1. Russia Says 137 Nuclear Submarines Scrapped Under Global Program
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Russia has scrapped 137 out of 197 decommissioned submarines under an international program, a federal nuclear agency official said Tuesday.
Russia has signed cooperation agreements on disposal of decommissioned nuclear submarines with the United States, Britain, Canada, Japan, Italy and Norway. The disposal program costs an overall $2 billion, with Russia having allocated $850 million as of 2005.
"The disposal program is proceeding well," said Andrei Malyshev, deputy head of the Federal Agency for Nuclear Power. "As of the second quarter 2006, we had scrapped 137 nuclear submarines. The disposal of another 22 is under way and we are planning to scrap 38 more in the future."
The official said Russia had no complaints about its foreign partners in the program's implementation.
Malyshev said the first part of long-term storage facilities for nuclear reactors from scrapped submarines in the Arctic Murmansk Region would be put into service on July 18. The facilities have been built with funds allocated by the German government under the Global Partnership Program, which started in 2003 after being signed at a summit of leaders from the Group of Eight industrialized nations in Canada the previous year.
Germany has allocated a total of 300 million euro (over $382 million) for the construction of nuclear storage facilities in northern Russia.
China and Russia introduced a resolution Wednesday deploring North Korea's missile tests but dropping language from a rival proposal that could have led to military action against Pyongyang.
Japan and the United States welcomed the draft but said it had major deficiencies and they would still press for a Security Council vote on their resolution though no date has been set.
The Japanese resolution's supporters have delayed a vote to wait for the outcome of a high-level Chinese visit to North Korea which began on Monday.
China's U.N. Ambassador Wang Guangya said the delegation, which will return Friday, delivered a message from China's top leaders expressing concern over the missile tests "and also what we considered the North Koreans should do to make diplomacy succeed."
"So far we hve not received any feedbacks from the North Korea leadership," he said.
Wang confirmed that he had been instructed to veto the Japanese resolution and expressed hope that through negotiations in the next few days "we can find a way and the language that could unify the whole council."
He said the Chinese-Russian proposal would calm the situation in northeast Asia and "be beneficial for peace and stability in the region."
Wang previously said Beijing objected to three key elements in the Japanese draft: the determination that the missile tests threatened international peace and security, authorizing action under Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter which can be enforced militarily, and mandatory sanctions aimed at curbing North Korea's missile and nuclear programs.
The Chinese-Russian draft resolution drops these three elements, which Japan and the United States consider crucial.
The Chinese-Russian draft "strongly deplores" North Korea's multiple missile launches and calls on Pyongyang to reestablish a moratorium on missile tests.
It requests but does not demand that all U.N. member states "exercise vigilance in preventing supply of items, materials, goods and technologies that could contribute" to North Korea's missile program. It also calls on all members "not to procure missiles or missile-related items" or technology from the North.
By contrast, the much stronger Japanese resolution would ban North Korean missile tests and prevent the reclusive communist nation from acquiring or exporting missiles and missile technology or weapons of mass destruction and their components.
It also demands that North Korea immediately stop developing, testing, deploying and selling ballistic missiles.
Both resolutions strongly urge the North to immediately return to six-party talks on its nuclear program without preconditions.
Russia's U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said Beijing and Moscow would have preferred a presidential statement, which is weaker and not legally binding, but agreed to a resolution to respond to the wishes of other council members.
"I think the initial response of Security Council members was quite encouraging," he said. "I don't want to sound too optimistic but I think that the ground is there for a successful outcome of this process."
Japan's U.N. Ambassador Kenzo Oshima called the Chinese-Russian draft "a move in the right direction" and U.S. Ambassador John Bolton said "we view this as a significant step and think it's important."
But both envoys made clear it had serious deficiencies.
"A quick glance shows that there are very serious gaps on very important issues," Oshima said of the Chinese-Russian draft.
Bolton cited the Chinese-Russian draft's elimination of Chapter 7 and the declaration that the tests constitute a threat to international peace, and its use of the weaker words "calls upon" rather than the Japanese text's "decides" which is an order.
"As of now, we're prepared to proceed at an appropriate time with a vote on the draft resolution," Bolton said. "We're going to study this draft that the Russians and Chinese have submitted, but if they vote no, that's their perfect right under the (U.N.) Charter, and everyone can draw their conclusions."
2. Russia in Hot Water Over Alleged Backroom Deal with North Korea: 'Future co-operation' Included Proposed Sale of Missile-Related Technology
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Russia faces criticism after secretly offering to sell North Korea technology that could help the rogue state to protect its nuclear stockpiles and safeguard weapons secrets from international scrutiny.
Russian officials touted the equipment at an IT exhibition in Pyongyang two weeks ago -- just days before the Communist state caused international alarm by launching a salvo of short and long-range missiles into the Sea of Japan.
In what appear to have been unguarded comments, Aleksei Grigoriev, the deputy director of Russia's Federal Information Technologies Agency, told a reporter that North Korea planned to buy equipment for the safe storage and transportation of nuclear materials, developed by a Russian government-controlled defence company.
The company, Atlas, also received interest from the North Koreans in their security systems and encryption technology -- which were kept from display at the exhibition for security reasons.
In remarks made to the Russian Itar-Tass news agency -- hastily retracted after publication -- Grigoriev said that the main aim of the June 28 exhibition was "establishing contacts with the Korean side and discussing future co-operation."
Last week, Russia, along with China, opposed a draft UN Security Council resolution, proposed by Japan and backed by the U.S., that would bar
missile-related financial and technology transactions with North Korea because of the missile tests.
As tensions over the missile tests mounted, the U.S. government deployed on Saturday its USS Mustin, equipped with so-called Aegis missile-tracking technology that is geared towards tracking and shooting down enemy missiles, to Yokosuka, Japan, home port to the U.S. Navy's 7th Fleet.
On Friday, U.S. President George W. Bush called for the issue of the missile tests to be put before the UN Security Council. He said he wanted to make clear to Kim Jong Il, the North Korean leader, "with more than one voice" that the rest of the world condemned Wednesday's launches.
Sources close to the proposed sale of the equipment -- which would have civil and military uses -- said that it was evidence of Russia's secret support for its Soviet-era ally, which was once a bulwark against Chinese influence in the Far East. It was reported that the North Korean military interest in the exhibition stemmed from the dual purpose of many of the products and technologies on display.
After the show, which led to plans for further meetings between the Russian and North Korean delegations, Grigoriev said Pyongyang's primary interest in buying the equipment was to combat the "threat posed by international terrorism."
However, the Russian embassy in Pyongyang immediately denied the report, claiming that it was "disinformation." Grigoriev subsequently denied ever having spoken to the journalist.
Disclosures of a possible deal are at odds with official Russian policy towards North Korea's nuclear program. On June 22, North Korea's ambassador to Russia, Park Yi Joon, was summoned to the foreign ministry in Moscow and informed that Russia "strongly objects to any actions that can negatively influence regional stability and worsen nuclear crisis on the Korean Peninsula."
Although the Russian foreign ministry expressed anger that Moscow had not been notified of the launches, it went no further than issuing an anodyne statement expressing concern that the tests endangered Pacific Ocean shipping and "violated the commonly accepted world practice of giving a warning."
1. Putin Blasts U.S. Discrimination Against Russian Nuclear Firms
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Russia opposes U.S. discrimination against its nuclear companies and wants to supply uranium directly, the Kremlin press service quoted President Vladimir Putin as saying Wednesday.
"We disagree with the discriminatory restrictions that are currently in force in the U.S. for Russian nuclear companies, and would like to supply uranium for your [American] nuclear power plants directly, and not via an intermediary monopoly that was established, in our opinion, artificially," Putin said in response to a U.S. questioner who raised the issue at a Web cast with the president on June 6.
The president added that he planned to discuss the issue with his U.S. counterpart George W. Bush.
Restrictions on imports from Russia of low-enriched uranium have been in force since the Soviet era. Russia is currently allowed to operate on the U.S. market without a 116% import duty only through the United States Enrichment Corporation (USEC), a special intermediary agent, under the HEU-LEU Conversion program, but is facing anti-dumping procedures.
Sergei Kiriyenko, the head of the Federal Agency for Nuclear Power downplayed the political implications of the issue during a visit to the U.S. in May.
"We believe that this is a commercial issue, which we intend to resolve in the framework of existing U.S. legislation," Kiriyenko said during his visit. "We are not demanding any preferential treatment, any benefits or special conditions, but we are demanding equal rights and equal opportunities for competition on the U.S. market." But the U.S. Department of Commerce appeared to dent his hopes on June 9 when it said it intended to keep the existing restrictions in place.
Russia's nuclear agency said Wednesday that the U.S. International Trade Commission would vote on lifting the restrictions on July 18, but that it had little hope for a positive resolution of the issue. According to current procedures, if at least one U.S. company claims the existence of a dumping threat, the committee will vote to keep the restrictions in effect, the agency said.
An agency official also said Russia and the U.S. had previously agreed to form a task force to draw up an action plan aimed at resolving the anti-dumping issue.
2. Putin-Bush Meeting May Mend Rift In Relations - Expert
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A leading Russian expert on North America said Wednesday that a U.S.-Russian presidential meeting due later this week could help the two countries overcome their differences on issues such as Iran and North Korea.
Sergei Rogov, director of the Russian Academy of Sciences' U.S. and Canada Institute, said that during their bilateral meeting in St. Petersburg on the eve of this weekend's Group of Eight summit, Vladimir Putin and George W. Bush would likely seek rapprochement on Iran's and North Korea's nuclear ambitions as well as on START, a U.S.-Russian strategic arms reductions treaty.
"Most probably, [discussions] will deal with treaty clauses related to verification and checks," he said, adding that both leaders agree the accord, which will expire in 2009, needs extending.
"A rapprochement between Russia and the U.S. is also possible on some controversial issues of nuclear proliferation, primarily concerning the situation in North Korea and Iran. Russia and the U.S., both involved in six-party talks over North Korea and Iran, have an additional incentive to reach agreement." "The [Putin-Bush] meeting will hopefully not be a formal one," Rogov said. "I hope it will help stabilize the situation, preventing [the two nations] from sliding into confrontation, and will produce a number of concrete initiatives enabling positive changes in Russian-American relations." Rogov admitted that economic agreements will be harder to reach, but some specific decisions on nuclear energy issues could nonetheless be made.
"One should bear in mind that results cannot be achieved overnight, and that a key stabilizing factor in U.S.-Russian relations - economic interdependency - will take a few years to emerge," he said.
At the moment, U.S.-Russian relations depend largely on the personal relationship between Putin and Bush, Rogov said.
"It is nice that the two presidents trust each other, but this is not enough for building lasting, long-term relations [between the nations]," he added.
3. Russia, U.S. Expected To Move Forward On Civilian Nuclear Cooperation
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Russian President Vladimir Putin and President Bush are expected to make progress at a meeting next week on a civilian nuclear power agreement, a Western official and analysts said.
The two leaders, who have been promoting nuclear energy as a clean alternative, have made similar proposals on providing nuclear power to developing countries while building in safeguards for nonproliferation of weapons.
"I think it is possible you're going to see further discussion of how to advance that cooperation" when the presidents meet on the eve of the July 15-17 Group of Eight summit in St. Petersburg, a Western diplomat said Friday, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.
Rose Gottemoeller, the director of the Carnegie Moscow Center, said the potential joint project was "probably the biggest story coming out of the Petersburg summit."
"This is a field where Russia has a clear technological advantage because over the past 30 years, the U.S. has essentially abandoned nuclear power technology development" in the wake of the 1979 Three Mile Island nuclear accident in Pennsylvania and the Chernobyl accident in 1986, Gottemoeller said during a round table discussion on U.S.-Russian relations.
In January, Putin proposed establishing an international nuclear center in Russia that would provide full fuel cycle services. He said that the center could be the start of a network of such centers around the world, and Russian Nuclear Agency chief Sergei Kiriyenko said there could be up to five such centers in other nations.
At about the same time, Bush introduced his Global Nuclear Energy Partnership, which would provide fresh fuel to countries that agree to use it only for power generation and would recover spent fuel.
Jon Wolfstahl, an analyst at the Carnegie Endowment for Peace in Washington, predicted that Putin and Bush would announce the start of negotiations on cooperation in developing a new generation of nuclear power reactors.
"President Bush is very anxious to move his nuclear energy proposals forward and he sees his relationship with President Putin as a natural way to add momentum," Wolfstahl told The Associated Press.
"The Russians have probably more modern nuclear reactor technology than we do but they need our endorsement and our cooperation if they are going to bring it to the international market," he said. "So there's a natural sort of convergence of interests on this issue."
Nuclear cooperation between the two countries has stalled for more than a decade because of Washington's objections to Russia's nuclear cooperation with Iran, including construction of an atomic power plant in Bushehr, Wolfstahl said.
"Now that Russia has been more cooperative in putting pressure on Iran to abandon its" alleged nuclear weapons program, the United States "won't allow the Iran relationship to get in the way of this particular activity," Wolfstahl said.
The Washington Post reported Saturday that a nuclear agreement would allow Russia to import and store nuclear fuel from U.S.-supplied power plants, opening the way to a profitable business.
Environmentalists have criticized Russia's efforts to develop such a business, arguing it will turn the country into a dumping ground for nuclear waste.
Russia has 31 reactors at 10 nuclear power plants, accounting for about 16 percent of the country's electricity generation, and Putin has called for raising the share to 25 percent.
Last month, Russia's atomic energy agency signed a contract with a military shipbuilding plant to build the world's first floating nuclear reactor near the Arctic port of Severodvinsk.
Gottemoeller said Russian technology in areas including fast neutron reactors and recycling nuclear fuel "far outstrip those of other countries, including the United States."
1. Russia Says No Plans To Store Foreign Spent Nuclear Fuel
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Russia does not have any plans to reprocess and store spent nuclear fuel from foreign countries, including the United States, an adviser to the federal nuclear agency official said Tuesday.
Several U.S. media sources earlier said Russia and the U.S. had been considering an agreement on the civilian use of nuclear energy that would see a global center for reprocessing and storing high-level radioactive waste from foreign countries set up in Russia.
But Igor Konyshev, a representative of an advisory body working with the Federal Agency for Nuclear Power, said: "Russia has never imported, does not import and is not planning to import spent nuclear fuel. Officials who stated otherwise either do not understand the essence of the matter or are attempting to purposefully mislead the public." The official said Russia and the U.S. planned to discuss the signing of an agreement on the civilian use of nuclear energy during the summit of the Group of Eight industrialized nations in St. Petersburg on July 15-17.
"This document must serve as the basis for comprehensive cooperation between the two nuclear powers in the development of the nuclear energy industry," Konyshev said, adding that the lack of a document was an obstacle in the further development of Russia-U.S. relations.
He said the preparation of the agreement, which includes joint efforts in the development of a new-generation reactor in the framework of the Generation IV International Forum (GIF), could take up to a year.
The GIF is an 11-member nuclear energy research and development consortium established in January 2000 to develop innovative nuclear energy system concepts to meet future energy challenges. GIF members include Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Euratom, France, Japan, South Africa, South Korea, Switzerland, United Kingdom, and the U.S., with the OECD-Nuclear Energy Agency and the IAEA as permanent observers.
1. Fissile Materials Storage Unit In S Urals To Guarantee N-Security
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The head of the Russian Federal Atomic Energy Agency (Rosatom), Sergei Kiriyenko, will arrive in Ozyorsk, the Chelyabinsk region, to hold a meeting devoted to the upcoming operational launch of the fissile materials storage facility built at the Mayak chemical plant, the press service of the regional governor told Itar-Tass on Tuesday.
This facility will become a guarantor of nuclear disarmament and security.
It may stockpile up to 25 tonnes of weapon-grade plutonium.
Multiple tests proved that nuclear fissile materials stockpiled in this facility are safely protected from possible technogeneic, terrorist and natural impact.
The U.S.-financed construction of the storage facility was completed one and a half years ago.
Mayak specialists mastered necessary technologies to accept fissile materials for storage in compliance with the international agreements on slashing nuclear arsenals.
1. Russia's Rosenergoatom To Spend 14 BLN RBL On Nuke Plant Upgrade
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Russia's state-owned nuclear power holding Rosenergoatom is expected to allocate some 14 billion rubles to finance the construction of the second generating unit at Volgodonskaya nuclear power plant in the Rostov Region, the holding's regional press office said on Monday.
Of the total, Rosenergoatom plans to spend over 12.1 billion rubles on equipment purchases for the nuclear power generating unit, the press office said.
The announcement follows a meeting between Rosenergoatom, the Federal Atomic Energy Agency and the regional government officials held at the plant.
Rosenergoatom plans to launch the second power generating at Volgodonskaya in 2009.
The construction of Volgodonskaya nuclear power plant, also known as Rostovskaya power plant, started in 1979 and stopped in 1990 amid public protests and lack of financing. The construction works at the power plant's first generating unit were resumed in 1999 and the unit was launched in 2001.
In 2005 Volgodonskaya generated over 7.6 billion kilowatt-hours. The plant's output accounts for about 10% of the total electric power consumed by Russia's Southern Federal District and some 16% of the power generated in this part of the country.
Construction of the second generating unit started in 2002. Total construction costs were estimated at amount to 35 billion rubles.
1. Russia Regrets Tehran's Failure To Answer Iran-6 Proposals - FM
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Russia's foreign minister said Wednesday Moscow regretted the fact that Iran had not given a positive answer to a package of Iran-6 nuclear incentives.
"We are not satisfied with the absence of a positive reaction from Iran, especially when it does contradict with the statement made by Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at a SCO meeting a month ago," Sergei Lavrov said after a Paris meeting of foreign ministers of the five permanent Security Council members and Germany.
The diplomat said that the Iran-6 had decided to disclose to the public the details of the nuclear proposals to Iran.
"We decided today to make these proposals public in the near future to make the Iran-6 position on the issue absolutely clear," Lavrov said, adding that the incentives were serious and beneficial for Iran.
Lavrov also said that the leaders of the Group of Eight industrialized nations would discuss Iran's nuclear program at the St. Petersburg summit this weekend.
"I think that the G8 leaders will discuss this problem and help the efforts taken by the Iran-6," he said.
2. Russia's FM Says Forcible Actions Against Iran Out Of Question
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Russia's foreign minister said Wednesday that any forcible sanctions against Iran were out of the question.
"I would like to emphasize that today the Iran-6 members clearly confirmed the previous statements that rule out any possibility of forcible actions against Iran sanctioned by the UN Security Council," Sergei Lavrov said after a Paris meeting of foreign ministers of the five permanent Security Council members and Germany.
"We are convinced that this [forcible] path would not lead us nowhere other than to another crisis in the region," the minister said. "The only way to resolve the Iranian nuclear problem lies through negotiations."
1. G8 Summit In Russia To Focus On Energy, Iran, North Korea
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Leaders of eight of the world's most powerful countries gather later this week for the first G8 summit hosted by Russia, the club's newest and most controversial member, with an agenda focused on energy worries, North Korea's missile tests and Iran's nuclear program.
President Vladimir Putin will play host in his native Saint Petersburg, an elegant city of palaces and canals on the Gulf of Finland built as a window on Europe and once the capital of the Tsarist empire.
The summit starting Saturday marks a high point of Putin's term in office, two years before the end of his mandate.
Since his election in 2000, observers say the Kremlin chief has turned his country into a new global power but rolled back democracy in the process.
But the high-stakes energy security debate and the need to cooperate on pressing international issues mean that the leaders of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States are less likely to clash over Russia's political situation.
The need for the powerful group to close ranks has been underlined in the run-up to the summit by North Korea's series of missile tests. Although there have been unanimous expressions of concern over Pyongyang's demonstration of force, Russia is opposing US-led calls for economic sanctions.
There are similar divisions over Iran's nuclear programme. Russia is crucial to persuading Tehran to give up its controversial uranium enrichment work, but Moscow does not support raising the threat of sanctions -- in contrast to the United States and Europe -- should Iran refuse to bend.
The other hot-button issue is energy security.
In January, a gas dispute between Russia and Ukraine woke Europe with a jolt to its growing dependence on Russian energy supplies and Brussels, like Washington, is worried Moscow may use its vast reserves for political ends.
In Saint Petersburg, global powers will be asking their host for energy security guarantees. Putin, who has put the issue at the centre of Russia's G8 presidency agenda, has already said Moscow is ready to provide these.
But demands from the United States and other big energy consumer states for more "transparency" from Russia and other big energy producers must be matched by similar disclosure of information by consumer states.
The exchange between Russia and its energy-dependent G8 partners risks turning heated over the issue of investment.
G8 powers are calling for more access to the immense reserves of Siberia but Russia says it will only grant this if Gazprom, the country's state-controlled gas giant, can invest in European markets.
"If our European partners expect us to allow them into the holy of holies of our economy, energy... then we want reciprocal steps that help our own development," Putin said at a Russia-EU summit in May.
The Group of Eight, begun as the Group of Six by then French president Valery Giscard d'Estaing in 1975, will also have to contend with growing Israeli-Palestinian violence, another area where Moscow, which invited Hamas leaders to talks earlier this year, also aspires to play a bigger role.
Holding important diplomatic cards and enjoying an oil-fuelled economic boom, Russia will have a strong hand if faced with criticism over the Kremlin's commitment to democracy, human rights and a free media.
US President George W. Bush is under pressure to criticise Putin for democratic failures from key Republican supporters, such as Senator John McCain, who has called for a boycott of the summit.
But the tone of discussions is likely to stay balanced.
French President Jacques Chirac said last month that Putin "represents the Russia of today, a Russia that we must absolutely support and encourage to pursue its efforts at democratic modernisation."
The eight world leaders are also preparing to discuss measures to stop the spread of infectious diseases, boost aid to poor countries and increase funding for education.
On the sidelines of the summit, the issue of Russia's membership of the World Trade Organisation, now dependent on Washington's approval, is likely to come up.
Moscow, which has come under criticism for turning a blind eye to rampant video and music piracy in the country, has threatened to pull out of international trade agreements if it is rejected.
A few things the West should tell Mr Putin, when it has his ear
WHEN the leaders of the world's rich democracies gather in St Petersburg this coming weekend for the first G8 summit hosted by Russia, they should feel awkward and embarrassed to be there. Awkward, because, by any normal measure, Russia does not qualify as a rich country. Embarrassed, because Russia can hardly be counted as a democracy, and under President Vladimir Putin it has been moving further away from that description.
Items on the formal agenda include energy security, coping with infectious diseases, and education, plus a discussion of current topics such as the nuclear threats from North Korea and Iran and the dire state of the Doha round of world trade talks. But the biggest subject on most summiteers' minds will be an underlying one: how should they cope with a resurgent and increasingly undemocratic Russia?
The resurgence is evident in the streets of St Petersburg, and even more so those of Moscow. When Mr Putin took over the presidency in 2000 Russia was a stew of chaos and corruption with a surface scum of ultra-rich oligarchs. The war in Chechnya was entering an even more brutal phase. The default and devaluation of 1998 still cast a long shadow over economic prospects.
Mr Putin has given the country much greater stability and firmness in government. The economy has rebounded, thanks largely, if not exclusively, to high oil prices. Wages and living standards are rising, the last foreign debt is about to be repaid, and most exchange controls have been abolished. A middle class is growing, even in the provinces. Russians can say proudly that they have forced the world to take them seriously again-as at the G8 summit. All this helps to explain why Mr Putin can claim real popularity at home.
But economic growth has gone hand in hand with stunted political development. Over the past few years almost all serious opposition to Mr Putin has been sidelined, co-opted or crushed. The broadcast media, relatively free in the 1990s, has been shut down or taken over by the government and its supporters. The last of Russia's elected regional governors has been sacked, continuing the Kremlin's drive not merely to centralise, but to monopolise, political power. The police and the prosecutors remain a tool of the Kremlin, it is simply that Mr Putin uses them far more effectively than Boris Yeltsin ever did. Corruption is practised less brashly, but perhaps on an even larger scale, than before.
The north Caucasus as a whole remains unstable and dangerous, though the fighting in Chechnya has diminished, and this week's reported killing of Shamil Basayev, a Chechen rebel leader blamed for a series of atrocities against civilians, is sure to be much trumpeted in Moscow. Further afield, Russia continues to bully and covet nearby countries from Ukraine and Georgia to Central Asia, apparently hoping to ensure that it has weak neighbours rather than strong ones.
The question for western leaders at the St Petersburg summit is: what can we do about all this? The uncomfortable answer is: not much. A recent report from the Council on Foreign Relations, and an article in Foreign Affairs by Dmitri Trenin, of the Carnegie Moscow Centre, both concluded that Russia was continuing to move away from the West, and that outside criticism was unlikely to have much effect. A strong oil price has insulated Russia from external economic and financial pressure too.
All the same, western leaders should be more assertive. They could easily do more to help and encourage neighbours of Russia, such as Georgia and Ukraine, that fear its overbearing influence. European countries in particular should work harder to present a united front on energy questions, strengthening their negotiating position
Prodding Russia to change direction will be all the harder, because the West gave it much bad or useless advice in the past. But to kick Russia out of the G8 now, or to block its entry into the World Trade Organisation, as some have been urging, would merely make Russia even less helpful on big issues such as Iran, where its co-operation is needed more and more.
The right strategy for Western countries is to keep the message constructive. They are not against a Russia that is strong, or a Russia that is rich, as many Russians seem to think. They want a Russia that is strong and rich, but democratic too. The best thing they can do in St Petersburg is to say as much loudly and clearly.
Answering questions of Duma deputies on Friday, General of the Army Yury Baluevsky, Chief of the General Staff and Senior Deputy Defense Minister, reported that the Russian army would transit to fundamentally new armament of strategic nuclear forces.
According to Baluevsky, by 2016, the maritime nuclear component will be practically fully rearmed with new submarines of project 955 with Bulava missiles. As for the ground component, Baluevsky says that its basis consists of stationary and mobile missile systems Topol-M. Answering the statement of one of the members of Motherland faction that by 2015, there would be only a little more than 50 Topol-M missiles, General Baluevsky said that the quantity of missiles and not missile launchers would be much bigger than this figure.
The Chief of the General Staff also says that Russia does not need to have the group that the strategic nuclear forces have now in 2016, due to development of new approaches for buildup of the Russian Armed Forces.
Along with this, General Baluevsky states that by 2010, Russia will have a significant quantity of combat nuclear blocks. Answering the concern of one of the members of LDPR faction, Baluevsky said, "There will be thousands of them." The LDPR member said that Russia was losing its nuclear potential and according to available information in 2010, the country would have only 100 such blocks.
Baluevsky remarks that creating its nuclear potential Russia will act strictly in the framework of the signed agreements. He adds that quantity of the combat nuclear blocks will be determined by the Russian-American treaty "On reduction of strategic offensive potentials" signed on May 24, 2002, in Moscow by Russian and American presidents.
According to the treaty, the parties undertake reduction of the number of strategic nuclear charges to 1,700-2,200 units by December 31, 2012. Along with this, the treaty does not make provisions for stages (schedule) of reductions. For realization of its state sovereignty each of the parties can quit the treaty having notified the other party in writing three days before the withdrawal.
1. President Vladimir Putin's Interview with NBC Television Channel
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QUESTION: Mr President, in a few days time the heads of state and government of the G8 countries will be gathering in your home town, St Petersburg, for their annual summit. What do you hope to achieve during these three days of meetings? What is the most important point?
PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN: I hope that we will achieve the goals that are the reason for us gathering in St Petersburg in the first place. We will be not just discussing the most sensitive issues on the international agenda today ï¿½ international energy security, the fight against infectious diseases, and progress in education ï¿½ but we will bring our positions on these key issues closer together. I think this is immensely important and something that the overwhelming majority of the worldï¿½s population is waiting for. We will, of course, also give time to serious international issues such as the situation with the Iranian nuclear programme. I am sure we will also raise the issue of missile technology in the Democratic Peopleï¿½s Republic of Korea. We will give our attention to the Middle East, Iraq, and also bilateral relations between the G8 members.
QUESTION: This is a big event for Russia, for a stronger young Russia. It is also a big event for you and will probably become part of your legacy to the world. Mr Putin, your critics often ask whether Russia should host this summit and receive these guests. They say that Russia does not represent the ideals of the G8 family of countries. What is your response to this?
VLADIMIR PUTIN: For a start, I am pleased that we have our critics because it would be worse if everyone voted unanimously, like at Communist Party congresses during the Soviet era. The fact that we hear both criticism and positive comments helps us to form a better idea of what we are doing and how it is perceived.
I think that Russia is a natural member of the G8 for a number of reasons. The first is that it is hard to imagine how we can find effective solutions to the greatest problems facing the world economy and world security today without including Russia. I want to point out that in proven reserves alone the Russian Federation has four times more oil and gas than all the other G8 countries together. How can we tackle the problems of energy security if we do not take Russiaï¿½s views into account and involve it in finding common solutions? How can we talk about ensuring global security and address the issues of non-proliferation and disarmament if we do not include Russia, which is one of the biggest nuclear powers? And how can we resolve the problem of poverty in the world without Russia, taking into account its vast territory and natural opportunities for interaction with Asia and with the developing world in general?
I think that all of these reasons make Russia a natural participant in the G8. Thatï¿½s not to mention that over recent years Russia has displayed sustainable economic growth and ï¿½ another of our significant achievements, as I see it ï¿½ has demonstrated financial stability and economic development. I understand that not everyone may like this and I affirm their right to have their point of view and I think that such criticism, if it really contains sensible arguments that we should pay attention to, creates an additional reference point for us.
QUESTION: You are talking about energy, oil and arms, but the criticism levelled against Russia concerns not these areas so much as democratic institutions, which many think are moving backwards rather than forwards in Russia. There is particular concern about the media. Of the three national channels, one is state-owned, one is half-owned by the state and the third is owned by a corporation closely linked to the state. Many people say that this is not a real democracy and does not represent the ideals of the G8. What is your response to these concerns about democratic values in Russia?
VLADIMIR PUTIN: I would first ask these people how they understand the concept of democracy. This is a philosophical question, after all, and there is no one clear answer to it. In your country, what is democracy in the direct sense of the term? Democracy is the rule of the people. But what does the rule of the people mean in the modern world, in a huge, multiethnic and multi-religious state? In older days in some parts of the world, in the city states of ancient Greece, for example, or in the Republic of Novgorod (there used to be such a state on the territory of what is now the Russian Federation) the people would gather in the city square and vote directly. This was direct democracy in the most direct sense of the word. But what is democracy in a modern state with a population of millions? In your country, the United States, the president is elected not through direct secret ballot but through a system of electoral colleges. Here in Russia, the president is elected through direct secret ballot by the entire population of the Russian Federation. So whose system is more democratic when it comes to deciding this crucial issue of power, yours or ours? This is a question to which our critics cannot give a direct answer.
What do we hear regarding the media? Yes, the very existence of a democratic society is impossible without freedom of the press, and the basic principles of democracy should, without question, be guaranteed everywhere. But we never even had a free press. First we had the tsarist regime, then we had communism, and beginning in the 1990s, we entered a new era in our lives. But creating full-fledged, functioning institutions, creating a middle class and a multiparty system - the foundation on which these institutions are based ï¿½ is not something that can be achieved overnight. We said loud and clear, however, above all to ourselves, that this is the road we will follow.
Concerning media freedom, you named three national channels, but do you realise how rapidly digital television is developing here, cable television and local and regional television in general? We have more than 3,500 television and radio companies here in Russia and state participation in them is decreasing with every passing year. As for print media, there are more than 40,000 publications and we could not control them all even if we wanted to.
QUESTION: I understand these figures and Iï¿½ve heard them before, but the complaints mostly regard the three national channels because people want to get honest information from the news and they do not get it on these three channels because they are too closely linked to the authorities. You said that the Russian people have made their choice. I must say that your popularity rating is somewhere between 72 and 73 percent, and that is a very high rating. Do you think that the Russian people are not as concerned by issues of democracy as people in other parts of the world?
VLADIMIR PUTIN: I do not think that is the case. I simply think that in other parts of the world the instruments for influencing public opinion have become a lot more sophisticated and state influence through TV channels is less perceptible for the public than is perhaps the case here in Russia. Just recently one of the major newspapers in the USA published information on the monitoring of bank transactions in dollars all around the world. And what was the response we heard from some of the leading officials in the (U.S.) Administration? I recall it because I was greatly surprised to read it. They said: ï¿½These media outlets did not follow our recommendationsï¿½. In other words, someone felt it possible to make such recommendations. So I do not think we should go pointing the finger here. We do have problems and we are aware of them, but other countries also have problems of their own. The developed democracies are far more effective in their ability to manipulate public opinion than we are. People here perceive many things very directly, see them as very real, and this living fabric of passing events is not always felt by the western public.
As for the figures that I just mentioned, yes, I realise that you have probably heard them before, but I do not want them to become just a sort of background buzz. They represent the reality of our life today. You mentioned the three national channels, and yes, there is state participation in them. One of them is entirely state-owned, one of them is a joint-stock company with a sizeable share of state capital, and the third is a corporate channel, owned by Gazprom, a company in which the state holds a controlling stake. But we know that in other countries, in western Europe, for example, there are TV channels that are formally considered independent but in which the main shareholder is a large corporation in which the state, in turn, holds a controlling stake. And so what, thatï¿½s not the issue, after all. The issue is that we are carrying out very serious political changes aimed at creating the democratic foundation for our society. This includes strengthening the multiparty system, increasing the size and quality of local self-government and transferring a considerable number of powers from federal and regional level to the municipalities. We adopted a law recently that increased the number of municipalities from 12,000 to 24,000. And we did not just increase the number but also transferred to these municipal authorities powers and financing sources. This is all part of our work to gradually lay the democratic foundations of our society. So, as Mark Twain said in respect to his own life, the rumours of the death of our democracy are highly exaggerated.
RESPONSE: Tomorrow we will be broadcasting from St Petersburg and preparing our programme. We will be awaiting the summit participantsï¿½ arrival in St Petersburg.
VLADIMIR PUTIN: If you will allow, I would like to say a final few words on this issue of democracy. We all remember what arguments some western countries used to justify their colonial expansion into Africa and Asia. If you look back at the newspapers of those years you will see that was said then hardly differs from what is being said now in relation to the Russian Federation. You just need to replace the civilising role and civilisation with democratisation and democracy, and it all becomes clear. We are ready to work together with all our partners on equal terms and we are attentive to well-meant criticism. We have every reason to listen to what others have to say because we are only in the process of building a modern society. But we categorically oppose the use of all levers, including arguments on the need for us to democratise our society, in order to intervene in our internal affairs. This is something we consider absolutely unacceptable.
QUESTION: You speak about well-meant criticism. Our Vice President, Dick Cheney, speaking recently about civil society and religious society, said that Russia limits peopleï¿½s rights and that the Russian Governmentï¿½s acts are counterproductive and could have an impact on Russiaï¿½s relations with other countries. ï¿½We cannot tolerate a situation where oil and gas become instruments of blackmailï¿½, he said. Itï¿½s perhaps not the subject that is so important here as the firm tone used by the Administration. What are relations like today between Russia, the European Union and the United States?
VLADIMIR PUTIN: I think that these kinds of comments from your Vice President amount to the same thing as an unfortunate shot while out hunting. Itï¿½s more or less one and the same thing. I think that these concerns over potential energy blackmail and so on do not look sincere and therefore are not convincing.
QUESTION: But then why would he say such things? Why make such statements?
VLADIMIR PUTIN: If you let me finish, I will make my point of view clear on this issue. If you look at what the President of the United States said, and I read his words just before coming here to this room, he said that the United States is not worried by any possible energy blackmail or supply disruptions and that everything is already sorted out there. So, what we are talking about then are the European countries. Back in the mid-70s, when the Soviet Union began building the gas pipeline system to western Europe so as to supply our natural gas to consumers there, the U.S. leadership tried to dissuade the Europeans from taking part in these projects and said that problems could arise. But what we see is that for the last 40 years, the Soviet Union and todayï¿½s Russia have fulfilled all their obligations day after day without any disruptions. These fears proved ill-founded and it would be not a bad thing for our colleagues and partners, including in the United States, to remember this.
As for the position taken by certain of our friends in the United States, letï¿½s be honest and frank about what is behind it. It is motivated not by fears of possible disruption to energy supplies or some kind of dependence on Russia. This dependence goes both ways, in any case, because the supplier is as dependent on the consumer as the consumer is on the supplier. We are mutually dependent. Incidentally, this mutual dependence is an element of stability. But it seems to me that this position is motivated by political considerations, by a desire to support certain political forces in eastern Europe and promote oneï¿½s own political interests, with Russia expected to pay the price for the promotion of these interests. I do not think this is a balanced position. Moreover, what worries me in this respect is that this approach is based on the foreign policy philosophy of the twentieth century in which our partnersï¿½ basic premise was the need to keep Russia in check, viewing our country as a political opponent at the very least if not an enemy. But this is a relic of Cold-War thinking and it is a mistake because it indicates that the people who think this way do not realise and understand the geopolitical changes taking place in the world today and are not looking at how the situation will develop 15, 20 or 25 years down the road.
As for Russiaï¿½s position, we fully support the President of the United States when he says that fundamental changes have taken place in the relations between our countries and that Russia and the United States are no longer enemies. These really are fundamental changes in our thinking and we do not just welcome these words from the U.S. President; we think the same way. We have changed radically. The Soviet Union is no more. But it seems that our partners have yet to make such far-reaching changes to their own thinking.
QUESTION: I would like to come back to several questions that worry the United States. North Korea is a country that acts beyond the boundaries of international law and behaves in a hostile manner towards the USA. They have nuclear weapons and at some point will be able to deliver these weapons to other parts of the world. Mr Putin, why do you not support more serious sanctions against North Korea? Why do you appear to be supporting North Korea?
VLADIMIR PUTIN: You always seem to think that we supporting the countries you donï¿½t like. This is not the case. We opposed the military operation in Iraq, for example, but not because we supported Saddam Hussein. This was absolutely not the case. If you recall, I said at that time that a military operation would be a mistake. I am aware of the U.S. leadershipï¿½s position. My partner and friend ï¿½ and I really do see the President of the United States as a friend ï¿½ has a different point of view on this issue. But I think that I was nonetheless right. We took this position not because we supported Saddam, but because we thought that the problems should be resolved through other means. And maybe now we would not have the serious consequences we face today. We thought that we should act through peaceful means, by putting pressure on Iraq, by changing the situation from within. If we had done this we would perhaps not have the breeding ground for terrorism that we have today. But I donï¿½t want to go rubbing salt into anyoneï¿½s wounds here.
The same goes for North Korea. We think that we need to take decisions that will help to defuse the situation and not drive ourselves into an impasse from which we canï¿½t find an exit together. This is the difference between the way we went about resolving problems in the twentieth century and in todayï¿½s world. Back then, during the Cold War, we always acted in such a way as to cause each other harm at any price, but today we share common goals and the differences between us regard only how to go about resolving this or that problem.
QUESTION: You trust Kim Jong Il if he develops the means of delivering nuclear weapons? Are you sure that he will not destabilise this region and other parts of the world?
VLADIMIR PUTIN: That is a question you cannot ask someone at my level. I trust only myself. How can I trust or not trust someone else? We base our action on objective information, on our interests and on the positions of our partners. This is objective and serious work. As for the issue of trust, a young man trusts his future bride or doesnï¿½t trust her, and if they decide to get married itï¿½s for them to work out this issue of trust. But what we are talking about are relations on a completely different level, a completely different kind of relation. I think that we need to develop a system of guarantees that can ensure security in the world and I think that we can achieve this. We should not deliberately provoke the North Koreans into breaking off talks. We are engaged in dialogue with the North Koreans, after all, through the negotiations conducted by the six countries, and then ï¿½ all of a sudden, we do certain things that provoke them through our actions into making a response of not the best kind.
On the North Korean issue, what I can say is that Russia will work towards developing common approaches, in whatever form they take, be it in the form of a statement by the Security Council or in the form of some other decision, and this is our objective: to reach a common approach both for the North Korean issue and with regard to the Iranian nuclear programme.
QUESTION: You mentioned a number of sensitive issues. Recently, five Russian diplomats were abducted and killed in Iraq. You said that the people responsible for this act must be found and eliminated. One parliamentary deputy said that it is those who occupied Iraq who are responsible for the murder of the Russian diplomats and that this crime is on their conscience. I suspect that this was an allusion to the USA. Do you agree with this statement?
VLADIMIR PUTIN: You know, whether it be in the U.S. Congress and Senate or in our State Duma and the upper house of our parliament, there are people with all sorts of different political views and with widely differing views on developments in this or that part of the world. Of course, the abduction and murder of our diplomats is a great tragedy.
QUESTION: Do you blame the United States?
VLADIMIR PUTIN: If the United States and their allies took on responsibility for Iraq when they decided to send their armed forces into that country, then of course they also bear responsibility for public safety and all the more so for the safety of the diplomatic corps. Of course a portion of the blame does lie with the multinational force that is there to ensure order and peopleï¿½s safety. And a portion of the blame lies with the current Iraqi authorities. We have recognised the Iraqi government and this means that we also recognise their responsibility for ensuring that people feel safe there, the people who are officially on Iraqi territory and benefit from the special rights accorded to diplomats, in any case.
QUESTION: Two final questions: Do you think that life for average Iraqi citizens has become better than it was under Saddam Hussein?
VLADIMIR PUTIN: I think that there are greater prospects now for making life better, but from the security point of view the situation has worsened and a real threat that the state will collapse has emerged. People are talking about this more and more often now. If this does happen it will be a major event with far-reaching and perhaps negative consequences for the region as a whole.
In terms of the economic and welfare situation things have not improved. I say once again that there is hope for the future now and we all want to see these hopes realised. We will work together with all of our partners in this direction, above all with the Iraqi government and with the United States.
QUESTION: I would like to finish on a brighter note. This photoï¿½ You have no doubt been asked about it already and you have already spoken about this boy who you met in the Kremlin grounds and who you wanted to cuddle a little, like a kitten. But thereï¿½s so much talk about this now and the whole world has seen this photo.
VLADIMIR PUTIN: I didnï¿½t expect such a reaction. I can only repeat what I have already said. It was simply that this little boy really caught my eye because he was a cute little kid, independent, with a sense of his own dignity, and at the same time in need of protection, like all children, searching for a bit of special warmth and attention. It was just an emotional gesture on my part and really no more than that.
RESPONSE: I wish you every success at the G8 summit.
1. Joint Report Issued By The U.S. Secretary Of Energy And The Director Of The Russian Federationï¿½s Federal Atomic Energy Agency (Rosatom)
Department of Energy
(for personal use only)
WASHINGTON, DC ï¿½ U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Samuel Bodman announced today that he and Russian Federal Atomic Energy Agency Director Sergey Kiriyenko have submitted to Presidents Bush and Putin the third report of the Senior Interagency Working Group on implementation of the February 2005 Bratislava Checklist.
ï¿½We have jointly agreed to maintain the aggressive timeline of prioritized repatriation of fresh and spent highly enriched uranium (HEU) fuel and conversion of research reactors in third world countries,ï¿½ Secretary Bodman said. ï¿½We will continue to implement the bilateral Joint Action Plans to improve the level of physical protection, control and accountability of nuclear weapons and materials stored at Russian Ministry of Defense and Rosatom facilities.ï¿½
The report highlights progress over the past six months, including a joint field exercise in Russia in late 2006 focused on a search for radioactive materials and elimination of consequences resulting from a nuclear or radiological emergency. It also highlights ï¿½best practicesï¿½ for maintaining the security of sensitive nuclear facilities and adopts a joint definition of ï¿½Security Culture.ï¿½ It commits both agencies to developing principles and evaluation criteria by the end of 2006.
Both sides noted the successful shipments of spent highly enriched uranium fuel of U.S. and Russian origin to the United States and Russia, respectively. During the February 2005 meeting in Bratislava, Presidents George Bush and Vladimir Putin committed both governments to securing nuclear weapons and fissile material to prevent the possibility that such weapons or materials could fall into the hands of terrorists. The Presidents established a bilateral Senior Interagency Working Group to address issues of cooperation on nuclear security; the group is charged with reporting on the status of cooperation to the Presidents.
Work under this initiative is of utmost importance for U.S., Russian and world security. It is the intention of both sides to continue cooperation for the foreseeable future and to provide the Presidents of the United States and the Russian Federation with periodic reports on progress made. The Senior Interagency Working Group will submit its next report in December 2006.
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