From Volume 7, Issue 37 of EIR Online, Published Sept. 9, 2008
Russia and the CIS News Digest

Medvedev: U.S. Georgia Policy 'Not Quite Wise'

Sept. 3 (EIRNS)—Russian President Dmitri Medvedev said that the strain in Russian-U.S. relations is due to the "not quite wise" U.S. policy in Georgia, in an interview with European television given in Sochi Sept. 2. His remarks, however, were carefully worded to allow for a resumption of normal relations with the U.S.A. According to the Kremlin transcript, Medvedev said, "I do not think that this is some kind of full-fledged, full-scale crisis, comparable with the Soviet period, but, nonetheless, there is strain.... It has come about as the consequence of a not quite wise policy that the U.S.A. pursued on the Georgian track.... The sooner our American partners figure out this issue, the better it will be for Russian-U.S. relations. We, for our part, are prepared for them to be restored in the most cordial way; we are ready for full-format relations with the U.S.A."

Medvedev said the United States, "at some moment, had inculcated in the leader of Georgia the feeling that anything goes, the sense of impunity. It's as if he received a blank check to act in any way whatsoever. And what the outcome was, is quite evident. As of today, I think there is a certain level of annoyance in the U.S.A., that the virtual project called 'Free Georgia' has failed: The leader went bankrupt, the regime is close to a crisis, and the situation is tense."

Foreign Ministry spokesman A. Nesterenko and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov were also cautious in their comments on Vice President Dick Cheney's tour of the Transcaucasus and Ukraine. "All appeals to Tbilisi about the need to restore their undermined, so to speak, military capability, in no way contribute to stabilization of the situation in the region, and do not advance the realization of the Medvedev-Sarkozy six principles," said Nesterenko Sept. 3. Still, "Our assumption is that the leadership of the U.S.A. will look at the current situation differently, and will correctly evaluate what actions are necessary to take, in order to rectify this situation and return it to a normal, peaceful course."

On the eve of Cheney's arrival in Tbilisi, the Bush Administration announced a $1 billion aid package to Georgia, comprised of funds for "ongoing humanitarian assistance" and "ongoing economic growth," but it is less than meets the eye. Much of the money is "reprogramming" of existing funds.

Simes, Lavrov Discuss U.S.-Russian Relations

Sept. 4 (EIRNS)—Dmitri Simes, president of the Nixon Center for War and Peace, in Washington, yesterday met Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow for a discussion of Russian-American relations after the South Ossetia fighting. The Foreign Ministry announced that Simes reported to Lavrov about a new bipartisan initiative to present recommendations on Russia policy to the next U.S. President and Congress.

On Aug. 1, the Belfer Center at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, and the Nixon Center in Washington, announced formation of a Commission on United States Policy Toward Russia, chaired by former Sen. Gary Hart (D-Colo.) and Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.). It will prepare policy recommendations for a new administration, and the public, concerning the U.S.-Russia relationship and "explaining why a constructive U.S.-Russia relationship remains critical." Simes, and Graham Allison of the Belfer Center, are co-directors.

Former pre-Presidential candidate Gary Hart publicly took issue with Obama advisors Tony Lake and Susan Rice at a foreign-policy seminar in Denver during the Democratic Convention. Rice and Lake advocated punishing Russia. Hart disagreed, saying that these Caucuses issues are "complex," and that one must understand 100 years of history, or even 300 years, to evaluate them.

Other members include three former U.S. Ambassadors to Moscow: the Hon. James Collins, Jack Matlock, and Thomas Pickering; former National Security Advisors Robert McFarlane and Brent Scowcroft; as well as Robert Blackwill, Gen. Charles Boyd, Richard Burt, Susan Eisenhower, Robert Ellsworth, Thomas Graham, Lee Hamilton, Carla Hills, Mark Medish, Sam Nunn, J. Robinson West, and Dov Zakheim. Also, insurance mogul Maurice "Hank" Greenberg, whose membership probably indicates he's paying some of the costs of the enterprise.

CSTO Summit Warns of NATO Expansion

Sept. 5 (EIRNS)—Today the summit of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) took place in Moscow. Russian President Dmitri Medvedev conferred with the Presidents of Belarus, Armenia, Kazakstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. It is the fifth anniversary meeting of the security-oriented Eurasian organization, all of whose members are also in the Community of Independent States (CIS). In a communiqué that expressed deep concern about the Transcaucasus conflict, launched by Georgia, and called for its resolution on the basis of the Medvedev-Sarkozy accords of Aug. 12, there were other strategic security-related points:

* Citing the serious potential for conflict in the CSTO zone, the leaders called on NATO members to weigh all the possible consequences of the eastward expansion of their alliance and the situation of new ballistic missile defenses at the borders of CSTO members. They also cited concern about the proliferation of medium- and short-range land-based ballistic missiles near the CSTO.

* They addressed the alarming situation in Afghanistan, particularly the threat of narcoterrorism, and advocated joint international efforts to strengthen anti-drug and financial security belts around that country. The statement pointed up the potential of CSTO-NATO cooperation against the narcoterrorist threat coming from Afghanistan and the stabilization of that country overall.

In his own statement, Medvedev responded to U.S. and EU accusations about a "disproportionate" use of force by Russia in response to Georgia's attack on South Ossetia: "Russia has and will advocate political and diplomatic settlement of disputes, but, when needed, we shall continue to be prepared to defend our own interests decisively." He called this the main lesson of the August events around South Ossetia.

Putin Addresses Far East Infrastructure Build-up

Sept. 3 (EIRNS)—Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin was in the Russian Far East port city of Vladivostok Sept. 1, for meetings on preparations for Russia to host the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in 2012. The agenda concerned the entire Eurasian orientation of Russian policy, and the government's commitment to restoring and expanding infrastructure in Russia's eastern regions.

Putin announced to a conference on APEC (Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation) summit preparations, that he has assigned First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov to this task, as well as making him chairman of the State Commission on the Socio-Economic Development of the Far East and Transbaikal, created last year.

For Vladivostok itself, funding of 284 billion rubles (over $11 billion) has been earmarked for revitalizing transport and power infrastructure, and renovating 35 major plants and other facilities. A new connection, likely a bridge, will be built to Russky Island, where a new campus is being constructed to host the APEC event. Afterwards, this will become the permanent campus of an enlarged Far East Federal University, as a research and education center for the region.

Ruling Coalition Cracks in Ukraine

Sept. 3 (EIRNS)—Members of President Victor Yushchenko's "Our Ukraine" party today left the government coalition, as the Supreme Rada (parliament) voted on a series of measures to limit the powers of the President and enhance the role of the prime minister. The measures would restrict the President from being able to veto the choice of a prime minister, and would make it easier to impeach a President. The Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc (BYuT) voted with the opposition Party of the Regions in order to pass the disputed measures. Tymoshenko is the current prime minister. Yushchenko claimed that his coalition partner had thereby formed a new coalition.

Aggravating the situation are differences over how Ukraine should react to the crisis in Georgia. Tymoshenko's party refused to vote for Yushchenko-supported measures in support of Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili in his conflict with Russia, measures that Yushchenko was strongly supporting. If there is no resolution to the crisis within 30 days, parliament will be dissolved.

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