeed more charity than a reflection of the work’s artistic merit.
"This photo has nothing to do with art, because photography is Medvedev’s hobby. Buying this photo was a political gesture," said Larisa Grinberg, director of the gallery. "Everyone knows that Medvedev supports the arts, and the one who bought his photo wanted to demonstrate that he also contributed to this support."
Medvedev, an avid photographer, took the photo while visiting Tobolsk, a town in the Tyumen region, just after he was elected in March 2008. The town was one of the final homes of Russia’s last tsar, Nicholas II, and his family before they were assassinated in 1918.
The auction was part of the fourth annual charity fair Rozhdestvenskaya Azbuka, or Christmas Alphabet. Russian politicians, artists and athletes attend it to paint pictures that illustrate each letter of the Russian alphabet.
Professional painter Ivan Slavinsky, whose works are in the collections of Microsoft founder Bill Gates and Formula One driver Michael Schumacher, helped the festival participants create their masterpieces.
This year, the event was devoted to the upcoming 300th anniversary of Tsarskoye Selo, a garden and palaces ensemble outside St. Petersburg now known as Pushkin. The auction collected a total of 81.53 million rubles ($2.75 million), surpassing last year’s earnings of 70 million rubles.
All of the lots had a starting price of 20,000 rubles, or about $670.
The proceeds from the auction will be spent on furniture for World War II veterans’ long-promised free apartments � which Medvedev has promised will be ready by May � as well as equipment for a local children’s hospital and a kitchen for an alcohol and drugs rehab center, St. Petersburg Governor Valentina Matviyenko said.
Guests learned at the last moment that Medvedev’s photo would be among the items on the auctioneer’s block. "Tobolsk Kremlin" was the only photograph among the artwork.
An invitation was sent to Medvedev in November to paint something for the auction, but he could not attend because of his tight schedule, Matviyenko said. He sent the photograph instead.
The president met on Saturday afternoon with the heads of the four political parties that have seats in the State Duma, including fellow artist and Federation Council Speaker Sergei Mironov.
His "Portrait of Pushkin," a profile image that bears quite a resemblance to some of Pushkin’s self-portraits, sold for 500,000 rubles.
Zingarevich jostled for Medvedev’s photo with Alexander Yevnevich, board chairman of Maxidom, a household goods retail chain.
After being outbid for Medvedev’s photo, Yevnevich bought a painting by Matviyenko, "Marble Bridge" for 13 million rubles � the day’s second-most expensive lot.
It was also not his first work by Matviyenko. The businessman spent 11.5 million rubles for her painting "Blizzard" at last year’s auction.
Putin did not take part in this year’s fair. His painting "Uzor," or Pattern, which featured a frosty window framed by embroidered curtains in a traditional Russian hut, aroused everyone’s interest at last year’s auction. Moscow gallery owner Natalya Kurnikova bought it for 37 million rubles.
Medvedev, who has posted several photo galleries at his web site, is not the Kremlin’s first noted aerial photographer. Sergei Yastrzhembsky, a former senior foreign policy aide to then-President Putin, has held several exhibitions of his photography � including overhead shots of the heavily protected Kremlin � since leaving the administration in 2008.
Ex-PM Primakov Lambasts Authorities, Opposition, and Oligarchs
Moskovskiy Komsomolets
January 14, 2010
Report by Mikhail Rostovskiy: "The Party of Power Is A Losing One"
Ex-Russian Premier Yevgeniy Primakov, who today is president of the Russian Federation Chamber of Commerce and Industry, has assailed the party of power, United Russia, with heavy criticism. However, it is premature to talk of the former head of government’s transition into the ranks of the radical opposition. Addressing several hundred representatives of the elite at a celebration of the Old New Year (13/14 January, a traditional, informal, Slav Orthodox holiday), Primakov gave a piece of his mind to everyone without exception: the Kremlin, the White House (Presidential Staff), big business, and the democrats.
We are for the poor, we are for business, we are for everything that it is at all possible to be for– the bosses of United Russia sincerely believe that the party’s all-embracing nature is one of the main trump cards of its ideological program. In Primakov’s eyes, this is, on the contrary, an enormous minus: "In practice United Russia’s ideologically omnivorous nature excludes party pluralism in our country. The creation of an essentially unicentric party-state system, even with the existence of many parties in the political field, blocks the democratic process. In the ex-premier’s opinion, the alternation at the helm of power in the West of social democratic and conservative forces "helps avoid harmful extremes at state level." But seeing that United Russia consists of right-wingers and left-wingers in a single bottle, an insurance mechanism does not exist in our country.
Primakov found no less harsh words for our oligarchic business community. Referring to another ex-premier, Comptroller’s Office head (Sergey) Stepashin, Primakov effectively accused business magnates of a multi-billion swindle. "In the fall of 2008, when the onset of the economic crisis became obvious, major Russian corporations held extraordinary shareholders’ meetings, at which they decided to pay out significant sums in the forum of ‘interim’ dividends." After this, according to the testimony of two former White House chiefs, the big wheels requested financial aid from the state; in a number of cases, they received it, and continued to live the ‘fine life’ at the expense of you and me.
Primakov also named the main reason why all talk of the modernization of our economy so far remains just so much hot air. It is "the inertia thinking of highly influential circles who put their trust in the fact that the main importers of oil are gradually emerging from recession and that oil prices will hold at a sufficiently high level." To put it in entirely plain terms, this economic strategy amounts to lasting out the crisis on one’s own subcutaneous fat and then starting to live just as one did before.
In Primakov’s opinion, if such a course is maintained, we will inevitably become "a raw materials adjunct not just of the West, but of China too."
Having given the Russian authorities a big fat "three" ("satisfactory" grade), Yevgeniy Primakov took in hand the opposition figures who put forward as a mandatory preliminary condition for economic modernization "the idea of smashing the existing political structure." In Primakov’s opinion, calls for yet another revolution are "counterproductive": They could split society and "create a situation in which there will be no room for modernization at all."
Naturally, the former premier not only criticized, but also put forward specific proposals. In Primakov’s opinion, the state should approve of the acquisition from abroad not of new, modern equipment, but of the patents to produce it. The easiest way to do this is with the aid of tax incentives, in Yevgeniy Maksimovich’s opinion.
Yevgeniy Primakov did not, of course, "discover any Americas" in his speech. But he managed without bias in one direction or another to describe an entirely objective portrait of contemporary Russia with all its problems. It is also very important that the 80-year-old "political heavyweight" has not aspired to power for a long time now, and cannot be seen as a rival by the inhabitants of the Kremlin and the White House. Primakov aspires only to what already belongs to him: the right to speak truth directly to our rulers and their opponents.
Medvedev: START Treaty Must Be Ratified By Russia, USA Together Or Not At All
January 16, 2010
USA on preparing a new treaty on strategic offensive weapons, Interfax news agency reported on 16 January.
"The talks will be continued; they are not easy but on the whole are going positively," Medvedev said during a meeting with the leaders of the parliamentary parties.
As Medvedev said, "we have come to an agreement with the Americans on many positions".
He added that "rather complex but quite good talks are taking place with the Americans".
"We have made rather serious steps forward; our positions have drawn together to a considerable degree," he noted.
However, as Medvedev emphasized, "it is an issue which concerns the future of our country, this document will be subject to ratification for formal reasons".
Medvedev also said that the future treaty should be ratified simultaneously in Russia and the USA.
"I believe that it this extremely important, we should proceed from the synchronization of ratification procedures for the relevant documents. The situation which once emerged during the Soviet period, when the Soviet Union ratified these documents and the USA did not do so, is unacceptable," Medvedev said.
As he emphasized, "these are parity issues; both states are interested in this".
"Either we will ratify the completed treaty together, which will be worked out and will reflect our ideas about strategic nuclear forces for the future, or this process cannot take place," Medvedev said.
"I believe that our American partners should know about this," he added.
Medvedev noted that the leaders of the parliamentary parties should be consulted on this issue. "I think it would be logical to consult with the leaders of the parliamentary factions about the direction which, in your opinion, cooperation with the USA and other countries on this issue should take. This is a foreign policy issue but is very, very topical and, in the end, determines the image of our country for the years to come," the president said.
Russian Parliament Leaders Warn Against Nukes Pact Giving Advantages to U.S.
ZAVIDOVO, Russia. Jan 16 (Interfax) – Lawmakers representing the political parties holding seats in Russia’s parliament, at a meeting with President Dmitry Medvedev on Saturday, insisted that Russia firmly defend its security interests in negotiating the planned treaty on strategic offensive armaments with the United States.
"Our interests of national security must be our primary goal in signing the new treaty," said Sergei Mironov, leader of the Fair Russia party and chairman of the Federation Council, the upper house of parliament.
He criticized the practice of enforcement of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), which expired last month.
"For instance, the situation where the Americans had absolutely unrestricted control over what we were doing at our plant in Votkinsk whereas we were doing nothing in response borders on something that can even be described as national humiliation. We must by no means repeat those mistakes," Mironov said.
Boris Gryzlov, one of the leaders of the ruling United Russia party and chairman of the State Duma, the lower house, said Russia and the U.S. "must undoubtedly have equal rights and duties under the new treaty"
and expressed support for the point that this must first and foremost apply to mutual inspections.
He also insisted that the strategic weapons issue be linked to the issue of missile defense and warned against a situation where the U.S. would gain missile defense supremacy.
"Some of the statements that the American side is proposing cannot be supported by the State Duma deputies, which means things may not be too smooth when the treaty is submitted (to the Duma) for ratification," he said.
Liberal Democratic leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky argued that equal reductions of the numbers of warheads by Russia and the U.S. would be disadvantageous for Russia.
"At the moment Russia is surrounded by bases where there are missiles, and it would take several minutes for (a missile) to reach St. Petersburg or Moscow from the Baltic region, for example, and so with simple equal reductions of warheads we would lose out geographically – we would have no chance of being in equal confrontation with the enemy," he said.
"We will never be left in peace," said Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov, "if we don’t keep our nuclear missile component in order."
"There can be no parity with the Americans anyway because they have 30-fold superiority over us in terms of conventional armaments. We can’t make a minimum concession," he said.
Medvedev essentially backed the four lawmakers and said the strategic weapons treaty issue is "crucial for the future of our country and will ultimately determine the image of the country for years ahead."
"It is unacceptable to have the kind of situation that took shape in the Soviet period, where (a strategic arms treaty) was ratified in the USSR but the U.S. didn’t do this," Medvedev said.
"It’s all about parity. The synchronization of the ratification procedures of the documents must be a fundamental point for us," he said. "Otherwise the process can’t go ahead."
BBC Monitorig
Russian president drives armoured car, fires machine gun, hears defence minister
Text of report by state-controlled Russian Channel One TV on 14 January
(Presenter) This year, all servicemen in the queue (for accommodation) will get a flat. The (defence) department chief told the president about the Defence Ministry’s plans today.
Dmitriy Medvedev and Anatoliy Serdyukov came to a military range near Moscow together. There, the supreme commander-in-chief was shown various types of arms. Pavel Krasnov has the details.
(Correspondent, video captioned "Moscow Region") The design of these armoured trucks is based on an ordinary Kamaz. That, however, is the extent of their similarity. The military occupants of this truck are invulnerable to bullets and blasts, almost like in an armoured personnel carrier. In fact, side by side with the trucks are upgraded armoured personnel carriers. These modern arms are soon to enter service, although, as the president remarked, some of them are still in need of improvement.
(Serdyukov, to Medvedev, both in camouflage fatigues, with others in front of the hardware in the snow) The task now is to mount the engine at the front, for the rear deck to be freed up. Then the whole assault group could be deployed to the rear, on the move, which is safer and more appropriate.
(Medvedev nods in agreement and interjects the following remarks) Yes, then they can be deployed to the rear, and loaded up from behind. Of course it is safer.
(Serdyukov) Otherwise they are exposed to enemy fire.
(Medvedev) The engine must be replaced, too.
(Serdyukov) Yes. It is not the most powerful engine.
(Medvedev) What good is this engine? It is not quick enough.
(Correspondent) As for these vehicles, they can be described as cars but only at a stretch. The Tigr armoured cars are heavier than some of the trucks. Previously, there were no armoured vehicles of this class in the Russian armed forces. Now, several of them have already entered service with the special forces. There is a military patrol vehicle, but also a command HQ one and a mobile satellite communications centre. Through
the efforts of their designers, each of them is not only functional but also comfortable for its crew to work in.
These military vehicles are equipped with power steering, anti-locking brakes, electric window lifts, air conditioning and an audio system. Automatic transmission is optional. In view of these refinements, these
vehicles have even been dubbed prestige armoured personnel carriers. However, it is not because of that the military value the Tigr, but because of its strong armour and all-terrain capability. Nevertheless, the vehicle is not perfect. Its main drawback is that engines for it have to be imported and, in addition, are not powerful enough.
(Medvedev) Well, if the engines are foreign, buy something else, something more powerful. Talk to the company.
(Serdyukov) Well, yes, we are talking to the designers about more power.
(Medvedev) Yes, the designers. The fact is that since it anyway has a foreign engine, let them buy something normal.
(Correspondent) In order to appreciate the qualities of the armoured vehicle, the president took the wheel. In this vehicle, the engine is an experimental, 400-horsepower one, twice as powerful as in the other vehicles. Later, the head of state and the defence minister discussed new procurement for the Russian armed forces.
(Serdyukov) I want to say that there were real breakthroughs. Whereas we purchased one aircraft in 2007 and two in 2008, it was already 43 in 2009.
(Medvedev) Yes, that makes a difference.
(Serdyukov) Yes, it is quite a decent indicator.
(Medvedev) So, 43 planes in 2009 alone – that is a good result, really.
Let’s now go back to arms purchases. Indeed, my instructions were to focus mainly on the strategic nuclear forces. This task remains this year, too. At the same time, however, we must continue to buy high-tech military equipment, according to the parameters I set out in my address to the Federal Assembly, and deal with other types of arms, including ordinary firearms, because here too we have our problems.
(Correspondent) During this discussion, the president also raised the subject of housing provision for the military. According to the defence minister, last year his department bought more than 45,000 flats for the military. The plan this year is to buy the same number.
(Medvedev) What will this give us? Last year, we bought 45,000 plus. This year we will buy another 45,000, so that already makes 90,000. With what we had already done previously, where will this take us?
(Serdyukov) We will have full provision of permanent housing for all the servicemen who are now in the queue for accommodation in the Ministry of Defence.
(Medvedev) As promised, we will do that this year.
(Serdyukov) Yes, as the Defence Ministry has been instructed.
(Medvedev) Good, because of course no amount of arms can address the problems associated with social provision for the military, with the social commitments we have in relation to the officers who serve in the armed forces. This is the most important other component in the modernization of the armed forces in which we are currently engaged.
(Correspondent) Today on the range, the president was also shown firearms and even fired a vintage weapon that had been specially brought there – a Maxim machine gun.
(Medvedev fires slow-rate-of-fire, wheeled weapon) What a beauty!
(Correspondent) That, however, is a weapon that belongs to the previous century. Today, though, the president again gave instructions to continue with the development of modern types of firearms for the Russian army.
Medvedev Calls For Resizing Regional Parliaments
ZAVIDOVO, Tver region, January 16 (Itar-Tass) — The number of deputies in regional parliaments should be reduced considerably and brought in line with the size of their respective regions, President Dmitry Medvedev said.
Speaking at a meeting with Duma faction leaders on Saturday, Medvedev recalled he had recently submitted a draft law regulating the number of deputies in regional parliaments.
State Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov, who is also one of the top leaders of the pro-presidential United Russia party, confirmed that the draft law had been received.
He said the minimum and the maximum number of deputies would be set. "We suggest a minimum of 45 deputies," he said.
If regions decide to set the maximum number of deputies, the overall number of deputies in regional parliaments across Russia will decrease by 175. "But I think the reduction could be bigger," he added.
"I think this work could be organised, especially since United Russia has a great deal of influence in these legislatures," Medvedev said.
"I think so because the overall reduction should be 20 percent or so," Gryzlov replied.
"It should be considerable," the president added.
There are 4,075 deputies in regional parliaments now. "If we could make it 3,100-3,200, it would be optimum," the speaker said.
"This should depend on a large degree on the size of the town, city or region where these decisions are made. This is what the proposed amendments are all about," Medvedev said.
"When there is a big difference, regardless of the number of voters, this looks strange, to say the least," he added.
January 16, 2010
Speech at meeting with leaders of political parties represented in the State Duma
Zavidovo, Tver Region
PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA DMITRY MEDVEDEV: Colleagues, I wish you a Happy New Year and a good beginning to the new political season. We are continuing our traditional practice of consultations and meet regularly in different places. Now once again I have invited you to Zavidovo to see it in winter time. So I hope we’ll now talk about how things are going and then we’ll go for a little walk, get some air � this is always good, especially on a Saturday � and today the weather allows it.
I will take up several themes at the beginning of our conversation. First, the Presidential Address [to the Federal Assembly]. While speaking I watched your emotional reaction, in any case that of Mr Zhirinovsky [Liberal Democratic Party leader and State Duma Deputy Speaker], who agreed with a great deal and nodded his head when I said that this or that must be done. So I hope that the Address will be accompanied by serious work. I have already introduced one of the draft bills relating to changes in the number of regional parliamentarians. I understand it is now in the State Duma going through approval procedures. In the near future other bills will be prepared as well. They relate primarily to issues of local self-government, strengthening democracy at the � shall we say � regional and local levels and, in fact, embody some of the ideas laid out in the 2008 Address. That is one topic for conversation.
I think that the second one is also very interesting. As we agreed (incidentally, I think that this idea was hatched precisely during our discussions), I decided to hold a State Council session on the development of the political system. We talk a lot about the economy � last year was a deep crisis and this year is not exactly an easy one. But I think that we have never talked about the development of the political system in a format that includes the regional governors, top federal executives, and all political parties. I think this is very important, particularly since when we meet you sometimes tell me about the problems that exist in the regions, for example regarding the implementation of legislation. We have talked about elections and other issues and it would be very good to discuss all this in the presence of the governors of the regions of Russia.
DMITRY MEDVEDEV: Yes, on Friday January 22. So I would ask, first of all, that you keep this in mind and, second, that we discuss certain issues today because I expect to talk about all aspects of the development of our political system: the development of political institutions, of party ones, of parliamentary democracy, of local self-government, of judicial and law enforcement systems; this is all joined in the concept ‘political system’.
And finally there is one other issue that I would not so much like to discuss in the classical sense, but simply to consult on. And I would like you to begin to think about it as well. As you know, we’re currently engaged in fairly complex negotiations, ones that nevertheless have good prospects, with the Americans on the conclusion of a new Treaty on the Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms. We have made quite a big step forward and have already largely aligned our positions. But this is an issue that concerns our country’s future and, even for formal reasons, the treaty must be ratified by our Parliament. So I think it is logical to consult with parliamentary leaders on how you think should develop our cooperation with the United States and other countries in this respect. It is a matter of foreign policy but it is also an extremely relevant one; ultimately this will determine the image of our country for years to come.
These are my three topics for conversation. I know we will no doubt raise other issues as well, but I think this is a sufficient basis for our discussion � these issues cover almost everything that we usually talk about.
* * *
DMITRY MEDVEDEV: In view of the fact that I put the question of the strategic offensive arms treaty to you, I want to say that of course negotiations will continue � they are not easy, but in general we have many positions in common with the Americans. With regard to legislative procedures, I think it is extremely important that we proceed by synchronising the ratification of relevant documents.
There was an unacceptable situation in the Soviet period when the Soviet Union ratified these documents but the Americans did not. This is a matter of parity and it is in the best interests of the two countries: either we both ratify a treaty that has been thought through and actually reflects our understanding of strategic nuclear forces in the future, or this process cannot take place.
I believe that our American partners should know this.
Russian party leader-turned-governor explains departure from politics, new role
Nizhniy Novgorod, 15 January: Kirov Region governor Nikita Belykh has said that he left all political activity behind after he became the head of Kirov Region exactly a year ago.
The former leader of the (now-defunct) opposition (party) Union of Right Forces took up the office of Kirov Region governor on 15 January 2009.
"I admit that I left politics because it has passed away. In the capacity of leader of the region, I am not engaged in politics but in administrative, personnel and organizational work, but this is not politics," he said, reporting on the work of the first year of his governorship,
According to him, when appointed to the post of government, he had an agreement with "the country’s leadership" that he "works efficiently for the designated period and during this time does not undertake any activities connected with political development". Such an agreement does not give him the opportunity to regard his post as a springboard for a political career, Belykh explained.
"And I am keeping to this agreement," he added.
"My maximum goal is to spend the remaining four years for the benefit of Kirov Region," he summed up.
New Channel One Serial on School Life Provokes State Duma Controversy
January 15, 2010
Report by Natalya Pykhova under the "Culture" rubric: "School Reality Frightened Deputies"
A (TV) serial concocted by Konstantin Ernst about the life of modern teenagers has provoked fierce debates in the State Duma
The serial by Valeriya Gay Germanika, "The School," which Channel One has begun showing, has become the cause of a schism between two Duma factions — the CPRF (Communist Party of the Russian Federation) and United Russia — and also among United Russians themselves. The Communists are against the showing of the serial and are demanding that the TV channel’s leadership be carpeted. In United Russia, opinions are divided. Speaker Boris Gryzlov suggests awaiting for the visit to the State Duma of the minister with direct responsibility and putting all questions to him. Meanwhile, "The School" continues to be shown on Channel One.
The young director Valeriya Gay Germanika is well known for semi-documentary films that give fairly hard-hitting accounts of the life of contemporary young people: "Girls," "Everyone Will Die, But I Will Remain," (the film received a special prize in the Camera d’Or competition at the 61 st Cannes Festival), and others. Germanika made the serial "The School" in the same key as her previous works, and it would appear that the result was no less radical.
So far the film can be judged only from the first episodes that have been broadcast. It too contains the semi-documentary mode favored by Germanika and many other of the distinguishing features of her pictures. The world of contemporary teenagers in "The School" is shown in such a way that the film appears to be a series of events shot by some of the kids with an amateur camera.
The schoolchildren pick on one another and fight, fall in love and bare their souls, smoke surreptitiously on a staircase landing, buy beer without problems from a stall, and cheek their teachers. Only the non-standard vocabulary that is a usual feature of Germanika’s films is absent here. For the rest, "The School" is a serial for teenagers made according to a tried-and-tested formula: In the classroom there is a quiet girl and a main beauty star and a rather cheeky, inventive leader and an outcast, the object of the mockery of his classmates. Admittedly, there are no punched-in tunes or off-screen laughter: The film is announced as a drama.
In the words of Igor Tolstunov, director of the Profit company that produced the serial, the idea of creating the film belongs to Channel One’s general director. "It was Konstantin Ernst’s initiative. He and I were talking one day, and the idea of making a story about contemporary school life arose. This idea appeared after the film ‘Everyone Will Die, But I Will Remain.’ It is natural that the serial is being shown on Channel One," Tolstunov explained to Gazeta ‘s correspondent.
Larisa Krymova, the First Channel press secretary, explained to Gazeta that the serial was slotted in the channel’s broadcasting schedule in such a way that it could be watched by teenagers: New episodes are shown on working days from Monday through Thursday at 1820 hours, with a repeat at 2330 hours.
"The School" started screening on Channel One on the evening of 11 January. An official reaction followed the very next day. First to react were Moscow functionaries. Olga Larionova, who is in charge of the capital’s education, recalled that in the outside world it is the Year of the Teacher, when the mass media should be supporting teachers. "Such programs (as the "The School" serial — Gazeta) should not be on television either in the Year of the Teacher, or at any other time," she stated at a session of the Moscow government 12 January.
On the following day, 13 January, the State Duma also reacted, moreover, in the form of debates. United Russia member Grigoriy Balykhin, head of the Duma Education Committee, stated that he categorically dislikes the way contemporary school life is shown in the serial. "I am outraged that a serial like this is going out on a federal channel. Television also educates; children believe what they see," he stated.
Communist Deputy Vladislav Yurchik is in solidarity with him, and expressed an even more forthright opinion. He described "The School" as "premeditated sabotage" against children and young people, and demanded that the Channel One leadership be summoned to the State Duma to give explanations.
The statement of United Russia Deputy Andrey Isayev was a response both to Yurchik and to Isayev’s fellow party member. He came out in defense of the serial. In Isayev’s opinion, the film "shows the real problems of contemporary school life and young people" and "speaks about the difficulties that exist in the teenage environment in a language that young people can understand, and there is nothing amoral or criminal in it."
State Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov reminded the disputants that Igor Shchegolev, head of the Ministry of Communications and Computerization, whose jurisdiction also includes the activity of television channels, has been invited to deliver a report to the State Duma 20 January. It will be possible to put questions in connection with "what appears on our television channels" to him, Gryzlov said.
Channel One’s press service responded to the authorities’ reaction already on 12 January, following Larionova’s statement. The answer was unambiguous: "The Year of the Teacher is first and foremost a reason for getting to the bottom of school problems, not hiding them.
And this is in fact the task of the mass media — to draw attention to the existing situation. And pharisaical claims that problems do not exist in the sphere of secondary education are unconstructive for the country and mean that there will be no changes in this sphere."
The official reaction to "The School" does not worry Igor Tolstunov. "This is not being done for the sake of a reaction from departments or any other establishments. When people from one profession or another appear as heroes in the cinema or on television, the reaction of professional people who watch them, as a rule, is to say: Yes, these things do happen," he told Gazeta.
While functionaries discuss the serial, new episodes continue to be broadcast. And the premiere of Valeriya Gay Germanika’s film "Everyone Will Die, But I Will Remain" is scheduled for 2310 hours, Friday, 15 January in the framework of the program "Private Screening" on Channel One.
Channel One TV Serial ‘The School’ Described As ‘Art Provocation”
January 15, 2010
Commentary by Dmitriy Shusharin: "School Desk for Art"
When the outrage over the TV serial "The School" began, it might have been possible to be spiteful and to have reminded Valeriya Gay Germanika of her 2008 interview, in which she declared herself to be a "rational legitimist" who supports the regime. And welcomed the closure of Internews, in which she was studying (a school, incidentally): "I like it when they close opposition stuff."
But this is absolutely superfluous: An artist should not be judged by what she says about herself. It is not her job anyway — to talk about herself. That interview was entitled "Hip Upstart" — and everything that Gay Germankia said corresponded to the title and to the cliches in behavior and utterances that were trendy at that time. If the trend changes, she will become an oppositionist or something else. But so far the trend has not changed. Channel One has simply carried out a highly entertaining mass cultural experiment. It has given the representative of a hip sociocultural stratum the opportunity to hold the floor in the format of a serial.
Not for the sake of enlightenment, but for the sake of clarification, it may be necessary to recall certain generally known facts. For example, that, of course, there can be no social exposure or urge to improve the world in the works of Gay Germanika. Appeal to the seamy side of life, including school life, is the standard aesthetic technique typical of art for the elite, and certainly not for those whose lives served as material for the artist. Well, for whom was "The Collector of Bullets" (2009 play by Yuriy Klavdiyev) intended, for example, and all this "new drama" in general — a distinguished phenomenon that I respect, but, after all, a completely aesthetic one.
What Gay Germanika does is definitely internally connected with this phenomenon. And now, I repeat, a bold experiment has been produced. Although it is bold only for present-day Russia. One of the underlying principles of what is called contemporary art is not the destruction, but the disregard of the boundary between art and mass culture, the assimilation of the latter’s possibilities, techniques, and methods.
And as a consequence of this, the emergence of art-sense and art-value as a result of interaction with both the artistic medium and the profane medium. The layman, the mass viewer, who represents the overwhelming majority of society, becomes, without knowing it or desiring it himself, a co-participant in the art process, even if he berates the actions committed with obscenities and drags the artist himself to court.
A court case can be won. But to overcome contemporary art, which has taken control of mass means of communication, is impossible. It turns everything to its benefit.
Channel One’s art-provocation was successful in many ways because the topic of the serial was successfully chosen. First, the mass viewer in general needs something reassuring on the television screen (and the most terrible gunmen, crime news, and morose detective stories are actually more powerful tranquilizers than melodramas). Or else something that will satisfy his need for social voyeurism, his desire to look through the keyhole of a private residence on Rublevka (i.e. on Rublevskoye Shosse, road outside Moscow lined with the residences of the super-rich). An ordinary school on the television is very irritating.
Second, here’s what. The real problems of Soviet and Russian school life are absolutely taboo. "Wonderful school years" — they are the skeleton in everyone’s cupboard. It is necessary to love them, to extol them, and to joyfully reminisce, while hiding from one’s own self sometimes tragic experiences. But after all, it is those experiences that define a person’s entire post-school life.
And it is absolutely no accident that the chief persecutors of Gay Germanika’s serial in the State Duma are the Communists, that it to say, oppositionists, or sort of. The sacralization of school is a feature of an archaic, traditional society, and the Communists continue to remain closer to such a society than anyone.
But at the same time, something that is common to Russian society as a whole shows through their position, irrespective of its formally political oppositionist nature. It is simply that the Communists, unlike the United Russians, must keep track of the public mood. Moreover, they can react to what happens more quickly than the ruling party, which is frightened by its own authorities.
Here one might recall a few significant films and books from the Soviet and post-Soviet past in which something was said, shown, and written about school problems. But in Soviet times even the best works remained false, because both the writer and the reader knew that there were topics that would not be touched on, however significant they might be for real children and teachers. And these were not even politics or sexual development, but for example, the discrepancy between the social, material, and (very often) intellectual status of the teacher and the ideal image of the wise preceptor that was present in the culture.
It was not possible to say that, for pupils, a teacher was a failure who had not managed to make a career. And it should not be said to this day. Something sullenly and inarticulately burst forth from time to time. But so it was and so it still is. And this is probably the main problem of Soviet and post-Soviet school life.
Moscow Times
January 18, 2010
Moscow Finally Backs Rights Court
By Nikolaus von Twickel
The country dropped its long-standing blockade of a much-needed reform of the European Court of Human Rights on Friday when the State Duma ratified Protocol 14 to the European Convention on Human Rights.
Deputies voted 392-56 for the reform, with opposition coming from the Communist and the Liberal Democrats’ factions, Interfax reported.
The vote came as little surprise because United Russia, the ruling party that commands a two-thirds parliamentary majority, had announced in December that it would review its position after President Dmitry Medvedev asked deputies to take a fresh look at the matter.
United Russia and the Foreign Ministry said the Council of Europe, the organization overseeing the court, had made concessions that addressed all their reservations. Council of Europe officials, however, stressed that no changes to the protocol had been made.
Thorbjorn Jagland, the council’s secretary-general, promised during a visit to Moscow last month that ratification would significantly increase Russia’s influence over future reforms of the 47-member organization, Kommersant reported Saturday.
One of the reforms that Jagland will suggest this week is to strengthen the link between a member’s budget contributions and its number of staff in the council, the report said.
Such a reform would greatly benefit Russia, which last year contributed 12 percent to the council’s budget. "If this is implemented, the number of Russians in the council will be doubled," an unidentified source in Strasbourg, the seat of the organization, told Kommersant.
Jagland on Friday praised the Duma’s ratification, saying in a statement that "Russia is sending a strong signal of its commitment to Europe."
The country had been the only Council of Europe member that refused to ratify the protocol, despite the fact that a third of the cases flooding the court come from Russia.
Moscow’s blockade has been explained by its frustration over the court’s many rulings that faulted basic human rights in Russia. The Duma rejected the reform in December 2006, and officials later frequently accused the court of political bias.
Human Rights Watch said last fall that Russia has ignored more than 100 court rulings, many of which found authorities responsible for killings, abductions and torture in Chechnya.
The reform stipulates that a single judge will be able to decide on the admissibility of applications and a three-judge panel will rule on most cases.
This is meant to greatly speed up the court’s work, which currently has a backlog of more than 120,000 cases, which might require seven years’ work.
Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Denisov told Duma deputies on Friday that Moscow had received assurances that its representative in the court would be invited to join hearings of appeals filed by Russians.
He also said the Council of Europe would consult with the government on how to enforce the court’s rulings.
Denisov stressed that all changes had been agreed in writing.
"For years, the Russian side has demanded changes so that Protocol 14 becomes compatible with Russian law. Now that our criticism has been met, we can ratify this document," Ruslan Kondratov, a member of the Duma’s International Relations Committee, said in a statement posted on United Russia’s web site.
But Andreas Gross, a Swiss Social Democrat member of the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly, dismissed allegations of political horse-trading over reforming the Court of Human Rights. "This is out of the question because one of the court’s founding principles is its independence," he said by telephone from Strasbourg.
Gross said the ratification represented a significant victory of Medvedev over Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.
"I have the impression that the leadership is split on this issue. This is the first time that those taking human rights seriously have won the upper hand, and I assume that these are the forces grouped around the president and not the prime minister," Gross said.
The ratification process will be completed when the Federation Council votes on the protocol. A date for that has not been set.
Communists and Liberal Democrats argued that the new rules ran counter to the country’s interests. "We give more money than all others [to the Council of Europe], yet we are despised and ignored," Liberal Democratic leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky said in the Duma on Friday, the Gazeta newspaper reported on its web site.
Communist Deputy Sergei Reshulsky said the changes were just formalities and would not substantially improve the court’s quality.
The Communists themselves have appealed to the Strasbourg court over the results of the 2007 Duma elections.
But opposition to the protocol was not unanimous in either party.
Communist Deputy Oleg Smolin told The Moscow Times that he voted for ratification because "the state has changed in character, and now it is persecuting its own citizens."
And Liberal Democrat lawmaker Leonid Slutsky, a first deputy chairman of the Duma’s International Affairs Committee, acknowledged that the previous refusal "impeded Russian influence on the development of European institutions," Itar-Tass reported.
The ratification will help the Strasbourg court "to look at Russia objectively and without bias," he said.
Media reports have linked the protocol issue to last week’s surprise decision by the Strasbourg court to postpone a hearing on the Yukos case, suggesting that Moscow had threatened to rethink ratification otherwise.
The court said last Tuesday that a hearing scheduled for Thursday had been moved to March because Russia’s representative and its judge were unavailable.
Former Yukos managers are suing Russia for $100 billion, making the case the biggest in terms of damages.
But Georgy Matyushkin, the Kremlin’s representative at the court, on Friday, dismissed any such links, explaining that the postponement had only two reasons: "The illness of the Russian judge and the fact that I had to attend the Duma ratification," he said, Interfax reported.
Matyushkin said the protocol’s ratification would not have any effect on the Yukos hearing.
Russian human rights activists analyses 2009, hopes for best in 2010
January 15, 2010
Human rights champions believe that 2009 was a difficult year and hope for positive changes in 2010, head of the Moscow Helsinki Group Lyudmila Alekseyeva told Russian new agency Interfax on 15 January.
"As for 2009, there were both achievements and defeats for human rights activists, as usual," the agency quoted Alekseyeva as saying.
"Several murders of my colleagues, human rights champions, and not only of colleagues, but of friends was the most shocking development of 2009. In this respect this was a difficult year," she told Interfax.
She regards as personal losses the murders of lawyer Stanislav Markelov, the deaths of Memorial activist Nataliya Estemirova, Chechen human rights champion Zarema Sadulayeva and Ingush civil activist Maksharip Aushev in the North Caucasus.
At the same time, she considered the coming into effect of the law on commissions of independent observers in detention centres as a positive result of 2009. "In the end in many regions we managed to set up commissions of independent observers – they are comprised of human rights activists and journalists who deal with prisoners’ problems. They received more rights, they received a chance to visit places of confinement, talk to prisoners and receive complaints," Alekseyeva said.
"This is a considerable change in our work as problems prisoners are facing comprise the largest part of work of nearly all human rights activists. Almost 1m people are held in places of confinement in Russia. Many of our compatriots pass through detention centres and what is happening there is something terrible, but it has become easier to fight this," she said.
Alekseyeva hopes that the law on NGOs will be considerably improved in 2010.
"Bureaucrats are rendering strong resistance once they hear of a minor proposal to soften the law on NGOs," she said. "What we managed to achieve in 2009 is still pitiful and of no consequence," the agency quoted Alekseyeva as saying.
January 18, 2010
Legislation pertaining protest actions may be stiffened again
Author: Irina Nagornykh
     Moscow regional legislature appealed to the Duma to stiffen
legislation pertaining rallies and demonstrations (among other
things, pickets by loners are to be outlawed). It became the
second effort within a week to stiffen this legislation. The
opposition decided that the powers-that-be were doing it to
prevent protests that might be sparked by deteriorating economic
situation in 2010.
     The idea was to amend the federal law "On assemblies,
rallies, demonstrations, marches, and pickets". Among other
things, authors of the initiative suggested a ban on protest
actions by loners without notification of the authorities in
advance. "There are episodes when loners choose to burn themselves
in public places or when they are attacked. Executive power
structures in the meantime remain absolutely ignorant of
protests," an author said. Did the lawmaker really expect lone
protesters, usually driven to despair, to start informing the
authorities of the intention to torch themselves?
     All in all, the suggested amendments included some other
purely bureaucratic demands to organizers of protests.
     The initiative belonged to the United Russia faction of the
Moscow regional legislature. "Sure, we were told to suggest it by
superiors," said Konstantin Cheremisov, United Russia faction
assistant leader. He recalled that penalty for cut-off highways
had been stiffened in December. "If the authorities expect a
worsening of the economic situation in the near future, it
explains their interest in prevention of protests," he added.
     "That’s a height of stupidity. The authorities go out of
their way to make protests impossible," Right Cause Coordinator
Boris Nadezhdin said.
     United Russia faction of the Duma said that it needed time to
formulate its opinion. "Sure, people have the right to protest,"
Andrei Vorobiov, the head of the United Russia Executive
Committee, said. "On the other hand, it is only logical for the
authorities to want to prevent provocations and plain
BBC Monitoring
Russian rights activists slam Duma bill on single-person demos
January 15, 2010
The Moscow Region duma has submitted a bill to the State Duma which would make it obligatory to inform the authorities when holding a public demonstration, even if the event involves just one person, Russian privately owned Ren TV news reported on 15 January.
Under current legislation one does not have to inform the authorities when staging a one-person demo.
Legislators attribute the amendments making it harder to hold a demonstration to a "touching concern for demonstrators", presenter Mikhail Osokin said ironically, adding: "What if a hooligan attacks the person holding a placard?"
Human rights activists have a very different take on the initiative, he said.
"Of course, it’s very brazen, and a very serious step towards building a police state – that’s it, we’ll repress everything," Lev Ponomarev, leader of the movement For Human Rights, was shown saying. "If the authorities were wise, they should heed the opinion of people, so to speak, of single-person pickets, to resolve issues."
"This will be a serious step back into the past in which everything was banned. They want to act so that people don’t move at all," Interfax news agency quoted Ponomarev as saying in a report on the same day.
He said that contradictory things were happening in Russia. On the one hand, there were calls for modernization and steps were being taken to make the penitentiary system more humane; on the other, it has been proposed that approval from the authorities be introduced for single-person demonstrations, Interfax reported.
"A single-person demonstration is the only possibility that an ordinary person who is not connected to a party has to express a protest. The cynicism lies in the fact that they are not afraid to put forward initiatives that limit the rights of citizens," Ponomarev was quoted as saying.
Eduard Limonov, the writer and head of the executive committee of the Other Russia (opposition) coalition, agrees, Interfax said.
"They are afraid of protests and are trying to protect themselves," Limonov was quoted as saying.
He said that "the authorities trying to protect themselves from single-person demonstrations simply looks ridiculous".
Limonov called the bill "repressive and anti-democratic".
January 18, 2010
Moscow Approves Rallies For Murdered Lawyer, Journalist
MOSCOW — Moscow authorities have ruled that they will allow two demonstrations on January 19 to mark the first anniversary of the murder of lawyer Stanislav Markelov and journalist Anastasia Baburova, RFE/RL’s Russian Service reported, quoting radio station Ekho Moskvy.
The decision reverses an earlier move to reject a request by human rights activists to hold a march in the center of Moscow commemorating the killings.
Rights activists had vowed to stage the rally even without official approval.
Markelov had represented the family of a Chechen woman killed in 2000 by Russian army officer Yury Budanov, who was released from jail on January 15, 2009, after serving 8 1/2 years of the 10-year sentence he received for that murder.
The killings of Markelov and Baburova were condemned by international rights groups and have come to represent the climate of fear and lawlessness surrounding rights work in Chechnya.
BBC Monitoring
Russian radio pundit Radzikhovskiy denounces Stalin as symbol of inhuman state
Ekho Moskvy Radio
January 16, 2010
Stalin should be condemned as a symbol of the Russian state’s inhumanity, Russian writer Leonid Radzikhovskiy has said. A prominent contributor on the Gazprom-owned, editorially independent Russian radio station Ekho Moskvy, he wrote an article advertised on the radio’s website as a blog entry for 16 January.
In his article, entitled "Ten Leningrads", he began with the condemnation of the Soviet famine of the early 1930s, which, as the title suggests, he said had killed 10 times more people than the German siege of Leningrad during World War II: "The famine in Ukraine, Russia and Kazakhstan was 10 times worse than the blockade of Leningrad. In the latter, 700,000 died; in the former, some seven million civilians. There was no escape route. It was blocked by the enemy forces (Red Army) and SS (OGPU (political police))." Whether genocide or not, it was at the very least a crime against humanity, Radzikhovskiy thought.
"Disgracefully, criminally", he went on to say, that crime is being "hushed up" in Russia to the accompaniment of "idiotic statist and patriotic murmur and the crap about (Stalin as) an effective manager". By implication, he backed calls for a tribunal – a "legal verdict" – on the crimes of Stalinism.
"It is necessary to break up this pattern of behaviour, which treats human life as worthless, as prison-camp dust, little cogs, slaves. For as long as this pattern of behaviour is alive and well in our country – top to bottom – our country will continue to rot away. Even with our currently high level of consumption, it will be a nation without rights, of lies, with an inferiority complex and aggressive. The inhuman attitude of those in power – and, reciprocally, the inhuman attitude of society – is the main obstacle to the country’s development," Radzikhovskiy said.
It is to "root out this inhumanity" that Stalin must be condemned, he argued, which he hoped would "set a precedent in the form of condemnation of a state’s brutality" and could even "wake up society". However, he remained sceptical of the Russian state’s ability to do so.
Yeltsin’s Daughter Big Hit in Russian Blogosphere
January 13, 2010
Article by Anna Vrazhina: "Remembering All of a Sudden…"
The first person to make a big splash in the Russian blogosphere in 2010 was Tatyana Yumasheva, the daughter of first Russian President Boris Yeltsin and wife of his Chief of Staff Valentin Yumashev. She started her blog in the beginning of December. At first it seemed that it would be just another of those blogs by a successful career woman, which are already crowding the Internet. Tatyana Borisovna wrote about dieting, about boxing, and about a gift for her husband, and all of it was quite boring. The public was waiting for something else — candid revelations of the "evil 1990s," the "Family," and everything else. The wait paid off.
Here is a brief overview of what Tatyana Yumasheva has already written about those bygone days, which are now commonly recalled with a shudder. She tells how Anatoliy Chubays (then the first deputy prime minister) saved Russia from Alyaksandr Lukashenka. She offers her touching recollections of Yegor Gaydar and his meetings with Yeltsin after both of them had retired. She debunks the myths that Yeltsin was personally responsible for the collapse of the Soviet Union and that he appointed Putin as his successor in exchange for guaranteed immunity. She explains why Yeltsin really chose Putin. She tells the hilarious story of how Roman Abramovich discovered his talent for business when he left the army. She recalls how Yeltsin left office on 31 December 1999. There are two posts (one, two) about Boris Berezovskiy — telling how charismatic, garrulous, talented, and dishonest he was and how he seriously exaggerated his influence on the Kremlin. She exposes Aleksandr Korzhakov as a dimwit, a crook, and a conspirator (in connection with the "case of the Xerox box").
All of this is related not merely by a participant in those events, but by an important person of that era — commonly perceived as someone either sinister and immoral or uninhibited and romantic. It is written in a simple style by a real person (instead of a PR agent, the scum of the earth) and with an air of personal dignity, which is so rare in our blogosphere. I would even call it aristocratic. The typos and errors in punctuation are no problem: That is what distinguishes us from the infernal machines.
Yumasheva has not reported any exclusive or shocking news, but she has added interesting details and amusing human features to well-known events usually described in somber tones. In this respect, she is part of a bigger trend — consciously, intuitively, or simply "by coincidence." The change of generations, the change of decades, and the deaths of Boris Yeltsin and Yegor Gaydar have led to major reassessments of the 1990s. The ideology of the younger generation is diverging more and more from the ideology of their parents (which is also the official ideology of the state), within the framework of which the 1990s are viewed as a dark era of social stagnation and decline, a "period of the near-disintegration of the country."
Tatyana Yumasheva has a simple explanation for her decision to start a blog. After staying out of the public eye for 10 years, she granted an interview to Medved magazine (she was talked into it by her husband) and then wanted to participate in its discussion. In that interview, she said many interesting things about the politics and policies of the 1990s and the subsequent discussion led to regular posts in a blog.
Out of habit, however, the intrigued public refuses to believe that "it all just happened as a matter of course." When politician Aleksey Mitrofanov commented on Yumasheva’s revelations for Nezavisimaya Gazeta, for example, he saw them as "a leg up" for Dmitriy Medvedev in preparation for the inexorably approaching presidential election in 2012. After all, he said, Medvedev is a liberal (in contrast to conservative Putin) and the 1990s are always associated in the public mind with liberalism. Things like Yumasheva’s blog will aid in the gradual rehabilitation of liberal values and ideals.
The people who associate Yumasheva’s decision to start a blog with the current state of politics, which has become deadly dull due to its convoluted and confined nature, may be right. It would be so much more interesting, however, to view the blog from a different vantage point — as valuable historical testimony. Like any other testimony, it obviously is not free of the biased selection and delivery of facts, of ambiguous phrases, and of omitted details. This subjectivity is a salient feature of Tatyana Yumasheva’s recollections and an indisputably positive feature. Any pretense of objectivity in her account of these events would be ludicrous.
I have already said (in connection with a completely different matter) that the truth and the facts are not the same thing. In fact, they can be opposites in a certain sense. Without claiming to know all of the facts, Tatyana Borisovna tells the truth. It is her own truth. Skeptical commentators will not believe her anyway, of course, until her words agree completely with the commentators’ own beliefs.
n26Gryzlov Against Progressive Income Tax In Russia
PETROPAVLOVSK-KAMCHATSKY, January 16 (Itar-Tass) — State Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov spoke against a progressive income tax in Russia.
"In 2001, when the flat income tax rate was introduced, the Unity party – it was called Unity back then – offered guarantees that the taxes would not change for at least ten years," Gryzlov said, commenting on the Communist Party’s call for a progressive income tax.
"I think we were right," he said, adding, "The rules of the game in the 1990s changed almost every quarter."
He believes "the tax system is now quite stable and understandable even though has to be further improved".
At the same time, he admitted that "there are still possibilities for de-legalising salaries" and "we have not yet created a system that would ensure that all salaries are paid by the paylist and this paylist serves as the basis for paying the tax," the speaker told Vesti v Subbotu (News on Saturday) television programme on Saturday.
He said if a progressive income tax is introduced, employers might start paying salaries under the counter again.
Earlier, Vice Prime Minister and Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin said that the Russian government had no plans to change the flat income tax rate in the next three years.
"No such changes are provided for in our tax policy, in the main guidelines to be presented in April, in the next three years, including 2012," Kudrin said.
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said in the State Duma earlier that the government was not considering differentiating the income tax but would be prepared to return to this issue in the future.
"I do not mean we will never do that, but there should be no haste," he said.
Putin said calls for the introduction of the progressive income tax "would not result in social justice", as "gray schemes" will resume, and the government will not be able to control them.
Putin recalled that in the times of the progressive income tax most people concealed their true incomes and paid the tax from the minimal official wage and received most of the "gray" income "in envelopes".
The prime minister said the introduction of the flat rate eight years ago income tax collection grew 12-fold.
"The proceeds exceeded those from VAT," he said.
Moscow Times
January 18, 2010
Retailers, Banks Top Fund Managers’ List
By Rachel Nielsen
Some of the top Russia fund managers, fresh off 1,000 percent returns over the past decade, are saying the country’s stocks still look cheap compared with their emerging-market peers, and retailers, banks and consumer-goods makers are among the favorites for 2010.
And those sentiments may be finding broader support, as investors are continuing to pour money into Russian stocks. For the week ending Jan. 13, investors put a net total of $244.7 million into Russia equity funds, according to EPFR Global, a global fund-tracking firm. That was the ninth-consecutive week of increases in inflows to Russia funds, Bloomberg reported Friday.
"The strategy has been very much trying to capture the strong domestic growth of Russia," said Peter Elam Hakansson, co-manager of the $1.5 billion East Capital Ryssland, referring to his fund’s approach. The Sweden-based mutual fund said it had a return of 121.8 percent in Swedish krona terms and a 139.2 percent return in U.S. dollar terms for 2009.
East Capital said in December that the fund returned 1,524 percent in dollar terms over the past decade � 826 percent better than the dollar-denominated RTS Index over the same period.
Elam Hakansson said his fund was keen on mobile operators, banks, consumer-goods companies and retailers. Banks comprise 15 percent of the fund’s portfolio, retail makes up 8 percent and telecoms constitute 9 percent. He said dairy and baby-food maker Wimm-Bill-Dann, supermarket chain Sedmoi Continent and electronics retailer M.Video were three such companies in the portfolio.
Utilities, which Elam Hakansson called "part of our key theme," make up about 10 percent of the fund’s holdings.
Retail, consumer goods, utilities and infrastructure also receive the heaviest investment in the Russia-focused funds directed by Prosperity Capital Management, said Liam Halligan, chief economist at PCM.
"The real gains are to be found where there are restructurings," Halligan said, adding that "restructuring brings productivity gains, which drives shareholder value."
PCM’S Russia-dedicated funds include a so-called special situations vehicle, Prosperity Quest Fund, with a capitalization of $225 million as of Dec. 31. The firm also holds the $118 million Prosperity Cub Fund and the $773 million Russian Prosperity Fund.
PCM said last week that each of the funds � all based in the Cayman Islands � posted a total return of more than 1,600 percent for the last decade.
Igor Mikhailov, fund manager for UralSib Fund First, a 9.5 billion ruble ($321 million) open-ended mutual fund, said his 2009 investments were weighted most heavily toward oil, coal and fertilizer stocks, as well as Sberbank.
But in anticipation of a strengthening dollar in 2010, Mikhailov said he was planning to decrease his oil investments.
Though both East Capital and PCM said their funds tended to be "underweight" in oil and gas companies compared with Russian benchmark indexes, they have substantial holdings in the natural resources arena. East Capital Ryssland has 35 percent of its portfolio in gas and oil stocks, according to its web site. And in the past two years, PCM compensated for the effects of the crisis by favoring energy companies more than usual, Halligan said.
UralSib, East Capital and PCM all said Russian equities were inexpensive compared with equities in other emerging markets � a view echoed by other Russia-watchers.
"Russian stocks are trading at a 30 percent to 35 percent discount" to stocks in Brazil, India and China, the other parts of the so-called BRIC emerging-market group, Kingsmill Bond, Troika Dialog’s chief strategist, said in an e-mail.
As for the downside to Russian equity investment � risk � the funds’ managers and staffers were unworried. "The perceived risk of investing in Russia is much higher than the actual risk of investing in Russia," said Elam Hakansson, of East Capital.
PCM’s Halligan was even more blunt in his assessment of Western investors’ perceptions of the Russian stock market: "Your pension fund was massacred in the past decade because your pension manager … ignores the emerging-market funds," he said.
But investors may be reconsidering. Over the past year, Russia equity funds have vacuumed in $2.3 billion, said Brad Durham, managing director at EPFR Global. In all of the equity funds tracked by EPFR Global, there is $54.5 billion invested in Russian equities, and in just the past 12 months, there have been $4.6 billion of net inflows into Russian equities by all of those funds, he said.
The interest in Russia also helped the country’s stocks close with healthy gains after their first week of 2010. Despite drops of 0.2 percent on both the ruble-denominated MICEX and the RTS on Friday, they were carried by surges of 5.5 percent and 7.5 percent, respectively, on Monday.
MICEX finished the week up 6 percent, closing Friday at 1452.67, while the RTS gained 7.9 percent, ending the week at 1559.25.
"Money is likely to continue to come into the Russian market as investors seek to escape low growth and highly [indebted] developed markets," Troika’s Bond said. He also predicted that there would be roughly $20 billion of initial public offerings this year "as Russian companies need capital and have not raised it for some time."
Russian Business Leader Shokhin on Modernization, Signs of Economic Recovery
Rossiyskaya Gazeta
January 13, 2010
Interview with Aleksandr Nikolayevich Shokhin, president of Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, by Tatyana Panina, personal correspondent: "Shokhin Is Returning to the Government"
Representatives of big business will attend meetings of the Cabinet of Ministers.
The business community will now have an opportunity to participate in the government’s decision-making process. Members of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs will attend meetings of the Cabinet of Ministers.
An agreement on this was reached on Monday during Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s meeting with RUIE (Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs) head Aleksandr Shokhin. Experts see this as a genuine breakthrough in the relations between business and the state. RUIE President Aleksandr Shokhin talked to Rossiyskaya Gazeta about the problems businessmen and government officials will have to solve soon.
(Panina) Aleksandr Nikolayevich, this means that after 20 years, you will be returning to the government, but "from another side" this time: You were the deputy prime minister then, and now you will be defending the business community’s interests. How much power will the RUIE have?
(Shokhin) We have suggested the inclusion of businessmen in the discussions of the impact of legislative bills at various stages, including the earliest ones, instead of their mere attendance at meetings of the Cabinet of Ministers. We also want the heads of RUIE working bodies to be included as representatives of the business community in the government’s advisory, consulting, and appraising bodies, which they now often assist on a voluntary basis. That should aid in preventive measures, in offering timely advice, for example, on the ways of correcting a new law so that it will work effectively, without any glitches.
(Panina) But the RUIE is an association of big businessmen. Does this mean that small and medium business will be left out of the process?
(Shokhin) Not at all. First of all, the RUIE represents the entire Russian business sector, from the smallest firms to huge holding companies. Second, we have no objections to the same kind of arrangement for associations of small and medium business, primarily OPORa Rossii (Russian Association of Entrepreneurial Organizations). In principle, however, we are aware of all the problems facing business.
(Panina) What kinds of losses, problems, and new features did our business community have at the start of this new year?
(Shokhin) There is no question that many companies experienced genuine losses in production volume. Despite the state’s considerable anti-crisis support for the economy, the decline of the GDP and industrial production was more pronounced in Russia than in the G20 countries. It was less severe, however, than we had predicted. You could say that our economy suffered medium damage from the crisis: The decline was quite serious, but it could have been worse.
(Panina) The RUIE recently surveyed businessmen: "What had the biggest impact on your business in 2009?" What were the most common answers?
(Shokhin) The main problems were the decline of demand in the domestic market and the falling prices of Russian exports. Many had to reduce deliveries and lower their profit margin. Most of the negative responses to our surveys therefore referred to the reduction of demand, of payments by contract partners, and of company investment programs.
These actually are the risks with which we started the new year of 2010. This means the year will be a difficult one unless the demand for goods is restored. There will be no chance of attracting financial resources, including loans. These risk factors will weigh less on business as the measures of the state’s anti-crisis program start affecting all parts of the system.
In other words, measures to stimulate modernization and innovation are needed instead of the targeted distribution of funds to the companies in the greatest need for financial assistance. This will provide funds for all enterprises with the slightest ability to compete and a chance of post-crisis development.
(Panina) The uncertainty connected with the ruble exchange rate and with oil prices is another risk factor. How can the effect of this be lessened?
(Shokhin) These are interrelated indicators. Their high volatility (variability) can prevent many companies from forecasting and planning their behavior for the coming year.
Our monetary officials tell us the chances of a stronger or weaker ruble are equal — 50/50. In other words, everything will depend on external factors, including oil prices and the recovery rate of global demand and the American and European economies. The risk of uncertainty therefore does exist, so it is particularly important, in my opinion, to intensify the efforts to support domestic demand.
(Panina) But they have already begun.
(Shokhin) Yes, they began last year. There was support for mortgage loans and priority was assigned to extensive residential construction and the modernization of the housing and municipal services sector as the main generators of economic growth due to the stimulation of domestic demand. It might be best to intensify these efforts in 2010.
(Panina) Businessmen are worried that stronger administrative pressure will be exerted on them by the tax service. What is the reason for this? Is it just because of the elimination of the regressive scale for the single social tax and the replacement of this tax with insurance contributions at a flat rate of 26 percent?
(Shokhin) The budget deficit calls for sacrifices. Business could be sacrificed and it is possible that its tax load will increase. There is no question that the replacement of the single social tax with insurance contributions will increase the fiscal load on total wages, ranging from 4 percent to 10 percent in some sectors and fields of business. It will increase even more in 2011. It is therefore quite important for the cabinet to work with legislators to come up with a good system of compensatory measures. They do not necessarily have to take the form of the reduction of other taxes, such as the value-added tax. Above all, this will require the radical improvement of tax administration and everything connected with the interrelations between the business community and the government.
(Panina) Can you be more specific?
(Shokhin) In the case of the value-added tax, there are still problems with the procedure for collecting it from exporters. One step has been taken in this direction, but our calculations indicate that the new procedure will benefit only the top 100 Russian enterprises. The collection of VAT refunds must be simplified across the board.
Incidentally, one way of doing this, oddly enough, has no connection whatsoever to economic policy. I am referring to the liberalization of penalties. The president, the prime minister, the minister of justice, and the deputies have all agreed that businessmen do not necessarily have to be held in prison for economic crimes during the pre-trial investigation. The method of ensuring appearance in court by means of the loss of liberty should be chosen only after a court has made its decision. Other methods of ensuring appearance should be used first, such as bail agreements and the guarantees of respected individuals. Investigations should concentrate on searching for evidence of guilt instead of beating confessions out of psychologically (and sometimes physically) broken individuals who have been kept behind bars in detention facilities.
Businessmen now can be kept behind bars for tax crimes, even minor ones, and other offenses before the pre-trial investigation has been completed. As a result, we lose these individuals and part of the tax base, because their companies essentially go out of business. In other words, in cases in which budget revenue could be increased by a strict but transparent system of fines, we are now taking measures that are counterproductive in the economic sense. The recent decision of the Supreme Court plenum, acknowledging that the arrest of YuKOS co-owner Platon Lebedev was illegal, is also pointing us in the right direction. This was an extremely significant event for businessmen. It allows them to feel optimistic about the administrative methods of interaction by business and the government.
(Panina) You once mentioned the risks connected with the application of the revised law on the protection of competition. Will this be important this year?
(Shokhin) It will be extremely important. We would like the Federal Anti-Monopoly Service, businessmen, and the courts to have the same interpretation of these statutes. So far, we cannot be certain of this. Other laws also pose the same risks. We plan to point this out in our dialogue with the government. The efficient application of laws is even more important in this time of crisis than it was in the past.
Personnel Are the Main Thing. But What Kind of Personnel?
(Panina) Another RUIE congress will be held this year. In all likelihood, all of these matters will be on the agenda.
(Shokhin) In general, we convene congresses whenever necessary, but our charter stipulates that they must be held at least once every four years. The RUIE has existed since the end of 1991. In other words, this is its 19th year. This congress, however, will be the 17th, because we get together quite often.
This time we will discuss our "traditional" topics: taxes and the improvement of corporate management. There are also some new ones, however. They are the priorities of modernization and systemic measures to stimulate the economy, so that we can count on more than mere breakthroughs producing quick results.
We will talk about the role of human capital and the labor market. I should remind you that the shortage of skilled personnel was the business community’s main problem before the crisis. Now it will be back in full force. It is therefore important to decide the business community’s main objective: the maintenance of employment at any cost, even at the cost of labor productivity and modernization, or the stimulation of modernization and productivity, leading the economy to the strategic goals of the strategy for the socioeconomic development of the country during the period up to 2010.
(Panina) The second option obviously is the only possible choice.
(Shokhin) But then the extent of the actual responsibility of the business community and the state to solve employment problems will have to be clearly defined. Businessmen should not be compelled to keep surplus manpower in their production facilities. Business and the state must work together to create new jobs in new sectors of the economy. We have reached an extremely important turning point. If we manage to focus businessmen’s attention on modernization scenarios this year, the state will have carry out major projects in the infrastructure, residential construction, and the housing and municipal services sector even under the conditions of a budget deficit in order to absorb released manpower and retrain these personnel.
You have to realize that this would not be a mere program to maintain employment in regions with potential unemployment, but an emphasis on jobs in locations with points of growth and development. Without this, we will not be able to follow the modernization scenario for the development of the Russian economy. Then the risks connected with conditions in foreign markets will be back. We have managed to get through the current crisis with relative ease with the aid of the Reserve Fund and the budget surplus. The "years of plenty" are over, however, and if the structure of the economy is not changed, we will dread each new crisis after 2012 because each will be more severe than the one before.
Pension Pool
(Panina) All of the experts agree that pension reform virtually has been halted in Russia. Would you agree that this is also a big risk for the country? How would you neutralize it?
(Shokhin) I think the option we have proposed will be more effective than the higher insurance contributions that replaced the single social tax. We believe broad-scale privatization should be launched as soon as the markets have recovered. The proceeds, however, should not be dumped into the budget to cover the deficit, but should be deposited in the National Welfare Fund and should be used to establish a solid foundation for the Pension Fund. There is also another way of doing this. Pension resources could be accumulated right away from the dividends paid on state assets, which would be privatized gradually later.
Various forms of state property here account for more than 50 percent of all the property in the Russian Federation. These assets could keep us going for several years with no tax increases. Taxes could even be reduced as a way of stimulating modernization. Later, after the pendulum stops swinging, pension funds could be converted into "long money." They would then generate income on their own. This would be something new for Russia, of course, but it already has been practiced in several countries with a similar economic structure. Norway, for example, turned its reserve fund into a fund truly benefiting future generations by attaching it to the pension fund. Consequently, we will not even have to come up with something new. We can simply copy this idea to the letter, so to speak.
(Panina) As I understand it, you have not taken your proposals off the agenda, despite the decision on the single social tax.
(Shokhin) We agree completely with the prime minister and the Cabinet of Ministers, who believe that pensioners should have a decent pension, amounting to at least 40 percent of the wages they have lost. We also realize that this will require a sustainable source, however, and it cannot be confined to constantly increasing compulsory insurance contributions and pressure on wages.
(Panina) The government has expanded its privatization program considerably this year. Are businessmen ready to buy these assets?
(Shokhin) They are. But first we should reconsider our attitude toward foreign investors, whom we chose to keep far away from the best assets in the Russian economy during the "years of plenty." This does not mean they should be allowed into all of the strategic sectors, but the restrictions that were instituted a couple of years ago certainly could be relaxed.
Second, we have state companies with certain privileges. In the oil and gas sector, for example, they have priority rights to work strategic deposits. They probably could be offered to private Russian enterprises or to joint ventures with foreign investors. We could even allow large foreign companies to work those sites within the confines of projects in which Russian business would have a controlling interest or some other form of control. During this process, it will be important to move beyond the extraction of crude resources and envisage their mandatory intense processing within the territory of Russia as a condition of access to the sites.
There Will Be Growth
(Panina) The industrial product in November last year was 1.5 percent greater than in October. Was this the start of a positive trend?
(Shokhin) We believe we cannot start predicting recovery until we have seen growth for two quarters in a row. I think this trend is coming soon. It is quite possible that the first half of this year will offer statistical proof of the start of recovery.
Using the results of a single month as the basis for far-reaching conclusions, not to mention revised forecasts for 2010, however, would be tantamount, in my opinion, to walking a macroeconomic tightrope. In any case, however, our calculations show that there will be growth this year. It is still difficult to say how much growth there will be, and this is not even the main thing. The main thing is the start of modernizing processes. If economic recovery takes place within the confines of the earlier structure, we will be back in the high-risk zone I was talking about earlier.
(Panina) Aleksandr Nikolayevich, what kind of year will it be? Will it be worse or better than the last one?
(Shokhin) It will be a better year for many companies because the demand for their products is already being revived. It will be bad for the companies that did their utmost to "keep employment up" despite the lack of demand, the companies that kept their old product assortment and waited for state support instead of "churning their milk into butter," and the companies that will have to continue making staff and production cuts.
They will run into administrative resistance because the governors are accountable to the federal government for employment. The regional leaders will discourage layoffs. Businesses will no longer have the resources to keep all of their personnel, however. It is possible to hold on for one year, but it is hard to hold on for two. This is a direct route to bankruptcy and the loss of many more jobs. It is essential that government officials realize the lack of a simple solution and that they begin a dialogue as quickly as possible with the business community to agree on zones of responsibility in the modernization scenario for the development of the Russian economy.
Russia Reduced Greenhouse Gas Emissions By 30 Prc Over 17 Years
BERLIN, January 16 (Itar-Tass) — Russia has reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent over the past 17 years, Agriculture Minister Yelena Skrynnik said.
Russia is implementing a number of programmes aimed at reducing the negative impact on the environment, including a climate doctrine that clearly determines approaches to this work, taking into account climatic peculiarities of regions.
The government has also launched a programme to increase energy efficiency of the national economy by 40 percent by 2020.
"Russia has built a systemic approach to solving problems connected with global climate changes," the minister said at an agrarian forum titled "Agriculture and Global Climate Change: New Concepts in Politics and Economy" held as part of the international agro-industrial Green Week Fair in Berlin.
A possible reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent announced by Russia is a "rather strenuous task" but it would have done so anyway even without the Kyoto Protocol, a Kremlin adviser for climate change, Alexander Bedritsky, said earlier.
"Converting the economy to the use of renewable energy that will lead to emission cuts is a positive process all by itself. Reducing energy intensity is not only a question of climate, but it is also a question of economic modernisation, competitiveness of goods and the well-being of our citizens. There is simply no alternative to this," Bedritsky told Itar-Tass.
"However this process may slow down economic development, if we assume exorbitant obligations under a global agreement," he said, adding, "But our estimates are based on thoroughly calculated scenarios, on
Russian laws and presidential decisions."
"Russia has already made a significant contribution to the reduction of global greenhouse gas emissions. While in 2000-2007, global emissions were cut by 16 percent, or 2.350 billion tonnes in physical terms, Russia’ s reductions had amounted to1.130 billion tonnes, accounting for almost a half of global cuts (48 percent)," the official said.
"This result was achieved amidst economic growth. The Russian gross domestic product in 1990-2007 increased by 5 percent, while greenhouse gas emissions decreased by 34 percent. Ion other words, the Russian economy was growing faster than emissions, which means that we curb the growth of emissions by developing the economy on a new basis," Bedritsky said.
According to scientists, in order to prevent further escalation of negative climate changes such as floods, droughts and tsunamis, it is necessary to keep the temperature from rising by more than 2 degrees Celsius.
This will require a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions caused by the burning of coal, oil and natural gas by 25-40 percent by 2020 and by 50 percent by 2050, with 1990 being the starting point.
A member of a working group of the inter-governmental commission on climate change, Igor Bashmakov, said earlier that economic losses from greenhouse gas emission cuts won’t exceed 0.1 percent of the gross domestic product a year.
"According to the group’s conclusions, if the existing technology is used, the growth of emissions can be stopped and it won’t grow at all," he said.
"All of the required measures will cost not more than 100 U.S. dollars per tonne of carbon dioxide," he said, adding that "one-tenth of GDP was the price to be paid for catastrophic changes on the planet".
In his words, unlike in other countries where emissions continue to grow, greenhouse gas emissions in Russia are about 37 percent lower than in 1990 due to an economic recession in the 1990s.
"It has grown even in Western Europe where active steps are being taken to this effect," Bashmakov said.
He stressed that massive greenhouse gas emission cuts would lead to economic losses, "but there is a wide range of technologies that can substantially reduce these emissions, including the technology of increasing the efficiency of energy consumption".
"Currently, the technical potential of improving the efficiency of energy consumption in Russia is 42 percent," the specialist said. "If we used all existing capabilities for saving energy resources, heat and natural gas, we could reduce domestic consumption of natural gas by 230 billion cubic metres, which is half of all natural gas consumed in Russia," Bashmakov said.
Nezavisimaya Gazeta
January 18, 2010
Author: Arthur Blinov
[President Medvedev: Either we ratify the START follow-on treaty
simultaneously or not at all.]
Meeting with leaders of political parties last Saturday, President
Dmitry Medvedev briefed them on the forthcoming completion of the
work on the Russian-American strategic arms reduction talks.
Medvedev announced that ratification of the follow-on agreement in
both capitals ought to be simultaneous.
     Organized in Zavidovo, the meeting was mostly centered around
domestic political affairs. Medvedev nevertheless decided it
necessary to mention the strategic arms reduction treaty Russia
and the United States were working on. The next meeting between
Russian and American delegations scheduled for later this month,
insiders said the negotiators fully expected to complete the talks
in the near future.
     "Negotiations are difficult," Medvedev acknowledged. "By and
large, however, the Americans and we have made decisions on a good
deal of matters. The president called prospects of the dialogue
under way "fine".
     Medvedev made a special emphasis on the problem of
ratification. He said it should be simultaneous in both countries
because nothing else would do.
     "It is not going to be like in the Soviet period when the
U.S.S.R. ratified documents and the United States did not," the
president said. "We want parity. I’d say parity is what both
countries are interested in."
     "Either we simultaneously ratify the treaty that reflects our
ideas concerning strategic nuclear weapons, or the process will
may never take place. I think that our American partners should be
aware of it. As for the legislative process, we out to aim at
synchronization of the procedures of ratification."
     Approached for comments, Professor Aleksei Bogaturov recalled
how Moscow had found itself in an awkward situation when Jimmy
Carter’s Administration refused to submit the START II to the U.S.
Senate in response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The
White House then promised to abide by the agreements but it was
cold comfort at best.
     Bogaturov added that the situation within the U.S. Senate,
the body responsible for ratification of international documents,
was quite tricky at this point. Recovered from the shock of the
2008 defeat, the Republican Party was angling to regain the lost
positions. Its representatives were regaining initiative, in both
domestic and foreign affairs, a premise confirmed by the recent
letter to the U.S. President signed by 40 Senators from the
Republican Party. Referring to the American-Russian reduction
talks, authors of the letter demanded a more expedite
modernization of the American strategic forces. Given time, this
approach could develop into direct opposition to the START follow-
on agreement.
     The political scientist therefore suggested that Medvedev’s
words at the meeting with Russian politicians were really
addressed to the Americans. They were a warning to the Democrats
on the Capitol Hill not to dally with ratification because the
situation in the U.S. Senate might change after the November 2010
NATO to Rebuff Russian Bid for Separate Treaty, Officials Say
By James G. Neuger
Jan. 18 (Bloomberg) — NATO is likely to rebuff a Russian proposal for a bilateral security treaty, seeing it as a ploy to regain lost influence over eastern Europe, four allied officials said.
Russia’s proposed treaty, limited to the trans-Atlantic alliance’s 28 members, would require them to "perform defense planning in a way that it does not threaten the security of other parties," according to a three-page draft obtained by Bloomberg News.
The initiative marks a Russian bid to assert its primacy over countries that were once part of the Soviet Union and to halt the Brussels-based North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s expansion. The proposal, made last month, would have effectively given Russia a veto over allied military planning, especially in eastern Europe, said the officials, who declined to be named because the alliance hasn’t issued a formal response.
"It’s a way of trying to put into treaty an acceptance of a Russian sphere of influence," said Kurt Volker, a former U.S. ambassador to NATO who is now managing director of Johns Hopkins University’s trans-Atlantic relations center in Washington. "It essentially gives Russia a veto over countries that are not yet members of NATO."
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov handed the proposed "Agreement on Basic Principles Governing Relations Among NATO- Russia Council Member States in Security Sphere" in Russian and English versions to allied officials without publicity at a NATO-Russia meeting in Brussels Dec. 4
NATO-Russia Cooperation
While NATO aims to boost cooperation with Russia on the war in Afghanistan, fighting piracy and stemming nuclear proliferation, there is little appetite for a new treaty, said the four NATO officials.
"The allies and Russia have just started a period of intensive debate on the future of the NATO-Russia Council and many ideas are going to be voiced," said Carmen Romero, a NATO spokeswoman. "Minister Lavrov shared some ideas in December."
Asked if NATO-Russia ties need a new legal basis, the alliance’s supreme military commander, U.S. Admiral James Stavridis, said his focus is on practical steps such as expanding the supply lines through Russia for the 100,000-plus western troops in Afghanistan.
"I can see a variety of zones of cooperation — military to military — and of course we’re waiting for political signals and guidance from the secretary general before we pursue that, but overall I think we’re on an upward trend in our relations with Russia," Stavridis said in a Jan. 13 interview.
Obama ‘Reset’
The Lavrov paper, coming as President Barack Obama seeks to "reset" relations with the Kremlin, is distinct from a wider East-West security treaty also floated last year by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.
Western governments have been cool to the Medvedev initiative, a product of the Kremlin’s desire to overhaul European security arrangements after NATO’s eastward enlargement put western troops on Russia’s borders.
"There can be no doubt whatsoever that NATO will remain our framework for Euro-Atlantic security," Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said last month.
NATO absorbed former Soviet allies starting in 1999, when a Russia shorn of its Cold War satellites was struggling to regain its economic footing after defaulting on $40 billion of debt.
Under Vladimir Putin since 2000, energy-rich Russia has seized on an oil price that peaked at $147 per barrel in July 2008 to revive its economy and gain leverage over oil- and gas- importing states in Europe.
Russia pushed back against further NATO enlargement by invading western-leaning Georgia in August 2008 and trying to reassert control over Ukraine, which held the first round of presidential elections yesterday.
No Choice
Russia’s neighbors, including Georgia and Ukraine, would be left out of the bilateral treaty, which omits language from prior post-Cold War accords that all countries are entitled to choose their alliances.
Putin has accused NATO of violating a 1998 pledge not to permanently station "substantial combat forces" on former Warsaw Pact territory. The new treaty would potentially allow Russia to weigh in on NATO defense policies such as the air policing mission over the three Baltic republics, once part of the Soviet Union.
NATO has pointed to the 56-nation Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, an East-West forum created in 1975, as the best arena for discussing Russia’s security concerns.
Nezavisimaya Gazeta
January 18, 2010
Russia distances from Central Asia
Countries of the region are drifting toward rich donors.
By Viktoria Panfilova
A controversial situation is unfolding in the CIS. Many experts believe that the current processes carry a great threat to Russia, while leading to a gradual but steady reduction of its role in and influence over the fundamental developmental processes in the post-Soviet space.
There are both subjective and objective reasons for this development. Most of the CIS countries are not especially wealthy. The level and quality of life � are not high. These factors mainly apply to the Central Asian republics suffering from unemployment and over-population in some regions, undeveloped economies, a lack of skilled workers, production capacity, water shortages, and much more. Such conditions lead to increased social discomfort, which in local conditions is accompanied by the rise of fundamentalist tendencies and radical organizations. In such circumstances, leaders of Central Asian countries are forced to search for a "Panacea" across borders. A slow, but a very clear drift toward rich donor-countries and consumers of hydrocarbons is underway. Meanwhile, due to various reasons, including the current economic crisis, Russia is no longer a reliable sponsor. Today, it is difficult to expect not only large-scale and ambitious projects from Moscow (such as the plans for the reconstruction and development of hydropower in Tajikistan), but even its full compliance with promises in relation to loans. For this reason, in the future, it will be increasingly difficult for Russia to resist the growing influence of the U.S. and the EU, especially because the West is playing a game it cannot lose.
Washington and Brussels have called for a united front against terrorism, which looks quite attractive: everyone knows exactly what will happen when the anti-terrorist coalition forces begin to gradually push out extremist forces from Afghanistan and Pakistan. In this case, radicals will inevitably set their sights on Central Asia, which has already happened in the recent past. And, the worse the economic situation is, the more popular support they will receive.
Moreover, in the attempt to limit the Russian, and with it the growing influence of China, the West had significantly lowered the bar on "democratic" demands to Central Asian countries. Its policies are focused on driving Russia out and limiting China’s presence in the economic sphere. Despite some differences in the American and Chinese approaches to Central Asia, they share an equal desire to limit Russia’s geostrategic presence in the region.
The competition for regional leadership between Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan is also damaging to Russia’s long-term interests. Today, Astana is Moscow’s main ally; but experts predict that in 5-10 years it will be more actively involved in economic cooperation with China and the EU. The basis for the inevitable shift will be the increasing competition with Russia for hydrocarbon and other extractable resources sale markets, as well as the participation in the formation of an inter-regional transport corridors. Uzbekistan, in turn, having conflict potential with Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, while extrapolating its complicated relations with Astana onto Russia, will also increase its focus on the West and Asia-Pacific countries, which are able to help financially, and most importantly, offer support in the neutralization of the threat of fundamentalism.
Moscow’s relationship dynamics with Dushanbe are not very positive either. Tajikistan is displeased with the curtailing of investment projects in the hydraulic power industry and the evasive position of Russia, which is, to a certain extent, supportive of the water consumer countries: Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan. Thus, Dushanbe is trying to get closer to and diversify the entire range of its relations with the kindred Iran. In this case, Tehran is being viewed as a potential guarantor of national stability and an ally in the case of local conflicts.
The disintegration of the region is also apparent in Astana’s desire to "economically hook" Kyrgyzstan � to draw it into the sphere of its direct influence. According to Kazakh analysts, this should strengthen Astana’s positions within the CIS, the SCO, the CSTO, and its dialogue with the major global powers, including Russia.
"In its relations with the countries of the region, Russia must abandon its policy of domination. It is wrong to assume that the strong and the weak cannot be equal partners. The time has come to understand that leadership is not determined by gross, but by the qualitative parameters of the economy, and that political authority is determined by adequacy and consistency of actions. Russia must become attractive as a state, as an economic, technological, humanitarian, and intellectual source, and finally � a partner. This is not the case today, which forces young states to seek friends that are more interesting in all respects," Nur Omarov, head of the Association of Political Scientists of Kyrgyzstan, told Nezavisimaya Gazeta.
Washington Post
January 16, 2010
Don’t throw flames on Russia-Belarus oil talks
The Post’s editorial assessment of the oil trade negotiations between Russia and Belarus ["A seasonal chill," Jan. 11] was based on an unwillingness to follow daily news as well as a reliance on false premises and outdated stereotypes.
The so-called "dispute" between Russia and Belarus is in reality an ongoing negotiation between supplier and customer. For years, Russia subsidized Belarus by providing deep discounts for oil. This discounted oil was used not only for Belarus’s domestic needs, but considerable amounts of it were refined in Belarus and exported to European markets at the real market price.
Belarus has and continues to be an important economic partner, and we value our relationship with this country. The best sign of our commitment to this partnership is that we are still ready to supply oil to Belarus for domestic consumption at a discount. But Belarus continues to insist on maintaining old pricing structures despite the fact that they no longer make economic sense.
As any entity would do in a changing business climate, we are reevaluating the terms of the agreement that expired Dec. 31. We seek to honor our commitment to Belarus while continuing to serve as a reliable energy supplier to Europe. The Post’s ill-considered, politically inflammatory commentary serves only to make it more difficult for responsible parties to resolve the issue.
Dmitry Peskov, Moscow
The writer is deputy chief of staff and press secretary to Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.
January 18, 2010
Oil dispute with Belarus may result in the so called Ukrainian Scenario and damage Russia’s image as supplier
Author: Yelena Shishkunova, Varvara Aglamishjan
     There being no formal agreement between Moscow and Minsk,
Russian oil export to Belarus may stop any moment. Minsk demands
duty-free oil and insists on higher tariffs for export to Europe.
Moscow refuses to sponsor (this is the only term that applies) the
union state to so considerable an extent. Deputy Premier Igor
Sechin has already sent a letter to his Belarussian opposite
number Vladimir Semashko where Russia’s stand on the matter is
     Nobody can say at this point when the Russian-Belarussian oil
export talks might resume. Moscow and Minsk began 2010 with
threats and warnings. Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko
mailed a letter to his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev
claiming that Belarus was determined not to give in. So is Russia,
for that matter.
     Sources close to the negotiations say that three issues defy
negotiators’ efforts to thrash out a gas export agreement. Bulk of
duty-free oil Belarus ought to be entitled to is the first of
them. Belarus is used to buying 22 million tons of raw oil from
Russia at a discount. Of the whole lot, 6.3 million tons are used
domestically (the consumption actually amounts to 8 million tons
but Belarus itself produced the remaining 1.7 million tons) and
all the rest is refined and sold to European customers ate market
prices. That all revenues remain in the Belarussian budget need
not be said.
     The government of Russia decided to change it. It told the
Belarussians that they could count on 6.3 million tons of duty-
free oil and that duties would have to be paid on the rest. The
Belarussians asked for 8 million tons of duty-free oil. Russian
experts told the government that it would cost $500 million more.
Three previous years of duty-free export to Belarus had already
cost the Russian budget almost $10 billion.
     There is more than the volume of duty-free oil that
complicates the negotiations. Minsk announced that it wanted
transit tariffs upped to the average Russian tariff. (As matters
stand, 60 million tons of oil are exported from Russia to Europe
via Belarus every year.)
     Procedural issues are the third stumbling stone. Moscow
suggested that they signed and ratified the agreement at once, if
and when the negotiations were over. Minsk objected and said that
it wanted six months between the signing and ratification "to
think matters over". Continuing to get Russian oil duty-free all
the while. But what if it decided not to ratify the agreement in
six months?
     The Customs Union that came into force on January 1 is what
Minsk continuously refers and makes appeals to. As matters stand,
there is a special dispensation to leave hydrocarbons out of it
for the time being, but Belarus does not care. It claims that
since we have a common customs area, there ought to be no duties
within it.
     Official Minsk’s obstinacy might bring about the so called
Ukrainian Scenario. Should Russia decide to suspend oil export to
Belarus, the latter will take what it needs from what is exported
to Europe. Not that it is going to be the first time. Conflict
over tariffs in early 2007 did result in suspension of transit to
Europe. Five European countries (Hungary, Czech Republic, Germany,
Poland, and Slovakia) are disturbed already.
     Playing games, Lukashenko clearly counts on support from
Europe. "Suspension of oil transit to Europe must be prevented or
Russia’s image would be further damaged," Konstantin Simonov of
the National Energy Security Foundation commented. Indeed, it will
be certainly taken as proof of Russia’s inability to deliver. It
was gas and Ukraine a year ago. This time, it is oil and Belarus.
"Competition in the European oil market is much more vicious than
in the gas market. Others will immediately move in to take
Russia’s place," Simonov warned.
     There is a less radical option, of course, one stipulating
continuation of talks within the framework of the Customs Union.
Moscow and Minsk may come up with some sort of interim arrangement
for the time being and continue the talks. Say, about the sale of
Belarussian holdings to Rosneft. These negotiations have been
under way for years now, with little to show for it because the
Belarussians demand prohibitive prices for the enterprises. All
the same, it will buy the involved parties time and ensure
uninterrupted oil export to European consumers.
Nezavisimaya Gazeta
January 18, 2010
Victor Yuschenko’s Russophobic era is drawing to its end
Author: Tatiana Ivzhenko
     The presidential election in Ukraine yesterday was the first
involving none of the so called Russian factor. Ukrainian
politicians had never failed to speculate on the subject before
yesterday. This time, however, Russia prevented them from doing so
by pointedly keeping is distance and evincing absolutely no
interest in the proceedings. Everyone lost – those who had counted
on Moscow’s support and those who had hoped to consolidate the
electorate in the face of "the external threat".
     It was known since long before yesterday that the second
round of the election would be a battle between Victor Yanukovich
and Yulia Timoshenko. Both candidates suit Russia just
sufficiently to proclaim the diplomatic war with the neighbor at
an end – send an ambassador to Kiev and reactivate negotiations
over pressing issues. "Moscow knows after all that no president of
Ukraine will be really pro-Russian. Yes, Yanukovich was considered
such a candidate in 2004 but the years that elapsed showed him
capable of compromises with Victor Yuschenko even on matters of
importance for his Regional Party – matters including status of
the Russian language and membership in NATO… And so will
Timoshenko put her own interests above everything else, by the
way. She got a gas agreement from Putin but wouldn’t talk Russian
to a Russian TV network," political scientist Konstantin
Bondarenko said.
     All the same, both Yanukovich and Timoshenko when elected
will do everything in their power to normalize relations with
Russia. And not only because it is expected by voters and EU
countries that depend on Russian gas. They will do so because all
Ukrainian politicians are under pressure from major Ukrainian
businesses badly affected by the uncertainty of the bilateral
relations. Political scientist Vitaly Bala said that whichever
politician became the president, he or she would promote a policy
of cooperation with Russia and simultaneous rapprochement with the
European Union.
     As a matter of fact, this was exactly what most Ukrainian
voters all over the country expect from the next president. Unlike
Yuschenko, the new president will refrain from insisting on
immediate negotiations over the future withdrawal of the Russian
Black Sea Fleet from the Crimea, forget about NATO, and introduce
an informal taboo on discussion of the famine in Ukraine in the
early 20th century and of the part OUN-UPA played in the Great
Patriotic War.
     "Russia is convinced that the policy of Ukraine over the next
five years will be pro-Russian in any event. It is therefore
waiting to see who it will have to deal with. Moscow wants it to
be a person capable of making decisions and guaranteeing
stability," Nikolai Malomuzh of the Ukrainian Foreign Intelligence
Service said a month ago. Malomuzh added that no foreign country
had displayed interest in the victory of any candidate or pulled
string to ensure it.
     In the meantime, some experts did appraise the meeting
between Putin and Timoshenko in Yalta last November as a
demonstration of Moscow’s political preferences. Signing of the
new gas agreements that made life easier for Ukraine was seen as
additional proof. Ukraine was spared fines for the failure to buy
all of the gas reserved for it. Gazprom accepted higher gas
transit tariffs practically without a fight and brought down
demands to Ukraine concerning the volume of gas procurement.
Sergei Kuprijanov of Gazprom even announced several hours before
January 1 that the Russian company had cancelled the lawsuit
against Ukrainian Naphthagas in Stockholm. All of that showed
Timoshenko as a successful negotiator capable of promoting
interests of Ukraine even in the relations with Russia driving a
hard bargain.
     "Russia made it plain that it was ready for normal relations
with both favorites in the presidential race," said Alexander
Kava, Director of the Ukrainian Center for Political and Economic
     Political scientists said, however, that not even that
precluded problems in the bilateral relations in the future.
Yanukovich for one regularly castigates Timoshenko’s gas
agreements while media outlets continuously report Gazprom as
saying that no revision of the documents in question is
     On the other hand, Yanukovich is prepared to establish the
consortium to run and manage Ukrainian gas pipelines while
Timoshenko does not even want to hear about it.
     There are other problems as well, tabled for until after
Yuschenko is gone. Ukraine’s participation in CIS supranational
structures like the Common Economic Zone remains an open question,
same thing with participation in the Customs Union and defense
projects. Both Yuschenko and Timoshenko admit that Ukraine is
unready for NATO yet but their programs do include this objective.
     By and large, foreign policies of Timoshenko and Yanukovich
will be more or less analogous. Yuschenko gambled on the use of
the Russian factor to intimidate the population and rally it
around himself and lost. His extremely low rating is proof that
the Ukrainians regard domestic problems of their country as more
important than anything else and that few of them really perceive
Russia as an enemy. Opinion polls show that 90% Ukrainians promote
normalization of the relations with Moscow.
Russian Political Experts Think Yanukovych May Become President If Makes No Mistake Preparing For Runoff
KYIV. Jan 18 (Interfax) – Russian political experts think that leader of the Party of Regions, who according to exit polls got the majority of votes in the first round of the Ukrainian presidential election has better chances in the runoff compared to his main opponent Yulia Tymoshenko.
"Results of some exit polls show that Yanukovych is 10% ahead of Tymoshenko. This is quite a sufficient level to be certain ahead of the second round. The Party of Regions leader has better chances compared to Tymoshenko," Gleb Pavlovsky told Interfax commenting on results of the Sunday election in Ukraine.
Successful performance in the first round does not mean that Yanukovych will by default secure victory in the second round, he said. "Yes, Yanukovych started well. But he will be successful only if he does not make mistakes when preparing for the second round," the political expert said.
One of the obstacles is that "not everyone in central regions of Ukraine like" Yanukovych, he said. "He (Yanukovych) has rather weak coalition prospects. Even if we admit an agreement with Serhiy Tigipko, who is closer to Yanukovych than to Tymoshenko, the Party of Regions leader cannot win his votes at once. Some of those who voted for Tigipko may back Tymoshenko," Pavlovsky said.
Winning the first round, Yanukovych has prepared a ground for a good performance in the runoff, CIS Studies Institute Director Konstantin Zatulin said.
"Yanukovych prepared a base for the second round. But this does not mean that he has reason to relax. Tymoshenko will be thoroughly preparing as well, and she is a serious opponent," Zatulin told Interfax.
It is possible that Yanukovych will reach an agreement with Tigipko in order to win as many voters as possible, he said.
If Yanukovych win the election, he will have to work together with a strong prime minister. "Tymoshenko will remain prime minister, and the situation will not be easy," he said.
Influence of External Factors Is Much Less At Current Ukrainian Election – Russian Expert
KYIV. Jan 18 (Interfax) – The influence of external factors is much less at the current election than at previous ones, Russian observer at the Ukrainian presidential election, Russian MP and political expert Sergei Markov said.
The United States "is disappointed with its puppet regimes on the post-Soviet space", especially after the August 2008 events in the south Caucasus, Markov said.
"Moscow has a desire to cooperate with Ukraine as close as possible, so that to become a single center in the future," he said.
"Ukrainian voters desire to take into consideration Russia’s interests as much as possible, because they want to have fraternal relations with Russia and they do not want to have customs officers and border guards," he said.
BBC Monitoring
Russian radio commentators look wistfully at Ukraine election
Ekho Moskvy Radio
January 15, 2010
Regular commentators on Russian Ekho Moskvy radio have shown more interest in the process of the Ukrainian presidential elections rather than in speculations about a potential winner. They also used the opportunity of the Ukrainian election to reflect upon the absence of democratic procedures in Russia.
Commentator Sergey Parkhomenko said Ukraine was going through a difficult stage of developing its democratic mechanisms, with all its mistakes and imperfections. Speaking in his regular programme Sut Sobytiy (Heart of the Matter) on 15 January, Parkhomenko said: "This is called a democratic process. Ukraine is trying to figure out various political values. They are trying to understand what is important for a politician… They are building a system of values. This is why I am not worried about the events in Ukraine. I think this is part of a normal process of economic and political maturity… This is a natural process. Conversely, what is going on in Russia is unnatural, because Russia has got rid of elections in principle. It did not try to improve the mechanism but rejected it altogether."
Vladimir Kara-Murza in his analytical programme Grani Nedeli on 15 January said that "the first round of the presidential election in Ukraine has been keeping its eastern neighbour in tenterhooks".
Speaking on the same programme, journalist Leonid Mlechin said Russia would be interested in "a successful, skilful and independent politician who would help Ukraine get out of the crises which are torturing it."
Owner of the Nezavisimaya Gazeta Konstantin Remchukov said Russia did not mind who would win the election. He said: "Anybody, apart from (incumbent President Viktor) Yushchenko, will be fine. That is, either
(Prime Minister Yuliya) Tymoshenko or (leader of the Party of Regions Viktor) Yanukovych. However, life won’t be easy with either of them… They are different Ukrainian leaders who have lost the illusions of 2004. In 2010, they know how difficult it is to resolve social and economic problems, how little practical help they will get from the West – they will have to pay their way."
Journalist Vladimir Shenderovich said he was more worried about the fate of democracy in Ukraine than the name of its future president. "It is obvious that Ukraine has got disappointed in the democrats… Pray God it does not get disappointed in democracy as an institution."
Journalist and political commentator Leonid Radzikhovskiy said that for Russia it did not matter who would become next Ukrainian president.
Speaking on 15 January in the Special Opinion programme, he said: "Before we decide which Ukrainian politician is better for Russia, we must first understand what Russia wants from Ukraine."
He pointed out that trade between Russia and Ukraine had grown 200 per cent in the last five years, when political relations were most frosty. "Objective economic relations between Russia and Ukraine are developing regardless of Yushchenko, or, perish the thought, of Putin or Medvedev. These are mutually beneficial relations… Humanitarian relations have also been developing. There have been no problem here, nor will there be under the new government."
Matvey Ganapolskiy in his Perekhvat programme on 15 January said the Ukrainian people have a mechanism to get rid of politicians and Russian people can only dream about "such connection between people’s will and people’s capabilities as in Ukraine".
U.S. Analyst: Ukraine-Russia Relations Sure to Warm Up After Ukraine Elections
WASHINGTON. Jan 16 (Interfax) – A senior U.S. analyst predicted that Ukraine would improve its relations with Russia and would not be in a hurry to join NATO no matter who wins the Ukrainian presidential election on Sunday.
Relations with Russia are one of the issues for which Sunday’s election is crucial, Ariel Cohen of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative American think tank, told Interfax.
Others are the future of Ukraine’s natural gas pipeline system and the future of the Russian Black Sea Fleet’s bases in Ukraine, he argued.
He expressed a surmise that Russia will try to take control of Ukraine’s gas transmission system, which handles 80% of the gas that Europe receives from Russia’s Gazprom (RTS: GAZP).
Russia is also seeking an extension of a treaty with Ukraine that allows the Black Sea Fleet to keep its base in Sevastopol in Ukraine’s region of Crime until 2017, he said.
He also argued that today’s Ukraine is more democratic than Russia but that the global financial crisis has had a more powerful impact on the Ukrainian population than on ordinary Russians.
He claimed that Ukraine possesses all the necessary resources to become a liberal democracy but that its population shows a lot of political apathy and that this may lead to the country losing its democratic achievements and sovereignty.
He also said many of the members of the Ukrainian political elite have pro-American sentiments but that U.S. President Barack Obama is partially sacrificing the United States’ relations with Eastern European countries such as Ukraine to be able to pursue his policy of "resetting" American-Russian relations.
Cohen expressed confidence that Ukrainian-Russian relations would improve and Ukraine would not be in a hurry to join NATO that no matter who the next Ukrainian president is.
Cohen also argued that the Kremlin had for a long time been charging Ukraine prices for gas that were below market levels in a bid to gain control over the Ukrainian government but that by today Ukraine pays market process for gas.
Moscow Times
January 18, 2010
President Yanukovych’s Dilemma
By Yevgeny Kiselyov
Yevgeny Kiselyov is a political analyst and hosts a political talk show on Inter television in Ukraine.
Although the official results of Ukraine’s presidential election have not yet been announced, it has been clear all along that a second round of voting, on Feb. 7, will be needed to determine who will be the country’s next president � Viktor Yanukovych or Yulia Tymoshenko. Barring the unexpected, Yanukovych, who lost big in the 2004 Ukrainian presidential election to the Orange team of Tymoshenko and Viktor Yushchenko, should get his revenge by beating Tymoshenko in the second round.
There are several reasons behind Tymoshenko’s expected election failure. This is the first time that she has entered a campaign as a member of the ruling power structure and not as an opposition figure, which might be the reason for her low probability of winning the second round. She is running for the presidency while holding the post of prime minister, and thus many Ukrainians blame her (along with Yushchenko) for the host of crises and economic hardships that have rocked the country.
Another of Tymoshenko’s big mistakes was that the once-fiery revolutionary had grown so comfortable sitting in the prime minister’s chair that she did not heed advice to step down from that post and become a leader of the opposition � something she has proven good at.
In addition, there was a whole series of political mistakes that have led to Tymoshenko’s low popularity ratings. For example, her attempt to build a special relationship with Moscow based on her strong personal rapport with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin provided ammunition for her critics, including nationalists and supporters of Ukraine’s integration with Europe, to accuse her of trading away national interests, As a result, Tymoshenko eroded much of her voter base in the central and western regions, where strengthening of Ukraine’s independence from Russia has always been a top priority.
But it would be a mistake to assume that a Yanukovych victory would mean that Ukraine will wholeheartedly embrace Moscow. To be sure, Kremlin insiders affirm that Russian leaders would prefer to see Yanukovych become president, just as they did five years ago. The Kremlin considers him to be more predictable because he is tied to the pro-Russia sentiment of his supporters. But this is only part of the picture. It is correct that Yanukovych’s main electoral base is the industrially developed eastern and southeastern regions of Ukraine, where 17 million of the country’s 37 million voters live and where Ukraine’s main economic potential and its pro-Russia contingent is concentrated.
At the same time, however, it would be naive to believe that those regions are willing to embrace Moscow’s suffocating bear hug. All of the business interests of the financial and industrial magnates in Ukraine’s eastern region are in the West. Rinat Akhmetov, the country’s wealthiest man with a personal worth of $1.8 billion, is Yanukovych’s main sponsor. Akhmetov and most of the other oligarchs built their fortunes in the metals and mining industries, sectors that have few prospects on the Russian market, which has more than its share of metals and other natural resources that compete with Ukraine for export markets.
Although the eastern half of Ukraine is the bastion of pro-Russia sentiment, polls show that they have no desire to reunite with their northern neighbor. In other words, even a victory by pro-Russian Yanukovych is unlikely to bring about a substantial change in Russian-Ukrainian relations. To be sure, Ukraine under Yanukovych would not try to kick Russia’s Black Sea Fleet out of Sevastopol or speed up the country’s accession to NATO. But it is important to remember that as prime minister to former Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma Yanukovych signed the agreement for Ukraine to join the NATO Membership Action Plan and his party supported the decision in the parliament. At the same time, Yanukovych is unlikely to make any major concessions to Moscow regarding one of the most sensitive issues affecting relations: the transit of Russian gas to Europe through Ukrainian territory. On Friday, during an interview on my television program "Bolshaya Politika," Yanukovych said Ukraine is paying too much for Russian gas and should renegotiate the terms of its contracts with Moscow. He also said the Kremlin should pay "market prices" for the rights to base its Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol.
But in the long run, Kiev’s relations with Moscow will be determined by how Europe and the United States structure their relationships with Yanukovych. Yanukovych is hungry for international recognition, and if the leaders of the United States, European Union and NATO are smart and do not distance themselves from Yanukovych as they once did from Kuchma, then Yanukovych might turn out to be a pliable partner for the West. This is particularly true considering the acknowledgement among his supporters that Ukraine won’t be able to modernize without large-scale assistance and investment from the West.
The fly in Ukraine’s ointment, however, is that the West has too many problems on its plate to deal with Ukraine. And if the West’s priorities don’t change in the next five years, the future Ukrainian president may have no other choice than to turn to Moscow.
Wall Street Journal Europe
January 18, 2010
Ukraine Is Headed for National Bankruptcy
Russia would be the natural partner to step in and help, but at considerable cost to Kiev’s independence.
Mr. Granville is managing director of Trusted Sources, an emerging-markets research company.
Ukraine’s presidential election yesterday�which appears headed to a second round run-off on Feb. 7 between the two leading candidates, Viktor Yanukovych and Yulia Tymoshenko�unfolds against the background of financial ruin.
It has long been obvious that the defeat of the incumbent, Viktor Yushchenko, who has painted himself into the anti-Russian nationalist corner, would produce a political rapprochement between Ukraine and Russia. Mr. Yanukovych is committed to non-alignment (meaning no application for NATO membership) while Ms. Tymoshenko promises to submit to popular referendum any decision to join a military alliance (in practice ruling out NATO membership, which, as revealed by a long series of opinion polls, is opposed by a solid majority of Ukrainians). What seems much less widely appreciated is the prospect of this geopolitical shift being magnified by Ukraine’s imminent national bankruptcy�casting Russia in the role of "Abu Dhabi" to Ukraine’s "Dubai" in the sense of easing the financial distress of a closely related neighbor.
In October 2009, the IMF suspended the latest planned disbursement of $3.8 billion (€2.6 billion) from its $17 billion rescue loan to Ukraine, citing the need to wait for the presidential election campaign to run its course before the Ukrainian authorities would be in a position to pursue responsible economic policies. In the meantime, the IMF has quietly helped keep Ukraine’s funding crisis at bay by a series of expedients, culminating in approval for a drawdown of $2 billion of the Ukrainian central bank’s foreign-exchange reserves to meet this month’s $900 million payment for imported Russian gas.
From now on, however, the cupboard is bare. Total austerity will be the only way to preserve Ukraine’s reserves and prevent another run on the currency�which would be ruinous, given the mountain of public and private debt denominated in foreign currency (exceeding 100% of GDP at the start of the crisis). The newly elected president, and whatever government emerges from the presidential election, will have to abandon their election promises by slashing public spending (the budget deficit reached around 12% of GDP in 2009, largely financed by printing money) and passing on higher energy costs to domestic consumers. Failure to cut spending will lead to widespread defaults. Already, the state-owned energy and railway companies (Naftohaz and UkrZaliznytsya) have been unable to meet their contractual obligations on foreign loans and entered into restructuring negotiations with their creditors.
This would be a daunting task even for a leader elected on a tide of national unity and with a popular mandate to face up to the crisis. But no such political capital can be generated by Ukraine’s presidential election. The reason for this goes deeper than the country’s well-known East-West divisions. A no less fundamental problem is the lack of functional institutions. As things stand, control over the executive is divided between the president and the legislature. This is the real cause of Ukraine’s chronic political chaos�not the personal rivalries of the leading politicians and the business groups that finance them.
The only solution is radical constitutional reform to cement the supremacy of the parliament as the sole institution in which the country’s deep internal divisions can be accommodated and managed. Amending the constitution requires two-thirds parliamentary majorities, which could only result from a coalition of the main political forces based in the center and east of the country (and now led, respectively, by Ms. Tymoshenko and Mr. Yanukovych). But after slugging out the battle for the presidency, those two leaders will transfer their struggle to the parliament�quite likely precipitating an early parliamentary election. This is not exactly the ideal environment for getting the IMF program back on track and staving off financial collapse.
Yet this analysis still does not capture the full extent of Ukraine’s plight. Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that the country miraculously escapes its political trap with the emergence in the next few weeks of a strong leader in control of both the presidency and the parliament, and hence able to take decisive policy action. Even then, with IMF loan disbursements renewed and with some recovery in battered investor confidence, Ukraine would face massive external financing gaps. A recovery in the price of Ukraine’s exports (mainly ferrous metals and bulk chemicals) would be offset by the closely correlated moves in the prices of its (energy) imports�and any temporary decoupling of those prices is unlikely to be in Ukraine’s favor, given the surge in Chinese steel production.
Above all, Ukraine has $37 billion in external debt falling due in 2010. Even assuming, in this miracle scenario, that half of that could be refinanced (despite the bitter taste left by recent defaults), the financing gap would remain above $10 billion in 2010�rising to $15-$24 billion in 2012-13 as the IMF disbursements first cease and then themselves start falling due for repayment.
The only plausible way to plug these gaps is to tap the huge savings of the Russian government. Will Ukraine ask for such assistance from Russia and, if it did, how would Russia respond?
Fears for Ukraine’s sovereignty mean that a Russian bailout will always be regarded by Ukraine’s mainstream political class as a last resort. But a national insolvency would be seen as an even greater threat to sovereignty than being bailed out by Russia and, most important of all, would jeopardize the power and wealth of Ukraine’s entire political and business establishment.
Mindful of its humiliation in Ukraine’s 2004 Orange Revolution, the Russian leadership will respond cautiously. Nevertheless, Russia will now be sucked into the Ukrainian crisis�motivated by potential geopolitical gains and asset-acquisition opportunities on the one hand, and, on the other hand, a natural interest in doing what it can to prevent a financial and economic debacle in Ukraine, for the sake of regional stability and given the importance of bilateral trade and still strong economic links between the two countries.
Is this prospect a good thing or a bad thing? There will be strong views on either side, with much crowing and hand-wringing. One way or another, Russia bailing out Ukraine should be seen as a natural development�as natural as, for example, the response of the U.S. to the Mexican peso crisis in 1994.
Washington Times
January 15, 2010
BOOKS: Spies eluding the KGB, Nazis
By Joseph C. Goulden
Joseph C. Goulden is finishing a book on Cold War intelligence. His e-mail is
By David C. Engerman
Oxford University Press, $34.95, 459 pages
By Patrick K. O’Donnell
Da Capo Press, $26, 459 pages
During a background briefing for journalists in 1967, Richard Helms, the director of central intelligence, termed the Soviet intelligence system "excellent."
"They know how to recruit agents, ferret out, buy or steal information. They are very good at this," he said. But their analytical system was "no good." So far as the CIA could determine, nowhere in Moscow was "there a bunch of guys with no axe to grind sitting down in a back room," deciding what the raw intelligence meant.
Helms’ implication was that the CIA was light years ahead of the KGB in terms of putting intelligence to practical use. That this was true was due in large part to the postwar melding of a cadre of scholars, spies, soldiers and philanthropists into a massive undertaking known as "Soviet studies."
Participants learned not only the Soviet language, but also immersed themselves in the society, culture, history and literature of the adversary. Such an effort was sorely needed: In 1948, a very frosty period of the Cold War, the new CIA employed only 38 Soviet analysts, only 12 of whom spoke any Russian; their college majors ranged from engineering to library science.
"Know Your Enemy" is the story of what David Engerman, a Brandeis University professor, calls a "U. S. intellectual mobilization against Soviet communism." With heavy government funding, much of it quietly through the CIA, universities launched a myriad of programs designed to let policymakers understand what shaped USSR conduct – Harvard’s Russian Research Center (RRC), for instance, Michigan’s Survey Research Center and Columbia’s Russian Center.
Much of the work was done under the rubric of "social science research," and indeed some projects produced workable sociology. But few participants had any illusions that the CIA’s interest was to foster research into Tolstoy’s works. Indeed, when academic researchers were dispatched to interview Soviets held in displaced-person camps in Germany, their questionnaires were drafted in large part by the CIA and military intelligence.
Mr. Engerman does not venture an estimate as to how many persons participated in Soviet studies programs, as teachers or students, but recognizable names are sprinkled through his book, from Zbigniew Brzezinski, national security adviser to President Carter, to Condoleezza Rice and Richard Pipes.
He quotes Indiana historian Robert Byres as remarking in 1964, at the high tide of funding, "never since the Renaissance has research been so lavishly financed as it has in the United States since the Second World War." And given that much of the work product was published, nongovernment students of the USSR also benefited greatly.
The Soviet studies experience demonstrated that intelligence and academia can work hand in glove, to the benefit of both camps.
� � �
Of the countless books I’ve read about bravery in espionage and war, few moved me as much did Patrick K. O’Donnell’s "They Dared Return." Not even a B-grade Hollywood writer could contrive such a story: Five Jewish refugees from Hitler’s Germany join the Office of Strategic Services and voluntarily return to the beastly land from which they had been expelled.
Their mission is to scout the heavily fortified area of Austria’s "Alpine Redoubt," where Hitler reputedly intended to make his last stand as the war wound down. The mission – Operation Greentop – was led by a streetwise sergeant named Fred Mayer, born in Freiburg in 1921, whose father had won an Iron Cross for bravery. The father clung to the notion that his service would exempt the family from the persecution being waged against other Jews. The mother demurred, "We are Jews, and we are leaving."
Mr. Mayer volunteered for the army the day after Pearl Harbor, at age 20, and then for the OSS, his background slotting him for assignment to the German Operational Group, tasked to "penetrate enemy lines and strike at the heart of Nazi Germany." No one had to be told of the consequences of capture: Hitler had ordered that any commandos or spies captured, whether in uniform or not, were to be summarily executed.
Mr. O’Donnell painstakingly details the OSS tradecraft that prepared the men for their mission. To test whether Mr. Mayer could pass as a German officer, they fitted him with a uniform and put him into a POW camp. For three tense days, he passed muster – and importantly, he discovered that one of the prisoners, Lt. Franz Weber, detested the Hitler regime. Weber accepted an OSS offer to join the infiltration team.
Then the adventure began in earnest. The five parachuted into the snow-covered Austrian mountains, Mr. Mayer posing as an Alpine Corps lieutenant, the others as Dutch collaborators. Mr. Mayer found himself drinking at an officers-only table in a tavern, in a group that included an engineer who had returned from Berlin, where he directed improvements in Hitler’s bunker.
"In his drunken tirade, the Austrian engineer incredulously spouted out technical details regarding the thickness of the bunker’s wall, its depth, and its exact location in the heart of Berlin." This tidbit, and much other intelligence, was radioed to OSS handlers.
Mr. O’Donnell tells much of the story through the words of Mr. Mayer and surviving members of the group. As an added treat, he reproduces the team’s original mission reports and prisoner of war debriefings, all housed in National Archives II in College Park, Md. (Mr. O’Donnell has proved himself a wizard at finding untold stories in the archives. Another earlier book, "The Brenner Assignment," told of OSS missions into Yugoslavia.)
Mr. Mayer, remarkably, is still spry at age 89; he chops wood daily and helps in a Meals on Wheels program in his community on the Virginia-West Virginia border. He is an incredibly brave man, and a first-rate read.
Rogov Analyzes START Negotiations, Says Opportunity Must Not Be Missed
Nezavisimoye Voyennoye Obozreniye
January 15, 2010
Article by Sergey Mikhaylovich Rogov, director of Russian Academy of Sciences USA and Canada Institute, corresponding member of Russian Academy of Sciences, under rubric "Concepts": "Washington-Moscow: False Start or Preparation for a Breakthrough? The Kremlin Has a Real Opportunity To Preserve Military-Strategic Stability in Relations with the United States"
The year 2009 did not justify hopes placed on it for a radical improvement of Russian-American relations. True, there was an appreciable decrease in tension, hostile rhetoric disappeared, and serious strategic arms talks began. But one cannot say for now that Washington and Moscow were able to overcome mutual mistrust and lay a reliable foundation for a long-term partnership.
Russian-American summit meetings at which RF and US presidents declare good intentions have become regular again, but these declarations hang in a bureaucratic vacuum. Very little happens in practice and real actions either are absent or move very slowly without producing concrete results.
All this is beginning to look like a repetition of what has gone before. Indeed, the leaders of Russia and the United States have proclaimed strategic partnership more than once since the end of the Cold War, but good personal relations between the two presidents do not automatically create an effective collaborative mechanism for the two countries. Moreover, inflated expectations appeared each time that invariably led to mutual disappointment and alienation.
The reason lies in the colossal asymmetry of forces between the United States and Russian Federation.
Washington was not ready for equal partnership with Moscow, figuring that Russian foreign and domestic policy would develop according to American formulas, but that version of partnership proved unacceptable to Russia. Moscow, however, had neither the political, nor the economic, nor the military capabilities to force the United States to reckon with its interests.
Nevertheless, it is premature to predict another collapse of Russian-American detente.
The fact is that Barack Obama (in contrast to Bill Clinton and George Bush Jr) is forced to act amidst a rapidly forming multipolar world. Judging from everything, the current US president has no illusions about America’s omnipotence. Washington cannot rely on unilateral actions in the new international situation. The United States has not coped with the role of "sole superpower." US forces have been overtaxed. American policy has to become more flexible and refined in the polycentric system of international relations. The Obama administration will set forth the new approach in its "National Security Strategy" to be published in early February.
It can be assumed that the essence of Obama’s strategy is the preservation of American leadership by maintaining a balance of forces in the world favorable to the United States and preventing the appearance of a rival or of a coalition of powers equal in strength which could counterbalance American power.
In reality, not one state can equal the United States for now in aggregate strength, although China may approach this in the foreseeable future. Nuclear weapons, which have an inherent deterrent function, acquire special importance under these conditions. They disrupt the classic hierarchy of strength, since should a weaker state possess nuclear weapons, it is capable of making it difficult for a more powerful enemy to apply military force against it.
Not allowing potential US enemies to gain access to nuclear weapons became one of the chief priorities of American policy following the end of the Cold War. This is what served in recent years as the reason for the preventive strike against Iraq as well as for the threat of using military force against North Korea and Iran. Dynamic actions to prevent access to nuclear weapons have been given the name "counterproliferation."
The Bush Jr administration, however, was unable to cope with this task. The United States became bogged down in endless wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which limited the possibility of a force solution to the Iranian and North Korean nuclear problems.
Having inherited these problems from the preceding administration, the new US leadership announced the intention to lay stress on diplomatic means of strengthening the nonproliferation regime. Moreover, Obama declared the objective of American policy to be the total destruction of nuclear weapons, albeit in the distant future.
Without a doubt, that slogan requires a radical revision of US nuclear policy. Over the 65 years since Hiroshima Washington viewed nuclear weapons as the foundation of its military might. The new approach is based not on nuclear domination, but on overwhelming US superiority in conventional precision weapons. The capability of delivering a "global strike" using nonnuclear weapons makes the use of nuclear weapons superfluous.
Similar ideas appeared back before Obama came to power. It is indicative that the Bush Jr administration proclaimed conventional precision weapons to be one component of the "new" strategic triad. Evidently this concept will see further development in the "Four-Year Defense Review" in which the Obama administration is to set forth its military doctrine.
One other key doctrinal document, the "Nuclear Posture Review," is inseparably linked with this document, which will be published at the end of January. It was expected that in this document the Obama administration will set forth its vision of the transition to a nonnuclear world, or at least a radical revision of the approach to nuclear deterrence.
Thus, Russian-American negotiations on a new Treaty on the Reduction of Strategic Offensive Arms began in the spring of last year before the United States had formulated a new military doctrine. The reason for such an early start was the conclusion of the term of validity of START I and of the inspection and verification procedures connected with it on 5 December 2009.
In contrast to the Bush administration, the new US leadership does not consider arms control "outdated." Moreover, Obama and his team realize that without a new American-Russian Treaty, the Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference coming up in May 2010 can have unpredictable consequences. Indeed, a demonstration of the nuclear superpowers’ unwillingness to fulfill their commitments on disarmament under Article 6 can undermine the nonproliferation regime, which even so is not too effective.
Under these conditions Washington did not begin to advance any kind of radical proposals for nuclear arms reduction, but tried to achieve a rapid understanding with Moscow on an agreement that would connect elements of the SORT and START I treaties, between which there are fundamental differences. While SORT contained only one provision (1,700-2,200 "deployed" warheads), START I included a very detailed description of rules for counting, reduction deadlines and procedures, and rules for inspection and verification, including on-site inspections and an exchange of telemetry.
Here the Obama administration demonstrated readiness for certain concessions. This concerned in particular the establishment of ceilings not only on warheads, but also on strategic weapon delivery vehicles, as well as an acknowledgment of the interconnection between offensive and defensive arms. In addition, outside the framework of the talks the Pentagon announced a freeze on establishing a strategic PRO (BMD). The United States thereby departed from the rigid position held by the Bush administration on these issues.
In return, Washington was striving for Moscow’s consent to rules favorable to the United States for "offloading" strategic delivery vehicles, which allows the Americans to retain an enormous upload potential, and to the retention of inspection and verification procedures envisaged by START I.
There was a substantial difference in the parties’ positions on requirements at the Geneva talks, however, and the negotiating process came to a halt as a result.
The Russian side was striving for a radical reduction in the number of delivery vehicles. The 1,100 delivery vehicles proposed by the American side means keeping the current structure of US strategic forces unchanged and the possibility of an "additional loading" of more than 3,000 warehoused nuclear warheads. Moscow proposed to establish the "ceiling" at 500 delivery vehicles. A compromise may be reached at the level of 700-800 should that level be accepted by the Pentagon in the new "Nuclear Posture Review."
The gap in negotiators’ positions is small in terms of the warheads themselves. An understanding is possible here about a "bracket" of 1,500-1,600 on the condition that the American side agrees to count conventional warheads intended for "global strike" (around 100) as strategic.
The Russian side in turn probably will have to agree to exclude from the count the four Trident II strategic submarines backfitted for launching cruise missiles.
The greatest divergences in the positions of Moscow and Washington, however, are on issues of verification and inspection. Both sides agree in words that the procedures envisaged by START I are too burdensome, but the Russian side wants a radical revision of these procedures, while the Americans do not agree.
The problem is that the situation with the ground component of the sides’ strategic forces has changed substantially from when START I was signed in 1991. The United States not only rejected mobile basing of MX ICBM’s, but also entirely stopped their production and removed these systems from the inventory (although certain components were warehoused). Therefore the inspection measures concerning mobile ICBM’s have been asymmetric and unilateral in recent years. Indeed, the United States lacks such missiles, so restrictions on their basing concern only Russia. The vulnerability of mobile Topol’s is very high before dispersal.
In connection with the end of the life cycle of missiles built in Soviet times, Russia is modernizing its strategic forces, including new types of ICBM’s and SLBM’s. The United States plans to begin modernizing its strategic missiles before 2018-2020.
Therefore the intrusive inspection measures envisaged by START I provide our side with no valuable information. But retention of inspections around the perimeter of the plant at Votkinsk allowed the Americans to track the production not only of Topol-M ICBM’s, but also of Iskander short-range missiles and in the future new Russian MIRV’ed ICBM’s and Bulava SLBM’s. Inasmuch as the American plant for producing ICBM’s was closed 14 years ago, the Russian side demanded an unconditional end to the inspection at Votkinsk.
A similar situation also took shape with the exchange of telemetry. The United States is extremely interested in receiving information on tests of new Russian strategic missiles, but telemetry gives us nothing, inasmuch as the Americans are not testing new types of ICBM’s and SLBM’s for now.
American intelligence and the Pentagon support arms control inasmuch as it makes the development of Russia’s strategic nuclear forces transparent, but the situation is different for us. Judging from everything, though, Washington was convinced that Moscow would agree with the American demands. This is indicated, for example, by the scandalous interview given by Vice President Joseph Biden in the summer of last year. He declared that Russia is too weak to reject US proposals and inevitably would make concessions.
But this did not happen. The Geneva talks soon entered an impasse. It appeared a compromise was possible, but neither party took the initiative, waiting for the other side to make concessions first. As a result, a new treaty was not signed before 5 December and provisional "bridge" understandings were not reached.
A vacuum thus appeared in strategic arms control for the first time in almost four decades. True, the SORT is formally in effect, but the parties are not obligated to do anything before 31 December 2012 (there is neither an agreed-upon understanding of what "deployed" warheads are nor a mechanism for verifying reductions), and after that each party can do what seems necessary.
The Geneva talks will be renewed in the latter half of January, but there is no evidence for now that serious progress is possible in the positions of Moscow and Washington. Photo: RF military security rests on strategic missiles; photo from book Oruzhiye Rossii (Weapons of Russia)
Meanwhile, sharp debates on the question of nuclear weapons are unfolding in the American political arena.
On the one hand, the idea of general and complete nuclear disarmament, which George Schultz, Henry Kissinger, Sam Nunn, and William Perry advanced three years ago, received a wide response not only in pacifist circles, but also among many representatives of the American political elite. But apart from general words about the need to prevent a nuclear catastrophe, no detailed proposals on plans to eliminate nuclear weapons followed. There is no mass movement in the United States to reject them.
On the other hand, apologists for nuclear weapons clearly have been attempting to retake the initiative in recent months. They are placing main emphasis on the need to maintain, not weaken, a reliable nuclear deterrence potential amidst growing international instability.
Thus, an article appeared recently in the journal Foreign Policy, the author of which tries to prove that nuclear deterrence continues to be the foundation of strategic stability and that the likelihood of nuclear war or nuclear terrorism is extremely small.
An article was published in another influential journal, Foreign Affairs, which asserts that the United States should not reduce nuclear arms, but make their use more effective so as to have the capability of destroying any targets, including superhardened ones, with maximum reliability.
In addition, a number of experts express fears that deep reductions may prompt China to build up its own nuclear potential. But the United States is not interested in recognizing "mutual nuclear deterrence" with the PRC.
On the whole, the enemies of a revision of nuclear strategy do not object to reliance on conventional precision-guided munitions, but they consider absolute superiority both in conventional as well as nuclear weapons possible.
A specific alignment of forces also is taking shape in the American Congress. Although the Democratic Party controls both houses of the US supreme legislative body and leaders of the Democrats in the Senate and House are supporters of arms control, the White House is encountering serious problems on Capitol Hill.
First of all, amidst a very acute economic crisis that has gripped the United States, some American parliamentarians have begun considering questions of strategic arms reduction as threatening the loss of jobs from closure of military bases and the loss of defense orders. A bipartisan group is working especially actively in support of ICBM’s. It called on Obama not to reduce the current number of missiles (450) within the new START framework. Similar groups also act in defense of strategic submarines and heavy bombers.
Secondly, the Republican Party has taken an extremely negative position with respect to the Obama administration’s policy on any issue. This also goes for arms control issues. The Republicans sharply condemned the White House for the decision to reduce expenditures for strategic missile defense and to reject the deployment of a third BMD position area in Eastern Europe, but they did not succeed in getting expenditures for these programs included in the budget. The Republicans have a sufficient number of votes, however, to prevent Senate ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty and of a future START with Russia. The Republicans have 40 seats in the Senate out of 100, and 67 votes are required for ratification.
Extreme right-wing Republican Senator Jon Kyl (Arizona) headed opposition to the new START. In the summer of 2009 he succeeded in getting the heads of committees on defense and international affairs to send a letter to Obama with a demand to present a detailed plan for modernizing US nuclear forces. In September the Republican Senate Committee published a report in which it advanced a number of conditions for concluding a new START, including a limitation on tactical nuclear weapons, development of a new nuclear warhead, and unlimited BMD deployment. Similar demands were set forth in December in a letter to Obama signed by all 40 Republican senators and by Senator Joseph Lieberman (Connecticut), former Democrat and now Independent.
Of course, this does not mean that ratification of a new treaty is doomed to fail; some influential Republican senators such as Richard Lugar (Illinois) and John McCain (Arizona) may support it. But evidently the price the White House will have to pay will include modernization of the US nuclear weapons complex and creation of new nuclear weapon systems.
There are serious fears that the reliability of nuclear warheads will come under doubt in a few decades. Real problems also arise at Department of Energy nuclear enterprises. It is not only a matter of lost technologies, but also the departure of the last generation of specialists who developed and tested nuclear bombs.
Serious differences in questions of nuclear policy also have appeared between the White House and Pentagon. Robert Gates, whom Obama left in the post of secretary of defense, demonstrated his loyalty in such matters as Iraq and Afghanistan and freezing of the strategic BMD, but Gates adheres to traditional views on the role of nuclear weapons. This was reflected in drafting the "Nuclear Posture Review." The version proposed by the Pentagon did not envisage a radical turn in the approach to nuclear deterrence and was rejected by the White House. The Defense Department, however, continued to persevere. As a result it was announced that the document will be ready with a delay — no earlier than March of the following year.
All this places Obama, who received the Nobel Prize for his rhetoric of peace, in an extremely difficult position. The president’s prestige will be dealt a serious blow if the new US nuclear doctrine does not provide for deep reductions of nuclear arms (such as 1,000 warheads) and at least vague discourse on disarmament. Naturally, prospects for a new START also will turn out to be even more doubtful. The Obama administration will not succeed in ensuring American leadership in strengthening the nonproliferation regime.
Obama obviously has to use all his political capital to break out of the trap in which he finds himself. This will not be simple to do when his popularity among electors has fallen. If the Obama administration makes concessions in Geneva, the Republicans will accuse the president of weakness and incompetence. Midterm elections to Congress to be held in November of this year promise serious losses for the Democratic Party.
During the Cold War and in its final stage, an arms control regime formed that was considered the cornerstone of strategic stability. This regime was based on five treaties: ABM, START (SALT), INF, CFE, and NPT. Today three of them — ABM, START, and CFE — are not in force, the Treaty on Non-Proliferation is in doubt, and prospects for INF are vague.
The end of the world would appear to be imminent, but seemingly no one notices this except for a few specialists. Other problems dominate such as the world economic crisis and global climate change (either warming or cooling). But there are not many successes even in the approach to these issues — decisions of the G-20 remain good intentions, and the Copenhagen Summit ended in failure.
Does this mean that the era of arms control treaties is fading into the past? Indeed, there was no arms control of any kind before the Cold War and before the two superpowers’ understandings. But even armed confrontations between centers of strength (the "great powers") were considered the norm. The balance of forces in the multipolar world always was unstable, and this constantly led to conflicts.
Polycentric chaos is appearing again in the multipolar world. For now it is without military clashes among key players, but even prior to World War I it was believed that economic interdependence precluded a military clash among the great powers. Will this history be repeated in the 21st century? When almost all centers of strength possess nuclear weapons?
Today a new arms race of a multilateral nature is unfolding in the world. Such a scenario presents a special danger for Russia. In fact, our present economic and scientific-technical capabilities give no chance to win such a race. Therefore Moscow devotes priority importance to preserving a nuclear deterrence potential, although even here our industry’s degradation is creating serious problems, an example of which has been the protracted history of the Bulava missile.
Nowadays in Russia it is difficult to find proponents of nuclear disarmament. Reliance on nuclear deterrence seems logical under conditions where we lag in creating the newest conventional arms. This also will be reflected in Moscow’s new military doctrine. But Russia is not at all interested in the proliferation of nuclear weapons, although it did not and does not consider Iraq, Iran, or North Korea to be potential enemies.
In my view, a new bilateral START between Russia and the United States is an absolutely necessary first step for creating a new multilateral security system conforming to realities of the modern multipolar world. Only in case of the conclusion of a new Russian-American treaty is the inclusion of other nuclear powers in this process and creation of a new global regime of strategic stability possible.
Can Russia and the United States overcome the differences that arose at the Geneva talks? I believe a compromise is possible if a mutually acceptable solution is found to the problem of verification. But it cannot be found within the framework of a new START because of the asymmetry in life cycles of the two countries’ strategic offensive arms. The United States has nothing to offer Russia in exchange in order to level the unilateral nature of the old verification regime.
But Moscow cannot help but be interested in detailed information on the American missile defense. Washington asserts that its BMD programs do not threaten Russia. That said, however, the Pentagon plans to create such a modification of the Aegis system (SM-3 Block 2B missile) by 2018 that will be capable of intercepting ICBM’s in the midcourse phase. This quite probably will not happen, but after the US withdrawal from the ABM Treaty in 2002, Russia has grounds to suspect the American side of an intention to break the system of mutual nuclear deterrence and achieve absolute military superiority.
The United States could demonstrate in practice a linkage between strategic offensive and defensive weapons by offering to create a regime of transparency in the BMD sphere similar to what the Americans want to have for offensive weapons.
I believe that such a regime of transparency, including an exchange of telemetry, could become a component part of a Russian-American understanding on cooperation in the BMD sphere. Naturally, Moscow never would help create a missile defense that would undermine the Russian nuclear potential, but cooperation to protect against the intermediate-range missiles Russia and the United States destroyed under the INF Treaty is fully possible, because in fact all countries with intermediate-range missiles are close to Russian borders. Washington, however, must provide convincing proof that it is not a question of creating a strategic BMD.
Technical parameters for delimiting the strategic and nonstrategic BMD were determined back in 1997 in a protocol signed by Primakov and Albright, but this protocol did not enter into force because of the failure of START II. Today this document could be taken as the basis for a new agreement.
Of course, final agreement on details of an understanding on cooperation in the BMD sphere will take time, but Russia and the United States could prepare a "Memorandum of Understanding" rather quickly that would contain principles of cooperation on BMD. Such a memorandum could be signed together with a new START. This is realistic to do before the NPT Conference.
The Geneva talks can drag on for a long time and end without result if such a "window of opportunity" is not used. Meanwhile, problems again will begin to build up in Russian-American relations like a limitation on the export of drumsticks or acknowledgment of results of elections in Ukraine. There is a very great range of possibilities for disrupting the "reset" of Russian-American relations.
Total collapse of the bilateral arms control regime in force until now is not in the interests of Russia’s security. This concerns not just possible attempts by Washington to take advantage of the absence of legally binding limitations in order to achieve military superiority and strengthen pressure on Moscow. If strategic parity between the United States and Russia no longer is secured by an official treaty, our prestige in the world arena will be substantially weakened.
A new START will not be ideal, but even previous arms control agreements were not ideal. We have to soberly assess the advantages and disadvantages a new agreement provides. In fact, it permits us to realize all planned programs for modernizing strategic arms and to preserve tactical nuclear weapons. Today Russia has a real opportunity to ensure preservation of military-strategic stability in relations with the United States on the basis of mutual nuclear deterrence until the end of the present decade. And this opportunity must not be missed.



January 16, 2010

15 January 2010
A World Security Institute Project
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  1. ROAR: "Changes and political inertia"
determine Russia-US reset. (press review)
  2. US Embassy-Moscow: Interview by Under Secretary William Burns
  3. RIA Novosti: ‘Bush legs’ in Russia: from savior to outcast.
  4. The Moscow Times: Michele Berdy, The Whirling Tandem.
  5. Patrick Armstrong: TEN YEARS.
  6. Argumenty Nedeli: Reasons for Increased Political Activity of
Yeltsin’s Daughter Weighed.
  7. Interfax: Authorities To Update Number Of Soviet Casualties
During WW2.
  8. BBC Monitoring: Government throws out One Russia’s bill to
outlaw denial of Soviet WWII role.
  9. The Moscow Times: Putin Aims to Halve Drinking in 10 Years.
  10. Novaya Gazeta: THEY COME AND GO. Analysis of the
federal center’s staff policy.
  11. Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Opposition to be guaranteed airtime
on regional TV. President advised to consider characteristics of
local media markets.
  12. Paul Goble: Window on Eurasia: Russian Officials Continue
to Pressure Statistics Agency for Results They Want, Surinov Says.
  13. Novaya Gazeta: Russian President’s Judicial Initiatives
Unlikely To Reform System.
  14. Electoral Commission Chairman
Proposes Scrapping System.
  15. Reuters: Russia backing for delayed Court reform welcomed.
  16. RIA Novosti: Moscow denies human rights activists permit
to hold rally.
  17. Bloomberg: Russian "Shadow" Economy Accounts for 20% of GDP.
  18. Financial Standard (Australia): Room for Russia in BRIC.
  19. Bloomberg: Europe Oil Supply Insulated From Russia,
Belarus Spat, IEA Says.
  20. RIA Novosti: Dmitry Babich, Medvedev should go to Auschwitz
for several reasons.
  21. Alexander Rahr: Reset the OSCE.
  22. Reuters: TIMELINE-Ukrainian politics since the 2004 Orange
  23. AP: Ukraine candidates relying on US advisers.
  24. Bloomberg: Russia Faces "Win-Win" in Ukraine as Yushchenko
  25. Moscow Times: Moscow Prepares for Better Kiev Ties.
  26. Interfax: 1930s Famine in USSR Was Crime, But Not
Genocide of Ukrainians – Memorial Director.
  28. The Economist: Ukraine’s presidential election. Oranges and lemons.
A run-off is likely between Viktor Yanukovich and Yulia Tymoshenko.
  29. Jamestown Foundation Eurasia Daily Monitor: Taras Kuzio,
The Russian Factor in Ukraine’s 2010 Presidential Elections.
  30. BBC Monitoring: New Ukrainian president to adopt anti-Kremlin
position – Russian pundit. (Matvey Ganapolskiy)
  31. Voice of America: Analysts: NATO Membership for Ukraine
Unlikely Anytime Soon.
  32. The Moscow Times: Alexander J. Motyl, The Anti-Orange Election.
  33. Center for American Progress: Samuel Charap, Ukraine�s
Elections Demand Engagement.
  34. Edward Lozansky: Ukraine: Five Years On.
  35. Kennan Institute: Updated Conference Announcement:
The Legacy and Consequences of Jackson-Vanik.
  36  CSIS Report: Violence in the North Caucasus: 2009:
  37. Effective Policy Foundation Head Pavlovskiy on
Stalin, Gaydar — Putin, Medvedev.]
January 15, 2010

ROAR: "Changes and political inertia" determine Russia-US reset
US Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs William Burns has stressed in Moscow that the agreements in the framework of resetting relations between the two countries still work.

Burns visited Moscow to discuss a new treaty on strategic offensive arms reduction
and other main issues, including Iran and Afghanistan. The media quote him as saying that the talks on the new treaty "can be concluded soon."

The START 1 treaty expired on December 5, and many hoped that a new agreement could have been signed by the end of December last year. However, the two countries must still agree upon some important issues. In Moscow, Burns met with Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov. The Russian diplomat also said that "technical things… can be solved in a very short period of time."

Igor Lyakin-Frolov, deputy director of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s information and press department, told Nezavisimaya Gazeta daily prior to Burns’s visit that the talks on the treaty "have not been interrupted." The diplomats "are maintaining contacts and exchanging opinions," he said.

However, there are disagreements as to whether the link between offensive and defensive arms – or strategic arms and missile defense – should be reflected in the new treaty, the paper said.

On the eve of the New Year Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said that Russia would develop non-nuclear offensive combat systems in order to keep a balance with the US plans for a missile shield.

The Prime Minister also said that Russia is ready to transfer telemetric information to the US on missile launches, but it expects Washington to share information about its plans in the missile defense sphere.

Retired Maj. Gen. Vladimir Belous believes that the link between offensive and defensive strategic arms has now become of great importance, despite the fact that it has a long history dating back to President Ronald Reagan’s plan of "Star Wars.’"

The talks on arms reduction will be successful if the parties are able to reach a compromise, taking into consideration Russia’s concerns about the US missile defense system, Belous told Nezavisimaya Gazeta daily.

The analyst is rather skeptical about the perspective of a quick agreement. He doubts that all main issues have already been solved at the negotiations on arms reduction and that only "details" had to be agreed upon. "Sometimes the main problem is just in the details," he told the paper.

As the negotiations of the new treaty are expected to resume at the end of January or early in February, the attention of politicians and the public is again focused on the whole specter of Russia-US relations, said. Aleksey Zudin, Deputy Director of the Center for Political Conjuncture, told the website that these relations are determined now by two factors, "changes and political inertia."

Both countries have new presidents, the analyst said. But he added that despite the fact that the US now relies upon "tough power" and speaks about resetting relations with Russia, the new administration is continuing in many ways policies of the previous president.

This is partly explained by US’s "permanent geopolitical interests," he noted. "It is good that relations have improved," Zudin said, but added that he would not hope too much in their quick progress.

Some analysts even went so far as to speak about "the malfunction" of the reset.

However, the most important thing is that "we turned from hostility to suspicious indifference," Boris Mezhuev, editor of Russian Journal online magazine, said.

"Americans has been interested in many things, and they have received a lot," Mezhuev told "Cooperation on Afghanistan will probably continue in the future," he said. Despite the fact that the talks on the strategic arms treaty have not led to any significant success, they will also be concluded soon, he added.

"But, frankly speaking, the practical side [of the cooperation] is limited by this," the analyst said. "I think the replacement of some level of respect verging on fear by benevolence verging on disdain is not the best positive background for cooperation," he stressed.

"It is no friendship, no serious reset, it is rather a temporary respite in our relations, which is connected to the fact the Americans have decided to rely on the time factor," Mezhuev said. "We should rely in this factor too, because we have been given a certain chance to deal with our internal affairs."

Meanwhile, Washington again showed interest in constructive dialogue with Russia when Burns discussed in Moscow the work of the bilateral presidential commission. It has two working groups covering arms control issues, international security and political coordination. Burns said that this structure and the discussions that have begun could be translated into tangible results in the near future.

Observers say that one of the issues that need coordinating is the US military transit to Afghanistan through the Russian territory. Despite the two countries agreeing on the issue in last summer, some observers say the transit still does not work and the Americans allegedly have used the possibility only once.

However, in Moscow Burns has not confirmed statements about the failure of the plans to use the transit agreement. "We’ve used it several times already and I think you’ll see us making increasing use of what is a very helpful transit agreement in the coming months," Burns told online newspaper.

The two countries have made "progress in our common efforts in Afghanistan, in trying to build stability there and in dealing with the threat posed by Al-Qaida and violent extremists," Burns said.

He also stressed that the transit agreement will be used more often in the near future, adding that "Afghanistan is an area in which the United States and Russia and our other international partners share a strategic objective."
Sergey Borisov, RT 

US Embassy-Moscow
Interview by Under Secretary William Burns with
January 14, 2010 So what is your schedule, what are your meetings, with whom are you speaking?
Under Secretary Burns: We have had a series of meetings with senior government officials, business leaders, and civil society representatives to talk about our relationship. After one year in the Obama administration, I think we’ve made real progress in laying a solid foundation in our relationship, in identifying and expanding areas of common ground, in dealing with differences that we have honestly and maturely, in building a relationship which is a genuine two-way street, which can bring benefit not only to Russia and America, but to the international community in general on a range of issues. So it was a kind of revising of the reset process?
Under Secretary Burns: It’s an opportunity to look at what we’ve accomplished in 2009 and how we can build on that in 2010 in a wide range of areas. Certainly US-Russian leadership in the nuclear field is very important for both of us and for the rest of the world. We’ve made very good progress toward a new START agreement, which I�m optimistic can be concluded soon. But we’ve also made progress in our common efforts in Afghanistan, in trying to build stability there and in dealing with the threat posed by Al-Qaida and violent extremists. We work very well together on a range of nuclear non-proliferation challenges like North Korea and Iran. We are looking for ways we can expand our economic relationship, which already is producing a number of examples in which American and Russian businesses work together to produce some of the world’s most modern aircraft, modern automobiles, modern factories, creating jobs and opportunities for both Americans and Russians. We formed, as you know, a new bilateral Presidential commission with a number of working groups. What we want to do now in 2010 is turn that from the stage in which you organize the commission and begin discussions to the stage where you produce tangible results that serve both of our interests. So it’s a full agenda, it’s an ambitious agenda, but I think it’s one that serves the interests of both countries. And returning to the START negotiations, the postponing of the process of the deal [i.e. the failure to get the treaty finished -Ed.], now is always seen in Russian public opinion with disappointment. Now what are the substantive differences between the Russian and American approaches to the negotiations and to the final accord?
Under Secretary Burns: Well as I said, I’m optimistic that we’ll be able to complete this agreement soon. The negotiations in truth have only been underway for less than a year. It’s a technically very complex treaty to accomplish. But I do think we share an interest in making real reductions in our strategic arsenals, to do that in a way that is verifiable, but which is less costly and less operationally complex than the existing START agreement. There do remain a few issues, related mainly to verification, that have to be sorted through. But I believe they will be sorted through in the coming weeks. You know, when the Presidents met in July in Moscow, they said with 100% certainty that the treaty will be done by the end of the year. So why were the presidents so optimistic in the beginning and why is the process taking so long?
Under Secretary Burns: I don’t think it should be surprising to anyone that a technically complex treaty takes some time to complete. It’s important for both of our interests not to rush that process. Over the course of the last few months since the July summit we’ve made considerable progress. We’re on the verge of completing the agreement and like I said, I’m optimistic that we’ll complete it soon. And I think that will not only serve the interests of both of our countries, but it sends a very important signal to the rest of the world as we approach further important events, like the Review Conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty this coming May. It’s important for the United States and Russia, who together control more than 90% of the world’s nuclear weapons, to show responsible leadership in how we reduce and manage our own remaining arsenals. So for all those reasons it’s very important that we continue to move ahead, not only to complete this agreement, but to build on it in our cooperation on a range of nuclear issues. Now what about the Iran issue? Can we assume that the Russian position towards the Iranian nuclear program has leaned more towards the American one? So if Russia before stated that it will not support sanctions and now under some circumstances Russia can join with Western nations in having this kind of tension towards Iran? And does Russia have any guarantees that its national economic interests, I mean the construction of the Bushehr nuclear plant and so on, will be kept intact if the sanctions will go on?
Under Secretary Burns: First, I’ll let my Russian colleagues speak with regard to Russia’s position towards Iran. What I would say is that the United States and Russia, along with our other international partners, have worked closely and effectively together on the challenge posed by Iran’s nuclear ambitions. The United States and Russia have worked very well together in supporting a very creative proposal by the International Atomic Energy Agency for the Tehran research reactor to meet an Iranian request for fuel in a way that would make use of the stockpile of low-enriched uranium that Iran has already developed. It’s unfortunate and regrettable that Iran has not found a way to say yes to that proposal. And it’s unfortunate and regrettable that Iran has not followed through on the other tentative commitments it made when we met at the beginning of October in Geneva. The United States believes that we need to keep the door open to negotiations and engagement. But as part of our common two-track approach with regard to Iran, we will also need to begin to look at ways in which we can make clear the consequences of not responding constructively to the very creative proposals that the international community has put forward. So as I said, Russia and the United States are working together quite closely and effectively on this issue and I expect that this will continue. It was often said that Russia has some influence over the Iranian issue, in terms of the special relationship between Tehran and Moscow. But during the last few months, we have seen that the relationship between Russia and Iran has become more complicated. We have postponed realization of the Bushehr station, we have seized the S-300 missiles that should be shipped to Iran but have not. Also, we have the refusal to deal with Russian uranium. So does this complicate negotiations over the Iranian nuclear program?
Under Secretary Burns: What’s important is for the international community to send a strong common signal to Iran that the issue here is not Iran’s right to pursue a peaceful nuclear program; none of us are challenging that. The issue here is whether Iran lives up to its responsibilities, like any other member of the international community, to meet international standards – to demonstrate to the rest of us the exclusively peaceful nature of its program. And as I said, I think it’s important for the United States, Russia, and our other partners to send a strong common signal that we seek a diplomatic solution to this problem but at the same time we’re quite determined to ensure that Iran lives up to its international responsibilities. Russia’s role in that is important and the United States looks forward to continuing to work closely with Russia and our other partners. The non-proliferation issue is one of the issues that are being discussed in the format of the working groups. How do you estimate the intermediary results of the working groups of the presidential commissions?
Under Secretary Burns: I think we’ve made a good start. We’ve begun a process to form sixteen different working groups under the umbrella of the presidential commission. One of the purposes of my visit, as I said before, is to review where we stand and especially how we can work together now to translate this structure and the discussions that have begun into tangible results. Certainly in the area of our cooperation in non-proliferation we already have a lot to build on. We’ve accomplished a lot, even over the course of the last year. The United States and Russia, for example, lead an international effort to fight against the possibility of nuclear terrorism. The United States and Russia are working closely together to prepare for the nuclear security summit that will take place in the United States this spring, to try and ensure the safety and security of nuclear materials around the world. This is an area in which the United States and Russia both have unique capabilities and I think unique responsibilities for leadership. But there are many other areas, in health, in energy efficiency, in business development, in promoting exchanges in culture, in sports, and in education, in which I think we can widen the agenda for cooperation and interaction, not only between our two governments but between Russian and American societies. So I think we’ve put in place a useful structure but now the challenge before us is to turn that into practical initiatives. Russian opinion [is beginning to lean towards] the recent idea that maybe the Americans indeed intend to bring together Russian and American societies in terms of cooperating among opinion leaders. But [some see] the Russian [government], as using the Presidential commission as another tool for the big diplomatic game. Do you think this view is adequate or do you think it’s something else?
Under Secretary Burns: I think the Presidential commission has the potential to build stronger ties and stronger understanding, not just between our two governments but between our two societies. I offered a number of examples where I think we can promote those kinds of exchanges. As I said, the United States is going to differ with Russia on a number of issues and we are not shy about expressing our concerns. That’s true with regard to human rights issues sometimes, with regard to the cases of murdered journalists, which we like many others, have raised over the years and will continue to. We will do that in a spirit that is not lecturing, that is not patronizing, but that’s honest and that fits the kind of mature relationship that I think we’re building. So it seems to me that the structure of the Presidential commission is something that could be useful to both of us. Returning to the July summit of our presidents, it was said that Afghan issue, the Afghan air transit of lethal cargo, it was presented as a big result. In fact we all know that the American side used this possibility to transit its lethal cargo only once. Was this done because of the pressure from Russian bureaucrats?
Under Secretary Burns: No, we’ve used it several times already and I think you’ll see us making increasing use of what is a very helpful transit agreement in the coming months as the United States follows through on the increase in the military and civilian presence that President Obama has recently announced. Afghanistan is an area in which the United States and Russia and our other international partners share a strategic objective, and that is to defeat Al-Qaida and the violent extremists connected to it and to help Afghans build a stable state. That is a big challenge, but it’s one that both of us have an interest in and I believe the transit agreement will contribute to that increasingly in the coming months. The last question: NATO. NATO retains its focus on the enlargement to the east and Ukraine and Georgia are still on the list, maybe not in the next few years but in the next decade. What can you say to the Russian public to remove this very critical issue from the agenda?
Under Secretary Burns: Well first I would say, as the NATO Secretary-General has said and as President Obama has said, that NATO views Russia as a partner, not as an adversary. I think the clearest example of that is what I mentioned before, our common interest in Afghanistan and the ways in which we are working together to stop the flow of narcotics out of that country and to promote stability in Afghanistan. It’s true that the possibility of further enlargement of NATO remains on the table. The door is open, as all of NATO’s members have made clear, to enlargement in the future. But I would simply stress, first, that there are high standards that have to be met for membership that any new prospective member would need to meet. Second, that any prospective new member has to make the choice to pursue membership. And third, that a membership decision has to be accepted by all of the members of NATO.
‘Bush legs’ in Russia: from savior to outcast
MOSCOW, January 15 (RIA Novosti) – Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s tough warning to U.S. poultry producers has cast a shadow over future imports of a product that has a special place in the history of post-Soviet Russia -U.S. chicken legs.
Imports of U.S. poultry to Russia began in the early 1990s, under a trade agreement signed by the Soviet Union’s last leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, and then-U.S. President George Bush Sr.
The first shipments of chicken legs arrived as a bitter economic crisis gripped the country, emptying the shelves of Soviet supermarkets and forcing the government to introduce elements of food rationing. The specter of famine combined with political instability ultimately led to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
Used to ill-nourished and generally unappetizing domestic poultry, Russians had never before seen such huge chicken drumsticks, and were quick to dub the new product "Bush legs." Baked, braised or boiled, "Bush legs" have since become part of the everyday diet in poorer households.
"In the long-gone Soviet poverty, I remember my mom bringing home those pink, pan-ready chicken legs. To her great surprise, it turned out that they had no feathers. For me, those legs were ambassadors from a place where people did not have to eat blue-colored and badly plucked chickens… Bush legs are a pleasant memory of my childhood, my mom was glad every time she managed to buy them," a Russian blogger, choco_house, wrote on Livejournal.
Chicken legs still remain a popular and cheap food in Russia. A Russian joke says: "Bush family members come and go, but the legs are forever."
As of 2009, Russia accounted for some 22% of all poultry exports from the United States, the world’s largest poultry producer and exporter. Almost four-fifths of all imported poultry on the Russian market came from the United States.
U.S. poultry shipments peaked in 2001, topping 1 billion metric tons, and began to decline as the Russian government began cutting import quotas. The figure stood at 800 million metric tons in 2008 and dropped to 750 million metric tons last year. The quota was further reduced to 600 million metric tons this year and was to reach 409 million metric tons in 2012.
However, as soon as the great commodity deficit of the 1990s was over, Russian public began speculating over the possible dangers of the product, citing excessive levels of hormones, antibiotics, chlorine and other chemicals.
In 1997, the European Union banned U.S. poultry treated with chlorides, and the issue is now being looked at by the World Trade Organization. Five years later, Russia imposed a ban on U.S. poultry imports over salmonella concerns. The ban, however, was lifted a month later.
In 2008, a total of 58 metric tons of U.S.-produced chicken legs were destroyed after tests showed they contained huge amounts of arsenic. Later that year, Russia banned poultry imports from 19 U.S. producers, citing their failure to meet sanitary standards.
This year Russia introduced a law strictly limiting the amount of chlorine that can be used in the processing of poultry, effectively banning all imports from the United States.
The move has already had an impact on the Russian poultry market, causing wholesale prices for U.S.-made chicken legs to grow on average by 20%, from 57 rubles ($1.90) per kg in late December 2008, to 65-75 rubles ($2.20-2.50) per kg as of January 12, RBC Daily said. According to USAPEEC, average wholesale price for chicken legs in the U.S. stood at $0.74 per kg in late December.

The Moscow Times
January 15, 2010
The Whirling Tandem
By Michele A. Berdy
Michele A. Berdy is a Moscow-based translator and interpreter.
Мульт Личности: Cartoon of Personality, a series of short animation, wordplay on культ личности (personality cult)

Where was I? Oh, right. Here we are in – what year? Give me a minute … 2010. That’s it. January. I remember now. After the holidays: digging the car out, scrolling through 1,500 e-mail messages and catching up on the news.

If you missed it – or if you are reading this online at a snowed-in European airport or at baggage claim in Sheremetyevo 2 – the big news in Russia over the holidays was a short cartoon of President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin singing частушки (irreverent rhyming ditties). Medvedev plays the accordion, Putin taps a tambourine on various body parts, and the two of them dance and twirl, interspersed with chummy comments like Молодец! (Attaboy!) – mostly Putin to Medvedev – and Согласен! (I agree!) – mostly Medvedev to Putin.

Since everyone is talking about it, you might want to check it out on the Internet. And just in case your Russian has slipped a bit over the long holiday season (how many million brain cells are destroyed by a shot of vodka?), here’s some prosaic help deciphering it.

It begins with a little pun on the word подводить, which means both to let someone down and to tally something up: Раз пошла такая мода / подводить итоги года / Вот и мы не подведём / и сейчас их подведём. (Since today it’s all the fashion / to assess the year’s results / We won’t let you down / We’ll tally them up right now).

In another passage, they joke about Ukraine’s failure to pay a gas bill with a punning reference to Nikolai Gogol’s "The Government Inspector." In Gogol’s play, one of the characters says: Я говорю всем открыто, что беру взятки, но чем взятки? Борзыми щенками. (I tell everyone outright that I take bribes, but in what? Borzoi puppies.) Russia’s leaders sing: Просим Киев, что в этот раз / Оплатить деньгами газ / А не байками, блинами / И борзыми Ющенками (This time we request that Kiev / Pay for gas with cash / Not with stories or with blinis / Or with Yushenko’s puppies).

At another point, they sing about Sberbank’s unsuccessful bid to buy Opel. Medvedev: Как Сбербанк наш ни старался / Опель так и не продался (No matter how hard our Sberbank tried / Opel just wouldn’t sell). Putin: А теперь хвалёный Опель / оказаться может – (And now much-vaunted Opel / might find itself -). Here Medvedev cuts in: – в глубоком кризисе, Владимир Владимирович! (In deep crisis, Vladimir Vladimirovich!)

The joke here is that the rhythm and rhyme suggest a different ending for Putin’s line. Let me just check The Moscow Times style guide … Nope. Can’t print that. And definitely can’t print that. Hmm. Let’s just say that Opel might find itself where the sun don’t shine.

Most of the humor is in the visuals of the dancing-in-tandem leaders and their comments to each other, especially when they sound like slangy 15-year-olds. At one point, Medvedev says: По-моему, жжём, Владимир Владимирович! (I think we’re really hot, Vladimir Vladimirovich!). When Medvedev boasts about his blogging, Putin responds in Олбанскей (Albanian, aka, Internet slang): Я знаю. Я ведь нет да нет / Вам пишу: Превед, Медвед! (I know. From time to time / I write you: Hi there, Bear!). And Medvedev responds in kind: Да, я помню. Прикольный случай! (Yes, I remember. That was a riot!)
Date: Thu, 14 Jan 2010
From: Patrick Armstrong <>
TEN YEARS. Putin became acting President on the last day of 1999 and was elected in March. When he came to power, judging from the essay he wrote, he set himself four tasks: 1) to reverse the economic decline; 2) to reverse the disintegration of Russia; 3) to increase Russia’s influence in the world; and 4) to introduce a rule of law or, as I prefer to put it, a rule of rules. Then economic indicators were trending down; Russia seemed to be literally breaking up (this fear often featured in his early speeches); most world capitals slighted it as a negligible and declining power; and the "rule" in Russia was that of corruption and incompetence. No one can deny that he has made great progress in these aims. The economy has turned around: here he had luck with high energy prices, but his policy did not squander the money. He has certainly restored central control – too much in my opinion – but no one now talks about the coming disintegration of Russia. Russia is taken much more seriously today although here the result is mixed. To those who will ever regard a weak Russia as a danger and a strong Russia as a threat, Putin’s effects have been wholly negative; but these people will never be pleased. Russia must now be taken more seriously (even though I think that Putin and his team sometimes overestimate its power and influence). But there has been little progress on the fourth aim. Nevertheless, few have been as successful at accomplishing their purpose as Putin and his team have. The team is still in place and is moving on the second half of the program. Putin stopped the decline and it is Medvedev’s task, as he ceaselessly says, to "modernise" Russia. The economy may be improving but it needs a new "modern" basis; the over centralisation of the Putin period should be relaxed; Russia has to improve its standing in the world so as to be seen as more of a problem-solver and less as a problem-causer (which, of course, requires a certain change of attitude in the rest of the world as well as a change in Russia’s behaviour); and finally the "rule of law" must replace "legal nihilism". Medvedev will not see the resolution of these problems, but he will move them along. I am reminded of a remark made by Dr Leonid Abalkin about 15 years ago: reform will be in three stages, the first stage will take one year, the second five years and the third thirty years. The Putin team is popular in Russia today for a very good reason: it has delivered what governments are hired to do. Altogether, it has been quite a turnaround in the last ten years: no one would write "Russia is Finished" today; now conventional wisdom has moved to the "Russia resurgent" meme (but, note, Russia remains a problem!). The plain fact is that Russia is doing better than any of the final 12 members of the USSR and the ruling team has broad, real and persistent support firmly based on things that Russians can see happening around them. This, incidentally, is the principal reason why Russian elections are so unsurprising: Russians vote for more of the same and that means voting for the team’s pedestal party. In Ukraine, for example, this broad support does not exist: support there for the government is "the lowest in the world".
Reasons for Increased Political Activity of Yeltsin’s Daughter Weighed
Argumenty Nedeli
January 14, 2010
Article by Andrey Uglanov: "Specters in the Empty ‘Xerox Machine Box’"
The new political year began with the return to our country of a specter that has been haunting Europe for 10 years now. It is not the classical "Marxian" specter of Communism, but the specter of "The Family." This was the name given during B. Yeltsin’s second presidential term to his innermost political, familial, and oligarchic circle.
The return to the past began with the Internet revelations of the first president’s daughter, Tatyana Borisovna. While her father was still alive she occupied the position of his adviser. But today, together with her husband V. Yumashev, ex-leader of B. Yeltsin’s staff, she lives most of the time in West Europe. Naturally, she knows everything there is to know about politicians both of the past and of the present. Tatyana Borisovna began by talking about how R. Abramovich, as a soldier, earned an honest living before demobilization by selling timber to peasants; how the evil (Aleksandr) Korzhakov (ex-head of Yeltsin’s security service who later published a "tell-all" biography in which he claimed that he and the security service had "governed the country for three years") basely betrayed the president (Yeltsin) by arresting the man with the money in an empty Xerox machine box (in 1996 Sergey Lisovskiy, a close aide to former First Deputy Prime Minister Anatoliy Chubays, was arrested on Korzhakov’s orders on leaving the Kremlin with an empty Xerox machine box allegedly containing more than $500,000; Chubays won the ensuing power struggle and Korzhakov was fired); how B. Berezovskiy became executive secretary of the CIS; and one or two other things.
One would so like to invite the author to speak about many other things. About the privatization of Sibneft, which Mr Abramovich subsequently sold for many billions of dollars. About the secret of the arrival in the Security Council of B. Yeltsin’s personal foe A. Lebed. Why, and by whom, were first Ye. Primakov, and after him, S. Stepashin, expelled from the premiership? Who, finally, belonged to the mysterious commission via which all candidate ministers and candidate premiers passed before their confirmation by the president?
There are very many questions, and the answers to them are actually well known to a sufficiently broad circle of people. Just as it is well known that Ms Yumasheva can write in her blog things that would land many of today’s politicians in hot water.
So why does she need this? The most naive explanation is that Tatyana Borisovna is trying to rehabilitate her era. To recall that under her father people did not thieve so much or so brazenly as they do nowadays. Indeed, the country had not altogether disintegrated by 2000, but had been collected into a heap, albeit a small one.
For whom is this message intended? A number of political scientists are sure that it is meant for D. Medvedev. You have described yourself as a liberal, she is hinting, so go forward. But serious politicians see another reason for Tatyana Borisovna’s increased activity.
In the upper echelons of power, virtually 99% of personnel are confident that V. Putin will definitely take part in the 2012 presidential elections. At the same time, they are 100% convinced that VV (Vladimir Vladimirovich (Putin)) has every chance of victory in the first round. There will be no problems with regard to this inside the country. The main problem is the obvious orientation of the current US Administration toward D. Medvedev. For B. Obama and his team, which consists of B. Yeltsin’s "great friend" Bill Clinton’s people, he is, as the saying goes, the more convenient partner. How is this contradiction to be neutralized? Here B. Yeltsin’s daughter with her entire entourage could come in useful.
One of the options is the appointment as prime minster under the next president of "Family" member A. Voloshin, a man well known in Washington. Also being discussed is a minor change in the Constitution involving the return of the post of vice president. A liberal could occupy this post too. The balance of absolutely all interests would be observed.
The final proof of the possibility of precisely this development is the public activity of that most severe critic of V. Putin’s policy, economist A. Illarionov. He has unexpectedly undergone a 180-degree change of opinion about the current regime. What is more, he has even come out as more orthodox than the most orthodox of our economists and functionaries. He has stated that our exit from the latest crisis is being accompanied by a genuine economic boom!?
This is how bridges are sought. This is how old alliances are revived and former enemies find one another again.
Authorities To Update Number Of Soviet Casualties During WW2
MOSCOW. Jan 14 (Interfax-AVN) – Statistics on the number of Soviet army personnel and civilians who lost their lives during WW2 will be updated by May 9, 2010, which marks the 65th anniversary of the war’s end, Alexander Kirillin, head of the Russian Defense Ministry’s department for remembrance of servicemen killed in action, told the media on Thursday.
"According to the current statistics, the war killed 26.6 million people, including 8.8 million in combat," he said.
"The statistics will be updated by May 9, 2010, and posted for the general public in order to end speculation," Kirillin said.
"Most probably, the statistics will not change much. Slight changes are possible in the number of people killed in combat, because it did not include servicemen of other units than those of the Soviet Defense Ministry," he said.
BBC Monitoring
Government throws out One Russia’s bill to outlaw denial of Soviet WWII role
Ekho Moskvy Radio
January 14, 2010
The Russian government has refused to endorse a draft law criminalizing denial of the Soviet Union’s victory in World War II, Russian Ekho Moskvy radio station reported on 14 January, quoting a report by the business daily Vedomosti.
Vedomosti has obtained a copy of the relevant resolution, signed by Deputy Prime Minister Sergey Sobyanin, which reads in particular that the ministers have failed to understand the part of the bill dealing with distortions of the verdict of the Nuremberg Trials, because "it is unclear to them how a document that has already come into force can be distorted", the report said.
The draft law was submitted to the State Duma about two years ago by several leading members of the One Russia party, including Emergencies Minister Sergey Shoygu and Boris Gryzlov, the State Duma speaker and chairman of the party’s supreme political council. In May 2009 the relevant parliamentary committee recommended the bill for passage but things have not progressed since then. The report quoted a source in the State Duma as saying that "from the very start (the bill) was a fairly controversial initiative proposed exclusively in connection with Shoygu’s vociferous statements (demanding that denial of the Soviet role in World War II be made a criminal offence)".
The Moscow Times
January 15, 2010
Putin Aims to Halve Drinking in 10 Years
By Nikolaus von Twickel

President Dmitry Medvedev’s ­­­anti-drinking campaign got another boost Thursday when it emerged that the government has set itself the ambitious goal of reducing the ­country’s rampant alcohol consumption by more than half over the next decade. National alcohol demand will be slashed in two phases, by 15 percent between 2010 and 2012 and by another 55 percent between 2013 and 2020, according to the government’s anti-alcohol strategy.

The 12-page document was signed by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Dec. 30 and published on the government’s web site the same day, yet it went largely unnoticed until being picked up by the national media this week.

Health advocates voiced doubt on whether the goal was realistic and if there was enough political will to solve the country’s drinking problem, pointing to the alcohol industry’s vested interests and widespread illegal vodka production and distribution.
While the strategy is in many respects vague, it does explicitly target the black market, saying the main hurtle to achieve its goal was to eliminate illegal alcohol during the second phase.

The document says per capita consumption of pure alcohol has almost doubled from 5.4 liters in the early 1990s to 10 liters in 2008. The authors say that if black market production is included, today’s per capita consumption of pure alcohol would be about 18 liters, more than double the 8.5 liters that are consumed in the United States.
The paper argues that the rise was possible because of a lack of a coherent ­government policy. They point to the fact that between 1914 and 1917 Russians consumed only 0.83 liters per capita.

During those years, a ban on alcohol introduced by Tsar Nicholas II was in force.
Russians’ infamous vodka-drinking habits are widely blamed for the country’s dismal health statistics. The average life expectancy for men at birth has only recently climbed over the 60-year threshold, and is still among the lowest in industrialized countries. Official data show that at least 2 million Russians are alcoholics and some 100,000 deaths annually are blamed on alcohol consumption.

Health advocates also say the effects of alcohol are all the more devastating in Russia because most of it is consumed as spirits and not as wine and beer like in Western countries.

Since taking office in 2008, Medvedev has vowed to improve the situation. Last summer, he described alcoholism as a "national disaster" that undermines public health and hampers the economy, urging the public to unite in fighting against it.

The government’s anti-alcohol strategy comes after Medvedev set a three-month deadline in September to get tough on alcohol abuse.

The government announced in December that new labels on beer, wine and liquor would warn buyers in large print about the dangers of drinking. On Jan. 1, it raised the minimum price for vodka to 89 rubles ($3) per 0.5 liter.

Officials are also weighing the pros and cons of creating a state-run monopoly on the country’s $52 billion alcohol market.

The latest plans won praise from state-sanctioned vodka producers. Dmitry Dobrov, a spokesman for the state-owned Rosspirtprom holding, which oversees about 40 percent of that market and more than 100 distilleries, said the measures were positive and the achievement of its goals realistic.

"It is first and foremost illegal production that we want to get rid of," he told The Moscow Times.

Dobrov said the black market’s size could partly be guessed by measuring the gap between official vodka production, which was 1.2 billion liters in 2008, and official sales, which amounted to 1.77 billion liters the same year.

He also argued that bootlegged vodka poised greater health risks because of the use of surrogates not meant for human consumption.

But Kirill Danishevsky, a lead consultant at the Open Health Institute, said reducing alcohol consumption would be extremely difficult because of huge profits gained by producing spirits. To produce a bottle of vodka usually costs 10 rubles, he explained.
A first step, he said, would be to curb the production of drinking alcohol. "There are about 500 factories that make ethanol, and there is no way to control them," he said.
Danishevsky said about half of that ethanol output is sold to people or organizations producing vodka illegally.

Another step, he said, would be to raise the price for alcohol sold as vodka to the same level as alcohol sold as beer.

"Today it is seven to 10 times more expensive to get drunk on beer than on vodka," he explained.

But he said he doubted that there was enough political will for that, citing the industry’s powerful lobbying system.

Novaya Gazeta
No. 3
January 15, 2010
Analysis of the federal center’s staff policy
Author: Lola Tagayeva
     Terms of office of almost 30 regional leaders expire in 2010.
All of them became governors and presidents of republics in 2005
when gubernatorial election in Russia was abolished. The president
already appointed leaders in six Russian regions this year.
     The process under way was preceded by speculations that the
Kremlin was out to introduce dramatic changes in the gubernatorial
corps. What experts Novaya Gazeta approached, however, admitted
that they perceived no dramatic rejuvenation of the regional
elites. Decisions in every case were made on the basis of
individual considerations, they said, and the president made them
at the last possiuble moment.
     For example, the president took his time deciding the matter
of Kurgan governor and Mary El president. It was only on December
29 that he asked Leonid Markelov of Mary El if he would like to
remain the president, and it had been in Mary El that the October
election had been rigged in most outrageous a manner. According to
Lilia Shibanova of the Independent Association Voice, it was the
Kremlin’s signal to the regions that it was not rigged elections
that led to replacement of administrations. Shibanova also
mentioned the recent reappointment of Alexander Zhilkin in
     As a matter of fact, Dmitry Medvedev reappointed some other
notorious governors as well. Alexander Berdnikov remained the
Altai Governor, Sergei Darkik the Governor of Primorie.
     "Berdnikov is extremely unpopular and the opposition in the
region is quite strong. Unless Berdnikov is appointed for another
term of office, outcome of elections there will be thoroughly
unpredictable," political scientist Alexander Kynev said.
"Besides, the Republic of Altai is to be merged with the Altai
Territory soon. Berdnikov with his dubious repute and obedience to
Moscow born of his dependance on it is a perfect leader because
the federal center apparently wants the merger to be as smooth and
unproblematic as possible."
     As for Darkin, a figure much more odious, speculations on his
past and possibly even present contacts with the underworld
continued throughout his two terms of office. And yet, Medvedev
opted to make him the governor again. Some observers suggested
that the federal center was thinking about the forthcoming APEC
forum whose organization was not going to be made any easier by
installation of a new regional administration. Others assumeed
that Darkin had bought his reappointment.
     It was in the so called tranquil regions that leaders were
replaced. Alexander Brovko from the Presidential Personnel Pool
replaced Nikolai Maksyuta in Volgograd. Vyacheslav Gaizer replaced
the head of Komi Vladimir Torlopov.
     Yevgeny Minchenko of the International Institute of Political
Expertise commented that regional situation and leader’s
popularity did not mean as much to decision-makers as one could
expect. Some wholly different criteria were instrumental –
personality of the incumbent regional leader, parity of forces,
and structure of the arrangement between the regional leader and
the federal center (with both the presidential administration and
the government). "By all formal and informal criteria, Berdnikov
had to go but the federal center decided otherwise… Or consider
Bogomolov who has been governor since the early 1990s. What did he
accomplish? Nothing at all. He was no better than, say, Torlopov
but Torlopov was replaced and he was not," Minchenko said.
     Political scientist Dmitry Badovsky attributed the current
staff policy of the federal center to the pact between Medvedev
and Vladimir Putin concerning a concensus on appointments. "Even
Medvedev’s statement on how governors were not supposed to be
appointed for the fourth term of office was made with certain
reservations," he said. According to Badovsky, lists of candidates
for governor submitted to the president were actually the first
indication that incumbent regional leader might be in trouble.
Chances were that he would be told to pack up soon when the list
included representatives of the federal elite initially from the
given region or people from the Presidential Personnel Pool. "It
all comes down to the resolve to show that the [Presidential
Personnel] Pool is nothing to be dismissed, that people on it do
become promoted to positions of power."
     Minchenko in the meantime noticed that the federal center was
mostly relying on the locals. "Either the incumbent governor gets
reappointed or someone else but from this particular region is
promoted," he said. "No more appointment of strangers to regions.
Besides, the federal center does not appoint officers anymore."
     As for the decisions concerning other regional leaders the
federal center will have to make yet, odds are that it will have
to take into account a lot of nuances and considerations.
President of Tatarstan Mintimer Shaimiyev and Kemerovo Governor
Aman Tuleyev just might retain their positions even though few
other regional leaders can match their reigns for length. With
Shaimiyev, everything will essentially depend on his own decision.
With Tuleyev, it is lack of political rivalry that might convince
the federal center to leave him in the job.
     Experts in the meantime say Saratov and Chelyabinsk governors
will almost certainly be replaced. In the former, Governor Pavel
Ipatov is at odds with Vyacheslav Volodin, Secretary of the
Presidium of the General Council of United Russia. Seeing Saratov
as his own zone of influence, Volodin is not a man to cross.
     Alexander Filippenko in the Khanty-Mansi Autonomous District
is one of the most popular regional leaders in Russia. And yet,
his reappointment may encounter serious opposition in Moscow. It
is rumored that Natalia Komarova, Chair of the Duma Committee for
Ecology, aspires for governorship in the wealthy Khanty-Mansi
     Some specialists doubt that Alexander Mikhailov in Kursk will
be asked to remain the government. Once a CPRF functionary,
Mikhailov shocked all of Russia with ugly anti-Semitic statements
several years ago.
     It is republics that are Moscow’s worst headache. Some
disturbances took place in Dagestan where Muju Aliyev’s term of
office expires soon. Moscow will have to decide the matter of
Kirsan Ilyumzhinov in Kalmykia before long. "It’s not the matter
of telling the regional leader to start packing. It’s the matter
of who to install in his place," Badovsky said. Once it took the
federal center a whole year to find a replacement for Murat
Zyazikov in Ingushetia when the decision to replace him had been
Nezavisimaya Gazeta
January 15, 2010
Opposition to be guaranteed airtime on regional TV
President advised to consider characteristics of local media markets
By Elina Bilevskaya

Governors were advised to provide equal media access, including to private media that is supported by regional budgets, to all parliamentary parties, reported Nezavisimaya Gazeta (NG). President Dmitry Medvedev declared that corresponding laws must be passed in every federal constituent unit before the end of May.

During his second Federal Assembly address, the head of state proposed providing a more just allocation of airtime to parliamentary parties in the regions. On December 28, speaking at the meeting of the Council of Legislators, which united parliamentary speakers of all federal constituent units, the president explained that it would not hurt to make a legally binding decision in this regard. "This is a question of democracy," he said.

Relevant laws should appear in the regions before June, with governors to be held responsible for their development and adoption. An NG source close to the Kremlin said that regional heads had been advised to use as their foundation the law on "Guarantees of Equality of Parliamentary Parties in Covering their Activities by the National State-Owned TV and Radio Channels". However, the president also advised taking into consideration the individual aspects of each regional media market, including social and cultural characteristics.

The federal law will apply to the All-Russian State Television and Radio Broadcasting Company (VGTRK) and its separate divisions, such as the TV channel "Vesti 24" as well as its regional branches. State-owned radio and television broadcasting channels are required to provide equal coverage to the four parliamentary parties. The Central Election Commission (CEC) is responsible for monitoring the allocation of airtime. Its working group has the right to recommend that channels compensate airtime the following month to those parties that did not receive their quota the previous month. If the channel refuses to carry out the CEC’s recommendations after a second notice, the norm regarding the channel’s licensing goes into effect, according to which, license revocation proceedings may be launched against the company that refused to abide with the law.

According to NG’s sources, the regions will be able to apply this law to media sources other than television channels that are owned by state or municipal unitary enterprises. They will be allowed to expand the media circle that falls under this law by including private television companies that, in one way or another, receive their funds from the budget. There are cases in which regional administrations own shares of joint stock or limited liability companies, which have established certain media companies.

Andrey Metelsky, deputy of the United Russia faction of the Moscow State Duma, told NG that two television channels are listed in the Moscow budget: "Stolitsa" ("Capital") and "Doverie" ("Trust"). Communist party member and Moscow State Duma Deputy Andrey Klychkov also added the channel "TV Center" to the list. Metelsky told NG that a law on the provision of equal airtime access to parliamentary parties already exists in Moscow. However, he said, the law does not specify the means of monitoring the allocated airtime. "But, if deemed necessary, we will amend the law."

Thus, if the regions use the federal law as the basis for the regional laws, a monitoring office will need to be established in every federal constituent unit. This job could be performed by the local election commissions. However, Klychkov doubts that they have enough power and finances to carry out such a task. He believes the job should be assigned to the local offices of the Federal Agency for Press and Mass Communication. He responded to NG’s question as to whether or not he thinks that this will resemble the process of regional media monitoring by saying: "Monitoring could be done automatically, by pre-programming certain words into the computer. The Agency will not have to analyze the content." CEC member Maya Grishina assured NG that regional election commissions are fully able to conduct monitoring independently – the only thing they may require is the expansion of the regional budgets.

Mikhail Fedotov, secretary of Russia’s Journalists’ Union, told NG that while the president’s idea is progressive, it is obviously incomplete. In his view, it is much more important to ensure that all media, both in the federal arena as in the regions, are free. Then, there would be no need to force them to provide equal coverage to parties.

Meanwhile, the idea of parties providing equal access to the media does not evoke immediate consensus. Every parliamentary party has a certain amount of constituent support. There is no reason to provide an equal amount of airtime to all parties without considering their efforts, election outcomes and popularity level in the country. Such leveling is hardy justified in the public’s eyes.
Window on Eurasia: Russian Officials Continue to Pressure Statistics Agency for Results They Want, SurinovSays
By Paul Goble 

Vienna, January 14 – Russian officials in the provinces and in Moscow regularly put pressure on the Federal Statistics Service if the latter’s results do not fit with their understanding of what is going on or threaten their standing with those above them, according to the service’s head, Aleksandr Surinov.            

    In an extensive interview in today’s "Rossiskaya gazeta," Surinov says that officials, especially in the central government, often are also infuriated that the service cannot provide the data they want in a timely manner or change their reports when "more complete information" becomes available (
            Surinov suggested that many officials do not understand that "in such a large country as [Russia]," it is simply "impossible" to gather information more quickly than his service is doing, even though many of its workers have access to even more than one computer.  The data simply do not arrive that quickly.
            Asked whether his agency collects classified information it does not release to the public, Surinov acknowledged that it does, noting that it was of two principle types: On the one hand, there is information about certain government factories. And on the other, there are data about particular individuals, which under international agreement, Moscow does not release.
            Among Surinov’s comments, three others are especially worthy of note. First, he says that studies of food consumption are especially important because "dieticians say that 80 percent of mortality in Russia is determined by incorrect eating habits," something he acknowledged, officials generally know nothing about.
            Second, he adds, his agency is wrestling with measuring the shadow economy, which he said officials all "the unobserved economy," especially since with the beginning of the economic crisis it has increased in size and now represents "approximately a fifth" of Russia’s gross domestic product.
            According to Surinov, this "unobserved" sector includes five types of activity: first, production of goods and services which are prohibited, such as prostitution; second, production that is not declared to escape taxation; third, activities like tutoring which do not need to be registered but which contribute to the economy."
            Fourth, Surinov says, there is production by and for members of a single family.  This involves not just agricultural production as in Soviet times but also construction activities. And fifth – and he stressed that this is not a uniquely Russian problem, there is economic activity which is "unobserved" because the statistics agencies lack the resources to measure it.
            And third, Surinov says that while there are good data about some aspects of people leaving and arriving in Russia, there are many gaps, all the more so because "there is no international methodology" of counting them, so some who plan to change their place of residence are counted as tourists and vice versa.
            Asked what were the most important events of 2009 with regard to Russian statistics, Surinov pointed to evidence that for the first time in many years, "the birth rate exceeded the death rate," albeit "this was only during one month – August – but all the same is psychologically a very important moment."
            Another development that his statisticians tracked was the decline in inflation. And the third was government approval for holding the 2010 census, something that economic problems had called into question.  That effort will soon begin: On April 1, reindeer herders in Yamal will be enumerated because that is the only time at which they come together as a group.
            But the problems of statistics in the Russian Federation were also highlighted today by another report. Major General Aleksandr Kirilin, the head of the Defense Ministry’ department for memorializing those who have died defending the country, announced his agency will soon be providing a number many have long waited for (
            His ministry, Kirilin said, has been creating "an electronic data base on human losses in the Great Fatherland War," as World War II is known in Russia.  "By the 65th anniversary of the Great Victory," he continued, "we will finally arrive at an official statistic which will be set in a normative document of the government and publically released.’
            Its publication, he suggested, should "end speculation on statistics concerning losses."  Kirilin is almost certainly overly optimistic. Not only are there the obvious problems of determining the actual number of death among both military personnel and the civilian population, but this figure remains one of the most politicized in Russia.
            That is because raising the number of dead in that conflict has the effect of reducing the number of people who fell victim to Stalin’s tyranny, while reducing the number of deaths as a result of the war, given that no census was taken in the Soviet Union between 1939 and 1959,  has the effect of highlighting Stalin’s crimes.

Russian President’s Judicial Initiatives Unlikely To Reform System
Novaya Gazeta
January 13, 2010
Article by Leonid Nikitinskiy: "In Other Words: Presidential Initiatives on Judicial Reform Risk Being ‘Mere Amendment to Judicial Lexicon’"
President Medvedev started off 2010 very symbolically by submitting a packet of bills on judicial reform to the State Duma on 4 and 5 January. These proposals would not allow the court to remain as it is today. At the same time, though, the actual cost of this packet cannot yet be determined.
The president’s proposed replacement (to simplify somewhat) of the cassation procedure for appealing judicial decisions with an appellate procedure could be important because it would strengthen the judge’s independence and his power within the context of the case he is reviewing at a given moment. Otherwise for Russians the difference between cassation and appeal would remain gobbledygook.
In the classic sense, cassation is the review of a case examined in the first instance, but only from the standpoint of the correct application of the law, without any analysis of the actual circumstances or assessment of the evidence. In the practical sense, cassation in courts of the second instance most often is put on a conveyor belt, and judges often do not even penetrate the essence of the cases they are "examining." On the other hand, if it has already been penetrated (in part for this reason they are not zealous), somewhere opposite the name of the judge of the first instance a checkmark could appear — abrogating his decision (sentence) — that would be less than pleasant for him.
An appeal means a second examination of the same case in full, including all the evidence and starting from a blank slate. Judges of the second instance do not see the decisions of their colleagues from the first, and they are not even supposed to read, let alone evaluate, them. The second decision, which becomes final, may or may not coincide with the first. But this is in no way an assessment of the first decision; it is one more (and final) "attempt" by the parties in the case to prove their innocence.
This system would make justice perhaps not twice but definitely one and a half times as expensive (since cassation costs something, too). But this is not what is important when it is a matter of justice, and there would be something worth paying for (out of the budget, naturally). But is that which is being proposed true reform or a fuzzy approximation of it? That is the question for now.
In principle, an appellate system means an expansion of the judge’s personal independence and at the same time responsibility, that is, overall, the power of each judge within a case being examined. Accordingly the judicial system as a whole becomes less easily governed "along the vertical," not even through the abrogation of decisions but through the very threat of these abrogations, which frighten judges. But this is "in principle"; the details are also important.
In civil jurisprudence, the appellate procedure goes into effect as of 1 January 2012, and in criminal as of 2013. This is grounded in necessity, including changes in material conditions, but a lot can happen in three years (especially in 2012). At the same time, although Medvedev submitted his proposals to change the Civil Procedural Code immediately, and it is more or less understandable that this is going to happen, the "new year’s packet" has no proposals to change the Criminal Procedural Code. Arguments like "they didn’t get them done" will not be taken seriously here. The inherently inertial judicial system called for a pause; reform is already "stuck."
Opponents of judicial reform will undoubtedly appeal to corruption. They’ll say, to fight this evil we do not need the power of the judge, we need the court as an instrument of power. But the essence is not in this cunning argument but in the fact that the "vertical" and judges satisfied with their current position have tremendous opportunities to sabotage any reforms by twisting their meaning. One could try to prove, for example, that cassation is appeal, or vice versa. Jurisprudence is basically a clever trick.
In the form in which it exists, the judicial system does not accommodate not only the country Russia if it wants to move forward but its defenseless inhabitants either. For all the other participants it is generally convenient. So new wine is being poured into old wineskins. For example, the proposal to institute for courts of general jurisprudence an appellate instance in special districts that do not coincide with the usual administrative division (as has already been done for arbitration courts) was introduced but did not find support. It is hard to expect any new and less servile relations to arise in the previous structures or among previous judges. Then this reform too will be only an amendment to the judges’ vocabulary, which the judges themselves interpret.
Electoral Commission Chairman Proposes Scrapping System
January 14, 2010
The head of the Moscow Electoral Commission has proposed scrapping the country�s electoral legislation in order "to start over from scratch," Ekho Moskvy radio reported on Thursday.
Chairman Valentin Gorbunov made the statement during a session of the electoral commission, saying that it would be worth considering creating an electoral code for the Russian Federation.
Gorbunov explained that while numerous amendments were being introduced to Russia�s current electoral legislation, the system was so flawed that any such amendments would only be band-aids to more systematic problems.
"You can’t get a Mercedes from a Moskvich," explained Gorbunov, referencing Russia’s legendarily faulty line of domestic cars. "In order to get a Mercedes, you need to build it from scratch."
Elections in Russia are notoriously fraudulent. Regional elections on October 11 delivered sweeping wins for the Kremlin-backed United Russia party across the country, continuing the political monopoly it has held since its conception in 2001. Observers noted massive electoral violations, much of which has been statistically documented. President Dmitri Medvedev himself admitted on multiple occasions that the elections were flawed. A recent poll by the Russian Public Opinion Research Center concluded that less than half of Muscovites trust the results of the elections.
Recent attempts at reforming Russia’s electoral legislation have largely fallen short. Negotiations in the State Duma to create an internal electoral monitoring committee died after two months, and statements by President Medvedev in November that the system was in need of reform have thus far garnered no tangible results.
Russia backing for delayed Court reform welcomed
By Aydar Buribayev
January 15, 2010
MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russian lawmakers approved a long-stalled reform of the European Court of Human Rights on Friday, giving a boost to an institution that has frequently criticised Moscow’s own record.
The lower house of parliament, the Duma, voted 392 to 56 to ratify changes that the court hopes will streamline and speed up the way it processes cases. Russia has for years been the only one of the 47 members to hold up the changes, agreed in 2004.
The Council of Europe, the pan-European human rights watchdog under which the court operates, welcomed the vote as a sign of Moscow’s commitment to Europe and internal legal reform.
Council Secretary-General Thorbjorn Jagland said it was a significant decision that would help clear a backlog of cases at the Strasbourg-based court.
"During our recent meeting in Moscow, President (Dmitry) Medvedev assured me that Russian membership in the Council of Europe is key to his efforts to modernise Russia’s judicial system," he said in a statement.
"Today’s approval of the ratification will clearly help this reform… By joining the other 46 member states, Russia is sending a strong signal of its commitment to Europe."
To complete the process the upper house of parliament and Medvedev must still endorse the protocol, but they are widely expected to give the green light.
Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Denisov told deputies that passing the changes would significantly help improve Russia’s human rights record, which is sharply criticised by rights activists both at home and abroad.
Denisov said 112,000 complaints were currently before the court, including 27,000 from Russia. The Court only considers a fraction of cases that it rules fall under its jurisdiction.
Seen as a last shot at justice, the European court is becoming increasingly popular in Russia, which had the largest number of accepted cases in 2008 at 8,161.
Once cases are accepted, those who lodge them have to prove the state played a role in the matter, after which the Court issues a judgement to the country, or an order to investigate.
The court has often censured Russia’s human rights record, with a large number of cases linked to the Islamist insurgency in the volatile North Caucasus region, which Medvedev has called Moscow’s biggest domestic political problem.
Some human rights activists said ratifying the reform was no big deal since Medvedev has avoided signing a separate protocol to abolish the peacetime application of the death penalty.
Russia, the only country not to have ratified that protocol, has a moratorium on the death penalty, though it is not formally forbidden by domestic law.
Moscow denies human rights activists permit to hold rally
MOSCOW, January 15 (RIA Novosti)-Moscow city authorities have denied Russian rights activists permission to hold events in memory of a lawyer and journalist gunned down last year in central Moscow.
Human rights group leaders, including For Human Rights movement leader Lev Ponomaryov and Moscow Helsinki Group head Lyudmila Alekseyeva, had previously applied to the Moscow city government for permission to hold the march on January 19.
However, permission was denied because of procedural errors. The Moscow government said the request had been filed prematurely.
Russian law requires documents for a march or protest be filed no more than 15 days and no less than 10 days before the event is scheduled. The New Year public holidays only ended on January 11, meaning the window fell entirely within the vacation period.
Moscow authorities have denied banning the march.
Stanislav Markelov, 34, who was representing a family whose daughter was murdered by a Russian officer in Chechnya, and Novaya Gazeta journalist Anastasia Baburova, 25, were shot on January 19 in downtown Moscow. Markelov died at the scene and Baburova lost her struggle for life shortly afterwards in hospital.
Last November, Nikolai Tikhonov, 29, and Yevgenia Khasis, 24, members of a radical neo-Nazi nationalist group, were charged with the murders.
The shooting occurred shortly after Markelov had given a news conference on the controversial early parole and release on January 15 of Russian officer Yury Budanov, convicted in the summer of 2003 of strangling 18-year-old Chechen Elsa Kungayeva and sentenced to 10 years in jail.
Police said Baburova was probably an "accidental witness." Media reports said she attempted to stop the killer, but he shot her in the head before making his escape.
The authorities in Moscow have a record of clamping down on unauthorized rallies. In the latest such event, 82-year-old Alekseyeva, a 2009 winner of the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, saw in the New Year in police custody because of an unauthorized protest in the city.
She and some 50 other human rights activists were arrested on December 31 when they attempted to hold a "March of Dissent" in central Moscow several hours before New Year.
Last May, Moscow police detained about 40 people, who had allegedly taken part in an unsanctioned gay parade.
Over the past three years, the Moscow city authorities have rejected official applications by organizers seeking permission to hold gay parades, on the grounds that the event would interfere with the rights and everyday lives of ordinary Muscovites.
Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov has branded gay parades "Satanic" and has vowed that they will never be permitted in the capital, while the Russian Orthodox Church and various far-right groups have vowed to halt any attempt to hold a march in support of gay rights in Russia.
Russian "Shadow" Economy Accounts for 20% of GDP
By Paul Abelsky

Jan. 15 (Bloomberg) — Russia’s so-called shadow economy may have grown to about one-fifth of output, according to the head of the statistics service, as illegal trade in everything from guns and drugs to gardening and tuition grew.

The shadow economy began expanding after the end of the third quarter last year as the labor market deteriorated, Alexander Surinov, head of the Federal Statistics Service, said in an interview with the government newspaper Rossiiskaya Gazeta.

Russia’s economy, which last year contracted the most since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, saw the unemploymentrate jump from 7.6 percent in September to a four-month high of 8.1 percent in November.

The shadow portion of the economy covers sectors including the production of banned goods and services, "stealth" output to evade taxes and services such as tutoring and gardening, Surinov said.

The estimate is an "indirect product of our macroeconomic calculations," Surinov told the newspaper.

Based on a total nominal gross domestic product of 10.5 trillion rubles ($354.9 billion) as reported by the statistics service in the third quarter, the shadow economy was worth about $71 billion. Russia’s GDP was equivalent to 38.5 trillion rubles in 2009, or $1.3 trillion, according to a Finance Ministry estimate.

The country’s statistics service is planning to start research into small businesses next year and wants to improve its coverage of personal incomes to provide a "different quality" of GDP estimates, Surinov said.

No Interest

While the service’s regional branch offices have come under "certain pressure" from local authorities, federal officials have only criticized the speed with which data are provided and the extent of its revisions of indicators, Surinov said.

Vladimir Sokolin, Surinov’s predecessor as head of the statistics service, complained last October about the decision to place his agency under the control of the Economy Ministry, saying government officials aren’t interested in "objective statistical information," in an interview published in Itogi magazine.

Financial Standard (Australia)
January 15, 2010
Room for Russia in BRIC
Many investors are convinced of the growth story behind Brazil, India and China – but does anyone know what’s happening in Russia?
In Sydney this week, Mark Edwards, vice president of global fund manager T. Rowe Price, said he disagrees with the view that Russia is a no-go zone for investors. The region’s market has been so volatile that in 2008, the stock exchange was sometimes closed for days.
He said what many investors forget is that Russia trumped India and China as the fastest growing BRIC economy from 2000 to 2009 – growing 4.8 times over the period.
True, there are serious issues. "The trouble is that its market is incredibly volatile. Shareprices correlate to the oil prices, there’s problem with corporate governance and the government itself tends to get involved in a way that can be unhelpful to stockmarkets."
But over the medium term, Edwards said there are key stockmarket drivers that could compensate for the volatility.
"Russia’s got fantastic resources, it’s got a big consumer population who still don’t have mortgages and the shift to the middle class is now just happening," he said.
"Yes, 2008 was a very bad experience … there was a lot of poor corporate governance so, if you like, the risk premium has gone up."
The solution? He said T. Rowe Price is a lot more cautious and and suggested investors stick to the established names.
"If you own the big banks, the big oil companies, the big retailers and the big telcos, you’ll do fine," he said.
T. Rowe Price’s global equities fund available in Australia has a 19 per cent allocation to emerging markets, some 6 per cent more than its benchmark (the MSCI-All Country index).
Murray Brewer, the Australia head, said their allocation to emerging markets aided their portfolio returns. He said global equities portfolio manager Rob Gensler also factors in the fund’s exposure to emerging markets by way of its stocks that aren’t listed in BRIC markets but derive some revenues from there.
Europe Oil Supply Insulated From Russia, Belarus Spat, IEA Says
By Stephen Bierman

Jan. 15 (Bloomberg) — Germany, Poland and three other European countries that receive Russian oil supplies via the Druzhba pipeline across Belarus can weather a potential disruption, the International Energy Agency said.

"Although there is no imminent threat of tighter European crude supplies, given what is as stake for Belarus, a resolution may take some time to achieve," the IEA said in a report today.

The five European countries, which include Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia, have more than three months of emergency stocks and alternative supply routes, the IEA said.

Russia and Belarus have failed to reach an oil supply deal after a tax agreement from 2007 expired at the end of last year. A dispute over customs and transit fees that year between the two countries led to supply disruptions for about three days.

OAO Transneft, Russia’s state run pipeline operator, warned that oil flows to Belarus’s Mozyr refinery may stop next week as suppliers haven’t confirmed shipments. Both Belarus and Russia say the dispute won’t affect deliveries to Europe.

Poland received 385,000 barrels a day, or 93 percent of its oil imports last year, through Druzhba’s northern branch, while Germany got from 300,000 to 400,000 barrels a day, or as much as 20 percent of its imports, via the link, the IEA said. 

Poland and Germany can take supplies through their Baltic Sea ports in the event of pipeline disruption, the IEA said.

Alternative Oil Routes

The southern leg of Druzhba, which runs from Belarus through Ukraine, shipped 115,000 barrels a day to Slovakia and 130,000 barrels a day to Hungary, all of the two countries’ oil imports last year, the IEA said. The link supplied the Czech Republic with 90,000 barrels of oil a day, or 60 percent of its imports last year.

Hungary and Slovakia have an alternative import route through Croatia from the Adriatic Sea while the Czech Republic can get oil supplies from Trieste, Italy, the IEA report said.
Belarus received an implicit subsidy of about $2.5 billion per year under the expired accord with Russia, the IEA said. Russia, which views Belarus as a strategic ally and key transit state, allowed its neighbor to benefit from lower oil prices by discounting the export duty for supplies to its refineries.

Russia, which plans to reinstate full taxation on most crude shipped to Belarusian refineries, may recoup as much as $2 billion for its budget at current oil prices, Igor Kurinnyy, an oil analyst at ING Groep NV, said by e-mail yesterday.

RIA Novosti
January 14, 2010
Medvedev should go to Auschwitz for several reasons
MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti commentator Dmitry Babich) – Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has been invited to attend this month’s events marking the 65th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi death camp Auschwitz (Polish: Oswiecim) by the Red Army.
Up to 1.5 million people, mostly Jews, perished at the camp in southern Poland during World War II before Soviet Red Army troops liberated it on January 27, 1945.
Invitations for the function set for January 27, 2010, have been sent to many world leaders, first of all the Allied countries. Polish President Lech Kaczynski has also sent an invitation to his Russian colleague but has so far not received a response.
There are two subjective reasons why Medvedev may decline it. First, the invitation has come from Lech Kaczynski, a noted critic of the Kremlin. Second, the deployment of the Soviet Army in Poland in 1939-1989 has been used in Poland for fierce anti-Russian propaganda.
At the same time, neither argument is sufficiently serious to reject the invitation.
Lech Kaczynski does not always act in accordance with interstate protocol or even common courtesy. Even Polish analysts criticized his address to a meeting in Tbilisi, Georgia, with President Mikheil Saakashvili standing nearby, shortly after Georgia attacked South Ossetia.
A year later, Kaczynski compared Nazi occupiers to Russian troops during his speech in memory of WWII victims delivered on September 1, 2009 in the presence of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. This did not help thaw Russian-Polish relations either.
On the other hand, diplomatic protocol dictates that the invitation to Medvedev had to come from Lech Kaczynski as the person representing Poland in its official relations with other countries and leaders.
However, it is the Polish parliament and the government formed by the parliament’s largest parties that make political decisions. Since Lech Kaczynski has very strained relations with Prime Minister Donald Tusk, who represents the rival party, Civic Platform, the Poles are watching especially closely that the president and the premier do not infringe on each other’s powers.
Russia should consider the situation calmly: Since the Polish president is the only official who could invite the Russian president to Auschwitz, there are no objective reasons for rejecting the invitation.
Donald Tusk, who does not use Kaczynski’s anti-Kremlin rhetoric during his meetings with visitors from Moscow, is nevertheless not a friend of Russia, contrary to what his enemies in Poland and some not very clever friends in the Russian media say.
The split between Tusk and Kaczynski is personal more than ideological. Civic Platform is a rightwing party but not as radical as Kaczynski’s party Law and Justice (PiS). In 2005, the two parties joined forces to snatch power from the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD), a centre-left social democratic party. PiS won 27% of the vote and Tusk’s Platform 24%, and they were expected to govern Poland as a coalition.
But the Kaczynski brothers cheated Tusk by forming a coalition with the agrarian political party and trade union Self-Defense (an analogue of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia led by Vladimir Zhirinovsky) and the League of Polish Families, a rightwing orthodox Catholic party. Tusk’s indignation was only natural.
In 2005-2007, when PiS and its allies had a majority in the Polish parliament, Russian-Polish relations were at their worst since the end of WWII. Lech Kaczynski and his identical twin, Jaroslaw, the leader and the main ideologue of PiS, used historical problems to further worsen them.
But when Tusk and his Civic Platform won the 2007 elections, Tusk changed his rhetoric toward Russia, if only to be more easily distinguished from the Kaczynski brothers.
President Medvedev’s visit to Auschwitz, which was librated by the Red Army, will not be a humiliation for Russia. Nobody in Poland questions the fact that it was the Red Army that liberated Auschwitz and many other Polish territories, even though Poles would have welcomed liberation more wholeheartedly had it come from their own troops.
Operation Tempest, a series of uprisings conducted during World War II by the Polish Home Army (Armia Krajowa) in 1944, was aimed at taking power before the arrival of the Soviets and at creating a government that would be independent of both Germany and Soviet Russia.
The plan failed, claiming tens of thousands lives and leading to a nearly total destruction of Warsaw.
Was Operation Tempest a realistic plan? If so, did it fail because Germans were better armed, or because Stalin had no sympathy for the uprising’s organizers, or because the uprisings started too early? Anyway, the 600,000 Soviet soldiers who died liberating Poland are not to blame, which nearly all Poles (with very few exceptions) admit.
So, the ongoing Polish-Russian historical disputes have no connection to the liberation of Auschwitz by the Red Army, and so should not prevent Medvedev’s visit.
After PiS lost power in 2007, Russian-Polish relations started improving, even if a bit slowly. The trend could be boosted by a nice gesture or phrase, which Poles love dearly.
"I don’t know why our leaders are shouting themselves hoarse over what Mr. Putin could or could not say," smiles Stanislaw Ciosek, a former member of the Politburo of the Polish United Workers Party and Ambassador to Moscow (1989-1996), who now holds the post of chairman of the Eastern Club, an association promoting economic cooperation with Russia. "But this is what we Poles are – we are interested in symbols more than in essence."
Medvedev’s visit could become the symbolic gesture Poles need, and its practical results could be better than many think.
In 2004-2008, Russian-Polish trade grew from $8 billion to $27.2 billion, although Russia mostly supplies Poland with gas, oil and refined oil products. Polish businessmen and regional leaders would like Russia to invest more in Poland and vice versa.
Indeed, it seems strange that there are thousands of German companies, hundreds of Dutch and French businesses and dozens of South Korean firms investing in Poland, Eastern Europe’s leader in terms of foreign direct investment, and not a single Russian investor.
"The difficult relations at the interstate level should not scare Russian businessmen," said Krzysztof Krzysztofiak, president of the Malopolska Agency of Regional Development. "There is no dislike for Russians at the personal level, and Russian businessmen who wish to invest in the Malopolska Province and its capital, the ancient city of Krakow, will enjoy the protection offered by the EU rules and regulations because Poland is an EU member. On the other hand, better interstate relations would help. Nine percent of Polish children study Russian at school, but Russian investment is less than 1%."
Unfortunately, Poland is largely to blame for this situation. Scandals over Gazprom’s pipelines and attempts by Russian companies to buy Polish refineries, which started in the late 1990s, have not made Russia’s foreign economic policy regarding Poland more popular. On the other hand, the trailblazers in this sphere could get very big dividends.
From: Julia Neklyudova <>
Subject: Reset the OSCE By Alexander Rahr
Date: Thu, 14 Jan 2010
Reset the OSCE
By Alexander Rahr
The year of 2010 will open a new chapter in the post-Cold-War history.  As the first post-soviet state Kazakhstan will assume the chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and try to promote it to its previous rank of a main security organization in Europe. Even if the Kazakh leadership remains controversial in the eyes of a number of Westerners it could provide the OSCE with new legitimacy and a fresh impetus for the stabilization of the entire Northern hemisphere from Vancouver to Vladivostok. Kazakh OSCE leadership could also enable new ways to secure energy supplies to Europe from Central Asia and offer an important impact for Afghanistan.
When the OSCE was established 35 years ago, its founders intended to make it the nucleus of a united Europe, which would connect its Western and Eastern components. After the end of the Cold War, the OSCE could have become a third pillar for the transatlantic and European architecture and lay the ground for a Common House of the nations of Western, Central, and Eastern Europe, as well as Eurasia. This Common House was supposed to base on mutual security, economic cooperation, and joint principles of human rights and subsequently, all former Soviet republics joined the OSCE. But the last two decades witnessed the creation of an European architecture along the lines of how the Western states wanted it to look like. NATO and EU were proclaimed to be more important than OSCE. They were internally strengthened and enlarged to include the former Warsaw Pact countries while the OSCE continued to function only as a platform for common democratic and legal system norms – honestly not enough to serve as a third pillar of Europe’s common architecture.
In the next decade, almost all of the former republics of Ex-Yugoslavia are also expected to join NATO and EU. The idea of a truly unified Europe, or West, will then be accomplished. Then there is an even bigger international dimension to the importance of embracing the OSCE rather than dwelling too much on the concern: What will be the fate of European and Eurasian countries on the eastern part of the continent? Will they be abandoned from membership in a future common European House, fall into the hemisphere of China or become absorbed by Islamic realm of the Middle East?
Despite its reputation as being notoriously dysfunctional, the OSCE is needed. In the case of a defeat in Afghanistan, NATO would need to reinvent itself. A successful Afghan strategy is impossible without the support of Russia and the Central Asian republics. Europe will only be able to solve its energy supply problems, if it comprises Russia and the Central Asian states into a multilateral energy alliance.
It is no secret that the EU faces a dilemma, how to proceed with its Eastern policy. Should a European Security and Defense Policy towards the East of continent engage Russia plus all former Soviet republics, or contain Russia and the other authoritarian regimes within their own post-soviet space? Neither of the two Western dominated alliances offer the basis for tight and stable relations between Eastern and Western countries on grounds of equality and mutual appreciation.
The first reason lies in the system itself: European and Eurasian states of OSCE which are not member of NATO and EU are worried that their interests are being neglected because they are not part of the two former institutions. It is therefore logical to resurrect the OSCE as a truly all-European organization. The OSCE has the capacity to supplement NATO in all security-related issues regarding the future of the European continent. Kazakhstan, as the biggest country in Central Asia, could provide important ideas in that regard. Kazakhstan�s wish to convene an OSCE summit in 2010 to discuss these ideas should receive more consideration.
Kazakhstan is a strong regional actor in the eastern prolongation of Europe. After the end of the Cold War, the West promised to take care of the prosperity and stability of former Soviet republics in Eurasia the same way as for the liberated Warsaw Pact countries in the framework of the OSCE. It is only logical, that Kazakhstan will remind its Western partners of these promises. The OSCE can only survive if it combines the interests of all its member states. A failure to revive the OSCE along its original tasks will carry the danger of a new split of the European continent. It is time to think about this geopolitical aspect as well.
TIMELINE-Ukrainian politics since the 2004 Orange Revolution
Jan 14 (Reuters) – Ukraine is holding a presidential election on Jan. 17, with 18 candidates including President Viktor Yushchenko, Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and former Prime Minister and opposition leader Viktor Yanukovich.
Following is a timeline of political events since the mass protests brought pro-Western politicians to power in 2004.
Jan. 23, 2005 – Viktor Yushchenko is sworn in as president after street protests in November and December against a rigged election won by then-Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich.
Yulia Tymoshenko, Yushchenko’s "Orange Revolution" ally, is named prime minister within days.
Sept. 8 – Yushchenko dismisses Tymoshenko’s government after infighting. Yuri Yekhanurov, a presidential ally, replaces her.
* 2006:
March 26, 2006 – Yanukovich’s Regions Party emerges as the largest party in a parliamentary election with 186 of 450 seats, but is outnumbered by the combined "orange" score of 243. Orange groups, however, fail to form a coalition after months of talks.
July 18, 2006 – A coalition made up of the president’s opponents proposes Yanukovich as prime minister. He is approved a month later after promising not to reverse pro-Western policies.
* 2007:
Jan. 12, 2007 – Yanukovich supporters pass law to reduce Yushchenko’s control of the government, a blow to his authority.
April 2 – Yushchenko dissolves parliament, calls election, leading to months of turmoil. New poll takes place in September.
Sept. 30 – "Orange" parties win a majority of 227 seats — one more than needed to win most votes in the 450-seat chamber.
Dec. 18, 2007 – Parliament approves Tymoshenko as prime minister with 226 votes, the minimum number required to take office.
* 2008:
July 11, 2008 – Tymoshenko survives a no-confidence vote called in protest at her handling of high inflation.
Aug. 18 – President’s office says Tymoshenko betrays national interests by not backing Georgia in its conflict with Russia.
Sept. 3 – Our Ukraine, Yushchenko’s allies, quit "Orange" coalition after denouncing joint vote by Tymoshenko’s bloc and Yanukovich’s party. The president threatens to call an election.
Nov. 6 – The IMF approves a $16.4 billion loan programme for Ukraine to ease strains from the global financial crisis. Days later it receives its first tranche worth $4.5 billion.
Nov. 12 – Yushchenko abandons plans to hold an early parliamentary election in 2008.
Dec. 9, 2008 – The governing coalition is reinstated and bolstered by newly elected assembly chairman, Volodymyr Lytvyn.
* 2009:
Jan. 20, 2009 – Russian gas reaches Europe via Ukraine for the first time in two weeks after Moscow and Kiev end a prices and debt row that cut supplies to about 20 European countries. Yushchenko says the deal clinched by Tymoshenko is a "defeat".
March 3 – Parliament sacks Foreign Minister Volodymyr Ohryzko, a Yushchenko ally, citing his aggresive stance against Russia and for bungling a territorial dispute with Romania.
June 5 – Parliament dismisses another Yushchenko ally, Defence Minister Yuri Yekhanurov over allegations of corruption in the ministry.
Dec. 9 – Medvedev says it would be "irresponsible" to amend gas supply contracts with Ukraine, in a sign Moscow will offer no more concessions to its neighbour on gas payments. Yushchenko had asked Russia in November to change the gas supply deal, saying it was too onerous for Ukraine’s economy.
* 2010:
Jan. 17, 2010 – Presidential election.
Ukraine candidates relying on US advisers
December 15, 2010
WASHINGTON — Ahead of a presidential election that could tilt Ukraine’s orientation away from the West, leading candidates of all stripes have been seeking help from expensive U.S.-based political operatives.
Candidates have hired campaign consultants, lobbyists and public relations firms with deep ties in Washington. With an interest to securing vital connections, the most prominent candidates have sought firms with ties to recent U.S. presidential candidates, including President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, both Democrats, and Republican Sen. John McCain.
While some of the U.S. contracts are aimed at importing political expertise into a country with relatively little experience with campaigning in a democracy, the candidates also seem to want to show off their Washington connections to their constituents.
"Ukrainian politicians think it is crucial to cultivate an audience in Washington both for domestic political legitimacy and to facilitate their agenda," said Samuel Charap, an analyst on the region at the Center for American Progress in Washington.
Also, regardless of who wins, the new government will want to maintain smooth relations with the United States, which has played a major role in helping Ukraine secure loans during the economic crisis.
Ukraine’s current leaders were swept to power on the back of peaceful street protests in 2004 that came to be known as the Orange Revolution. The pro-Western movement was hailed in the United States and Europe as a victory for democracy and a blow to Russia’s lingering grip over politics in the former Soviet Union.
Five years on, however, the movement’s leaders have failed to deliver on promises of sweeping democratic reform, and the politician shouted down by the Orange Revolution, pro-Russian candidate Viktor Yanukovych (yah-noo-KOH’-vich), is far ahead in the polls leading up to Sunday’s vote.
Yanukovych, whose Kremlin-backed election victory in 2004 was overturned by the Ukranian Supreme Court amid the street protests and allegations of fraud, has employed Paul Manafort, a Washington political strategist, who helped McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign and whose partner Rick Davis was McCain’s campaign manager.
After Moscow’s open support for his presidential bid in 2004, Yanukovych has faced accusations of being a Kremlin loyalist, a reputation he has sought to shake during this campaign by appearing to warm to the West.
Prime Minister Yulia (YOOL’-yah) Tymoshenko (tee-moh-SHEN’-koh), who is considered Yanukovych’s chief rival for the presidency and is more Westward leaning, has relied on media consulting firm AKPD, which was founded by Obama’s now chief-of-staff David Axelrod. Axelrod no longer works for the firm.
The current president, Viktor Yushchenko (yoo-SHEN’-koh), whose popularity has plummeted since he led the 2004 Orange Revolution, has been getting polling and advice from Clinton’s campaign strategist Mark Penn, as well as the Kiev office of the PBN, a Washington-based consulting company.
The size of most of the U.S. contracts are hard to estimate, because the consultants have not registered under U.S. lobbying laws. None of the firms would comment on their work, but their employment is widely known in Washington and Kiev.
For the same reason, it also is hard to determine the range of services offered by the firms.
Associated Press writer Simon Shuster contributed reporting from Kiev.
Russia Faces ‘Win-Win in Ukraine as Yushchenko Exits
By Lucian Kim

Jan. 15 (Bloomberg) — Russia will be the only certain winner in Ukraine’s presidential election on Jan. 17, as pro- Western incumbent Viktor Yushchenko is expected to bow out to rivals seen as more friendly toward Moscow, analysts said.

"For Russia it can be called a win-win situation, since any result is better than the current situation," said Fyodor Lukyanov, editor of Russia in Global Affairs magazine. "Whoever becomes the next president will be much less ideological and more businesslike."

Viktor Yanukovych, backed by Russia in Ukraine’s 2004 election, is the front-runner with 33.6 percent support, followed by Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko with 19.2 percent, according to the Kiev-based Democratic Initiatives Foundation. The two are likely to face off in a second round on Feb. 7 if no candidate wins 50 percent of first-round votes.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who as president promoted Yanukovych in the last election, is abstaining from an endorsement this time as polls show support for Yushchenko, the hero of the 2004 Orange Revolution, at less than 4 percent.

Russian-Ukrainian relations deteriorated under Yushchenko, who needled Russia with a push to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and appeals to Ukrainian nationalism.

The Kremlin has curbed natural-gas deliveries to Ukraine three times in five years, withheld a new ambassador to Kiev and accused Yushchenko of supplying arms to Georgia during Russia’s five-day war with its southern neighbor in August 2008.

‘Sincere Policy’

"We expect the candidate chosen by the majority of Ukrainian voters to carry out a responsible, open, respectful and sincere policy toward Russia," Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrei Nesterenko said in televised remarks today.

Putin, who traveled to Ukraine to campaign for Yanukovych in 2004, has since forged a close relationship with Timoshenko, personally negotiating an end to last year’s gas cut with her. President Dmitry Medvedev, Putin’s protege, froze relations with his Ukrainian counterpart in August, blaming Yushchenko for "anti-Russian" policies.

Putin said in a live call-in show last month that he wasn’t supporting Timoshenko in the elections and reminded viewers that his United Russia party has "special relations" with Yanukovych’s Party of Regions.

"Timoshenko knows that Ukraine is turning back toward Russia and that if she does not join the pro-Russian movement, she will be crushed by it, like Yushchenko," Stratfor, the Austin, Texas-based intelligence consultancy, said in a report today. "Russia knows that she is not a true believer in the pro-Russian cause, like Yanukovych, but that if they make it worth her while, she will support the Kremlin."

Russia, which traces its statehood to medieval Kiev, shares close economic, linguistic and religious ties to its neighbor. Without Ukraine, Russia stops being an empire with a foothold in Europe, former U.S. national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski wrote in his 1997 book "The Grand Chessboard."

Gas Exports

Russia’s Black Sea fleet is based in Crimea and 80 percent of Russian gas exports to Europe go through Ukrainian territory. After Yushchenko’s election, Putin began to push Nord Stream and South Stream, pipeline projects to Europe designed to bypass Ukraine.
Still, Russia shouldn’t expect Ukraine’s next president to be a pushover as gas contracts and the future of the Black Sea fleet will continue to be contentious issues, according to Lukyanov.

"Anybody will be more flexible and not provoke Moscow as much as Yushchenko," Lukyanov said. "But even Yanukovych won’t turn out to be a puppet meeting Russia’s every demand."
Moscow Times
January 15, 2010
Moscow Prepares for Better Kiev Ties
By Nabi Abdullaev
Moscow is so confident that relations with Ukraine will improve after a weekend presidential election that it won’t wait for an expected runoff in three weeks to fill its long-vacant ambassadorship in Kiev. Ties sank to new lows in August when President Dmitry Medvedev announced that he would not send the newly appointed ambassador, Mikhail Zurabov, to Ukraine while President Viktor Yushchenko remained in office.
Now Yushchenko, whose pro-Ukrainian and pro-Western rhetoric repeatedly infuriated Moscow over the past five years, is all but certain to be voted out of office in the election Sunday.

The Kremlin has avoided offering blatant support to any of the 18 candidates in the election but made no secret that it hopes that front-runner Viktor Yanukovych wins an expected runoff with Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko on Feb. 7.

Convinced that Russia is on the cusp of improved relations with Ukraine, the Kremlin will move to restore full diplomatic ties by dispatching Zurabov to its embassy in Kiev within a few days, Vladimir Likhachyov, deputy chairman of Federation Council’s International Affairs Committee, told The Moscow Times.

He said he had spoken with Zurabov about the issue recently.

Likhachyov said Yanukovych and Tymoshenko would make Ukraine more politically stable and pragmatic than it is now, and this in turn would be in Russia’s interests.

"Viktor Yushchenko, the incumbent president, has been playing up every contradictory issue involving Russia in order to gain support from the West, only to shatter Ukraine’s statehood and create an explosive social situation there," Likhachyov said.

But he and State Duma Deputy Speaker Alexander Babakov, who oversees the Duma’s ties with Ukraine, stressed in interviews with The Moscow Times that Moscow would not interfere in the election.

Medvedev also said last month that Ukraine’s election was an internal matter. "Russia does not have and cannot have its own candidate in the presidential election in Ukraine because this is an independent country whose leader can only be elected by its citizens," he said.

Medvedev’s comments are in sharp contrast to Ukraine’s presidential election five years ago, when the Kremlin strongly supported Yanukovych and even congratulated him on his victory in a fraudulent vote that was later overturned.

But Moscow still has its preferences in Sunday’s election. In early December, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said in a televised call-in show that he did not support Tymoshenko’s candidacy and noted that United Russia, which he heads, has long cooperated with the Party of Regions, headed by Yanukovych.

A senior Russian official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, said there was a consensus in Moscow that Yanukovych would suit Russia’s interests best as president.

"Tymoshenko has a rich history of betraying partners and forgetting promises," the official said, reiterating a common and well-known complaint from Russian officials about the temperamental Ukrainian prime minister.

The official said Tymoshenko caters to Ukrainian nationalists and cosmopolitan businesspeople, while Yanukovych has the support of Ukraine’s millions of Russian-speaking, largely low-income working class.

Yanukovych has repeatedly said Ukraine would remain a neutral country under his watch, leading Russian decision makers to believe that Ukraine’s inevitable integration with Europe – a priority announced by all of the presidential candidates – would not be made at the expense of Russia’s national interests, which include the security of its western borders and energy transit to Europe.

But Yanukovych might not prove to be an easy partner for Moscow. As prime minister in 2006, he took a tough stance in negotiating gas prices with Russia and spoke against entering a customs union with Moscow.

The Kremlin, however, can be confident that Yanukovych would not lavish praise on Ukrainians who collaborated with the Nazis during World War II, restrict the Russian language, and attempt to edge out the Russian Orthodox Church – measures taken by Yushchenko that have irritated the Kremlin, said Kirill Frolov, a political analyst with the Institute of CIS Countries, a Kremlin-leaning think tank.

Yushchenko has labeled rival presidential candidates as "Kremlin projects" and called the election "a national referendum about Ukraine’s European future."

According to several polls taken this week, including one by Russia’s VTsIOM, Yanukovych will collect more than 30 percent of the vote Sunday, while Tymoshenko will get 15 percent to 20 percent. Yushchenko is supported by slightly more than 3 percent of the electorate.

During Yushchenko’s presidency, Moscow and Kiev waged two wars over gas prices that saw Moscow cut supplies to Ukraine, leading to disruptions to Europe. Western diplomats initially accused Russia of resorting to energy blackmail and, growing weary of the continued bickering, privately wished a plague on both countries.

Yushchenko’s foreign policies that irritated Moscow most included his attempts to join NATO and to kick the Russian Black Sea Fleet out of its base in Sevastopol, which Russia rents under a lease that expires in 2017.

Moscow has also accused Yushchenko of driving a wedge between the Russian and Ukrainian peoples by trying to forge a new Ukrainian national identity through restrictions on the official use of the Russian language and support for the independent Ukrainian Orthodox Church in its bid to take over parishes, many of which answer to the Moscow Patriarchate.

Putin and Medvedev have denounced Yushchenko for praising Ukrainian nationalists who collaborated with the Nazis and portraying a 1930s famine in Ukraine as genocide.
Medvedev offered a wish list for Ukraine’s next president during his televised New Year’s Eve address, saying he hoped "for no insults to the Russian language, for mutual relations and joint economic projects to develop, and for no strange desire to join a foreign military bloc that will make a great number of people nervous in one way or another."

Yanukovych has said he would not try to bring Ukraine into NATO.

1930s Famine in USSR Was Crime, But Not Genocide of Ukrainians – Memorial Director
MOSCOW. Jan 14 (Interfax) – Ukraine’s decision to give a legal evaluation of the crimes committed by the Soviet administration is right, but the 1930s famine in Ukraine was not genocide, Arseniy Roginsky, the head of the Russian historical and human rights society memorial, told Interfax on Thursday.
The Kyiv Court of Appeals ruled on Thursday that the Bolshevik leaders of the USSR and the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic were guilty of organizing the 1932-1933 Holodomor in Ukraine, which constituted genocide of Ukrainians. The court ordered that the criminal case be closed due to the death of the perpetrators of the genocide (Joseph Stalin, Vyacheslav Molotov, Lazar Kaganovich, Stanislav Kosior, Pavel Postyshev, etc.).
"The fact that this crime has been legally classified is very important. There are many documents confirming the guilt in such crimes as organized famine and terror," Roginsky said.
"However, I still don’t understand which documents were used to prove that the famine in Ukraine was genocide. My opinion is that this famine was a crime against humanity, not genocide," he said.
Roginsky believes famine was organized in the 1930s not only in Ukraine, but also in southern Russia and Kazakhstan.
Memorial is a leading NGO on the post-Soviet space. It studies Stalin-era repression and rehabilitates victims of political terror in the USSR.
"The 1930s famine was indeed a crime. It was founded on a criminal decision on total collectivization, The criminal methods used in this collectivization, the criminal failure to help the hungry people, etc. The people responsible for that are the Stalin leadership and the perpetrators of the will of the Stalin leadership," Roginsky told Interfax.
"However, the 1930s famine is a common tragedy for Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan. The same people are responsible for this tragedy, we should study and understand this tragedy together, it would bring us closer, not divide us," Roginsky said.
January 15, 2010
Author: Stepan Romanyuk
[Ukraine will be electing its president come Sunday.]    
Preisdential campaign in Ukraine is approaching its end.
Candidates for president stop at nothing to smear opponents in
their efforts to attract voters. Political scientists point out
that Russia deliberately keeps its distance and refrains from
supporting any candidate for fear that its involvement will
backfire. The Ukrainians in the meantime have lost whatever
marginal interest in politics they ever had.
     Should Regional Party leader Victor Yanukovich come in first
in the election, the Ukrainian-Russian relations will develop in
accordance with his personal sympathies and beliefs. Susceptible
to Western influence as he is, Yanukovich is not going to abandon
the idea of joining NATO. As for the presence of the Russian Black
Sea Fleet in the Crimea, official Kiev’s stand on the matter with
Yanukovich running things will remain pretty much as it currently
is. Pressure on the Russian language will ease. Moscow will find
Yanukovich quite cooperative in political matters.
     If it is Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko, however, then
Russia will end up dealing with another wholly unpredictable
neighbor just like Belarus. Timoshenko’s decisions will be
scandalous, bordering on blackmail, but reaching an agreement on
economic matters with Timoshenko will be easier than with
Yanukovich. No serious changes with regard to the Russian language
or the Black Sea Fleet will take place. Official Kiev will stop
blaming the Russians for the famine of the early 1920s.
     The balloting will take place on Sunday, January 17.
     Candidates for president are using every opportunity to win
the sympathies of the Ukrainians that have not decided yet who to
vote for. Polls show that 20% of the Ukrainians determined to turn
up at polling stations do not know yet who to cast their votes
     Experts meanwhile point out that campaigns of absolutely all
candidates for president are centered around criticism of
opponents. "With but several days before the election, the so
called black PR is really something," political scientist Victor
Nebozhenko said.
     Timoshenko keeps hitting Yanukovich, her number one rival in
the presidential race, where it hurts and uses every opportunity
to remind voters of his past problems with the law. "A mere
mention of the police makes Yanukovich edgy," she sneered the
other day commenting on his criticism of the Ukrainian police.
     Yanukovich in his turn strives to refrain from getting
personal. He emphasizes instead that Timoshenko with the
administrative resource at her disposal will try to rig the
outcome of the election.
     "They have used up all arguments. Smearing one another is the
only option left the candidates," said Dmitry Levus, Director of
the Public Studies Center Ukrainian Meridian.
     As a matter of fact, some candidates actually buy votes.
Regional Party activists hand out food packages to pensioners in
Kiev. Three hundred families awaiting apartments to live in
received keys to their new homes "from Yulia [Timoshenko]
personally" the other day.
     Whatever candidates do, however, everyone knows that the
second round of the election is inevitable. Yanukovich will fare
better than all others in the first round but even he cannot count
on getting more than 40% votes. Absolute victory obviating the
necessity of the second round in the meantime requires 50%.
     It is the second round therefore that will decide everything.
All experts and observers agree that it will be a battle between
Yanukovich and Timoshenko but nobody cares to venture a guess on
how it will end.
     "There is no saying at this time who will win the second
round," political scientist Oles Buzina said.
     "Yanukovich will beat Timoshenko by 10% or so in the first
round," Nebozhenko said. "In the second round, however, Timoshenko
may well overtake Yanukovich because followers of other candidates
will probably cast their votes for her."
     The Ukrainians in the meantime are thoroughly disappointed
with their politicians. "Whenever someone is going to vote for
Timoshenko, it does not mean that he likes her. It means that this
particular voter hates other candidates more than he does
Timoshenko," said Kirill Arbatov of the Russian Community in West
     A web site appeared in the Internet several days ago where
the Ukrainians sell their votes. "No, I do not believe in our
democracy and so my vote is for sale," one of the Ukrainians said.
"I do not care who comes in first and becomes the president." A
vote costs 600 grivnas or approximately $90.
     Official Moscow is keeping its distance. It learned from the
bitter experience of support of candidates for Ukrainian president
(Russia backed Yanukovich in 2004). "Russia does not have
candidates [for Ukrainian president]. It cannot have any,"
President Dmitry Medvedev said.
     Experts agree that Russia learned its lesson. "Back in 2004,
Moscow became directly involved but the mistakes it made brought
about just the results Russia had tried to avoid," Alexander
Konovalov of the Institute of Strategic Estimates said. "Besides,
direct support may turn out to be actually harmful."
     * * *
     Dmitry Levus: It is necessary to remember that whatever
candidate for president are saying these days has nothing at all
to do with the logic that will dictate the words and deeds of the
next president whoever he or she is. Nothing will really change.
Very many Ukrainians are going to vote out of frustration… the
way they did in 2004 when Yuschenko carried the day. The
Ukrainians are fed up with all these political wars.
     Victor Nebozhenko: Being thoroughly pragmatic, Timoshenko may
try to secure better terms of gas import from Russia if and when
she is elected. Yanukovich is different. The West will win him
over in no time at all. I know that he is supposed to be pro-
Russian but that’s an illusion. He is a kind of man who, when
leaving Kiev for a trip to Moscow, may end up in Brussels.
     Yevgeny Minchenko (International Institute of Political
Expertise): Yanukovich and Timoshenko will be easier to deal with.
Should Timoshenko become the president, she will develop an
authoritarian model and continue Ukrainization trends so that all
of that will create political risks for Russia. In any event, she
will be more cooperative in economic matters whereas Yanukovich
will be better from the standpoint of political interaction with
     Dmitry Orlov (Agency of Political and Economic
Communications): Whoever the next president, Russia stands to
benefit because Victor Yanukovich and Timoshenko are prepared to
take Russia’s interests into account. Yuschenko is the prime
factor of destabilization, these days. Timoshenko is emotional
while Yanukovich is more predictable.
The Economist
January 16-22, 2010
Ukraine’s presidential election
Oranges and lemons
A run-off is likely between Viktor Yanukovich and Yulia Tymoshenko

FANCY buying a vote in Ukraine’s presidential election on January 17th? Go to a new website called "sell your vote" ( "I will sell two or three votes," reads one post. "I’ve sold mine for 500 hryvna," reads another. When last checked, the website advertised some 4,500 votes for sale across Ukraine, at an average price of 913 hryvna ($114). This number could hardly swing the election result, but is enough to reflect the public’s alienation and disillusionment with their politicians.

Five years after the "orange revolution", which brought thousands of protesters on to the snowy streets of Kiev, many would rather vote against all the candidates-or just not turn up at all. Kiev is once again covered in snow, but the only noise in this election is that of pensioners banging pots and pans in front of government buildings to demand better living standards. The gloomy mood even inspired one small-town opportunist in western Ukraine to change his name to Protyvsikh (Against-all). He is now one of 18 registered presidential candidates.

Trust in the incumbent, Viktor Yushchenko, who swept into the presidency after the orange revolution, is now so low that his poll rating is under 5%. Many voters who backed him five years ago feel let down by his broken promises and failure to govern.
Even though they are tired of the same old faces, Ukrainians seem likely once again to have to choose between two familiar front-runners: the former and current prime ministers, Viktor Yanukovich and Yulia Tymoshenko (each has served as prime minister twice). Mr Yanukovich leads in the polls by around ten points. But since no candidate will get a majority in the first round, a run-off between the top two will be held on February 7th.

The explanation of Mr Yanukovich’s relatively high rating has little to do with his intellectual capacity, his integrity or his record. Indeed, some 55% of Ukrainians view him negatively, according to the American-financed International Foundation for Electoral Systems. Many are put off by his thuggish manner, the obvious difficulty he has in formulating his thoughts and his two youthful criminal convictions. His role as the Russian-backed villain in the 2004 election seems to be the least of his problems, though his roots in the Russian-speaking east of Ukraine and his proximity to business tycoons there make him seem more alien in the west. "The thought of this man representing Ukraine is embarrassing," says one businessman.

But so bitter is the disappointment in the orange team, so strong the craving for stability which (at least visually) he represents and so deep the suspicion, rational or otherwise, of Ms Tymoshenko that even in western Ukraine some voters may back Mr Yanukovich in the second round. This is partly Mr Yushchenko’s work-in many ways, he has done more for Mr Yanukovich’s campaign than Mr Yanukovich himself. Indeed, destroying Ms Tymoshenko, his erstwhile orange colleague, seems now to be Mr Yushchenko’s only goal. Whereas most of Mr Yushchenko’s former allies have agreed to back Ms Tymoshenko, he is implicitly backing Mr Yanukovich. He spent much of his final press conference on January 12th attacking Ms Tymoshenko, earning him fulsome praise from Mr Yanukovich’s camp. As the incumbent prime minister, Ms Tymoshenko’s rating has also been dented by Ukraine’s severe economic crisis.

Surprises cannot be ruled out: many voters are still undecided. Serhiy Tyhypko, a banker who (like Mr Yushchenko) served as head of the central bank and who also ran Mr Yanukovich’s presidential campaign in 2004, seems likely to come third. Mr Tyhypko, who once posed for the cover of a men’s health magazine, could be the kingmaker in the second round.

Whoever wins will preside over a country saddled with a sick economy, staggering corruption, business oligarchs’ vested interests and a constitutional deadlock that does not define clearly the responsibilities of the president and prime minister. If Ms Tymoshenko wins, she may be able to buy enough deputies from Mr Yanukovich’s Party of Regions to avoid a fresh parliamentary election. If it is Mr Yanukovich, a parliamentary election in a few months’ time is almost inevitable. Either way, this presidential election is unlikely to yield the things that Ukrainians want most: political stability, responsible policies and economic security. It may just produce more business for vote sellers.
Jamestown Foundation Eurasia Daily Monitor
January 14, 2010
The Russian Factor in Ukraine’s 2010 Presidential Elections
By Taras Kuzio

The Russian factor in this year’s Ukrainian presidential elections is essentially a straw man and far less important key than five years ago. Russian political technologists openly worked for one candidate (Viktor Yanukovych), while Moscow allegedly sought to poison the opposition candidate (Viktor Yushchenko) and President Vladimir Putin visited Kyiv on the eve of the first and second rounds to endorse Yanukovych. Putin congratulated Yanukovych on his "victory" two days after the second round -and one day before the central election commission had released the official results.

Mykhailo Kasianov, now in opposition but then an ally of Putin, described the Orange Revolution, the defeat of Yanukovych and election of Yushchenko as the biggest setback of Putin’s presidency (, January 11). 

Russian policy is now less obviously interventionist. It is highly exaggerated by Ukrainian candidates, particularly by the incumbent Yushchenko, who with single digit poll ratings is fighting for his political life. Yushchenko’s 2010 election campaign has retreated to Galicia on an anti-Russian, nationalist platform. He repeatedly labels the two front runners Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and Party of Regions leader Viktor Yanukovych, who will enter the second round on February 7, as a "Moscow coalition" (Ukrayinska Pravda, January 8).

Yushchenko’s anti-Russian platform will likely backfire for three reasons.

Firstly, it has already been attempted by Leonid Kravchuk in the 1994 elections and he lost in the second round by 44 percent to Leonid Kuchma’s 52 percent. In the 2010 elections, Yushchenko is not expected to enter the second round. Moreover, Ukrainian opinion polls show that over 80 percent of Ukrainians seek good relations with Russia and do not see any contradiction between Ukraine’s integration into Europe and maintaining these ties. Any candidate who campaigns on an anti-Russian platform will consequently weaken their electoral credentials. Finally, Yushchenko’s campaign is a regression from patriotism (2004) to nationalism (2010), which has shrunk his electoral appeal to Galicia from that of five years earlier when he swept the west and central Ukraine.

Yushchenko has focused on daily attacks against Tymoshenko, while ignoring Yanukovych (EDM, January 5, 6), with one theme being her allegedly close working relationship with Putin. Yushchenko claimed that President Dmitry Medvedev’s appeal represented indirect support for Tymoshenko (Ukrayinska Pravda, January 3).
The Unified Russia (UR) party has endorsed Yanukovych as its favored candidate, one reason being that it entered a cooperation agreement with the Party of Regions in 2005. "We believe that the Party of Regions mainly represents Russian-speaking voters in Ukraine who live in the east, south and central regions. These are all people who are sympathetic to Russia and want to see the development of Russian-Ukrainian relations," said UR deputy Konstantin Zatulin (Ukrayinska Pravda, December 25).

Tymoshenko’s Fatherland Party has only cooperated with the center-right European People’s Party (EPP) group in the European Parliament and is the most active Ukrainian party in Strasbourg-Brussels. Yushchenko’s Our Ukraine is also a member of the EPP, but he has been persona non grata since 2008 after EPP leaders repeatedly criticized his attempts at undermining the Tymoshenko government. Tymoshenko -but not Yushchenko- attended the December 7, 2009 EPP meeting in Bonn where she was presented as "the future president of Ukraine" (, December 9).
Yushchenko has used the Russian factor against Tymoshenko by raising three issues:

1. Claiming that she would indefinitely extend the Black Sea Fleet base in Sevastopol. Yet, among the main candidates only Yanukovych (EDM, November 3, 2009), Serhiy Tihipko and Communist Party leader Piotr Symonenko have supported this step. In addition, no elected president can unilaterally extend the lease beyond 2017, as this would require a constitutional majority to change the constitution to no longer ban foreign bases.

2. Alleging that Tymoshenko will sell off Ukraine’s gas pipelines. In February 2007 Tymoshenko mobilized 430 (out of 450) deputies to vote for legislation that bans every form of transfer of the pipelines. In March 2009 she signed an agreement with the EU to modernize the pipelines that excluded Russia, provoking protest by Putin. Four candidates have supported a gas consortium with Russia: Yanukovych, Tihipko, Symonenko and Arseniy Yatseniuk (EDM, November 20, 2009).

3. Arguing that Tymoshenko has backtracked from NATO membership, which appears far-fetched as none of the 18 candidates -including Yushchenko- mention NATO in their 2010 programs (EDM, December 15, 2009). NATO membership is on the backburner because support for this step has not increased during Yushchenko’s presidency.

Yushchenko prioritized blocking Tymoshenko’s return to the post of prime minister in 2006 over the one realistic chance of Ukraine obtaining a Membership Action Plan, Ukraine-fatigue grew from 2007 in Europe and the US, while President Barack Obama is not pursuing NATO enlargement to the same extent as the previous administration.
Within the Tymoshenko team there are NATO supporters and Kuchma-era high levels of cooperation with NATO would revive if Tymoshenko was elected. If Yanukovych is elected, NATO membership would drop from the agenda and cooperation will decline compared to the Kuchma era.

The Russian factor diminished after Yushchenko’s last pre-election press conference, which transpired as an anti-Tymoshenko speech (www.president,,, January 12). Yushchenko revived documents from the criminal case fabricated by Putin and Kuchma against Tymoshenko following the 2000-2001 Kuchmagate scandal to undermine her as an opposition leader. Kuchma was unsuccessful in making such charges stick; nevertheless, Tymoshenko became the only member of the Ukrainian elite who was ever imprisoned (February 2001) (Radio Free Europe, August 15, 2002).

Yushchenko argues that the "Moscow Coalition" (Tymoshenko and Yanukovych) are no different, and is calling on "patriotic Ukrainians" not to vote in the second round. Therefore, the election outcome will hinge on whether "Orange" voters will heed Yushchenko’s advice. Listening to Yushchenko would have the effect of dampening the turnout in western Ukraine and ensuring Yanukovych’s election (and possibly Yushchenko becoming prime minister). If they ignore Yushchenko’s appeal, Tymoshenko will likely be elected as Ukraine’s next president.
BBC Monitoring
New Ukrainian president to adopt anti-Kremlin position – Russian pundit
Ekho Moskvy News Agency
January 14, 2010
Text of commentary by Matvey Ganapolskiy published by Gazprom-owned, editorially independent Russian news agency Ekho Moskvy
Mr. Putin’s comment during his television conversation with the people (on 3 December 2009) that One Russia has built up good relations with Mr (Viktor) Yanukovych’s Ukrainian (opposition) Party of Regions does not reflect the facts, because a few days before the (presidential) election Yanukovych has inflicted a major blow on Putin by saying that he would demand the gas price to be reviewed following the election. What can you say? It is a proper flick on Putin’s nose. Absolutely spot on. It is subtle revenge for cutting off the pipelines.
The "new" Yanukovych differs from the "old" one in that he is now a completely different politician to what he was before. Image makers have worked on him: he says that Ukraine’s strategic goal is integration with the West, and I have already mentioned gas.
But the most important thing is that even if he were a secret Kremlin sympathizer and slept with a matreshka doll at night, during the day he cannot be anything other than a national politician, otherwise Ukrainians would simply eat him up. People will look under a microscope for any trace of betrayal of national interests in his every movement or statement. But nobody will find any confirmation of this because only Russian television can condescendingly laugh at Ukrainian politics. But this is laughter of the impotent, because it is not Putin and Medvedev who have been accusing each other of corruption for all these years, have been learning how to parry the opposition’s blows and to publicly respond in a dignified manner to the allegations on numerous live talk-shows.
It is (Prime Minister Yuliya) Tymoshenko, (President Viktor) Yushchenko, Yanukovych and other figures who have been doing this on the Ukrainian political stage. What the Kremlin regards as a political mess has actually proved to be normal political life, training politicians not to call themselves national leaders but to be them.
In fact, Yanukovych and Tymoshenko despise the putrid smell of Russian politics. Just like Russia, they want to modernize Ukraine, but unlike Russia they will be forced to do this because there is political freedom, political opponents and freedom of the press in Ukraine which have proven their effectiveness. And every second the Ukrainian president or prime minister spend in power is a fight for survival which develops their political muscles.
Yushchenko is not leaving of his own volition like (former Russian President Boris) Yeltsin did – he actually is losing.
Russia does not need to look for whom it should support in this election. Both Yanukovych and Tymoshenko are definitely anti-Russian politicians in the sense that they are people from another planet, from one where power is not appointed but is wrested in a political struggle. It makes people different. Whoever wins the election, be it Tymoshenko or Yanukovych, they will never be able to hide their scornful attitude towards Russia, simply because they have bearing down on their shoulders the legitimacy of which Russian leaders can only dream when appointing each other.
And there will be problems between our countries simply because the new Ukrainian president will go to Russia as if to a museum of mineral deposits, which is what present-day Russia is.
And Yanukovych’s double-breasted suit, which is somewhat Soviet in appearance, should not mislead anyone – there has not been anything Soviet left in Yanukovych for a long time and love for his "elder Slavic brother" even less so. And apart from his own political schooling he has experienced another – Putin’s, Russia’s.
This is a school of "pragmatism", "a dollar a barrel", a school of cutting off pipelines on New Year’s Eve. It is a school of trips by (Moscow Mayor Yuriy) Luzhkov to Sevastopol and condescending spoofs on the box. It is a school of statements by Kremlin political scientists that there is no such state as Ukraine and if there is, it has not been established. It is "deep thoughts" about Ukraine’s inevitable split into two states. It is Mr Putin’s unforgettable remark regarding the endless disruptions to meetings in the Ukrainian parliament that "God save us from that type of democracy!.."
Russia will get it with interest for all this, because these types of things are not forgotten. Therefore in terms of the Ukrainian election Russia can only swear using gas expletives, although I had in mind completely different ones.
Voice of America
January 14, 2010
Analysts: NATO Membership for Ukraine Unlikely Anytime Soon
Andre de Nesnera | Washington
Ukrainians go to the polls January 17 to elect a new president.  Current leader Viktor Yushchenko is a strong advocate for Ukraine’s membership into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.  But that membership is unlikely to happen anytime soon.
Ukraine and Georgia have expressed interest in becoming NATO members.  The Bush administration strongly supported their membership bids.  But at the April 2008 NATO summit in Bucharest, Romania, member countries declined requests by both nations to begin the process of accession known as a "Membership Action Plan".  The final communiqu� simply said NATO leaders agreed that "these countries will become members of NATO" – but no time frame was given.
A former senior State Department official in the Bush administration, David Kramer, who was responsible for Eurasian and European affairs says both countries have to overcome numerous obstacles before becoming NATO members.
"Joining NATO means meeting the criteria for joining NATO – countries can’t simply fill out an application and become a member the next day.  They do have to undertake reforms that include political, economic as well as security reforms.  And membership is a long process – it does not happen quickly.  And so in some respects, in different areas, Georgia and Ukraine have made progress in these regards.  But in other areas, in other parts of reform, they have a long way to go.  So membership for Ukraine and Georgia is not going to be in the offing anytime soon."
Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko has been pushing for NATO membership since he assumed power five years ago.  But he is on the verge of losing his job as voters go the polls this Sunday to elect a new president.   Public-opinion surveys put Mr. Yushchenko far behind the two front-runners: Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and Viktor Yanukovich, head of the powerful "Party of Regions" in the Ukrainian parliament.
David Marples from the University of Alberta [Canada] looks at Ms. Tymoshenko’s and Mr. Yanukovich’s stand on NATO membership. "Tymoshenko is a little unclear on what would happen with NATO . Yanukovich is opposed to it, but he would probably agree to a referendum.  And all the polls so far have suggested that most people would vote against it: something like 55 or 60 percent, which is a very high figure in a referendum, would vote against Ukraine joining NATO," he said.
Russia has been vehemently opposed to Ukraine’s bid to join NATO.  Analysts say as a result of President Yushchenko’s attempts to join the alliance, relations between Kiyev and Moscow are at an all-time low.
But many experts, including Robert Legvold from Columbia University, say  NATO membership appears to be less of an issue now than it was five years ago at the beginning of the Yushchenko administration.  "One of the interesting things about this election is no candidate, no single candidate, not even Yushchenko, who is after all one of the 18 candidates, is raising the issue of NATO membership in this presidential campaign.  Both objectively in terms of Ukraine’s relations with NATO and in terms of the politics of it in Ukraine, as reflected in this presidential election, Ukraine is farther away from NATO membership than before," he said.
Legvold says that has a lot to do with NATO’s perception of Ukraine. "And that is that Ukraine is seen less and less as a fit member of NATO, because it has not been able to deal with these underlying structural problems: it has made a little bit of progress in terms of military reform, but not in terms of corruption or political stabilization or advancing in a way that would make it anything other than for NATO, a basket case to take on.  And NATO has had enough trouble dealing with, just as the European Union, with the enlargements of the past," he said.
Ukraine is also vying to be a member of the European Union.  But experts say Kiyev has even less of a chance to become an E.U. member because the standards for getting into the European Union are much tighter than they are for membership in NATO.
The Moscow Times
January 15, 2010
The Anti-Orange Election
By Alexander J. Motyl
Alexander J. Motyl is a professor of political science at Rutgers University-Newark.
As Ukrainians go to the polls on Sunday to elect a new president, Western observers should interpret the outcome in light of how the U.S. premier political scientist distinguished between good and bad government.

Back in 1968, in his now classic work "Political Order in Changing Societies," the late Samuel P. Huntington, best known perhaps for his "Clash of Civilizations" thesis, claimed: "The most important political distinction among countries concerns not their form of government but their degree of government. … A government with a low level of institutionalization is not just a weak government; it is also a bad government." After all, concluded Huntington, "The function of government is to govern."

Ukraine has been a prime example of the acuity of Huntington’s insights. Ever since the Orange Revolution of late 2004 ushered in a democratic, pro-Western government in Kiev, Ukraine has suffered from incessant infighting and deadlock that have led some observers to suggest that it has become so weak as to approximate a failed state. President Viktor Yushchenko and Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, the heroes of the revolution, never fail to sabotage each other’s policies and forge alliances with the anti-Orange leader, Viktor Yanukovych. The destructive cycle of sabotage and betrayal has demoralized the population, increased corruption, strengthened the Kremlin’s position in the country and promoted "Ukraine fatigue" in the West.

The upcoming presidential election could break the cycle and place Ukraine on the path to a stronger government. Most polls and analysts suggest that Yanukovych and Tymoshenko will garner the most votes in the first round and will then face each other in a runoff three weeks later. Yushchenko’s almost certain departure from political prominence will immediately produce three stabilizing Huntingtonian effects.

First, as Ukraine’s equivalent of former U.S. President George W. Bush, Yushchenko has come to be despised even by his supporters. Things have gotten so bad that everything he touches is deemed a bad idea. Just as Bush didn’t deserve all the opprobrium that was heaped upon him in his second term, so too Yushchenko isn’t quite the incompetent leader that he’s made out to be. But perceptions matter, and his departure will refocus the public’s attention from his person to issues and policies.

Second, Yushchenko’s relationship with Tymoshenko has become self-destructive. He vetoes every one of her policies, and she counters by undermining his. Regardless of who is right and who is wrong and just why these two former allies have turned into mortal enemies, the fact is that Yushchenko’s departure will depersonalize Ukraine’s politics. This will clearly help lower the temperature in the country.

What will happen if Tymoshenko wins the second round? Her party will then control the presidency, the parliament and the Constitutional Court, giving her enormous powers. Moreover, Yanukovych will likely fall from grace and his party will almost certainly experience a deep crisis. Many Ukrainians fear that Tymoshenko, given her large personal ambitions, will try to establish a dictatorship, but their fears are greatly exaggerated. Dictators need strong and large state bureaucracies, armies and secret police in order to rule, and Ukraine has none of these. An all-powerful Tymoshenko will not be able to become a dictator, but she will also have no one to blame if she fails to fix the economy and establish a strong government.

If Yanukovych wins, he will control the presidency and the Constitutional Court, but Tymoshenko will, in all likelihood, remain the prime minister. Their power struggle will likely continue – at least until parliamentary elections give one or the other an advantage in the parliament. But their incentives to cooperate over policy will also be greater than at present. There will be no third partner to court, and whether the outcome is cold war or cold peace, some kind of detente over measures that address the economic and political crisis is likely.

Finally, whoever wins will likely change Ukraine’s constitution, which as currently constructed virtually guarantees perpetual conflicts between the president and prime minister. Experts generally agree that a presidential system is worse than a parliamentary one, but they also agree that a mixed presidential-parliamentary system such as Ukraine’s is by far the worst.

In the end, a Huntingtonian interpretation of Ukraine leads to cautious optimism about positive governmental change in the country. Establishing a strong government in Kiev will clearly be in Ukraine’s best interests, and it will also help strengthen the country’s relations with the West. The United States and Europe could help resolve Ukraine’s strategic dilemma of being located in the no-man’s land between a hostile Russia and a weak Europe, while the European Union could pursue a relationship with Ukraine that is at least as close as its relationship with Russia.

Meanwhile, before Ukraine’s next president takes the oath of office, he or she would do well to read Huntington.
Center for American Progress
January 14, 2010
Ukraine’s Elections Demand Engagement
The West Can’t Be Complacent About Ukraine�s Nascent Democracy
By Samuel Charap
Ukrainians will go to the polls to elect a president this Sunday. The campaign is genuinely competitive, and the ultimate outcome is far from certain. A relatively free press is actively covering developments, and hundreds of international observers have been invited to oversee the election.

These are all important indications of how far the country has progressed since the Orange Revolution, the wave of protests that followed the falsification of the previous presidential poll in November 2004. This progress is real, but it is not irreversible. A win for either of the two top contenders will not mark a strategic political shift, but a tainted result could pose a threat to Ukraine’s democratic future. The Obama administration and our European allies should therefore make clear to Ukraine’s leaders that it is crucial the elections be conducted fairly-and that they are watching to make sure that is the case.

Ukraine’s last election in 2004 did indeed mark a turning point in the country’s post-Soviet development. After a blatant attempt at falsification of the elections, Ukrainians took to the streets in unprecedented numbers, demanding that their votes be counted. These protests, which came to be known as the Orange Revolution after the color adopted by the protestors and their leaders, propelled opposition candidate Viktor Yushchenko to victory over outgoing president Leonid Kuchma’s chosen successor, Viktor Yanukovych.

Many in the West saw the Orange Revolution exclusively in terms of high politics-a battle between the purportedly "democratic," pro-Western reformers Yushchenko and his then-ally Yulia Tymoshenko over the allegedly corrupt, pro-Russian, authoritarian forces represented by Yanukovych. These labels-if not completely false-turned out to have little meaning and ultimately distracted attention from the real revolution in Ukrainian society.

Ukrainian society before the Orange Revolution was typical of the post-Soviet region-resigned to rule from above, incapable of self-organization, and somewhat closed to the outside world. Its politics were defined by cronyism, widespread corruption, weak governance, minimal accountability, and a repressive response to dissent. The foot soldiers of the Orange Revolution were average Ukrainians who were fed up with both. The politicians simply captured this desire for change.

The Revolution did transform Ukrainian society. People now debate politics in person, on TV, and in the press. Politicians are held to account by an increasingly active civil society, and Ukrainians began to think of themselves as European.

Yet Ukrainian politics changed little. The country descended into political crisis within months of the Revolution, and neverending battles among the prime minister, president, and Parliament have dominated public life and prevented substantive reform. Criticism of the top leadership is for the most part no longer taboo, but corruption remains endemic, the authorities’ capacity to enforce policy is at its nadir, and economic interests still control much of the political sphere.

The cast of characters in Ukraine’s political drama remains largely the same.

Tymoshenko, now Prime Minister, and Yanukovych, who heads up the opposition in the parliament, are leading the pack of over a dozen registered candidates. President Yushchenko is also running, but many Ukrainians blame him for failing to follow through on the promise of the Orange Revolution and for general poor leadership, and he now polls in the low single digits. But his consistent-and often visceral-attacks on his one-time ally Tymoshenko keep him in the news.

Tymoshenko currently trails Yanukovych by around 12 percent. Her popularity has suffered in large part as a result of the economic crisis, which hit Ukraine hard. Its gross domestic product contracted by more than 15 percent last year, inflation was around 16 percent, and the budget deficit ballooned.

Yanukovych will almost certainty not garner the more than 50 percent of votes needed to prevent a run-off election, which would take place on February 7. But polls measuring a direct match-up with Tymoshenko in a hypothetical second round also favor him by around 13 percent.

Yet the result is by no means preordained. Up to a quarter of the population remains undecided, and Tymoshenko is a highly skilled campaigner and has shown herself capable of boosting her numbers significantly in the final weeks of previous campaigns. She could still win the election if she can rally those who supported the other candidates after the first round and the sizable numbers who say they plan to vote "against all."

But regardless of who wins, the implications for Ukraine’s foreign and domestic policies are actually not all that significant. Both will be constrained in their economic policies by the conditions attached to continued IMF support, which is crucial to getting the country through the crisis. Both will try to improve the relationship with Russia, which is currently at its post-Soviet low point. And both will soft-pedal rhetoric on NATO membership, while continuing practical cooperation with the Alliance and pursuing closer integration with the European Union.

The West should not be too concerned about a Yanukovych victory, despite the "pro-Russian" label. In reality, the economic groups that back him would never allow Russian firms to penetrate Ukrainian markets, which is one of Moscow’s main policy aims, or to derail cooperation with the West, the main destination for their exports. He might be more likely than Tymoshenko to pick up the phone when the Kremlin calls, but that does not mean that Russia will get its way.

The issue of strategic importance for Ukraine’s future is therefore not who wins the election. What is crucial is how the elections are conducted. And there is a significant chance that the result will not be determined at the ballot box, even during the second round vote. Ukrainians themselves are certainly prepared for such an outcome: more than half believe that the results will be falsified, and only a third say that election results in their country accurately reflect the way people vote.

Two scenarios are possible. The first is outright falsification: ballot stuffing, manipulated absentee votes, or direct fraud. The second-and more likely outcome-is that the loser will challenge the legitimacy of the outcome if the results of the second round are close. The consequence is likely to be a string of court cases-and Ukraine’s judicial system is notorious for corruption and politicization-or street protests. If protests do occur, they are unlikely to reach the levels seen during the Orange Revolution, but they could prove destabilizing nonetheless. If one or both of these scenarios are realized, the consequences for Ukraine’s future could be severe.

A casual walk around the streets of the capital city of Kyiv would seem to show that the revolutionary spirit of civic engagement is still alive and well. There are huge advertisements for the candidates on practically every corner, and young staff actively distribute campaign materials. But Ukrainians are overwhelmingly disillusioned and fed up with their politicians and politics in general. Nearly three-quarters of the population believe that Ukraine is on a path toward instability and chaos. Only 26 percent say that voting gives them influence over decision-making, and even fewer have confidence in key democratic institutions. Indeed, a Pew study showed that less than a third of Ukrainians now approve of the transition to democracy that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union.

These attitudes have eerie echoes of Russian popular opinion seen about a decade ago. Despite a brief period of democratic engagement in the late Soviet period and the first years of Boris Yeltsin’s presidency, Russians came to associate democracy with the chaos and economic dislocation they experienced during the 1990s. President Vladimir Putin’s hypercentralization of power to a certain extent reflected the public’s desire for order. Ukraine’s regional fragmentation makes it unlikely that such a semi-authoritarian political system will emerge, but there is no guarantee that political dynamics will not move in that direction. Ukrainians are losing faith in democracy and an illegitimate election would further damage that faith.

This possibility is little appreciated in Washington or in European capitals. A sense of complacency about Ukraine’s future set in after the Orange Revolution. And it became conventional wisdom that the gains marked an irreversible turning point in Ukraine’s history that put the country on an inevitable march toward becoming a full-fledged democracy and a member of the Euro-Atlantic community. Any problems that Ukraine might have during these elections-so the logic goes-are merely growing pains; the strategic questions about the country’s trajectory have already been answered. This attitude was directly reflected in U.S. policy, with Congress drastically cutting democracy assistance for Ukraine from 2004 to 2008, and slashing funds for Radio Free Europe and Voice of America, as well.

This "Ukraine complacency" phenomenon has been complimented by "Ukraine fatigue"-the increasing frustration in the West with Kyiv’s incapacity to deliver on its promises. The Ukrainian government has continually failed to follow through on its commitments. It signed up for a $16.4 billion IMF stabilization package, and then proceeded to violate the conditions. It pledged to make key reforms of its energy sector, and then implemented only cosmetic changes. It committed to participating in two NATO exercises, and then the parliament failed to pass the authorizing legislation. And the utter chaos of Ukrainian politics that began just months after the Orange Revolution has made it nearly impossible for the West to find an effective interlocutor in Kyiv.

This combination of Western complacency and fatigue with Ukraine has precipitated a nonchalant attitude toward the elections. But we ignore Ukraine at our peril. The country is simply too important-as a transit hub for Europe’s energy needs, as a bridge between Russia and the West, as an industrial and agricultural power, and as a Black Sea-littoral state-for us to sit back and watch as one of the scenarios described above unfold.

Washington and our European allies should therefore actively engage Ukraine in the weeks between the initial and runoff elections. The Obama administration has taken important steps, such as naming John Tefft, a highly respected diplomat with years of experience in the region, as ambassador to Kyiv, and by proposing increases to Ukraine’s democracy assistance budget. Congress has also played a positive role by passing a resolution calling for Ukraine to conduct its elections transparently and declaring U.S. support for its political and economic development.

But more is needed to make sure that Ukraine’s political elite is aware that we are paying attention and that there is a cost associated with undermining the democratic process. The administration should make it clear-both publicly and privately-that the runoff election must be free and fair; that the results must not be manipulated; and that the voters, not the courts or the streets, should determine the outcome. The administration should also urge our European allies to take a more active stance. Their proximity, greater economic ties, and the institutional levers the EU’s neighborhood policy gives them make their collective voice perhaps even more important than ours.

The question of who wins might not fundamentally alter Ukraine’s future, but the presidential election is critical for the country nonetheless. If the elections go poorly, they could prove the marker of the definitive end of the Orange Revolution.
Date: Fri, 15 Jan 2010
Subject: Ukraine: Five Years On
From: Edward Lozansky <>
Edward Lozansky, President, American University in Moscow
Ukraine: Five Years On
Five years have gone by as one day. Only yesterday, it seems, we saw jubilant crowds in Kiev celebrating the victory of democracy in Ukraine. Small wonder, too � the pro-Western Victor Yushchenko had contrived to wrest victory from his hateful namesake, pro-Russia Yanukovich. The former, cruelly poisoned (allegedly by none other than Putin), had miraculously risen from the dead, won the election and was about to guide Ukraine to a life of plenty in the European Union and NATO. The unimpeachable teaching of George Bush about the inevitable spread of democracy across the world had yet again been proved right. Besides, no less importantly, the Orange Revolution turned out to be relatively inexpensive to fund. Especially compared to the business of promoting democracy in Afghanistan and Iraq, where thousands of young Americans and Europeans from NATO countries continue to die and hundreds of billions of dollars continue to be spent.
According to Republican Congressman Ron Paul of Texas, in Ukraine the price barely came to several dozen million dollars. However, as he lacked precise statistics, the actual sum could have been considerably larger. The congressman called on the White House Administration and the US General Accounting Office to look into the Ukrainian election�s cost to the American taxpayer, and what exactly that money had paid for, yet his appeals fell on deaf ears. That so greatly incensed Ron Paul that he accused the US Government of hypocrisy. On the one hand, said the congressman, we are against external interference in another state�s election, but on the other we send money to Ukraine to sway the vote there.
It does not take a profoundly analytical mind to see that the main object of the Orange Revolution strategists was not democracy in Ukraine, but further weakening of Russia. In the contest between two schools of American political thought, one of which called for integration with Russia and the other, for its isolation and weakening, it was the latter that was confidently winning.
The views of those who warned that attempts to sever Ukraine from Russia would ultimately miscarry were blatantly ignored. The reasoning of those who pointed out that the historical, cultural and family ties between the two countries were much too strong and that the current policy, if continued, might end in civil war in Ukraine and the country�s breakup was likewise rejected out of hand.
As the Russian saying goes, it�s an ill wind that blows nobody any good. The United States, as the principal sponsor of the Orange Revolution, has found itself in a predicament. Its status of the only remaining superpower after the fall of communism failed the test of time. The economic crisis, the astronomical national debt and growing unemployment, as well as the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, instability in Pakistan, Iran�s nuclear ambition, and the increasing threat of Islamic terrorism are inducing the new Washington Administration to take stock of its resources and opt for a more pragmatic policy.
So now it is the advocates of rapprochement with Russia for jointly tackling global problems that are beginning to prevail over those who would like to see Russia further weakened through NATO enlargement, the BMD system in Eastern Europe, funding color revolutions, and, most importantly, trying to break up Ukraine from Russia.
On January 17, 2010 the world will witness the inevitable defeat of Yushchenko, whose legacy, apart from a record economic slump and the hryvna devalued by 50 percent, will include monuments to Nazi collaborators and organizers of mass executions of Jews and Poles.
Let me say that those who feel like gloating over the difficulties America is experiencing fail to understand that many of U.S. problems are shared by the rest of the world. Therefore, it is in Russia�s interests to take a dignified high road policy and to seek and find ways of helping America in solving them. The present moment is singularly auspicious for implementing real projects in the course of much hyped resetting, which, alas, cannot yet boast any tangible results. It is well known that in the wake of the Obama-Medvedev meeting, an impressive number of 18 (!) bilateral governmental commissions have been set up to coordinate the resetting process. So far we did not hear too much about their activities or, most importantly, results, except perhaps just one, on cultural cooperation, headed by Mikhail Shvydkoi and US Undersecretary of State Judith McHale. Apparently, the other seventeen are still trying to decide what they are going to do.  Don�t you think it�s about time you set to, gentlemen?
Date: Thu, 14 Jan 2010 1
Subject: Updated Conference Announcement: The Legacy and Consequences of        Jackson-Vanik
The Legacy and Consequences of Jackson-Vanik:
Reassessing Human Rights in 21st Century Russia
Cosponsored by the Henry M. Jackson Foundation and the Kennan Institute, Woodrow Wilson Center
Thursday, February 4, 2010
Woodrow Wilson Center
1300 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC
During the Cold War, the United States and the West used the issue of human rights as a platform to question the policies and ultimately the legitimacy of the Soviet Union. One aspect of that strategy was the Jackson-Vanik amendment to the 1974 Trade Act, which denied normal trading relations to non-market economies that restricted emigration rights. The amendment was particularly targeted to the Soviet Union�s practice at the time to deny Jews permission to emigrate. 
Nearly 20 years after the fall of the Soviet Union and the emergence of an independent Russian state, the Jackson-Vanik amendment remains in force against Russia, even though Russia has been declared a market economy by the United States and it no longer restricts emigration. 
This conference will explore the history, legacy, and lessons of the enactment and life of the Jackson-Vanik amendment.
Please follow this link for the conference agenda and to RSVP (required):
Date: Thu, 14 Jan 2010
From: "CSIS Human Rights and Security Initiative"<>
Subject: Violence in the North Caucasus: 2009, a CSIS report
Violence in the North Caucasus: 2009, A Bloody Year
The year 2009 was especially violent in the North Caucasus.  In those twelve months, CSIS tracked more than 1100 incidents of violence – compared to 795 in 2008 – many of which were deadly.  Most alarming: the number of suicide bombings in the North Caucasus nearly quadrupled from 2008, with the majority occurring in Chechnya.
In this report, "Violence in the North Caucasus: 2009, A Bloody Year," we present our findings, all of which illustrate the scope and scale of instability in the region. 
For more information on the Human Rights and Security Initiative research on
the North Caucasus, please visit our website:
This "Violence in the North Caucasus" report was made possible by a grant from the Open Society Institute.
Effective Policy Foundation Head Pavlovskiy on Stalin, Gaydar — Putin, Medvedev
December 28, 2010
Interview, under the rubric "Interview," with Gleb Olegovich Pavlovskiy, president of the Effective Policy Foundation, conducted by Boris Mezhuyev, Pavel Danilin, and Nikita Kurkin: "Talk Around the Kremlin New Year’s Tree"
Interview for the editors of RZh (Russkiy Zhurnal) and Kreml.Org.
(Boris Mezhuyev) The end of 2009 was marked by a certain lull in the concrete political agenda. However, we have just observed the latest outburst of public excitement around the name of Stalin. Today even a moderate social-liberal program appears under the brand of "neo-Stalinism," apparently in the hope that this brand will help promote the program itself. Moreover, we see a certain step-up in nostalgic recollections of the 1990s, the name of Yeltsin, and the name of the late Gaydar. What do you think, do these recollections of the past have something to do with real politics or are they a symbol of general disappointment with current politics? And all the same does turning to the past perhaps have something to do with the current political agenda? And in that case how can this agenda be described?
(Gleb Pavlovskiy) Stalin is simply a symptom. A symptom of the extremes of the depoliticization of consciousness, which wants to be relevant and is trying to be on the cutting edge of events. It is always babbling about conflicts and even apocalypses, but they are made-up ones. And in reality we are fleeing from healthy political conflict and prohibiting ourselves from having a stance. It must be noted that there has been no position or policy toward Stalin in Russian society for a long time now. It does not exist in even that mythological, extremely camouflaged form like the "anti-Stalinist" battles of 20 years ago, during early perestroyka (restructuring).
"Stalin," "Gaydar," and "Yeltsin" today are ordinary escape from conflict and from discussion of the working agenda. But such neurotic agitation suggests feigning. As always, our disputes are hot and at the same time harmless and not risky. No one is risking anything: neither his reputation nor freedom of action. And in the process not one of the positions discusses the foundation on which it rests. One and the same public intellectual accuses Stalin of playing with the lives of millions and on the death of Gaydar will say that Gaydar had no other way to save the country than to sacrifice the lives and property of millions.
The formula in both cases is the very same — we won and hence history is on our side. That is the essence of Stalinism — the idea that what was historically overcome was in fact the "only possible" past. This triumphalist nonsense, this philosophy of the Genghis Khans, is the formula of the "Short Course in the History of the VKP (b)" (All-Union Communist Party (of Bolsheviks)). Stalinist historiosophy ascribes an apology to each political victory and some conspiracy or treachery — to each failure. But both are necessarily derived from "immutable historical prerequisites." Progress is always fated to win, and victims are always fated to confirm the rightness of their murderers.
In our country it is specifically this philosophy that was rejected by all the intellectual schools. Nonetheless, it comes back to life every time that cowards want to make political speeches without risking anything and engage in politics in white gloves. They call on Stalin, Sakharov, and Yeltsin. Gaydar is suddenly praised for the same things that they condemn Stalin for. He supposedly assumed responsibility to "complete the work of history," to fulfill the mission of the "villain of development," as it was called in the Russian 19th century. Yevgeniy Yasin’s website says that Gaydar all but saved humankind from a world war. Gaydar’s retrospective enemies, in contrast, condemn the deceased for some kind of "radicalism" and "liberalism." But Gaydar should be accused of exactly the opposite, avoiding the needed radicalism and evading the radical risk that is so essential in politics. Since if a person undertakes extreme decisions for the sake of saving the motherland, he is going to wield power. He is entering an open field of action unlimited by anything except facts, where there are a multitude of interests, variants, and alternatives. What kind of absurd excuses are they, that there is "only one solution," that "no other choice was given"?! Gaydar himself renounced the needed completeness of action. Having refused to assume all the political responsibility, he left it to Yeltsin, who without knowing what to do was himself counting on Gaydar! This is the literal meaning of their deal in November 1991 — "Your charisma means our reforms!" But great reformers do not bind themselves with conditions. So the Yeltsin-Gaydar tandem proved to be a tandem of disaster.
You do not dare to undertake revolutionary reforms after giving the president a guaranteed signoff to reject power: policy remains "up to the president" — what does that actually mean? Such conditions can be accepted at first, only to break and reject them the next day! Reforms are too important a thing to permit concessions. On his very first failure, Gaydar was simply required to declare that this was Yeltsin putting obstacles in his way and demand all power for himself.
However, it is useless to carry on a dispute in the context of debates whose participants themselves are insisting that they are not serious. The theme of our history is a password for apolitical babbling. In contemporary Russia, Stalinism and anti-Stalinism, Yeltsinism and anti-Yeltsinism are symptoms of the multiple sclerosis of depoliticization.
(Mezhuyev) People often say that Stalin is the password for real modernization. The website came out with the statement that real modernization in Russia means Stalin. And if you want to carry out modernization, you must employ that. But what the word "that" means is often left out.
(Pavlovskiy) Playing hide and seek is in fact a transparent characteristic of all conversations. Every time when you reach the word "that," people say: "Well, you understand what I’m talking about!" The topic of a political conflict is either so pornographic that it cannot be named, or it is so risky for self-definition that it actually remains ignored in the discussion. So what is the talk really about?
Theoretically one can even today imagine debates on Stalin that are in some way linked with the current agenda. But at that time they had to be linked with it in some way. And the analogies that Stalin was also conducting modernization do not make it, to be honest, even as popular science commentaries. It is very well known specifically what Stalin was doing and how. There are very few secrets left here. The number of victims, and Stalin’s traitorous resolutions, and his notes to his agents on whom to "beat" and whom not to.
Here I do not see some staggering truth that would permit us to understand anything about the present day. Other than one thing — the lack of distinction between violence and social dynamics. The one is saturated with the other. In this regard Stalin would have easily understood our reality. Someone said that Newton would easily understand Einstein’s physics, although I would be very surprised. Stalin would understand our reality, which seems mysterious to us, very well. In it he would have recognized the endless game of the agents of violence and different forms of violence, violent projects and violent worldviews, which he was very much oriented to, since he himself came to power out of a similar stew. But I am opposed to ideas of discussing modernization in connection with Stalin.
(Mezhuyev) The political sense of reproducing Stalin’s name can be reduced to one thing: the strict responsibility of the bureaucracy and the technical and administrative link for the mistakes made. The Sayano-Shushenskaya GES (hydroelectric power plant) — no one has been removed and no one has been punished. People often recall China and the practice of executions that they use there. But in our country there is a moratorium on capital punishment. In other words, society is asking the question: how can serious actions that the bureaucracy will be included in be carried out if there is no system of personal responsibility of the bureaucrat for the actions he is carrying out?
(Pavlovskiy) In this case we see absolutely non-political dreams. People who think like that want politics to go on without their participation, but in a direction favorable to them! To have someone somehow "arrange things well"! Both Stalin and his enemies would have smiled at that desire. Those who thought that way proved to be both the favorite prey and the first victim of history: so let’s hire a steward and he will build the "society and the state" for us! And we will just sit here and talk a bit:
Stalin was not looking for a source of violence separate from the political process; he was trying to set up a violent layout of this process itself, inside it. One must not say that it was violence directed toward the bureaucracy from somewhere outside. The centers of violence shifted markedly throughout the entire Stalinist period. The violence of the times of collectivization seemed altogether different from the violence at the end of the 1930s — in the sense of how the apparat was organized and what social groups were drawn into violence.
(Mezhuyev) Here it is a matter of violence in the context of modernization.
(Pavlovskiy) It is pointless to discuss Stalin in the context of the current debate surrounding his figure. He was neither a hero of modernization nor an enemy of bureaucracy. He was neither a bureaucrat nor an anti-bureaucrat. He, as people say, liked to have it both ways, regardless of his mood, condition, and in particular, the political situation.
(Pavel Danilin) Both participants in the tandem expressed their attitude toward Stalin. What was this — a pass to society or, in contrast, a ball (thrown) from society’s side that was caught, as Marina Litvinovich says? Why was this done, and at a short distance from one another too?
(Pavlovskiy) A tandem also consists of people. In our country many people believe that politics means popularity, and in order to stay popular, one must respond to hot topics. This perception of politics is a vestige of the 1990s that are done for in the media and of the concept of controlling the agenda that predominated then. But when media hegemony is achieved, there is no need to split hairs and give an opinion on every topic and respond to every piece of news. That is a mistake.
Why was this done? But after all, they are also people and in this sense they also have a political principle. For Putin, I would say, it is a cultivated part of his political personality, his appearance, his image. He must be exquisitely apolitical, sometimes to the point of eccentricity. He has shaped specifically that kind of demand for himself and must meet it.
Medvedev through anti-Stalinism signifies his kinship with progressive milieus. Stalin for him acts as a unique kind of political marker. It is a definition of liberalism through the discourse of the 1980s. Here, in fact, there is no manifestation of a current position.
It is a different matter if in discussing the risks, we raise the disputes of the old times — on the state and on backwardness, beginning with the Leninist theory "We will once again become backward," on the formation of enclaves being modernized and their correlation with the rest of the country, and on the notorious commanding heights and things like that. In a certain sense, all this was a modernization discussion. But that is not what is being discussed today. Things that have nothing to do with the political agenda are being discussed.
An especially noticeable victim of this was Gaydar, who is both cursed and praised, but not for what he really did.
(Mezhuyev) But all the same, what did he really do and what did he not do?
(Pavlovskiy) There is this mantra: Gaydar created Russia. Yes, Gaydar really did create Russia, but not the one that he wanted to create. He received the ball of initial improvisation that was developing in an absolutely uncontrollable way and threw the ball on — to Yeltsin and Putin…
The element of improvisations in 1991 before Belovezhye (Belovezh Accords — creating the CIS) was ambiguous and truly dangerous. The danger was not created by the "sovereignization of republics," but by the deliberate indistinctness of the new Russia in the Boris Nikolayevich Yeltsin version. The demand in the name of Russia was made simultaneously for the Soviet Union as a whole and for the Russian Federation within it. That was what was most dangerous for Yeltsin. It was this that provoked the confusion — not one republic wanted, on an unknown basis, to be suddenly declared "Russia." And besides, how could such a thing be explained, to Kazakhstan, for example? Nazarbayev was not prepared to go anywhere, but then of course neither did he intend to comically change clothes into the "renewed Russia" either. Stalin himself did not demand such a stupid thing from the republics even after the Victory! All this was setting the stage for a disaster.
In a certain sense Gaydar found a way out. He proposed a counter-improvisation — a Russia that rejects "everything extraneous," everything that is slipping away from it: a Russia that does not reach agreement with anyone about anything… Everywhere that negotiations were not over by December, everything was declared meaningless. And the building of the state from scratch begins. The meaninglessness of the obligations plus extreme sovereignty — with no alternative, unrestrained, with no counterweights as "ballast" — that is the formula of Gaydar politics that became the core of the new Russia. Gaydar launched this process that in various editions we would encounter in the 1990s and 2000s. Gaydar created the very culture of no alternative.
(Mezhuyev) But did this process really have no alternative?
(Pavlovskiy) Of course not! But it was a tactical masterpiece, an original choice that produced a tactical gain at first. For Gaydar it became necessary to try to prove that there was no alternative to the choice that he had made. In the end the desire to prove that the choice made was correct turned into his constant mania. But that, to be honest, is even symptomatic. After all, if a person is always trying to prove some act of his is correct, it means that he doubts himself. For all the rest of his life, Gaydar essentially worked on proving that he had behaved correctly in 1991 and 1992.
Gaydar was an intelligent man. There was a lot of interesting material and observations in his last books. Gaydar himself changed a great deal after he left state posts, and he became reflective in regard to himself back at that time. In 10 years he in effect moved to positions that can be called "Sakharov" positions. In his last book, the situation is described in such a way that the reformers, of course, wanted to save the Union. And that is also true: Gaydar would not have been against preserving the Soviet Union. But he did not know how to do it, since he personally had convinced himself that there was no option and had ruled out all the existing alternatives. He adopted the scheme of his own policy as a Kremlin implant — with jurisdiction limited by Yeltsin. Charisma in exchange for dogmatic politics.
Talk that "we are here temporarily and we will wear ourselves out in our posts" began back then — and even then was a lie. It was part of the ideology of that time. This tasteless rhetoric about kamikaze behavior was even then false. You are going to do some serious things for the nation, so why are they harmful to it? Because you have already written an indulgence for yourself: in the first place, you are temporary; secondly, you are already a hero, although you have not yet done anything; and thirdly, you "had no other choice." In fact, there were options and there were entire chains of options. Gaydar himself describes the options for privatization that they examined. But there were also different policy options.
But Gaydar essentially rejected political sovereignty: policy is up to the president, and for him, Gaydar, it was the economy. But economics was supposed to become the main policy. And Yeltsin — who was he? He conducts policy but what is his policy? It turns out that democracy is built separately and work with the majority is separate, and reforms are conducted on a parallel basis. But that is a monstrous plan.
One certainly cannot say that there was no popular policy option and at the same time say that this policy enjoyed the support of the people until 1993. And after all, it is a fact that the 1993 referendum was won on the point of approval of the Gaydar reforms. That suggests that the reformers had a huge pool of popularity that they never did utilize, conducting an extremely narrow policy and deliberately cutting off examination of alternative options. I am certain that there were also popular options among them. Although perhaps even harsher ones.
Actually what did Putin’s precedent show? The existence, if desired, of a broader policy for maneuvering around the very same model. So does that mean that there were already more than one or two options?
I am not going to examine these options now. I am stipulating the presence in our consciousness of a categorical ban on discussing them. Contemporary consciousness prohibits itself from discussing the options of Russian history and its own experience. Who is it (contemporary consciousness), a natural cretin or a fake cretin? We have before us the model of a dull creature. And as a result, charging into modernization we have an ideally dull collective subject that, as everyone is vying with one another to recall, was once upon a time great, spiritual, and communal, read Pushkin, and conquered Nazism, while this one just smiles and "talks bull" (perdit).
(Danilin) The liberals carry Gaydar in their sacred texts, and the Stalinists — Stalin, and the media latch onto all this instead of talking about what we can expect in 2010. Do they perhaps fear or do not know what awaits us in the next year?
(Pavlovskiy) You have the optimistic proposition that there are liberals and there are Stalinists: Lord, what a delight! If certain groups existed and they had group ideologies, such ideologies might be eccentric. But so what? If they are operational for their group and do not prevent it from carrying on a political life, everything is normal. Alas, I do not see these groups.
(Danilin) When people talk about Gaydar or about Stalin, are they in effect removing themselves from politics?
(Pavlovskiy) To take our media, those we call liberals and Stalinists nominally appear as political actors. But in reality they are Nabokov-style "doctors of philosophy with a cardboard stand under them to prevent them from falling," but without the sexual signs of an actor in politics. There is kitchen talk when you give a strong reference report for your own self. A report that says that you have the right not to be a participant in the process and at the same time make demands on the process. At the same time, a license for the entire process occurring supposedly automatically, without you and against you. And you even dare to declare that while sitting at home, you are supposedly the goal of the process and you program this process! Where is politics here? Who risks anything as a result of his words, and what, and who can expect to rely on them?
With that kind of behavior of a quasi-politician in a field with no risk, one can express any, even the most extreme positions. One can praise Gaydar at the same time as Stalin, and even Ivan the Terrible is not in the least bad for such a type. An absolutely safe situation.
To return to Gaydar, one can say that he was a slave to his own politics whose mechanism he personally established but which very quickly ceased to be his politics. It is true, however, that it never lost the connection with him. Neither under Yeltsin nor under Putin, nor under Medvedev. In Russian politics there really is a kind of "Gaydar gene." It is this gene that would in fact be interesting to understand. It is linked in a certain way with the notion of the process as always having no alternative, with the description of any situation as an extreme one in which there is "one and only one solution."
Just like the gene of Stalinism — stronger and dominant, the Gaydar gene has no alternative. But it is a mutation of Stalinism, and "freedom" is grafted to it in the status of exceptions. Freedom in the form of a local variant, a personal account, a moorage for a yacht, a safe conduct system. Freedom, a guaranteed right to travel abroad.
Such a no alternative posture seeks hegemony every time, and in one of two variants. Hegemony can be personal, and then you personally establish the no alternative nature of the system and must take risks in defending it. But you can behave more cunningly: in accordance with the Yeltsin-Gaydar scheme of November 1991 — to hand over, to transfer the no alternative posture to the nominal leader in order to oneself act in the comfortable corridor of others’ guarantees. In the shadow of someone else’s hegemony, so to speak. And this scheme is copied without restraint to this day.
(Danilin) In this connection does modernization need to be considered a kind of no alternative posture?
(Pavlovskiy) I am trying to explain the structure of the complex that is the natural ideological limitation of any policy. Most figures that are now operating look at politics artificially, having narrowed its variability without analyzing the alternatives and describing the situation as a permanent apocalypse — threatening disaster always and at any moment. If the situation does not correspond to the scheme, they look for an opportunity to move it in that direction, because politics "must" be aggravated and be made extreme. Without that they simply do not know how to act.
From that comes the paralysis of action, after all, there is no lack of alternatives, of course; that is merely a ghost in a dull noggin. But this noggin does not know what to do with a situation that has options and requires an extreme situation for itself.
There is nothing without an alternative and there is no modernization without alternatives. Modernization is a type of policy that has many subtypes. Of course, all of them differ in terms of the chances and risks. Medvedev’s proposal is characterized by radicalism, since it proposes to reject policy with no alternatives. This is an attempt to enter the dangerous field of real alternatives. To enter cautiously, maneuvering, but to enter. We were in fact in this field for all these last 20 years, but trying to convince ourselves that "there is only one, only one chance." The rest were simply ignored and considered nonexistent, and we missed one chance after another. There are passwords that are mortally dangerous to the mind. We paid just as high a price for the name of the book Nothing Else Is Given as we did for What Is To Be Done?
In the early 1990s, because of this we were even forced (not specially) to choose the most cannibalistic of the existing options. Moreover, in the subtext there was no desire to become a cannibal. Observed here was what Hannah Arendt calls the temptation of the politician to play "for history." In other words, to blindly and supposedly bravely create a "mission, paying a huge historical price." But Arendt says that this false belief in the understanding of history is a reliable way to make a fool of oneself. The theatricalization of politics can turn an intelligent, well-intentioned, sophisticated person into anything at all.
In this sense Gaydar is a tragic figure. The most important thing is that he never did recognize the horizons and chances of the policy that he personally followed. After convincing himself and everyone that the earth was flat and that reform, in other words, reformist policy, is conceivable only as an emetic like a "bitter pill" given to an unmoving country… He did not see any chances and missed them. But after burying him, we declare that there were in fact no other options — and no one will know the difference! In that way we deprive Gaydar of his greatness and his truly ancient blindness while at the same time declaring the present situation flat. But secretly — extraordinary.
(Danilin) We — who is that?
(Pavlovskiy) Today that is the existing political class.
(Mezhuyev) We were talking about the idea that the majority must acquire some kind of dominant political theme. And you said that it would be a kind a topic for the next year.
(Pavlovskiy) Is it appropriate to use the word "topic" here? Definitely, especially after Putin’s call-in program, it is obvious that this majority is alive and continues to consider itself the current majority that is politically relevant. It is not simply an audience; it lives, breathes, moves, and pulsates.
And based on the sum of the indexes, the indicators, including sociological ones, undoubtedly — the majority exists. But it — I am repeating the point that I already expressed — it seems to me that while preserving its great loyalty and definite manageability by Putin, it is not even in the strict sense Putin’s. It is Putin’s in itself, but for him the state is already to some degree depersonified.
But politically this task — the depersonification of politics — has not yet been accomplished. In principle, however, the majority likes the tandem because it removes the task of changing relations. It certainly does not want any change in the form of the tandem. It is, I repeat, no longer the Putin majority; I think it is a unique kind of pro-state majority that welcomes a certain type of leadership. I think that in a certain sense, it is a majority, on condition that the current block scheme is preserved, that is ready for renewal and ready for an upgrade and final programming. But here is what is unclear and what is essentially the problem of the politics of the next year — how to insert the data into this system, where is the terminal?
Television is not that terminal. It appears that television is still a stabilizer. In some cases a dose of antidepressants and a certain dose of serotonin is always needed. But I suspect that the Putin majority is already getting serotonin itself, and not from television but from the very process of living. Its media dependence is exaggerated. And here I would like to express a theory — it is merely a theory and I cannot prove it — that in reality the majority today is no longer so dependent as to need the medicine droppers that it has been furnished with. We are underestimating its hardiness.
I think that we would not have gone through the crisis the way we did if the majority really were media designed as is customarily thought. I think that alternatives are returning, but by different paths. It is not the openness to alternatives of the 1980s that was stamped out in the 1990s.
By the way, one more sign of false debate is that in our country the 1990s are considered a period of a sumptuous feast of alternatives! I believe that everything was exactly the opposite: after the incredibly intensive trampling of all options at the end of the Gorbachev era and the start of Yeltsin’s rule in the late 1980s, the 1990s were a period of no alternatives. They were artificially made to have no alternatives, and a significant share of the follies and crimes of that time are associated specially with this artificial fervor of no alternatives which the no-alternative "people’s president" was incapable of complying with. There was no alternative to Tsar Yeltsin, and in 1996 he almost confirmed that, while at the same time he was not fit to be the lock to the system.
And now we are dealing with this very same majority that has come back to life and is beginning to move ahead. On its own it is finding the language to formulate its own interests, but it takes the language, of course, at first from television. It takes the language from there and it takes the lexicon from there, but it actually does not talk the way that television talks. It is simply dependent on television as language. Television artificially curtails the language of alternatives, and then comes the general lowering of their number throughout the entire vertical hierarchy down to the bottom, where the rest of the types of response and discourse are reduced to the infusorial level. I think that the battle for the majority, for its rebranding, is the essence of next year’s politics.
In the narrow sense, Medvedev’s task is to offer the kind of version of politics that works with reality directly, in other words, with a broad field of alternatives. Because reality has alternatives.
I think that soon a more eclectic and at the same time more lively picture will be revealed than those "cheap extremist broadsides" that are illustrated every day with the participation of Stalin, Gaydar, Yeltsin, and so on.
(Mezhuyev) Gleb Olegovich, another question: what should be done about the active minority? After all, in the process of the fight for the majority, there is a secret struggle underway for the active minority. Who, strictly speaking, will push this majority toward an active life?
(Pavlovskiy) There is no struggle for the active minority underway today. Terms like the "creative class" or the "Medvedev avant-garde" I know, some I myself made up, but their use is simply part of a certain media routine. There are minorities, and some of them are active. But there is no battle going on for them.
And what do the passwords "minorities" mean? They are attempts within the framework of the previous style of no-alternative politics to achieve and appropriate a new legitimacy — the legitimacy of the avant-garde. It is monopolization of the rights of the avant-garde progressive minority. Yet another text, yet another prequel of improvising policy. In one case it is declared that there are 3 to 5 million of us, and in others it is declared that there are actually terribly few of us, "There might be two of us" — the governing board of INSOR (Institute of Contemporary Development): but the future is ours! And once again the old game of magnanimous kamikaze behavior. It is all different types of symbolic appropriation of the monopoly role. "If we are the minority, the future is only in it, and I am speaking on its behalf." But even so I do not yet see an attempt at a real dialogue with it, with the exception of the one that Medvedev is trying to conduct — I specifically emphasize the words "trying to conduct."
Medvedev is limited here, because his dialogue has not become debates. His dialogue is being pulled apart into media fragments. Here is "Medvedev talking with innovators," and here is "Medvedev talking with human rights activists." And tomorrow perhaps it will be "Medvedev, who has invited Kasparov to the Kremlin."
(Mezhuyev) He has already established constructive interaction with Kalashnikov.
(Pavlovskiy) None of this is evidence of debates. The system of hegemony holds sway over attempts to survive by the hegemon himself. We do not dare to switch to seeking alternatives, and minorities themselves are not willing to be alternatives. Their leaders, in contrast, are aspiring toward monopolies. To build at least small and temporary ones but monopolies quick-style. INSOR was simply the first attempt, not so much the culprit as the slave of this trend.
(Mezhuyev) This is what people were saying: Medvedev gave us, the minorities, a pass, and we are expecting him to come to our side.(Pavlovskiy) That is right. Here a very simple and elementary, childishly naive trap has been laid, a demand for modernization. It is anticipated that Medvedev should take a step toward "us," that is to say, he should declare some "us" the monopoly holder of the stock of progress.
(Mezhuyev) Generally speaking, even without all kinds of political consequences to the system as a whole, one may assume?
(Pavlovskiy) Yes. Really the system of no-alternative policy will mix in and remain. It may even get stronger, because the involved incorporated minority is becoming the monopolist and defending its place. It can defend only by means of that very anonymous policy that belongs to no one. Some of the appeals actually sound like this: Come on, Dmitriy Anatolyevich, be our no-alternative programmer! But Medvedev is trying to do it in a different way. Strictly speaking, he has several times allegorically aimed demand at a different policy — he sometimes talked of unrepressive modernization, and sometimes of smart politics. They are all allegories for what is not yet being produced technologically…
But it is not a hopeless, certainly not a no-alternative situation; it is being kneaded by various methods. It just has to be kneaded. Even United Russia is altogether kneadable into a political force; it is simply that every time this is done — and it is done and it is going on — every time a shout rises up: No, that is impossible, we will perish! Those shouting are simultaneously both the opponents of United Russia and, no need to whisper — they shout it in United Russia itself, we simply will not manage, we are "androids" after all, don’t demand anything of us! And those who say this about themselves are people 90% of whom won various types of struggle — in the apparat, in business, and in local battles — who knew how to and do know how to take risks, make decisions, and make a choice in a truly variable situation.
But the magic of the mainstream led to their truly believing that they would die if they were forced to come out into the open world. "And Maydan (Square) will overtake all of us."
(Nikita Kurkin) I would like to find out about the intellectual disappointments of this year…
(Pavlovskiy) Intellectual disappointments clearly also presuppose enchantments. For me even this very question — on disappointments — is in no way coupled with a sense of the situation. Actually we spent this year, I remind you, tranquilized — it was believed that we were in a state of crisis. But in this deceptive atmosphere, the crisis also became a right not to discuss the foundations of politics, since "we are in crisis." I think that the last six months of crisis are simply lost time for politics. I as yet have not seen anybody coming out with new know-how. Where are these heroes? Let them come out into the light, onto the stage! But I do not see them; I do not see this know-how.
(Mezhuyev) It is interesting that in Russia, for example, the Central Bank has proven to be beyond the limits of even newspaper analysis. Bernanke became the "2009 person of the year," according to the Time magazine version, but in our country Ignatyev was not even considered an independent player…
(Pavlovskiy) Intellectually the year very clearly breaks into two thematic, if you will, fields. The first half of the year was the crisis, which despite all the textbooks, brought nothing to the intellectual atmosphere. Or it did, but it has not yet been appreciated in any way. And the second half was the art of death. The deaths from disasters, terrorist acts, and murders. And the period of the deaths proved to be intellectually the most productive period. From the Sayano-Shushenskaya GES and on through this entire series of increasingly terrible but more illustrative deaths.
It would seem that the spectrum of illustrative deaths was exhausted, right down to the last — the murders of the clergymen Daniil Sysoyev and Aleksandr Filippov. They are all surprisingly conceptual and measure the depth of the degree to which the entire organism of Russian life on the essential level has the reputation of being a culture of death and murder as management of death. That must be correctly understood. It is not a matter of the violence of a particular clearly indicated level of society in relation to a different level. It is not a matter of a clear subject of violence; it is dispersed, and sometimes the subject cannot be established at all. If we take the Perm holocaust, it must be taken together with the subsequent, criminal in its baseness, discussion where it was proposed that businessmen reach agreement with the firemen on a new balance of payment for risk. And the rest of society is allowed to invent unthinkable retributions and punishments for officials, who at the same time are not even losing their bonus money. But the event itself — it was a quintessential death. And the discussion occurred in an atmosphere of violence, but the source of the violence was by no means established. And I am certain that it will continue and expand further.
I think that one of the factors that will prevent alternative politics is the high degree of reciprocity of violence with market dynamics. In our country it is very often impossible to distinguish the stepped up activity of society, including positive, constructive activization, from active violence. Where violence no longer opposes — like a kind of archaic traditional system — novelty and is not eroded by modernization, but is intensified as it grows into the market.
(Mezhuyev) A striking example of last year was the almost complete absence of Western intellectual bestsellers.
(Pavlovskiy) There is a global timing mechanism in the West. If you take the 1930s, the 1940s, and even the 1950s, you will rarely find a correspondence between political activism and the subject area of intellectual masterpieces of that time. They moved on different planes. Today all this to a significant degree is contrived. A bunch of intellect is thrown into the election of the US president, or to the new objectives of American military policy. But now the American election has passed, and as yet there are no new military objectives.
(Mezhuyev) Of course, this is an industry; it is contrived.
(Pavlovskiy) There was a time when people knew how to act non-industrially, to think piecemeal, and then one day churn out a bestseller, once in a lifetime…
(Mezhuyev) Of course this is a factory, but: Some phantoms — Nabokov’s Laura.
(Pavlovskiy) But that is not a novel but a game with time. It is "the maestro wished to make a joke": Nabokov shoveled out a handful of trolley car tickets from the pockets of an old coat and poured them into a little box, and so that no one would ignore it, he very sternly ordered that the box be burned after his own death… He used the method of Kafka’s will. And, of course, a furious battle erupted over the empty box. This is a kind of wonderful method and captivating coffin humor.
Generally the situation in the Western intellectual context is recognized as the break hour. We are no worse than others because we cannot say anything to you, since others cannot say anything either. Let us wait. And in the meantime we can discuss our lexicon or once again elaborate some of the mythologies that we have in circulation here anyway. That is it; there is nothing new anymore.
(Danilin) Let us hope that we can surface in this difficult period of hard times. Especially since, as it turns out, it is not so difficult to surface against the background of the general context.
(Pavlovskiy) Yes, and there is a broad spectrum of countries that have avoided modernization. For some reason we are considering models of modernization, but after all, we could also have considered models for dodging modernization. Among them also are successful ones and unsuccessful ones. And some of the successful have become quite profitable. If nothing else comes out, having expanded the spectrum of the unknown, Russia may find a combination of a policy of innovations with a policy for avoiding modernization.
(Mezhuyev) Iran has it…
(Pavlovskiy) One can imagine Russian jungles of the future where investors at risk to life and with enormous amounts of money dive after the rare wild animals of innovators — agile, predatory, and terribly mobile: Strange exotic things where pipes of unknown affiliation lead no telling where. So in principle there are many variants of the future, and not all of them are horrible. The only thing obvious is that the "process has begun," and while we are writing scenarios of a reasonable policy of the future here, the country has already bolted!


January 15, 2010

14 January 2010
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  1. ITAR-TASS: One Third Of Russians Optimistic About Year 2010.
  2. RIA Novosti: Half of Russians satisfied with Russian media reporting.
  3. Moscow Times: New Cartoon Show Puts Putin Among Men.
  4. Medvedev-Putin animation:
  5. Yezhednevnyy Zhurnal: Year 2009 Viewed As Difficult Period, But
Gradually Moving the Country Towards Liberalization. (Aleksey Makarkin)
  6. RIA Novosti: Russia declares war on alcoholism.
  7. The Guardian: James Cameron rejects claims Avatar epic borrows
from Russians’ sci-fi novels.
  8. ITAR-TASS: Communist Lawmaker Criticizes ‘School’ TV Show.
  9. ITAR-TASS: Putin Names Key Tasks For His Government In 2010.
  10. RIA Novosti: Putin gives boost to law on church property return.
  11. Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Paper Sees Underfunding Jeopardizing
Medvedev’s Modernization.
  12. Nezavisimaya Gazeta: STATE COUNCIL REFORMS.
The State Council is about to meet to discuss changes of the electoral
system suggested by political parties.
  14. Moscow Times: Nikolai Petrov, Gubernatorial Roulette.
  15. Modernization Must Focus on Human Attitudes,
Not on Technology. (Andrey Kolesnikov)
  16. Should Priority Be Given to Economic or Political Reform?
(Aleksey Chadayev)
  17. Russia Profile: Alexander Arkhangelsky, Dreams of Sobriety.
The Progress of Russia’s New Political Decade Will Depend on Luck
As Much As It Will on the Power Elite.
  18. Russia: Other Points of View: Gordon Hahn, MEDVEDEV’S
  19. Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Yumasheva Sheds Light on Yeltsin Era.
  20. Moscow Times: Duma Moves to Support Nonprofits.
  21. Moskovsky Komsomolets: REACHING STRASBOURG.
  22. RIA Novosti: Soaring imports threaten Russia’s economic
recovery – paper.
  23. Russia is World’s Cheapest Stock Market: Strategist.
  24. AFP: Russia claims Turkish backing for pipeline.
  25. RFE/RL: Georgian Energy Summit Runs Out Of Gas.
  26. RFE/RL: Former OSCE Chair Says Time Ripe For ‘Serious Look’
At Reform.
  27. Interfax: Reshuffles At Defense Ministry Unprecedented In
Russian Army History.
  28. Jamestown Foundation Eurasia Daily Monitor: Jacob Kipp,
Russian Nuclear First Use: a Case of Self-Defeating Exaggeration?   
  29. Talks Hit "Sweet Spot" for
Landing New START Agreement, U.S. Official Says.
  30. Rocket data dispute still unresolved
in U.S.-Russia nuke talks.
  31. Bloomberg: Bush Aides Weighed Attack to Halt Russia-Georgia
War: Books.
  32. Interfax: Yanukovych Tops Polls Ahead of Ukraine’s Election –
  33. Voice of America: Ukrainians Disillusioned with President Yushchenko.
  34. Jamestown Foundation Eurasia Daily Monitor: Ukrainian Presidential
Election: the Fear of Vote-Rigging.
  35. Ukraine Election 2010 (Special Series) Part 1:
The De-Revolution in Kiev.
  36. Ukraine Election 2010 (Special Series) Part 2:
Yushchenko’s Faded Orange Presidency.
  37. OSC [US Open Source Center] Media Aid: Media Coverage of
Ukrainian Election Marked by Disengagement.
  38. Civil Georgia: Officials Speak of �Military-Patriotic� Courses in Schools.
  39. RFE/RL: Was That A Pistol In Misha’s Pocket           
  40. AFP: Lithuania remembers deadly Soviet-era crackdown.
  41. New book: Advancing Democracy Abroad: Why We Should and
How We Can by Michael A. McFaul.
  42. National Gallery of Art, Washington: CELEBRATING CHEKHOV
One Third Of Russians Optimistic About Year 2010
MOSCOW, January 13 (Itar-Tass) – Some 30 percent of Russians are looking at the year 2010 with optimism, despite apprehensions about further negative measures which some 70 percent of Russian companies implemented amidst the crisis, according to the opinion poll conducted by the Bashkirova and Partners independent research company.
"The level of Russians’ optimism has approached the pre-crisis indicators: some 30 percent of those polled expect that the year 2010 will be better than 2006, while 40 percent think that although it may be not better than the previous year, one should not fear things will get any worse," opinion pollsters said.
Eighteen percent of the respondents were pessimistic, versus 30 percent last year.
"Almost every other manufacturing company (43 percent) has cut jobs. One-third of companies (34 percent) cut wages, and 26 of organizations cut the workweek," the poll showed.
Experts note that these measures predetermined the growth of the so-called hidden unemployment that envisions a cut in work hours, along with an increase in the actual number of dismissed workers.
Many owners proved to be quite loyal to the mangers of their companies, and tried to keep them during the crisis, according to the Bashkirova and Partners study. It noted that just 10 percent of companies had cut bonuses for their top managers.
The study indicated that Russians’ confidence that they would not be dismissed or that their companies would stay afloat had decreased by almost 18 percent over the past 12 months.

The pre-retirement age personnel seem to be more confident that they would not be dismissed, versus respondents over the age of 60 and even young respondents (33 percent). But some 30 percent of young Russians are confident that if dismissed, they would be able to land new jobs rather quickly.
"Such an attitude can be explained by the fact that young people are somewhat easier to persuade to take retraining. They are also more willing to have casual jobs in order to earn extra money," Bashkirova and Partners experts said.
The study began in December 2009 and involved 2,000 respondents in seven federal districts. The margin of error is 2.2 percent.
Half of Russians satisfied with Russian media reporting
Moscow, 13 January: A majority of Russians (53 per cent) believe that the modern media offers varied information which can satisfy even the most discerning demands, according to a poll by the All-Russia Public Opinion Research Centre (VTsIOM), the results of which were published today. January 13 is the day of the Russian press.
According to the poll, 33 per cent of Russians are not happy with the variety and content of the modern media and 14 per cent could not say. Those who think that the media is varied and interesting are mainly young people 18 to 24 years old (63 per cent and 58 per cent among the young people who were polled). Those who are not happy with the modern media are mostly middle aged people, 45 to 49 years old, and people with secondary education degrees (36 per cent in each of these categories).
Asked about the role of the media, 48 per cent said that newspapers, magazines, radio and television provide important information and must instil moral values. Over a third (35 per cent) believe that the media must entertain and provide information in an easily accessible form, and 17 per cent could not say.
A majority of Russians (55 per cent) are confident that the new mass media will never replace the old one, 37 per cent think the opposite, and 8 per cent could not say. Those who think that the new media will never replace the traditional one are mainly elderly respondents (64 per cent of elderly respondents). Half of young people of 18 to 24 years old (55 per cent) think the opposite.
Two thirds of those polled (66 per cent) believe there will always be people who are prepared to pay for good quality analysis and buy good newspapers and magazines. People who think so are mainly 25 to 34 years old with high education degrees (69 per cent and 70 per cent respectively). Another 22 per cent believe that free press will sooner or later replace paid printed editions. People who think so are mainly 18 to 24 years old and have secondary education degrees (27 per cent and 24 per cent respectively).
The poll was carried out on 26-27 December 2009 among 1,600 people in 140 towns in 42 Russian regions, territories and republics. The margin of error is below 3.4 per cent.
Moscow Times
January 14, 2010
New Cartoon Show Puts Putin Among Men
By Alexander Bratersky
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, determined to nurture a public image as a tough former KGB spy with bulging muscles and sometimes crude humor, has shown little tolerance for being parodied. Until now.
Channel One viewers saw a cartoon Putin and President Dmitry Medvedev dancing and singing in a new animated show that debuted on New Year’s Eve and will become a twice-a-month fixture on the state-run television channel, starting at 10 p.m. Sunday.
Surprisingly, the new show is directed by Vasily Pichul, the prominent filmmaker who once oversaw NTV’s "Kukly" (Puppets) program, which drew Putin’s wrath over its irreverent parodies of him and was the last television show to needle Putin until it was yanked off the air in 2002.
The new cartoon, "Mult Lichnosti," or "Animated Personality," in a nod to the phrase "cult of personality," offers harmless depictions of Putin and Medvedev, but the mere appearance of the two leaders on the show is raising expectations that the authorities are beginning to loosen their iron grip on the national media and their carefully orchestrated images.
"Before, Putin was shown on the state television channels as a very serious person in advantageous situations, said Yevgeny Kiselyov, NTV’s former chief who was also a target of parody on "Kukly."

"But when a person is shown as a cartoon, it is hard to present him as a demiurge. I think this is a definite change," he said.
Kiselyov, a political commentator on opposition-minded Ekho Moskvy radio, said the cartoon marks "the beginning of the desacralization of power."
The 30-minute "Mult Lichnosti" episode broadcast on New Year’s Eve showed Putin and Medvedev dancing in the style of Soviet-era stand-up comedians, with Medvedev playing a harmonica and Putin shaking a tambourine and slapping it from time to time on his bottom.
The two sing mockingly about Nabucco, the Western-supported pipeline that would bypass Russia to deliver Central Asian gas to Western Europe through Turkey, and President Viktor Yushchenko and his political problems in Ukraine, which votes in a presidential election Sunday.
The dancing duo also sing about Pikalyovo, the Leningrad region town where Putin intervened to curb angry workers’ protests in May, GM’s decision to cancel the sale of Opel to Sberbank, and corrupt bureaucrats.
"There was a time when bureaucrats lived on kickbacks, but I took some measures and they now live somewhere else," Putin sings, meaning that corrupt officials have been put behind bars.
Putin plays the dominant role in the cartoon, while Medvedev serves more as a back-up singer.
The show also offered story lines without the two leaders, including sketches that poked fun at Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili and Russian pop stars and sports celebrities.
Putin watched the cartoon and found it amusing, Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Wednesday.
"He watched it with interest. He had a normal, human reaction to it, and he was never opposed to parodies about himself," Peskov said by telephone.
"The cartoon could be an attempt to pre-empt possible public dissatisfaction with Putin and Medvedev by placing them in a mild satirical light," said Andrei Mukhin, a political analyst with the Center for Political Information.
Media analyst Alexei Pankin said a flurry of discussion about the cartoon on Russian blogs reminded him of Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev’s early days "when we were allowed to say something about some Politburo members."
But he also noted that Channel One viewers, who are fed a steady diet of pro-Kremlin propaganda on the news, would also enjoy elements of the cartoon focused on the Kremlin’s foes.
"Yushchenko and Saakashvili being scolded will resonate with 85 percent of the Russian population," he said.
A Channel One producer said the show aims to fill pent-up demand for a new kind of humor among viewers.
"We think that shows like ‘Anshlag’ are spent stuff," said the producer, who asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to speak with the media.
The stand-up comedy program "Anshlag" (Full House) is hosted by veteran comedian Regina Dubovitskaya on Rossia state television and is routinely castigated by critics for its vulgar humor.
Channel One director Konstantin Ernst, an avant-garde filmmaker turned Putin loyalist, called the cartoon a dream come true. "I have always wanted to create a project like this, but I wasn’t able to find people able to bring it to life," he said in a statement.
Ernst conceded in an interview with The New York Times that he had to walk a tight rope to feature Putin and Medvedev because "one should be careful not to do anything insulting."
Putin took offense with an episode of "Kukly" that depicted him as Klein Zaches, a small and ugly creature from the well-known novel of the same name by 19th-century German writer E.T.A. Hoffmann, said Viktor Shenderovich, the satirist who wrote most of the scripts for "Kukly" during its run from 1995 to 2002.
The show didn’t last long after that.
Shenderovich criticized "Mult Lichnosti" as "a parody on satire."
"This is PR trying to act as a satire. This is the most disgusting thing possible," Shenderovich said on Radio Liberty on Jan. 4.
The New Year’s debut of "Mult Lichnosti" had an audience of 14 percent of all television viewers during its time slot, according to the TNS market research agency. In comparison, 20 percent of all viewers watched Medvedev’s New Year’s address on the same channel.
"Kukly," in contrast, was a top-rated show during its heyday, frequently pocking fun at then-President Boris Yeltsin and his often-changing Cabinet of ministers. Vodka and pharmaceutical tycoon Vladimir Bryntsalov once even offered to pay the show to introduce a puppet depicting him.
"Kukly" also provoked controversy while Putin was still unknown. In 1995, acting Prosecutor General Alexei Ilyushenko tried to ban the program in an unsuccessful crackdown that he later admitted was "a mistake."
Putin has rarely been parodied on the main television channels since "Kukly," with the exception of an occasional, light-hearted impression by comedian Maxim Galkin.
Date: Sun, 03 Jan 2010
From: "D. Nemec Ignashev" <>
Subject: Medvedev-Putin animation
I subtitled the New Year’s animation of Medvedev-Putin, if you’d like to post the link:
D. Nemec Ignashev
Carleton College
Year 2009 Viewed As Difficult Period, But Gradually Moving the Country Towards Liberalization
Yezhednevnyy Zhurnal
January 5, 2010
Article by Aleksey Makarkin, first vice president of the Political Technologies Center: "Year-End Results: A Difficult Year"
The year 2009 was a difficult one for citizens of Russia. The crisis continued over the course of the entire year, and December was no exception. On the contrary, it was a very difficult month. According to research data from the Institute for the Transition Period Economy (IEPP), more than 60 percent of all Russian companies planned to downsize their work force in December due to reduced demand. The authority itself is announcing that the economy has moved out of recession, but the rate of growth is insignificant right now and due primarily to the previous deep decline.
It was a difficult year for other reasons as well. A whole series of tragedies showed that there was no escaping the "sore spots" of Russian life. Total irresponsibility, the usual reliance on "perhaps things will work out" coupled with corruption — these were the causes of the accident at the Sayano-Shushenskaya GES (Hydroelectric Power Plant) and the fire at the Lame Horse club in Perm. In this regard, the actions of managers of the power plant who entrusted complex repair to an affiliated firm are little different from the behavior of the nightclub owners who flagrantly violated all conceivable fire regulations.
The explosion on the Nevskiy Ekspress can be placed in the same category as the terrorist acts in the North Caucasus to which we have grown accustomed. Not only have the authorities failed to put an end to this phenomenon, but the fire is raging more intensely. The murder of Dagestani "strong man" General Adilgerey Magomedtagirov and the serious wounding of Ingushetian President Yunus-Bek Yevkurov illustrates the weakness of law enforcement authorities, both local and federal. The appointment of a federal official responsible for the North Caucasus can hardly be expected to fundamentally change the situation — we are not going to resolve a multi-faceted problem simply by making a personnel decision. Traditional Islam is increasingly losing ground to "Wahhabism," the Islamic version of puritanism. Investors continue to be reluctant to venture out to the regions, permeated with clan relationships and levels of corruption that "peg the meter" even according to Russian standards. Young people discouraged by unemployment continue to fill the ranks of terrorist groups. The year 2009 also showed the weakness of the authority in the struggle against right extremism. We saw this in the murders of anti-fascist movement activists, including the most sensational event that occurred in the center of Moscow and claimed the lives of lawyer Stanislav Markelov and journalist Anastasiya Baburova.
Other losses of this year add to the gravity of the situation. We mourned the deaths of renowned Russian actors Oleg Yankovskiy and Vyacheslav Tikhonov. The unexpected demise of Yegor Gaydar came as a shock to the liberal segment of Russian society and illustrated the split in society which still exists. While some people stood for hours in the cold to bid farewell to the man who was unafraid to assume responsibility for extremely unpopular but necessary reforms, others not only did not hide their malicious glee, but demonstrated it openly on web sites and forums. For the first time in modern Russian history, a priest was killed in a Moscow church — Daniil Sysoyev was outspoken in his criticism of adherents of Islam. Nor did the lives of ordinary citizens become any safer. On 22 December, yet another priest was killed — Aleksandr Filippov. But any individual making comments to drunken scoundrels could have wound up as he did.
Does this mean that the situation in Russia is hopelessly gloomy? We think not. Perhaps attempts are being made for the first time to wage a systemic struggle against systemic corruption. Widely gaping holes in legislation that have formed over many years are being plugged up. Information on the incomes and assets of officials is being published. Political life is beginning to return to depoliticized Russia, albeit slowly and gradually and on an extremely limited scale. The diarchic center of authority that has taken shape is weakening the rigidity of "the vertical." Leaders of Federation components are still not elected, but it is impossible today to appoint an individual totally unknown in a region as the regional head. Last year for the first time, the Duma used the right of parliamentary investigation it acquired several years ago. It established a commission to delve into the causes of the accident at the Sayano-Shushenskaya GES and issued a well-justified conclusion, not giving in to the temptation to report that Chubays was to blame for everything. A barrier was placed along the path of resumption of capital punishment sentences. The president and the Orthodox Church, headed by a new patriarch, resolutely condemned the crimes of Stalin, who has generally been viewed as vindicated in recent years. Following the scandalous regional elections in October, there began a conscientious reform of the electoral system on the level of Federation components. The most offensive restrictions on the activity of nonprofit organizations (NKOs) were removed. We are beginning to see the dismissals of officials responsible for the most sensational failures, such as the explosions in Ulyanovsk and the above-mentioned fire in Perm. Svetlana Bakhmina was released.
Is this too little, too late? Yes, apparatus maneuvers, even if they have become somewhat more transparent, cannot replace direct gubernatorial elections. Just as it has been in the past, the Duma remains a purely peripheral institution. Evidence of this can be seen in the rapid change of position of the parliamentary majority with respect to the transportation tax. As before, NKOs continue to experience serious problems. Not a single new party managed to be registered last year.
All of this is so. What is more important here, however, is the trend towards liberalization — a slow, gradual, contradictory trend, but liberalization all the same. Evolutionary processes are always less effective than revolution and elicit a mass of criticism from various corners. Some condemn them for insufficient radicalism, while others believe that liberalization may signal the onset of revolt. On the one hand, we have the effect of heightened expectations; on the other — a protective reaction. This is probably only natural. And this trend will continue next year. We would hope that it will not be as difficult as 2009.
Russia declares war on alcoholism
MOSCOW, January 14 (RIA Novosti)-Russia’s government has launched a crusade against alcohol abuse, describing it as a "national disaster" and aiming to halve consumption by 2020 and root out illegal production and sales.
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has approved a national plan that envisions criminal punishment for illegal production and sale of alcohol, restrictions on advertising, and efforts to promote a healthy lifestyle, the government said on its website on Wednesday.
Alcohol consumption in Russia began growing in the 1970s and surged after the Soviet breakup in the 1990s as Russians struggled to adapt to economic change, health experts said. Alcoholism has taken a heavy toll on Russians’ health, fueling high levels of mortality, above all among working-age men.
Men in Russia have an average life expectancy of just 60 years, well below that of Western European countries where men have an average life span of 77 years, according to the World Health Organization.
"Alcohol consumption per capita is currently about 18 liters a year," which is double the critical norm set by WHO, the document’s authors wrote, adding that much of the alcohol consumed was either homemade or non-beverage alcohols, such as perfume.
Official statistics in Russia show more than 23,000 people die of alcohol poisoning annually, while another 75,000 die of alcohol-related diseases. Russia’s Public Chamber put the death toll taken by diseases, crimes and accidents due to alcohol at some 500,000 people last year.
Authorities plan drastic cuts and possibly a total ban on alcohol advertising, including for low-alcohol drinks that target young people. The health ministry was earlier reported to be mulling a ban on movie scenes involving alcohol.
As part of the campaign, Russia introduced on January 1 a minimum price of vodka in an effort to fight counterfeit alcohol production in the country.
The Russian government’s earlier measures to tackle the health challenges related to alcohol included restrictions in 2006 on the sale of non-beverage alcohols.
The last Russian leader to try to cut alcohol consumption was Mikhail Gorbachev, who in May 1985 attempted to put an end to the rampant alcoholism that was already taking its toll on the Soviet Union’s economy and health system.
His efforts were ultimately unsuccessful – the illicit production of moonshine, known as "samogon," rocketed, accompanied by a sudden rise in sales of medicinal and industrial spirits. The never-popular policy was later quietly dropped.
The Guardian
January 14, 2010
James Cameron rejects claims Avatar epic borrows from Russians’ sci-fi novels
Director James Cameron is facing claims today that his 3D blockbuster Avatar owes an unacknowledged debt to the popular Soviet fantasy writers Arkady and Boris Strugatsky
Luke Harding in Moscow
It has grossed more than $1.3bn (�800m) worldwide, wowed the critics, and spawned a new generation of fans, the so-called Avatards, who have taken to painting their faces blue.
But the film director James Cameron was facing claims today that his 3D blockbuster Avatar owes an unacknowledged debt to the popular Soviet fantasy writers Arkady and Boris Strugatsky.
Cinema audiences in Russia have been quick to point out that Avatar has elements in common with The World of Noon, or Noon Universe, a cycle of 10 bestselling science fiction novels written by the Strugatskys in the mid-1960s.
It was the Strugatskys who came up with the planet Pandora – the same name chosen by Cameron for the similarly green and lushly forested planet used as the spectacular backdrop to Avatar. The Noon Universe takes place in the 22nd century. So does Avatar, critics have noticed.
And while there are clear differences between the two Pandoras, both are home to a similarly named bunch of humanoids – the Na’vi in Cameron’s epic, and the Nave in Strugatskys’ novels, read by generations of Soviet teenagers and space-loving scientists and intellectuals.
Arkady Strugatsky died in 1991. Last week Boris, the surviving brother, said he had not yet seen Avatar, which – only four weekends after its release – has become the second-highest grossing film after Cameron’s Titanic.
Strugatsky, 76, appears to have shrugged off suggestions of similarities between Avatar and his Noon Universe, and denied reports circulated last week that he was accusing Cameron of plagiarism. On Monday, however, the Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper devoted an entire page to the affair, and carried out its own close comparison of Avatar with the World of Noon.
Both Pandoras were "warm and humid", and densely covered in trees, the paper remarked. It conceded that in the Strugatsky books two humanoid species live on Pandora, a health resort. In Avatar there is only one species.
Writing on Monday in Russia’s leading liberal newspaper Novaya Gazeta, the author and journalist Dmitry Bykov pointed out there were a lot of similarities. St Petersburg’s communists, meanwhile, have condemned Avatar as a gung-ho rip-off of Soviet science fiction.
"The Na’vi are unequivocally reminiscent of the [Strugatskys’] Nave,’ Bykov wrote. Speaking to the Guardian, though, Bykov said: "My point is that the film is harmful for western civilisation."
Cameron has defended himself from accusations that he has borrowed from other writers in the past, a claim made after the release of his Terminator films and Titanic. He insists the idea for Avatar is an original one. He wrote an 80-page screenplay for the film back in 1994.
Today one film critic said there would inevitably be similarities between Avatar and the Strugatskys’ intellectually demanding novels as both were anti-utopian fantasies. The brothers’ work sold millions of copies, with many reading their intricate fantasies as a thinly disguised satire on the KGB communist system.
"Avatar is a great technological leap forward. It’s a very clever, multi-layered film, and politically highly relevant," a film critic, Yuri Gladilshikov, said. "It depicts the fate of indigenous minorities in countries such as Peru or Venezuela. And there are associations with Vietnam and the war in the jungle."
Asked about the Noon Universe cycle, he said: "In any genre you can find plenty of parallels. Of course there are similarities between the Strugatskys and Cameron. But I think in this case the parallels are marginal."
The Strugatskys’ science fiction has inspired several high-profile movies – notably Andrei Tarkovsky’s 1977 Stalker, loosely based on the brothers’ novel Roadside Picnic. Another Strugastky work, The Inhabited Island – in which a 22nd-century space pilot crashes on an unknown planet, was made into a two-part film in 2008.
There was no comment today from 20th Century Fox, the UK distributors.
This week the film became the first since The Dark Knight two summers ago to hold on to the top spot in the US film charts for four consecutive weekends. It grossed an estimated $48.5m to boost its running total to $429m, putting it at No 7 in America’s all-time box-office hits.
It continues to do well around the world. After taking $143m in ticket sales last week it has grossed $906.2m internationally and has also topped the international film charts for the fourth weekend in a row. It is now in second place to Titanic in the all-time overseas chart and second in the global hall of fame with international and North American tallies combined.
Communist Lawmaker Criticizes ‘School’ TV Show
MOSCOW, January 13 (Itar-Tass) – Communist lawmakers at the State Duma lower house of the Russian parliament said they would ask questions of Minister of Telecom and Mass Communications Igor Shchegolev regarding the TV show "School," during the Government Hour question and answer session on January 20.
Earlier in the day, Communist lawmaker Vladislav Yurchik expressed indignation over the beginning of broadcasting of the controversial TV series, and demanded that the First Channel administration be summoned to the parliament to give their explanations.
"I’ve seen the first parts and it is my conviction that it is planned sabotage against our children and youths," the parliamentarian said.
"There’s much talk in Russia about the economic crisis; an economic situation can be rectified over time, but a morally crippled generation is an uncorrectable tragedy for the country, who will answer for it," Yurchik said.
In his opinion, "millions of fathers and mothers are indignant over the provocation and expect the parliament to take measures to protect from and stop this outrage."
State Duma speaker Boris Gryzlov drew attention to the fact that Minister of Telecom and Mass Communications Igor Shchegolev would make a report at the Duma on January 20. "His competence includes issues
of the activities of our television channels," he noted.
"I believe you’ll be able to ask these questions and get answers, in order to understand how the ministry is keeping track of what we see on television screens," Gryzlov said.
On Tuesday, Moscow City authorities lashed out at the TV series in question, directed by Valeria Gai Germanika.
At a meeting of the Moscow government, head of the municipal education department Olga Larionova said "there should be no such TV broadcasts."
Reminding her colleagues that the year 2010 is a Year of Teacher in Russia, Larionova called for creating a permanent program on television that "would tell about the pedagogical secrets of the city’s best teachers and their pupils."
Larionova said a review of the Internet revealed a sharply negative opinion of the "School" show, expressed by teachers, parents and students.
But First Channel representatives urged officials not to "draw premature conclusions" based on "the first 26 minutes" and trailers, and see a certain number of parts of the show.
"A Year of Teacher is foremost a reason for coming to grips with school problems, not for concealing them," the press service of First Channel said.
"It is the task of the mass media: to draw attention to the existing situation. The Pharisee claims that there are no problems in secondary education are unconstructive for the country, which mean that there will be no changes in this field," a First Channel representative said.
The press service also drew city officials’ attention to the fact that it is a feature TV show, apparently set not in Moscow or St. Petersburg. Its action can take place in either of the two cities or any Russian province, he added.
Meanwhile, United Russia lawmakers called for not banning the TV show.
"The attempt by KPRF (Communist) lawmakers to enable a political body to decide what can and what cannot be shown on television appears absurd to me," chairman of the State Duma Labour and Social Policy Committee Andrei Isayev told reporters.
"It’s a recurrence of the thinking which our society has given up, and which hopefully will never return," Isayev said.
"The Communists’ statements are ridiculous. They so got out of hand that they keep trying to ban something and restore censorship – what they were doing for 70 years," he said.
Isayev, who graduated from a teachers’ training college and worked in school, acknowledged that he liked the film.
"I saw one part, and, in my opinion, it’s a quite well-made film. Of course, it shows real problems of modern school, youths, but, as they say, you mustn’t blame the mirror for showing a crooked face." Moreover, Isayev believes it "immoral to hide the problems facing the younger generation or place a ban on showing them."
"The TV series tells about the difficulties in young people’s milieu, in the language understandable to youths, and there is nothing immoral or criminal in it," the lawmaker said.
Chairman of the Duma Education Committee Grigory Balykhin (from the United Russia faction) agrees that school problems should be discussed.
"That a federal channel draws attention to school problems in a Year of Teacher, and issues of relations between pupils and teachers is very important.
"A film about school life was expected," Balykhin said.
"The time is different, and problems of the younger generation are shown in a different light," he added.
At the same time, he acknowledged that he "very much liked Soviet-era films about schoolchildren, even though they’re slightly naive," compared with the "tough and naturalistic School."
He said he was ready to agree with the opinion that the film might be called "sabotage."
"The sabotage has reached its objective: it has drawn the public attention," he said.
Balykhin said he was indignant over the TV show running on a federal channel. "Television educates, too; children trust what they see. What they don’t see is a good example, a hero of the film whom you trust and try to emulate," he said.
Putin Names Key Tasks For His Government In 2010
MOSCOW, January 13 (Itar-Tass) — Prime Minister Vladimir Putin named key tasks for his government on Wednesday.
He said "it is necessary to raise pensions smoothly and without failures" and "secure regional bonuses to all elderly people whose incomes are below the subsistence level".
From January 1, 2010, citizens are allowed to use the so-called maternity capital for all purposes prescribed by law, such as improving living conditions, paying mortgage loans or education for children, as well as forming the cumulative part of the pension.
"The maternity capital in 2010 will be 343,000 roubles. A total of 102 billion roubles have been reserved in the budget for this purpose," the prime minister said. He urged people to start "using these new opportunities more actively for the benefit of your families".
Another important task for this year is further implementation of housing projects, including for war veterans and Defence Ministry servicemen, more active construction of housing on land owned by federal authorities.
"In addition, the Housing the Utilities Reform Fund is ready to finance capital repairs in multi-apartment houses and relocate people from dilapidated housing in the amount of up to 80 billion roubles in 2010," Putin said.
He also said it would be necessary to adopt a new federal target housing programme this year.
"In 2010, organisations whose earnings do not exceed 60 million roubles a year will be allowed to use simplified taxation. This means serious to small business. But in addition to it, we should take other steps aimed at stimulating entrepreneurship and creating new jobs," he said.
He recalled that the law granting public access to information about the work of authorities and local self-government bodies had entered into force. The government has also approved a schedule of transition to electronic public services.
According to the prime minister, several dozen public services should become available through the Internet this year.
He believes that the government should "work as dynamically and effectively as possible" in 2010.
"In 2010, we are facing very serious and responsible work both in terms of long-term development and in terms of dealing with the consequences of the global crisis," Putin said.
Putin gives boost to law on church property return
MOSCOW, January 14 (RIA Novosti)-The Russian Orthodox Church looks set to become a major owner of property in Russia after a long-delayed law on returning religious property seized by the Bolsheviks got a push from Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.
Kommersant newspaper reported on Thursday that the government had vowed to promptly turn the bill – being drafted by the economics ministry since 2007 – into law. A government commission on religious organizations held a session on Wednesday.
"We discussed practically all articles of the bill," secretary Andrei Sebentsov told the business daily. "We agreed to remove all the weak points in it by February."
Observers said the bill would chiefly benefit the country’s dominant religion, making the Russian Orthodox Church a major real estate owner.
At a meeting with Russian Patriarch Kirill earlier this month, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin called for progress in the long-stalled process to legitimize the property used by religious groups, including buildings and land plots.
In almost two decades since the collapse of the officially atheist Soviet Union, the Orthodox Church has through government decrees regained ownership of just 100 or so of 16,000 churches and cathedrals, the paper said. The law would also affect more than 4,000 mosques and some 70 synagogues.
Putin also said the culture ministry had drafted a bill to allocate state funds to help parishes and monasteries maintain or rebuild derelict churches, the paper said.
The draft law also envisions the return of church archives and relics, which is expected to end disputes with museums that are often reluctant to part with their collections.
"The law would affect the rights of museums, which could lose many of its exhibits if it is passed," Roman Lunkin, head of the Religion and Law Institute think tank, told Kommersant.
The Orthodox Church, however, will not get back churches now on the UNESCO world heritage list, including St. Basil’s Cathedral on Red Square and the churches within the Kremlin walls, the paper said.
Religious organizations, Christian churches, mosques and synagogues, currently have no ownership rights on their property, but rent it free of charge. The economics ministry has sought to change the ownership structure of property used by religious groups in a bid to cut budget spending.
Real estate analysts have said that given the value of land in Moscow and other cities, the law could put the Church in the league of the gas and railroad monopolies, Gazprom and Russian Railways.
The Communist Party warned that the ensuing commercial activity involving the property could harm the mission of religious organizations and Russia could have "gilded churches and growing poverty and immorality."
The Orthodox Church and other religions dismissed the fears saying religious organizations will become legitimate owners of their property and will be independent of the state, and will spend more on charity.
Paper Sees Underfunding Jeopardizing Medvedev’s Modernization
Nezavisimaya Gazeta
January 13, 2010
Editorial: "The Specifics of Modernization. Same Money To Be Spent on Computerization, Healthcare, Medicine, and Social Sphere"
The financial estimates for economic modernization projects are giving rise to serious doubts as to their efficacy. In 2010 the state is going to spend only six one-hundredths of one percent of total federal budget expenditure on the five main areas of modernization that President Dmitriy Medvedev constantly talks about. That is the project estimate produced by the presidential commission on modernizing the economy that the government has endorsed in January for 2010.
Meanwhile the key areas on which developed states spend billions of dollars are receiving only purely symbolic financing in Russia. For instance, the presidential project for computerizing medicine, healthcare, and social security will be getting only around $5 million this year, in other words one ruble a year for each of the country’s inhabitants. Clearly, modernizing medicine and healthcare on the cheap is actually impossible, and the only place that money will be traceable in the event will be in ministry accounts. And yet the introduction of electronic prescriptions and electronic medical cards has the potential not just to sharply reduce unwarranted waste in the healthcare system but to create a medium for innovation and qualitative development. It is no coincidence that almost all developed and developing countries have announced their own national projects for computerizing healthcare. In Jordan, for instance, the head of state is patron of the healthcare modernization program. People living in South Africa and Saudi Arabia already enjoy the benefits of computerized medicine. And US President Barack Obama has promised to transfer all medical records to electronic form. He has said that "this will reduce costs, cut out bureaucracy, and reduce the need to repeat expensive analyses." Obama is convinced that switching to digital record-keeping will not only save billions of dollars and preserve thousands of jobs but will also save patients’ lives and reduce the number of physician errors, which "are deadly dangerous and yet pervade the entire American healthcare system." The cost of switching to electronic cards in the United States is estimated at $75-100 billion. But the annual saving could exceed that outlay several times over.
Dmitriy Medvedev is also talking about moving to introduce medical records in electronic form. Yet in reality the government is allocating only $5 million to computerizing healthcare.
For comparison: The purely scientific project for developing supercomputers and for processing data in parallel from international physics experiments (so-called grid technologies) receives eight times more resources than the entire program for computerizing medicine, healthcare, and social security. The government even allocates three times as much money to reviving the project to build a nuclear spacecraft engine, which first emerged in the USSR more than 40 years ago. And yet the connection between grid technologies or a nuclear engine and the process of modernizing the economy is not obvious, to put it mildly. The likelihood is that the priorities in distributing the already extremely modest "modernization budget" reflect more than anything the lobbying potential of Rosatom (the State Corporation for Atomic Energy) and the Kurchatov science center.
"The modernization of the economy that I announced last year and the policy we are now pursuing should lead not to a reduction in the number of jobs but to the creation of new jobs in high-tech production sectors," Dmitriy Medvedev stated on Monday. One wonders whether the president’s consultants know precisely how many jobs can be created in the sphere of healthcare computerization for an outlay of one ruble per year.
Nezavisimaya Gazeta
January 14, 2010
The State Council is about to meet to discuss changes of the electoral system suggested by political parties
Author: Elina Bilevskaya
The next State Council meeting will take place before long. It was
already proclaimed political. Regional leaders will listen to a
report drawn by a working group under Kaliningrad Governor Georgy
Boos. (The group included two representatives from each political
party represented in the Duma and one from each of the three other
officially registered ones.) What information Nezavisimaya Gazeta
has compiled indicates that the document in question is a
compilation of all ideas on transformation of the electoral system
in Russia suggested by political parties. Some of these ideas are
quite exotic, particularly when they collide with political
practices of their authors.
     Insiders report that the Kremlin decided to meet the
opposition halfway for a change and include in the document all
ideas and suggestions however radical, even the ones from the
opposition itself. All these ideas are to be offered for a broad
public discussion.
     Sources close to the Presidential Administration say that the
document includes the idea (promoted by the CPRF and Fair Russia)
of a federal law "On guarantees to the opposition". The LDPR for
one came up with the proposal to collect fines from the voters who
fail to turn up at polling stations and with the idea to shift
voting day from Sunday to Wednesday. Yabloko in its turn suggested
a return to gubernatorial elections and nationwide election of the
Federation Council. Communists objected to application of the so
called "engine" technique in elections [when party ticket is
topped by some prominent figure who has no intention to occupy the
post he is supposedly running for; the idea is that he will pull
the ticket behind him the way engines pull boxcars, hence the
moniker]. It is United Russia that usually applies this technique,
putting governors on top of its tickets.
     Proper and correct as the idea is, hearing it from the CPRF
was something odd because the Communist Party itself would be
using the same technique come March. The CPRF ticket in Altai is
to be headed by Nikolai Kharitonov of the Duma, one of the most
prominent CPRF functionaries, the one in Kaluga by ex-astronaut
Svetlana Savitskaya, and the one in Voronezh by Victor Ilyukhin –
not exactly an obscure individual either.
     Communists themselves deny foul play. Vadim Soloviov, Duma
deputy and Secretary of the Central Committee of the CPRF, said
that it was wrong to regard Kharitonov, Savitskaya and Ilyukhin as
"engines" even though not one of them intended to abandon their
seats on the federal Duma for ones on regional legislatures. "We
promote them as people who, if we win the regional elections, will
be nominated for governors. We combine two campaigns, that’s all –
parliamentary and gubernatorial," Soloviov said.
     The CPRF functionary had to know better. Ex-minister of
agriculture Aleksei Gordeyev had become the Voronezh governor last
spring. As for Altai Governor Alexander Berdnikov, the president
appointed him for another term of office bare days ago. Besides,
what was that about Kharitonov allegedly aiming at governorship?
Altai is not going to be the first region where Kharitonov will
pull the CPRF ticket. He did so in Mary El last October. It will
be Altai next spring. What then?
     In Kaluga, Governor Anatoly Artamonov’s term of office
expires in mid-2010. Political scientist Aleksei Makarkin said he
was ready to bet that Artamonov would be appointed for another
spell ("He is extremely popular, you know"). According to
Makarkin, Communists might find themselves condemned for the use
of double standards on the one hand and for absence of regional
patriotism on the other because "… Savitskaya from the Moscow
region has never had anything to do with Kaluga."
     Political scientist Yevgeny Minchenko called Soloviov’s words
concerning candidates for governors "an excuse". Makarkin agreed
with this assessment. Demanding annulment of the election in 2007,
the CPRF corroborated its claims by the fact (among other things)
that United Russia had put "engines" on top of its party tickets.
These days, the Communist Party does not seem adverse to using the
same technique.
     Makarkin suggested that the CPRF was doing it because it was
desperately short of personnel in the regions. The Communist Party
lacked prominent figures in its ranks, people known to the
population in general and was therefore compelled to rely on the
few celebrities in it.
     There was, however, another problem with the CPRF, one
Makarkin identified as "internal discord". The CPRF is not as
monolithic as it likes to pretend. At least a dozen regional
organizations rebelled against the federal leadership of the party
in 2009.
     Minchenko in the meantime said that outlawing the "engine"
technique was wrong as it would constitute encroachment on voting
rights. The political scientist added that sanctions against
political parties applying this techniques would offer a much
better solution. "That’s what the State Council is supposed to
discuss soon," Minchenko said.
January 14, 2010
Author: Alexandra Beluza
[Analysis of President Dmitry Medvedev’s staff policy.]
     Terms of office of 30 regional leaders expire in 2010.
President Dmitry Medvedev will have to make up his mind on
candidates for seven governors in the near future. Acknowledging
that no total replacement is in the offing, experts nevertheless
expect a serious renovation of the gubernatorial corps. Some of
them point out that Medvedev wants more than obedience from
regional leaders.
     Medvedev’s staff policy is not clear to observers in all its
entirety yet, but some of its features are already undeniable.
Governors are replaced more frequently now than during Vladimir
Putin’s presidency.
     First, staff policy is more transparent and less sluggish.
Second, it is less sudden. New regional administrations are only
installed when the incumbent governor’s term of office expires and
only when the reasons to install a new administration are valid
indeed. There are several things that may cost a governor his job.
     "It is governors who get the blame for insufficient results
United Russia shows in an election… particularly when the
opposition does better than the ruling party," Rostislav Turovsky
of the Political Techniques Center said. "Anyway, existence of
powerful enemies in the federal center is probably the key factor
that may cost a governor his job. That or existence of rivals with
influential promoters which is essentially one and the same
     "Mediocre performance is a major reason for replacement of
regional administrations," Olga Kryshtanovskaya of the Institute
of Sociology added. "Decision-makers consider the state of affairs
in all spheres from economic situation to unemployment to
existence of protest movements."
     Medvedev replaces old-timers in Russian regions more often
than his predecessor did but even this rule has its exceptions.
Oleg Bogomolov, Kurgan governor since 1996, was recently
reappointed, and so were Sergei Darkin in Primorie and Leonid
Markelov in Mary El (each for the third term of office).
     All the same, replacement of regional heavyweights like Yegor
Stroyev in Orel and Eduard Rossel in Sverdlovsk made it plain that
there are no more untouchables among the governors running things
in their respective regions since Boris Yeltsin’s days. Nikolai
Maksyuta stepped down in late December 2009 after nearly fifteen
years as the Volgograd governor.
     Terms of office of six other old-timers expire in the near
future. Mintimer Shaimiyev in Tatarstan, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov in
Kalmykia, Nikolai Fyodorov in Chuvashia, Vladimir Chub in Rostov,
Alexander Filipenko in the Khanty-Mansi Autonomous District and
Yuri Neyelov in the Yamal-Nenets one – their future is highly
uncertain, considering Medvedev’s stated intention not to keep
regional leaders in place for more than three terms of office.
     "On the one hand, natural rejuvenation of the gubernatorial
corps is bound to take place before long," Kryshtanovskaya said.
"For the simple reason that some regional leaders have been at it
for so many years that they are old men so that practically any
successor cannot help being younger. On the other hand, Medvedev
does appear to be concerned with efficiency of gubernatorial teams
and their performance."
     The president’s logic of resignations and appointments seems
to be developing some noticeable traits. Not all of them are clear
yet, and some are probably false leads, but there is one thing
absolutely no appointee has a chance without. He must have
extensive contacts in the federal center and be able to pull some
strings (with discretion, of course).
     "Making gubernatorial career in the regions as such is
difficult now," Turovsky said. "It has to be done via the federal
center. Experience in the government or other federal structures
is handy, and so are contacts there."
     Still, not everything is so simple. Medvedev appointed
seventeen governors so far. Nine of them did go to their new jobs
from Moscow but the remaining eight were locals.
     "It must be someone who knows the region and who is known in
the region on the one hand and someone not involved in the local
clannish wars on the other," Mikhail Vinogradov of the
St.Petersburg Policy Foundation commented. "Alexander Misharin,
the new Sverdlovsk governor, is a perfect example. Or Boris
Ebzeyev, formerly of the Constitutional Court, who became
president of Karachaevo-Cherkessia."
     Conflicts between leading local candidates for governors are
what compels the federal center to promote strangers to fill
vacancies. One other requirement to candidates, be they local or
not, should be mentioned in this respect. "Candidate should have
the savvy to rally the local elites behind him and, also
importantly, to offer them a reasonable compromise," Vinogradov
     "But what about obedience and loyalty to the federal center?"
– "There are those among the men Medvedev appointed who spent
longer working with Putin than with Medvedev himself. I mean
people like the new Irkutsk Governor Dmitry Mezentsev. The way I
see it, a good deal of candidates nowadays attach importance to
close relations with Sergei Sobyanin of the government apparat. In
a word, there is only one requirement. A candidate must belong to
the nomenclature. Nikita Belykh is the only exception."
     No expert this newspaper approached would ventured a guess on
how many resignations and appointments were to be expected this
year. All in all, experts expected a considerable renovation of
the gubernatorial corps without, however, radical purges. "No,
there will be no radical changes in the gubernatorial corps,"
Turovsky said. "The federal center lacks the will for it and, even
more importantly, the personnel."
     In any event, staff policy becomes stiffer. The president is
less reluctant than his predecessor was to replace regional
leaders. And why is that? The elites needed time to get used to
the new procedure of appointment instead of election and the
federal center had to give them the time at first.
     "Practically all but a few overly odious regional leaders
were reappointed in the first 12-18 months following the change in
the procedure," a political scientist said. "These days, everyone
is used to it already, so that the procedure is purely
mechanical… There is one other consideration. What with the
crisis in the country, the federal center reminds society that it
cares and that it never hesitates to replace the regional leaders
who it thinks underperform."
     One other nuance ought to be mentioned. The very policy of
modernization Medvedev proclaimed demands staff changes in the
gubernatorial corps.
     "There are two criteria of existence of a policy. They are
the effect this policy has on structure of the budget and
structure of the personnel," Gleb Pavlovsky of the Effective
Politics Foundation said. "Either modernization has an effect on
the budget and personnel or there is no modernization under way…
save for in words, that is. Until now, all the federal center ever
expected from governors were discipline and the ability to promote
the policy formulated in Moscow. These days, governors are
flabbergasted to see that initiate is expected from them which is
something they are not used to."
     According to Pavlovsky, it is governors who are supposed to
clarify the policy of modernization for their subordinates who
complain that the signals regarding it and coming from Moscow are
too vague.
     "Governors will have to become public figures," Pavlovsky
said. "Inability to be a public politician is going to become one
of the faults that cost regional leaders their careers. Just being
obedient is not enough anymore."
Moscow Times
January 14, 2010
Gubernatorial Roulette
By Nikolai Petrov
Nikolai Petrov is a scholar in residence at the Carnegie Moscow Center.
The long New Year’s holiday is a perfect time for the authorities to announce controversial and unpopular decisions. The Kremlin usually uses this trick to avoid unwanted criticism and debate. While most of the country was celebrating and few were following political developments, President Dmitry Medvedev announced his gubernatorial "nominations" (read: appointments) for six regions – something that he probably should have done in September or October.

Medvedev reappointed the incumbent governors in the Kurgan region and Marii-El republic and named new governors to the Volgograd region and the Komi republic.

But by far the most controversial appointments were in the Altai republic and the Primorye region. In 2005, Primorye Governor Sergei Darkin became the first governor to be appointed after then-President Vladimir Putin annulled direct elections following the 2004 Beslan attack. In 2005, Darkin appeared to be one of the more "authoritarian" regional heads because of his past criminal activity. Now, after the authorities conducted a search of Darkin’s residence in May and many of his associates have been arrested, the situation has not improved. Yet the Kremlin has once again placed its trust in Darkin.

Similarly, Medvedev has reappointed Altai’s governor, former federal inspector Alexander Berdnikov – despite his involvement in a high-profile scandal over the illegal hunting of endangered sheep in the republic and a related helicopter crash in early January 2009 in which Alexander Kosopkin, the Kremlin’s envoy to the State Duma, was killed.

These examples may prove that the current system is designed to sideline strong governors while keeping afloat those who are more dependent on the Kremlin – in part because they could face serious criminal charges if they don’t toe the Kremlin line.

At the same time, the heads of the Komi and Volgograd regions are shining examples of Medvedev’s generation. They are from the "Golden 100" presidential cadre reserve, both were previously deputy governors and therefore members of the local establishment, and both came to politics from business relatively recently. This could very well be a new Kremlin model for filling gubernatorial posts with members of the local political elite.
But looking for a pattern to this process is like trying to figure out how to win Russian roulette. There are far too many unpredictable forces and factors at work, and it is never clear in advance which ones will play the decisive role.

What’s more, the Kremlin has repeatedly manipulated the number of terms that governors are allowed to serve. This was exploited in 2004, when Putin coerced governors into rejecting the existing system of direct elections. At the time, most governors were nearing the end of their legal term limits and were therefore willing to embrace the idea of being appointed from Moscow to remain in office.

Several weeks ago, Medvedev announced that he would like to see governors serving no more than three terms – certainly a long time in office. But to be on the safe side, he left open the option of governors serving a fourth term – "in exceptional cases."
Modernization Must Focus on Human Attitudes, Not on Technology
January 12, 2010
Commentary by Andrey Kolesnikov, independent journalist: "The Missing Link in Modernization"
Modernization must begin in the mind, not in the toilet. It is true that public toilets need modernization, but if it is strictly technological modernization, the public bathrooms equipped with ultra-modern flushing systems still will be spoiled — politely speaking — by people, because the people will not have changed….
Another example is the wonderful idea of electronic voting in elections — a marvelous method of political modernization. The system works superbly, particularly in Estonia. But the people working in our electoral commissions are not Estonians. They are individuals capable of coming up with results like those in the 2009 Moscow election!
Importing technology is a truly modernizing move. The Soviet Union did this, however, and the advanced machine tools it bought with hard currency stood outside in the snow and the rain for years because there was no one to master this technology and use it.
The main post-holiday news stories attest to the start of the modernization of the legal system.
First of all, a new form of punishment is being instituted — the restriction of freedom is to be applied in some cases instead of the loss of freedom. In essence, this is the same thing that was once called administrative supervision. But who will be doing the supervising? If it is someone with the moral standards of the average state vehicle inspector, the supervised are in trouble.
Second, the Soviet appellate divisions of the courts of general jurisdiction will be replaced by appeals courts, which are supposed to examine cases on their merits instead of merely rubber-stamping earlier court decisions. This is a major step in modernization, which theoretically could make radical changes in judicial decisions in general and their quality in particular.
But where will we find enough judges with professional qualities meeting the requirements of the appeals courts?
The buildings of our courts look quite presentable now, and the public bathrooms there can be entered without suffering spasms of revulsion, but most of the judges are still women over the age of 50, all wearing their hair in the same braid, and all writing decisions and verdicts with errors and with peculiar arguments to support their line of reasoning. As a result, we have biased convictions, complaints to the Strasbourg Court, and an epithet that sounds more like an indictment — "Basmannyy justice."
We can build wonderful institutions of the market, political democracy, and law, but this will not automatically create an institutional system if the people in charge of the institutions stay the same. Genuinely democratic election laws can be used to produce a single-party system and an imitation parliament in the country.
Modernization therefore must start with the modernization of people, their minds, and their behavior patterns.
The Communists had good reason in the past to talk about the new individual. They produced this new individual. He grew up, knowing no shame, in the squalid environment of poverty, requisite denunciations, daily life in a prison atmosphere, and outhouses. The experiment worked so well that this new individual cannot be eradicated and has been reproduced in generations with no knowledge whatsoever of the Soviet regime….
There are certain professions that are essential to the state: teachers, physicians, and judges — and also engineers, as we learned after increasingly common technological disasters and de-industrialization. These professions suffered declining prestige, were corrupted (in the broad sense of the term), and consequently were de-professionalized. These professions have the greatest responsibility of all — for the development of the individual, his health, his honor and household, and the infrastructure of his life. This is where modernization — i.e., a radical change in the quality of education and ethical standards — is needed. These are common professions, but they are heroic by their very nature. In other words, they require strong moral motives, much stronger than financial incentives.
If teachers start talking about how good Stalin was and start teaching the Holy Scriptures, if physicians take bribes, if judges rubber-stamp decisions, and if engineers simply disappear as a class, the sociocultural fabric of society will be ruined. There will be nothing left to modernize.
The present system is insensitive to external shocks. The crisis did not change the behavior patterns of "economic entities" and did not make businessmen more ethical. No one started behaving better in the marketplace. In fact, they lost their earlier business skills along the way, and the stars of domestic capitalism now act like Soviet-era suppliers, vying for a bigger share of state resources. Objective reality (the state) is again determining consciousness (the behavior of market entities), and the quality of human material is deteriorating.
There is no subject or object of modernization. There is no one to do the modernizing and nothing to modernize.
If any sort of intelligent steps are to be taken, they must be aimed at the object of modernization — at people. Then these people might become the subjects of reform and its driving force. There is a vicious circle here, however. Changing minds and hearts, ideas, and ethics will take time. It cannot be done in one year, but it must begin now. It cannot begin, however, unless we have a different social environment and political system. Free people will not reproduce in captivity.
So we will have to be content with imported equipment and the new appeals courts. Perhaps they will come in handy sometime in the future, somewhere, to someone….
Should Priority Be Given to Economic or Political Reform?
January 12, 2010
Article by Aleksey Chadayev, political analyst, docent at Russian State Humanitarian university: "Political Reform. Turnaround of History" [Reprinted from United Russia website]
In December of 2009, President Medvedev announced: "We need to change the economy and the political system." In regard to the first part, there was no reaction: As if to say, again he is talking about modernization, we have gotten used to it already. But the second evoked slight repercussions. "Medvedev intends to change the political system!" The "signal catchers," who, it seems, had already grown desperate, once again pricked up their ears.
But did they do so in vain?
We are seeing a new round in the debate that has lasted throughout the entire crisis-ridden 2009. The question was posed as follows: Emergence from crisis — political reform leading to economic growth, or modernization of the economy, which would subsequently also entail political change? What should we change first and foremost – politics or the economy?
As strange as it may seem, it was primarily those who position themselves as experts in the sphere of economics and state management that insisted on the first point of view. The "collective Yurgens – Gontmakher." Those that insisted on the second were the majority of professional political analysts, the "collective Pavlovskiy – Markov." That is, both groups tried to prove that the problems lie not in their own professional sphere, but in the neighboring one.
For now, the opposition of adepts of the base and the superstructure is developing in accordance with the Marxist canons – the base is taking the upper hand. It is specifically modernization of the economy (and not political reform) that has been declared as priority Number 1 – both in the president’s article, "Forward, Russia!", and in his Message to the Federal Assembly.
The logic of the president’s choice looks like the Leninist logic of "state and revolution:" With the current level of development of our economy and welfare of the citizens, democratization is impossible – the system will itself return everything to their initial positions. And this means that the only way to achieve political changes is to change the economic arrangement itself, to renovate technologies and to increase the welfare of the majority of citizens. And this – in the next move – creates the material basis for development of democratic institutions.
But, aside from the president’s article and the presidential message, Fall of 2009 entered one other event in the chronicles. The demarche of three Duma factions who were unhappy with the 11 October regional elections. As a result – the president’s agreement with party leaders to submit the question of the political system to the State Council. Thus, the topic of political reform has not gone anywhere. And it could not have gone away: Any changes in the economy always have political dimensions (and the opposite is also true). In planning modernization, we must thoroughly ponder all of its strictly political aspects.
What does this mean in the practical sense? If we presume that we are planning to re-orient the political system to the task of modernization, attention – here is the question: So what task did it decide up until now, and what task is it resolving today? And is it doing so successfully? And are its instruments, its institutions that resolve today’s problems suitable for resolving tomorrow’s problems?
Point of departure
What should we take as the point of departure, from which we should count the formulation of the Russian political system in its present-day form? The simplest, formal, answer is the end of 1993, when the currently effective Constitution of the Russian Federation was adopted. Such an answer is inaccurate: At that moment, the country was still in a most acute phase of political crisis, and the new constitution did not remove the contradictions of that time, but only set a certain framework for them.
The political crisis itself has its beginnings back in the events of 1989–91, those same ones that also led to the collapse of the USSR, and to the emergence of present-day democratic Russia, into which the largest of the resulting fragments was formed.
Two of our four present-day parliamentary parties – the CPRF (Communist Party of the Russian Federation) and the LDPR (Liberal Democratic Party of Russia) – date back to the time of Perestroika. Also from it were two non-parliamentary parties: Yabloko and Right Cause, which was the heir to Gaydar’s Russia’s Choice. Therefore, it would be correct to take specifically Perestroika as the point of departure.
Let us focus even more precisely: 1990 – the year of the last and most memorable USSR Congress of People’s Deputies. The apogee of the triumph of "political freedom," pure energy of politics, not limited by anything. The energy of that wave which washed away one of the two world superpowers, like a house of sand.
Away from democracy
We should recognize specifically 1990 as the most democratic of the democratic 90’s. In all the subsequent years, there were "assaults" on democracy from various directions.
Not only and not so much on the part of various "authorities." Society itself, having become frightened of the ruinous spontaneity of all-people’s prattle, gradually began a movement away from total politicization.
With every year, fewer and fewer people wanted – and could – deal with the "fates of the country." More and more people preferred to deal with their own individual fate. Million-man street rallies first turned into many-thousand man meetings, and then faded away altogether. From being an all-national event, parliamentary broadcasts first turned into ordinary television shows, and then became a headache for managers of the television channels, who were concerned about the low ratings of such aired programs.
While in 1989 it was unseemly not to have political views, by 1999, on the contrary, it became unseemly to have them. While in ’89, having gone to vote in the elections, you risked condemnation by neighbors and friends, by ’90 it became fashionable to brag about this. While in ’89, millions monitored the socio-political newspapers and journals, by ’99 the circulation of leading "serious" newspapers was recorded at a level of several tens of thousands (moreover, it became the norm to overstate these figures in the output data), and journals became an exoticism altogether.
The authority of incumbent political leaders – all without exception – had dropped to rock bottom by that time. The main political forces struggled for various "protest" votes – i.e., the votes of those who were not "for," but "against" someone. The presidential elections of 1996 were a competition of two "protest" votes: Some voted "against Yeltsin," while others voted "against the communists." The main media star of any elections was the obvious "counterweight" – Zhirinovskiy.
In just the same way, bureaucracy also did not like "politics" and ran from it, as did all the rest of society, of which it had always been a component part. The dream of a public official of that time was to find some method "to work normally without all this." The hour of triumph had come for such a stereotype as the "strong economic manager" – i.e., a pure manager, who promotes his own apolitical nature and lack of ideology. The collection of "strong economic managers" gave the first prototypes of the new sort of political formation – the so-called "party of power."
Consolidation and passiveness
The main trait of the "party of power" of the late 90’s was the desire to avoid a purely "political" self-determination. "Do not believe words, believe only deeds," was one such method. For a public official, affiliation with the "party of power" afforded the opportunity of self-identification in the public political field, while at the same time remaining politically non-descript. For the voter, in turn, voting for the "party of power" meant saying: "Let the leaders decide, they know best."
After several unsuccessful attempts, under Putin the "party of power" after all managed to form itself into the country’s main electoral machine. It was specifically Vladimir Putin who became its communicator with the majority. In fact, the majority ceded its passive electoral right to Putin – to decide what party to vote for.
The structural problem of the "Putin majority" lies in the fact that this is a passive majority. A majority of abstainers. Those who have grown "tired of politics," in any of its forms, and want no more of it. Those who want there to be stable power without politics.
But this, after all, is the key problem of the country in the new realities. "Just power" may be "power without politics." Yet power that implements modernization is political by definition.
The task of overcoming the "energy shortage of modernization" is a task of transforming the "Putin majority" into a political majority. But on the contrary, today it is most likely "anti-political."
The question consists of who will be able to perform this transit, and how?
Russia Profile
January 13, 2010
Dreams of Sobriety
The Progress of Russia’s New Political Decade Will Depend on Luck As Much As It Will on the Power Elite 
Comment by Alexander Arkhangelsky
Against the backdrop of the New Year holidays, the word sobriety carries multiple meanings, some with ironic undertones. Every "sober" (in the good social sense of the word) observer understands that miracles do happen in history, but very rarely. Let us, for a moment, allow ourselves some sober dreaming as to where we want our country to go in 2010.
After the self-destruction of communism and the self-annihilation of the Soviet empire, full-scale hunger was inevitable. Without metaphors and exaggerations. The hunger would be followed by a cruel civil war, followed by a bloody redistribution of property. Bloody not in the sense that a lot of shots got fired as the mining facilities and oil wells were taken over, but literally. In reality there was not hunger with cannibalism, but relatively bearable malnourishment and a Great Wall of China-sized stock of SPAM. Unpleasant, yes, and worrisome for parents, but no Holodomor.

There were also political shakeups and the tragedy of 1993, when an armed rebellion was only quelled after a deal was cut with the army, the special services and the police on the terms of future repayment. But it was not a civil war. There was mass lying during the accumulation of property. But no massacres. There was the grave mistake in Chechnya, but the country did not break up into independent principalities. With the average annual price of oil at nine dollars a barrel, it came back to life and got back on its feet. Not on its knees. What was this, if not a regular political miracle, paid for by the mundane courage of debased heroes? The late Yegor Gaidar was one of these heroes.

A miracle cannot be planned; it always takes place in spite of blueprints and schemes. It looks like trends and schemes can be predicted, but really that is not true. We sit down at our desks, turn on our cozy lamps, and try to sketch models while forgetting about the things taking place in real life. One trend is taking place in this area, and another taking place in that one…We expect such and such from this politician, and so and so from his partner. Convenient, easy and carefree, with no interference on behalf of reality.

And, as soon as the blueprint is drawn and we go out into real life, everything starts changing drastically. Because despite the objective status quo, there is a sudden panic on the stock market. Or people now believe in inevitable growth. "Collective insanity!" we exclaim, and start doing as they do. Otherwise, we lose. And some politician whom we studied so well will suddenly change the vector of his own behavior. Because he is in love. Or he is angry. And his partners no longer want to be the laughingstock. Their characters are acting up. Or down. Both politics and economics are manmade, not supernatural. And here, chance is no less important than regularity.

So let’s just allow ourselves to dream a little, without betting on a miracle and without putting too much trust in calculations. What would we want to happen in 2010?  
It would be nice if the dangerous illusion that Russia doesn’t need freedom and will never be ready for it was finally put to rest. But how could poor Russia be ready, if for the first decade of its recent history it crawled through a minefield with no maps or any kind of half-serious instruction, while the second one was spent practicing with a rusty, outdated training model?

It would also be nice if the road toward freedom did not go through tempestuous territory. Trials – yes, they are just as useful as they are inevitable. But not shocks, which are no better than the stability afforded by stagnation. It is impossible to calmly, methodically and boringly work for the sake of the future either in a total freeze or in simultaneous defrosting. One can only sleep or go on a rampage. Frankly, it is not worth choosing between two evils. 

It would be great if the managers would finally realize that they are the elite-that is, the social stratum responsible for the future. And that in history, there are grand cycles. One of these, the revolutionary one, took place in the 1990s. The other one, the counter-revolutionary, in the vacuous 2000s. And now we all stand at a crossroads: what’s next? A kind, downhill slope toward nothingness, toward a country with no changes, no institutions, no breakthroughs? This road will end with a steep cliff. But only after a while. The unpleasant but real way of development, from business to the political system, will end in success. But again, not tomorrow. And we won’t have to choose in 2012, we will have to choose this year. Because a new political decade has begun, and its progress will depend not just on blueprints and miracles, but also on specific people. What they will dare to do. What they will accept. What they will bet on.
And finally, it would be wonderful if we, the people of communities, would also realize that we are a responsible force. Not a political one that is fighting for the levers of power, but a much more important and powerful one-the one that the people fighting for the levers of power ultimately depend on. A force that establishes the natural habitat, the legal tradition without which the law is useless and the electoral mechanisms stall.

This is not too little. This is not too unfeasible. Happy New Year! Let it be new, and not going back to what has passed. 
Russia: Other Points of View
January 12, 2010
By Gordon Hahn
I have been arguing for some 20 months now that Russian President Dmitry Medvedev would begin a political thaw and gradually all power will be transferred to him from Premier and former president Vladimir Putin, who would give it up willingly or not.  I have been arguing for a long time as well that Medvedev’s thaw – a second ‘perestroika’ of sorts – has already begun.  A Medvedian glasnost, minor political reforms, an ambitious privatization program set for next year, and reform of the penal system have all substantiated the claim.
Now Medvedev has targeted one of the most corrupt institutions in Russian government – the Ministry of Internal Affairs.  This decision to target the MVD – the first major institutional reform project of his presidency – is consistent with the logic of implementing great reforms. Medvedev’s decision could impart greater impetus to his economic modernization and political thaw plans by removing a key institutional barrier to change and the rule of law.  Just as the CPSU was the main obstacle blocking Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev’s perestroika, the MVD is most likely the main obstacle to reform in today’s Russia, with the possible exceptions of the FSB and the GRU (Main Administration for Intelligence or military intelligence).
Also, the move against the MVD is long-awaited by Russian citizens. For years polls have shown that Russians regard the MVD as the most corrupt and dangerous force in their lives.  Outside of the ‘Caucasus Emirate’ jihadist terrorists, the MVD leads Russia in the violation of citizens’ political, civil, and human rights.
Some have questioned the seriousness of Medvedev’s MVD reform initiative, but a close look at it suggests it is indeed a concerted attempt to put the MVD in its place, to ensure it fulfills its police functions without massive corruption and incompetence, and turn it into an organ that inspires at least some trust among Russian people. The decree Medvedev issued ordering the reform was strikingly outspoken about the breakdown of the MVD as a functioning and reliable law enforcement body: "(I)n recent times incidents of the violation of legality and service discipline have occurred which are provoking a fundamentally negative reaction in society and diminishing the authority of government." The MVD is judged not to be "meeting contemporary requirements" and "needing modernization."
Medvedev’s decree ordering the reform stipulates at least nine key changes to be prepared by March 31, 2010 and enter into force by January 1, 2012.  Thus, the decree envisages a two-year period during which the reforms will be designed and implemented, and they will come into force before the 2012 presidential election.  A period of such length is both necessary and sufficient for implementing a major reform in a country with a strong, reform-resistant state bureaucracy.
Two reforms are designed to sever regional governments’ control over local departments of the MVD.  The first is to hand over all organizational and appointment power over the MVD to the federal executive branch.  The second is to terminate all regional funding for the MVD and concentrate all budget funds for the department in Moscow.  Although this strengthens an already hyper-centralized Russian state, it is necessary for undertaking any fundamental changes, which would be blocked in most regions by ambitious and corrupt governors and/or regional MVD chiefs.  Central control over some of the functions carried out by the MVD, such as investigation, is common in democratic states.  In the U.S., provincial or state departments of the FBI or Justice Department are not staffed or run by governors.
A third reform is designed to break the power of regional governors and MVD chiefs by requiring that the personnel that makes up the top command of regional MVD departments be rotated.  This could be effective in reducing regional resistance to the reforms and breaking up corrupt regional clans by limiting governor-MVD ties and disturbing the police cover for corrupt or criminal regional clans, which are often based in or penetrate regional MVD leaderships.
The fourth and fifth reforms are interrelated.  The former consists of 20 percent reduction in MVD personnel and a reduction in the number of regional deputy chiefs, with the money saved for their upkeep devoted to increasing the salaries of the remaining personnel. An increase in the salaries of MVD personnel has long been recommended by international and domestic corruption watchdog NGOs as crucial for reducing bribe-taking and abuse of office for profit within Russia’s law enforcement organs.
A sixth reform ordering a review of the way housing is provided to MVD personnel may also be related to this problem.
A seventh orders changes to the MVD’s structure and functions in order to streamline it by ridding its "two structures" as well as functions and presumably their corresponding structures that do or should not belong to the MVD.
An eighth reform targets the MVD’s training academies and recruitment practices.  The former are to be streamlined, and the latter are to be transformed so they will take into consideration recruits’ "moral-ethical and psychological qualities towards the goal of promotong the level of professionalism."
The ninth and a most important reform – one also related to personnel training but also crucial for Medvedev’s anti-corruption policy – is "the realization of anti-corruption educational programs of professional and continuing professional education for the various categories of (MVD) personnel." (See Medvedev’s decree at "President podpisal Ukaz ‘O merakh po sovershenstvovaniyu deyatelnosti organov vnutrennykh del Rossiiskoi Federatsii’," 24 Dec 2009)
In a year-end interview shown on all three Russian state television channels, Medvedev described the purpose and goals of this reform in stark and ambitious terms, noting "there are needed and will be sufficiently harsh, serious changes." (Prezident Rosiii Dmitrii Medvedev: "Narod sposoben menyat’sya ne tol’ko iz-pod palki,"Izvestia, 27 December 2009)
Indeed, the comprehensive nature of the proposed reform outline suggests that this is not simply a PR action, as suggested by some observers, but might very well be a concerted effort to resolve one of Russia’s most vexing problems – the lack of rule of law (See Nabi Abdullaev, "Kremlin Vow to Overhaul Police Rings Hollow," Moscow Times, 28 December 2009 and mark Galeotti, "Medvedev’s Police Reform Is More About Control Than Reform," RFERL, 7 January 2010) Indeed, some liberal activists warmly welcomed Medvedev’s initiative.  Head of the Moscow Helsinki Group Lyudmila Alekseyeva told journalists: "I am very happy that the president is dealing with this. Human rights activists have been talking about this for a long time." ("Russian politicians, experts divided on Medvedev’s police reform," Interfax, 25 December 2009.)
The fact that this decree was issued in the middle of the winter holiday season suggests that Medvedev sought to catch off guard certain elements in Russian government.  It remains unclear whether Medvedev wanted to keep tandem partner, Premier and former president Vladimir Putin and/or the MVD and/or other siloviki off balance.  It is obvious that if any of these want to, they could be in a position to block or water down the design or implementation of these reforms, especially if they act in concert or with regional leaders. This is another thing, besides stealing, that Russian officials and bureaucrats are expert at and for which they have a strong historical record of success.
As one journalist noted: "If implemented, the reform…would amount to one of the most ambitious reforms of Russia’s bloated bureaucracy since the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union." (Dmitry Solovyov, "Kremlin orders 20 percent cut to Russian police ministry," Reuters, 24 December 2009.)
As such, Medvedev’s decree puts to rest the frequently heard but incorrect assertion that his presidency is one of words, while deeds and real power are reserved for the tandem’s other half. (For example, see Nikolai Petrov’s comments in "Medvedev Is Permitted ‘Rhetoric,’ Not ‘Practical Decisions’," Svobodnaya Pressa, 28 December 2009, in Johnson’s Russia List, 31 December 2009; Nikolai, Petrov, "The Virtual President," Moscow Times, September 29, 2009; and "Political Commentators Discuss 2012 Presidential Election Issue," Svobodnaya Pressa, 1 January 2010, in Johnson’s Russia List, 2010-#4, 7 January 2010.)
Yumasheva Sheds Light on Yeltsin Era
Nezavisimaya Gazeta
January 12, 2010
Article by Aleksandra Samarina: "Political Phenomenon of Tatyana Yumasheva"
Struggle for electoral attractiveness of Yeltsin era has begun.
A new and interesting entry appeared yesterday on the website of Tatyana Yumasheva (Dyachenko), the head of the Fund of the First President of Russia, Boris Yeltsin. This time, it disclosed certain secrets of the 1996 electoral campaign. In recent times, Tatyana Borisovna’s blog has become a notable phenomenon in politics. In appraising the constancy and content of the entries, Nizavisimaya Gazeta experts reject the random nature of these statements.
Yesterday’s post concerns the most scandalous detail of the elections held 14 years ago: The so-called xerox box incident. We may recall: Two associates of Yeltsin’s electoral staff had been detained in the White House hallway – the president of the LIS’S firm, Sergey Lisovskiy, and Arkadiy Yevstafyev, an aide to Anatoliy Chubays. They were carrying out a box containing half a million dollars. Tatyana Yumasheva writes: "At my father’s instruction, Aleksandr Korzhakov was responsible for control over all of the electoral campaign finances. Therefore, during the entire electoral campaign, he carefully observed as Lisovskiy, as well as many others, received money tens of times in xerox boxes, in writing paper boxes, in other kinds of boxes, and in cases – in whatever it was convenient to carry the money and pay it out."
This post, made by the daughter of the first President of Russia, became a sensation. No one had ever before frankly described the details of the electoral campaign.
In the Tsentrizbirkom (Central Electoral commission), they at first refused to comment on the admission, but then, speaking on conditions of anonymity, very cautiously noted that, in those times, the legislation had not yet been sufficiently regulated, and that is specifically why amendments to limit financing of electoral campaigns were later introduced into it. Meanwhile, Tatyana Yumasheva’s notes concern the broadest circle of questions. And the reference to a thematic of the 90’s does not appear to be archaic. Without contraposing her father’s policy to the activity of his successor, Vladimir Putin, the daughter of the first President of Russia nevertheless reminds us of his undoubted merits.
What at first glance seem to be private notes have seriously touched the Internet community. Some bloggers reproached the author for not wanting to touch upon the most acute moments of the history of that time. And so, on 7 January, Tatyana Yumasheva firmly promised: "I will certainly tell about the most difficult and acute events of the 90’s. What I think about the first Chechen war, and about the second Chechen campaign of ’99. And about the default of ’98. And about the October crisis of ’93. And about the Family. And about the oligarchs."
Tatyana Borisovna’s recount of the oligarchs is a tale about the most controversial politicians of recent time. And these writings look like a clear dissonance with the present-day state viewpoint, because Boris Berezovskiy, for example, has long ago become an offensive political figure in domestic propaganda. Yumasheva offers an entirely different view of the emigrant, whose extradition to Russia the country’s law enforcement agencies have been seeking for a long time. In this light, the sympathetic words addressed to Berezovskiy sound very much like heresy.
It is as if Boris Yeltsin’s daughter is trying to debunk the most famous myth of the zero years: About the fact that the 90’s became a time of lawlessness of the oligarchs, who robbed the people. She simply answered the question of why Roman Abramovich became a billionaire. She told the almost anecdotal story about Abramovich’s "Dembel accord" so as to prove this man’s phenomenal enterprising nature.
We can understand the interest of contemporaries in recent history: There, pages are opened, which remain strictly taboo in today’s politics. And that is why the politics of the 90’s look so alive. Even considering the incompleteness or possible prejudice of the author. Yumasheva’s notes have become a test for Russians who do not want to discuss the surrogates that they are being fed by the state television channels.
The head of the Effective Policy Fund, Gleb Pavlovskiy, notes that this is "natural for our political generation:" "We are talking about recollections during a change of eras. Eras in a broader sense than they could be marked as the periods of Medvedev or Putin."
Tatyana Yumasheva, the expert believes, "is a political person, and this reflection is political:" "The author ignores the barriers that are popular in our society, when the one who is for the 90’s is against the 2000’s, and vice versa… She demonstratively insists on her calm right to unite the 90’s and the 2000’s. In this sense, this is a political challenge, but hardly for Medvedev or Putin. It is simply an affiliation with the elite in the strict sense of the word. It is aristocratism, which is given not by the fact that you are the president’s daughter, but by the fact that you know for sure that you were the co-author of this state, and that is what you are. And it is this co-authorship that gives particular weight to word and gesture."
However, Pavlovskiy points out, the position of the author of these statements is vulnerable: "As a politician, she cannot help but understand that personal relations tie her to some rather contradictory figures. Such as Berezovskiy or Abramovich. The name of the former became a stigma. In the public space, Yumashev is greeted with lack of understanding even on the part of those who are ready to accept his position in everything else."
And here, the political analyst notes, Tatyana Yumasheva appeals to the third force – "the silent majority, the strata of people who do not participate in public squabbles, in public polemics over the 90’s and 2000’s. For whom this very division makes no sense. They simply lived during these years, and did not change. This may be seen in the commentaries. Because Tatyana Borisovna gave them the opportunity to speak out aloud. Otherwise, they would have been forced to keep quiet in blogs, because as soon as they popped their head up, they would immediately be attacked by a swarm – one or the other group of pro-Putin or anti-Putin advocates, who would immediately drive them into a corner. But here they feel that they can talk! It is as if she is saying: Fellows, why are you shaking, what are you afraid of? There is nothing and no one to fear, we are the masters in this country… There is no one to fear. Whom do we have to fear? People in uniform? Why, let them go to the devil. This is a political signal – in an aesthetic wrapper."
Politician Aleksey Mitrofanov sees a latent support of Medvedev’s course in the notes of the first president’s daughter, as well as influence that the part of the elite oriented toward the president strives to have on current policy: "Aleksandr Voloshin, for example, always had good relations with the incumbent president. When Medvedev came to the administration, they surrounded him with love there. After all, usually the administration is harsh – a new person who is brought in at the will of the top leader usually runs the gauntlet of a young warrior."
Mitrofanov points out the important moments in Yumasheva’s writings: They "remove from Putin the image of a mega-man who saved Russia from disintegration. It states here: And what does disintegration consist of? Was there really a disintegration in ’99? In ’99, there was growth of the budget, and there certainly was no disintegration…" Our Nezavisimaya Gazeta interviewee is convinced that Yumasheva’s writings did not appear by accident, but that the discussion centers around preparations for the 2012 elections: "This is an indirect helping hand for Medvedev. It is such a hint: Why are you all re-writing history? Not everyone is so bad there, spawn from hell… Nothing was disintegrating then, in the 90’s. As for freedoms, there were more of them under Yeltsin. She understands that a new generation has grown up. People looked at what is going on now, and have a better attitude toward her father. And there may be more of them in time. Because, even in the provinces, people notice the absence of freedom. Businessmen say – why is everything under control? After all, they had a taste of freedom under Yeltsin. Then, there was somewhere to turn, but now there is nowhere to run."
Our correspondent tried to get in touch with Tatyana Yumasheva, but sources in the Fund of the First President of Russia said that their leader is abroad and could be reached for comment.
Moscow Times
January 14, 2010
Duma Moves to Support Nonprofits
By Natalya Krainova

The State Duma on Wednesday gave preliminary approval to a Kremlin-backed bill aimed at providing state support to socially oriented nonprofit organizations.

Communist deputies opposed the bill, warning that it would breed corruption, but two anti-corruption researchers said the legislation was sorely needed.

The bill was supported in a first reading by United Russia, A Just Russia and the Liberal Democratic Party, while the Communist Party voted against it, United Russia said on its web site. 

The bill, posted on the Duma’s web site, defines a nonprofit organization as socially oriented if its activities are directed at "solving social problems" and "developing civil society" and if it is not state-owned, not a political party and not a religious organization.

The bill grants socially oriented nonprofit organizations the right to qualify for support from federal or local authorities in the form of money, property, tax breaks, information, consultations or education. The nonprofit groups could also accept contracts from state and municipal officials. Companies that provide financial support to the nonprofit organizations also would qualify for tax breaks under the bill.

United Russia Deputy Oleg Morozov touted the bill as a step toward "solving social problems that the state simply has no time for" and said it would boost the role of nonprofit organizations in society, according to a statement on United Russia’s web site.

But Ivan Melnikov, a senior Communist official, said the bill would "create new loopholes for corruption" and called for it to be rewritten. He said in a statement that the bill also needed to be redrafted "to prevent the distinction of nongovernmental organizations as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ according to criteria that is clearly subjective."

However, two anti-corruption experts with nonprofit organizations praised the bill and its broad definition of socially oriented groups. Kirill Kabanov, chairman of the National Anti-Corruption Committee, said corruption is always possible in Russia but the bill’s definition "mustn’t be narrowed because it could deprive support from organizations that really work."

"A narrower definition could breed corruption because everybody would strive to get on the list," said Yelena Panfilova, head of Transparency International’s Moscow office.

While A Just Russia backed the bill, faction head Nikolai Levichev cautioned in a statement that the Duma had to make sure that it "contains as few loopholes as possible for local bureaucrats to make a selfish profit."

Meanwhile, Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov said deputies would give priority during the spring session, which opened Wednesday, to Kremlin-backed bills aimed at improving the country’s judicial system and the quality of state and municipal services and of medicine sold in drugstores, the Duma’s web site reported. He said another priority bill will extend the period of time during which people can privatize their apartments free of charge.

The Duma plans to pass more than 550 bills during the spring session, Gryzlov said.
Moskovsky Komsomolets
January 14, 2010
Author: Dmitry Popov, Daria Fedotova
[The European Court of Human Rights will consider the Yukos case on March 4.]    
The European Court of Human Rights will resume consideration of
the Yukos case on March 4. The meeting was scheduled to take place
today but absence of the Russian judge Andrei Bushev called for a
last-minute change of plans. Consideration of the corporate
complaint from Yukos in Strasbourg may result in a verdict that
will hurt Russian economy and smear the Russian authorities.
     Yukos shareholders complained of property piracy in 2004.
They said bailiffs had sold the company’s principal asset to the
highest bidder to cover tax bills exceeding 1 trillion rubles. The
asset went to an obscure outfit (BaikalFinanceGroup) that
immediately sold it to Rosneft. When Yukos was proclaimed a
bankrupt soon afterwards, its shareholders knew that there was
nothing more they could do in Russia. The European Court in
Strasbourg judged their complaint to be partially acceptable and
pledged to consider the "property piracy" part.
     Consideration of the case was postponed several times
already. The latest postponement is attributed to Bushev’s
illness. Some observers, however, maintain that there must be more
to it than meets the eye. President Medvedev advised the Duma to
ratify Protocol 14 to the Convention for the Protection of Human
Rights and Fundamental Freedoms barely a month ago. The document
in question vastly expands the rights of the court in Strasbourg
and makes proceedings noticeably less complicated. Russian
parliamentarians have been saying for years that this state of
affairs will encroach on the rights of Russia. (Russia is the only
country objecting to reorganization of the European Court of Human
Rights, these days.) All these objections stifled, the Duma may
ratify the protocol this Friday.
     Yukos shareholders earnestly hope to collect and this
decision of the court, if this is what the court decides, will
harm Russia. Decisions of the Strasbourg court are mandatory.
Russia paid more than 4 million euros as instructed by the
European Court of Human Rights in 2008.
     The Finance Ministry transacts money to the Justice Ministry
the moment decision of the court comes into effect. The Justice
Ministry pays it to the plaintiff. Payments are monitored by the
office of the ombudsman.
     The budget includes a special article, corrected once a year.
That this article does not include a trillion rubles for
compensations to Yukos shareholders need not be said. In
accordance with the budget, the National Prosperity Foundation
amounts to 2 trillion 812.9 billion rubles. Aggregate expenditures
of the 2010 budget are planned at the level of 9.887 trillion
     In other words, Yukos shareholders if they collect will be
entitled to one-tenth of budget expenditures of nearly one-third
of the National Prosperity Foundation. It does not take a genius
to guess what this development will do to the rating and repute of
the people who organized the whole Yukos Affair in the first
     This is why experts and commentators refuse to venture an
opinion on how the situation may develop if Yukos shareholders
have their way.
     Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s lawyer Yuri Shmidt plainly called the
whole matter political.
     "No, there is no saying how the authorities will take
settlement of grievances… if it comes to that, of course. We
cannot even predict the outcome of the case of Khodorkovsky and
[Platon] Lebedev, much less the Yukos case," he said.


Soaring imports threaten Russia’s economic recovery – paper
MOSCOW, January 14 (RIA Novosti)-Soaring imports into Russia registered in the fourth quarter of 2009 threaten the country’s economic recovery and may plunge it into a new economic decline, a business paper reported on Thursday.
Imports into Russia grew 20% in October-November 2009 compared with the third quarter, a record rate since 2006. Russia’s trade surplus was almost unchanged in the fourth quarter of 2009 (an increase of 2% to $34 billion), whereas it grew 25% in the previous two quarters, Vedomosti said, citing the Central Bank’s data.
Russia’s exports, which fell sharply in the first half of 2009 due to the global economic crisis amid reduced world demand for hydrocarbons, started to increase in the second half of the year along with world oil prices, while imports in January-June 2009 remained almost unchanged, the paper said.
According to the results of 2009, imports fell 44% to $192.7 billion and exports 36% to $303.3 billion, the paper said.
In the fourth quarter of 2009, however, imports were only 17% lower than a year earlier compared with a 40% decrease in the third quarter, the paper said.
If this trend continues, imports into Russia may grow almost 30% in 2010 and bring the country’s current account surplus to zero at a global oil price of $70 per barrel, which may prompt a national currency devaluation, the paper said, referring to calculations made by Russia’s Higher School of Economics.
The average price of Russia’s Urals crude oil increased to $73.90 per barrel in the fourth quarter of 2009, the paper said.
January 14, 2010
Russia is World’s Cheapest Stock Market: Strategist
By Robin Knight
CNBC Assistant Web Producer
The Russian stock market is the cheapest major market in the world and will be driven higher by disinflation, as long as oil stays above $60 a barrel, Kingsmill Bond, chief strategist at Troika Dialog, told CNBC Thursday.
"We’re seeing disinflation in Russia because you have got a major fall in government expenditure – and at the same time, we no longer have spectacular growth in raw materials prices," Bond said.
"When it happens you tend to get strong outperformance by the market," he added.
Inflation in Russia has fallen below 10 percent for the first time since the fall of the Soviet Union, Bond pointed out.
"This year we think it’s going to drop to about 6 (percent), so it’s a dramatic change," he added.
Russian stocks rose sharply last year as investors bet on risky assets, but in 2010 investors will have to be more selective and look for domestic companies positioned for growth, he said.
"The domestic story in Russia is indeed very strong, you just have to pick the right companies," Bond said.
But if the price of a barrel of oil falls below $60 it could mean the outlook for investing in Russia is "fragile," he said.
Many market watchers point to political problems when discussing the Russian market, but Bond thinks real progress is being made.
"There is a very clear modernization agenda pursued by the entire Russian elite from (Vladimir) Putin and (Dmitry) Medvedev down," he said.
Russia claims Turkish backing for pipeline
By Olga Rotenberg (AFP)
January 13, 2010
MOSCOW � Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Wednesday said Russia had won Turkey’s backing for Moscow to build a key section of a new gas pipeline seen as a rival of an EU-backed project in Turkish waters.
Putin’s comments came after talks with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan that were the latest example of the expanding strategic relationship between Moscow and Ankara.
"We have agreed that by November 10 the Turkish government will carry out an audit and will give us the permission for the construction" of the South Stream pipeline, Putin said.
"The Turkish prime minister has confirmed this intention today," he added.
Russia wants to build a section of the South Stream pipeline through Turkey’s portion of the Black Sea to create a new route for Russian gas to Europe that will by-pass Ukraine.
But Turkey is also a key player in the rival EU-backed Nabucco pipeline which aims to carry gas from the Caspian Sea region to Europe and is seen as a way of reducing European reliance on Russian gas.
Turkey in August agreed to allow Moscow to start surveys in its territorial waters in the Black Sea for South Stream.
Putin said the ecological surveys had already been completed while the seismological and geological surveys were 85-90 percent complete.
"The energy sphere has a very important significance. In this, we share a very developed cooperation," Erdogan told Russian President Dimitry Medvedev in earlier talks at his country residence outside Moscow.
"Not only in the sphere of natural gas but in crude products there exist a whole series of opportunities," he added.
NATO member Turkey, which has long pursued EU membership, has sought to downplay rivalry between the two competing pipelines.
It was unclear whether gas supplies were sufficient to fill two pipelines and Moscow has been keen to complete South Stream ahead of its rival, with plans to go online with the pipeline’s section in Turkish waters as early as 2013.
South Stream is being jointly developed by Russian gas giant Gazprom and Italy’s Eni.
Turkey in turn is seeking Russian support for a planned Turkish oil pipeline to be built from the Black Sea port of Samsun to Ceyhan on the Mediterranean.
Russia will play an active role in the project and the two sides are in talks over Moscow taking a stake, Russian deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin told reporters on the sidelines of the meetings.
Putin said he had floated the signing of a tripartite agreement between Italy, Russia and Turkey on the pipeline and added that Erdogan had agreed.
Turkey in November scrapped a 2008 tender won by a Russian-led consortium to build the country’s first nuclear power plant. But the two sides Wednesday signed a joint statement on a building a nuclear facility.
The two countries have also joined efforts to broker peace between ex-Soviet states Azerbaijan and Armenia, which are still technically at war over the mountainous Nagorno-Karabakh region.
Shared concerns over stability in the Caucasus were tested as Russia fought a brief war with Georgia in August 2008, but Moscow has since played a role in the recent rapprochement between Turkey and its ally Armenia.
But Putin said the issue of Karabakh — which is complicating the ratification of a deal re-establishing diplomatic ties — should not be linked to Turkish-Armenian relations.
"I do not think it is right to put them in one package," he said.
Russia is Turkey’s main gas supplier, accounting for about 60 percent of the country’s gas imports.
January 14, 2010
Georgian Energy Summit Runs Out Of Gas
(RFE/RL) — An energy summit scheduled to begin today in the Georgian Black Sea port of Batumi had aimed to push forward with plans for natural-gas and oil pipelines running to European markets while circumventing Russian territory.
But the two-day summit lost some of its energy when Viktor Yushchenko, president of the key transit country of Ukraine, announced he was unable to attend. Yushchenko is running for reelection in on January 17 and said the race prevented him from traveling to Georgia.
Yushchenko’s announcement had a domino effect, with the presidents of Azerbaijan, Latvia, Lithuania, Georgia, and Poland all following suit. But the meeting is going ahead, and participants still hope they can improve the prospects for projects like the Nabucco and White Stream natural-gas lines and the Odessa-Brody-Gdansk oil pipeline.
Georgia’s prime minister, Nika Gilauri, is due to open the Batumi conference later this afternoon. Ahead of the gathering, Gilauri told journalists the first order of business would be presenting the new routes for transporting gas through Georgia to Romania, Bulgaria, and Ukraine.
Gilauri singled out the Nabucco project, which aims to bring some 31 billion cubic meters of gas from the Caspian Basin and Middle East to Europe each year. Questions of funding and supplies have long stalled the project, but Gilauri said the pipeline, which is seen as a rival to Russia’s South Stream line, enjoys "international support and will be built."
Nabucco, he added, was important for Georgia as part of a search for "alternative transport routes for the diversification of energy supplies from the Caspian and Asia to Europe."
Waning Enthusiasm?
Non-Russian pipeline projects received a boost a year ago, when a pricing dispute between Ukraine and Russia led to a protracted gas cutoff in Europe in the midst of a bitter cold snap.
The European Union, desperate to break its reliance on Russian gas and transport routes, accelerated efforts to begin construction on pipelines capable of delivering Caucasus and Central Asian energy without crossing Russian territory.
The projects represent no more than 10 percent of the EU’s overall consumption, and the bloc’s enthusiasm has appeared to wane in recent months.
Guenther Oettinger, the official nominated as the EU’s new energy commissioner, said during confirmation hearings today in Brussels that the European Union must be prepared to make firm decisions on Nabucco this year. And representatives at the Batumi gathering are likewise trying to regain some of the momentum lost during last year’s economic crisis.
Russia, despite financial troubles of its own, has forged ahead with plans to begin work on the South Stream pipeline and finish the Nord Stream gas line running to Germany via the Baltic Sea.
The Russian newspaper "Vedomosti" quoted an expert at the Troika Dialog investment bank as saying the countries attending the Batumi summit "have aspired to lessen energy dependence on Russia for years. In reality, they have precious little to show for it."
But supplier, transit, and client countries remain formally engaged in Nabucco and other non-Russian projects. The key suppliers — Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Iraq — were a constant presence at gatherings on Nabucco and White Stream in 2009.
Despite the evaporation of the presidential contingent, the Batumi summit will still host a number of prominent officials involved in energy issues, including Azerbaijani Prime Minister Artur Rasizade, Kazakh Deputy Energy Minister Lyazat Kiinov, and the head of Turkmenistan’s oil-sector analysis and development division, Egenmamed Atamamedov.
Per Eklund, the head of the European mission to Georgia, and the U.S. State Department special envoy for Eurasian energy, Richard Morningstar, will also be present.
January 13, 2010
Former OSCE Chair Says Time Ripe For ‘Serious Look’ At Reform
The 56-member Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe is facing hard times as observers increasingly question its relevance and effectiveness. At a Permanent Council session in Vienna on January 14, the new Kazakh chairmanship of the OSCE will lay out its plan for the coming year — an agenda that former OSCE Chairman in Office and Finnish Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb describes as "an extensive and ambitious working program." Stubb, who chaired the organization in 2008, spoke to RFE/RL correspondent Robert Coalson about the challenges the OSCE will face in 2010.
RFE/RL: Kazakhstan is about to begin its term as the first former Soviet state to chair the OSCE. Could you describe for us the formal and informal powers of the chairmanship to influence the course of the organization? What limits are there to those powers?
Alexander Stubb: Basically you have a chairman in office — Finland held it in 2008 — and you actually have quite a lot of powers, because you are trying to direct an organization of 56 states. One of the problems, of course, with the OSCE is that it is a consensus organization. It is very much based on conference diplomacy. So what you need to do is to negotiate basically with all the members to get things through. So, the role of the chairmanship is, of course, I think, very important. For a small country like Finland, it is essential to have these kinds of chairmanships because it opens a lot of doors around the rest of the world.
RFE/RL: What are your expectations for Kazakhstan?
Stubb: I think there is good news and bad news. The good news is clearly that it’s the first time we have a Central Asian country chairing the OSCE, and I think symbolically it is very important. And I think they’ve prepared very well as well, and tomorrow, actually, they are going to present an extensive and ambitious working program for the whole year, including talking about the future of European security. Our basic take on the Kazakh chairmanship is positive, and let’s not judge a book by its cover.
At the same time, it is no secret that there are issues with freedom of speech, elections, and human rights — so, basically, questions that the OSCE deals with. So one could say that Kazakhstan itself will be under scrutiny about what Kazakhstan is doing. So it is a new kind of a chairmanship, but let’s wait and see.
RFE/RL: A recent report on Central Asia says the countries there are "authoritarian regimes that prioritize their own perpetuation and expect their international cooperation to aid in this goal." Do you think this applies to Kazakhstan and its chairmanship of the OSCE?
Stubb: Well, none of the Central Asian countries are, I guess, perfect from a Western, democratic, rule-of-law perspective. At the same time, I would argue that they are much better off and doing much better than they were many years ago. And these processes take a long time to change, and they cannot necessarily be enforced or shoved down the throat from above. We have to take it step by step. At the same time, I do think that we have to be very tough on our basic principles. So, it is the soft power of the OSCE working on these countries.
RFE/RL: Analysts are saying the OSCE is facing a difficult period now and that something of a "values gap" has developed within the organization. Do you think there is such a gap, and is the OSCE strong enough — or flexible enough — to bridge it?
Stubb: There might be a values gap — I think that analysis is right. At the same time, it is an organization which spreads its wings from Vancouver to Vladivostok and has 56 countries in it. So, in terms of the values gap being bigger than, for instance, the values gap in the UN — I would never buy that argument, because the UN has 195 countries in it, and the values gap is much bigger. But, of course, there is an aim to try to find the common values, and that’s why it is very important to stress that the OSCE has always had three baskets and one of them has to do with democracy, human rights, the rule of law. One of them has to do with security, and one is sort of the economy and environment. All these three things are important, but it is of course clear that we are not all Jeffersonian or European democracies.
RFE/RL: In your opinion, is the OSCE the right place to be discussing Russian President Dmitry Medvedev’s recent proposals for a new security architecture in Europe?
Stubb: I don’t only think it is the right place — it is the only place where you can actually discuss it because it is the only organization which, as I said, reaches its wings from Vladivostok to Vancouver. And, in that sense, I think it is the right place. You have countries there who are in the EU. You have countries there who are in NATO. You have countries there who are in neither. You also have countries there who are in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization; you have countries who are in the CIS. So, you have many different formations, and I think that if you want to talk about European security in a broad perspective, the OSCE is the only context in which you can do it.
RFE/RL: Do you think those proposals will get serious discussion this year?
Stubb: I think it has had serious discussion already. I mean, we began it here in Helsinki on December 4, 2008, when we had a three-hour luncheon meeting where I drew eight conclusions on the Medvedev proposal. We continued that discussion in Corfu among foreign ministers and we continued it again in Athens last year. In between, all of our OSCE ambassadors have been discussing it in Vienna, so, you know, it has been the subject of a lot of conversation, a lot of serious conversation. And I’m sure that will continue. What it will all end up with, I don’t know because, to be quite honest, I think the security structures in Europe have worked quite well.
RFE/RL: Many others have questioned Russia’s calls to reform the security architecture and its calls to reform the OSCE itself. They wonder if there really is a need for reform.
Stubb: I think there is always a need for reform, but especially in this case of the OSCE. And we’ll just have to have a look at what it’s like. We are 35 years away from Helsinki, when it all began in 1975. And the organization has changed, of course, its statutes since then a few times. A few key changes in Paris and elsewhere. And I’m sure the time has come to have a serious look at how the OSCE should reform itself. Whether that means a complete revamp, I don’t think so. But, you know, touching it around the edges — sure.
RFE/RL: Do you think that Russia will have a special role or strengthened influence with Kazakhstan taking the chairmanship, considering the relatively close relations between those two countries?
Stubb: It is difficult to say. I mean, they have relatively close relations, but every country is the chairman in and of itself. It is a little bit like saying, "will the Greek part of Cyprus have an influence on the Greek presidency?" Or something of that kind. I’m sure that the contacts are very close between Kazakhstan and Russia, but what the final influence is, it is too early to say.
RFE/RL: What do you think the prospects are for restoring the OSCE mission to Georgia in 2010?
Stubb: I think the prospects, to be quite honest, are quite grim on that one. And I do find that quite unfortunate, having been personally involved, of course, in my capacity as chairman of the OSCE during the war in Georgia. I think it would have been very useful indeed to continue the mission there, but it simply didn’t happen.
RFE/RL: Is there any justification or argument for closing that mission other than pure geopolitics?
Stubb: I think geopolitics plays a big role in this and, coming back to the first question that you posed about the working methods and the capacities and abilities of the chairmanship to deal with these types of issues, you can’t do much when you have to do it by consensus. Everyone has to give a green light for the continuation of a mission and if only one country is against it, then…there’s not much you can do.
RFE/RL: Will you personally be urging the Kazakh chairmanship to push Russia on that issue?
Stubb: Well, we personally urge everyone to push on that issue, because I think it would be, would have been, very useful to keep the mission in Tbilisi.
RFE/RL: One final topic — Kazakhstan has been calling for an OSCE summit this year. There hasn’t been an OSCE summit since 1999. Do you think this is a good idea and that it might happen?
Stubb: We are quite open to the idea. We certainly don’t have a problem with it. But one of the problems with the organization right now is that it is not able even to agree on political declarations on the foreign ministers’ level. What could we then achieve on a summit-meeting level? So we need to have some substance in order for a summit meeting to be held. It is very important not to play with these things. If it looks like we don’t have substance and there is very little interest, then we shouldn’t have it. But if there are some perspective issues to deal with, then we are quite open to having a summit meeting.
RFE/RL: Isn’t there a growing danger that the OSCE would be seen as less relevant since it has been more than a decade since it was able to come up with something of substance that the whole organization could sign off on?
Stubb: There is always that risk, and that’s why I think it is very important that we take a hard look at the OSCE as an organization and see where we can take it.
Reshuffles At Defense Ministry Unprecedented In Russian Army History
MOSCOW. Jan 13 (Interfax-AVN) – Almost all deputy defense ministers, commanders-in-chief of the Armed Force branches, commanders of the arms of service, military districts and naval fleets have been replaced since Anatoly Serdyukov’s appointment as Defense Minister in February 2007.
"Radical staff reshuffles also occurred among the top officials at the main and central directorates of the Defense Ministry and the General Staff," a source told Interfax-AVN on Wednesday.
He was commenting on new resignations and appointments in the upper echelons of the Armed Forces, announced on Wednesday.
These past few years saw new appointments of the Ground Troops and Navy commanders-in-chief, commanders of Strategic Rocket Troops, Airborne Troops and Space Troops, the source said.
"These could be the first ever large scale reshuffles in the top military command over a relatively short period of time in the history of the modern Russian Armed Forces," the source said.
In particular, he branded as "landmark" resignations of chief of the General Staff Gen. Yury Baluyevsky, Deputy Defense Minister for Finance Lyubov Kudelina, Deputy Defense Minister for Logistics Gen. Vladimir Isakov, Navy Commander-in-chief Admiral Vladimir Masorin, Ground Troops Commander-in-chief Gen. Vladimir Boldyrev, commander of the Strategic Rocket Troops Col. Gen. Nikolai Solovtsov, and head of the General Staff Central Intelligence Unit Gen. Valentin Korabelnikov.
Among the "survivors" in the defense ministry administration are, in particular, Deputy Defense Minister Nikolai Pankov and Air Force commander-in-chief Col. Gen. Alexander Zelin, he said.
"Anatoly Serdyukov’s staff policy was tough, but coherent and predictable. Now those who remain beside the minister share his views on the military reform and are ready to share responsibility for the results of massive reforms in the Russian army," the source said.
Jamestown Foundation Eurasia Daily Monitor
January 12, 2010
Russian Nuclear First Use: a Case of Self-Defeating Exaggeration?
By Jacob W. Kipp

In mid-October 2009, Nikolai Patrushev, the Secretary of the Security Council, used an interview to discuss Russia’s draft military doctrine and highlighted one aspect: the first-use of nuclear weapons in a "preventive nuclear strike against the aggressor" (Izvestiya, October 14). This was not the first such declaration regarding first use by the Russia, but it came in the aftermath of the conflict with Georgia in 2008. In early December, the Russian mass media published several leaks and commentaries concerning the draft military doctrine, which, reportedly President Dmitry Medvedev would soon sign. This addressed the rationale underlying a declaratory policy of nuclear first-use in the current international environment.

The first article was critical of the declaratory policy on nuclear first use. Its author, Aleksandr Konovalov, criticized the evolution of Russian nuclear policy over the past two decades and used Patrushev’s remarks in October and those by Army-General Nikolai Makarov, the Chief of the General Staff, to foreign military attaches in December to question the utility and even the rationality of such a policy. Konovalov, the Director of the Institute of Strategic Assessments, warned that such a declaratory policy was a disaster for Russia’s position in the international community and made no political or military sense. He asserted that this element of the draft military doctrine revealed Russia to be "a power with a complex," acknowledging the decline in Russian conventional military capabilities and the appearance of precision-strike means in the United States against which Russia has no conventional defense, and linked the ensuing declaration of nuclear first use to the military doctrine of the transition period, (the end of the twentieth century). However, the doctrinal expansion of nuclear first-use to even local conflicts amounts to an admission of an inability to find other means to deal with Russia’s security challenges. Like the hero of Chekhov’s short story, Peresolil, Russia has achieved the capacity to frighten others while harming its own interest. Declaring first use in local conflicts undermines the basic tenants of traditional nuclear deterrence as an instrument of military policy under conditions of globalization. Konovalov juxtaposed the declaration of the Federation of American Scientists on the need to adopt a minimal nuclear deterrence posture with the draft military doctrine’s attempt to expand the utility of such weapons, and called it shortsighted and counter-productive (Ogonek, December 11).

At the heart of the debate over nuclear first-use in the draft military doctrine is the contemporary threat environment confronting the Russian state. As media attention grew in December, the Academy of Military Sciences conducted its scheduled assembly. Army-General Makhmut Gareev, the President of the Academy, spoke on the trends studied by its researchers. The threat environment had shifted its center of gravity in world politics and economics to the east, and NATO’s intent to expand into the South Caucasus and Central Asian region, redirected research toward the prevention of threats. Gareev proposed moderating national interests, avoiding a "maximalist posture" because it was self-defeating. Moreover, he noted the difficulties in forecasting the military-political situation, owing to the growing dynamic of world development and that "nuclear Russia" has no declared opponents. Rather, the "adversary stays ‘in the wings’ or pretends there is a partnership" (Krasnaya Zvezda, December 16).

Two days later, Vladimir Mukhin announced the publication of a new book, addressing aspects of military threats to Russia: "Russia’s Security-2010." The book was tied to the anticipated announcement of a new Russian military doctrine. Mukhin highlighted Gareev’s chapter, devoted to the lessons learned from the Russia-Georgia war in 2008 and specifically addressed the criticism of some experts that Russian forces were unable to conduct sixth generation warfare. Gareev identified this capability with the air campaign NATO conducted against Yugoslavia in 1999. He said that critics of the Russian military compared its capabilities unfavorably with the "democratic" warfare conducted by NATO. He asserted that strikes against national infrastructure were, in fact, barbaric due to the damage that it inflicted upon "power stations, hospitals, bridges and other infrastructure of the country." Such warfare was designed to force the surrender of the enemy country without using ground forces. "If the Russian army had followed such an example and fought in a strictly ‘democratic’ fashion, it would have bombed Tbilisi, Batumi, Kataisi, Poti, and the country’s infrastructure and compelled Georgia to surrender. But that is not a ‘democratic’ method of conducting warfare but a barbaric one," he observed. His passion on this point deserves mention in the context of his earlier comments about the threat environment in which "nuclear Russia" operates. There is no explicit threat, but there are potential adversaries who possess military and non-military means to threaten Russian national interests, the most explicit being a US-led NATO with interests in the South Caucasus and Central Asia (Nezavisimoe Voennoe Obozrenie, December 18).

On December 22, Rossiyskaya Gazeta clarified the announcement that the doctrine would overtly express Russia’s intent to use nuclear weapons in a first strike in defense of its statehood. These remarks were attributed to General Makarov, during a meeting of foreign military attaches. Makarov suggested that the formulation was based upon an assessment of Russia’s current threat environment and the latest developments in military art (Rossiyskaya Gazeta, December 22). The following day, a second article sought to clarify the nature of a nuclear first strike as "defensive." Makarov provided the context, stating that those drafting the new military doctrine had taken into account contemporary threats and challenges. He described the use of nuclear weapons for self-defense against enemies threatening Russia or its allies with nuclear weapons, and when a threat to Russian statehood emerged. Makarov affirmed that Russian military leaders had no intention of waving the nuclear club around, adding "in extreme circumstances, when there are no other means to save the country, then nuclear weapons will be used" (Rossiyskaya Gazeta, December 23).

On December 30 Nezavisimaya Gazeta examined the status of the draft military doctrine and proclaimed that despite all the leaks, its final content remained unknown and there was no rush to secure the president’s signature. The article noted "Russia’s National Security Strategy" for the period to 2020, adopted on May 12, 2009 and questioned the relationship between its principles and the various pronouncements by Patrushev and Makarov on nuclear first use to protect Russian statehood. As the writer observed, "the authors of this work (the draft military doctrine) continue to keep it locked in their safes" (Nezavisimaya Gazeta, December 30).

January 13, 2010
Talks Hit "Sweet Spot" for Landing New START Agreement, U.S. Official Says
By Elaine M. Grossman
Global Security Newswire
WASHINGTON — A new arms control treaty between the United States and Russia appears nearly within reach, despite continued tensions over verification provisions, a senior U.S. official said this morning (see GSN, Jan. 7).
Though Washington and Moscow had initially hoped to achieve a new agreement by Dec. 5 — when the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty expired — that deadline passed and the diplomatic effort continued. Negotiators will meet in Moscow this week and begin another formal round of talks in Geneva on Jan. 25.
With the dialogue taking place in secret bilateral meetings, outside observers have begun some amount of hand-wringing over the possibility that the talks have gotten off track or that an agreement might prove elusive.
Despite the delays, progress in the discussions has brought the two sides to a "sweet spot," making it seem feasible that U.S. President Barack Obama’s schedule for nuclear-related achievements can be met, said Ellen Tauscher, undersecretary of state for arms control and international security.
The White House plan has been to complete the so-called "New START" agreement prior to a monthlong international review conference on the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, which begins May 3 in New York. U.S. officials have said that significant progress in further reducing the former Cold War rivals’ large nuclear arsenals through arms control could help build global support for curbing the proliferation of atomic arms worldwide.
Next up on the White House agenda after the NPT review conference has been to submit the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty to the U.S. Senate for ratification, a process that the Obama team hopes could be completed before the November 2010 congressional election season ramps up.
Speaking with reporters at a Defense Writers Group breakfast, Tauscher stopped short of promising that a New START agreement could be signed and ratified by May. However, she said that she anticipates the two negotiating teams will soon submit to their respective political leaders a final treaty for possible approval.
"Our assumption always has been that we were going to do the best we can to get the best deal that we could get," said Tauscher, referring to the START successor accord. "And then [we would] make a decision on whether that was going to meet the test of the president’s ambitions for the agenda and for ratification. And we think we’re in a sweet spot right there. So we think that we’re OK going forward."
Asked if Senate ratification of a START successor pact might be expected before May, Tauscher said, "I’m confident that we’re doing everything we can to achieve the president’s agenda, and the president has said that’s what he wants."
Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev announced in July that under the forthcoming treaty each nation would reduce its deployed strategic nuclear arsenals to between 1,500 and 1,675 warheads, down from a 2,200-weapon limit the states are to meet by 2013 under another pact. The two presidents also agreed to limit strategic delivery vehicles on each side to between 500 and 1,100.
Tauscher confirmed reports that the deal is essentially complete but that some challenging treaty-verification issues remain unresolved.
"When do you declare yourself done?" she said. "We could actually say we are done with negotiating, but we have all these other things to do," said Tauscher, noting that complex details in the body of the treaty, technical annexes and protocols are not yet final.
"There’s going to be a lag time between the time we say we’re done and the time that it actually gets up to the Senate," Tauscher added. "I couldn’t say that [we’re done] now."
The State Department official, a former Democratic lawmaker from California, noted that disagreements over how the two sides will verify terms of the New START agreement continue to stand in the way of sealing the pact.
Specifically, Tauscher acknowledged, Moscow to date has not accepted a U.S. proposal for exchanging technical data on offensive-missile tests. Sharing such "telemetry" under the recently expired START accord has boosted confidence on both sides that they understand the capabilities of the other nation’s nuclear-armed weapons, she said.
"Expectations have always been that telemetry — which … certainly is very valuable to the Pentagon and very valuable to the Russian [Defense Ministry] — that these things are part of confidence-building and they are part of the ability to reassure that there is no break-out, that there is not going to be some kind of surprise," she said.
However, while negotiations over this particular verification provision were left for last, telemetry is not necessarily more important than other points of disagreement that have already been resolved, according to Tauscher.
"I wouldn’t say that because it’s one of the last things to be done, that it was a big issue or that it is the most important thing," she told reporters. "So don’t get caught up in the timing of this."
Tauscher also played down international concerns that Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and some of his political allies in Moscow appear to be taking a harder line toward the negotiations. Last month, for example, the former Russian president warned that Washington must be more forthcoming about its missile defense plans or the new arms-reduction pact could be imperiled (see GSN, Jan. 4).
"There are no monoliths in foreign policy," Tauscher said. "Not everyone is on the same page at the same moment and perhaps saying the same thing."
Overall, the "tenor and performance" of Russian actions since Obama initiated a "reset" in the Washington-Moscow relationship "have been very consistent," she said. "I think that we have a much-improved relationship. We have many channels open."
Critics have said the Obama administration — eager to begin implementing the president’s sweeping vision, laid out in Prague last April, for reducing the global role of nuclear weapons — put itself at a disadvantage in the negotiations by wanting a treaty more badly than Moscow does.
Rather, the White House might need a less-ambitious alternative to its arms control and nonproliferation agenda that does not hinge entirely on first attaining a START replacement deal, asserted one observer.
"Unfortunately, you can’t negotiate successfully with the Russians or anyone else unless you are willing to walk away from the table," nuclear nonproliferation expert Henry Sokolski said this week. "In this case, you must have a more modest back-up plan that you can work, something more incremental, a Plan B."
However, Tauscher rejected the idea that a willingness to abandon the negotiations in the face of Russian intransigence would strengthen the U.S. hand.
"Some of the least-satisfying deals I’ve ever done were the deals where I was constantly getting up and walking out," she said, alluding to her early career as a Wall Street broker and her subsequent experience in Congress. "The key to doing START is, of course, the negotiation itself. It puts us in a better place on arms control [and] on the bilateral relationship. It sends a message of the proof of the president’s Prague speech."
Moreover, "the measure of all deals is whether you want to do the next deal," Tauscher said. "And so what we’re doing consciously — and this is part of the reset — is to use the START negotiation as a preamble to the future and the opportunity to continue to work together."
From that perspective, walking away from the talks would not advance U.S. interests, she said.
"We don’t pitch a fit every two days and walk out, or say that we’re going to walk out. That’s not what we’re doing," Tauscher said. "We’re trying to get a good deal, but you can never get a good deal for yourself and have somebody across the table that thinks that they didn’t get a good deal, and then think that you’re going to do another deal."
Sokolski, who heads the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center, said the lack of a contingency plan — usable in case it becomes impossible to reach a New START agreement that suits U.S. interests — might put Obama’s other nonproliferation objectives in jeopardy.
"That the administration lacks such a plan and instead has publicly placed nearly all its chips on reaching major agreements with Russia and getting the CTBT ratified by the Senate is a worry," he told Global Security Newswire.
January 13, 2010
Rocket data dispute still unresolved in U.S.-Russia nuke talks
By Josh Rogin
Were you wondering what the last remaining sticking point was inside the U.S.-Russian negotiations over a START follow-on treaty? Well, as it turns out, the issue is … rocket science, and, more specifically, telemetry data.
What’s telemetry, you ask? In this context, it’s the assurance that if either side tests a missile, the detailed data about the test would be instantly available in real time to the other side. That assurance was part of the original START treaty, which expired in December, and the Obama administration wants similar language in the new treaty but the Russians are resisting.
Many insiders see the telemetry issue as somewhat of a red herring. New verification and tracking technologies, most of them classified, can provide the same capability without the Russians directly providing the data. But a lack of a provision on telemetry could complicate Senate ratification of START.
"For the United States, the politics matter because certain senators will go nuts without access to the data," said Travis Sharp, a nonproliferation expert at the Center for a New American Security. "Substantively, however, the United States may not need the same level of information as negotiated under START I, particularly because �New START’ will likely have streamlined counting and verification rules and technological advancements allow us to get the data in other ways. On the other hand, Russia politically doesn’t want our noses in their business and substantively is hesitant to give up too much information."
A diplomatic source told The Cable that the Russians are bargaining for access to telemetry data for U.S. missile defense tests in exchange for giving America telemetry data on their offensive missile tests. That’s only their latest attempt to link START and missile defense, another potential problem for Senate ratification.
"Everybody knows that telemetry is bullshit [substantively], but it’s become an issue nonetheless," the source explained. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has been trying to link missile defense to START recently and this is one example.
"If we want to retain the balance, we have to establish an exchange of information: Let the U.S. partners provide us information on [their] missile defense while we will give them information on [our] offensive weapons," Mr. Putin said last month. The Russians are also pushing to have an acknowledgment of the relationship of missile defense to offensive weapons in the main body of the START agreement text, while the U.S. wants it in the preamble, the source said.
A very carefully worded acknowledgement of the link was included in the joint understanding Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed in July.
Under Secretary of State Ellen Tauscher talked about the telemetry issue Wednesday morning and said that the "expectation has always been" that telemetry, which is very important to the Pentagon, would be included in the new treaty as "part of confidence building and to reassure both sides there won’t be any sort of surprises."
She confirmed that telemetry was among the final issues on the table but portrayed it as not a major substantive issue.
"Telemetry is one of the last things to be done, but it’s not a big issue or the most important thing," she said, adding that sometimes the fact that certain provisions were in a previous treaty creates the expectation that they will remain in the next treaty.
She implied, but didn’t state explicitly, that the U.S. was not going to agree to share missile-defense data in exchange for the Russians agreeing to share their offensive telemetry data.
"This agreement is about strategic offensive systems. Missile defense is a defense system," she said.
One GOP Senate aide disputed Tauscher’s assertion that telemetry isn’t a major issue. The U.S. technologies that are said to compensate for a lack of telemetry data aren’t necessarily 100 percent effective, the aide said, adding that not having access to Russia’s data would add burden to the U.S. defense community that it didn’t have before. "Why should we spend our resources on this when telemetry data gives us that capability for free?," he asked.
Assistant Secretary of State Rose Gottemoeller is in Moscow now and could head back to Geneva later this month with her team to try to complete the agreement. Jan. 25 is the date being bandied about for the resumption of talks, but the Russians have yet to agree to return to the table.
The administration needs to get it ratified by the time the Non-Proliferation Treaty review conference begins in May.
Bush Aides Weighed Attack to Halt Russia-Georgia War: Books
Review by James G. Neuger

Jan. 14 (Bloomberg) — As Russian tanks rumbled into Georgia in 2008, a post-Cold War turning point was at hand.

George W. Bush’s national security team considered launching air strikes to halt the invasion. Vladimir Putin boasted that he alone could be trusted. And Nicolas Sarkozy badgered Georgia’s leader into signing a cease-fire.

These are just three peeks behind the diplomatic curtain presented in "A Little War That Shook the World," Ronald D. Asmus’s absorbing account of the five-day clash in the Caucasus that August.

Asmus, who served as deputy assistant secretary of state in the Clinton administration, now runs the Brussels office of the German Marshall Fund. He pieced together this tale of realpolitik and diplomatic dead-ends by unearthing previously unpublished documents and interviewing Western and Georgian officials. Taken together, the evidence illustrates how the West failed to get to grips with an emboldened Russia.

Written with a diplomat’s feel for policy nuance and a journalist’s eye for detail, the book traces how Russia exploited U.S.-European divisions — magnified by the festering sore of the Iraq war — to put a stop to Georgia’s headstrong embrace of the West.

Thus we learn that "several senior White House staffers" urged "at least some consideration of limited military options," such as bombing the mountain tunnel that served as Russia’s main supply line.

Bush Backs Off

Four days after the war started on Aug. 7, 2008, Bush cut off the discussion. A top-level White House meeting produced "a clear sense around the table that almost any military steps could lead to a confrontation with Moscow," Asmus writes.

In the end, neither the lame-duck administration nor the fractured trans-Atlantic alliance could do much to save Georgia once it stumbled into war. The clash would renew Russia’s claim to great-power status after two decades of strategic decline.

Russian voices are largely absent in these pages; senior Kremlin officials rebuffed Asmus’s interview requests, he says. The resulting account is more sympathetic to Georgia than, for example, a European Union-sponsored investigation that last year blamed Georgia for firing the first shots.

The fin-de-regne Bush comes across as chastened into pragmatism, unwilling to pick a fight with Russia and unable to charm allies such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel into backing North Atlantic Treaty Organization membership for Georgia.

‘Stark and Threatening’

Late-term tensions between Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney punctuate this story. Cheney’s office grew concerned that Bush inadvertently gave Russia the all-clear to attack by staying mute in response to Putin’s "stark and threatening language" about Georgia during a meeting between the two men in the Black Sea resort of Sochi in April 2008. One Cheney staffer, reading a memo of that encounter, fretted that Bush might have given Russia a "green light."

"A Little War" eavesdrops on a telling conversation Putin had with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, the architect of Georgia’s pro-western policies, in February 2008.
"You think you can trust the Americans, and they will rush to assist you?" Putin asked according to a Georgian record of the talk. "Nobody can be trusted! Except me."

Georgian ‘Hothead’

Saakashvili, seen as a reformer by some, a demagogue by others, was central to the non-meeting of minds between the U.S. and Europe over how to bring Georgia closer to the West. In European capitals he was seen as "an American-backed hothead who spelled trouble," Asmus writes.

Trouble was preprogrammed when the equally histrionic Sarkozy shuttled between Moscow and the Georgian capital of Tbilisi to negotiate a ceasefire. The choice of the French leader, in his role as holder of the EU presidency, reflected concern in Washington that high-profile U.S. involvement would further rile the Kremlin.

Asmus’s account of Sarkozy’s seat-of-the-pantalons diplomacy includes the insight that at least one senior U.S. official was "appalled" by the ambiguous ceasefire text improvised by the French leader in Moscow on Aug. 12.

Later that evening, with 100,000 Georgians happily chanting "Sar-ko-zy, Sar-ko-zy" outside the parliament in Tbilisi, the French president confronted Saakashvili with the document and told him that he wouldn’t get a better deal.

"Where is Bush? Where are the Americans?" Sarkozy is quoted as snarling at the Georgians. "They are not coming to save you. No Europeans are coming, either. You are alone. If you don’t sign, the Russian tanks will be here soon."

"A Little War That Shook the World: Georgia, Russia and the Future of the West" is published by Palgrave Macmillan (254 pages, $27, 20 pounds).
(James G. Neuger writes for Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)

Yanukovych Tops Polls Ahead of Ukraine’s Election – VTsIOM
MOSCOW. Jan 13 (Interfax) – The overwhelming majority of Ukrainians are planning to take part in this Sunday’s presidential election, according to a recent poll, with only 8% saying they plan to stay at home and not bother to vote.
The poll’s results were reported to Interfax on Wednesday at the VTsIOM public opinion center.
In total, 1,200 people were polled between January 3-10 in 40 Ukrainian cities with a population of 100,000 and more.
The poll suggests that the leader of the Party of Regions Viktor Yanukovych will receive the most votes as 30.5% of respondents say they will choose him to be Ukraine’s new leader (down from 34% in December). Yanukovych closest rivals are expected to be Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and businessman Sergiu Tigipko with 13.9% and 14.4% of respondents respectively indicating their preferences (10.3% and 11% in December).
Other candidates collected less than 6% each.
48% said they would not vote for President Viktor Yushchenko under any circumstances. Tymoshneko came second in this list with 38.7% and Yanukovych third with the number of those who would not vote for him growing from 18.4% in December to 23.2% in January.
Among the newly emerged politicians, many Ukrainians would want to see Sergiy Tigipko in power. Compared to December the share of such people grew from 31.4% to 40.7%. Leader of the Front of Change Arseniy
Yatsenyuk came second with 25.7%. However, 22.3% felt that a fresh face would be unable to lead Ukraine.
The VTsIOM poll also suggests in the second round runoff that Yanukovych would win (40.7%, down from 44.5% in December). Tigipko placed second (36.6%, up from 26.8%) and Tymoshenko third (24.1%, up from 18.7%). Other candidates collected less than 20%.
Voice of America
January 13, 2010
Ukrainians Disillusioned with President Yushchenko
Andre de Nesnera | Washington
Ukrainians go to the polls Sunday January 17 to elect a new president.  In this report from Washington, we look at the legacy of current president, Viktor Yushchenko.
Public-opinion surveys indicate President Yushchenko is trailing several other candidates as the country prepares to vote in presidential elections this Sunday (Jan. 17th).  The two front runners are former Yushchenko ally and current Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and Viktor Yanukovich, leader of the "Party of Regions" in the Ukrainian parliament, the Rada.
This is the first presidential election since 2004 when the pro-democracy "Orange Revolution" brought Mr. Yushchenko to power.  At that time there was great euphoria and confidence a new era was dawning.
But those hopes were quickly dashed as Mr. Yushchenko and Ms. Tymoshenko engaged in a bitter rivalry.  The political infighting, which continues to this day, has brought Ukraine’s political process to a standstill.
Robert Legvold from Columbia University says Mr. Yushchenko has no chance of being re-elected.
"Yushchenko has rendered himself a political footnote," said Robert Legvold. "In 2004, coming out of the ‘Orange Revolution’ it looked as though he, with his partners across the various groovings that made up the ‘Orange Revolution’ coalition, would be able to exert a strong, new leadership within Ukraine.  He did not do that."
Analysts say Ukrainians got weary of the petty political infighting and are essentially blaming Mr. Yushchenko for most of the country’s woes.
David Marples, with the University of Alberta (Canada), says the president lacks the common touch.
"If you really put a finger on what went wrong with Yushchenko, it is a lack of communication with the electorate and the public of Ukraine," said David Marples. "He seems to lack that ability to be a kind of populist politician in the same way that Tymoshenko is, or at least she is compared to him – or some of the more notable populist politicians worldwide, people like [Russian Prime Minister and former President Vladimir] Putin, who despite being fairly autocratic, has this ability to communicate with the public and has become quite popular.  And he [Yushchenko] simply lacks that."
Many experts, including Marples, also say Mr. Yushchenko was unable to stop corruption, as promised by the leaders of the "Orange Revolution."
"You have in Ukraine something of an almost mafia-like control of key industries by a small number of people who are in close league with each other," he said. "The political process is affected by that because these people are political players as well.  I do not think anyone is really talking about the ‘Orange Revolution’ anymore, or what sort of promises that were cast around five years ago, because I think there is a lot of disillusionment and many people feel that nothing much has happened for the good in the past five years."
Analysts say Mr. Yushchenko’s legacy is not stellar.  They say his presidency was marked by dire economic times, rampant corruption, poor relations with Russia and an inability to move Ukraine closer to Europe.  And with regard to membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, some analysts say Ukraine is no closer now than it was five years ago, at the beginning of the Yushchenko administration.
Once again, David Marples:
"His legacy as president is really not a very happy one," said Marples. "It is the sort of thing that seems to happen to American presidents in the second term – the first term is always fairly rosy, they get re-elected and in the second term, always something comes up.  Well it happened to Yushchenko immediately and nothing seemed to work.  And I guess he will be remembered, unfortunately, for that – and for a failure to resolve the various problems that seemed to envelop Ukraine at the start of his presidency."
But many analysts, including Robert Legvold, say Mr. Yushchenko will be remembered for the gains achieved by the "Orange Revolution."
"What you say about him is that he presided over Ukraine at a time when for all of this paralysis, had nonetheless maintained a kind of underlying integrity, loyalty to the Constitution and to the legal system, with very considerable freedoms of the media and other things that have been achieved in 2004 – all of that has been preserved," he said.
Experts say the new Ukrainian president must build on the achievements of the "Orange Revolution" while tackling many of the problems Yushchenko faced, but was unable to resolve during his five years in office.  
Jamestown Foundation Eurasia Daily Monitor
January 13, 2010
Ukrainian Presidential Election: the Fear of Vote-Rigging
By Pavel Korduban
Closer to the January 17 presidential election, the front-runners have grown suspicious of each other. Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and Party of Regions (PRU) leader Viktor Yanukovych, who as opinion polls predict should both make it into the runoff on February 7, have accused each other of harboring plans to meddle with the election results. Tymoshenko suspects that Yanukovych will organize vote rigging like his team reportedly did in 2004, when he was eventually defeated by Viktor Yushchenko on a wave of popular protests known as the Orange Revolution. Also, the protests may be repeated as farce: Yanukovych�s supporters are preparing to take to the streets of Kyiv if necessary.
It is interesting that everything seemed calm only several weeks ago. Andry Portnov, a key legal adviser to Tymoshenko, told 5 Kanal on December 8 that there were no reasons to expect massive irregularities. He also said that Tymoshenko�s party was happy with the current election law and did not plan to propose any amendments to it. Everything changed after January 4, when the Central Electoral Commission (TsVK) decided in a vote of 8-4 with two abstentions that home voting would be allowed for those citizens who are willing to vote, but cannot physically make it to the polling stations. Portable boxes will be used for such voters, and they will not be requested to show medical certificates to prove their disabilities.
Tymoshenko immediately claimed the �corrupt� TsVK would rig the ballot by using home voting. According to her, this will result in ballot papers being thrown in en masse as happened in 2004 to help Yanukovych win. Tymoshenko appealed against the TsVK�s decision in court (UNIAN, January 5), adding that she has asked international organizations to send more monitors to prevent vote rigging (Ukrainska Pravda, January 7). It is believed that the majority of TsVK are Yanukovych�s supporters, so Tymoshenko has reasons to be nervous. Warnings came from Tymoshenko�s Crimean headquarters, whose manager said that an unusually large number of requests for home voting were received on January 5-6. He predicted that the PRU could �organize� some 200,000 votes in its favor using home voting in Crimea alone (UNIAN, January 6).
People directly involved in the election process have appealed for calm. Oleksandr Chernenko, the leader of the Committee of Voters election watchdog, noted that TsVK�s decision on home voting was fully in line with the election law for which Tymoshenko�s party had voted in parliament (UNIAN, January 7). TsVK Chairman Volodymyr Shapoval warned against making unsubstantiated accusations of ballot rigging. He said he knew of no cases involving an official accused of election irregularities being named or their guilt proven. He called on the law-enforcement bodies to provide names and open criminal cases if they found anything (Interfax-Ukraine, January 11).
The Security Service (SBU) head, Valentyn Nalyvaychenko, announced at a press conference on January 11 that certain violations were found in eastern Ukraine. As is known, the eastern regions are Yanukovych�s stronghold. Nalyvaychenko did not say which party representatives were caught red-handed, but he spoke about the nature of those irregularities. According to Nalyvaychenko, certain election commission heads ordered commission members to canvass for one candidate, others tried to bribe vote counters. Also, non-existent streets and names (�dead souls�) were found in local voter registers (Kommersant-Ukraine, January 12).
Earlier, President Viktor Yushchenko warned that one candidate was going to stage a mass throwing-in of fake ballot papers and as many as two million might appear on January 17. Yushchenko hinted that he meant Tymoshenko. He said this would be logical as Yanukovych will reach the runoff stage, according to opinion polls. However, Yushchenko predicted that the PRU will resort to falsifications in the runoff (UNIAN, January 4). The most well-known method is the so-called carousel, where the same people cast ballots several times at several polling stations, the Russian election observer Aleksandr Torshin noted. Equally, he noted that Tymoshenko�s team had more than enough registered observers to prevent irregularities (Interfax, January 7).
The PRU also fears irregularities. PRU people�s deputy Valery Bondyk predicted that the policemen present at polling stations would turn a blind eye to carousels organized by Tymoshenko�s supporters because the Interior Minister Yury Lutsenko is her ally. He also claimed that he personally knew of cases where people allegedly attempted to buy votes for Tymoshenko, and local election commission members were offered money for vote-rigging (Segodnya, January 11).
Meanwhile, the interior ministry said that the PRU applied to the Kyiv mayoral office for permission to hold mass protests starting from January 17. The PRU plans to picket the government and parliament buildings. Officially, the goal of the event as proclaimed by the party is to explain the need to respect the constitutional rights of citizens in the election (UNIAN, Ukrainska Pravda, January 5). Apparently the PRU is preparing for a bad result for Yanukovych and the protesters may claim that the ballot was rigged. Tymoshenko also may consider a repetition of the Orange Revolution. Her right-hand man, First Deputy Prime Minister Oleksandr Turchynov, warned that if �massive falsifications� take place, this would be �our organization issue, and people will defend their choice once again� (TVI, January 10).
January 13, 2010
Ukraine Election 2010 (Special Series) Part 1: The De-Revolution in Kiev
Ukraine’s next presidential election is scheduled for Jan. 17. All of the leading candidates are pro-Russian. This means that the last vestiges of pro-Western government brought on by the 2004 Orange Revolution will be swept away and Russia�s ongoing consolidation of power will become evident in Kiev.
Editor�s Note: This is the first part of a three-part series on Ukraine�s upcoming presidential election.
STRATFOR’s 2010 Annual Forecast said, "For Russia, 2010 will be a year of consolidation � the culmination of years of careful efforts." Moscow will purge Western influence from several countries in its near abroad while laying the foundation of a political union enveloping most of the former Soviet Union. Although that union will not be completed in 2010, according to our forecast, "by year’s end it will be obvious that the former Soviet Union is Russia�s sphere of influence and that any effort to change that must be monumental if it is to succeed."
Ukraine is one country where Russias consolidation will be obvious, mainly because the most important part of reversing the 2004 pro-Western Orange Revolution will occur: the return of a pro-Russian president in Kiev. Ukraine’s presidential election is slated for Jan. 17, and all the top candidates in the race are pro-Russian in some way.
Russia considers Ukraine to be vital to its national interests; indeed, of all the countries where Moscow intends to tighten its grip in 2010, Ukraine is the most important. Because of its value to Moscow, Ukraine has been caught for years in a tug-of-war between Russia and the West. Since the Orange Revolution, Russia has used social, media, energy, economic and military levers – not to mention Federal Security Service assets � to break the Orange Coalition�s hold on Ukraine and the coherence of the coalition itself. Russia even managed to get a pro-Russian prime minister placed in Kiev for more than a year. However, the presidency remained in the hands of pro-Western Viktor Yushchenko. And in Ukraine, it is the president who controls the military (including the military-industrial sector and its exports), the secret services (which, while littered with Russian influence, are still controlled by a pro-Western leader) and Ukraine�s foreign policy.
Typically, STRATFOR does not focus on personalities because long-term trends in geopolitics act as constraints on human agency, limiting the value of individual-level analysis in forecasting. However, the Ukrainian election is a critical part of Russia’s resurgence, and STRATFOR will shed light on the colorful and complicated world of Ukrainian politics and offer clarity on the personalities that will lead Ukraine back into the Russian fold  and explain how Moscow has ensured their loyalty.
The candidates STRATFOR will examine are not all front-runners, necessarily, but they are the most important candidates in the race. Yushchenko is running for re-election but, according to polls from the past year, has support from only 3.8 percent of Ukrainian voters, which is little more than the margin of error. Former Ukrainian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich – who won Ukraine’s initial 2004 presidential election but was swept from power in the re-vote sparked by the Orange Revolution � has always been staunchly pro-Russian and stands a good chance of victory on Jan. 17. Current Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko is also in the running. She was Yushchenko�s partner in the Orange Revolution, but Russia�s growing influence in Ukraine persuaded her to make a deal with Moscow, and she is now running on a relatively pro-Russian platform. The last candidate we will examine is Arseny Yatsenyuk, a young politician once thought to be free of both pro-Western and pro-Russian ties. However, STRATFOR sources have said that Yatsenyuk is not exactly what he seems, and that much more powerful forces – with Russian ties – are behind this Ukrainian wild card.
January 14, 2010
Ukraine Election 2010 (Special Series) Part 2: Yushchenko’s Faded Orange Presidency
On Jan. 17, Ukraine is scheduled to hold a presidential election that will sweep the last remnant of the pro-Western Orange Revolution � Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko � from power in Kiev. Yushchenko’s presidency has been marked by pro-Western moves on many levels, including attempts to join the European Union and NATO. However, the next government in Kiev – pro-Russian though it may be – could still have a place for Yushchenko.
Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko is the last remnant of the pro-Western Orange Revolution. Now that his popularity has plummeted and his coalition partner, Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko, has turned pro-Russian, he is set to be swept aside by Ukraine’s Jan. 17 presidential election.
Yushchenko led the Orange Revolution, and his presidency kept Russia from completely enveloping Ukraine. Although the upcoming presidential election will deliver Ukraine into Russia’s hands, Yushchenko might not be ejected from Kiev altogether.
Yushchenko entered the government in 1999 when he was nominated as prime minister by then-President Leonid Kuchma after a round of infighting over the premiership. As prime minister, Yushchenko – a former central bank chief – helped Ukraine economically and helped keep relative internal stability for two years. Yet even while he served in the government, Yushchenko partnered with Timoshenko – his deputy prime minister – and started a movement against Kuchma. When a vote of no confidence ended Yushchenko’s premiership in 2001, he and his coalition partners accelerated their anti-Kuchma movement, aiming to make Yushchenko president in 2004 with Timoshenko as his prime minister. In the 2004 election, Yushchenko faced another of Kuchma�s prime ministers, Viktor Yanukovich.
Yushchenko became the West’s great hope during the 2004 presidential campaign, as he vowed to integrate Ukraine with the West and seek membership in NATO and the European Union. Although the West fully supported Yushchenko, other parties were not as thrilled with his candidacy. During the campaign, he was poisoned with dioxin, a carcinogenic substance whose outward effects include facial disfigurement. Yushchenko�s camp charged that Russian security services were behind the poisoning.
When the presidential election was held, Yanukovich was declared the winner. However, voter fraud reportedly was rampant, and mass protests erupted across the country in what would become known as the Orange Revolution. Ukraine’s top court nullified the results of the first election, and when a second election was held, Yushchenko emerged victorious.
Yushchenko has acted against Russia on many levels during his presidency – from calling the Great Famine of the 1930s an act of genocide engineered by Josef Stalin to threatening to oust the Russian navy from Crimea and even trying to break the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and Russian Orthodox Church apart. He also tried to fulfill his promises that Ukraine would join NATO and the European Union (but these ideas proved too bold for some Western states, particularly Germany, since accepting Ukraine into either organization would enrage Russia). Most importantly, Yushchenko and his Orange Revolution were able to keep Ukraine from falling completely into Russia�s hands for at least five years. Yushchenko used the president’s control over foreign policy and Ukraine�s secret service and military to stave off Russia’s attempts to assert control over the country.
But all was not well in Kiev during Yushchenko’s presidency. His coalition with Timoshenko collapsed barely nine months after Timoshenko was named prime minister. Furthermore, Yushchenko was feeling the pressure of being a pro-Western leader in a country where much of the population remained pro-Russian or at least ambivalent enough that mere promises of pro-Western reform would not sway their vote. Yushchenko tried to find a balance in his government by naming Yanukovich prime minister in 2006, but this led to a series of shifting coalitions and overall instability in Kiev. It also stripped Yushchenko of much of his credibility as a strong pro-Western leader. His popularity has been in decline ever since.
Even though his polling numbers are currently at 3.8 percent, which places him behind five other candidates at the time of this writing, Yushchenko is trying for re-election. Unless he cancels the election – which would cause a massive uprising – this is the end of his presidency and of the Orange Revolution.
However, it might not be the end of his work inside the government. STRATFOR sources in Kiev have said that Yushchenko, Yanukovich and Russian officials are in talks that could lead Yushchenko to a relatively powerless premiership in Ukraine – a move to block Timoshenko and appease the Western-leaning parts of the country. There are regions in Western Ukraine that feel no allegiance to Russia. The Orange Revolution was strongest in the area around Lviv, a part of Ukraine that feels much more oriented toward neighboring Poland and the West. This region could very well become restive with the reversal of the Orange Revolution. A pro-Russian president, therefore, might have to include Yushchenko in the government to prevent fissures within the country. Though such a decision could create the same kind of political drama Kiev has seen in the past few years, Moscow will want to ensure that if such political chaos does occur Yushchenko will know his – and Ukraine’s  place under Russia.
OSC [US Open Source Center] Media Aid: Media Coverage of Ukrainian Election Marked by Disengagement
January 13, 2010
[DJ: Footnotes not here]
During the current Ukrainian presidential election campaign, Ukrainian media have been largely disinterested and uncommitted, paralleling the mood of the electorate in the wake of the disappointing presidency of Viktor Yushchenko and the unfulfilled promises of the Orange Revolution. This is in marked contrast to the 2004 presidential election, when media, especially television, were highly politicized. Although most media have not taken political sides, nontraditional venues such as YouTube and blogs have featured sharp attacks on political elites and leading candidates, especially Premier Yuliya Tymoshenko.
Observers commented that media have shown less interest in the campaign this time than in 2004 and are unwilling to openly support any one candidate.
According to research conducted during November and December 2009 by the Academy of Ukrainian Press and the Academy of Science’s Institute of Sociology, the main television stations devoted the least amount of time in five years to political news. Although President Yushchenko and Premier Tymoshenko topped the list of politicians reported on, they were often "the objects of ironic or negative appraisals" (UNIAN, 30 December 2009). (1)
Moscow’s independent New Times asserted: "The present presidential campaign differed from all preceding ones in that none of the owners of television channels openly support any candidate." New Times also noted that Nataliya Ligacheva — chief editor of the Telekrytyka website, which specializes in media issues — contended that oligarchs who own the channels are not willing "to put all their eggs in one basket" (4 November 2009). (2)
Inter Moves Toward Neutrality
The most watched TV channel, Inter, initially was the most politically engaged in 2008 and early 2009. Owned by Tymoshenko foes Valeriy Khoroshkovskyy and Dmytro Firtash, it initially openly attacked Tymoshenko and appeared to promote Arseniy Yatsenyuk and Viktor Yanukovych under the management of general producer Hanna Bezlyudna.
Before September 2009, Inter slanted coverage against Tymoshenko, and she in turn attacked Inter as biased and controlled by Firtash and Khoroshkovsky and refused to appear on the channel. (a)
The independent website Ukrayinska Pravda claimed that at the end of 2008 Inter "openly began to support" Yatsenyuk, and Bezlyudna often appeared at Yatsenyuk headquarters(7 September). (3)
Media claimed that in early 2009 Yatsenyuk had support from Firtash. (b)
Following the removal of Bezlyudna in September 2009, however, the channel toned down its partisan line and adopted a more neutral stance. Ukrayinska Pravda ‘s Mustafa Nayem said she and several other journalists left Inter in a major shakeup (Ukrayinska Pravda, 7 September). (4)
In a 29 December 2009 interview, Yatsenyuk said that he had often appeared on Inter and attacked Tymoshenko and Yanukovych, but later he was excluded by "Firtash, of course….The whole Inter team which I worked with, which was sympathetic toward me and toward which I was sympathetic, was fired in September….I do not hide the fact that I had a good relationship with the general producer and still do" (Ukrayinska Pravda, 29 December). (5)
On 21 September 2009, independent website Telekrytyka said that after Bezlyudna was fired, Inter began covering Tymoshenko in more detail and "in a markedly neutral narrative manner without editorializing." (6) New Times wrote that although Inter had earlier favored Yanukovych, more recently "Inter stopped being openly ‘for Yanukovych’" (4 November). (7)
1+1 Stays Neutral
Studio 1+1, long the second-most-watched channel, (c) had appeared likely to support Tymoshenko after her off- and on-again ally Ihor Kolomoyskyy bought control of the channel in July 2009, (d) but more recently, Kolomoyskyy was again feuding with Tymoshenko, and 1+1 has appeared neutral.
Kolomoyskyy in a 26 August 2009 Ukrayinska Pravda interview declared that he would not use 1+1 to back any candidate and that "1+1, in contrast to other TV channels, must be an objective channel." (8)
When Kolomoyskyy’s Nortima Company won a late September 2009 auction for Ukraine’s biggest fertilizer producer, the Odessa Port Plant, the government annulled the auction, and Tymoshenko accused the winning bidders of conspiracy (Interfax-Ukraine, ICTV, Ukrayinska Pravda, ITAR-TASS, 29 September 2009). (9) (10) (11) (12) An angry Kolomoyskyy accused the government of plotting to sell it to Russia (Ukrayinska Pravda, 29 September 2009), (13) and his company said it would appeal (Interfax-Ukraine, 29 September 2009). (14)
Reporter Serhiy Leshchenko in the 17 November 2009 Ukrayinska Pravda wrote that Kolomoyskyy feels he has not gotten proper "business compensation for all the efforts made by him a year ago to keep Tymoshenko in office." (15)
Akhmetov’s Media Also Stays Neutral
Even the media of oligarch Rinat Akhmetov, an ally of Yanukovych, have not taken a strongly partisan line. Telekrytyka
on 2 September 2009 wrote that although he backs Yanukovych, Akhmetov has "invested a great deal of money in the development of his media outlets (Ukrayina TV and the daily Segodnya ) and clearly now treats them not as tools for winning votes but as a business" and is not inclined "to use his media for hackneyed agitprop, which kills ratings and harms business." (16)
Yushchenko Relies on UT1
Although the private channels appear to have stayed relatively neutral, President Yushchenko has appeared to use state-owned UT1 to further his campaign. The channel, however, attracts a very small audience and is unlikely to have a large impact on the public. Telekrytyka claimed that UT1 is one of the very few major media outlets remaining loyal to Yushchenko (2 September). (17)
In January, the Central Election Commission issued a warning to Yushchenko for using time on UT1 to publicize his activities as a candidate, rather than as president (Interfax-Ukraine, 9 January). (18)
Tymoshenko Targeted
A few especially politicized media outlets have been attacking Tymoshenko, although they have been the exception and do not attract large audiences.
Pro-Yushchenko daily Ukrayina Moloda runs cartoons ridiculing Tymoshenko (22 October, 3 November 2009) and recently asserted she was never acquitted of bribery charges filed against her stemming from her 1996-97 business dealings with former Premier Pavlo Lazarenko (17 December 2009). (19)
Website Obozrevatel — owned by former Tymoshenko-ally but now staunch enemy Mykhaylo Brodskyy — has been harshly critical of the premier. As part of its anti-Tymoshenko strategy, Obozrevatel posted a satirical video-cartoon that featured Tymoshenko in various acts betraying the nation and accompanied by the popular Ukrainian folk song "You Led Me On, Then Double-Crossed Me" (24 December 2009). (20)
Political Elites Parodied on Nontraditional Venues
While traditional media outlets have remained largely disengaged, a new development during the current political campaign is the inundation of nontraditional venues such as YouTube and blogs with satire, parody, and cynical criticism of top politicians and officials. (e) While all candidates have been targeted, Tymoshenko has been a particularly popular subject of the political jibes.
"Nedotorkani" (The Untouchables) is a popular video satire (akin to Saturday Night Live) in which prominent Ukrainian politicians are deftly parodied as corrupt, weak, and self-serving to the detriment of the nation. (21) The series was produced at the behest of Akhmetov’s Ukrayina TV (, 28 October 2009), (22) but Ukrayina TV itself did not carry it, and it is only available for viewing online. Actress parodies Tymoshenko on an episode of "Nedotorkani" (YouTube, 7 January)
The popular Ukrainiana blog published by a young Ukrainian named "Taras," treats the presidential candidates with considerable disdain. For example, "Taras" responded to a recent Tymoshenko video that contained the message, "Greetings: Happy New Year! It is the Year of the White Tiger. Be Happy! TigerYuliya," with the comment: "The white tigress thinks you have the brain of a chimpanzee. Swallow her every word. Pick up your Darwin Award" (21 December 2009). (23)
Yanukovych parodied on (20 December 2009)
The independent website parodied Yanukovych’s public display of religiosity, commenting that it could be used to deceive the electorate (20 December 2009). (24)
Officials Speak of �Military-Patriotic� Courses in Schools
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 13 Jan.’10
Military-patriotic education in the schools will involve courses in civil defense and Georgia"s military history to "stimulating soldierly spirit" among pupils, Manana Manjgaladze, a spokesperson for the President, said on January 13.
President Saakashvili said on January 12, that Georgia should "definitely introduce military-patriotic education courses in schools."
His spokesperson said on January 13, that the President wanted to release more details of the initiative about "military-patriotic education of our future generations."
"These courses existed in schools in the past, but as a result of reform it will be absolutely new approach," Manjgaladze said. "Military-patriotic education means training in civil defense; stimulating soldierly spirit, which historically was always in nature of people in Georgia; as well as courses in Georgia’s military history."
Retired army officers would be recruited to lead these courses after undergoing trainings, she added.
Bacho Akhalaia, the Georgian defense minister, said on January 13, that MoD was actively cooperating with the Education Ministry to launch these courses from the next education year in September, 2010. He said that the project would initially be launched in several schools and would extend to all the schools at the later stage.
Courses, he said, would include basic skills in use of firearm and providing information about the army structure.
January 12, 2010
Was That A Pistol In Misha’s Pocket?
By Daisy Sindelar
U.S. Senator John McCain is a much-beloved man in Georgia. The former presidential candidate was an active lobbyist for Georgia’s NATO bid, and strongly supported the country during its August 2008 war with Russia.
So when McCain visited Georgia this week, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili needed a special way to express his appreciation — something even more special than the Order of the National Hero of Georgia, the country’s highest state honor, which McCain accepted on January 11 in a pomp-filled ceremony in the Black Sea city of Batumi.
So he gave him a gun. And not just any gun — a pistol that he claimed had once belonged to an American pilot captured by Soviet troops in Vietnam. The gesture was meant as a tribute to McCain, a former navy pilot who spent six brutal years as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam.
How exactly did a U.S. military-issue pistol from the Vietnam war come to be in Saakashvili’s possession?
The Georgian president explained it all began with the Russia-Georgia war, when one of the Russian generals, "as is their habit," started a side business selling off military gasoline to a local horde of Georgian businessmen in the city of Gori.
"This actually bought us some time," Saakashvili said with barely disguised mirth. "The Russians were so passionate about selling the gasoline that they forgot to leave enough for themselves."
One day, Saakashvili recounted, the Russian general sadly informed his Georgian customers that he could no longer sell any gasoline, as he had just received orders to move on Tbilisi, and needed fuel to do so.
Reluctant to give up sales altogether, the general instead offered up a pistol which he said he had claimed as booty from an American pilot taken prisoner by Soviet soldiers during the Vietnam War — a pilot, one imagines, very much like McCain.
Apparently untroubled by questions of how and why a Russian general came to be carrying a U.S. pistol plundered 40 years earlier, an unnamed Georgian businessman happily purchased the gun and passed it to local administrators, who gave it to Saakashvili.
"I cannot be sure which pilot owned this pistol," the Georgian president reasonably acknowledged, before going all circuitous: "But this weapon can still shoot. And these people" — Russians — "are still shooting at us. But I am giving this pistol back to this American hero, John McCain."
McCain, nonplussed but smiling, took the pistol out of its holster and held it up to applause from the crowd.
"Of all the honors I’ve received in my life, the National Hero Award is among the most meaningful and it is one that I would cherish forever," the senator said later. No comment on the pistol, though.
Lithuania remembers deadly Soviet-era crackdown
January 13, 2010
VILNIUS � Lithuanians paid solemn tribute Wednesday to the victims of an abortive Soviet crackdown on the Baltic state’s independence drive nearly two decades ago.
Windows in homes and public buildings across the nation of 3.3 million people displayed candles in memory of the 14 civilians who died in the January 13, 1991 assault by Soviet forces.
At a ceremony in Vilnius, President Dalia Grybauskaite remembered those who stood up to the Soviets in a non-violent freedom movement.
"Brute force was defeated by hope and the rallying-round of Lithuanians who will never be forgotten," she said.
"They inspire us to this day," she added.
Lithuania declared independence in March 1990 after almost five decades of Soviet rule.
It was the first Soviet republic to break with Moscow, launching a chain reaction that ended in December 1991 with the demise of the entire bloc.
After a 1990 economic blockade failed to tame Lithuania, Moscow set its forces on the independence movement.
At least 14 civilians died and hundreds were injured in the January 13 attack on the Vilnius television tower — the state-controlled media had swung behind Sajudis, the freedom movement founded in 1988.
Soviet forces called off an attack on parliament, however, when tens of thousands of civilians built barricades and formed a human shield around it.
At least seven people died in a similar crackdown on January 20 in neighbouring Latvia.
Lithuanian officials faced repeated attacks over the ensuing months, with six customs officers and policemen dying at a border post in July.
After the failed Kremlin coup by Soviet hardliners that August, Moscow recognised the independence of Lithuania, Latvia and their fellow Baltic state Estonia.
Six Lithuanian Soviet-era officials were convicted and jailed in the 1990s for their role in the crackdown.
But Lithuania has been unable to try the period’s Red Army garrison commander, General Vladimir Uskhopchik.
He went on to become deputy defence minister of neighbouring ex-Soviet Belarus, which last week reaffirmed its refusal to extradite him.
Vilnius’ relations with Russia have also remained rocky, notably since Lithuania joined the European Union and NATO in 2004.
On Wednesday, however, Grybauskaite’s office announced that it had asked Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to attend a ceremony on March 11 for the 20th anniversary of its split from the Soviet Union, the first-ever such invitation to the Kremlin.
From: "Christie Parell" <>
Subject: New book by Michael McFaul
Date: Wed, 13 Jan 2010 06:51:39 -0800 (PST)
Advancing Democracy Abroad: Why We Should and How We Can by Michael A. McFaul
"Promoting democracy and human rights is not just the right thing to do.  For America it is the smart thing to do.  Mike McFaul–one of our country’s best on foreign policy–explains why in Advancing Democracy Abroad.  He also shows how, with clear and innovative ideas.  Anyone who cares about U.S. foreign policy should read this book." –Madeleine Albright, U.S. Secretary of State, 1997-2001
"This bull’s-eye book enhances understanding of the democratic process and sets out in a compelling way ideas about how to advance that process." –George P. Shultz, U.S. Secretary of State, 1982-1989
Michael A. McFaul, on leave as senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and professor of political science at Stanford University, is currently serving as special assistant to President Obama for National Security Affairs and senior director of Russian and Eurasian Studies for the U.S. National Security Council.
His new book, Advancing Democracy Abroad, is a comprehensive examination of how democracy provides a more accountable system of government, greater economic prosperity, and better security compared with other systems of government.  As a new administration reviews the role democratization will play in its foreign policy, McFaul calls for a reaffirmation of democracy’s advance as a goal of U.S. foreign policy and sets out a radical new course to achieve it.  He then uses factual evidence to show how Americans have benefited from the advance of democracy abroad in the past, and speculates about security, economic, and moral benefits for the U.S. from potential democratic gains around the world.  The final chapters explore past examples of successful democracy promotion strategies and outline proposals for effectively supporting democratic development in the future.
Advancing Democracy Abroad is available now at
Film Programs, National Gallery of Art, Washington
Beginning this weekend
To mark the 150th anniversary of the eminent Russian writer’s birth in January 1860, the National Gallery is pleased to present seven Russian filmic adaptations of Chekhov’s short stories and plays.
An Unfinished Piece for a Player Piano
Nikita Mikhalkov, 1977, Russian with subtitles, 100 minutes
Saturday, January 16 at 4 p.m.
Ward No. Six
Karen Shakhnazarov, 2009, Russian with subtitles, 83 minutes
Karen Shakhnazarov in person
Russia’s nominee for this year’s Best Foreign Language Film Oscar
Washington premiere
Sunday, January 17 at 5 p.m.
Uncle Vanya
Andrei Konchalovsky, 1970, Russian with subtitles, 104 minutes
Saturday, January 23 at 2:30 p.m.
A Hunting Accident (My Loving and Tender Beast)
Emil Loteanu, 1978, Russian with subtitles, 109 minutes
Sunday, January 24 at 4:30 p.m.
The Seagull
Yuli Karasik, 1970, Russian with subtitles, 99 minutes
Saturday, January 30 at 2:30 p.m.
The Lady with the Dog
Iosif Kheifitz, 1960, Russian with subtitles, 89 minutes
Introduction by Peter Rollberg
Saturday, February 6 at 2:30 p.m.
Chekhovian Motifs
Kira Muratova, 2002, Russian with subtitles, 120 minutes
Saturday, February 13 at 12:30 p.m.
Films are shown in the East Building Auditorium, 4th Street at Constitution Avenue NW. There is no charge for admission but seating is on a first-come, first-seated basis. Doors open approximately 30 minutes before each show time. Programs are subject to change.
For more information call (202) 842-6799, e-mail or visit


January 13, 2010

12 January 2010
A World Security Institute Project
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  1. Moscow Times: Stocks and Ruble Soar As Markets Reopen.
  2. Bloomberg: U.S. Overtakes Russia as World’s Biggest Natural
Gas Producer.
  3. RFE/RL: The Middle Class: Not Rich, Not Poor, But Uncertain
Of The Future.
  4. New York Times: Tested by Many Foes, Passion of a Russian
Dissident Endures. (re Lyudmila Alexeyeva)
  5. Nezavisimaya Gazeta editorial: MODERNIZATION, OMON,
OPPOSITION. The impression is that OMON units in Russia only
exist to disperse rallies of the opposition.
  6. Interfrax: Over 800 Senior Executives Prosecuted on Corruption
Charges in 2009.
  7. Communists demand ban of Avatar.
  8. Vzglyad: Twitter May Become Effective Political Platform in Russia.
  9. Yezhednevnyy Zhurnal: Developments in Russian Security Services,
FSB in 2009 Critiqued. (Andrey Soldatov)
  10. Le Monde diplomatique: When the hot water ran out in Pikalevo.
  11. Yezhednevnyy Zhurnal: Russian Commentary Reviews Church
Affairs During Patriarch Kirill’s First Year.
  12. BBC Monitoring: Radio pundit says Russia will lose Caucasus
because of corruption. (Yuliya Latynina)
  13. Paul Goble: Window on Eurasia: "Epidemic" of Nostalgia among
Russians for Soviet Times Dangerous, Psychotherapist Warns.
  14. Interfax: Soviet-era experience no good in fighting alcoholism
in Russia – rights activist.
  15. AFP: European court to hear Yukos’ $98bn case against Russia.
  16. Miriam Elder, Inside the Khodorkovsky trial.
  17. ITAR-TASS: Over 50 Pct Of Russians Vote For Energy Saving Lamps.
  18. AFP: Russia unveils own ‘cash for clunkers’ scheme.
  19. Unconventional gas poses market dilemma.
  20. Wall Street Journal: Russian Companies Eye Equity Offerings.
  21. Financial Times: London still Russian tycoons’ preference.
  22. RIA Novosti: Russia-EU new pact talks unconditioned by energy
charter – Lavrov.
  23. RBC Daily: GAZPROM AMONG FRIENDS. Gazprom emulates
foreign corporations and hires ex-politicians with clout to promote its
  24. Nezavisimoye Voyennoye Obozreniye :2009 10 most significant
military events: Army’s new appearance, START I expired, CSTO
Collective Rapid Reaction Forces.
  25. Nezavisimaya Gazeta: The Geneva meetings came up against telemetry.
Moscow and Washington diverged in the views of the linkage of SNF and BMD.
  26. Under shadow of missile umbrella, US and
Russia work to reset START.
  27. Admiral Mullen’s Realistic View on Russia and China.
  28. Nikolas Gvosdev, Ditch the Reset.
  29. OhmyNews (South Korea): Interview with U.S. Journalist Thomas Goltz.
Goltz discusses the Caucasus, Turkey and central Asia.
  30. Reuters: Risks and benefits in Turkey’s overtures to Russia.
  31. Financial Times: Orange Revolution’s legacy sours.
  32. DPA: Yushchenko not a serious contender in Ukraine election.
  33. DPA: PROFILE: Yanukovych the man to beat in Ukraine’s
presidential vote.
  34. Reuters: Despair in West over situation in Ukraine.
  35. Moscow Times: Signs of Truce Stir Georgian Hopes.
  36. ROAR: "McCain is lobbying Saakashvili again."  
(press review)
  37. Today.Az: Georgian FM: Our country enjoys support of whole U.S.
political spectrum.
  38. BBC: Georgia’s mutiny leaders jailed.
  39. Vedomosti: DETOUR. Representatives of ten countries will meet
in Georgia to discuss ways and means of lessening energy
dependance on Russia.]
Moscow Times
January 12, 2010
Stocks and Ruble Soar As Markets Reopen
By Rachel Nielsen
Russian stocks opened the trading year in Moscow with a bang Monday and the ruble rocketed to its biggest one-day gain against the dollar in a decade, driven by $80 oil, positive economic news and investor enthusiasm for global markets.
The gains came as the opening bell rang, following a 5.3 percent increase for Russian Global Depositary Receipts on the London Stock Exchange during the first 10 days of the year. The ruble-denominated MICEX Index jumped 5.5 percent, closing up 74.77 points at 1444.78, while the dollar-denominated RTS Index rose 7.5 percent, or 108.45 points, to 1553.06.
The high price of oil, the lifeblood of the Russian economy, drove Monday’s rally, analysts said. Spot prices for Urals crude slid 0.7 percent on Monday, dipping to $79.83, but were still 4.3 percent higher than on Dec. 31.
Increases in China’s imports and exports, combined with demand for fuel in winter-bitten Europe and the United States, pushed oil to its highest price in months. The market has also been watching an uneasy standoff between Moscow and Minsk over a new oil supply contract for 2010.
The higher oil price "explains most of the strong openings" in the Russian bourses, said Elina Ribakova, chief economist at Citibank. "The stock market is beginning to price in the growth effect of the oil price" on the Russian economy, she said.
Those heightened expectations for the economy will mean "stronger performance" and higher numbers for the MICEX and RTS this year, she said.
Both bourses posted 52-week highs.
Demand for oil and other raw materials is good news for Russia’s commodity-based economy, said Philip Townsend, head of research at Metropol. Monday’s stock surge "is a correction" for Russian companies, he said.
The flow of investment into emerging and global markets in general also provided a boost to Russia’s stocks. Following the contractions of 2008 and 2009, investors are putting money back into equities, said Vladimir Savov, head of research at Otkritie.
Investor sentiment appears to be bullish, with a prevailing sentiment "that 2009 is over, so 2010 must be, by definition, a bit better," he said, noting that companies listed in Russia were "catching up with what the stocks are already doing in New York and London."
And while oil was on analysts’ minds, mining stocks put up most of the biggest gains. Severstal rose 19.9 percent and Norilsk Nickel gained 10.9 percent, helping push the MICEX’s index of 10 metals and mining stocks up 9.4 percent. The exchange’s oil and gas index slightly lagged the market, rising 5 percent.
Meanwhile, the ruble put on no less of a show, increasing 3.1 percent to 29.3045 per dollar, its biggest one-day jump since March 1999, according to Bloomberg.
Townsend predicted the ruble would not advance much more against the dollar in 2010, saying the currency would hover at about 28 per dollar this year. A Vedomosti survey of 15 bankers and analysts conducted last month generated a median ruble/dollar rate prediction of 28.5, with a range of 26.2 to 33.
U.S. Overtakes Russia as World’s Biggest Natural Gas Producer
By Stephen Bierman
Jan. 12 (Bloomberg) — The U.S. overtook Russia as the world’s largest natural-gas producer last year as U.S. suppliers tapped unconventional resources while demand in Russia plunged amid the country’s worst economic decline on record.
U.S. output advanced 3.9 percent in January through October to 18.3 trillion feet (519 billion cubic meters), according to the latest Department of Energy data. Russian output, about four-fifths of which comes from state-run OAO Gazprom, plunged 17 percent in the period to 462 billion cubic meters.
"Minimal hurricane disruptions and significant growth in production from onshore shale basins have contributed to the increase in domestic supply," the Department of Energy’s Energy Information Agency said on its Web site last month.
Russia surpassed the U.S. in gas production in 2002, pumping 539 billion cubic meters versus America�s 536 billion, according to BP Plc. Russia, which has the world’s largest reserves and a quarter of Europe’s market, led the world in output between 1986 and 1996 and again in 1999, the year after the government defaulted on $40 billion of domestic debt and devalued the ruble.
The EIA said full-year U.S. output probably increased 3.7 percent to the equivalent of 624 billion cubic meters. The agency is slated to release November data on Jan. 29. Russia’s annual output fell 12 percent to 582 billion cubic meters.
Demand for gas in Russia, the world’s largest user of the fuel after the U.S., contracted last year along with the economy. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said Dec. 30 that annual gross domestic product declined 8.5 percent, the most since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Industrial output fell about 11.5 percent, the Economy Ministry said last month.
January 11, 2010
The Middle Class: Not Rich, Not Poor, But Uncertain Of The Future
By Charles Recknagel
Across a great swath of Eurasia, from the Balkans to Russia to Afghanistan, the middle class and the people who might have become a middle class have trouble making ends meet and little voice in how their countries are governed. Why is the middle class in this region so weak, and what is needed to strengthen it? We look at the questions in a three-part series, beginning with what it means to be "middle class."
In Western countries, the middle class is regarded as the powerful backbone of democratic and prosperous societies.
In the United States, for example, the middle class is widely estimated to account for about 60 percent of the population. Its members are professionals of all kinds, from teachers to police officers to business managers. They pay billions of dollars in taxes, vote in large numbers, and thus play a major role in choosing who governs the country and how.
But across a great swath of Eurasia, from the Balkans to Russia to Afghanistan, the position of the middle class is very tenuous. There, the middle class — or what could become the middle class — is extraordinarily fragile.
One reason for the fragility is that in many of these countries, a new middle class is still emerging from the chaos that followed the collapse of a previously stable order.
Post-Soviet Authoritarianism
In the former Soviet Union, there was the overturning of communism. Out of the ashes, a small but highly visible new commercial class has arisen that has an income level comparable to the Western middle class. But its social values, and view of government, are its own.
"They usually don’t endorse the values of democracy and liberalism. They support the social, political, and economic order that has been formed over the past decade in Russia," says Boris Dubin, a sociologist at Russia’s independent Levada polling center.
"It’s an authoritarian order in which the authorities are not separated from property and in which the top leaders are also the top proprietors."
Dubin says this class makes up 4 to 5 percent of the population and is the current regime’s staunchest supporter. He adds that "as a rule, it consists of young people living in large cities."
The values of this commercially successful class contrast sharply with those of the group that many observers once thought would become Russia’s new middle class: the Soviet-era intelligentsia.
That group — composed of intellectuals, artists, and many nongovernmental professionals — had an independent and often dissident attitude toward the communist apparatchiks who monopolized political power.
But the intelligentsia proved too independent-minded to compete in post-Soviet Russia’s top-down economy. Instead, its members have been eclipsed by the entrepreneurs who rose by exploiting their contacts with the government.
Brain Drain
In other countries, a strong middle class does not exist today for quite different reasons.
In Iran, there was the 1979 Islamic Revolution. In the wake of the revolution some 2-3 million people, most of them educated professionals, fled Iran to start new lives in Europe, North America, and the Persian Gulf states.
And in the Balkans, Afghanistan, and Iraq, there was, or is, war. Again, millions have fled or been displaced. At the high point of unrest in Iraq, 40 percent of the country’s middle class was reportedly outside the country.
As a result of these dramatic upheavals, a strong potential engine for democracy and prosperity is stalled across much of Eurasia. And the West, which is used to promoting civil society by working with the middle class, finds it lacks regional partners.
The consequences are visible. Autocrats remain in power largely unchallenged by any civic-based opposition parties. There is a widening gap between the wealthy ruling elite and the poor majority.
Middle-Class Values
But if in Russia the stage today is dominated by politically loyal entrepreneurs and elsewhere the middle class is in retreat, the middle class dream remains strong among ordinary people.
From taxi drivers to professionals to small businessmen, many people whose income puts them between rich and poor seek to become part of a stable middle class. And many of the values they espouse are surprisingly like those of their Western counterparts.
A Pew Research Center poll commissioned by "The Economist" magazine last year found that across the developing world, people who identify themselves as middle class largely support democracy.
In Ukraine, for example, 65 percent of middle-class respondents rate honest elections with at least two parties as "very important."
By contrast, poorer people in Ukraine gave less importance to democracy. Just 53 percent of those respondents called the same goal "very important."
In Russia, the number of middle-class respondents rating free elections as very important was lower, at 51 percent. But that is still noticeably higher than the just 37 percent of lower-income Russian respondents who answered similarly.
Who Is Middle Class?
The Pew study, which included 13 countries, defined middle class as people who earn more than $ 4,286. That is the threshold for the middle class set by the IBRD/World Bank in 2007.
But in many societies, people who earn far less than that will define themselves as middle class.
In Russia, for example, people use a qualitative definition: You are middle class when you have enough to make ends meet plus a little extra to save or spend on pleasure.
"For me middle class means a steadily above-average income, property, a car, that kind of a minimum kit," says entrepreneur Denis Molotkov from the Western Siberian city of Tomsk.
But there are other definitions, too.
Many people define themselves as middle class if their work involves intellectual, rather than physical, labor — even if they make less money than do laborers. Teachers are one example.
In Tajikistan, professors are among the poorest-paid professionals, so much so that many use their summers to seek better-paying jobs on construction sites in neighboring Russia.
But when the school year resumes, they return to the teaching jobs that give them their sense of middle-class status.
"I needed money to live and to complete something at school [work], I mean transport fees and so on. That’s why I traveled to Moscow for seasonal work, says one Tajik teacher.
"Money we receive in Moscow is much more than we receive in Tajikistan. With this money we can arrange out life expenses. Our aim is to make some savings and return to school."
Part of the sense of middle-class status that he and other lowly paid teachers across the region share is a conviction that they are helping to influence the future of their country.
Still, if many people today across this part of Eurasia see themselves as middle class — either based upon an income or educational level that is higher than that of the poor — together they have yet to become significant politically.
RFE/RL’s Russian and Tajik services contributed to this report
New York Times
January 12, 2010
Tested by Many Foes, Passion of a Russian Dissident Endures
MOSCOW – You almost feel sorry for the police officer tasked with detaining Lyudmila M. Alexeyeva as she led an unsanctioned protest on New Year’s Eve. It is not just that at 82 years of age she appears as fragile as a porcelain teacup, or that she was dressed as a Snow Maiden, complete with sparkly hat and adorable fur muff.
That is part of it. The other part is that as a young woman, Ms. Alexeyeva sat through so many K.G.B. interrogations that she rolls her eyes rather than count them. She was developing a variety of strategies to distract, deflect and otherwise irritate the authorities before the police officer’s parents were out of grade school.
Upon hearing the details of Ms. Alexeyeva’s arrest, Paul Goldberg – who wrote with her "The Thaw Generation: Coming of Age in the Post-Stalin Era," her memoir of life as a dissident – started to laugh. "They should actually print out pictures of Lyudmila Alexeyeva and hand them out to all the law enforcement authorities with a note saying ‘Do not arrest this person,’ " said Mr. Goldberg, now an editor in Washington. "It is not fun to tangle with this person. She will make you feel like dirt, and she will not do it gratuitously. She will do it because you are dirt."
Ms. Alexeyeva is now, by her own count, in her 43rd year of provoking official Moscow. The enemy these days is the soft authoritarian government ushered in by Vladimir V. Putin, previously the president and now prime minister, who methodically constricted the human rights movement. But long before that it was the airless confinement of Leonid Brezhnev’s Soviet Union, where Ms. Alexeyeva was one of a tiny group of intellectuals who risked their lives to press for freedom and human rights.
Nearly all from her circle are dead now, but the aura around them has never quite dissipated. Ms. Alexeyeva, who now walks with difficulty, can still lead a demonstration, which is what she was doing when she was detained on New Year’s Eve. Just a shade over five feet tall, she provokes reverence, exasperation and the question of how the movement will reshape itself when the grande dame is gone.
Ms. Alexeyeva grew up in a world suffused with whispers. There was muffled weeping when her neighbors were arrested in Stalin’s purges. At 19, she was reported to a party secretary for reciting banned poetry. Soon after she turned 40, she volunteered to type the Chronicle of Current Events, a journal compiled in such secrecy that not even its contributors knew one another’s roles. Once, hauled in for questioning, Ms. Alexeyeva stuffed eight copies of the manuscript into her bra.
Everyone knew the sentence for crimes against the state: seven years in a penal camp and five years in exile. On her way into K.G.B. headquarters, Ms. Alexeyeva would stop to buy a ham sandwich, an eclair and an orange. These were delicacies in 1970s, even for the investigator, who was headed for a lunch of gray cutlets. Halfway through, Ms. Alexeyeva would unwrap her lunch and lay it out on the table.
"They reacted very nervously when they started to smell ham," she said with a sweet smile. "Then I would start eating the orange, and the aroma would start dissipating through the room.� The effect was reliably hypnotic.
"That’s how I amused myself," she said. "It was a way to play on his nerves."
Her career could have ended with emigration, as many of her colleagues’ did. But in 1993, after 16 years in the United States, Ms. Alexeyeva and her husband moved back to a changed Russia. As chairwoman of the Moscow Helsinki Group, the organization she helped found in 1976, she surveyed a changed landscape. Human rights organizations worked out of offices and published their work on Web sites. What they did was now legal.
New fears have replaced the old ones, though. Ms. Alexeyeva has received death threats, and last year she buried two friends who were killed. Legal risks are unpredictable, too. While Soviet dissidents could strategize to protect themselves � knowing, for example, that prosecutors needed at least two witnesses – their tricks are of no use in a post-Soviet justice system, where cases can be wholly fabricated, she said.
"Now they do what they want," she said. "There were rules then. They were idiotic rules, but there were rules, and if you knew them you could defend yourself."
Equally troubling, for some of her peers, is the fact that human rights campaigners still address the same narrow, elite slice of society they did in Soviet times – their argument is simply steamrolled by Mr. Putin’s popularity. Tanya Lokshina, deputy director of the Moscow office of Human Rights Watch, said that activists faced the central challenge of "finding the language that is convincing for Russian society."
"That language would have to be different from the language used by Soviet dissenters," she said. "In a sense, it is easier, strategy-wise, to be opposed to a full totalitarian regime than it is to try to counter a more sophisticated, strongly authoritarian one. There is some freedom. How do you explain to people what exactly they are lacking?"
Ms. Alexeyeva has heard these arguments, and she rejects them. She casts the democratic rollbacks of the Putin period as the recoil that inevitably follows revolution, not as a catastrophe. As for the notion of outreach to the public, she believes that Russians are passive because they are poor, and that that will not change as long as they remain so.
"They are completely not stupid people; they understand everything," she said. "They just have no power to act. They have no power to even think about these issues, to analyze them, never mind being active." She pointed to long-stemmed roses sent by a man she had helped free from prison.
"We don’t need to convince him using any marketing. He understands that I helped him," she said. "We will keep focusing our strength on this, helping people. That is our marketing."
That said, there are moments when Ms. Alexeyeva shows a grandmaster’s genius for getting her message out, especially to the West. One was her New Year’s Eve rally, regularly held on the 31st day of the month in homage to the article in the Russian Constitution, which guarantees the freedom of assembly. The last time, everyone was arrested except Ms. Alexeyeva, but this time she was swept up with 50 others onto waiting buses. It did not take long for the police to realize their error: within 40 minutes, one of them opened the doors of the bus and told Ms. Alexeyeva she was free to go. She refused, and by that time photographs were beamed around the world showing a wraithlike woman looking up apparently in terror at an officer in camouflage.
In fact, Ms. Alexeyeva had rather expected to be arrested, so she had ordered a shipment of hot meat pies delivered to her apartment and told the guard to admit her New Year guests. A party was in full swing at 11 p.m., when she arrived home from the police headquarters. Russian leaders would wake up to angry statements from the United States National Security Council, and then from the president of the European Parliament, Jerzy Buzek, who said he was "profoundly and personally touched when I think that this very respectful 82-year-old woman spent the night of New Year’s Eve under Russian arrest."
A few days later, as she watched snow sift past her window, she retold the story for the hundredth time with evident satisfaction.
"If it serves as a lesson to them, I wouldn"t call it a victory, but it would be useful," she said. "Whether it will serve as a lesson I can’t say, because they study very badly."
Nezavisimaya Gazeta
January 12, 2010
The impression is that OMON units in Russia only exist to disperse rallies of the opposition
Author: editorial
     True to its word, the radical opposition organized a rally in
central Moscow in the last days of December. Its leaders had
promised to organize a rally in defense of Article 31 of the
Constitution, the one pertaining freedom of expression. The small
rally on Triumfalnaya Square was brutally dispersed by the police.
     Eduard Limonov (he had organized the rally) said he would run
for president in 2012. He might but it would be a wasted effort.
Opinion polls show that few Russians regard freedom of expression
as a priority.
     In the meantime, the protesters the police dispersed were
formally correct. They met to defend the Constitution, a nuance
not even the authorities will dare dispute. Loosing the police on
harmless protesters, the powers-that-be demonstrated their
readiness to eradicate all and any dissent. They also demonstrated
an absolute lack of their own ideological security. Where were the
numerous and vociferous Young Russia and Ours activists?
     The impression is that dispersal of rallies and
demonstrations is OMON’s only function. The more brutal the
Russian police, the less credible the authorities’ slogans
concerning so called political liberalization.
     Society cannot understand why the state cannot defend the
population from the likes of Yevsyukov. Or why the police are
focused on the people like Limonov since they, unlike Yevsyukov
and others like him, are harmless.
     As matters stand, experts alone perceive liberalization in
presidential amendments to the acting legislation. In real life,
however, people encounter the same old OMON units – the armed
detachment of pro-Putin conservative majority.
Over 800 Senior Executives Prosecuted on Corruption Charges in 2009
MOSCOW. Jan 11 (Interfax) – More than 800 senior officials were prosecuted in 2009 on charges of corruption, Prosecutor General Yury Chaika said.
"The number of prosecuted federal and local government executives has been increasing, and 806 criminal cases, opened on corruption charges, have been heard in the past nine months," Chaika said in an interview with Rossiiskaya Gazeta, to be published on Tuesday.
Prosecutors have exposed the illicit activities of the Penza regional governor, of Karelia’s deputy prime minister, the Kurgan region deputy governor, Kalmykia natural resources minister, speaker of the Stavropol territorial legislature, Oryol region deputy governor, the heads and deputy heads of the governments of Adygeya, and Stavropol Territory and the Kaliningrad, Moscow, Orenburg and Rostov regions," Chaika said.
January 11, 2010
Communists demand ban of Avatar

The Communists of Saint Petersburg and Leningrad Region have demanded a ban of James Cameron’s movies in Russia based on a somewhat unorthodox interpretation of recent blockbuster "Avatar".

In the recently issued statement they claim that the sci-fi blockbuster is trying to justify the Nobel Prize award given to Barack Obama, but fails in its task as no one would believe that a US marine in the film (who the Communists describe as a "murderer and oppressor of Iraq, Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Haiti and Somalia") can stand for good.

It should be noted that the production of Avatar began four years ago when Obama wasn’t even in office.

"It is quite funny to watch how the activists of the national liberation movement of Pandora accept a Pentagon-made mutant instead of judging him by the laws of the revolutionary time," the communists noted.

According to the plot of Cameron’s blockbuster, handicapped marine Jack Sully (played by actor Sam Worthington) arrives on the remote moon of Pandora, where humans are mining valuable minerals despite the resistance of the local population of Na’vi. Sully arives there to take part in the Avatar program, aimed at spying on the aboriginals using genetically-engineered human-Na’vi bodies.

However, he ends up switching sides having seen that the locals are far from savages.

The authors of the statement were inspired by the recent interview of Russian sci-fi classic Boris Strugatsky, in which he reminded the public that the jungle covered planet called Pandora has already appeared in his novel "Noon: 22nd Century", which was released in the mid 1960s.

"Being ready to give all he has on the order of the White House, Cameron secretly penetrated the mysterious and romantic world of Soviet science fiction and transferred the action of his senseless propaganda film into the world of Pandora created by the Strugatsky brothers… This planet was discovered and drenched with the blood of Soviet cosmonauts, but Cameron is, of course, silent about it."

The action of Avatar takes place in 2154, and the imaginative communists of St. Petersburg have come up with some conclusions of the way international relations developed in the universe created by Cameron till that period.

"The carefully concealed nature of an aggressor, traitor and maniac quickly discerned itself in Cameron’s film – according to the plot, Venezuela has already been invaded, Chavez is killed, and the hordes of G.I. break out into the Solar System, burning everything in their path. Conditionally separating the film’s heroes from the bad ones – Republicans (the head of the human’s colony and the marines), and good ones – Democrats, led by Jake Sully and fanatical botany professor (Sigourney Weaver), Cameron comes to the absurd – taking the side on of an extraterrestrial civilization in conflict with humanity."

At the end of the statement is the demand "to ban the presentation of all Cameron’s films in Russia until he recognizes the plagiarism and robbing of Soviet science fiction in order to create his low-grade blockbuster."

The communists’ assault will likely not do anything to dampen Avatar’s ongoing commercial success. According to box office data on January 7, it has already earned $64.2 million in cinemas around the country.

The Communists of St Pete and Leningrad Region are known for their strange statements on all important Russian and international events. The Communist party of Russian Federation does every thing to distant itself from this organization.

Twitter May Become Effective Political Platform in Russia
January 10, 2010 (?)
Unattributed article: "Time For Russian Politicians To Twitter"
Twitter may become a really influential political platform in Russia.
In 2010, experts are predicting a ten-fold growth in the Russian language Twitter audience. If this prediction comes true, by the end of the year there will be a million twitterers in Russia. Today, society is mastering its own stylistic and trying to speak seriously, but without pathos, in a complex but accessible manner, in a current manner – yet not repeating, but anticipating, blogs and the mass media. The year that has dawned – after which the country will be facing the Duma and presidential elections – must answer an important question: Can Twitter become a truly influential political platform in Russia?
The logo of Twitter – the most popular micro-blog service – is a cute little bluebird. And if the authors had had in mind the famous Maeterlinck play, we could say that the symbol selection was remarkably accurate. Twitter (or tweet – a literal translation from the English twit – means "to chirp" or "prattle") is quite unexpectedly – and with some rather stiff competition, we might add – continuing to gain popularity, even though no prerequisites for its surge were seen at the outset.
Twitter grew up almost out of a joke, out of the innovative idea of "network SMS (text messaging)," recordings that were 140 symbols in length. They could be sent on the fly, from a phone, while also reading other people’s notes. They require no notebook: You saw, remembered, felt, photographed – and published.
A simple service (messages may be sent either through the site, or with the aid of text messaging, or through a special twitter-client), the terse style and effectiveness all lent unheard-of popularity to this amusing joke. And the joke ceased to be a joke. Rich and famous people, newsmakers, public opinion leaders and throngs of their followers all came to Twitter.
The world of Twitter changed in an instant.
It is one thing when a community consists of correspondence by juveniles about going to the movies and unrequited love, and something entirely different when US President Barack Obama, Governor of the state of California (of course, that is not what we love him for) Arnold Schwarzenegger, President Joseph Biden, Barack Obama’s main rival in the last presidential elections John McCain, and ex-Vice-President of the USA Albert Gore are present there. All at once, Twitter became not only an entertainment platform (the leaders of the American Twitter – actor Ashton Kutcher and television host Oprah Winfrey need no introduction), but also a political platform.
Twitter really "took off" in June of 2009, during the elections in Iran, where, thanks to Twitter, the supporters of the loser in those elections, Mir Hossein Mousavi, managed to break the course of the vote tallying: It turned out that, with the aid of the tag, "#iranelections," they were able to create a platform. President of Iran Makhmud Akhmadinezhad tore away the victory by a miracle: He thought of blocking both Twitter and mobile communications at the same time.
After that, it became obvious that politicians, to whom the methods of the Iranian leader were not dear for one reason or another, would have to not break Twitter over their knee, but become a part of it, and to win popularity of users of the service directly.
We might add that it was specifically after Iran that the CIA focused attention on Twitter, beginning to create sections of control over society: Terrorists can use instant communication – after Iran, it was hard not to agree with this conclusion.
Russian politicians came to Twitter quite recently. President of Russia Dmitriy Medvedev, Russia’s Permanent Representative to NATO Dmitriy Rogozin (who writes himself, in two languages, and in a very interesting manner), Federation Council Speaker Sergey Mironov, State Duma Deputies Konstantin Rykov, Ilya Ponomarev, Robert Shlegel, members of the Public Chamber Tina Kandelaki, Gleb Pavlovskiy, and Aleksey Chesnakov – these are the results of the first stage of Russia’s mastery of Twitter.
"Before our very eyes, the era of instantaneous communications is beginning in Russia," State Duma Deputy Konstantin Rykov is convinced. "Already today, popular twitterers have an audience of tens of thousands of ‘followers’ (or, as it is customary to say in the blogosphere – ‘friends’), and an outstanding example is such users as Zhenya Kozlov or Sasha Belan. During 2010, the Russian language audience will grow at least ten-fold, and now just imagine that, with the introduction of such formats as 4G in Russia, each of us will have the opportunity to have our own mass media in our pocket. Medvedev and Obama will not need Channel One and CNN in order to bring their ideas to millions."
Television commentator and blogger Maksim Kononenko is much more cautious about the prospects of Twitter.
"On one hand, if you have a lot of followers, you can throw in a topic in a few minutes. But, at the same time, the tweet is poorly adapted to politics. It is much easier for ‘stars’ to use. One must have Twitter as a resource: It is necessary to seize the initiative, while this is still possible. But I am not sure whether it will be possible to develop this initiative" Kononenko told our Vzglyad correspondent.
Political analyst Pavel Svyatenkov notes that "in order to gather people at rallies – and this is specifically how Twitter is useful – people must be ready to come to them. But somehow, we do not see anyone who wants to attend rallies in Russia."
Aside from that, an important factor of the authoritative nature of Twitter in Russia is the formation of a new identity: At one time, role-players, and bloggers, and sect members, and bikers all went through this stage of formulation. When, during the last census of the population, young people wrote "elf" or "gnome" in the column marked "nationality," many thought this self-identification seemed like an expression of originality. When the flourishing of the Russian-language blogosphere coincided with the appearance of people who said of themselves "I am blogger…" (these words could be followed by anything at all – what is important is the very fact of being attributed to this social group), skeptics had fewer arguments.
When the first hundred people say: "I am a twitterer," it will become impossible to ignore Twitter. Just as it is impossible today to ignore bloggers, rolers or bikers.
Developments in Russian Security Services, FSB in 2009 Critiqued
Yezhednevnyy Zhurnal
January 5, 2010
Article by Andrey Soldatov: "Year Results. Security Services"
Russian security services finished 2009 suffering tangible losses in key areas. At the same time, they tested (with varied success) new methods in counterintelligence practice on the British and Americans. They achieved unequivocal success in one area only: the fight against terrorism, which, however — similar to the operation of secret services — has now become completely off limits for public control.
Two areas in which FSB (Federal Security Service) sustained the worst losses in 2009 are Chechnya and Crimea. In Chechnya, amid the increased gunmen activity, the counterterrorist operation regime was terminated (which radically curtailed the capabilities of federal structures in the republic), while command of the operational staff was passed to the republican level controlled by Kadyrov. In Crimea, a group of 19 FSB officers, who officially oversaw the Black Sea Fleet, was urgently removed from Sevastopol following the public and humiliating pressure from Ukrainian SBU (Ukrainian Security Service) counterintelligence, which alternated it with threats. (This is a tangible loss for the security service on Ukrainian territory because FSB, including military counterintelligence staffers, has the right to conduct intelligence activity, which including also recruiting foreign citizens).
In both cases, FSB applied a routine tested earlier in cases of failure, which is to pretend that the whole thing was planned exactly this way.
Simultaneously, new methods of pressurizing the diplomatic community were tried. In the summer, employees of at once two embassies, British and U.S., found themselves involved in scandals in surprisingly similar circumstances. In June, James Hudson, deputy British consul in Yekaterinburg, was forced to resign after the website posted a video showing him with prostitutes (later, the same information was reprinted by Komsomolskaya Pravda). One month later, U.S. diplomat Kyle Hatcher became the hero of a similar video, which was also published by and reprinted by Komsomolskaya Pravda. In that case, however, the diplomat was not forced to leave: The U.S. ambassador stood up for the employee, while the FBI conducted an investigation and declared that the footage was fake. Few were surprised that specifically the site, which was even earlier known for its ties to secret services, was used as the first source. Prominent human rights activist Sergey Grigoryants, the organizer of conferences "KGB Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow," was very surprised to find out that his biography published on that site contained details not available in open sources — for example, ones about his study at a higher educational institution. What should be recognized as know-how is rather the very method of using a website with quite dubious reputation as a source of compromising information.
The military intelligence chief was changed in 2009 but the resignation of Korabelnikov was quite predictable and even the unexpected openness of his retirement could not exert any influence on personnel cuts (pretty significant) at the Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff.
The most dramatic events occurred on the front of antiterrorist fight. Two forces that currently represent the main terrorist threat in Russia — gunmen in the North Caucasus and nationalists — launched purposeful attacks against representatives of the regime and power structures. The attempt to kill Ingushetia’s President Yevkurov and the blast of the Nevskiy Express train on the one hand, as well as shootouts between the nationalists and FSB staffers in Moscow on the other, quite vividly demonstrate this tendency.
Paradoxically, when they encountered this new tactic, obviously much more dangerous to the authorities, the secret services apparently did not see fit to change anything in their strategy of countering terrorism. On the list of terrorist threats, the first rank is still occupied by the risk of losing control over a certain territory or region resulting from an invasion of gunmen (which was the case in the summer of 2004 in Ingushetia and something that almost happened in Nalchik in 2005), and the whole system of fighting terrorism is designed presently specifically to counter this type of attacks, with coordination among departments being improved and their power component (especially internal troops) strengthened. Since the bombing of the Nevskiy Express can in no way have influence on government in Novgorod or Tver Oblasts, where the train was derailed, FSB apparently sees no reason for changing anything.
Yet, there is one area of the antiterrorist fight in which the Russian secret services strengthened their position in a consistent and tough manner in 2009. FSB did its best to maintain and reinforce the recently built system of restrictions on journalists covering antiterrorist operations and terrorist acts.
In May, Russia proved the only state in Europe that never even considered revising the restrictions that have been imposed on journalists after 11 September. At a meeting held in Reykjavik by ministers in charge of media from all member countries of the Council of Europe, representatives of the (Russian) Communications Ministry refused to sign a paragraph in the resolution on freedom of speech guarantees that called for revising both national antiterrorist laws in the media sphere and the practice of handling journalists writing about terrorism to make them compliant with Council of Europe standards. The Russian delegation refused, saying that this part of legislation is supervised by FSB, whose staffers had not attended the meeting.
Several months later, FSB representatives themselves voiced that position. FSB staffers spoke for the first time at a conference "War of Words," which was devoted to freedom of speech issues during the coverage of antiterrorist fight and organized by the International Press Institute in Vienna last October. NAK (National Antiterrorist Committee) Press Secretary Nikolay Sintsov read out such a bone-crushing text about the duties and responsibility of journalists that he greatly surprised the audience. All the i’s were dotted when a question of whether he considered Politkovskaya "a responsible journalist" plunged Sintsov in stupor and the NAK press secretary ultimately proved unable to find an answer even after a lengthy pause.
A final and real result of 2009 is a never-delivered report by the FSB director on the activity of his service over the year. This tradition was established back in the 1990’s and in keeping with it the FSB director delivered his report to journalists in late December. Of course, that procedure was a very far cry from a real news conference: Chief editors of selected media outlets were invited to the meeting and (former FSB Director) Patrushev would just read out a text prepared earlier. But thanks to such reports, we could hear, for example, that FSB "foiled" the activity of 48 spies in 2008, 22 in 2007, and 27 in 2006, not to mention data on prevented terrorist acts, embezzlement, etc. No names were called, of course, but even that kind of data could be analyzed and one could try to establish what area of its activity FSB views presently as the most important. Sometimes, Patrushev even said too much as was the case with Arian Erkel, chief of the Doctors Without Borders mission, who was kidnapped in Dagestan and for whom a multi-million ransom was paid and a ChOP (private security company) of external intelligence veterans received a major cash reward: Patrushev, however, chalked up Erkel’s liberation for himself.
The new director’s real know-how in 2009 was the fact that this time around the report was simply not delivered. Even the ugly form that has existed until recently, whereby the director of the secret service reads out his text among dutifully nodding chief editors of particularly favored media outlets, was rejected — apparently as an unwanted legacy of the 1990’s.
Curiously, as recently as 2008, (FSB Director) Bortnikov considered it necessary to follow the traditions of his predecessor. However, in December 2009, instead of holding a "traditional meeting of the FSB director with journalists devoted to the professional holiday of state security staffers," Bortnikov merely voiced reporting figures at a NAK session.
It should be noted that the selection of a different podium is of fundamental nature in this case. First, the NAK session voiced only the data relating to the fight against terrorism, which is not at all the only area of FSB activities. But by choosing NAK as a platform on which to deliver his report Bortnikov made a qualitatively new move. A report delivered at a NAK session is a report to the Kremlin, whereas a meeting with journalists is a report to the public, even if a scanty and fictitious one.
In 2009, Bortnikov showed clearly that his service no longer considers it necessary even to pretend being a structure accountable to anyone but the regime.
Le Monde diplomatique
January 2010
When the hot water ran out in Pikalevo
by Jean Sabate
The power station at Pikalevo, a small town outside St Petersburg, closed down on 15 May 2009 because of mounting debts, and 21,000 local inhabitants had no more hot water. After months of tension, it was the last straw. A few days later, a local union gave out leaflets calling on people to block the main Vologda to St Petersburg road on the edge of town.
The next day 300 workers from the Basel cement factory, owned by the Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, blocked the A-114 and sang the Internationale. They were soon joined by the wives and children of workers from the town�s two cement works and a chemical factory. All had closed down at the beginning of last year, putting 4,000 people out of work.
Within a few hours there was a 438km tailback. The regional governor tried to calm the protestors by telling them there were jobs in other towns in the region, but that didn’t help. The police made no effort to disperse the crowd � perhaps because they didn’t want any children to get hurt, perhaps because Vladimir Putin was expected to arrive, and they wanted to avoid a confrontation.
The crisis in Pikalevo is typical of the situation in "mono-industrial towns" (monogorod) � communities of 20-50,000 inhabitants where one company is the main, or even sole, employer. Pikalevo grew up around a cement and chemical works with its own power station. After privatisation it was divided into three. The financial crisis, the rise in rail transport and energy costs, and the inability of the directors to coordinate the work of the plants caused them to fail. Last year they closed their doors, having accumulated debts and unpaid salaries. People had been surviving by helping each other out, doing small jobs on the side, and using their allotments, which nearly everyone in small towns maintain, just in case. But as often happens in Russia, it was the withdrawal of an essential service � hot water � that sparked revolt.
The warning signs were there
The day after the protest the governor released a special fund to pay some salaries and the power station’s debts. Then Putin arrived, accompanied by national television, several government ministers, the regional governor, the director of the railways and all three managing directors of the companies that owned the factories.
A local crisis had been skilfully turned into a political lesson. It was a show that harked back to the legend of "the good tsar and the bad boyars" – where a benevolent leader is hampered by incompetent bureaucrats. Visiting the deserted cement works Putin said to the governor: "I am not convinced that the leaders of this region did all they could to help these people."
At a meeting of the key figures in the crisis he announced measures: renegotiation of the links between the three plants, the release of loans and a reduction in the cost of delivery by rail. Finally, he said: "You have held thousands of people hostage to your ambition, your lack of professionalism and your greed. Where is the corporate social responsibility we hear so much about? The warning signs were there. I’m giving you three months to make these plants productive again. If you can’t reach an agreement, we’ll go ahead without you." (The state Duma had proposed to nationalise the plants.)
But television viewers will remember another exchange, which also appeared on internet sites: as Deripaska tried to explain the difficulties of his factory, Putin picked up the proposed agreement and said: "Oleg Vladimirovich, have you signed the agreement? I don’t see your signature. Come here and sign it." The oligarch signed, under the wrathful eye of the prime minister.
There is the image the government wanted to project of its own effectiveness. "In a couple of hours," wrote the Moscow daily Kommersant, "Vladimir Putin resolved Pikalevo’s fate." Putin was the man who brings oligarchs to heel – these businessmen criticised both for the size of their fortunes and their role in the current financial crisis (and, as the Russian media like to point out, most of them are Jewish). Pictures of the demonstrations reveal slogans from the banal: "Deripaska, sell your yacht" to: "Let Deripaska eat Buchenwald’s gruel." Novaya Gazeta pointed out that behind the televised rebukes, the government has given billions of roubles in aid to oligarchs in financial difficulties, without getting much in return.
The state has an absolute hold over economic life. Government ministers, even the prime minister, concern themselves with details that in Europe would be the preserve of business. This has enormous consequences: it illustrates the state’s desire to control society, and is one of the factors behind the slow rate of modernisation, the lack of small businesses, and widespread corruption.
It also reveals the growth of social movements (which, in Pikalevo’s case, was exploited by the Kremlin). The Kremlin is sending out the message that businessmen and bureaucrats are incompetent, while the government is benevolent, but it is also warning politicians and the police about the danger of social unrest: there can be no question of allowing this to be repeated. In several regions the authorities have reacted quickly to similar threats, brandishing batons and promising to clamp down if things get out of hand. The authorities are counting on the approaching economic upturn to avoid new standoffs, but the spirit of Pikalevo has been unleashed, and there have already been several, smaller, repeat performances.
Russian Commentary Reviews Church Affairs During Patriarch Kirill’s First Year
Yezhednevnyy Zhurnal
January 7, 2010
Article by Svetlana Solodovnik: "Results of the Year. Post Accepted"
At the beginning of 2009 a new high priest, Patriarch Kirill, became head of the Russian Orthodox Church, so we can sum up not simply the results of the year but the results of the first year of his primacy (there is just over a month to go, but that makes no difference in principle). The new patriarch is a brilliant, ambitious, energetic man, a man "with ideas," so to speak, from whom people expected some kind of new trends in the church, fresh air, maybe even — awesome to speak of — the freeing of grassroots initiative. Alas, these dreams were naive and yet again we have to remember Lenin’s hallowed saying that "to live in society and be free of society is not possible" — not even for the body of Christ. The church authorities are repeating in the smallest details the path taken by the secular authorities in strengthening the "hierarchy." What grassroots initiative? Not only laypeople but also priests are losing their last opportunities of somehow influencing the situation in the church. For instance, in the previous version of the parish statutes the supreme administrative body of the parish was stated to be the Parish Assembly headed by the senior parish priest. The new version of the statutes adopted in October 2009 hands over the reins to the ruling archpriest. This means that henceforth even the most negligible issues relating to the life and activities of the parish cannot be decided independently by the parish priest — only with the approval of the archpriest. Laypeople’s rights are also curtailed: Previously the post of chairman of the Parish Council, which is responsible among other things for hiring staff and which has the right to sign financial documents, was an elected post — it could go to a layperson belonging to the Parish Assembly. Now the parish priest is automatically chairman of the Parish Council — of course laypeople should not poke their noses into the financial affairs of the parish, which exists, incidentally, wholly and entirely on laypeople’s money.
On the other hand, the Intersynodal Office (Mezhsobornoye Prisutstviye) has been created — a body that is supposed to improve communications in the Russian Orthodox Church by conveying the aspirations of the church masses to the leadership. But this is in the most general terms; the rules governing the Intersynodal Office are only just being drawn up and nobody really knows what it will actually do — apparently the patriarchate, like the secular authorities, wants to acquire some kind of buffer, similar to the Public Chamber. Direct communication between laypeople and the church bosses is now finally cut off (councils (sobory) have been practically abolished and laypeople are being removed from the administrative bodies), so it is impossible to do without layers of padding, in order to "improve communications." Our regime, of course, is not totalitarian, so valves of some kind must remain open.
And at the same time there must be an appearance of frenetic activity. The church is not working properly as an institution: Parish life is poorly developed (even in Moscow and St. Petersburg, the leaders in this sphere, living communities have been established at by no means every church), catechization is neglected, missionary efforts are practically zero, but we are constantly hearing about the creation of more and more phony new Orthodox "associations" and "corporations" that are, as a rule, are in someone’s pocket, always ready to feign righteous anger or equally righteous enthusiasm at a wave of the chief clergy’s hand. Despite loud statements to the effect that the chief criterion in evaluating the church’s activities should be the moral status of society (and moral growth can only be promoted by painstaking work on the spiritual enlightenment of citizens, not by constantly calculating by what percentage the number of Orthodox faithful has increased while the number of believers of other faiths has fallen), the patriarchate’s activities are mainly directed to the outside — not to its own flock but to "society at large," to which they are thereby trying to demonstrate the importance of church initiatives. Admittedly, at the eparchial assembly of the Moscow clergy that took place on 23 December, Patriarch Kirill announced impending changes: Henceforth each parish must have three obligatory staffers — a social worker responsible for charitable affairs, a teacher-catechist, and a youth leader. They already exist in many communities but their work is paid arbitrarily, often on a case by case basis. "It is important that the person responsible for these areas of activity is not an amateur activist working on a voluntary basis but a professional," the patriarch stressed, clearly hinting at the need for proper labor remuneration. However, he did not promise donations from the church budget for this, but advised that grants should be sought.
Apparently the parish of the Church of St. Nicholas on the Three Hills in the Presnya District (of Moscow), where high priest Vsevolod Chaplin, head of the synodal Department for Relations Between the Church and Society, was appointed chief parish priest in the last few days of December, is supposed to become a kind of ideal community. But as ill luck would have it, Father Vsevolod has not said a word about affairs within the parish, although he has described to Interfax in detail how he intends to develop external activities — to establish and strengthen links with the nearby government, enterprises, and vuzes (higher educational establishments) and the adjacent music school and hospital. It need hardly be said that he is pinning particular hopes on links with the government.
And the patriarch himself is to have a public reception office. This will also make it possible to "widen forms of interaction between the church and society," the primate stated at the eparchial assembly (before you know it, the government itself will be making its way to the office). And also, of course, to raise the church’s status even higher.
Meanwhile, considerable victories have already been secured on this front. The question of introducing a course in "The Fundamentals of Religious Cultures and Secular Ethics" into general educational schools has finally been decided and the formation of the institution of army chaplains has begun. Not everything has turned out the way the church leaders dreamed: Along with the fundamentals of Orthodoxy, the fundamentals of other "traditional" religions will also arrive in the schools, as well as those intolerable secular ethics, which in many regions (Krasnoyarsk and Stavropol Krays, Novosibirsk, Kaliningrad, and Sverdlovsk Oblasts, and others) are being chosen by the majority of parents. But take what you can get while you can get it, as the saying goes — if the representatives of the patriarchate had started objecting yet again, the presidential decision might have been entirely different.
However, on the question of the textbook on the fundamentals of Orthodoxy the patriarchate decided to take the path of tacit disobedience. It set up its own Editorial Council to write the textbook and quietly ignored all the methodological proposals of the Ministry of Education and Science. A session of the church’s Editorial Council held on 28 December under the chairmanship of Patriarch Kirill finally approved Archdeacon Andrey Kurayev’s manuscript for the textbook, while deeming it necessary to incorporate in the text the comments and proposals of members of the Editorial Council — how far these comments and proposals coincide with the requirements of the Ministry of Education and Science remains a mystery. Admittedly Patriarch Kirill emphasized that "people should be given the maximum information on the content of the educational course," but at the moment society does not have even minimal information on this subject — and the information that exists, namely a couple of chapters from Father Andrey’s textbook that were posted on the Internet, inspires gloomy reflections.
Other innovations of the past year also do not arouse enthusiasm: the temporary transfer of the Toropets Icon of the Virgin Mary to a church in the elite settlement of Knyazhye Ozero (near Moscow) and the appointment of Archimandrite Porfiriy (Shutov), abbot of the Solovetskiy (Solovki Islands) Monastery of the Holy Transfiguration, to the post of director of the Solovki Museum and Nature Reserve. Of course all the icons could be distributed around the churches, but it would be better, all the same, to do this on the basis of the law on restitution rather than a benevolent attitude toward a good person — there might not be enough icons for all the good people, and how then would the Sergey Shmakovs satisfy their boundless ambition? (Sergey Shmakov, president of the Sapsan construction company, initiated the plan to move the 14th-century Toropets Icon from a St. Petersburg museum to the church in the Knyazhye Ozero gated community, which his company is building.)
The appointment of Archimandrite Porfiriy as director of the state museum would not have left such an unpleasant taste in the mouth if one was not struck by the obviously self-interested impulses here too: The patriarchate simply could not tolerate the fact that it receives a smaller income from Solovki than the tourist industry does, and it had been pursuing lawsuits against the museum people for many years, first demanding that they get off the monastery’s land and then threatening to expel the civilian population from the islands entirely. Now the problem has been resolved: The museum-reserve’s tourist bureau and the monastery’s pilgrimage service will be united in a single structure, which is to say that in this specific location the famous church-state harmony can be considered achieved. The result? A trip to Solovki, which was already not cheap, will be even more expensive — previously secular tourists were fed by the state and pilgrims by the church, but now each of them will have to satisfy the appetites of both kinds of people — but who is worried by that?
The defrocked Bishop Diomid (Dzyuban) did not show himself at all in the past year. He was a tough dissident, he wrote defamatory statements about the church bosses, he all but marched on Moscow with his supporters, but then they banned him from conducting services — and he disappeared without trace. Which probably tells us more about the overinflated reputation of this figure, who was totally exploited by the church’s spin doctors for electoral purposes: in order to show his chief opponent, who was simultaneously the main contender for the patriarchal throne, in a favorable light.
But no one should think that Diomid is completely and utterly a myth. Sentiments like Diomid’s are still current in the church: This year there was a scandal in another nest of "conspiracy theory" — the Bogolyubovo Convent (in Vladimir Oblast), where the father confessor is the notorious Archimandrite Petr (Kucher) (there were allegations of abuse at the convent’s children’s refuge). Some of his spiritual children, when they could not stand his stifling patronage, started simply running away from the convent. Despite the fuss that the "Orthodox zealots" made about malicious slander against the church, the patriarchate did not align itself with their rabid stance but resolved this conflict in a more or less civilized manner. You cannot say in accordance with the law, but in a civilized manner: All those who were longing to break free were allowed to go, the leadership and staff of the convent refuge were replaced, and a special church-public commission was set up, which will monitor the activities of Orthodox refuges. The only "lacuna": To all appearances, the chief culprit — Archimandrite Petr — was in no way held accountable for the situation that has developed. He does not feature at all in news reports on this case, as if he is not the one who runs everything in the convent. Why is this? Is it because Father Petr is very elderly and they decided not to touch the old man, or is it because, in spite of his age, he is a harder nut to crack than the disgraced Diomid and cannot be dealt with just like that? There is no answer. "I have no information on this score" — all the patriarchate newsmakers to whom I put these questions repeated that phrase as if it was a tongue-twister and tried to wiggle out of it.
But ultimately church politics, like any other politics, is the art of the possible. Which means that these are the possibilities that we have at the present stage.
BBC Monitoring
Radio pundit says Russia will lose Caucasus because of corruption
Ekho Moskvy Radio
January 9, 2010
Russia will lose the Caucasus because of widespread corruption, prominent political commentator Yuliya Latynina said on Gazprom-owned, but editorially-independent, Ekho Moskvy radio. Also, Latynina called global warming a "global swindle" and criticized a Russian report on the consequences of global warming in Russia. She made the comments on her regular weekly slot, Access Code, on 9 January.
Corrupt leaders in Caucasus
According to Latynina, a "rat race is currently under way in Dagestan to do with the appointment of the president".
"Watching this race I have realized for the first time that Russia will lose the Caucasus," she said.
She explained that corruption was a breeding ground for rebels. "When a bureaucrat is corrupt, moreover when a president is corrupt, first of all rebels point their finger at him and say: Look, we are being governed by infidels. Secondly, money from a corrupt bureaucrat goes not just to the Kremlin but also, without fail, to the rebels because he pays them. And this enables people who join the rebels in the name of Allah to commit terrorist acts because one can die for Allah but one can’t buy explosives without money," she said.
"Finally," she continued, "this creates additional attractive investment opportunities for people who join the rebels not because of Allah but to satisfy their criminal instincts. It is nice to think that you are not just robbing people but that you are doing this for some noble and good cause."
"So, corruption is the main thing," Latynina said. "In order to eliminate corruption, a president should be appointed who does not take bribes. Is this possible? The answer is: no, it is not possible."
"They appointed (Yunus-bek) Yevkurov in Ingushetia (as president). He does not take bribes. And precisely because of that he cannot pay Moscow to have problems resolved. And to a considerable degree he is helpless," she explained.
"If we can’t have a president who does not take bribes, shall we appoint someone who is rich?" Latynina asked. "For instance, three natives of Dagestan are billionaires and two among them are people with an iron will. So, let’s appoint one of them," Latynina suggested.
"And you know what the most likely reply is as to why he won’t be appointed?" she asked. "They are afraid," she replied. "Just imagine a man who has a billion dollars and, moreover, an iron will, in charge of Dagestan? Will he take heed of us?"
"Look at what is happening in (Chechen President Ramzan) Kadyrov’s case. In actual fact, Kadyrov was not appointed: he made himself the head of Chechnya. And the answer is: indeed, he does not obey Moscow. In other words, formally he pretends that he obeys and he can say more words to glorify Putin than you will hear anywhere, even at State Duma sittings. But the fact is that it is Moscow that pays tribute money to Chechnya," Latynina said.
"There is a terrible dilemma. If one appoints a person who does not take bribes, he cannot resolve problems in Moscow. But if one appoints a tough man, the latter starts dictating his will to the weakest in the Caucasus, and the weakest in the Caucasus is Moscow. And this is very frightening," Latynina concluded.
Global warming is wrong target
According to Latynina, there is no global warming, but there is a "global swindle". Also, "there is no global warming but there is a global bureaucracy".
"Let me remind you that global warming is a scientific effect discovered not by one scientist but by a whole commission working under the UN, the IPCC, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change," Latynina said.
She said that with the support of the IPCC and "using Western grants", in 2008 the Russian Federal Service for Hydrometeorology and Monitoring of the Environment had written an Assessment Report on Climate Change and its Consequences in the Russian Federation. Like the IPCC, she said, the people who were writing the report "had to prove that in the event of global warming Russia will lose out", which goes against common sense, according to Latynina.
"To be honest with you," she said, "it is impossible to prove this. I don’t know about the Republic of Chad, but in Russia, in the event of global warming, a) the heating season… will become shorter and b) the vegetative period will become longer, i.e. crop yields will increase," Latynina said.
Usually, Latynina said, "the Kremlin does not like Western grants of any sort. As soon as a new NGO appears and starts investigating some murders in the Caucasus, its members are immediately branded as spies, saboteurs or wolves in sheep’s clothing".
"But nothing of the kind happened in this case," she added. "A whole group of authors, using Western grants, are trying to prove that as a result of (global) warming Russia will lose out".
According to Latynina, the ecological situation in Russia is "horrendous" and two Russian cities are on the list of the planet’s most polluted cities. This is a major problem that needs to be dealt with. "But rather than deal with all this, President Medvedev puts on a clean suit and goes to Copenhagen to fight global climate," Latynina said.

Window on Eurasia: ‘Epidemic’ of Nostalgia among Russians for Soviet Times Dangerous, Psychotherapist Warns

Paul Goble

            Vienna, January 11 – Nostalgia for the Soviet past, which is spreading like "an epidemic" through Russian society, reflects the dissatisfaction of most Russians with the current situation and could lead to a civil war if the Moscow powers that be do not show visible progress soon in areas of greatest concern to the population, according to a Russian psychologist.

            In comments to the "Novy region" news agency today, Marina Patova, a psychotherapist in Chelyabinsk, says that it is entirely "normal" when members of the older generation experience nostalgia for the past. And it is also understandable when younger groups do so out of an interest in "a retro style" (

            But it is "much more a matter of concern when an entire society falls into a state of nostalgia" because "this means that people are uncomfortable and unhappy with the times in which they are now living," a psychological state than when widespread often leads to convulsions if the problems that have given birth to the nostalgia are not rectified.

            According to Patova, there are several possible causes for "the epidemic" of nostalgia among Russians for the Soviet Union now: "The idea which unified the residents of the Soviet Union has died. Today, nothing unites the citizens of Russia. The general idea of profit now on offer cannot unite people in principle. It can only divide. [Indeed] it isn’t even an idea."

            The developed countries, she continues, "long ago passed through this stage, moving into a post-industrial period where humanitarian values are the main ones.  Russia seriously lags behind these states, approximately by a century.  Now, we are at the stage of the construction of capitalism, that is, approximately in the 19th century."

            "We did not pass this stage at that time," she says. "Now, we are catching up, and this process is extremely painful.  Society feels itself uncomfortable and is searching for a way to define itself.  In the past, it chose that which seemed useful. But all this was an illusion and a  lie." Consequently, "nostalgia," Patova argues, "is a symptom, and not a cause."

            She said that such a symptom can take "extremely severe forms, up to and including civil war. Not only does that outcome depend on whether the population is armed but it also depends on the policy of the government.  "The powers that be must offer clear and precise economic and social programs of development" for the here and now, not "after 10 years."

            "People must see and feel that the situation is changing for the better," Patova concludes, with "houses and roads being build and education and health care developing.  Someone said that you can fool all the people some of the time and some of the people all of the time but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time."

            This "epidemic" already has had the serious consequence of opening the way for almost unrestrained discussion of "restorationist" themes on both domestic and foreign themes, with some urging "neo-Stalinist approaches" and others the re-establishment of the Soviet Union  (

            But one author, Moscow foreign policy analyst Fedor Lukyanov, argues that this wave of nostalgia, one that first grew from below and then was promoted from above, is "practically exhausted" at least as guidance about what the powers that be should do to address popular concerns (

            On the one hand, he writes in an essay posted online today, "the constant appeal to the Soviet [past] cultivates a feeling of incompleteness," something that points to "a revanchist course for ," Lukyanov argues, "there is [in the Russia of today] no will, no resources, and no possibilities."

            And on the other, such a focus on the past highlights its biggest problems – such as Stalinism – and shows that "the [Soviet] model even if desirable cannot be restored."  Indeed, "the discussion about the Soviet vs. Anti-Soviet course has replaced a search for constructive paths of development not only for the Russian government but also for its opponents.

            Having lost faith in the revolutionary impulses of the 1990s, Russians may be considering some kind of a restoration, Lukyanov continues. But how that could be achieved is far from clear.  Other post-communist countries have turned to nationalism, although that has been restrained by their aspirations to be part of Europe.

            "In the Russian case," the Moscow analyst concludes, "there is no external limiting factor, but there is an internal one.  Ethnic nationalism [in the Russian Federation] is self-destruction, as the Soviet experience already showed, and for Great Power nationalism there is no real possibility."

            That makes the question of "a productive national idea" once again "important," Lukyanov writes, but whether it will be an old bottle filled with new wine or a new bottle filled with old remains an open question, one that will only be complicated if the "epidemic" of nostalgia Patova points to spreads.

Soviet-era experience no good in fighting alcoholism in Russia – rights activist
Moscow, 11 January: Rights activists have reacted cautiously to an initiative by Gennadiy Onishchenko, the head of Rospotrebnadzor (the Federal Service for Consumer Rights Protection) to restore forced treatment for alcoholism that existed in the Soviet Union, a system of medical and labour custodial institutions for alcoholics.
"Restoring the Soviet experience is by no means acceptable," Lev Ponomarev, a veteran of the Russian human rights community and the leader of the movement For Human Rights, told Interfax on Monday (11 January).
He shares Onishchenko’s concern about the scale of alcoholism in Russia.
"However, there was no good Soviet experience. And it was not mere chance that those medical and labour institutions were closed down. There were massive violations of citizens rights, people were robbed and beaten in them. There were many violations by police officers," Ponomarev said.
"Russia is plunging into drinking. This is true. Something must be done and a solution to the present situation has to be looked for together with the public, doctors and scientists. A broad public discussion of the matter is needed. True, people must be treated, but we must not use the Soviet experience," Ponomarev said.
Speaking on Ekho Moskvy radio (on 10 January), Onishchenko said that Russia had all possibilities for restoring medical and labour custodial institutions for alcoholics. (Passage omitted)
Doctors are very much concerned about the problem of alcoholism in Russia, Onishchenko said.
There are 2,2m alcoholics and more than 500,000 "heavy drinkers" in Russia who cannot do without alcohol but who have not yet been diagnosed with alcoholism, he said.
Onishchenko said that up to 80,000 people die of alcoholism in Russia every year.
European court to hear Yukos� $98bn case against Russia
January 11, 2010
Strasbourg: European human rights judges will hold a hearing this week in the $98bn(�68bn) complaint against Russia brought by former oil giant Yukos, the court said yesterday.
The Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), which in February had rejected Moscow’s request to dismiss the case, will hold a hearing on Thursday and is expected to render its decision in a few months.
Back in August the court announced that a Russian judge on the panel, Valery Mussin, had resigned after having been named a director at Russian gas giant Gazprom in order to avoid a conflict of interest in the Yukos matter.
Initially a hearing in the case set for November was delayed to give the new judge, Andrei Bushev, named by Russian President Dimitry Medvedev, time to review the case. Yukos contends that Russian tax authorities engineered the company’s bankruptcy by handing out disproportionately high fines for financial irregularities.
It said in its court filing there had been a "lack of proper legal basis" for doing so as well as a "selective and arbitrary prosecution" of its business.
Russian judges found the company guilty of tax fraud on several occasions between 2000 and 2003, with Yukos handing over some �13bn in unpaid taxes and six billion euros in penalty charges.
A former state operator, Yukos was privatised in the mid 1990s. It declared bankruptcy in 2006 before being wound up in 2007.
Its founding chief executive, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, was convicted and sentenced to eight years in prison in 2005 for major fraud and tax evasion.
He and his former business partner Platon Lebedev are now on trial again on fresh charges of embezzling millions of tonnes of oil and money laundering that could see them jailed for another two decades.
January 11, 2010
Inside the Khodorkovsky trial
The founder of Yukos oil and his partner sit in a glass cage as their embezzlement trial slowly proceeds.
By Miriam Elder
MOSCOW, Russia – Russians returned en masse from their extended New Year’s holiday on Monday, flying home from holidays abroad and returning to work after long stays at their country houses.
The mood was, understandably, sour – except at the small Khamovnichesky Courthouse, on a quiet street perched above the banks of the Moskva River.
Outside room seven on the courthouse’s third floor, a small crowd of about 30 gathered, greeting each other with handshakes and New Year’s well wishes.
At 10 to noon, a handful of armed guards ushered the crowd onto the stairwell, clearing space for the country’s most famous prisoners.
As Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the founder of Yukos oil company, and his partner Platon Lebedev descended the stairs, the crowd erupted into shouts of "Happy New Year!" Khodorkovsky and Lebedev wore massive smiles, studying and searching the crowd for familiar faces. They were each handcuffed to a guard. One woman yelled, "Hold on, guys!"
Khodorkovsky and Lebedev are 10 months into a trial for charges of money laundering and embezzlement. They are already serving eight-year sentences for fraud and tax evasion, of which they were convicted in 2005. The new charges carry sentences of up to 22 years in prison.
The trial had been adjourned since Dec. 29, when the court went on break for the New Year holiday, which lasts about two weeks in Russia. Khodorkovsky and Lebedev were forbidden from seeing their lawyers during that time. They spent the holiday in Matrosskaya Tishina, Moscow’s most infamous pre-detention center. That made the wide smiles and enthusiastic handwaves easier to understand.
Khodorkosvky and Lebedev spend the trial in a glass cage framed by brown metal, its door held shut with a pair of black handcuffs. Members of their seven-person legal team take turns going up to the five-inch spaces open on either side of the cage, through which they can speak to their clients.
On either side of the cage sit two guards outfitted in blue camoflauge, with faux fur hats dyed blue to match. On Monday, their faces were red and puffy, as though still recovering from hangovers. These guards are less ominous-looking than the ones that sit outside the courtroom, dressed in black berets, black outfits and thick black boots, constantly fingering their machine guns.
The crowd is composed of a handful of dedicated Russian reporters, mainly for liberal outlets like the Novaya Gazeta newspaper and Echo Moskvy radio station. There are always at least five old women, in full make-up – they call themselves Khodorkovsky’s fan club, and hold him up as the country’s only hope for salvation. Before the trial re-started on Monday, they made comments like grandmothers: "He’s lost weight," said one. "Look, there’s a new guard. He looks like all the rest," said another.
The courtroom is wood panelled, and behind the judge’s table a large Russian flag is pinned to the wall so it looks forever fluttering, giving the scene the atmosphere of a high school play. There is no jury.
The prosecution began presenting witnesses in September, following nearly half a year of daily hearings during which the charges were read out. They have so far called several dozen witnesses in a list said to number 250. Few in Russia believe the proceedings to be meaningful, and the defense team has called the charges politically motivated. President Dmitry Medvedev has vowed to build an independent court system, but there is no evidence of that happening so far.
On Monday, the prosecution called Mikhail Rudoy, a former Yukos employee in charge of exports who now works at Rosneft, the state-run oil company that bought Yukos’ main oil fields in a series of bankruptcy auctions. Rosneft has now replaced Yukos as the country’s largest oil company, and Khodorkovsky has accused the chairman of its board, Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin, of orchestrating the campaign against him.
Valery Lakhtin, the lead prosecutor in the four-person prosecution team, led the questioning. He asked Rudoy if he had ever heard of Yukos and if so what his relationship to it. As Rudoy began to answer, Lakhtin interrupted and sharply reminded his witness that he was to use Yukos’ full name – OAO NK Yukos (a sort of Russian abbreviation for Yukos Oil Company Inc.) – when referring to it.
As Lakhtin continued his answers, Judge Viktor Danilkin jumped in to tell him to slow down because the court secretary couldn’t keep up with him. Even though she sits in front of a computer monitor, the secretary was taking notes by hand in slow cursive script.
As the line of questioning continued, the giggles from the glass cage grew more obvious. Even the judge had to jump in and intervene when Lakhtin asked his witness, "Could you disagree with the amount of oil that was to be delivered?" The judge asked Lakhtin if he understood what a contract was.
For most of the proceedings, Khodorkovsky, dressed in a black shirt and suit jacket and blue jeans, sat quietly, reading defense documents. Lebedev, in a gray tracksuit, was more animated, trying to catch the attention of members of the crowd and laughing or showing shock at the prosecutors’ statements.
Before the mid-day break on Monday, Lakhtin turned to the witness and asked, "Who was the final seller of the oil?" It seemed no one understood the question – not even the judge. "What are we to do with these questions?" he asked, to no one in particular.
As the trial went to break and a reporter left the courthouse, one of the guards on the ground floor asked, "So, has the trial been cancelled?" It’s a joke he must make hundreds of times a month, ensuring an absurd end to an absurd day.
Over 50 Pct Of Russians Vote For Energy Saving Lamps
MOSCOW, January 11 (Itar-Tass) — Over 50 percent of Russians hail the end of the filament lamp era and the advent of energy saving lamps, as is seen in the results of a poll by Russia’s VCIOM pollster, the oldest public opinion and market research leader.
Last November Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev signed a law on energy saving and efficiency. He had authored some of the law’s ideas himself. For instance, he suggested banning incadescent electric bulbs of over 100 watts. This rule will come into force on January 1, 2011. It is recommended to stop the production of 75-watt filament lamps from 2013, and that of 25-watt lamps, from 2014.
According to the poll, 55 percent of Russians support this initiative, and only a quarter of respondents takes it negatively.
Those supporting this change named the following arguments: energy saving (46 percent), money saving (28 percent) as well as "outdatedness" of old filament lamps, longer life cycle of energy saving lamps (six percent each), brightness (three percent) and eco-friendliness (two percent).
Their opponents, who are not supportive of the forthcoming changes, complained about the high price of energy saving lamps (35 percent). A majority of respondents in this group think that these new lamps are health hazards (20 percent). Other reasons were: poor quality, dim light (14 percent each), violation of the right to choose (ten percent), lack of real difference between the two categories of lamps (nine percent), and disposal problems (five percent).
Most Russians realize the importance of energy effectiveness (80 percent): 38 percent of them said it is a vital problem that is to be solved promptly, and the other 42 percent see the importance, but amid the current crisis, they believe, the country should be considering other important issues. Only one in ten (eleven percent) thinks that this topic does not have anything to do with the real tasks.
VCIOM surveyed 1,600 Russians in 140 cities and towns of 42 regions and republics across Russia on December 26-27, 2009. The error margin does not exceed 3.4 percent.
Russia unveils own ‘cash for clunkers’ scheme
January 11, 2010
MOSCOW � Russia on Monday unveiled a scheme similar to those employed in the West to encourage consumers to buy new cars by handing out cash in return for their own ageing vehicles.
The details of the Russian version of the scheme — dubbed "cash for clunkers" in the United States — was announced at a meeting between Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and Industry Minister Viktor Khristenko.
Khristenko said 10 billion rubles (340 million dollars) would be allocated to buy up a maximum of 200,000 old cars handed in by consumers.
That means a trade-in would be worth 50,000 rubles (1,700 dollars), he said, which can be set against Russian car brands or foreign models made in the country.
"Any Russian whose car was made in 1999 or earlier and had owned it for no less than one year can take part in the scheme," he said in the meeting that was broadcast on state television.
Khristenko said the scheme would take effect from March 15 but Putin suggested it should begin on March 8 and the minister duly agreed. March 8 is International Women’s Day and a public holiday in Russia.
The economic slowdown triggered an unprecedented crisis in the Russian auto industry, which became a magnet for foreign investment in recent years but then saw sales plunge as consumers tightened their belts.
Worst hit has been Russia’s biggest carmaker Avtovaz, maker of the Lada car and employer of 100,000 people, which officials admit has been pushed to the brink of bankruptcy by the crisis.
The government has also sought to wean Russians who can afford to buy new cars off the habit — especially popular in the far Eastern provinces — of buying second-hand vehicles imported from Japan and South Korea.
January 12, 2010
Unconventional gas poses market dilemma
Russia has the world’s largest gas reserves – but may still need up to $200 billion in investment over the next decade.
Analysts say rising unconventional gas development and slowing demand may threaten Russia’s long term market position. Unconventional today – it could become conventional tomorrow. Currently the gas which could be extracted from sand, coal, turf and shale, is called unconventional. However, the US already gets half its production from new sources. Within the EU, the UK, Poland and Hungary are still at pilot project stage.
Russia is the leader in traditional gas extraction but Dmitry Lutyagin, Senior Analyst at Veles Capital warns demand could fall.
"Europe is looking at the U.S. which has started unconventional gas extraction. Earlier technologies to extract that gas were very expensive, but new developments in technology make it cheaper. By 2025 Europe wants to extract around 100 billion cubic meters of gas from shale deposits."
Experts say the EU gas market could be "revolutionised" if it makes the transition from traditional gas to unconventional fuel. And Gazprom should get ready for the switch, according to Aleksandr Nazarov, Senior Analyst at IFC Metropol.
"Russia could hedge those risks through long term contracts with China – Asian countries will be the main driver of consumption in the future."
Experts say, the resource potential of unconventional natural gas is enormous, but say it’s still only potential. Russia�s Yamal peninsula has trillions of cubic meters of ready-to-go traditional gas.
But experts say Russia should hurry up while oil prices are more or less stable. Exploration in the permafrost becomes commercially unviable if oil prices drop below $50/bbl.
Wall Street Journal
January 12, 2010
Russian Companies Eye Equity Offerings
MOSCOW — Debt-ridden Russian companies may raise up to $20 billion in 2010 after a drought of nearly two years in the country’s international equity sales, investment banks said. But any success in initial public offerings will depend on stable or rising commodity prices as well as robust global risk appetite, they warn.
Led by aluminum giant United Co. Rusal, which is seeking to raise up to $2.59 billion this month in Hong Kong and Paris, Russian companies that binged on debt before commodity prices dropped in mid-2008 are selling shares to reduce their debt ratios.
"Companies have learned the hard way about the risk of too much leverage through the financial crisis," Hasnen Varawalla, head of corporate finance at Renaissance Capital in Moscow, said in an interview. "They want to have their balance sheets a lot more conservatively balanced going forward."
Mr. Varawalla said he "would not be surprised" if Russian companies sold $20 billion of new stock in 2010, assuming the market’s risk appetite remains high.
UralSib Capital said a revival of the old Russian IPO pipeline that was blocked in 2008 could bring $20 billion in new Russian equity to market, compared with the $32.9 billion in IPOs and secondary stock sales in 2007.
Determined Russian investors were richly rewarded when the RTS Index more than doubled last year, but 2010’s IPO tally may depend more on what happens to shares of Rusal and other early offerings.
"The performance of the first few Russian IPOs will be very important in setting the tone," Mr. Varawalla said. "Often in previous IPOs, the issuers have sought to squeeze the last penny out of the investors; now I think investors will look for a more balanced approach when it comes to pricing."
Besides Rusal, press reports have mentioned media holding ProfMedia going public by raising $500 million and coal giant SUEK raising $1 billion to $1.5 billion. A spokeswoman for ProfMedia declined to confirm reports the company plans to list shares. SUEK also declined to comment. No Russia-based companies held international IPOs last year, though rail operator Globaltrans, Bank St. Petersburg and vodka-producer Synergy had secondary offerings.
Another source of Russia-based equity may be the government’s return to privatization. Facing a three-year budget deficit of $224 billion, officials said late last year that they will embark on a new privatization program that will eventually cut state ownership of the Russian economy to 40% from the current 50%.
Financial Times
January 11, 2010
London still Russian tycoons’ preference
By Miles Johnson and Courtney Weaver
Fund managers once queued up to invest in the procession of Russian companies arriving in City. This year, as several oligarchs pursue London stock market listings, they are the ones likely to be wooing – rather than politely shooing – the investors.
"Two years ago it was quite difficult to get oligarch owners of businesses to even meet investors," says Chris Weafer, chief strategist at Uralsib. "More often than not the attitude was ‘why should I get you to invest in my company?’ Now they understand that things have changed. They are no longer calling the shots."
More than $40bn (�15bn) was raised in London listings by Russian companies from 2005 to 2008, according to Dealogic, while trade in London’s fashion boutiques and art galleries boomed as increasing numbers of Russian businessmen and their families set up bases in the capital.
But as share and commodities prices collapsed, so did the hopes of Russian companies planning to follow their compatriots onto the London Stock Exchange and Aim.
Many of these businesses are owned by tycoons who saw large amounts of their fortunes melt away during the financial crisis and are now eager to take advantage of the stock market rally to raise fresh capital. Analysts at Uralsib estimate Russian companies need to raise about $55bn over the next 18-24 months, and could raise an additional $24bn-$35bn for expansion purposes.
A pre-initial public offering conference hosted by Russian bank Renaissance Capital in London last month had almost 20 companies from Russia and Central Asia in attendance, with the majority in mining and chemicals.
Suek, the world’s fifth-biggest coal producer owned by the billionaires Sergey Popov and Andrey Melnichenko, and Vladimir Potanin’s Profmedia are in advanced preparation to list in London this year.
Bankers also expect Metalloinvest, a miner co-owned by Alisher Usmanov, who owns 26 per cent of Arsenal football club, to try again to list in London in the next 18 months.
Other Russian companies that could turn to the LSE include Alrosa, the diamond monopoly, and Gazprombank, the state-owned bank. Both companies had discussed listings worth about $2bn with bankers before the financial crisis.
London recently lost out to Hong Kong for the IPO of Oleg Deripaska’s aluminium company Rusal, possibly because of the oligarch’s continuing London legal battle with Michael Cherny, a former partner, and more stringent governance standards.
But Mr Deripaska’s experience in Hong Kong has been far from smooth. The IPO was delayed due to wrangling with regulators and was only allowed to proceed after the prospectus was plastered with red letter warnings. In addition, the offer was limited to professional investors.
Bankers think those difficulties will serve to reinforce London’s status as the favoured stock exchange for Russian tycoons.
"Deripaska’s Hong Kong listing has been a bit of a disaster," says one banker who has worked on several London listings of Russian companies. "Other Russian companies will have been watching closely. London still has a sheen over other financial centres for most of these people. You only have to look around the streets of Belgravia to see that."
But the traumatic experiences of investors who bought into Russian IPOs, only for the share prices to collapse, mean companies will have to work harder to win their trust.
"People got burned with some IPOs from Russia," said Odeniyaz Dzhaparov, fund manager at DWS Investment. "Many IPOs were priced at undeservedly high valuations and people learned their lesson."
Sibir Energy, for instance, was delisted from Aim in August after concerns about the main owner’s debts caused the shares to fall by more than 50 per cent in a single day and be suspended for six months.
Despite such events, fund managers say London-based investors will still buy into Russian offerings, but only at the right price. Rail freight operator GlobalTrans raised $175m in a secondary offering in December, while Exillon Energy, the Siberia-focused company, successfully completed a $100m listing the same month.
As Steven Dashevsky, an independent investor in Moscow, puts it: "Investors, for better or worse, are creatures with relatively short-term memories."
Russia-EU new pact talks unconditioned by energy charter – Lavrov
MOSCOW, January 12 (RIA Novosti)-Different positions held by Russia and the European Union on the Energy Charter do not affect the preparation of a new pact between Moscow and Brussels, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Tuesday.
The current Russia-EU agreement expired in late 2007, but was automatically extended. Talks on a new deal have been repeatedly delayed, initially by Poland and Lithuania and then over Russia’s conflict with Georgia over South Ossetia in August 2008.
"Russia’s waiver of the Energy Charter, actually our non-participation in the agreement to the Energy Charter, does not impede negotiations on a new basic agreement. Likewise, the situation in Abkhazia and South Ossetia does not impede this process," Lavrov said.
Russia recognized the former Georgian republics of South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states on August 26, 2008, two weeks after the end of a five-day military conflict that began when Georgian forces launched an attack on South Ossetia.
Lavrov said that the EU initially reacted emotionally to a brief war between Russia and Georgia over South Ossetia in August 2008 as it halted talks on a new basic agreement with Russia but later decided to resume the negotiation process.
"As for the Energy Charter, and energy cooperation in general, Russia, while not being a participant in the Energy Charter, is convinced in the need to draft a new international and legal base of energy cooperation," Lavrov said.
Russia has so far refused to ratify the existing European Energy Charter, which governs energy relations between 53 countries and organizations. In April 2008, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev proposed a new energy pact, saying the current charter fails to balance the interests of producers, transit countries and consumers.
RBC Daily
January 12, 2010
Gazprom emulates foreign corporations and hires ex-politicians with clout to promote its objectives
Author: Yevgenia Korytina
     Provided Croatia joined South Stream, construction of the
pipeline across its territory would be managed by the going
President Stjepan Mesic, 76. Mesic visited Russia in mid-December
and, according to Jutarnji List, the Russian authorities made him
an offer he could not turn down. Croatian officials deny the
implications and the report in the newspaper.
     If, however, the report is correct, then Russia is being
quite logical. Gazprom is trying to enlist the services of
prominent European politicians in its international projects. The
company would dearly like to see ex-premier of Italy Romano Prodi
as the head of South Stream. European media outlets meanwhile call
Hungarian ex-premier Ferenc Gyurcsany another likely candidate for
the job.
     "So what? Businesses worldwide hire ex-politicians and
Russian companies begin to adopt this practice too," Dmitry
Abzalov of the Political Situation Center commented. "Former
chancellor of Germany Gerhard Schroeder is already in charge of
Nord Stream."
     According to Abzalov, it is to Schroeder and his political
clout that Gazprom owes success in its talks with European
countries over Nord Stream. "Germany made Denmark see the light
and Denmark did so with Sweden. In the long run, Finland remained
the only country Russia had to persuade," he said.
     Nord Stream and South Stream are political projects rather
than economic. The demand for Russian gas is down these days and
unlikely to revive to the previous level for another five to seven
years. Said Mikhail Korchemkin of East European Gas Analysis,
"These gas pipelines are not about revenues at all. They are about
detouring transit countries which means that their objectives are
political," he said. Korchemkin added that Gazprom was behaving
like a ministry of foreign affairs rather than a business.
2009 10 most significant military events: Army’s new appearance, START I expired, CSTO Collective Rapid Reaction Forces
Nezavisimoye Voyennoye Obozreniye
December 25, 2009
"Ten Top Military Events of 2009: New Image of Russian Army Meet 21st Century Requirements," by Viktor Myasnikov. The writer summarizes key military events in the world, focusing on Russia’s military reform and START status.
This past year has been notable for its high-speed reformation of Russia’s Armed Forces, their radical break, reductions, and their loss of officers. The new American President Barack Obama has abandoned the creation of a third-position USA ABM system in Europe and has expressed a firm commitment to reach a new START treaty with the Russian Federation. That has led to a softening in Russia-NATO relations and was one of the main reasons for giving the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize to the supreme commander-in-chief of a warring army that is in fact at war in foreign territories.
The world economic crisis has complicated the social situation and inter-state relations. Wars continued in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, and Pakistan. The defused hot spot of Sri Lanka has been replaced by a new one in Yemen. The terrorist war in the North Caucasus was activated following the abolition of the counter-terrorism operation mode within Chechnya.
Albania and Croatia were accepted into NATO, where the new general secretary Anders Fog Rasmussen has assumed his duties; this made the alliance even clumsier. Through Russia’s efforts the Collective Operational Response Forces (KSOR) were created within the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), which for the time being appears to be unable to function.
"NVO" has compiled a rating of the most important military events of 2009, which brought about serious geopolitical changes and had an obvious impact on both global and regional security and which had great importance for the armed forces of the world’s most important states.
1. The transfer to a new image of the Russian Federation Armed Forces has largely been completed.
Reform began in 2008 following the August war in the Caucasus that demonstrated the Russian Federation’s Armed Forces’ lag in modern-day requirements. According to data of the General Staff of the Russian Federation Armed Forces (See Novosti nedeli on page 2), operational-strategic and operational-commands have been created. Some 85 brigades, which are manned at 100% and have been added to the category of permanent readiness units, have been formed at the tactical level. The total numerical size of the Russian Federation Armed Forces has been reduced to one million men.
A new combat readiness system has been created for the Armed Forces, based upon a reduction in the time within which permanent readiness formations and units must be able to perform their assigned missions. A total of one hour is now allotted for this, rather than a 24-hour period as it was previously. The training of professional sergeants got underway.
However, the Russian Federation Ministry of Defense is not totally satisfied with the results of the reform. Only 6% of weapons and military equipment can be considered to be modern models. The turnover of contract soldiers is high, and the level of their training is extremely poor. Draftees now serve for one year and after six months of service they display only a 10% level of combat readiness, and after 12 months it is only 30%.
The reform, which has been conducted at an accelerated pace, is actively criticized for being ill-advised and for its contempt toward military service members.
2. The term of the START treaty has been met and is no longer in effect. A new treaty has not been reached.
On 5 December 2009 the Russian-American Treaty on Limiting and Reducing Strategic Offensive Weapons – START – expired, but a new similar document has yet to be signed by the heads of the Russian Federation and the USA. Barack Obama and Dmitriy Medvedyev have confirmed their dedication to the agreements reached in the past and to the spirit of the Treaty, which just as before determines relations between the countries.
Russia and the USA have fully met their obligations under the START Treaty. When the treaty was signed, the USA had 2,246 delivery systems and 10,563 warheads and the USSR possessed 2,288 delivery systems and 8,757 warheads. As of mid 2009, the USA had 1,195 delivery systems and 5,573 warheads, and the Russian Federation had 811 delivery systems and 3,906 warheads. This means that the USA’s strategic nuclear forces surpassed those of the Russians by almost 400 delivery systems and more than 1,500 warheads.
Altogether since the conclusion of the cold war, Russia has reduced the number of warheads subject to accounting under the terms of the treaty by a factor greater than two, having destroyed in so doing more than 3,000 intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and submarine-based ballistic missiles (SLBMs), on the order of 1,500 ICBM launchers and SLBMs, as well as more than 45 strategic nuclear submarines and more than 65 heavy bombers.
The START-2 Treaty was fully coordinated and was to have been signed within six months. They succeeded in eliminating the primary hindering factor: Barack Obama abandoned the deployment of elements of a strategic ABM system in Poland and the Czech Republic.
3. The KSOR was established within the CSTO.
CSTO participants, which include Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, reached agreement in February and on 14 June in Moscow signed an Agreement on the creation of the Collective Operational Response Forces (KSOR). Only Uzbekistan, which sharply disassociated itself from participating in the KSOR, and Belarus did not affix their signatures. Under pressure from Moscow, Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko signed the document on 20 October.
Primarily, KSOR was created to defend the Central Asian republics from the Afghan Taliban. The agreement requires each participant to allocate a troop contingent, which is symbolic for some. But actually the KSOR is comprised of Russian-Kazakhstan forces, since the other CSTO members are not only in no rush to participate in a formation of shared forces under a unified command, but are often in conflict with each other. This is exactly how one might characterize relations between Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan. All of this makes the CSTO’s KSOR essentially unworkable.
4. The counter-terrorist operation (KTO) mode within the territory of Chechnya was repealed.
On 16 April the KTO mode was repealed within the territory of the Republic of Chechnya, which was seen in a positive light throughout the world. Formally, this is seen as a cessation of combat actions. Ramzan Kadyrov, the president of the Republic of Chechnya, long ago achieved a repeal of the KTO. It is believed that this will make it possible to attract foreign investments into the republic, will remove the many guard posts along roads, and will simply make life easier for the people. When necessary, the KTO mode is from to time reinstated within some territories. Following the repeal of the KTO, the insurgents were somewhat more active, but in neighboring Dagestan and Ingushetia their activity increased considerably, even though the KTO mode has never been introduced throughout the republic’s territory. One of the consequences of the repeal was the end of "combat" bonuses for military service members and militiamen.
Photograph: Within a year the civilian minister of defense has given the Russian Federation Armed Forces a new image. Reuters.
5. One of the longest civil wars in Asia has ended in Sri Lanka.
On 18 May the Sri Lanka army completed the destruction of the armed formations of the separatist organization, "Tigers of the Liberation of the Tamil Ilam" (TOTI). In its overall complexity, the combat actions lasted for a quarter of a century. The "Tigers" had controlled 30% of the state’s territory. The operation against them, the so-called fourth war for Ilam, began in January 2008. They had planned to end it in December of the same year, but the stubborn resistance of the separatists, who were given cover by the peaceful population , forced them to sharply adjust this period of time. In its final stage the combat operation was named the "largest operations in the world to rescue hostages." At least 180,000 refugees fled through the "Tigers’" broken line of defense. A "Ceylonese Kosovo" did not take place.
6. There was a civil war in Yemen with Saudi Arabia’s participation.
Combat actions of government troops against separatists in the northern and southern regions of Yemen began in the summer of 2009. Following the invasion of Shiite insurgents into the territory of neighboring Saudi Arabia, the kingdom began retaliatory military actions within the adjacent territory. In the final month alone nearly 100 Saudi military service members disappeared without a trace in bitter battles. It is believed that Iran is supporting the Shiite insurgents.
Yemen President Ali Abdalla acknowledged in December that the republic is in a state of war against the Al Qaeda terrorist organization and separatists.
7. The "Molten Lead" operation occurred in the Gaza Strip.
On 3 January Defense Military of Israel (TsAKhAL) units commenced an operation against the Hamas terrorist organization in the Gaza Strip. This was preceded by strikes against the fighters’ headquarters, depots, and bases. Units of the Army of the Defense of Israel divided the strip into three parts, after entering into battles in the outlying areas and making brief raids into the depth of Gaza. The troops were given limited missions: destroy ammunition depots and supplies of "Hassam" missiles, deprive Hamas of the opportunity to deliver missile strikes, and interdict weapons contraband on the Egypt-Palestinian border.
TsAKhAL had learned its lessons from the second Lebanon war and totally changed its tactics. The troops made extensive use of aviation, including unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), artillery, high-precision weapons, and anti-bunker bombs. They never engaged the enemy within sniper fire range and did not go into territories that had been mined or where the enemy had set up ambushes from tunnels. During the 23 days of battles the Israelites lost 10 men killed and the Palestinians lost about 1,0000, at least three quarters of whom were insurgents.
8. In the wake of record losses in Afghanistan, the USA and its allies switch to a new strategy.
During 2009 USA troops and their allies conducted several major combat operations against the Taliban, which produced no significant successes. What is more, they led to significant losses. The activation of the Taliban took place throughout the country’s entire territory, even in the northern regions, where there previously had been no armed opposition whatsoever. In connection with the low effectiveness of combat actions, President Barack Obama declared a switch to a new strategy. American troops will be deployed in the more heavily populated regions of the country, after taking up a "position of strategic defense." It is thought that in this way they will protect the local population and challenge the Taliban to open battle, thereby destroying them. After this, it is planned to create an alliance with the local leaders. But the increase in the number of troops from the USA, NATO, and their allies will be the determining factor in future victories.
9. Russia conducted the largest operational-strategic exercises, "Osen-2009."
The exercises were conducted in several stages within the territory of several military districts and consisted of a subsequent cycle of exercises, "Kavkaz-2009," "Ladoga-2009," and "Zapad-2009"; they concluded in Kazakhstan with the participation of military service members from several CSTO countries. All branches and arms of the Russian Federation Armed Forces participated in the exercises, which included a Russia-Belarus group. For the first time in the post-Soviet space there was a sea-based assault operation within the territory of the Kaliningrad special region with the participation of ships and naval infantry from the Black Sea, Baltic, and Northern fleets. The exercises demonstrated that troops can function as a permanent component in any theater of military operations immediately upon receiving a combat mission. This signifies that conclusions were reached from the results of the August war in the Caucasus. The exercises greatly frightened the Baltic countries and Poland.
10. The revolt of the "Bangladesh Riflemen"
On 25 February in the Bangladesh capital of Dhaka, soldiers from the corps of militarized border guards, the "Bangladesh riflemen," revolted. The reason for this was the extremely poor pay in inflationary conditions and the contempt of the officers who were appointed from the army for two to four years. The soldiers slaughtered the officers and the members of their families at the corps staff headquarters. On the next day, several garrisons of border troops joined the revolt, and emotions spread to the impoverished districts of Dhaka, where they began putting up barricades in various places. The country was on the verge of a civil war. Only the decisive actions of the army, which sent in tanks to suppress the revolt, forced the rebelling riflemen to capitulate. The role of the military has been strengthened in Bangladesh.
Nezavisimaya Gazeta,
January 12, 2010
The Geneva meetings came up against telemetry
Moscow and Washington diverged in the views of the linkage of SNF and BMD.
By Artur Blinov
The Russian Foreign Ministry announced yesterday that Moscow and Washington are continuing their negotiations on the reduction of nuclear offensive weapons, although the next meeting date for the two delegations has not yet been specified. According to experts, the two sides continue to disagree regarding whether or not the new treaty should reflect the connection between the offensive and defensive strategic weapons — that is, SNF (Strategic Nuclear Forces) and BMD (Ballistic Missile Defense).
The reason for a new wave of controversy about the prospects of quickly concluding a Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty was Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s statement on New Year’s Eve. While speaking with journalists in Vladivostok, he noted that the Russian-American START negotiations are "developing positively," and expressed the desire to see the development of rules that would be favorable to both parties. "I believe that certain rules regarding the reduction of arms, which are mutually understood, easily verifiable, and transparent are necessary. Having these rules is better than not," he said.
This demand mainly pertains to the balance between strategic offensive and defensive weapons. According to Putin, Russia, while not developing the BMD system, plans to focus on offensive systems.
"In order to maintain balance, and while not developing our BMD, as it is being done by the U.S., we need to develop our offensive systems," said the prime minister.
According to the head of government, Russia is prepared to share information regarding its offensive arms with the U.S., but only in return for information regarding America’s BMD development.
"If we agree to exchange information, then we should receive information regarding BMD, at which point we will be ready to share information regarding our offensive arms," said Putin, stressing that both of these systems ensure a balance of power.
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has also made certain clarifications on this issue. According to him, Russia could abandon the encryption of telemetry during test launches of its strategic missiles, as it has done under START, but only under the condition that the U.S. opens the telemetry of its missile defense to Russia. The U.S. State Department has been categorically opposed to the linking the BMD issue with START, insisting that these are two different issues.
In a comment to The New York Times on the position of the Russian leadership, including Putin’s statements in Vladivostok, Ariel Cohen, an expert at the American Heritage Foundation, said that with the expiration of the START-1, Russia and the U.S. found themselves in "untested waters"
"Putin upped the ante, linking U.S. missile defenses with the treaty signature," Cohen said, adding that it is unacceptable for the U.S.
Retired Gen. Maj. Vladimir Belous, PhD Military Sciences, told Nezavisimaya Gazeta (NG) that diplomats were too quick to announce that the main issues in the Russian-American negotiations have been resolved and all that remains is to agree on some minor details.
"The catch usually lies in the details," said the expert. According to the specialist, the issue of linkage of offensive and defensive strategic weapons has now become the key issue in the negotiations, although it has a long history going back to the time of Ronald Reagan’s "Star Wars."
Belous noted that the negotiations will be successful if the parties are be able to come up with a compromise that considers Moscow’s concern with the American BMD.
The Deputy Director of the Information and Press Department of the Foreign Ministry, Igor Lyakin-Frolov, told NG that negotiations between Moscow and Washington "have not been interrupted." According to him, Russian and the U.S. diplomats currently "remain in contact and are exchanging opinions in hopes of reaching an agreement that is acceptable to the presidents of their respective countries."
However, the diplomat was not able to specify the date of the next meeting of the delegations.
January 11, 2010
Under shadow of missile umbrella, US and Russia work to reset START
By Robert Bridge
As negotiators fail to pass a new START treaty before the start of the New Year, Moscow says concerns over Washington�s planned global missile umbrella are holding up talks.
When US President Barack Obama announced in September that he would scrap his predecessor�s plans for a missile defense system in Eastern Europe, a stone�s throw from the Russian border, all of the enthusiastic predictions about a US-Russia �reset� seemed to be materializing before our very eyes.
But then Obama shifted gears on his original statement, saying instead that his administration would be �overhauling Bush-era plans for a missile defense shield in Europe.�
In other words, the world would be blessed with Obama�s new and improved �Missile Defense Lite,� as some pundits have erroneously described the new system.
US Defense Secretary Robert Gates, speaking from the Pentagon immediately after his Commander-in-Chief�s noble announcement, seemed quite happy about Obama’s change of plans.
In fact, hearing Gates describe it, the new missile defense system, which the Pentagon insists would only zero-in on the global bad guys, like Iran and North Korea, sounded even more marvelous than the previous version.
�This new approach provides a better missile defense capability for our forces in Europe,� said Robert Gates, who perhaps tellingly served as defense chief in the Bush administration and stayed on when Obama took office. �[It is better] for our European allies and eventually for our homeland than the program I recommended almost three years ago.�
Obama�s revamped system will have mobile radar units, including some in space, �that can move to wherever the threat actually emanates and wherever we feel we need to defend ourselves,� added Gen. James Cartwright, deputy chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in an interview with CNN.
Cartwright contrasted the new sensor technology with the radar systems envisioned in the old plan, which he called �basically left over from the Cold War.�
Is it any wonder, then, that Moscow is demanding more details about the new system? After all, how can Moscow turn a blind eye to a "harmless" military system � hard-wired as it is to neutralize a nation’s security apparatus � that it knows next to nothing about? The United States refuses to release the secret ingredients of Missile Defense Lite, yet the Obama administration feigns astonishment when Moscow refuses to swallow the new product.
Now, with talk of failed START negotiations hanging heavy in the air, Barack Obama risks losing the Hope (yes, with a capital H) that the international community entrusted to him, albeit a bit impulsively, perhaps, when he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize last year.
�Barack Obama�s Nobel Peace Prize,� Julian Borger wrote in his Global Security blog, �was a European down-payment on expected future actions � most of all in the field of nuclear disarmament, on which Obama�s rhetoric had soared highest and his intentions had been clearest.�
�Delivering the goods,� laments Borger, �has� turned out to be a more complicated matter.�
Indeed, the American side believes that the START negotiations is a completely separate issue from "defensive weapons" like missile defense. Unfortunately, they are mistaken.
�Putin suggested� that the US should hand over data about its missile defense system," Borger continued. "This was ruled out by Washington on the grounds that START is supposed to deal with offensive, not defensive, weapons.�
At the start of the New Year, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin gave a candid assessment of the new missile defense system, and underlined that the question of missile defense cannot be separated from that of a new arms agreement.
�The problem is that out American partners are building an anti-missile shield and we are not building one,� Putin told reporters with his trademark bluntness. �At the same time missile defenses and offensive weapons are closely interrelated issues.�
Putin then reiterated Russia�s position that a global US missile shield would upset the strategic balance of forces between the two most powerful nuclear weapons nations. In other words, it would be simply foolhardy for Russia to sign up to an arms reduction treaty without at least knowing the details of America�s revamped missile defense system.
�There is a risk that once they build a [missile] umbrella against our offensive systems our partners will feel totally safe,� the Russian prime minister told reporters in the Russian port city of Vladivostok. �The balance will be broken. They will feel free to act with impunity.�
Putin concluded that whatever the case Russia would have to develop new offensive weapons to maintain military parity with the US.
Presently, it seems that US officials are hoping that Russia will accept an �unknown good� (that is, Obama�s yet disclosed global missile defense plan) over the �known evil� of the scrapped Bush plan.
This is proving to be wishful thinking on Washington�s part, and is only serving to delay the passage of a new START.
START talks will resume again in Geneva, possibly as early as this week.
Evgeny Sukhoi contributed to this article
Expert’s comments
�US and Russia seem to go in right direction�
Ivan Timofeev, Director of the Center for Analytical Monitoring at Moscow�s State University of International Relations, told RT, that both countries are showing optimism and demonstrate the decisiveness to sign a new treaty:
�There will be some changes after the treaty is signed � first of all, a quantitative change. The capabilities will be reduced, also the procedures of verification may be changed,� he added.
Russia-US: there must be a compromise
Political analyst Victoria Panova considers, there is a possibility that there will be no legal agreement on disarmament to replace the outdated START treaty, but rather a political declaration instead:
�That would be a bad signal to all those countries that either have nuclear potential or are striving to achieve it to go further with that and escalate the arms race � that could be a danger,� believes Panova.
She continued, saying that �If they [Russia and the US], possessing 90% of the world�s nuclear arsenals, fail to agree on making less nuclear stocks then the other countries would not be considering them being serious in keeping their promises.�
�Obama will not rush with START�
Joseph Cirincione, president of the Ploughshares Fund says, President Obama will not rush to negotiate the new START treaty, despite Russians expecting he will:
�There is no way he [Obama] is going to rush this treaty,� Cirincione said. �He is more interested in getting it right than finishing it by some arbitrary deadline.�
He also added that Russians may misunderstand Obama�s motivation, just like right wing politicians in the USA.
�The Russians seem to be convinced that what the right wing in the United States has been saying about president Obama is true � that he is weak and vain and is more interested in securing the treaty than in getting the treaty right,� Joseph Cirincione said.
�They believe than Obama wants to finish the treaty before he goes to Oslo on December 10 to pick up his Noble Peace Prize and they are using tough negotiating tactics and refusing to agree on the last few details in the hope of gaining a concession. I think that this is a misreading of Obama.�
�No surprise in missing the new START deadline�
Political analyst Mikhail Troitsky says, it usually takes years to work out a treaty of this scale. Also the pace at which the two teams of negotiators have been working on the new START draft was really unprecedented.
�There is no surprise many technical details need to be sorted out in due course, and setting deadlines is very useful in that situation, but unless some minor details are agreed upon, neither side can give the green light to the whole treaty to be signed,� Troitsky says.
He adds, missing the deadline of December 5 is a worrying sign to some extent, because there�s no other strict deadline which has yet been announced so talks could continue indefinitely.
But Troitsky believes that the American move of withdrawing their inspection team from Russia, as well as the declaration that the two presidents have announced today, are fairly good signs.
�We may expect the talks to be completed in the foreseeable future, maybe even in December,� he concluded.
Meanwhile, Viktor Kremenyuk, Deputy Director of the Institute for US and Canada studies says the success of the new treaty will depend on the will to compromise:
�The treaty will be, to a large extent, an exchange of compromises�, Kremenyuk says, �Americans will have to sacrifice something, the Russians will have to sacrifice something. So the question is what each side will sacrifice, how much does that cost and, depending on that, there will be a reaction on the part of the legislators."
January 11, 2010
Admiral Mullen’s Realistic View on Russia and China
By Barry Kolodkin
Russia and US Not Partners, Not Adversaries
On a recent television interview with Fareed Zakaria, Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was asked if Russia’s military viewed the US military as partners or adversaries. Mullen coolly replied that their view is somewhere in-between. And he is right. Despite the new relationship with President Medvedev, a desire to counter Islamic extremism, the Russian quest to root out red tape and corruption and economic linkages, fifty years of animosity and mistrust, US influence in Eastern Europe and the movement from a two superpower world to a one superpower world … and maybe again to a two superpower world with the second power being China … are barriers to a true partnership with Russia.
US-China Conflict Inevitable?
The relationship dynamic with Russia may become particularly important regarding the identity of the world’s second superpower. Zakaria asked Mullen as a followup if he believed, as did certain segments in the Chinese Government, that the US and China were destined to conflict; particularly as the Chinese Navy becomes more active globally. Admiral Mullen stressed that it was not US policy to be adversarial toward China and that Presidents Barack Obama and Hu Jintao were working to great lengths to bring the nations closer together. Yet his answer seemed to belie a sense that future conflict with China was at least a significant possibility if not an inevitability.
Where Does Russia Fit In?
In order to deal with China effectively, having a stronger footing with Russia is critical. A stronger relationship with Russia enables freer movement through sea lanes and air space, better energy security for America and its Allies, cooperation on issues such as North Korea and Iran, and removal of conflicts such as missile defense. Setting aside the issue of choosing sides in an armed conflict, the US wants to make certain that bilateral competition between the US and China is not somehow hindered by its relationship with Russia.
How Does the US Draw Russia Closer?
The test for US policymakers is how do they bring Russia into the fold without acceding to all of Russia’s demands? Reagan acolytes maintain that the Russians only respect military might and resolve. The realization that competition with the US was futile brought the end of the Cold War. The Obama Administration has been trying to woo Russia through better cooperation. The cancellation of the Bush missile defense program is a prime example.
The new Russia will still take advantage of weakness, so appeasement is not the answer. However, the new Russia also understands its national interest and the dynamics of the new world. Russia is not interested in costly conflict with the West but they do seek respect as a Great Power. Casting Russia as a second tier country relative to China will not help the US in geopolitical dynamics. The job of the US Government is to assure Russia that US-Russian relationship is still a cornerstone of US global strategy and to build the economic, political, and cultural linkages between the two countries to reinforce that assurance.
January 12, 2010
Ditch the Reset
By Nikolas K. Gvosdev
Nikolas K. Gvosdev, a senior editor at The National Interest, is a professor of national-security studies at the U.S. Naval War College. The views expressed are entirely his own.
As the Obama administration takes stock of its foreign policy in 2010, and begins to make adjustments and corrections, one I hope tops the list would be the recommendation to banish the term "partnership" from any future discussion of U.S.-Russian relations.
Every American president since Ronald Reagan has sought a "partnership" with Moscow-something short of a full-blown alliance, but considerably more than just plain friendship. Trying to craft an entire agenda of policies that both Moscow and Washington can support, however, has proven far more difficult than simply uttering the ritualistic phrases that have become an expected part of any high-level Russian-American meeting since the end of the Cold War. Do we seriously believe that the promise of the 1993 Vancouver Declaration signed by both Russian President Boris Yeltsin and American President Bill Clinton, committing both countries to uphold "a dynamic and effective United States-Russian partnership," has been fulfilled? Does the joint statement made by Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov back in July 1998 that the Cold War had been replaced by a "mature partnership" between the two countries still ring true today?
The problem is simple: not only are many Russian and American interests today out of alignment, the political realities in both countries work against any effective partnership being developed. This is because there is a major difference in how partnership/partnyostvo is defined in Washington and Moscow. For any American administration, a "partner" of the United States helps to advance the U.S. national interests, especially through burden sharing. We look at the world and believe that a partner should be assisting us in meeting the most critical national-security challenges we face-Afghanistan and Iran in particular. Russia’s efforts to use the critical northern transport route to Afghanistan as a point of leverage, and its unwillingness to apply the kinds of pressure against Tehran we know could be employed, are not the acts of a true partner. From Moscow’s perspective, Washington’s continued indifference to some of Russia’s most vital security and economic interests in its neighborhood-and sometimes active opposition to them-are likewise not what one expects of a partner. "Ruka ruku moyet" (One hand washes the other) is at the fundamental definition of what partnership consists of, in the Kremlin’s view.
The solution, however, is not to assume that the opposite of promoting partnership is an adversarial, hostile relationship. There is no need for a "new Cold War" with Russia. But it requires a refocusing of diplomatic efforts away from finding broad-based solutions in favor of targeted quid pro quos, in which what each side expects to give and receive is carefully laid out-and where other, divisive issues are quarantined away. This latter approach can be particularly difficult for Congress to accept, given its predilection for wanting to interject issues with no immediate relevance to the subject under consideration (a bad habit that extends even to domestic legislation). But successive presidential administrations have already been doing this, with some success, in the bilateral U.S.-China relationship. Consider the de facto arrangements between Presidents George W. Bush and Hu Jintao on the sidelines of an Asia-Pacific summit in 2007: Beijing got an apparent commitment from Bush that he would attend the Olympic Games in his capacity as a "sports fan"; China agreed to become more flexible on issues related to North Korea and Sudan.
The dream of a U.S.-Russia partnership is hard to give up. Fred Ikle, writing in The National Interest twenty years ago, raised the possibility of a Russian-American "defense community" that would replace the hostility and suspicion of the Cold War. But the harsh political reality is that neither Washington nor Moscow can accept partnership in the way that the other side defines it. Continuing to work for an illusive "partnership" is only going to bring frustration in its wake.
OhmyNews (South Korea)
January 11, 2010
Interview with U.S. Journalist Thomas Goltz
Goltz discusses the Caucasus, Turkey and central Asia
Goltz is an American author and journalist best known for his accounts of conflict in the Caucasus region during the 1990s. He has worked in and around Turkey and the Caucasus region of the former Soviet Union for the past 15 years. During that period he has become known mainly as a crisis correspondent due to coverage of the war between Azerbaijan and Armenia over Karabakh, the war of secession in Abkhazia from Georgia and the separatist conflict in Chechnya. His documentary for Global Vision’s Rights and Wrongs program was a finalist in the Rory Peck Award for excellence in television journalism in 1996.
Ryskeldi Satke – Mr. Goltz, you had witnessed a Chechen-Russian war first hand in 1995 which led to a publishing of your book "Chechnya Diary." It has been 15 years since the beginning of a conflict between self-proclaimed independent Chechnya and the Kremlin. Do you think the Chechen conflict is over for Russia or is it just a beginning of another round of a vicious cycle on a larger scale in the North Caucasus?
Thomas Goltz – This is a very difficult question for me to answer in a responsible manner. I have not been on the ground in the region for almost a decade, and garner my news through public sources. Some these suggest that Kadyrov has consolidated power in a way that gives him (and thus Chechnya) a type of virtual independence (based on brutality) that eluded both Dudayev and Maskhadov. Others suggest that the spate of police killings and other acts of violence in Ingushetia and elsewhere are the harbingers of greater violence to come.
RS – A political crisis between Georgia and Russia in the summer of 2008 had led to a full blown war in South Ossetia. German weekly magazine Spiegel outlined a report of the independent European Union fact-finding mission headed by the Swiss diplomat and Caucasus expert Heidi Tagliavini which ultimately blamed both sides in the conflict, but specifically claimed Georgian President Saakashvili’s proactive role for initiating a military operation against Russian troops in South Ossetia. The United States, on the other hand, firmly supports Georgia, which deeply irritates Kremlin officials. What is your take on Russian-Georgian conflict? Do you think Russia’s aggressive stand against NATO expansion to the East has to do with charged war in Georgia?
TG – I would invite you to read the updated Epilogue to my book on Georgia which appeared in February 2009 (Georgia Diary, M.E. Sharpe) because it tackles all of the issues you bring up. In sum, I would say that the events of August 2008 are a near perfect replay of the so-called ‘Texas Solution,’ meaning the war between Mexico and the USA in 1846 when the US provoked and provoked and provoked Mexico into ‘attacking’ its army in Louisianna, at which point the US forces responded with overwhelming force and ultimately seized Texas which first became an ‘independent’ country and was then later absorbed into the USA (as a slave state). No less a soldier than Ulysses S. Grant, who participated in that campaign as an officer, declared in his memoirs that the Mexico/Texas campaign was the ‘most unjust and imperial war in American history’ and that it led directly to the War Between The States/Civil War. In other words, whatever crimes of stupidity Saakashvili may be guilty of (including the belief that the US and the West would risk WWIII with Russia over his fate), I regard the August 2008 war as a direct result of Russian provocation. If Saakashvili had not responded in August, another provocation would have happened in September or October, etc.
RS – The politics of Turkey and the Caucasus have been dominated for the past few years by gas pipeline projects from Central Asian states (Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Kazakstan) through existing connection in Azerbaidjan and Georgia to Turkey (Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline) with further deliveries to European markets. Nabucco pipeline is one of the substantial choices for European Union in diversifying the routes for transporting gas. What are the chances for the Nabucco projec,t in reality, with the complexity of the issues around transporting routes as we saw in Georgia during a war with Russia where reliability of the pipeline raised serious concerns ?
TG – The politics of pipelines in the region are confusing and contradictory. As for Nabucco, it is of interest to note that while Russia is theoretically opposed to it, Turkey is for it, which would lead one to believe in a ‘rivalry’ between these two states. And yet, Moscow and Ankara are signing agreement after agreement on other pipeline projects… Anyway, for Nabucco to be viable, in addition to Azeri gas, it needs at least one more source – either Turkmenistan (via Iran or under the Caspian), Iran itself or possibly Iraq (Kurdistan) – and all of these sources are problematic (especially Iran, given US involvement). Then add the Turkish-Armenian ‘reproachment’ to the mix with attendant alienation of the key-country Azerbaijan (now selling gas to Russia) and you have a very complex picture indeed! At the same time, this is what everyone was saying about the BTC project back in the late 1990s – and yet it got done through the political will of Heydar Aliyev. Who knows?
RS – Turkey and Armenia have signed a historic accord to establish diplomatic ties and reopen their shared border on November 2009. BBC News reported that United States has been pressing both parties to normalise relations. Thousands of protesters took to the streets opposing a deal in Yerevan, Armenia. Azeri officials in the meantime reacted angrily to agreement calling the accord a "direct contradiction to the national interests of Azerbaijan" as Reuters reported. In your expertise,what are the prospects of such agreement between Turkey and Armenia with Azerbaidjan’s fierce opposition to it?
TG – I seriously doubt that Turkey would completely sacrifice its relationship with Azerbaijan for a luke-warm relationship (at best) with Armenia, but Turkey has shot itself in the foot before and might do so again.
RS – Turkey, in recent years, has been active in mediating between Iran and the West, including the United States on Iranian nuclear activities. We have seen Turkey’s role in indirect talks between Israel and Syria in 2008 before they collapsed following Israeli offensive on Gaza. Some western experts believe Turkey, as a NATO ally, has an important role with its influence in the region. In your opinion, is there a shift in Turkey’s foreign policy towards proactive engagement? Do you think Turkey can be a reliable player in Afghanistan, especially as Turkish troops have been contributing to the training of the Afghany Army and joining the efforts to rebuild Afghanistan’s infrastructure?
TG – These are two different questions. The first deals with Turkey’s self-proclaimed, proactive foreign policy of ‘Zero Problems With Neighbors.’ In that regard, we certainly have seen some interesting changes in policy towards Syria, Iraq/Kurdistan, Greece and the Balkans as well as Russia and most recently, Iran. How sustainable all this is, or how much is just headlines in the press is another matter. As for Afghanistan, as a member of NATO Turkey was obliged to participate (and did so eagerly in the early phase of the conflict there) but has consistently declined to allow its contingent to be used for combat operations and to limit its involvement to training, etc. As such, Turkey’s position has been consistent from the start; what has changed is the nature of the war and the level of US involvement and its irritation with Turkey and other NATO members for their sticking with the original game plan and refusing to be drawn in to the expanded war. This has almost nothing to do with Turkish foreign policy, new or not; this has to do with its commitments as a NATO member for almost (over?) 50 years.
RS – It’s been 9 years since the beginning of the US and NATO military operations in Afghanistan. Certainly, it shook the central Asian region to the extent that security issues were re-evaluated. Adding the autocratic regimes with weak economies in post-Soviet, central Asian republics – characterized as corrupt by international organizations – the chance of sliding the region into geopolitical chaos became more evident. Do you believe that a destabilized Afghanistan might trigger the escalation of the political instability in the region, including Xinjiang province of China? Do you think US and NATO will be able to bring political balance in Afghanistan?
TG – I am very pessimistic about the US/NATO approach to Afghanistan but cannot offer much in the way of my own solution aside from immediate withdrawal and allowing the cards to fall where they may. This is not a very responsible approach, I know. As for Xinjiang, I am more concerned about the consequences of failure for Pakistan in the first order, and then the post-Soviet republics of Central Asia after that.
RS – So-called color revolutions in Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan changed a political dimension in post-Soviet states, adding opposing Russia to any new developments in neighboring countries. The Russians and Chinese believe the U.S. State Department was behind these revolutions. Since then, Russia’s approach has been aggressive towards Ukraine and Georgia. We know that the Kremlin’s policy played a direct role in gas disputes between Ukraine and Russia, which caused gas shortages in European Union. The Georgian-Russian war in South Ossetia is another example of Kremlin’s hard line. In the case of Kyrgyzstan, however, the "tulip revolution" of 2005 didn�t bring expected change. Moreover, the Kyrgyz Republic fell back into an authoritarian regime. Do you believe in U.S. State Department role in the color revolutions? In your view, do you think Georgia and Ukraine will be integrated into the EU in the near future, despite the Kremlin’s harsh actions?
TG – I do not think the US State Department was directly involved or even instrumental in any of the so-called color revolutions, although quasi-governmental bodies such as the Soros foundation certainly were supportive, to the point of over-stepping the bounds. And even though the Kyrgyz ‘tulip revolution’ might have been disappointing for those who applauded the Rose and Orange