|Russia and the CIS News Digest
Putin Meets New Primakov-Kissinger Group
July 13 (EIRNS)Russian President Vladimir Putin this evening received the members of the new public dialogue group "Russia-USA: Looking at the Future," chaired by former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Yevgeni Primakov. The group had held its first meeting, earlier in the day. Its creation was announced April 26, just after Putin met with U.S. ex-Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton.
Members of the group are senior figures from the two countries. The RTR Vesti Information Channel reported that among them were Americans Thomas Graham (strategic arms negotiator in the Clinton Administration), former Sen. Sam Nunn, former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, senior oligarchical figure George Shultz, Chevron CEO David O'Reilly, and Martin Feldstein, who headed the Council of Economic Advisors under President Ronald Reagan.
The Russian participants include former strategic arms negotiator and Ambassador to the United States Yuli Vorontsov, deputy chairman of the electric power company UES Leonid Drachevsky, Academician Yuri Izrael (known for his criticism of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC, of which he is a member; participant in the April 2007 conference in Moscow on the proposal to build a tunnel across the Bering Strait), deputy head of the U.S.A.-Canada Institute Victor Kremenyuk, deputy chairman of Russian Aluminum Alexander Livshits, and Gen. Mikhail Moiseyev, former Chief of the Armed Forces General Staff. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also took part in the meeting with Putin at Novo Ogaryovo outside Moscow.
Putin's remarks to the delegations were featured on all major TV news broadcasts in Russia and posted on the Kremlin website. Congratulating the group on having formed itself so promptly, he noted that their discussions had covered "a geopolitical review focusing on relations between Russia and the United States, the world economy, non-proliferation, the energy sector, the future outlook, and common interests between Russia and the U.S. These are all very important issues, and they all have a global dimension and are matters of principle." He said that these were the topic-areas of all of his own talks with President Bush, including at Kennebunkport on July 1-2.
Putin continued, "This kind of global approach that looks to the future, is very much needed, in my view. We cannot afford to let Russian-American relations depend on the political needs of the moment in our countries.... If we are to keep the interests of global security and the interests of our peoples in mind, we must take a different approach. What kind of different approach should this be? We must ensure that in both Russia and the United States the attitude towards Russian-American contacts and relations at all levels and in all areas reaches a level of national consensus such that the overwhelming majority of people in our countries realize how important these relations are not just in bilateral terms, but how important they are for resolving global issues too."
Putin said he hoped "that the proposals that emerge from your discussions will not end up gathering dust on foreign ministry shelves, but will be viewed as material that can be used for developing practical policy."
Primakov and Kissinger spoke to the press after the meeting with Putin. Primakov said that the next in-person conference of the group would take place in mid-December.
Putin Meets with Chinese Foreign Minister
July 13 (EIRNS)President Putin met with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, who is now on a visit to Moscow. Putin stressed the importance of the Russo-Chinese relationship, noting that a "very high degree of trust" has been established between the two nations. The economic and trade cooperation is moving faster, Putin said, adding that bilateral border trade has become more active with the trade structure improving. Putin said he is looking forward to his meeting with the Chinese President at the meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in August. Minister Yang will remain in Moscow for further talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
SCO To Expand Scope as Key Eurasian Organization
July 9 (EIRNS)The Foreign Ministers of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization countries (China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, with Mongolia, India, Iran, and Pakistan as observer nations) met in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan today, laying out a program for their annual summit, to be held in Bishkek on Aug. 16. Their final document emphasized active cooperation of the SCO with the CIS states, ASEAN, and the Euro-Asian Economic Community, and the United Nations.
The SCO was initiated in 1996 to counter terrorism in Eurasia, and has since grown to encompass economic, trade, military, cultural, and legal cooperation. Terrorism is still a central issue. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that on Aug. 17, right after the summit, "our leaders will attend the active phase of the SCO Peace Mission-2007 anti-terror exercise in the Chelyabinsk region. The results and decisions of the upcoming summit will make a considerable contribution to higher stability and security and the development of integration processes on the SCO space in the interests of our countries, people and the whole region."
The devolution of Afghanistan is another key issue for the SCO. Lavrov told the press that Russia would like the SCO, including the observer nations, "to work more actively with the SCO-Afghanistan contact group.... We need to use an approach which combines necessary active economic support and more critical measures to suppress drug trafficking, while it is also necessary to support national agreement within Afghanistan." Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai and the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon are invited guests, Kazakhstan Today reported.
Ukraine Interested in Russian Missile Defense Proposal
July 11 (EIRNS)In an interview with the Russian paper Novaya Gazeta yesterday, Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko said that his country might one day join a joint missile defense system with Russia, the U.S.A., and Europe. "We view positively any system which would broaden the possibilities of collective security," he said. "We need to draw up a model of security which would meet the needs of all, or most, of those taking part in the process." Coming from a longtime ally of U.S. geopolitics against Russia, Yushchenko's remarks, an endorsement of the Kennebunkport formula, are an important new development in Eastern Europe. It cannot be ruled out that Yushchenko discussed the issue with Bill Clinton, during the latter's recent visit to Ukraineduring which, Clinton also endorsed the original 1983 Reagan SDI initiative for joint U.S.-Russian missile defense.
Deputy Minister Says Azerbaijan Likes Putin Proposal
July 12 (EIRNS)Araz Azimov, the Deputy Foreign Minister of Azerbaijan, answered a question from EIR on Russian President Putin's proposal for joint U.S.-Russian missile defense, saying that Azerbaijan would be quite satisfied if an agreement were reached over the Gabala radar facility, as Putin suggests. "When the U.S. and the Russians are in agreement, everyone feels better," Azimov said.
With the demise of the Soviet Union, he explained, Azerbaijan was forced to decide whether to use the Gabala radar or dismantle it completely. "It was not possible for Azerbaijan to use it," he said. So, in 2002 it was recognized as the property of Azerbaijan, transformed into a civilian site, and leased to the Russians for ten years, with the possibility of renewal.
When news of Putin's proposal came, he said, "Putin consulted with President Aliyev and explained that it was a question of a sharing of information. Azerbaijan was interested in helping the two parties in a joint approach." Azimov added that the latest version of the proposal, made at Kennebunkport "contains many new elements," and agreement must be worked out between the parties. After that, there might be a trilateral meeting which would include Azerbaijan.
Gazprom Lets French Total in on Shtokman Gas Field
July 13 (EIRNS)Following July 11 phone discussions between President Putin and French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Russia's Gazprom decided to grant to the French oil multinational Total, a 25% interest in a contract for exploitation of the offshore Shtokman gas field, the largest in the world. The French daily Le Figaro describes it as a highly political deal, possibly indicating that the new French President does not intend to follow the anti-Russian line he had promulgated during his Presidential campaign. In his speech to the National Assembly, Prime Minister François Fillon said that relations between France and Russia would be characterized by trust and friendship.
Estimated at 3,680 trillion cubic meters, the Shtokman gas field will be extremely difficult to exploit, due to its location in the Barents Sea, an area where there are often severe storms and icebergs. Investments in technology following a period of technical studies will be colossal, in the range of $20 billion. While Russia terminated the status of multinationals Total, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Statoil, and Norsk Hydro from an earlier contract, so far, only Total has made it back into the game, apparently thanks to its technological superiority in working offshore fields.
According to the Russian economic daily Vedomosti, cited in the economic section of Le Figaro: "Gazprom is incapable of managing the project alone. The investments are enormous and Gazprom does not have certain necessary technologies." The contract signed today in Moscow gives Total a 25% interest in the company which will own the "infrastructure" of the project. Its share does not include exploitation of the deposits.