|Russia and the CIS News Digest
Russian Government Reorganized
Changes at top levels of the Russian government were announced by President Vladimir Putin Nov. 15. Government staff director Sergei Naryshkin said that more changes may be expected.
The elevation of Dmitri Medvedev to the post of First Deputy Prime Minister, and Sergei Ivanov to Deputy Prime Minister, was widely discussed from the standpoint of scenarios for the Presidential succession in 2008, when Putin's term ends. But the decision to move now, with the (evidently long-prepared) appointment of these two close associates of Putin to high government posts, has to do with the current situation in key areas of national security and the economy. An analyst quoted in Izvestia linked Ivanov's promotion with "the fact that after Beslan and Nalchik, it has become clear that there needs to be one person in charge of all the force agencies and responsible for anti-terror policy as a whole."
Mikhail Fradkov remains Prime Minister and economist Alexander Zhukov apparently remains a Deputy Prime Minister. Here are the other appointments:
* Dmitri Medvedev, a lawyer who has been head of the Presidential Administration, was named First Deputy Prime Minister, expressly to oversee the work he was already assigned to in Putin's new Council for the Implementation of Priority National Projectsin health, education, housing, and agriculture. (Opposition leaders, including economist Sergei Glazyev, have roundly denounced these projects as ineffective bandaids, at best, for the devastated Russian standard of living.) Medvedev is also Chairman of the Board of Directors of Gazprom, the largest company in Russia.
* Sergei Ivanov will remain Defense Minister, while becoming Deputy Prime Minister. Putin said he was to provide better "coordination" for the defense sector, whose enormous problems were the subject of a Defense Ministry meeting the previous week.
* Sergei Sobyanin, governor of the oil-producing Tyumen Region in western Siberia, will come to Moscow as head of the Presidential Administration.
* Konstantin Pulikovsky and Sergei Kiriyenko were removed as Presidential Envoys for the Far East and Volga Federal Districts, respectively. Their replacements are officials from Bashkiria and Tatarstan.
* On Nov. 17 Kiriyenko was named to replace Alexander Rumyantsev at the head of the Russian Agency for Atomic Energy. This move came as a surprise. Rosatom is a key institution in numerous areas, including Russia's nuclear cooperation programs with Iran and other nations.
Aftermath of Nalchik Continues
More Russian sources are reporting that the Oct. 13 raids in Nalchik, Kabardino-Balkaria, were intended to be a much bigger operation. They warn that the threat is still live. The Russian online publication Utro.ru carried a report on Nov. 15, citing unnamed officials in the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD), under the headline, "Guerrillas Will Avenge Nalchik With a Strike on Moscow." According to the article by Alexander Starkov, Russian security agencies are on heightened alert, with MVD special forces patrolling the highways around the capital, in expectation of "an attack on the Russian capital in the near future." Also mentioned as potential targets are Astrakhan, the Caspian Sea port at the mouth of the Volga, and cities in the North Caucasus. The report does not repeat the scenario, published by Stratfor, about the use of civilian airliners as weapons, but the sources do talk about acts of terror comparable in scale to the Nord Ost theater takeover or the Moscow apartment building bombings.
In the same article, Utro.ru cited Kabardino-Balkaria MVD official Albert Sizhazhev, who said that the bands that attacked Nalchik were trying to set up bases of operations there, like the bases that functioned in Chechnya in the 1990s. Other sources told Utro.ru that those attackers apparently intended to hold Nalchik for two months, using it as a staging ground for guerrilla warfare in the region.
Putin Stresses Eurasian Transport
As Russian President Vladimir Putin flew toward South Korea on Nov. 17 for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, his website released his article, written for publication in area press on this occasion. Putin's emphasis is on economic cooperation in the region, regional integration, and Eurasian development. Despite lip service to "globalization," the outline of Russian interests in cooperation with Asian nations was most striking for its emphasis on transportation corridors and other infrastructure.
Putin wrote that Russia "is prepared to play a key role in shaping the new transport and energy architecture in the Asia-Pacific Region." Upon joining APEC seven years ago, he said, "Russia was well aware of its unique potential as a transit territory.... This involves freight flows between two powerful centers of the world economy: the Pacific, and Europe." He cited the trans-Korea rail line as an example, which some people might find "unexpected," but which he considers important. "This project for shipping freight through South and North Korea is slowly moving ahead, although the rate of advance cannot be called rapid, due to the slow rate of progress on the Korean nuclear question. But the existence of such a project, which significantly lowers costs for the shipment of cargoes between Europe and Asia, is one element of the patient efforts that Russia and the other participants in the six-party negotiations on Korea are making, to turn the Korean peninsula into a zone of peaceful cooperation and development."
The route Putin wrote about runs from Pusan, South Korea (venue of the APEC summit) to the Transiberian Railway (the first Eurasian land-bridge, built by Count Sergei Witte at the turn of the 20th Century). Lest anyone think he were promoting this at the expense of infrastructure, radiating out of China, Putin added, "I call upon everybody to think about the enormous potentials, opened up by the transportation projects under consideration within the Shanghai Cooperation Organization: transportation and other [energy] main lines, crossing the expanses of Central Asia."
Putin's article also touched on combatting terrorism (including its finances), inter-civilizational dialogue, and bird flu.
'Blue Stream' Gas Pipeline Inaugurated
At Samsun, Turkey, on Nov. 17, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Prime Ministers Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey and Silvio Berlusconi of Italy, inaugurated the Black Sea-floor "Blue Stream" natural gas pipeline, which delivers gas directly from Russia to Turkey. Besides Gazprom and the Turkish national pipeline company, Botas, Italy's ENI was involved in engineering and building the project. In his speech, Putin talked about extending Blue Stream's delivery area to Italy. Russian press reports indicate that a several-years-long discussion of supplying Israel through the project has also been revived.
Interviewed during Russian TV coverage of the event, Minister of Industry and Energy Victor Khristenko stressed that the success of the project, which currently can deliver 4 billion cubic meters of gas annually (that will rise to a capacity of 16 billion), sets a good precedent for the pipeline Russia and Germany are building on the Baltic Sea floor.
Russia and Uzbekistan Agree on Strategic Partnership
Meeting in Moscow Nov. 15, Russian and Uzbek Presidents Vladimir Putin and Islam Karimov signed an expanded version of a strategic agreement between the two countries, including a provision on mutual assistance in case of aggression from third parties. An implication of this provision is that in case the democracy-obsessed globalist community decides that Karimov should undergo the Saddam treatment, his country will be protected by Russian military force.
In exchange, Moscow acquires the right to have a "defense infrastructure" in Uzbekistan. In particular, Russia will be allowed to use the Khanabad aircraft base, currently occupied by the U.S. and its allies. At a joint press conference, Karimov said the increase of Russia's influence in Central Asia and other regions of the world provides "reliable guarantees of peace and stability."
While Karimov was in Moscow, Uzbekistan's Supreme Court announced the sentences for the major participants in the paramilitary riot in Andijan earlier this year. The sentences for 15 (out of almost 200) paramilitary fighters range between 14 and 20 years' imprisonment.
European Union Lists Uzbekistan as Rogue Nation
The minute Islam Karimov's Uzbekistan asked Washington to remove its "anti-terrorist" bases from Uzbek territory this past summer, the European Union's bureaucracy decided that the regime was "rogue," and should be criticized. The pretext was the events in Andijan. Earlierat a time when the same Karimov regime was already using harsh methods not only against terrorists, but also against political oppositionists, but was expressing willingness to cooperate with NATO and participate in the geopolitical scheme called GUUAM (an alliance with Georgia, Ukraine, Moldova, and Azerbaijan)the same Eurobureaucracy conveniently ignored the notorious human rights problems of Uzbekistan, never mind scenarios for regime change.
But now, it is considered especially important to ostracize Tashkent, just at the time that Karimov was in Moscow. The list of persons now prohibited from entering EU territory includes Uzbekistan's Interior Minister Zakir Almatov, Defense Minister Kadyr Gulomov, and Security Minister Rustam Inoyatov. In addition, the EU has introduced an embargo on delivery to Uzbekistan of weapons and "other equipment which could be used for oppression."