From Volume 37, Issue 39 of EIR Online, Published Oct. 8, 2010
Russia and the CIS News Digest

Moscow Mayor Luzhkov Ousted

Sept. 28 (EIRNS)—The level of political tension in Russia has risen with the involuntary departure of longtime Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov, whom President Dmitri Medvedev fired today with a terse decree, issued from China, that said Luzhkov had "lost the confidence of the President." State TV and other, quasi-official, media coverage focusses on corruption charges against Luzhkov and his wife, billionaire construction-company owner Yelena Baturina, as well as Luzhkov's handling of Moscow's notorious traffic jams and the smog crisis during this year's nearby forest fires. At the same time, there is much Kremlinological tea-leaf reading about a power struggle—some of which hinges on a recent public remark by Baturina that she thought Medvedev feared Luzhkov would support Vladimir Putin's return to the Presidency in 2012.

While such commentaries are speculative, it is beyond a doubt that Luzhkov has often incurred the anger of the British financial oligarchy's stooges in Russia. Mayor of Moscow since 1992, he has also been a figure of national stature. In 1999, he allied with ex-Prime Minister Yevgeni Primakov in the Fatherland/Our Russia electoral bloc, which later merged with United Russia (from which Luzhkov resigned today). He has strongly advocated national infrastructure projects, including revival of the Ob-Irtysh/Central Asia river diversion scheme, which was featured in his 2008 book, Water and the World. As the global crisis hit Russia full-force in 2008, Luzhkov said that Russia should follow the example of Count Sergei Witte, organizer of the Trans-Siberian Railroad, to launch the development of Russia's Far East. His other books include The Development of Capitalism in Russia—100 Years Later: a Polemic with the Government on Social Policy (2005), and the forward-looking Russia 2050 in the System of Global Capitalism: Our Tasks in the World Today.

Russia's Railway Chief Yakunin Gives Speech in Berlin

Sept. 29 (EIRNS)—On Sept. 20, the Petersburg Dialogue organization and the German-Russian Forum were cosponsors of an event addressed by Russian Railways CEO Vladimir Yakunin and Russian Ambassador to Germany Vladimir Grinin.

Asked if Russia would join NATO, Yakunin cited the thousands of civilian deaths in Iran, for which "a former prime minister of Great Britain" (he didn't mention Tony Blair by name) is responsible, but that person has not faced any consequences for this actions. Yakunin said he does not want Russia to participate in an organization whose values allow for that.

The Russian Railways leader disputed the statement by a German spokesman for one of the sponsoring organizations, who had said that the crisis is over, and that Germany and Russia are in an upswing. Yakunin pointed out that Russia's economy is still in worse shape than before 2008, and that leading economists are warning about a new financial crisis in the U.S.A. So the crisis is not over, and while the global real economy is represented by a value of $60 trillion, the derivatives market accounts for $600 trillion. It would be impossible to control the dollar, he added, because the dollar is not printed by the U.S. government, but by the Federal Reserve.

Yakunin said that infrastructure programs are a way to overcome this crisis, and that we have to take care of the next generation by giving them a good education and better social conditions. Eight regions in Russia are still without a railway system, he noted, but that will be changed by 2030, when the Russian Railways long-term plan is completed.

Russian Experts: Obama-British Afghan Policy Is: Don't Fight Drugs

Sept. 27 (EIRNS)—The U.S.-NATO operations in Afghanistan are a failure from the military and drug-fighting standpoints, Russian anti-drug expert Igor Khokhlov of the Institute of the World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO) said Sept. 24. "The U.S. has a lot of troubles in Afghanistan, such as increased influence of the Taliban, which controls the biggest part of the country. Thus, people have no choice—either to grow poppies for drug lords, or cooperate with the Taliban. Obviously, drug trafficking is not among Obama's current priorities," Voice of Russia quoted Khokhlov.

Khokhlov has been emphasizing the failure of the U.S.-led operations in Afghanistan under both the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations for some time, saying in earlier interviews that military intervention has never worked in Afghanistan, since the British attempt in the 19th Century, and it will not work today. To deal with the current crisis, stopping the opium traffic is essential. In May, he pointed out that Uzbekistan, among other Central Asian nations, is working on biological means to eradicate opium.

Victor Ivanov, head of Russia's Federal Drug Control Service, addressing the Federal Counter-Narcotics Agency Sept. 24, called for creating an anti-drug department in the Russian Defense Ministry to combat the well-armed drug caravans from Afghanistan. This is necessary because Afghan drug traffickers are not being controlled by the U.S. and NATO forces, he said.

Reflecting Ivanov's statements, Voice of Russia today reported that international interdiction of opium is essential, due to the failed operations inside Afghanistan. "If the NATO troops cannot control drug distribution inside Afghanistan, it is necessary to control it during transportation across the border with the help of the neighboring countries. And taking into consideration the ever-growing volume of drug trafficking, all methods of fighting it become important," the report stated.

Ivanov called for a separate, unified anti-drug budget in Russia, citing the U.S. $15.5 billion anti-drug program, which is 100 times bigger than the current Russian budget. Voice of Russia reported that a permanent representative of Russia's Defense Ministry would soon join the anti-drug organization, under a law being prepared by the Russian Presidential Administration. Drug trafficking from Afghanistan can only be stopped by regular military forces at this point, and the Russian military does have intelligence and special forces capabilities for this work. Dmitri Rogozin, Russian permanent representative to NATO, pointed to U.S. Special Operations troops being used in Colombia against the drug mafia, as an example for using military forces in Russia, Voice of Russia reported.

Push for Nuclear Power in Central Asia

Oct. 1 (EIRNS)—Following Soviet President Dmitri Medvedev's Aug. 19-21 visit to Armenia and signing of an agreement to help Armenia build nuclear power plants, Armenia's Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources and Russia's state-owned nuclear power enterprise, Rosatom, announced that they will build a new nuclear power unit which will replace Block 2 of the Metsamor nuclear power plant, 40 kilometers west of Yerevan, the capital of Armenia. The old unit is scheduled to be closed in 2016. The capacity of the old block, built in 1980, is 407 megawatts, corresponding to 12% of the total power generating capacity in Armenia. The new block will have a designed capacity of 1,060 MW.

The Japanese news daily Asahi Shimbun reported the setting up of a Japanese consortium, consisting of Toshiba Corp., Japan Atomic Power Co., and Marubeni Utility Services Ltd. This group has been contracted by the Kazakhstan government to do a feasibility study of a nuclear power plant in Kazakhstan. Possessing the world's second-largest uranium reserves, Kazakhstan supplies 20% of Japan's uranium requirements. The three Japanese companies will examine Kazakhstan's need for a pressurized boiling water reactor (BWR) of 600 MW capacity.

Note to Readers:

Our reports on the Russian-Chinese summit in Beijing continue this week in the Asia Digest.

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