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
1. www.russiatoday.com: Russian circus: peep into tricks of trade.
2. RIA Novosti: Russians shocked by new TV drama showing darker side
3. ITAR-TASS: New Russian Movie To Be Released In France.
4. ITAR-TASS: Russia Lives Through Winter Better Than Last Year –
5. Izvestia: RESTART: CONTOURS OF BREAKTHROUGH.
Arrangement of forces and new political agenda. 2010 AS THE DECISIVE
YEAR OF DMITRY MEDVEDEV’S PRESIDENCY.
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
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. Gazeta.ru: 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. www.russiatoday.com: 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
19. Interfax: Russian Audit Chamber issues anti-crisis spending
breakdown for 2009.
20. www.tatianaserafin.com: Nikolas Gvosdev, Can Russia fix itself by 2012?
21. Moscow Times: Martin Gilman, A Promising Economic Start to a
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 –
29. Grani.ru: Pundit: Chinese Expansionism Marks ‘Brilliant Strategic
Victory’ Over Russia. (Andrey Piontkovskiy)
30. www.foreignpolicy.com: 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. www.russiatoday.com: ROAR: "Ukraine goes from chaos of
orange revolution to strong power." (press review)
36. New data on RussiaVotes: http://www.russiavotes.org/whats_new.php
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
RESTART: CONTOURS OF BREAKTHROUGH
Arrangement of forces and new political agenda
2010 AS THE DECISIVE YEAR OF DMITRY MEDVEDEV’S PRESIDENCY
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 (www.specletter.com/svoboda-slova/2010-01-12/ljudjam-zhvachka-skoro-nadoest.html).
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
MEDVEDEV BROUGHT NO FREEDOM
Freedom House released its Freedom in the World 2009 survey. Russia was listed among non-free countries
Author: Vera Kholmogorova, Natalia Kostenko
FREEDOM HOUSE ON DEMOCRACY IN RUSSIA: JOURNALISTS AND HUMAN
RIGHTS ACTIVISTS ASSASSINATED, ELECTIONS RIGGED
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.
January 13, 2010
The Kremlin suggests a fairer distribution of commanding heights in regional legislatures between all political parties
Author: Elina Bilevskaya
THE RULING PARTY WILL HAVE TO LET THE OPPOSITION OCCUPY SOME
COMMANDING HEIGHTS IN REGIONAL LEGISLATURES
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…."
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.
January 13, 2010
AMENDMENTS TO BE CONTINUED
Presidential draft law on non-governmental organizations is criticized for being too vague
Author: Mikhail Moshkin
THE PUBLIC HOUSE SUGGESTS NEW AMENDMENTS TO THE DRAFT LAW ON NON-GOVERNMENTAL ORGANIZATIONS
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
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
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
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
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.
January 13, 2010
DVORKOVICH TO HELP
The government commission for economic development and integration is formed and about to convene its first meeting
Author: Inga Vorobiova
ARKADY DVORKOVICH, THE KREMLIN’S NUMBER ONE ECONOMIST, WILL
JOIN THE COMMISSION FOR ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AND INTEGRATION
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 http://washingtonrealist.blogspot.com.
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.
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.
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
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!"
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."
NO REPEAT OF 2004
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 Actualcomment.ru 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,� Infox.ru 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 Actualcomment.ru.
�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." <firstname.lastname@example.org>
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 http://www.russiavotes.org/whats_new.php
CSPP/U. Aberdeen Levada Center/Moscow.
From: Ana-Maria Sinitean <email@example.com>
Date: Tue, 12 Jan 2010 1
Subject: Short-Term Travel Grant Reminder
2010-2011 FELLOWSHIP OPPORTUNITY
SHORT-TERM TRAVEL GRANTS (STG) PROGRAM
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:
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Questions may be addressed to the STG Program Staff at firstname.lastname@example.org 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