Daily Archives: April 11, 2006

Cold War II Begins . . . at Russia’s Request

From the Moscow Times


U.S. Using WTO to Contain Russia

By Anna Smolchenko Staff Writer

Fearful of Russia helping Iran build a nuclear bomb and the Kremlin reverting to authoritarianism, the United States is once again threatening economic retaliation. At issue is Russia’s long campaign to get into the World Trade Organization, which would open markets around the globe to Russian goods.

While Moscow has resolved trade disputes with many countries, it has yet to iron out all its differences with Washington, a prerequisite for admission to the 149-member WTO. The United States is the last major country to put up obstacles to Russian entry to the WTO. On the surface, the outstanding WTO issues are purely economic — intellectual property rights, for instance, or keeping Russian markets open to American poultry exports, an issue that has recently arisen.

But just beneath the surface, the politics surrounding Russia’s quest to join the global trade organization are clearly visible.

U.S. Senator Bill Frist, the majority leader and one of a handful of Republicans likely to run for president in 2008, indicated Monday that the political chasm separating the United States and Russia figured into the resolution of trade disputes.

Speaking at a news conference after meeting with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Frist said Russia’s disregard for the rule of law, human rights violations and other “anti-democratic” tendencies “color the position of the United States.”

Frist added that “our Congress plays a major role in whether Russia will ultimately be admitted to the WTO.”

A senior congressional aide, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of trade talks, said the U.S. House of Representatives would be a “major stumbling block” for Russian ascendancy to the WTO.

“It will be an uphill battle,” the aide said of Russia’s effort to gain admission. “A lot of those requirements are genuine trade requirements, but others have to do with political steps. Many congressmen were raised in fear of the Soviet Union. To a certain extent, Russia is still being treated as a Cold War adversary.”

Congress showed its willingness last month to use global trade to further a political end when it freed Ukraine from the 1974 Jackson-Vanik trade provision.

The move came as U.S. ally Viktor Yushchenko, celebrated in Washington for leading Ukraine’s 2004 Orange Revolution, was heading into tough parliamentary elections.

By contrast, the United States has not lifted Jackson-Vanik for Russia, making it possible, if not probable, that Ukraine will gain admission to the WTO before Russia.

Jackson-Vanik makes it impossible for Russia to gain most-favored-nation trading status with the United States; even though Russia is granted yearly waivers, graduating from Jackson-Vanik is widely believed in Washington to be a necessary step toward WTO admission. Frist traveled to Moscow and St. Petersburg with Senator Judd Gregg of New Hampshire and Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina. Gregg and Burr are also Republicans.

Numerous other senators and House members have voiced uneasiness about granting Russia admission to the WTO as long as the Kremlin restricts press freedom and nongovernmental organizations, and denies voters the freedom to pick their own regional governors.

Representative Curt Weldon, a Republican from Pennsylvania; Senator Joe Biden, a Democrat from Delaware; and Senator John McCain, a Republican from Arizona are among those who are skeptical about granting Russia WTO membership. McCain is seriously considering a presidential bid. Biden has been mentioned as a possible contender.

The United States recently slapped Russia with a list of 10 more requirements that Moscow must meet to gain WTO admission.

President Vladimir Putin, responding to the U.S. move, accused Washington of deliberately keeping Russia out of the world trade body.

Anastasia Zimonina, a spokeswoman for the Economic Development and Trade Ministry, the agency handling WTO negotiations, buttressed Putin in an interview last week, citing a letter sent by U.S. President George W. Bush to Putin. “The requirements indicated in Bush’s letter to Putin, we could say, are new aspects of old issues,” she said.

One issue that particularly galled Russians, she said, was airplanes. The question of plane tariffs had been resolved, Zimonina said, but the United States has put forth new demands about aircraft leasing. U.S. trade representatives have similarly accused the Russians of playing politics with the trade negotiations.

Andrei Kushnirenko, a senior trade official at the ministry, said that most of the issues to be resolved involved agriculture.

Dorothy Dwoskin, a senior trade negotiator at the U.S. Trade Representative’s Office, in Washington, said the pharmaceutical and financial services industries were also a concern for U.S. negotiators.

Late last month, the U.S. Trade Representative’s Office issued its annual report on trade barriers, noting that Russian barriers to U.S. drugs were a key sticking point in the WTO negotiations.

Russian import requirements, for example, include obtaining an “expert’s analysis,” the report said. The government also requires “phytosanitary certificates” for incoming styrofoam cups and furniture, the report said.

The protracted WTO debate has apparently prompted some Kremlin officials to rethink the wisdom of seeking membership in the trade organization.

On Monday, an unidentified government official was quoted in Izvestia as saying that WTO membership could harm the Russian economy.

Pavel Katkov, a spokesman for the Economic Development and Trade Ministry, declined to comment. Zimonina, the ministry spokeswoman who normally deals with WTO accession issues, was unavailable Monday.

Anton Strouchenevsky, an economist with investment bank Troika Dialog, dismissed talk of Russia opting out of the WTO. “I wouldn’t get excited over these declarations,” he said. “The WTO negotiations process is very politicized, and it’s largely politicians, not economists, who do the negotiating.”

He added that the latest fireworks were evidence, if anything, that negotiations were proceeding.

Zimonina, however, sounded a philosophical note. “Why is it happening?” she said of the ongoing debate. “Because nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.”

Another Foreign Student Murdered In Russia

From the St. Petersburg Times

African Student Gunned Down
By Ali Nassor and Carl Schreck
Staff Writer

An African student was fatally shot on Friday with a weapon bearing a swastika symbol, raising the hate crime murder toll in St. Petersburg to six in seven months.

The fifth year student of the St. Petersburg State University of Telecommunications, Lamzer Samba, 28, from Senegal died instantly of two bullet wounds when he was shot from behind by an unidentified man in the early morning on his way home from the Apollo nightclub where he and his friends had been celebrating the university’s anniversary. An electrician with a previous conviction on arms charges has been detained in connection with the shooting death, prosecutors said Monday.

The suspect, Alexei Kutarev, 28, was detained Friday after investigators found his fingerprints on a beer bottle in a trashcan near the place where the student was killed, St. Petersburg news web site Fontanka.ru reported Monday.

Kutarev, who lives in a nearby apartment building, has a conviction for the possession and sale of firearms, Fontanka.ru said, citing investigators.

“It’s too early to reveal the details in the initial stage of the investigation,” said Yelena Ordynskaya, a senior aide to the City Prosecutor Sergei Zaitsev. “We think we will solve the murder soon given the evidence at our disposal,” Ordynskaya said.

“Lamzer was not a frequent visitor to night spots. I can hardly remember a day he went to a nightclub,” said the head of the city’s Senegalese Students Union, Jean Valery, adding that “he was so dedicated to his studies and such an active anti-fascist campaigner that he was involved in the proactive awareness campaign.”

Samba was running to catch up with a group of five friends in front of him when a gunman hiding on the corner of 5th Krasnoarmeiskaya Street shot him in the back and sneaked away unnoticed.

The murder weapon was found at the scene of the incident and its swastika symbol gave the City Prosecutor’s Office grounds to classify the case as a hate crime, though they have not ruled out other motives.

Samba, who was due to defend his degree thesis this year, was also engaged in an anti-fascist awareness campaign jointly run by the Russian youth movement Nashi and the St Petersburg African Union to which he belonged.

“Samba was one of us, a devotee to the anti-fascist cause,” Leonid Kurzan, head of Nashi’s St. Petersburg branch, told a number of activists who gathered at the Mayakovskaya Public Library to mourn Samba’s death on Saturday.

“He was appealing both to us and to the schoolchildren he lectured on the spirit of tolerance and friendship,” Kurzan said.

On Tuesday the Nashi movement is expected to hold an anti-fascist public demonstration to be attended by human rights activists from various organizations, ethnic minorities and members of the public on Dumskaya Ulitsa, close to Gostiny Dvor, in a show of protest against the city’s recent wave of violent hate crimes.

However, Dmitry Dubrovsky, head of Ethnic Studies at the St. Petersburg European University, frowned on the demonstration, saying, “It’s a chance for political organizations to boost their public image.”

“They use the tragedy to meet their political ends, but you can hardly find anyone among them who is really committed to fighting fascism,” said Dubrovsky.

“It’s appalling to realize that the worst is yet to come as fascists will be celebrating Adolf Hitler’s birthday in April,” said Desire Deffo, deputy head of the St. Petersburg African Union.
“It’s equally alarming that the fascists are achieving their goal of inspiring terror in anyone who is not with them,” he added, saying, “It is in St. Petersburg that the real ‘terrorists’ should be annihilated.”

But Kurzan said it would be wrong to look into the problems of fascism, xenophobia and racism from the St. Petersburg contextual point of view without paying heed to its national scale.
“Fascists are the same, regardless of the place or the historical period they operate in; be it in the World War II era or in peacetime in Russia,” he said.

According to City Hall’s statistics, the number of foreign students dropped down to about 13,500 this year from about 15,000 last year.

Professor Tamara Smirnova, one of the heads of the Petropol Research Center at the House of National Cultures, said the drastic fall in the number of foreign students in the city was “mainly due to the alarming rate of hate crimes.”

Samba was gunned down less than two weeks after a racist knife attack on a nine-year-old African-Russian girl and about six weeks after a 33-year-old Ivory Coast man was stabbed in attacks. Both survived.

“Perhaps that’s why they have resorted to guns now, as knives would spare some of our lives,” said Deffo.