|Russia and the CIS News Digest
Shanghai Summit Preparations Finalized
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao, at a June 9 press briefing about the upcoming Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit, said that the Presidents of all SCO member states will attend the organization's summit in Shanghai on June 15. He confirmed officially that the Presidents of Afghanistan, India Mongolia, Pakistan, and Iran will participate as observers. He announced that on the sidelines of the summit, Hu will hold bilateral meetings with the Presidents of the SCO members, and also with Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Liu also informed the press that India will send its Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas, Murli Deora, to the summit, and that the CIS and ASEAN will send representatives.
Kiriyenko Announces New Nuclear Plant Locations
In a series of statements since the beginning of June, Sergei Kiriyenko, head of Russia's Federal Atomic Energy Agency (Rosatom), has begun to specify where Russia will be building the 40 new nuclear plants that he has stated are needed by 2030. Units will be added to existing power plant sites; at Beloyarskaya, Volgodonskaya, and Kalinskaya, units under construction will be completed. Economics Minister German Gref said June 7 that 18 billion rubles, or $674 million, will be allocated for the projects. This also includes the first unit at the Novovorenzhskaya site.
A new site will be opened in the Urals, containing four reactors. Kiriyenko told journalists in Ozersk on May 30 that the region will suffer a lack of electrical energy, "and that a nuclear power plant is needed here to cover the anticipated deficit." He added that nuclear power plants were the largest taxpayers in the Chelyabinsk region. One nuclear plant in the region began construction in 1983, but was suspended in 1990 due to lack of financing and environmentalist protests.
Kiriyenko also announced at the end of May that construction of a $2.1 billion fast-breeder reactor, the BN-800, will be undertaken as a fourth unit at the Beloyarsk plant site. Design work on an advanced sodium-cooled breeder reactor began more than a decade ago, and now will finally be put into operation in 2012.
Russian, German Banks Plan New Development Institution
German financial papers reported prominently on a June 8 Moscow press conference given by Vladimir Dmitriyev, head of the state-owned Vneshekonombank, and the current and incoming leaders, Hans W. Reich and Ingrid Matthaeus-Meyer, of Germany's Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau (KfW), the credit-generating institution that was instrumental in Germany's post-war "economic miracle." The speakers detailed plans for implementation of the agreement, signed April 27 by the two banks, plus Roseximbank and the Russian Development Bank, to establish a new lending institution. Based on a merger of the Russian Development Bank and Roseximbank, the new bank will focus on generating credit for investment projects in three areas: infrastructure, high technology, and housing construction. It will look for medium-sized technology-oriented companies in Russia to back. The bank will be controlled by the Russian government, but, unlike KfW, it will not enjoy explicit state guarantees, at least in the beginning. Germany's KfW will provide assistance. Dmitriyev, who is likely to head the new bank, praised the KfW as a successful example, which Russia needs to copy.
The Russian Development Bank was established at the initiative of Vice-Premier Yuri Maslyukov, during the Yevgeni Primakov government, which was in power for eight months after the financial collapse of August 1998. The RDB has been dead in the water, however, for lack of funding. The new project is slated to be capitalized at over $3 billion. By comparison, Russia's Stabilization Fund, the pool of tax revenue from oil exports that current doctrine forbids to be invested in the national economy, is now over $65 billionand has been sunk largely into foreign government bonds and stock markets.
Russian Sources Confirm LaRouche's Iran Warning
The LaRouche PAC release, "LaRouche Warns of Cheney Plans To Launch Iran Strike in June," was issued May 24 and began to circulate in Russian five days later. On May 31 Radio Govorit Moskva ("Moscow Speaking") interviewed Yuri Solozobov, current head of the influential National Strategy Institute (NSI) and long-time collaborator of the NSI's founder, Stanislav Belkovsky. Interviewer Serafim Melentyev began by reading aloud to his guest two paragraphs from the LaRouche release, and asking him to comment. Solozobov offered a range of evidence to support LaRouche's warning. He cited the NSI's own February 2005 memorandum, which had "forecast that an aggravation of the situation around Iran, up to and including preventive strikes, would occur exactly between March and October of 2006." At the time, the NSI linked this possibility to the U.S. midterm elections, and now, "Today, Bush's approval rating is 30-35%, which is lower than Nixon's before Watergate, and is one of the lowest ratings any American President has ever had."
The analyst went on to concur with the World Cup Soccer scenario, discussed in LaRouche's release: "Many military analysts, particularly Igor Panarin, of whom I personally think very highly, have pointed to exactly this feature: that the world soccer championship, from a military standpoint, is a good cover, since billions of TV watchers will simultaneously be viewing the stream of news, and there will be online broadcasts, and therefore the picture of an explosion in a stadium, God forbid, could of course become known instantly to TV audiences all over the world." Solozobov commented that the USA would not attempt to sustain a ground attack or occupation, but "action from a distance, including a 12- to 24-day air campaign, has been worked up by the Pentagon a long time ago, and was submitted in February as a working option that can be launched at any moment." This fits with the overall "idea of U.S. military strategy," which is "to be prepared to launch high-precision preemptive strikes, at any moment, against any country that is declared a rogue state."
The Moscow think-tanker commented, "In this context, Lyndon LaRouche's communication, no matter what people's attitude to him may be in America itself, and no matter what his image in the world as an informational scandal-monger, is quite convincingly grounded in both information and analysis."
Putin Meets Kissinger
In the latest of a series of tête-à-têtes they have had since 2003, Russian President Vladimir Putin received former U.S. National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger at his residence near Moscow on June 6. Speaking about Russian-American relations, Putin said that the "substance" of the relations was improving, though specific circumstances may cause some variance. Putin said that agreements among the world's great powers, such as the latest proposal for defusing the crisis over Iran's nuclear program, showed that Russia and the USA could understand each other. "Our views do not always coincide, by a long shot, but we on the whole understand each other, which is most important, and we find compromises," he said.
Lavrov Warns Against NATO Expansion to Georgia, Ukraine
Speaking before the Russian State Duma on June 7, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that "membership in NATO for countries like Ukraine or Georgia would mean a colossal geopolitical shift" and would force Russia to respond. "We evaluate all possible consequences first and foremost from the point of view of the national interest of Russia," he said. Lavrov also attacked U.S. plans to deploy low-yield nuclear weapons and also to put conventional warheads on intercontinental missiles. ITAR-TASS quoted him saying the U.S. was trying "not only to remove the question of disarmament from the world agenda, but also from the public view."
The Duma unanimously voted up a message to the Ukrainian Parliament, expressing its "serious concern" over plans for Ukraine to join NATO. Ukraine's Supreme Rada had still not approved participation in the Sea Breeze 2006 joint exercise with NATO in the Black Sea, scheduled to begin on June 12, and large demonstrations in Crimea have hampered U.S. forces arriving for those maneuvers. Also on June 7, the legislature of Crimea voted 78 to 61 to declare the peninsula "NATO-free territory." Ukraine's President Victor Yushchenko, who has made joining NATO a top priority, asked the Rada to grant permission for foreign troops to be on Ukrainian soil.
Schiller Institute at Conference in Armenia
Yerevan, Armenia was host to a May 16-17 conference titled, "The Caucasus without Conflict and Terrorism. Dialogue of Civilizations at the Caucasus Crossroads." Speakers and guests from Iran, Russia, Georgia, Turkey, Armenia, Switzerland, and Germany gathered. The conference was opened with a message from his Holiness Garegin II. Catholicos of All Armenians, who later received the participants, followed by the speech of Ara Abrahamian, President of World Armenian Congress and Union of Armenians in Russia, UNESCO Good Will Ambassador. Gagid Harutyunian, chairman of the Constitutional Court of Armenia, Vladimir Pryakhin, head of the OSCE office in Yerevan, and Gegham Gharibjanian, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Armenia followed.
The Russian delegation included a member of the State Duma, retired and active diplomats, the Russian Ambassador to Armenia, and representatives of other institutions. In the Iranian delegation was a senior expert of the Caucasus Center for International and Strategic Research of the Ministry of International Affairs of Iran. Georgia was represented by the Ambassador and a member of Parliament. Important was the participation of a Turkish delegation, official relations between Armenia and Turkey being frozen and their border closed. But a delegation from Azerbaijan was blocked from taking part, by pressure from that country's government. Nagorno-Karabakh, the area disputed between Armenia and Azerbaijan, was represented by the main advisor to the President and the Foreign Minister.
Schiller Institute representative Karl-Michael Vitt spoke during the opening session, presenting the development perspective of the Eurasian Land-Bridge, in the context of a new financial architecture. The Caucasus area, a crossroads of civilization, was in the known history of the last 4,000 years always a place of imperial or geopolitical influence but also positive crossroads of culture. If Iran, Russia, Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia were to create a Eu150 billion development fund, they would jointly build great infrastructure projects, linking Eurasia with the Southwest Asia region, which would be in their common interest as well as their interest as sovereign nations. The final resolution of the conference said that the region should not tie itself to any single power. The event was sponsored by Iravunk Holding, which was represented by Haik Babookhanian.