|Russia and the CIS News Digest
Putin Visits China
Russian President Vladimir Putin gave a written interview to China's official news agency, Xinhua, on the eve of his arrival in Beijing on March 21 for a two-day visit, in the midst of extensive "Year of Russia in China" celebrations. While discussing advances and some problems in bilateral trade and economic relations, Putin emphasized that Russia and China view their strategic partnership as a means to shape a new international political and economic order, counter to those who would provoke a new global clash of civilizations. "Rather than imposing our point of view by force and flexing our muscles, we consistently support a political and diplomatic approach to conflict resolution," Putin wrote.
Both Xinhua and Putin emphasized the importance of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (Russia and China are members alongside Central Asian countries), founded five years ago this coming June 15, in fostering regional stability and regional development.
The Russian President's large delegation was weighted towards those involved in economic exchange between the two large Eurasian nations. The Chinese side pressed for movement towards building the long-discussed oil pipeline from East Siberia to China, now supposed to be a spur from the East Siberia-Pacific Ocean (ESPO) pipeline. In a preemptive interview issued March 20, China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) General Director Chen Geng was adamant: "We are absolutely sure that such a pipeline branch will be built"something Russian leaders have pledged repeatedly over the past several years. (The ESPO pipeline itself still does not have a firmly fixed construction schedule. On March 6, it was cleared by a Russian environmental agency as not endangering Lake Baikal; on March 10 the Supreme Court upheld that ruling.)
The 15 documents signed after Putin's talks with Chinese President Hu Jintao included agreements on bilateral cooperation in the oil sector, including Rosneft-CNPC joint ventures to refine crude and sell oil products; a CNPC-Gazprom memorandum on the delivery of Russian natural gas to China; the promised oil pipeline feasibility study agreement; and other agreements on electricity, communication satellite projects, and more.
Russian Slams Cheney-Bush National Security Strategy
Russian Federation Council speaker Sergei Mironov and the Russian Foreign Ministry each issued criticisms of the Bush-Cheney National Security Strategy doctrine, issued March 16, which included an attack on Russia for its "diminishing commitment to democratic freedoms and institutions." Mironov said, "Regrettably, serious international problems, including the fight against terrorism and partnership in energy, are not reflected in the U.S. national security doctrine." He added, "The new U.S. national strategy document arouses some queries, but its gist is: 'I like who I want and I love who I want,' and each country will be assessed from the angle of liberties in the way in which Washington understands them." Russia will tackle international problems exclusively on the basis of and within the framework of international law, he insisted, concluding, "What is happening in Iraq is the product of the American doctrine."
A March 20 Russian Foreign Ministry release on the document asked, "Should we understand this means that in the immediate future U.S.-Russian relations face far from the best of times?" The statement continued, "One cannot escape the impression that [Washington] is using populist slogans in its own interests." The Foreign Ministry noted that the new edition "continues to put ideology first in U.S. foreign policy." "From now on, the main criteria in the development of relations between the United States and other countries will be their conformity or non-conformity to American notions of democracy and to Washington's requirements for the fight against unwelcome regimes," the ministry said. "They're trying convince us that a democratic process in neighboring countries which is imposed from outside is useful for people living there. No one has or can have any exclusive right to interpret what democracy means. Attempts at an artificial or even forced propagation of democracy in other countries not only cannot succeed, but might even discredit the main idea."
Foreign Affairs Claims Russia Has No Deterrent
A provocative article in the New York Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) quarterly Foreign Affairs claims that the United States has developed such superiority over Russia's shrinking nuclear arsenal, that the USA could entirely destroy it in a nuclear first strike, and thus suffer no risk of a Russian nuclear counterstrike. "The Rise of U.S. Nuclear Primacy," by Keir A. Lieber and Daryl G. Press, in the March/April 2006 Foreign Affairs, has gotten little attention in U.S. print media so far, but it is the subject of extensive discussion in the Russian media, where most or all of the Russian experts find Lieber's and Press's argument greatly exaggerated.
The authors are two young political science professors, who received their BAs in 1992 and PhDs in 2000 and 2001, respectively. Lieber has been supported by the Smith Richardson Foundation and Press by the John M. Olin Foundation, the two oligarchical foundations which are featured most prominently in the EIR Special Report, "Brzezinski and 9/11," issued by LaRouche in 2004. The two co-authors have long been preparing for the unveiling of this particular article.
On March 5, the CFR issued with fanfare its report, "Russia's Wrong Path: What the United States Can and Should Do." (See EIR Online Russia/CIS Digest, March 14.)
USA, EU Agitate Around Belarus Election Results
Alexander Lukashenka, one of the world leaders targetted by George Bush as a "tyrant," won a third term as President of Belarus in the March 19 elections, credited with 82.6% of the vote against 6% for the Project Democracy favorite Alexander Milinkevich. Russian President Vladimir Putin quickly shot his neighbor a congratulatory telegram, telling him: "The results of the election testify to the fact that the voters trust in your course towards the further growth of the Belarus people's well-being," and the Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement that "there is no reason to doubt the results."
Just as quickly, the White House crusaders refused to recognize the results. Reporters travelling on Air Force One were told by Press Secretary Scott McClellan that, "the United States does not accept the results of the election. The election campaign was conducted in a climate of fear. We support the call for a new election." At the State Department, Assistant Secretary Sean McCormack proclaimed that the U.S. "is preparing to take serious, appropriate measures against those officials responsible for election fraud," adding that he sees grounds for rerunning the election. Under discussion, reportedly, are further travel restrictions on an increased numbers of Belarus officials. French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy and various European Union officials also promised "rigorous sanctions" on officials.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier moved to head off something worse, stating that the European Union would not consider denying diplomatic recognition to Lukashenka's government, a drastic measure which "could have very far-reaching consequences."