|Russia and the CIS News Digest
Putin: Lowering Nuclear Threshold Is 'Dangerous Trend'
Russian President Vladimir Putin took the opportunity of his participation in Russian strategic forces maneuvers Aug. 17, to state bluntly his opposition to the rising readiness to use nuclear weapons. Interfax reported Putin's remarks from on board the Navy cruiser Peter the Great: "I think that lowering the threshold for the use of nuclear arms is a dangerous trend, because somebody may feel tempted to use nuclear weapons. If that happens, the next step can be takenmore powerful nuclear arms can be used, which may lead to a nuclear conflict. This extremely dangerous trend is in the back of the mind of some politicians and military officials."
Putin at Strategic Force Maneuvers
President Putin personally took part in exercises Aug. 16-17 involving two legs of Russia's strategic nuclear triad: the Air Force and the Navy. After opening the MAKS-2005 Air Show, a high-tech event at a Moscow airfield, Putin went to an Air Force base, from which he took off in a supersonic Tu-160 ("Blackjack") strategic bomber piloted by Gen. Maj. Anatoli Zhikarev, deputy chief of the Strategic Air Command. Putin sat in the commander's seat for the five-hour flight to Olenogorsk in the far North, during which missiles were fired by his and another Tu-160, and there was a mid-air refueling. "A new, high-precision, long-range cruise missile was tested today," Putin announced, "and it hit the target. This is a good result."
Asked by Interfax why he had made the flight, Putin said, "I think that a person in my position ought to know first-hand, to see, to feel how this works." Highlights of his flight were broadcast on national television and video-posted on the Kremlin web site.
On the second day, Putin was aboard the cruiser Peter the Great, flagship of Russia's Northern Fleet. Sailing out of Murmansk for exercises in the Barents Sea, the cruiser was joined by the aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov for maneuvers, during which two Dolphin submarines launched RSM-54 Sineva (named SSN-23 in the West) long-range ballistic missiles, which hit targets in Kamchatka Peninsula on Russia's Pacific coast.
Russian Media Highlight Cheney Nuclear Threat to Iran
Besides the circulation of Lyndon LaRouche's July 27 warning, "Cheney's 'Guns of August' Threaten the World" (see EIR Online #31, Aug. 2) on Russian-language websites based in Russia and Ukraine, other Russian-language media are closely monitoring sociopath Cheney's intentions towards Iran, as well as the threats by made by President George W. Bush in his mid-August interview with Israeli television. Articles monitored by EIR include:
* MIGnews news agency reported Republican Sen. John McCain's Fox News interview supporting Bush's threat of military action against Iran; while Regnum.ru on Aug. 14 headlined the German Chancellor's opposition, "Schroeder Rules Out German Participation in a U.S. War Against Iran."
* Media in Latvia on Aug. 10 carried a story titled, "The Bomb, or the Peaceful Atom?" about Iran's nuclear program. The article, which originated with Chas news service, pointed to "the question that the Iranian leadership considers key in this whole story," namely "whether or not Iran, if it does renounce the production of nuclear weapons, will be given guarantees against possible American attack." After all, the Latvian commentary said, "The Americans have never made it a secret, that they have plans to attack Iran. For three years already, the Pentagon, on orders from U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney, has been developing a plan for an air strike against Iran, using both conventional and nuclear weapons."
* The news site Inforos.ru on Aug. 3 headlined, "War with Iran Will Be Nuclear." The dispatch began, "According to orders from the staff of Vice President Dick Cheney, the Pentagon has assigned the U.S. Strategic Command, which oversees the country's nuclear forces, to develop a contingency plan for the event of a Sept. 11-type terrorist attack. The plan includes large-scale air strikes against Iran, using both conventional and tactical nuclear weapons." The story mentioned the 450 targets in Iran and the intention to use nuclear weapons for bunker-busting purposes. It also noted the opposition from within the Armed Forces: "Several high-ranking U.S. Air Force officers, taking part in development of the plan, were shocked at what they were doing, but none of them has objected, due to concerns about their careers." Inforos pointed to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld as pushing hard for faster development of bunker-busting nuclear weapons.
* The U.S. National Intelligence Estimate, contradicting Cheney's position on Iran and nuclear weapons, was covered by Lenta.ru and by Isra.com, a Russian-language site directed to Russian-speaking Israelis.
Russia Weighs In Against Strike on Iran
The Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement Aug. 17, which said, "We favor further dialogue and consider the use of force in Iran counter-productive and dangerous, something which can have grave and hardly predictable consequences." Furthermore: "We consider that problems concerning Iran's nuclear activities should be solved through political and diplomatic means, on the basis of international law and Tehran's close cooperation with International Atomic Energy Agency." The Foreign Ministry stressed that the crisis should be resolved "exclusively through expert consultations and diplomatic negotiations."
On Aug. 18, a high-ranking Kremlin official told Itar-Tass: "Iran's right to take advantage of nuclear power for peaceful purposes must be internationally recognized." Elaborating that this "would solve the current crisis and avoid unnecessary problems," the statement reaffirmed Moscow's commitment to continued cooperation with Iran on its nuclear program.
Chinese-Russian Exercises Begin
Eight-day joint military exercises by China and Russia, the first of this kind, began Aug. 18 with consultations between Chinese People's Liberation Army chief of the General Staff Liang Guanglie and his Russian counterpart General Yuri Baluyevsky, who opened the exercises at the Russian Pacific Fleet base. Code-named Peace Mission 2005, the exercises then moved to Shandong Peninsula in China, and nearby waters.
The United States, Japan, and Korea have all expressed "concern" about the exercises, though the U.S. declined to send observers. Defense ministers and military experts from other Shanghai Cooperation Organization membersKazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistanwill attend the exercises, with guests also invited from SCO observer nations Mongolia, India, Pakistan, and Iran. (An official visit by a high-level Chinese military delegation to Tehran coincided with the maneuvers.)
Some 1,800 Russian and 8,000 Chinese troops were to participate in strategic consultations and battle planning, transportation and deployment of troops, and combat practice, Liang said, while Baluyevsky said the exercises do not mean the two sides are forming any military bloc. The Russian Charge d'Affaires in Beijing told Xinhua that the exercises are preparation for a possible joint fight against international terrorists, national separatists, and religious extremists. "Let them have a look at our joint military exercises and think it over whether it is worth continuing their activities," he said, adding that more such exercises would be held among SCO nations, which might involve more troops. Gen. Col. Vladimir Moltenskoy, deputy chief of Russian Ground Forces and commander for this exercise, said the exercises envisage action, with the backing of the UN, to separate parties in a conflict in a third country.
Saakashvili, Yushchenko Want Regional Zone
An Aug. 15 commentary published by the Jamestown Foundation highlighted the recent call by Presidents Michael Saakashvili of Georgia and Victor Yushchenko of Ukraine for the creation of a "Euro-Atlantic" area, extending to the entire Baltic-Black Sea-Caspian region. They appeal to the leaders of all countries in this area to form a Community of Democratic Choice. This move by Georgia and Ukraine appears designed to foment a "breakaway" scenario among countries that still maintain close relations with Russia. It reveals the hand of U.S. State Department "Democracy Czar" Paula Dobriansky, the daughter of Ukrainian-American intelligence operative, Lev Dobriansky, who helped set up the "rat-line" of Ukrainian and Russian fascists into the U.S. intelligence community after World War II. Saakashvili and Yushchenko intend to hold a founding conference for this "Community" sometime in the autumn, in Ukraine.
Avian Flu Reaches Eastern Side of Urals
As of Aug. 17, the H5N1 avian flu reached southeast Chelyabinsk Province, Russia, just east of the Urals. These outbreaks are exactly along one of the two main Eurasian fly-ways, following river wetlands favored by the various migratory birds. It is likely that the H5N1 pathogen is now within 500 miles of the Caspian Sea.
On Aug. 15, Russia's top state epidemiologist, Gennady Onishchencko, told regional health officials that the H5N1 may spread by autumn to Iran, Iraq, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Ukraine, and eastern Mediterranean countries, because the migratory routes go through there in the fall. Onishchencko said that the pathogen is now headed for Russia's main agriculture regionsKrasnodar, Stavropol, and Rostov in the south.
On Aug. 16, the Russian Agriculture Ministry said that health and emergency officials had culled 113,000 birds in all regionssix provinces as of July through August so faraffected by H5N1 avian flu. Thirteen thousand wildfowl have died in Russia. Pavel Tomkovich, deputy head of the Russian Bird Protection Union told Interfax news agency, that poultry farmers are failing to keep domestic birds from coming into contact with wild birds which could be carrying the flu strain.
The result is that within Russia, the food supply lines have been cut and altered as inter-regional shipment barriers are imposed. The City of Moscow has banned any poultry meat from Novosibirsk and other affected regions. All the Central Asian countries have banned shipments from Russia; while Russia is banning shipments from Kazakhstan.