|Russia and the CIS News Digest
'Dialogue of Civilizations' Event in India Looks at Transportation Corridors
In conjunction with Russian President Vladimir Putin's Jan. 25-26 state visit to India, the World Public Forum-Dialogue of Civilizations (the Rhodes Forum) held a conference Jan. 24 at Jawaharlal Nehru University, on Development Models and Global Integration. Chairing the event was Putin's close ally Vladimir Yakunin, the head of Russian Railways, who is the co-founder and top Russian representative to the Rhodes Forum. Among the speakers at the forum were Prof. Yuri Gromyko and Yuri Krupnov, head of Russia's new Party of Development. They presented the concepts contained in their just-published pamphlet, "Advancing Civilization Through Transportation," which features the concept of a transportation corridor, as well as various designs for developing the Eurasian land-bridge, including that of Lyndon LaRouche.
Nuclear Power Tops Putin's Agenda in India
During President Putin's two-day trip to India, Russian and Indian nuclear officials signed a memorandum of understanding on the construction of four additional 1-gigawatt nuclear reactors at the Koodankulam plant in Tamil Nadu, where Russia's Atomstroyexport is already building two units. The memo said that Russian contractors would construct still more reactors at unspecified new sites. Russia's ambassador in New Delhi, Vyacheslav Trubnikov, said a few days earlier, that nuclear cooperation was "the most important issue on the agenda" during Putin's visit.
First Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Zhukov, travelling with Putin, said Jan. 26 that Russia will seek contracts for as many as ten new nuclear power units in India, provided such projects are cleared with the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) (because India is a non-signatory of the Non-Proliferation Treaty). "It all depends on how India's relations with the NSG develop," said Zhukov. "If all goes well, Russia could build as many as ten units." Russian Federal Atomic Energy Agency (Rosatom) head Sergei Kiriyenko stressed to journalists that Russia will continue to support NSG rules exceptions for India. He also noted that Putin and Prime Minister Singh had signed a memorandum on preparing a comprehensive nuclear power cooperation agreement, which Kiriyenko said would be done during 2007.
Other Russian nuclear power specialists, as well as Zhukov, noted that there could be stiff competition for Indian contracts. But with India committed to bringing 40 gigawatts of new capacity on line by 2025, Zhukov said "there should be plenty of work for everybody." Yuri Sentyurin, head of the Russian State Duma's Committee on Transportation, Communications, and Energy, said that the new agreements are a turning point for Russia, since this volume of contracts will keep existing production facilities busy, create new jobs, and provide opportunities to modernize the Russian nuclear machine production. Former Rosatom head Victor Mikhailov told Novosti that the new Russian-Indian agreement is "a step forward in what we call the renaissance of nuclear power."
Putin was hosted at a state dinner by President Abdul Kalam. In a packed schedule, he held talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, met with Indian National Congress leader Sonia Gandhi, addressed a meeting of business leaders, and was the guest of honor at India's national holiday ceremonies. He was accompanied by the CEOs of 28 leading Russian companies (and that's with several of Russia's top energy company leaders being off at the World Economic Forum in Davos).
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov had arrived several days earlier. On Jan. 22, Ivanov spoke to a group of industrialists in Bangalore about the prospects for nuclear energy cooperation. On Jan. 23, the Defense Minister announced Russia's intention to bid for a new contract in its more traditional sphere of trade with India: weapons sales, offering the MiG-35 for an Indian tender for 126 planes. In all, 11 agreements were signed during Putin's visit, including two on use of the Russian satellite system GLONASS, and other areas of cooperation in culture, transportation, and space.
Foreign Minister, Senior Military Strategist Assess Russia's Global Role
New contributions to an ongoing discussion of Russia's global role, in the setting of war in Southwest Asia and economic difficulties worldwide, came in mid-January from Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, and from General of the Army Makhmut Gareyev, a famed Russian General Staff officer, now head of the Academy of Military Sciences (AMS). The theme of both interventions is what Lavrov called Russia's "foreign policy autonomy," which President Putin also brought up, at his Jan. 23 press conference in Sochi with visiting Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi. Said Putin, "Russia will determine her place in the world by herself, and will strive for a well-balanced and multipolar world.... Since the collapse of the bipolar world and the two confronting systems, an illusion arose among some people that the world had become monopolar and that all the world problems could be quite easily resolved from one center.... Such approaches have led to a growing number of crises.... Under these conditions, Russia's economic, military, and political abilities are clearly growing. A competitor that was nearly written off is emerging in the worldeven if this motion is not yet so noticeable at first sight. This seems to me the main reason [for criticism of Russia]the unwillingness to consider Russia's legitimate interests, and the wish to put her in a place someone else has chosen for her."
Lavrov, writing in Moskovskiye Novosti of Jan. 19, said that the world has not become more secure with the end of the Cold War, and "the main reason for this is the downside of globalization." The conflicts generated by growing "inequality of development," he said, are compounded by "relapses into the unilateral use of force." Lavrov listed an array of international problems that need Russia's participation, if they are to be solved, and went into the Middle East crisis in detail. At the same time, he said, Russia "is not suited to being managed, or having its foreign policy managed, from outside"; that was disastrous in the past, both under the Tsars and in the late Soviet period. But, "It would be a pity if, by force of inertia, people were to react to a self-confident Russia in the spirit of Cold War instincts." He concluded the article with reference to Russia's special place as a Eurasian nation: "Russia is sometimes accused of trying to live in several civilizational dimensions. But that is precisely where Russian has always existedwhere civilizations meet."
General Gareyev's interview to RIA Novosti came in advance of a conference held Jan. 20 at the Russian Defense Ministry, on Russia's new military doctrine. Putin commissioned the reformulation of this official document in 2005, to reflect changes since its last edition, issued in 2000. Gareyev's AMS, which is independent, but works closely with the Armed Forces General Staff, is working on the draft. He, too, stressed that "there is no alternative to a multipolar world, with major centers of influence (the USA, EU, Russia, China, India)." Addressing the United States, Gareyev said, "Reality and pragmatism should motivate even the thickest Congressmen to think once again about which is better: to treat Russia as a partner, or as an enemy that must be neutralized." At the same time, Gareyev commented that if Washington's policies continue to generate confrontation in the world, "Russia will have to act as a geopolitical arbiter."
In the Soviet era, when Marshal Nikolai Ogarkov was head of the General Staff, Gareyev was a specialist on strategy and combined-arms operations. In his Novosti interview, he took up that topic, saying that "future wars are likely to be conducted with high-precision conventional arms, in the context of a permanent nuclear threat"; thus, "nuclear weapons will remain the most important strategic deterrent," but "the doctrine should pay attention to the development of general-purpose forces: the air force, navy, and ground troops."
Gareyev also proposed to evaluate "military and non-military threats as an integral whole," citing threats to national sovereignty, energy security, WMD proliferation, and "the risk of armed conflicts and even a large-scale war," as Russia's most serious concerns. While opposing NATO's global expansion, he mentioned the possibility of demarcating "zones of responsibility" regarding terrorism, between NATO and the Russia-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO).
Putin: U.S. Space Weapons Motivated China's ASAT Test
At a Jan. 25 press conference in New Delhi, Russian President Putin said that the reason for the recent Chinese test of an anti-satellite capability was U.S. plans for space-based weapons. After stating that Russia was against putting weapons in space, and only mildly criticizing China, Putin continued, "At the same time, I would like to note that China was not the first country to conduct such a test." He continued: "The first such test was conducted in the late 1980s, and we also hear it today, about the U.S. military circles considering plans of militarization of space."
Lavrov: Uranium-Smuggling Furor Is 'Provocation'
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Jan. 26 that the detention of a Russian citizen with "bomb-grade uranium," announced the previous day as a successful U.S.-Georgian sting operation, actually took place a year ago. He said Georgia had refused to provide enough of a sample of the confiscated uranium to enable determination of its source, and that charges of Russian non-cooperation in the case are "a provocation."