|Russia and the CIS News Digest
SCO Prime Ministers Meet in Tajikistan
Prime Ministers from the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) member countries met Sept. 15 in Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan. Alongside the ministers from China, Russia, Kazakstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, observer nations and guests Iran, India, Mongolia, Pakistan, and Afghanistan were present. Russian Deputy Premier Mikhail Kamynin, who accompanied Premier Mikhail Fradkov, told RIA Novosti that the meeting would take up projects for hydroelectric power in Central Asia, transportation routes, roads, fiber-optic communications, and partnerships in science, technology, and agriculture. The transportation "pilot projects" on the agenda include a Caspian Sea-to-China corridor across the territory of Russia, Kazakstan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan. The SCO Prime Ministers resolved to study the idea of forming an energy club, to be concretized during 2007 on the basis of proposals from Kazakstan and Russia, the largest fuel and energy producers in the SCO.
Putin Says Energy Exports Will Shift Toward Asia
At his latest reception for Western reporters and academics, who had attended the annual Valday Club conference, Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed the notion of Russia as an "energy superpower." In general, he said he preferred to "abandon the terminology of the past," the word "superpower" being a legacy of the Cold War. He emphasized that Russia was looking at alternative energy sources, especially nuclear, aiming to bring its share in Russia's power generation to 25-30%.
As for Russian energy exports, the Russian President noted that currently only 3% go to Asian countries, but that within 10-15 years, Asia will account for 30% of these exports.
Russia Protests U.S. Abetting of Terrorism
The Russian Foreign Ministry called in an American diplomat Sept. 14, to deliver an official protest over a conference held by the Jamestown Foundation on the North Caucasus. One of the invited participants was a former representative of the late Chechen separatist leader Aslan Maskhadov. Russia protested that "to hold, on American soil, events that propagandize terrorism contradicts the international obligations of the USA." The note stressed, "The American authorities' de facto connivance at anti-Russian actions is of concern, in the context of the developing anti-terrorism partnership of our countries."
LaRouche, LYM, Potential for Change in U.S. Featured in Russia
An article by Prof. Yuri Gromyko in the Aug. 30 issue of Russky Zhurnal takes up current issues of economic policy and national identity, which are under discussion in Russia. At the end of piece, Gromyko stressed that the world strategic context is critical, for the success or failure of any policy measures in Russia. Most important, he writes, is for Russia to establish a better relationship with the leadership of the U.S. Democratic Party, while hoping that the latter get rid of such advisers as Richard Holbrooke. "From this standpoint," wrote Gromyko, "it was very important that on Aug. 16 there was an appearance on the First Channel of Russian television, of Lyndon LaRouche, the prominent American politician, who locates the causes of asymmetric warfare in Southwest Asia, in the onrushing crash of the world financial system. Lyndon LaRouche is known for his hard line against the neocons, as well as for his initiatives to revive the traditions of F.D. Roosevelt within the U.S. Democratic Party. The LaRouche Youth Movement, which he has created, is an interesting political form of mobilizing young people, upholding high standards of education, and a program of reindustrialization for the U.S.A. on the basis of the latest scientific discoveries. The leaders of the Russian youth movement Nashi have something to learn from the leaders of the LaRouche Youth Movement." (Nashi is the youth group, sponsored by the Kremlin.)
Russian Bank Official Assassinated
Andrei Kozlov, one of the Russian Central Bank's deputy chairmen, died Sept. 13 after being shot at close range as he left a soccer match. Russian Prosecutor General Yuri Chaika, along with many others, quickly linked the murder with Kozlov's role in pushing through bank regulation and anti-money-laundering measures. His killing is the first of such a high-ranking Russian official since President Putin took office. In the 1990s, there were about 25 attempts on bankers and banking officials, 16 of whom were killed. Other recent high-profile assassinations or attempts in and around Moscow were the murder of Forbes editor Paul Klebnikov in 2004, and an attempt on electricity chief Anatoli Chubais last year.
Russia Plans Mars Mission; Sino-Russian Lunar Cooperation Nears
In October 2009, the Russian space agency intends to launch an eight-ton spacecraft to the Martian moon, Phobos. Phobos-Grunt (meaning "soil"), resembling a giant spider, will have a drilling device that will excavate a sample of soil from Phobos to be returned to the Earth. The lander is designed to be active on the surface of Phobos for a year, and will image the landing site to help choose the spot for drilling and sampling.
The Russian government increased the space agency's budget by 30% over 2004-2005 and an additional 50% increase is planned by the end of this year. For the first decade after the fall of the Soviet Union, the space program that survived was what had existed from the investment, momentum, and hardware from the Soviet era. According to Russian officials, the multi-billion-dollar Phobos-Grunt mission will be funded 75% by Russia and 25% by foreign partners, including China. Russia has not launched a successful mission to Mars in the past 30 years. Major problems have entailed high-technology and long-lived electronics and other components, which international cooperation should help upgrade.
The Russia/China standing intergovernmental space subcommission on space, otherwise, is moving toward agreement on cooperation in lunar exploration. Russian Space Agency head Anatoli Perminov said Sept. 11 that the subcommission will hold its concluding session in Beijing at year's end. "We have already adopted a cooperation program with China for 2007-2009," he said. By the end of this year, the program may extend to the Moon. He said that the previous relationship between the two nations was that "China was a buyer and we were a seller." We have moved beyond that, Perminov said. "China is now a leading space power."
China will kick off its three-phase lunar program with the launch of its Chang'e lunar orbiter in April. For the second and third phases, China is open to international cooperation. These will involve lunar landers and rovers, with which the Russians have lots of experience. Russia is planning to launch its Moon Globe project in 2012, involving an orbiter, landing vehicle, and penetrators to explore the subsurface. In July, Russian officials attending a space conference in Beijing said it was quite possible that the two countries' lunar programs would share equipment that would be installed on each other's lunar craft.
Independence Referenda in South Ossetia, Transdniestria
President Eduard Kokoity of South Ossetia, the autonomous district in Georgia, announced Sept. 11 that there will be a national referendum on Nov. 12, coinciding with Presidential elections. Its one question will ask if South Ossetia should "retain its current status as an independent state" (as it claims to be), and seek international recognition.
A similar referendum is taking place much sooner, Sept. 17, in the Transdniestria district of Moldova. There, the referendum asks people to vote on affirming independence and moving towards Russia, or reintegrating with Moldova. Russian TV showed interviews with local commentators, projecting a 95% vote to "go with Russia."
While the South Ossetia vote is farther off, the situation remains tense there after the Georgian Defense Minister's helicopter was hit by gunfire in the region, earlier this month. On Sept. 9, South Ossetian Internal Affairs Minister Mikhail Mindzayev threatened that any military aircraft in South Ossetian airspace would be shot down, and that if Georgia moved militarily against the region, South Ossetia would "destroy Georgia's economic and military facilities," with a campaign of sabotage.