|Russia and the CIS News Digest
Putin Stresses Potential of U.S.-Russian Relations
Feb. 16 (EIRNS)Contrary to media headlines that Vladimir Putin had "lashed out at," or "ripped" Sen. Hillary Clinton, during his Feb. 14 final annual press conference as President of Russia, Putin carefully refused to be baited into doing this, and instead took the occasion to emphasize the importance of U.S.-Russian relations. A Greek reporter asked Putin what his reaction had been to Clinton's comment that, as a former KGB officer, Putin, "by definition," did not have a soul (hardly mentioned in the U.S. media, this was big news in Russia). Putin replied, "I think that, at minimum, a statesman should have a head," and, therefore, instead of reacting, he (or she) would be "guided by the fundamental interests of the country." Thus, "I believe that Russia has an interest, as does the United States, in having relations between our two countries that would enable us to solve the problems that face us, in the areas of security, disarmament, non-proliferation, the battle against diseases, etc. For this, we need constructive dialogue, and Russia is ready for that kind of work. How the American leadership, and future leadership, plans to shape its relations with Russia, you'll have to ask them."
Earlier in the press conference, Putin said that Russia would be prepared to "work with any U.S. President who wants to work with us." Whatever may happen during election campaigns, he added, "the fundamental interests of Russia and the United States inevitably push the leadership of these two countries towards developing a positive dialoguea kind of partnership, at minimum."
Putin also cited the intersection of U.S. and Russian activity around the Israeli-Arab conflicts. Asked by an Arab reporter to contrast his vision of that region with that of George Bush, Putin emphasized that the close proximity of Israelis and Arabs, including Jews and Arabs within Israel, requires "thinking about some fundamental changes in Mideast policy, ... to order relations among these people, who live so close together in this region, in such a way that they all have an interest in stabilizing the situation, rather than heating it up." In that context, Putin said that Russia, in fact, welcomes "what President Bush has been doing in the most recent period," adding that "I think he sincerely wants the situation to be stabilized." Putin noted that Russia has encouraged its traditional partner, Syria, to engage in the dialogue and conference process.
Putin also discussed the quality of national leadership, from the standpoint of a statesman. Asked what advice he had given Presidential candidate Dmitri Medvedev, Putin said that he would not have endorsed a candidate who needed a baby-sitter or day-to-day advice. Medvedev is a "mature politician," Putin said. At the same time, he said that he, Putin, would continue to express his views, whether holding office or not. As President, Putin said he had stayed in touch with his predecessor, Boris Yeltsin, until the latter's death, and that Yeltsin's observations, "including on international affairs, had been important for me, because he was a knowledgeable person and an experienced one, so I thought it was no disgrace for me to listen to his opinion."
Putin said that he welcomed the presence of Vladimir Zhirinovsky of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia and Communist Party candidate Gennadi Zyuganov in the race, because "these are serious people, ... and, despite differences in our approaches to social and economic policy, they are patriotic people, ... with whom, in general, we share views on the course of international relations."
A reporter from the Associated Press asked Putin if certain newspaper reports were true, in saying that he was the richest man in Europe, and, if so, what was the source of his wealth. Putin looked directly at him and answered, "It's true. I am the richest person not only in Europe, but in the world. Let me collect my emotions. I am rich, because the people of Russia twice entrusted to me the leadership of such a great country as Russia, and I believe that is my greatest wealth."
Support for Kosovo Independence: 'Inadmissible and Irresponsible'
Feb. 12 (EIRNS)Following revelations by Serbian and European Union officials that Feb. 17 was the likely date of a declaration of independence from Serbia, by the parliament of Kosovo province, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov issued a new warning against such a move. According to Novosti information agency, Lavrov directed his remarks primarily at the EU and the United States.
"We are speaking here about the subversion of all the foundations of international law," he said, "about the subversion of those principles which, at huge effort, and at the cost of Europe's pain, sacrifice, and bloodletting, have been earned and laid down as a basis of its existence. We are speaking about a subversion of those principles on which the Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe rests, those laid down in the fundamental documents of the UN.... They are planning to act in a hit-or-miss fashion on an issue of paramount importance. This is simply inadmissible and irresponsible.... I sincerely fail to comprehend the principles guiding our American colleagues, and those European [countries] who have taken up this position."
Putin Gives Harsh View of Ukraine's NATO Application
Feb. 13 (EIRNS)On Feb. 12, Russian President Putin and Ukrainian President Yushchenko jointly announced the successful negotiation of a deal which averted the threatened cut-off of Russian natural gas to Ukraine. During this press conference, Putin was asked if Russia would reconsider its relations with Ukraine, if Ukraine joined NATO. The Russian President replied by invoking the common history of Russia and Ukraine, adding: "If Ukraine is willing to limit its own sovereignty, this is, of course, Ukraine's own affair, as is the choice of principles for its security strategy. We have no right to intervene in this process. What we are trying to point out is that these kinds of limitations on sovereignty have consequences in real life; for example, stationing bases or deploying elements of a missile defense system in Eastern Europe, which we see as pursuing the goal of neutralizing our nuclear missile potential.
"This forces Russia into a situation where it has to take countermeasures. It would be awful even to consider the prospect that if such a missile defense system were eventually extended to Ukrainian territory, tootheoretically this can't be ruled outRussia would have to target its nuclear offensive systems on Ukraine. Just imagine it for a second! This is what worries us. This is most certainly a subject we need to discuss frankly with our partners, above all with the Ukrainian leadership."
Ukrainian President Yushchenko added: "Our position is that each nation, each country, has the right to decide on its own defense and security policies, and I am pleased that we have complete understanding on this point; and secondly, the Ukrainian Constitution does not allow foreign states and alliances to establish bases on Ukrainian soil."
Economist Glazyev Holds Talks on Russia-China Bank
Feb. 15 (EIRNS)Russian economist Sergei Glazyev, who has been elected deputy head of the new Customs Union of the Eurasian Economic Community (EurAsEc), was recently in China, discussing the proposal to form a Russian-Chinese joint bank. Glazyev is a long-term discussion partner of Lyndon LaRouche, and is a former Presidential candidate in Russia. He was elected to his new post on Jan. 25, when the Russia, Belarus, and Kazakstan prime ministers and other officials met in Moscow at the EurAsEc Interstate Council. The three nations signed the agreements necessary to form the Customs Union, which Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan are expected to join in the future. The session also discussed cooperation in the real economy sector, cooperation on water supplies, and creating a single energy market.
The proposed bank would finance long-term trade, which grew by almost 45% in 2007, following double-digit increases over the past several years, Sergei Blagov reported on Eurasia Daily Monitor today. Glazyev proposed using rubles and renminbi for joint trade, rather than the U.S. dollar, although this proposal was not backed by either the Russian or Chinese sides.
Mysterious Death in Great Britain of Georgian Tycoon
Feb. 14 (EIRNS)Badri Patarkatsishvili, the 52-year-old Georgian former business partner of Russian "oligarch" Boris Berezovsky, was found dead at his lavish home in Surrey, England, on Feb. 13. The controversial Patarkatsishvili was a candidate in Georgia's January Presidential elections, but garnered only 7% in a tight field of candidates.
Patarkatsishvili ran a Rupert Murdoch-connected TV channel in Georgia, which, during the riots that forced the early elections in January, was shut down by the Saakashvili government. Although he had been a supporter of the 2003 Rose Revolution that brought Saakashvili to power, the two had become bitter enemies, and Patarkatsishvili had joined the opposition, using his TV channel to help organize the street demonstrations that preceded the decision by the government to hold new elections. The Saakashvili government accused him of organizing a coup.
Patarkatsishvili left Georgia for his home in Great Britain, claiming that his life was in danger. British police are investigating the matter as a "suspicious death," although the family says that he suffered a heart attack. Patarkatsishvili is known for his ties to Berezovsky and other individuals who were involved, in one way or another, with the ex-intelligence agent, Alexander Litvinenko, who died of polonium poisoning in London just over a year ago. Andrei Lugovoy, accused by British authorities of killing Litvinenko, was chief of security at ORT-TV in Russia, when it was jointly owned by Berezovsky and Patarkatsishvili in the 1990s.