|Russia and the CIS News Digest
Russians Closely Watch Sarkozy Plan for EU Military
Feb. 18 (EIRNS)Dozens of articles in the Russian media today took up the reported intention of French President Nicolas Sarkozy to push for the creation of elite European Union military forces. Headlines in left-wing and patriotic press were sensational, like "Sarkozy Prepares To Fight Russia." Lower-key articles, too, such as a Novosti information agency wire with an interview of an expert from the Institute of World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO), reflect very close Russian attention to potential military projects that may be launched under the EU.
Sarkozy has not made his proposal official yet, wrote Novosti, but he is expected to do so "after the Lisbon Treaty goes into effect." The EU elite defense force would supposedly comprise 10,000 men from each of six EU countries: France, the U.K., Germany, Italy, Spain, and Poland. Dr. Vladimir Yevseyev, the IMEMO analyst interviewed by Novosti, said it remained unclear whom the EU expects to be threatened by, but he indicated that IMEMO and others are carefully studying how such a joint EU force would work, given the absence of unanimity among the member countries.
Russian Defense Ministry: U.S. Satellite Shoot-Down Is ASAT Test
Feb. 23 (EIRNS)Days before the United States downed its own military satellite over the Pacific Ocean, the Russian government daily Rossiyskaya Gazeta reported on Feb. 18 that the Ministry of Defense believes U.S. preparation to shoot down the satellite, which had failed to reach orbit and was threatening to break up and shower a large area, "is not as innocent as portrayed." It is the Defense Ministry's view, the report said, that "the U.S.A. is trying to use this emergency situation with its satellite, to test the national anti-ballistic missile (ABM) systems it is deploying."
According to other Russian wires, Defense Ministry sources said on Feb. 16 that because the shoot-down would, in effect, be a test of anti-satellite (ASAT) capabilities, "such a test essentially means creation of a new type of strategic weapon." The Foreign Ministry of China, in a statement Feb. 18, said that the Chinese government, too, "is highly concerned over the developments and has requested that the U.S.A. fulfill its international obligations in earnest and ensure that the security of outer space and relevant countries will not be undermined."
Lavrov Warns of International Destabilization from Kosovo Independence
Feb. 18 (EIRNS)Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov responded on Feb. 17 to the imminent declaration of independence by Kosovo, with a warning that such "separatism" would lead to "an escalation of tension and inter-ethnic violence," not only in the province, but throughout the Balkans, and that Western support for the Kosovo breakaway threatens "international stability and the authority of the UN Security Council's decisions that took decades to build." Lavrov, who was in Europe the previous week, stated: "Russia fully supports the reaction of the Serbian leadership to the events in Kosovo and its just demands to restore the territorial integrity of the country. We expect the UN Mission in Kosovo and NATO-led Kosovo Force will take immediate action to fulfill their mandates as authorized by the Security Council, including voiding the decisions of Pristina's self-governing institutions and adopting severe administrative measures against them. Russia calls for the immediate convocation of an emergency UN Security Council meeting [it took place Feb. 18] to examine the situation and take resolute and effective measures for a return to the political settlement process in accordance with the provisions of UNSCR 1244."
Lavrov elaborated on the danger: "It is impossible not to be aware that the decisions by the Kosovo leadership create the risk of an escalation of tension and inter-ethnic violence in the province and of new conflict in the Balkans. The international community should respond responsibly to this challenge. Those who are considering supporting separatism should understand what dangerous consequences their actions threaten to have for world order, international stability and the authority of the UN Security Council's decisions that took decades to build."
At a Feb. 14 press briefing after meeting with EU representatives, Lavrov had pointed the finger at Western encouragement of the Kosovo breakaway, while insisting that resumption of talks between the Kosovars and the Serbs would still have been possible.
In a Feb. 20 phone call to U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Lavrov was reported by Interfax to have stressed that "the consequences of independence for Kosovo can lead to the destruction of world order and stability." Russian President Vladimir Putin's special representative for relations with the European Union, Sergei Yastrzhembsky, warned about the repercussions of the Kosovo developments on relations between Moscow and Brussels. "It would be naive to think that the position of the main EU member countries on Kosovo, which is in contrast with international law and UN decisions, does not constitute a problem in our relationships," Yastrzhembsky said, according to Interfax Press Agency.
Breakaway Republics Intend To Join Russia, After Kosovo Independence
Feb. 18 (EIRNS)Kosovo's declaration of independence is having widespread repercussions already among the many regions in Europe and beyond, where national sovereignty is under dispute. There was an immediate reaction in the volatile Transcaucasus. Abkhazia, which broke away from Georgia, intends to ask Russia to recognize its sovereignty in the wake of Kosovo's declaration, President Sergei Bagapsh said today in Moscow, Novosti reported. South Ossetia's President Eduard Kokoity is also now in Moscow. Abkhazia and South Ossetia both declared independence from Georgia in 1991, after the breakup of the Soviet Union, and want to join Russia. The declarations led to bloody conflicts, but Georgia has not been able to reassert control over either region, although the current Georgian government is again attempting to get international support to do so.
Kokoity said that the two republics would hold talks with other unrecognized entities, on how to seek independence, including by asking for recognition by Russia's Constitutional Court that they had joined Russia over 200 years ago, and never left.
Leaders of the unrecognized Trandniester Republic of Moldova also announced their intention to push for full independence.