|Russia and the CIS News Digest
Putin Webcast Addresses National Security, General Welfare
Oct. 19 (EIRNS)Yesterday, Russian President Vladimir Putin conducted his sixth, and final webcast dialogue with the Russian population. The question-and-answer session lasted three hours, including live questions from groups of citizens assembled in various cities, some of the over 2 million phone-in questions, and e-mail and SMS messages. What came through in the broadcast that was carried on two major national TV channels, and archived on the Kremlin website, is a Russia that is back on its feet after the disastrous 1990s, and is grappling with problems that are daunting, yet approachable.
The outstanding themes of the webcast were national security, and the welfare of the population.
Several of the group Q&A exchanges were staged to emphasize national security. A group of officers and staff from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in Arkhangelsk Region reported to Putin on the successful test-firing of a Topol intercontinental ballistic missile that morningand showed rare footage of the launch, also reporting that the rocket had hit its target on Kamchatka Peninsula in the Far East, 25 minutes later. Putin then launched into a briefing on the maintenance and upgrading of Russia's strategic triad, including its modernization on the basis of new technologies. He called these plans "grandiose."
A group of military men and citizens from the village of Botlik, Dagestan, recalled how they repulsed an attack by the Chechen insurgent commander Shamil Basayev and his foreign accomplice, Hottab, in 1999. It was a turning point in beating back the attempt to spread separatist insurgencies throughout the Russian North Caucasus. The questioners, and Putin, talked about the stabilization of Chechnya, yet the abiding danger of foreign instigators moving to inflame Ingushetia and other areas.
In reply to questions from Kaliningrad on the Baltic Sea, the Russian enclave (historically Königsberg) that is separated from the rest of Russia by the Baltic states, Putin gave a detailed discussion of the problem with the planned U.S. ABM system to be installed in Poland. He repeated grave warnings of the consequences, if the United States plows ahead with this plan, but also reiterated that there were positive signs in the most recent ministerial talks about the ABM systems, held on Oct. 12-13 (see separate item).
A question that startled Putin came from a mechanic in Novosibirsk, where the group of questioners was broadcast from a dramatic setting: inside the nuclear fusion research center of the Institute of Nuclear Physics at Akademgorodok. This man asked what Putin thought about alleged remarks by former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, that it was not fair for Siberia's enormous natural resources to belong only to Russia! Putin said that he was unaware of such a statement, and called the notion "political wet dreams," of a sort whose best example is the disaster in Iraq. In view of such statements, he added, clearly Russia's current policy of strengthening the Army and Navy is correct. (It remained unclear, however, whether Albright really said this, or if the questioner had picked up a distorted press report of a recently declassified 35-year-old State Department seminar presentation by one Raymond Albright, titled "Siberian Energy for Japan and the United States.")
Answering questions on the situation within Russia, the major themes of the Russian President's dialogue with the population were infrastructure, incomes, and inflation. On questions ranging from bridges between Russky Island (off Vladivostok) and the mainland, to the restoration of the Makhachkala-Botlik highway and tunnel in Dagestan, to Moscow traffic jams, Putin reported and made promises about the government's commitment to build up infrastructure.
Putin discussed the first glimmer of a turnaround in the country's demographic crisis. Programs to attract emigrés back to Russia were discussed several times. He said that the most painful problem of his Presidency has been the impoverishment of the population. He answered numerous questions about government funding for health care, pensions, and the agriculture sector.
The low point of the interview came when Putin suggested that Russia's vast, under-farmed land area represents a great potential for the biofuels market.
The high points were the Russian President's interchanges with teachers and young people, with regard to optimism about the country's future, the crucial importance of studying history, and learning foreign languages.
Lavrov Calls on Japan to Join Siberian Development
Oct. 18 (EIRNS)On the eve of his visit to Japan, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told Japanese press that Moscow is "closely" following "the current trends in the foreign policy of Japan," especially "that Japan seeks to conduct active diplomacy in Eurasia, based on its political and economic interests." Asked about potential Russian-Japanese cooperation in Siberia and the Russian Far East, Lavrov told Kyodo that Russia sees the Asia-Pacific as the "engine" of the world economy.
Lavrov noted "the swift development of integration" in the region, "in which Siberia and Russia's Far East are becoming organically involved." Along with their raw materials resources, no one should forget "the potential of innovative development accumulated in these Russian regions." This process "calls for closer Russian-Japanese economic and commercial ties in Siberia and the Far East." There will be further discussion of these plans at the meeting of the Sub-Commission on Regional Cooperation of the Intergovernmental Trade and Economic Commission, to be held in Vladivostok on Oct. 26.
Russia Takes Leading Role in High-Tech Sectors
Oct. 15 (EIRNS)Russia is playing a leading role worldwide in the nuclear, space, aircraft, and shipbuilding industries, sectors where Russia has maintained its "know-how" both in personnel and technology, Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov said in Podolsk, Moscow region today, Itar-Tass reported. "We are consolidating assets and the state's attention to such high-technology sectors in the economy as nuclear, space, aircraft, and shipbuilding is growing," Ivanov said, "These are such sectors where Russia has preserved both technology and personnel and know-how. We are playing in these spheres either a leading or serious role on the world market." The state must consolidate its assets and create new corporations in these sectors, Ivanov said.
These issues will be under discussion at the next meeting of the government committee for the industry, technology and transport. In the nuclear industry, building more nuclear power plants is a top priority, Ivanov said. "Nuclear energy today must become a universal tool which can meet not only growing industrial demands, but also the demands of the country's social and economic development," he said.
U.S. 'Blew' Chance to Ally With Russia After Cold War
Oct. 19 (EIRNS)In an article published on antiwar.com today, conservative commentator Patrick Buchanan inveighed against the Bush Administration's policy of targetting Russia at the end of the Cold War, instead of taking advantage of the "great opportunity of history: to embrace Russia ... as partner, friend, and ally."
What Buchanan failed to mention, were the British imperial interests directing a policy which, as he explained, responded to every conciliatory Russian action toward the West, with one provocation after another. The United States began moving NATO into Eastern Europe and the former Soviet republics; the National Endowment for Democracy, Freedom House, and other NGOs funded the ouster of pro-Russian regimes in Serbia, Ukraine, and Georgia; the U.S. bombed Russian ally Serbia, dissolved the Nixon-Brezhnev ABM Treaty, and is planning to install missile defense systems in Poland and the Czech Republic. And the list goes on.
Is it therefore any surprise, Buchanan asks, that Russia today has become a key ally of China, India, and Syria, and is resisting U.S. imperial adventures in the Middle East, Iran, and elsewhere? "We moved NATO onto Russia's front porch, ignored her valid interests and concerns, and, with our 'indispensable-nation' arrogance, treated her as a defeated power, as France treated Weimar Germany after Versailles." So, "who started the Cold War? Bush and the braying hegemonists he brought with him to power. Great empires and tiny minds go ill together."