|Russia and the CIS News Digest
Putin Likens Central Europe ABMs to Cuban Missile Crisis
Oct. 27 (EIRNS)Russian President Vladimir Putin yesterday compared the Bush Administration's plans for an anti-missile system in Poland and the Czech Republic to the 1962 Cuban Missiles Crisis. Echoing the most strongly worded of recent Russian press commentaries, Putin said, after the Russia-European Union summit in Portugal, "I would remind you how relations were developing in an analogous situation in the middle of the 1960s. Analogous actions by the Soviet Union, when it deployed rockets on Cuba, provoked the Caribbean Crisis.... For us, technologically, the situation is very similar. On our borders, such threats to our country are being created."
Putin continued to hold out hope for cooling the ABM dispute through negotiations. He added that the Cold War was over, and that he felt the United States was listening to Moscow's concerns. "Thank God, we do not have any Cuban missile crisis now, and this is above all because of the fundamental way relations between Russia and the United States and Europe have changed," Putin said.
Putin warned against those threatening sanctions and military action against Iran. Asked about prospects for settling such divisive issues as Kosovo and Iran, he replied, "With regard to Iran and its nuclear issues, we categorically oppose any violation of the fundamental provisions of international law on the non-proliferation of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction." As reported on the Kremlin website, Putin went on to say, "Why exacerbate the situation now, pushing it towards deadlock and threatening sanctions and military action? Only a short time ago it seemed as though it would be impossible to resolve the North Korean nuclear issue, but peaceful means were found nonetheless and we are now well on the road towards settling this problem. I do not think that running around like a madman with a razor, brandishing it in all directions, is the best way to resolve problems of this kind."
Gates: Missile Defense System Could Be Delayed
Oct. 23 (EIRNS)At a press conference today in Prague, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said, "We would consider tying together activation of the sites [of anti-ballistic-missile systems] in Poland and the Czech Republic with definitive proof of the threatin other words, Iranian missile testing and so on." Voice of America, a facility of the U.S. government, reported, "Gates says the United States might be willing to postpone activation of missile-defense sites planned for Poland and the Czech Republic until there is proof Iran has missiles that could reach the area, if that would help end Russian opposition to the plan."
Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said that Gates's statement, as well as a proposal to allow Russian observers into the Czech and Polish sites, were merely "ideas," and "not formal proposals." The secretary's remarks were widely reported in Russia, although the Ministry of Defense and the Foreign Ministry emphasized that only when the U.S.A. sends specifics through official channels will the Russian government respond.
Foreign Ministers of Russia, China, India Meet
Oct. 24 (EIRNS)The foreign ministers of Russia, China, and India held their third "stand alone" meeting Oct. 23-24 in Harbin, capital of northeast China's Heilongjiang province. Their joint communique stated that the national development of Russia, China, and India is a major contribution to stability and peace in the region and world. Their cooperation is not aimed against any other nation, they added.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that Russia has "no plans" for a military alliance with China or India, but is working for cooperation in bilateral, trilateral, in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, and other structures, to resolve "key security issues." The three are setting up a new "consultation mechanism" at a high diplomatic level, with focus on economic, agricultural, and cultural cooperation. In coming weeks, Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao will go to Russia, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will visit Russia in mid-November, and, later, China.
Russian Conferences Take Up Resources, Rail
Oct. 26 (EIRNS)Conferences in Russia this week took up key areas of the country's industrial and infrastructure growth. A regional conference was held in the West Siberian city of Tyumen on the megaproject called Industrial Urals-Arctic Urals (UP-UP), which aims to develop 30 resource deposits at the northern end of the Ural mountain range, and to create processing plants in the region, as well as rail links to allow shipment of these raw materials primarily to Russian industry, but with an export outlet via a revitalized Northern Sea Route. On Oct. 24-25, over 4,000 delegates assembled at the Kremlin for the First Congress of Russian Railways, which focussed on the rail sector's strategic plan for the period till 2030.
Speaking at the Oct. 24 Tyumen meeting was Academician Alexander Granberg, Russia's leading expert on regional development and the head of the Council for the Study of Productive Forces (SOPS), which designed the UP-UP megaproject. He estimated its benefit to the Russian economy, expressed in ruble terms, as net 700 billion (currently $2.8 billion) within ten years, or 1.5 trillion rubles ($6 billion), counting ripple effects. Granberg compared UP-UP with Russia's space exploration and nuclear power programs, saying that it would promote the development and diversification of the entire Russian economy.
Speaker of the State Duma Boris Gryzlov, who chaired the meeting, asserted that UP-UP was being slowed by "middle-level government officials," which he linked to the fact that "this project is disadvantageous to international middlemen and companies that supply ore to Russia from abroad." An executive of the UGMK steel company reported to the meeting the astonishing fact that the Ural industrial region receives 60 million tons of raw materialstwo-thirds of its iron ore, 90% of its coal, 100% of its manganesefrom abroad, including CIS countries, but also Turkey, Australia, and South America, even though the resource-rich Ural Mountains are right at hand. Sverdlovsk Region Gov. Eduard Rossel, advocating construction of a rail line along the eastern slope of the Urals that Granberg said would reduce the costs of these resources by up to 75%, invoked the words of Count Sergei Witte about the Trans-Siberian Railroad, 100 years ago: "There are roads that begin a new phase in a nation's development."
The Kremlin Railways Congress was addressed by President Putin, with other top government officials taking part. Representatives of all 17 of the regional subsidiaries of the state-owned Russian Railways company discussed all regional aspects of the 2030 strategy, which includes a first stage of upgrading existing railroads, including by construction of high-speed lines, and then a second, "strategic" stage (2016-2030) of great projects like the railroad to the Bering Strait.
Putin told the meeting, "Speaking bluntly, Russia needs a new rail boom, comparable with the rapid development of Russian railroads at the turn of the 19th to the 20th Century, and, of course, on a fundamentally new level, on the most advanced technological basis."
Russia Anxious To Control Food Price Inflation
Oct. 25 (EIRNS)The Russian government yesterday signed an agreement with major food producers and retailers, hoping to stem the surge of price inflation in recent weeks. The agreement covers prices on bread, cheese, milk, egg, and vegetable oil until early next year. Large retail companies will limit price increases on these products to 10%. In addition, the Ministry of Economics is considering a 10% hike in export duties on wheat, in order to hold prices lower inside Russia.
Russian media are discussing the moves as "part of the election campaign," referring to the State Duma elections in December. Sources in Russia and Belarus say that food price inflation is foremost on the minds of most people. In Russia, the Financial Times reported today, one-month price rises for September included a 13.5% jump for vegetable oil, 9.4% for butter, and 7.2% for milk. Several citizens asked Putin about restraining food prices, during his Oct. 18 webcast. Putin cited the international biofuels boom, among other causes.
Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin yesterday warned against any "price freeze," saying, "This is the market, and prices in the market do not get frozen." Nonetheless, he, too, said that prices must be at least "stabilized," according to a report on Ekho Moskvy radio.
Gorbachov Launches New 'Social Dem' Movement in Russia
Oct. 21 (EIRNS)Mikhail Gorbachov, who presided over the breakup of the Soviet Union, as the result of the Soviet Union having rejected Ronald Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative proposal, is now launching a new "democracy" movement in Russia. Yesterday in Moscow, Gorbachov created an NGO called the Union of Social Democrats, modelled, he claimed, on the allegedly "successful" ruling Grand Coalition of Social Democrats and Christian Democrats which is now paralyzing Germany. Lyndon LaRouche has recently observed that most Russians see Gorbachov as a traitor, whose continuing efforts to influence the political process inside Russia are a significant menace.
While praising President Putin's achievements, Gorby focussed on "democracy." He said "when chaos reigned in the country, [Putin] used all means to stop the chaos. Now the country is embarking to a new path. It should not move back, but it should move towards democracy." Just before the Moscow event, Gorbachov had been touring the United States, ending up in New Orleans, where he chaired an international gathering of his Green Cross International, an environmentalist organization.