|Russia and the CIS News Digest
CIS Official Sees Spread of 'Ukraine Scenario'
The Georgia or Ukraine scenario of regime change may be played out in any of the member countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States, CIS Executive Committee Chairman Vladimir Rushailo said Jan. 25 at a press conference in Dushanbe. "And it may happen in non-member countries, as well, as we have seen many times," he added. Rushailo is heading Russia's team of observers of the run-up to Tajikistan's Feb. 27 parliamentary elections. Kyrgyzstan will also hold elections that day. Nezavisimaya Gazeta of Jan. 24 wrote about Roza Otunbayeva, former Kyrgyzstan ambassador to London, as a likely "Burjanadze" (Georgia) or "Tymoshenko" (Ukraine) figure for Kyrgyzstan, referring to the female activists who played a high-profile role in regime change in those two countries.
The German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung of Jan. 26 carried an interview with President Michael Saakashvili and reported on a recent declaration, issued by him together with incoming Ukrainian President Victor Yushchenko. That statement said, "The Georgian and Ukrainian revolutions mark a new wave of European liberation, which will lead to the final victory of freedom and democracy on the European continent." Saakashvili told FAZ that this was not a threat, adding, "Some people in Moscow don't like these developments, but they have to live with these realities." He also asserted that Kyrgyzstan's President Askar Askayev was among those who "are now becoming very nervous because of us."
Yushchenko Names Tymoshenko Prime Minister
Inaugurated on Jan. 23, new Ukrainian President Victor Yushchenko promptly named Yulia Tymoshenko as his Prime Minister. Head of her own "Party of Yulia Tymoshenko," she was one of the leaders in the November-December demonstrations that overturned the initial Presidential election results in Ukraine. Earlier, she made her fortune in the energy sector, and was linked with former Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko, now jailed in the United States for embezzlement.
In a speech Yushchenko Jan. 26 to the European Council in Strasbourg, after first visiting Moscow, he emphasized that Ukraine will push through "democratic reforms" in order to boost its bid to join the European Union. "We have a three-year plan. We would like it to end in 2007 with a concrete commitment," said Yushchenko. The European Parliament had earlier passed a resolution for bringing Ukraine into the EU quickly, something EU officials have said they are not prepared to do.
Syrian President Visits Moscow
President Bashar Al-Assad visited Moscow Jan. 24 for talks on economic and political cooperation. Both Damascus and Moscow are denying media reports about a deal for sophisticated missile systems. Head of the official media delegation accompanying Assad, Dr. Fayez Al-Sayegh, stated, "The military file is not currently on the agenda. It is put off until restoring the strength of political and economic ties. Syria is not seeking Russian weaponry as much as seeking a political atmosphere in which Russia plays an effective role in the international arena to resume the [Middle East] peace process and restore security and stability to the region." In an interview published Jan. 24, Assad told Izvestia, "Russia's Defense Minister has said that such a deal does not exist and thus he has answered the question."
Syrian strategic analyst Gamal Barout said he thought "Syria needs Moscow to stave off European-American pressures." Furthermore, "Damascus also needs to maintain and modernize its army," Barout added. Echoing the analysis presented at EIR's Jan. 12-13 Berlin seminar, he said that Russia also needs a foothold in the Middle East. Syrian journalist Hayan Niouf also expected the talks to touch on a possible Syrian role in pushing for Moscow's membership in the Organization of Islamic Conference, in exchange for Russian political support in the UN and Security Council.
Russia has come to the defense of Syria recently, in the face of attacks by neo-cons in Washington. After Secretary of State-nominee Condoleezza Rice warned Damascus that it faced new sanctions because of "its suspected interference in Iraq and ties to terrorism," Russia's Foreign Ministry called the Arab state one of its "most important partners" in the Middle East. "It's well known that slapping labels on countries and unilaterally describing certain states as part of the 'axis of evil' has not improved anyone's security," Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Yakovenko had said Jan. 21.
Following their summit, Assad and Putin issued a joint declaration, on a wide range of cooperation agreements. Economic agreements included commitments to: establish a factory to produce pipes and basalt yarns; support the Syrian-Russian Businessmen Council; cooperate in the field of oil and gas; and develop international land transportation. In addition, a protocol was signed to settle Syria's debts to Russia, dating back to the Soviet era. The Russians agreed to forgive 73% of the debt, which amounted to $13 billion. Russian Finance Minister Kurdin said this would leave a debt of $3.6 billion, 40% of which will be repaid in cash over 10 years. The remainder will be in Syrian currency, and will be used for purchases of goods and investments in Syria. The Syrian delegation prepared a number of proposals, which it submitted to the Russian side, in an enlarged meeting of the Russian-Syrian Business Council. The projects are in industry, agriculture, oil and gas sector, and the environment. Another topic on the agenda was to be the creation of a bilateral free trade zone.