|Russia and the CIS News Digest
Russia, South Korea Sign Land-Bridge Agreement
Russian President Vladimir Putin and South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun have signed an extraordinary agreement for Russia/South Korea cooperation, including on the Eurasian land-bridge. Meeting bilaterally Nov. 19 on the sidelines of the APEC meeting in Busan, South Korea, the two Presidents adopted an "action plan" that includes: a project to link the Trans-Siberian Railroad to the Trans-Korean (Inter-Korean) Railroad (i.e., close the gap in the northern land-bridge); a cooperative technology park in Russia; joint development of oil and gas fields; and potential agreements in defense, space technology, and basic science.
Putin also expressed hope that "South Korean companies will be able to join the costly project for building an oil pipeline to funnel oil from Siberia to the Korean Peninsula," Xinhua reported. In this context, Putin has added substantive content to the six-party talks on the ongoing Korean peninsula situation: development of the region as the basis for peace. As reported in EIR Online of Nov. 22, Putin prepared for the APEC meeting by publishing a document across the region on transportation development in Eurasia, focussed on Korea, and identifying the six-party talks as an effort to turn the region into a "zone of peaceful cooperation and development."
Russia Acts To Control NGOs
On Nov. 23 the Russian State Duma voted 370-18 (56 abstentions) in favor of legislation which will clamp down on activities of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), especially those run, financed, and staffed by foreigners. Russian organizations will have to register with authorities, and will not be able to receive foreign funds or foreign staffing. This means that such organizations as the Ford Foundation, Amnesty International, and Greenpeace would be forced to shut down their offices and re-register as Russian groups. At the same time, the 2006 Russian budget will provide $17 million to finance NGOs internally.
The move has provoked cries of foul play in the international press, where it is cast as a move towards an anti-democratic "closed society." U.S. President George Bush reportedly brought up the matter up when he met Nov. 28 with Russian President Putin in South Korea.
On Nov. 26, Putinwho said already last summer that no self-respecting nation could allow foreign-funded NGOs to run rampant, without regulationstated his support for the Duma legislation. "The state must keep an eye on the ongoing financing of political activities in Russia from abroad," he said. "This is especially true if financing from abroad is carried out through state channels of other countries or if those organizations operating here in our country that are involved in political activities are being used as an instrument of foreign policy of other states."
Germany and Russia Invite Poland To Join Pipeline Project
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, during Dec. 2 talks in Warsaw, offered Poland access to fuel from the natural-gas pipeline that Russia and Germany are building on the Baltic Sea floor (circumventing Poland), through a spur from the main pipeline to the Polish port of Gdansk. Poland would also contribute with investments. A joint German-Polish working group has been established, to discuss further details.
Construction on the pipeline is slated to begin with a ceremony at a site 400 kilometers northwest of Moscow, on Dec. 9, which will be attended by German Economics Minister Michael Glos. The 1,200-km pipeline from Vyborg (Russia) to Greifswald (Germany) will require investments of up to 5 billion euros and is to be completed by late 2010, and begin gas transfers shortly after that. By about 2012, it will operate at full capacity, transferring 50 million cubic meters annually, to the West.
Russian-Indian Military Cooperation on the Rise
India and Russia are moving closer toward joint manufacturing of naval vessels, including aircraft carriers, the New Delhi India Daily reported Dec. 2 New Delhi has virtually made available to Moscow details of most of its naval vessels, reports indicate. India and Russia are planning major naval exercises in the Indian Ocean region in the coming years, thus indicating India's keenness to keep the Russian Navy updated on this crucial oil-transporting sea lane.
On Nov. 25, Indian Navy's kilo-class diesel-electric submarine, built originally by the Soviet Admiralty Shipyard in Leningrad, was handed over to New Delhi after being upgraded by Zvyozdochka shipyard in Severodvinsk on the White Sea. Earlier in November, the refitted submarine, INS Sindhughosh, completed the tests of its new Club-S cruise missiles at a firing range of the Russian Northern Fleet's Bermorskaya naval station. INS Sindhughosh is the third Indian kilo-class submarine modernized by the Russians.
In a Dec. 1 interview with the Russian government paper Rossiyskaya Gazeta, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said that cooperation between the two countries had reached "an unprecedented level of intensity" in a number of areas. He added, "I would like to see great achievements in the economic sphere.... The rapid growth of Russian exports to India could allow broadening of various kinds of cooperation in the areas of atomic energy, investments in infrastructure, and exports of high technology." Manmohan Singh's remarks came on the eve of his visit to Russia, beginning on Dec. 4.
Uzbekistan Closes Its Air Space to NATO
With the exception of German aircraft, NATO flights have been banned over Uzbekistan as of Nov. 24. This comes on the heels of the closing of the Karshi-Chanabad U.S. military base earlier in November. Closing the air space will affect flights of planes into Afghanistan.