|Russia and the CIS News Digest
Putin: More Investment Needed for Far East Infrastructure
Dec. 6 (EIRNS)Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin today described the Russian "Far Eastern region's tremendous transit potential," in his address to the United Russia Party conference in Khabarovsk, the largest city of the Far Eastern Federal District. Putin spoke on what must be done in the next two years, to make it possible to realize the government's "Strategy of Socio-Economic Development of the Far East Until 2020."
This region, which borders China and the Korean Peninsula, would have to become a key base for development of the Bering Strait Tunnel project. However, regional population density is less than 2 per sq. km, far too small to support such a project, and population has contracted sharply in the past two decades, due to collapsing investment and infrastructure. Putin described the infestation of the area's two big industries, fishing and forestry, by "criminal groups," which has finally been overcome.
"We are gradually integrating the Far East into our country's common economic space, removing obstacles that impede the region's normal development and laying a stable base for future growth.... First of all, we must create a transport infrastructure that will be comfortable and affordable for the public and efficient for business and operation," Putin said. This includes more airports, roads, such as the just-opened 2,000-km Chita-Khabarovsk highway, and especially railroads.
Russia "should learn to exploit" this transport potential, Putin said. "The quality of logistics services needs to be improved drastically in order to facilitate freight transshipments via Russia," Putin said. "I am confident that we will be able to establish a competitive Europe-Asia transport corridor with cooperative efforts. Russia's Far Eastern regions will profit most of all from this project. To be honest, this is a chance to create another powerful and successful sector of the regional economy."
To counter regional cynicism about Moscow's commitment, Putin said, "I would like to stress that the Far East will always receive our close attention because of its location, its geopolitical role and, above all, the interests of the people in the Far East."
But while federal support for Far East development has grown sevenfold since 2000, it remains at only some 150 billion rubles (about $5 billion) a yearfar too little for what is needed.
Putin said that while the Far Eastern seaports are "receiving a new lease on life," with annual transshipment capacity up 67% since the world crash began, "the pace of construction could be higher, if the expansion of the port infrastructure was not hindered by rail limitations." These limitations have led to huge jams of thousands of freight cars on the Far Eastern rail lines, due to insufficient infrastructure and labor.
"Consequently," Putin said, "the Trans-Siberian Railway will have to be modernized and the Baikal-Amur Mainline's (BAM) capacity increased in the next few years. Just recently, they told me that the completed BAM [which runs north of the Trans-Siberian] was not in high demand." Now, however, "freight volume has increased to such an extent that the BAM can no longer handle the potential traffic. This is an important indicator of economic development." One urgent project is the new Kuznetsovsky Pass Tunnel, to replace the dilapidated tunnel built in 1945.
New railroads are needed, which could "drastically change the entire region," Putin said. One from Tynda to the Lena River could help development of mineral-rich South Yakutia, and additional railways over the Amur River would "make it possible to establish a modern ore-mining/iron and steel center in the Amur and Jewish Autonomous Regions."
Most urgently needed is investment. Moscow involves "banks with government participation" in the Far East, with Vnesheconombank, VTB, and Sberbank already putting in over 270 billion rubles ($9 billion). But more "special tools are needed to attract additional investment," Putin said. Now, a 80-90 billion ruble Direct Investment Foundation will be set up by Vnesheconombank for the region.
Four Nation Anti-Drug Cooperation Reached
Dec. 8 (EIRNS)The leading drug-control officials of Russia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Tajikistan agreed during a meeting today in Moscow, to cooperate in operations to eradicate opium and destroy drug-producing labs, Itar-Tass reported. Director of Russia's Federal Drug Control Agency (FSKN) Viktor Ivanov met with Afghan Minister Zarar Ahmad Moqbel Osmani, Pakistani Narcotics Control Minister Arbab Muhammad Zahir, and Tajik anti-narcotics agency director Rustam Nazarov.
In August, Russian President Dmitri Medvedev had launched this four-nation initiative against the Afghan narco-trade, after Afghan President Hamid Karzai had asked for Russian help against the drug mafia.
"We are neighbors linked by the same piece of land, and we have the potential to strengthen our work in fighting a global menace," Ivanov said at the meeting. Afghan heroin is smuggled into Russia via Tajikistan, and then Kyrgyzstan and Kazakstan, he said. Heroin smuggled through Pakistan goes into India, on to China, and other Asian countries. "NATO has not found a way to get to the root of the problem, which is Afghanistan's drug production," Ivanov said at the four nations' press conference today. He praised the joint Russian-U.S. anti-drug-lab operation in October. "We really want to see more such operations. And hopefully very soon," Ivanov said.
Gorbachov Attacks Putin, Threatens Russia with Instability
Dec. 12 (EIRNS)The last leader of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachov, attacked Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, in a two-page article published on Dec. 10 in the newspaper Novaya Gazeta, which he co-owns with Nat Rothschild intimate Alexander Lebedev.
Gorbachov, whom Lyndon LaRouche has exposed as serving British imperial interests, claimed that the "undemocratic political landscape" introduced in 2005-06, when Putin was President, is threatening Russia's stability. "If we fail to overcome undemocratic trends, all our achievements of the previous years will come under threat," he said. "Not only the democratic process, but stability as well."
Gorbachov has often been critical of Putin's policies, but the Dec. 10 criticism was sharper than his previous statements, undoubtedly reflecting the concern of his British masters.
"Starting from 2005-2006, the government has made decisions that weren't creating conditions for moving forward, but made it more difficult, practically impossible, even to raise acute issues," Gorbachov said. "In the eyes of the people, the government authority has increasingly become a tool for dividing spoils and putting pressure on people."