Daily Archives: August 24, 2007

Kasparov Warns Australia not to Sell Nuke Material to Russia

Australia’s Bulletin magazine (analagous to the American Newsweek) reports on Russia’s insidious efforts to get nuclear fuel from Australia (we have commentary running on Publius Pundit about this topic and have written about it here before):

Australia will share blame if yellow cake sold to Russia ends in the wrong hands, ex-chess champion says.

One of Russia’s most prominent Opposition political figures, former chess champion Garry Kasparov, has warned the Howard Government that Russia cannot be trusted to use Australian uranium solely to power its domestic energy industry. In an exclusive interview with The Bulletin on the eve of APEC, Kasparov says Australia will have to accept moral responsibility if Russia on-sells the uranium to a rogue state or uses it for other non-civil purposes. “Should Australian uranium end up in the wrong hands … Australia will not be able to act innocent or to claim ignorance,” he told The Bulletin. During the APEC forum meeting in Sydney next month it is understood the deal between the two countries to export about 2000 tonnes of Australian yellow cake annually (providing about one third of Russia’s imported uranium stock) will be signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin and John Howard. Russian investigative journalist Grigory Pasko, who was jailed in Siberia after revealing the Russian Naval Fleet had dumped nuclear waste in the Pacific, will also be in Sydney next week arguing that Australia must impose tougher safeguards on any uranium sales to Russia. The demand for uranium worldwide, particularly in energy-poor countries like India and China, has seen the share price for uranium companies more than double in the last two years. Australia now has more than 200 companies whose main business is uranium exploration. Australian Uranium Association chief executive Michael Angwin says spending on exploration is set to pass $100 million this year, up from $77 million last year. “There has been a ten-fold increase in the last four years,” Angwin says. The reason for the hype is simple. The ALP dropped its no-new mines policy earlier this year and close on its heels, the Federal Government flagged a possible expansion of the nuclear power industry in Australia.”There is a high level of confidence in the fact that Australia has a much more liberal framework for industry to operate in,” Angwin says

Download a copy of the full Bulletin interview here (courtesy of Robert Amsterdam).

As the Epoch Times reports, lawyer and blogger Robert Amsterdam is also sounding the warning call. Way to go, Robert! Pasko, Amsterdam and Kasparov is a formidable trio, to be sure!

“All Australians should be concerned about advanced talks to sell uranium to Russia,” wrote British Lawyer Robert R Amsterdam in an article published in the Herald Sun on August 20.

Defence counsel for jailed Russian millionaire Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Mr Amsterdam cautioned the Australian Government over an expected uranium deal next month between Canberra and the Kremlin. “When negotiating the Russia-Australia Nuclear Safeguards Agreement, the Howard Government must consider the Kremlin’s track record,” he wrote. “Australia should be very careful not to rush into a deal without rigorous rules and safeguards relating to the use and enrichment of uranium and the development of nuclear technologies.”

As evidence of the regime’s attitude towards the nuclear issue he pointed out that the Kremlin imprisoned a journalist for reporting on Russia’s illegal dumping of nuclear waste in the Pacific Ocean. Mr Amsterdam also noted that; “When the United States and Europe wished to defend themselves against the possibility of rogue missiles from Asia, President Putin threatened to point Russian nuclear missiles at London, Paris and Berlin.”

“Moscow sells nuclear technology to Iran and has agreed to build a nuclear research centre in Burma,” he noted. Foreign policy in Russia, he stated, is governed with a firm hand. He gave examples of gas and oil pipelines to neighbouring countries being shut off and trade embargoes. In his article Mr Amsterdam also described the current regime run by former KGB agent Vladimir Putin. “By 2003, a powerful group of former intelligence and military strongmen had succeeded in taking control of Putin’s Kremlin power base,” he stated. “Democratic pluralists and market economists were pushed out or marginalised. Political opposition was crushed. “Most major news media were bought out. The country’s energy resources were brought under Kremlin control,” he wrote. “Neighbours are bullied and long-time business partners are extorted. Opponents are jailed, such as former Yukos oil company boss Mikhail Khodorkovsky, or killed. “A belief has taken root that Russia is entitled to assert itself aggressively and above the law if need be,” he stated. “No one is above the extortion tactics of the Kremlin and its selective application and misapplication of laws.”

It is also expected when Vladimir Putin arrives for the APEC meetings next month, along with a nuclear deal he will also sign an economic accord which The Age reports will allow for increased Russian investment in Australia, particularly in the mining and minerals sector.

More Proof of How Erudite and Well-informed Russians Really Are

Writing in the Moscow Times, using the example of Darfur, columnist Georgy Bovt neatly summarizes the extent of Russia’s barbaric ignorance and callous disregard for the rest of the world, totally incompatible with G-8 membership.

Russian newspapers almost never write about events in the Darfur province of Sudan, where bloody fighting between government forces and Muslim rebels has dragged on for years. The country was mentioned briefly in the country’s print and television news in mid-August, but only in connection with an initiative by a number of U.S. congressmen to boycott the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing because of China’s “incorrect” policies in Sudan. Their primary complaint is that Chinese firms, motivated exclusively by profit, have abandoned all moral principles in their attempts to gain a foothold in the Sudanese market.

The typical editor or producer of a Russian newspaper or television station would probably say that readers and viewers aren’t interested in Darfur. I don’t find such statements very convincing. I think virtually any subject taken from any part of the world can be interesting, depending on how it is presented and the quality of the reporting.

For example, I recently listened with great interest to an account of the situation in Darfur from a Russian politician who had traveled there as a tourist. In addition to showing me some extremely interesting photos, he confirmed that the whole system of humanitarian aid distribution in Darfur was nothing but a highly profitable business run by companies with tribal connections to the nobility. Isn’t this a good theme for an investigative reporter? Sure it is, but you won’t read about it in any reputable Russian publication or see any television coverage on the subject. You won’t learn anything at all in the press about the enormous tragedy in Darfur that has already claimed over 200,000 lives and turned a huge region of Africa into a humanitarian catastrophe.

The Russian journalistic community is too lazy to come up with new stories, much less to present the outside world to their readers and encourage them to expand their outlook. A large part of the journalistic community has long relied on the authorities for instructions and recommendations on what to report. To be sure, there are a small number of journalists who love to busy themselves with criticizing the authorities from time to time. But in either case, the focus of media coverage is on domestic themes. When the outside world is presented in the Russian media, it appears very small and squalid.

In contrast, most reputable Western newspapers report on the situation in Darfur fairly frequently. Leading U.S. newspapers, for example, run stories on it almost every other day. And the Darfur conflict also has a place in U.S. foreign policy, with Washington effectively leading international efforts to end the fighting there.

In general, U.S. President George W. Bush’s administration has given increasingly greater attention to Africa over the years. Washington has increased its financial aid to African nations by 67 percent and allocated an additional $15 billion for the fight against AIDS there. Most political analysts explain this increased emphasis on international humanitarian issues, which include human trafficking and sexual enslavement, as arising from a sharp increase in the Christian evangelical movement’s political influence in Washington.

Darfur received some coverage in the Russian media not long ago, but only in connection with the latest Group of Eight meeting in Germany. No other initiatives regarding Darfur were made either before or after that meeting. In this respect, Russian diplomacy closely resembles the Russian press: They both have very little interest in the topic. Diplomats are extremely passive regarding almost all international humanitarian problems.

But if the country’s politicians are increasingly vocal with their cries that “Russia is back” on the international stage, then they should show much more interest in international humanitarian issues. After all, a country’s greatness and standing are measured not only be the number of times it says “no” to its partners.

Annals of Russian Humiliation: Neo-Soviet Russia Drops Another Sochi-Related Clanger

The Moscow Times reports on how barbaric, chicken-with-the-head-off Russia humiliated itself before the world at a recent air show it attempted to host. Reading this, do you dare to imagine dear reader what will happen when Russia attempts the Olympics, on a far grander scale?

At the opening of the MAKS 2007 air show, half a dozen bewildered delegates from Italian industrial group Finnmeccanica sheepishly boarded a barely marked shuttle bus as the temperature was rising and their patience running thin. As the driver pulled away, he veered as if to head in the opposite direction from the main event. “Please,” yelled one of the exasperated Italians, “if he’s taking us back to the entrance again, someone just shoot him.”

On Wednesday, the second day of the air show, that irritation was palpable from many foreign participants and visitors. While organizers have boasted that MAKS deserves a place in the big league of international air shows, words like “amateur” and “bizarre” were more common in assessments coming from foreigners. The most common complaints ranged from poor transport links and inadequate infrastructure to ponderous security checks, bad food and revolting public toilets.

A number of prominent officials, including Sergei Chemezov, the head of state arms exporter Rosoboronexport, have credited MAKS with climbing into the ranks of major international air shows like France’s Le Bourget and Britain’s Farnborough. This year’s event is the biggest ever, and with almost 800 companies from nearly 40 countries, foreign participation is up by almost 50 percent. The size and scope of the event have been a constant selling point for Russian officials, who have pushed it as a symbol of a resurgent aviation industry. Alexei Fyodorov, head of the newly formed, state-run United Aircraft Corporation, said last week that the country would sell $250 billion worth of military and civilian aircraft over the next 18 years.

But some representatives of foreign firms warn that the list of inconveniences faced by participants could scuttle Russian attempts to sell both itself and its aircraft to Western investors. “It is amateur,” said Nathalie Merand, a spokeswoman for Brazilian plane manufacturer Embraer, just as the backlighting at the company’s stand failed. “An air show is about business, and this is more like a public holiday. It is very expensive to be here and it is not worth it,” Merand said, listing problems from a flooded stand to a lack of overall coordination.

Another Embraer representative, who asked not to be identified, said the company was weighing whether it was interested in returning to the next MAKS event in two years. Complaining about the poor food and arbitrary document checks by police, he said he “did not know whether to throw up or urinate” in the free portable toilets. “All this is a very bizarre contrast to the claims that it is on the same level as Farnborough or Le Bourget,” said an official with another foreign firm. “They always claim that this is the best MAKS, but it might actually be the worst.”

Anna Abarshalina, head of communications for MAKS 2007, said she was aware of the complaints, but that senior event officials were unavailable for comment Wednesday afternoon. The biggest gripe was getting to the site, with some participants saying it had taken up to seven hours to travel the approximately 40 kilometers from Moscow to the Zhukovsky airfield. “They should at least have a separate entrance for the people running the exhibits,” EADS spokesman Gregor Von Kursell said. “They shouldn’t make them queue up with children and grandmothers and the toilet cleaners.”

Temperatures approaching the mid-30s didn’t help the moods of exhibitors and industry representatives as they were forced to wait in line. But with the air show an obvious target for a possible terrorist attack, most said some delays were understandable. Francois Roudier, vice president of the Le Bourget air show, described traffic and lines for security checks at the French event as a “nightmare” for organizers there as well. He said MAKS was relatively young at 15; the Le Bourget show is in its 98th year. “Crowd control can always be better,” Roudier said by telephone from Paris. “There will be solutions in years to come.”

Amanda Stainer, Farnborough International’s director of exhibitions and events, said traffic snarls were a problem that organizers of the British show had been forced to address in the past. “We got a working group together and agreed on a plan with the authorities,” Stainer said in a telephone interview. “It was a really coordinated effort.” Measures that helped improve the traffic situation at Farnborough included limiting thoroughfares on the way to the site to one-way traffic and establishing separate lanes for buses.

Some participants were more positive about the event once inside. Rolls-Royce representative Dave Gould said that even though it took taken him five hours to get from his hotel to his stand, the event went well. “Once you’re in here, then it’s OK,” Gould said. He said MAKS was more on a level with smaller air shows, like one in Beijing, but the rapid expansion in the Russian market meant that it was unlikely foreign businesses would be put off. For some of the participants, MAKS even offered an atmosphere that could not be found elsewhere. “I like this event,” Jean Herve, a representative for French company Le Guellec, said jovially as he waited for workmen to sweep water away from his stand after a pipe burst overnight at the Seimens’ exhibit, flooding the pavilion. “It is more festive here,” Herve said. “Le Bourget is more about business.” And with shashlik stands, myriad fast food, souvenir stalls and even a giant hot air balloon in the shape of a can of Baltika beer, the event had the air of a carnival or championship sports event.

As for the problems with logistics, the writing may have already been on the wall last week — or, perhaps more accurately, inauspiciously falling off. Boris Alyoshin, head of the Federal Industry Agency, which organized the event, offered a preview for journalists Aug. 16. Just as he was extolling the event’s virtues, the power cut out, silencing the microphones and plunging the hall into darkness. As journalists stood around in the gloom, two posters for the show came loose from the wall and crashed noisily to the ground.

The Observer Blasts the Neo-Soviet Kremlin

An editorial in the Sunday Observer, referred by an anonymous commenter (who suggests clicking through the link and reading the pathological frenzy of Russophile commenters, including obviously a number of Nashi freaks, lashing out at what is in fact a rather moderate view of the situation):

The diplomatic atmosphere between Britain and Russia has been getting sharply chillier since Moscow refused to extradite the man Scotland Yard accuses of the murder of ex-spy Alexander Litvinenko. There were tit-for-tat embassy expulsions. Now the BBC World Service has had its licence to broadcast in Moscow revoked.

But this is a sideshow in a broader story of Russia’s growing suspicion of the West and a tendency towards neo-Soviet grandstanding. President Vladimir Putin last week said that, in response to ‘strategic threats by other military powers’, Russian long-range bombers would resume their Cold War routine of flights around the world. Russian jets have also started testing Nato defences, ‘buzzing’ targets near US and UK bases.

Russia is particularly peeved about US plans to deploy an anti-missile defence shield, supported by facilities in former Eastern Bloc countries. Moscow does not believe Washington’s claim that the shield is meant to ward off future Iranian or North Korean attacks.

Russian insecurity is easy to understand. The collapse of the Soviet Union cost Russia its global trading system, its European military alliance and a huge swath of its territory, including many ethnic Russians now resident in neighbouring states. Any country that went through such a trauma might react by retreating into aggrieved ultra-nationalism. That is what Germany did, for example, after the First World War.

The comparison can be overstated. The Soviet Union did not suffer a military defeat in 1991 and the West did not impose punitive reparations. But it is striking how much Mr Putin’s international sabre-rattling is matched by authoritarian tendencies at home. Political dissent has been crushed and state media promote a cult of the President.

Last week’s scrambling of aged bombers to patrol the skies is a desperate bid for international attention and domestic applause. Such posturing is a sign of weakness. Russia has an underdeveloped economy, dependent on rising oil prices. Mr Putin wants recognition and respect from the West more than conflict. He is open to negotiation. But we must be wary of this neo-Soviet state. Britain can reassure Russia that it wants co-operation and partnership. But history warns of the danger of appeasing aggressive nationalism.

On Putin and the New Cold War

Moscow Times columnist Alexander Golts sees Vladimir Putin’s decision to begin bomber flights against the West as his formal declaration of a new cold war:

Militarism is not only when the military makes all the key government decisions. It is also when civilian politicians use military solutions as the universal tool to solve all of their problems.

This can lead to some interesting results. One example was when President Vladimir Putin announced last week the start of a new Cold War. While standing on an artillery range during what was called anti-terrorist military training maneuvers by members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, Putin declared that Russian strategic bombers would resume regular, long-range patrols — or “tours of duty” as Putin said in televised remarks Friday — for the first time since 1992.

I can imagine how professional military leaders winced when they heard this statement. After all, resuming regular patrols means that planes are flying with nuclear weapons on board, ready to be fired at the order of the commander in chief. The last time Moscow’s strategic bombers flew regular sorties was during one of the more heated stages in U.S.-Soviet relations — from January 1985 to April 1987.

But I really don’t think that the 14 strategic bombers, which carried cruise missiles with nuclear warheads, completed their sorties Friday over the Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic oceans with any intention of launching an attack. If that had been the case, the U.S. reaction would have been much harsher than the caustic comments we heard from U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack: “If Russia feels as though they want to take some of these old aircraft out of mothballs and get them flying again, that’s their decision.”

Last week’s announcement regarding regular, long-range bomber missions is just the latest in a series of threatening stances by the Kremlin that take us back to the era of the 1980s. Remember Putin’s statement in February 2004 during military exercises, where he claimed that Russia had developed a “miracle missile” that could overcome any anti-missile defense system. And of course there was the explosive Munich speech, in which, among other things, Putin revealed his belief that the heightened U.S.-Soviet confrontation of the 1980s was one of the most stable periods in international relations. This was a time when Moscow and Washington focused on mutual containment by significantly strengthening their military capabilities.

Putin has become quite nervous of late about a fictitious danger that he seems to have concocted himself: the West’s intention to interfere in Russia’s transfer of power in 2008, when Putin’s second term comes to an end. The president is trying to protect his country from outside enemy influences by playing the Cold War card. This tactic enables him to rally the people and convince them that any criticism of his Kremlin is an insidious ploy by foreign powers to prevent Russia from “getting up off its knees” to become a global superpower again.

This whole anti-West campaign is a farce, of course, but the question is whether this farce will grow in intensity and become a very real and dangerous drama. This could happen if Washington begins taking at face value the Kremlin’s repeated declarations of its growing military potential. Although the Kremlin’s bold statements against the West may have been designed for primarily domestic political goals, it could, nevertheless, lead us back to a serious confrontation.

The Peace Mission 2007 maneuvers, a joint military exercise of SCO member countries held last week in the Chelyabinsk region, show once again that conventional military forces are ill-equipped to fight an effective battle against terrorism. The exercise involved about 6,000 troops from China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan and about 1,000 pieces of military hardware, from fighter jets and bombers to heavy artillery. In these simulated training maneuvers, a group of mock terrorists seized a population center in SCO member nation “A.” An armed gang of fighters from country “N” then broke through to them. Under these conditions, the SCO states consulted and decided upon a coordinated anti-terrorist operation. The combined military forces of the six SCO member nations then killed the terrorists and set the hostages free.

On one hand, these maneuvers demonstrated a new level of military cooperation between Russia, China and the Central Asian member nations of the SCO. It would seem that, on the surface, much was achieved: A mechanism for joint action and decision making has been established; China has proven its ability to project its armies and military hardware — including air power — into Russia; and military leaders were able to coordinate complex military operations among six different nations.

What is most important, however, is that the Peace Mission 2007 training exercises — despite all of its claims — have no application whatsoever in the fight against terrorism. It is obvious that the army is the wrong tool for battling terrorists. The bombing of the Moscow-St. Petersburg train shows that a conventional army cannot prevent a terrorist act. Law enforcement agencies must be the ones to combat terrorists, using their agents to infiltrate the ranks of terrorist organizations. Fighter jets and bombers, like the ones paraded with so much fanfare in Peace Mission 2007, are of very little use in this struggle.

In addition to terrorists, the joint exercises of Peace Mission 2007 identified another target — separatists and insurgents. It is no coincidence that some analysts saw a connection between the Peace Mission 2007 maneuvers and events in Andijan, Uzbekistan, in May 2005, when the regime of President Islam Karimov used bullets from government troops to disperse a protest in the town’s main square, resulting in scores of civilian deaths. Karimov called the protest a terrorist uprising, and Moscow supported that version of events.

As the SCO members attempt to develop conventional military solutions to solve terrorist threats, the question is who will they label as terrorists in each concrete situation. It is clearly in Russia and China’s best interests to ensure stability in Central Asia. But, according to Moscow and Beijing’s interpretation, stability means one thing — keeping the current ruling regimes in power. What’s more, these leaders do not understand that the most serious threat to stability in the region is the crushing poverty among their citizens. At the same time, Moscow and Beijing have made it quite clear that they are not willing to work with the West to resolve the problems in the region.

The joint training exercises last week clearly demonstrated Moscow and Beijing’s readiness to use military measures to keep the weak and corrupt Central Asian regimes in power. And the Kremlin has once again shown that military force is an unsuitable tool to achieve political goals. Putin’s announcement on Friday that regular, long-range patrols of strategic bombers will be re-established is just the latest example of this fundamentally flawed policy.

August 23, 2007 — Contents

THURSDAY AUGUST 23 CONTENTS


(1) Arap Speaks

(2) Annals of the Neo-Soviet Crackdown on NGOs

(3) Annals of the Neo-Soviet Crackdown on Bloggers

(4) Crazed Russia Again Menaces Britain with Nukes

(5) Oops, They did it Again

NOTE: Here’s the most recent snapshot of our international readership, courtesy of Site Meter. As an LR reader, you are part of a large and very international community of people who are concerned about the security risks posed by neo-Soviet Russia not only to the outside world but to the Russian people themselves. We’re proud to note how many countries patronize our blog, and especially proud of the fact that the third-largest group of readers comes from Russia. That shows there is still hope!