|Russia and the CIS News Digest
Russia Angry at U.S. Base Expansion in Eastern Europe
Russian officials have responded with anger to U.S. arrangements to set up four military bases in Romania. At a Dec. 7 press conference in Brussels, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said "changes in military configurations" were supposed to "be transparent and should not violate the agreements on stability in Europe. It's important to have an idea about the purpose of such reconfigurations." He said that Russia wanted an explanation of how the expansion relates to the revised Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty, which, "regrettably, our Western colleagues have not ratified."
Also on Dec. 7, First Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said in a televised statement, that Russian may reconsider abiding by the CFE, if the U.S. military presence creeps closer to its borders. "The expansion of U.S. and NATO infrastructure to Russia's borders raises a question about the fate of the CFE," Ivanov said. Ivanov cited the U.S.-Romanian agreement, saying, "We are aware of such plans. The American government has informed us. But we still do not know how many bases may be deployed and the number of units they may house. We will probably give our response after these aspects are clarified."
Ivanov also strongly defended Russia's just-finalized sale of 29 Tor-M1 surface-to-air missile to Iran, which the U.S. State Department has denounced. "This contract is totally legitimate," said the Russian Defense Minister. "Russia hasn't violated any of its international obligations, and Iran isn't now subject to international sanctions."
Baltic Sea Gas Pipeline Under Construction
The official kickoff of construction work on the underwater Baltic Sea natural gas pipeline project was attended Dec. 9 by Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov and German Economics Minister Michael Glos, at Cherepovets. Afterward, Fradkov and Glos had a separate meeting discussing other aspects of the envisaged expansion of German-Russian economic cooperation. Russian President Vladimir Putin is to meet Angela Merkel, the new German Chancellor, on Jan. 16, 2006.
The pipeline launch was characterized by Glos as a milestone in German industrial relations with Russia: 51% of the project are held by Gazprom, the other 49% at equal shares each, by the two German partner firms, Wintershall and E.on. The 1,200-kilometer pipeline will be built for an annual capacity of 50 million cubic meters. Operation at full capacity will occur about two years after the project's completion (after five years of construction) in 2010. Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has been proposed by Putin to become a member of the project advisory board. Schroeder, who signed the project at a meeting with Putin in September, has accepted the offer.