|Russia and the CIS News Digest
Bush Attacks FDR and Yalta
President George Bush's increasingly strident attack on Russia for its lack of "democracy" was capped on May 7, during his speech at the Small Guild Hall in Riga, Latvia, the first stop on his European tour. After briefly addressing the defeat of Nazismthe ostensible reason for his tripBush said: "We are mindful of a paradox. For much of Germany, defeat led to freedom. For much of Eastern and Central Europe, victory brought the iron rule of another empire. V-E Day marked the end of fascism but it did not end oppression. The agreement at Yalta followed in the unjust tradition of Munich and the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact.... The captivity of millions in Central and Eastern Europe will be remembered as one of the greatest wrongs of history."
Bush's statement was taken as not only an attack on Russia (which already in 1989, as President Vladimir Putin pointed out, apologized for Stalin's crimes in the Baltic), but also as an attack on FDR, who negotiated the Yalta Pact, which formally did call for the establishment of independent states in the areas formerly occupied by the Nazis.
In commentary on Bush's remarks, historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. called them a "reinvention" of the history of Yalta. "The American President is under the delusion that tougher diplomacy might have preserved the freedom" of the East European nations, said Schlesinger, but he forgets the reality of the Soviet Army, which already occupied the area at the end of the war. "No conceivable diplomacy could have saved Eastern Europe from Soviet occupation," he added. Despite this, "FDR managed to extract an astonishing documentthe Declaration on Liberated Europe, an eloquent affirmation of 'the right of all people to choose the form of government under which they will live.'" In order to occupy these countries, as he did later, Stalin had to break the Yalta Agreements.
Russian Intelligence Chief Blasts IRI, Other NGOs
During a two-hour report to the Russian State Duma on May 12, given by himself and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) head Nikolai Patrushev attacked the International Republican Institute (IRI) as foremost among foreign NGOs involved in efforts against Russia and its neighbors. The IRI is the GOP arm of the National Endowment for Democracy, or "Project Democracy," and receives millions of U.S. Federal budget dollars for its operations. It is a hotbed of neo-conservative ideologues and has been active in promoting their agenda in post-Soviet Russia since 1991.
Patrushev said, "Our opponents are steadily and persistently trying to weaken Russian influence in the Commonwealth of Independent States and the international arena as a whole. The latest events in Georgia, Ukraine, and Kyrgyzstan unambiguously confirm this." Zeroing in on the IRI, Patrushev said that "in April of this year, there was a meeting in Bratislava of directors of the International Republican Institute, a U.S. NGO, which discussed the possibility of velvet revolutions in the post-Soviet space." (The Associated Press quoted an IRI spokesman, who said there had been a "staff retreat" in Slovakia to discuss "program initiatives.") Patrushev said that the IRI has earmarked $5 million for regime change in Belarus, and that veterans of the Orange Revolution in Ukraine were being recruited to come to Belarus.
In Russian TV coverage, this part of Patrushev's presentation was blended seamlessly into what he reported about the busting of an Islamist terror cell in Voronezh, central Russia, which he said was responsible for some of last year's high-profile suicide bombings in Moscow, and had planned to bomb V-Day celebration events earlier this week. Patrushev said that group was also "funded from abroad," mentioning several organizations with Arabic names.
May 12 Russian wires carried a story from Minsk, according to which the head of the Belarus Committee for State Security (KGB), Victor Vegera, said he had evidence on NGOs financing the export of different-colored (as in Ukraine's "orange") revolutions to Belarus.
Speaking before Patrushev, Foreign Minister Lavrov said that "People have begun to rear their heads, who see Russia as either an enemy or a rival." Lavrov said he was against regime change as a category of foreign policy activity, but "we cannot close our eyes to what is happening in countries with which we have relations." He cited Ukraine's recent toughening of its posture regarding the Russian Black Sea Fleet and other Russian property in Ukraine. He repeated the angry remarks about Latvia, made by President Putin, during the EU-Russia summit on May 10, for having "territorial pretensions" against Russia. Lavrov particularly warned Georgia, that "Russia will not sit with hands folded," if the personnel at Russian bases in Georgia are threatened.
After President Bush's visit to Tbilisi, Georgian officials this week came out breathing fire about the need to agree to the Georgian timetable for Russian withdrawalor else, "as of May 15 the Russian bases may be declared illegal," according to Speaker of the Parliament Nino Burjanadze. Two weeks ago, Lavrov agreed with the Georgian Foreign Minister that withdrawal could begin this year, but Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov subsequently stressed that it would take four years for Russia to be able to reabsorb all the personnel and their families.
German Industry Welcomes Russian Investment Invitation
Remarks made by Russian President Vladimir Putin in a joint interview he and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder gave to Bildzeitung were welcomed by Klaus Mangold, the chairman of the Eastern Trades Committee of German Industry, on May 9. Interviewed by DLR radio, Mangold said that German industry will increase direct investment in major energy projects and in the processing sector of Russian industrywhich has to make a technological leap forward by some 20 years. That means that a giant market for German products is waiting in Russia.
There are certain unanswered questions stemming from the trial of Yukos Oil CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Mangold claimed, but German industry thinks it is "a great merit" of Putin, that after the privatization mess left behind from the Yeltsin era, Russia is finding its way back to stability. All in all, today, conditions for German industry's increased direct involvement in Russia are "better than ever before," Mangold said.
Saakashvili: Time To Overthrow Lukashenka in Belarus
It would appear that George W. Bush and Georgia's President Michael Saakashviliwho was installed by the George Soros/Brzezinski/Anglo-American imperial factionhave the same speech writer. As Bush arrived to visit Georgia, Saakashvili denounced the 1945 Yalta Treaty as a shameful example of "betrayal and abandonment," in an op-ed published in the Washington Post and the St. Petersburg Times. He said that the task ahead is to consolidate the Georgian and Ukrainian revolutions, by freeing the people in South Ossetia and Abkhazia (separatist regions of Georgia), and the 10 million people in Belarus, who are oppressed by their President, Alexander Lukashenka. Saakashvili added, "[W]e must extend the reach of liberty in the Black Sea region and throughout wider Europe. Moldova, like Georgia, faces a separatist region that maintains itself with cast-off Soviet weaponry and the profits from an illicit economy based on trafficking in weapons, drugs and women. These are the last razor-sharp splinters of the Soviet empire."
But the priority, for Saakashvili, is overthrowing the regime in Belarus. Saakashvili wants a "new Yalta conference," that will "press for liberty in Belarus through increased travel restrictions on government officials, [and] expanded ... support to the opposition" such as was received by Georgia and Ukraine. If they overthrow Belarus' pro-Russian government, this will help spread the U.S. destabilizations "across the Asian steppes and stir the cedars of Lebanon."
Unrest Spreads in Uzbekistan's Fergana Valley
A rally of at least 2,000 protestors in the Uzbekistan city of Andijan, located in the Fergana Valley of Central Asia, came under fire from government troops on May 13. There were at least a dozen deaths. The protests built up overnight, after armed men freed prisoners from the city labor camp, including 23 accused of Islamic extremism. The protesters in the central square of Andijan called for the resignation of Uzbek President Islam Karimov and the government, and then soldiers reportedly fired on the crowds. Meanwhile both Kazakstan and Kyrgyzstan sealed their borders with Uzbekistan.
The prisoners are accused of membership in the outlawed Islamic party Hizb-ut-Tahrir. The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan is also active in the Fergana Valley. "In the opinion of local analysts, the rebellion ... was masterminded by followers of the 'Arkamia' extremist organization, which is linked with the religious Islamic Hizb-ut-Tahrir Party," stated a report from the Russian agency Itar-TASS.
Uzbekistan is the most populous nation of Central Asia, with 26 million people. Tashkent itself is the most important city of Central Asia. The Fergana Valley, the most populated region in Central Asia, has in recent years been the scene of Islamic movements. Parts of the Valley are also in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstanscene of an upheaval in March, in which long-time President Askar Akayev was ousted.
Speaking the afternoon of May 13, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said, "First of all, this is an internal matter for Uzbekistan. "We've been closely watching information on development of the situation in this country, and recent information shows that it's being stabilized."