Archive for the ‘Moscow’ Category

Russia Wants NATO, Europe To Ease Moscow’s Suspicions

November 30, 2008

Russia has reason to feel betrayed by the process of NATO expansion, begun in 1997. Seven years earlier, the Russians believe, American and German officials working on German reunification pledged not to take advantage of Moscow‘s weakness by extending NATO into Russia’s traditional backyard. By reneging on that promise, Western leaders have made Russians doubt their trustworthiness.

By Michael Mandelbaum | NEWSWEEK

To the Kremlin, the expansion process has also seemed to be based on dishonest premises. U.S. officials advertised it as a way of promoting democracy, of forcing ex-Soviet states to reform. But the democratic commitment of NATO’s first ex-communist entrants—Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic—was never in doubt. And if the Americans truly believed that NATO membership was the best way to guarantee free elections and constitutional rights, why didn’t they immediately offer it to the largest ex-communist country of them all, Russia itself? Instead, Moscow was told it would never be able to join.

NATO expansion taught Russia another lesson. The process went ahead because Moscow was too weak to stop it. This told the Russians that to have a say in European affairs, they needed to be able to assert themselves militarily. Last summer’s war in Georgia was one result.

Given this history, what should the West do now about Russia? We have no good options. In the wake of the war, some in the United States renewed the call to welcome Georgia into NATO. But NATO is a mutual-defense pact. Making Georgia a member would mean that we’d have to come to the country’s aid should fighting with Russia break out once more. This would require putting Western troops, tanks, aircraft and perhaps even nuclear weapons on Russia’s border—to which the Russians would respond with comparable forces. The U.S. military is already seriously overstretched by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Yet doing nothing would look like a retreat in the face of Russian aggression.

In the short term, the incoming U.S. president needs to think like a doctor: “First, do no harm.” This means deferring any offer of NATO membership to Georgia (and Ukraine, for that matter). Some may object that this will reward Russia for its belligerence. Perhaps, but the consequences of deferral are preferable to the costs of expansion—including a serious deterioration in relations with Moscow.

At the same time, the West should renew its security cooperation with Russia. NATO must eventually either include Russia or give….

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http://www.newsweek.com/id/171258

Russia Says It Needs New Missiles Due To U.S. Missile Shield Plan

November 28, 2008

Russia’s military said on Friday it had intensified efforts to develop new ballistic missiles in response to U.S. plans to deploy an anti-missile system in Europe and Russia’s navy test fired a new generation rocket.

Soldiers in historical uniforms take part in a military parade ... 
Soldiers in historical uniforms take part in a military parade in the Red Square in Moscow, November 7, 2008.(Denis Sinyakov/Reuters)

The decision by the United States to deploy interceptor missiles in Poland and a radar system in the Czech Republic has angered Moscow, which says Russia’s national security will be compromised by the U.S. anti-missile system.

By Conor Sweeney, Reuters

Colonel-General Nikolai Solovtsov, Commander of Russia‘s Strategic Missile Forces, was quoted by Interfax as saying that Russia had bolstered its efforts to develop new missiles.

“At the present time, work has been intensified to create the research and technical foundation for new missile systems, which will be needed after 2020,” Solovtsov said.

A few hours later, the Dmitry Donskoy nuclear submarine launched a Bulava intercontinental ballistic missile from the White Sea, a navy spokesman said. The missile hit the Kura testing site on the Kamchatka peninsula in the Pacific.

Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev visits cosmodrome Plesetsk, ... 
Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev visits cosmodrome Plesetsk, which is nestled among the taiga forests of Russia’s north, October 12, 2008.REUTERS/RIA Novosti/Kremlin/Dmitry Astakhov

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http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20081128/ts_nm/us_russia_missiles_
usa;_ylt=Am0dTWEn0f8aRVaHCDXmn3Os0NUE

Poland to get U.S. Patriot missiles in 2009

November 19, 2008

U.S. Patriot missiles will be dispatched in Poland in 2009, the country`s defense minister said on Tuesday while on an official visit to Ukraine, RIA Novosti reported.

“Patriot missiles will be in Poland in 2009, at first temporarily, and from 2012, permanently,” Bogdan Klich said.

The United States and Poland signed a formal agreement on the deployment of 10 interceptor missiles on Polish soil on August 20, which followed the signing on July 8 by the U.S. and Czech foreign ministries to station a U.S. radar in the Czech Republic as part of a planned missile defense shield in Central Europe.

Washington had to commit to measures to ensure Poland`s security, including the deployment of the Patriot missiles, before Warsaw would agree to host the interceptor base.

Moscow has consistently expressed its opposition to the U.S. missile shield, saying it threatens its national security. The United States says the shield is designed to thwart missile attacks by what it calls “rogue states,” including Iran.

RIA Novosti

Free Media? Russia Investigates Financial Crisis Reporting

November 19, 2008

Prosecutors are launching inquiries across Russia against media reporting on the financial crisis in a bid to stem growing concern about its impact, the Kommersant newspaper reported on Wednesday.

“It’s not censorship. We’re just checking how reliable the information is,” a press official from the prosecutor general’s office was quoted as saying.

The official gave the example of unreliable reports about a bankruptcy causing a run on deposits from a bank in the Far Eastern port of Vladivostok.

AFP

File picture shows a vendor arranging newspapers at her stand ... 
File picture shows a vendor arranging newspapers at her stand in Moscow. Prosecutors are launching inquiries across Russia against media reporting on the financial crisis in a bid to stem growing concern about its impact, the Kommersant newspaper reported on Wednesday.(AFP/File)

Regional prosecutors have been ordered to check local media “in connection with measures taken by the Russian government to improve the situation in the financial sector and other sectors of the economy,” Kommersant said.

Investigators in Sverdlovsk, a key industrial region in the Ural mountains, are checking local media for attempts “to destabilise the situation in the region,” a spokeswoman for the local prosecutor’s office was quoted as saying.

“If we establish that the law has been violated, there could be disciplinary measures against the guilty, including criminal punishment,” she said.

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http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20081119/bs_afp/finance
economyrussiamediacrime_081119081653

Russia’s Putin threatened to hang Georgia’s leader ‘by the balls’

November 19, 2008

Vladimir Putin threatened to overthrow Georgia’s leader and “hang him by the balls” during talks with French President Nicolas Sarkozy at the height of the war between Russia and Georgia.

From The Telegraph, London
November 13, 2008

The Russian Prime Minister issued the threat against Mikheil Saakashvili as his troops rolled into Georgian territory and at one point threatened the country’s capital Tbilisi.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, seen here on November ... 
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, seen here on November 12, 2008, allegedly threatened to hang Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili “by the balls” during the August war in Georgia, a report not denied by Putin’s spokesman.(AFP/POOL/File/Alexey Nikolsky)

Mr Putin’s fury was overheard by President Sarkozy’s chief adviser, Jean-David Levitte during emergency cease-fire talks on August 12.

According Mr Levitte, interviewed in Le Nouvel Observateur magazine, Mr Putin exploded with rage when Mr Sarkozy warned him off toppling Georgia’s democratically elected government  and its President Saakashvili.

“I am going to hang Saakashvili by the balls,” he said.

“Hang him?,” asked Mr Sarkozy.

“Why not?,” retorted Mr Putin. “The Americans hanged Saddam Hussein.”

Mr Sarkozy replied: “Yes but do you want to end up like Bush?”

Briefly lost for words, the Russian leader agreed: “Ah, you have scored a point there.”

Confronted by the comments on a French radio show yesterday (THURS), Mr Saakashvili laughed nervously.

Russia’s high-tech sector reels

November 17, 2008

After the first round of layoffs, the staff members of MeshNetics filtered in as usual, taking their positions inside powder-blue cubicles and making the ritual run to the cafeteria for coffee. On one level, they felt relief: The cuts had been made, and they were all still here. It made them especially glad to see one another.

But there were thoughts they kept to themselves. It was hard not to stare at the vacant desks, the stray objects one programmer described as the “signs of lost people.” On the wall, a flat-screen monitor with the caption “MeshNetics Confidential” flashed snapshots from the summer, when this start-up company seemed to have harnessed the best ambitions of a new Russia. Now, anxiety was disturbing the employees’ sleep. The smokers were smoking more often.

Above: The main office of MeshNetics in Moscow, which produces wireless networking systems and is facing a money crunch. (James Hill for The New York Times)

By Ellen Barry
International Herald Tribune

The tale of this young company, which produces innovative wireless networking systems, offers a glimpse of how the financial crisis has swept through Russia’s budding entrepreneurial culture and crashed like cold water onto young workers who had come to see the boom times as normal.

Last month, as Russia’s stock market swooned and the credit crunch took hold around the world, Russian companies spooked by memories of previous bank collapses scrambled to protect what cash they had. Venture capital dried up virtually overnight, including at MeshNetics’ parent company.

At MeshNetics, a gingerly layoff was followed by a second cut, and a third. By late October, the options had dwindled: it had to find a new source of capital or suspend operations. “It’s going to be tough letting go of this period of growth,” Ilya Bagrak, the company’s software product manager, said last month. He was still in shock from the experience of firing one of his employees hours after they had shared their morning coffee.

Read the rest:
http://www.iht.com/articles/2008/11/17/europe/17russia.php

Russia’s Medvedev Learned PR Skills from Hitler, Chavez, Khrushchev and Putin?

November 17, 2008

One has to ask, “Where is God’s name did Russian President Dmitry Medvedev learn his public relations skills?”  Well, there are several great role models: Russia’s Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev took his shoe off to bang the table at a “diplomatic” meeting.  Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, standing at the U.N. in New York City, called President Bush “El Diablo” (the Devil).  And we all know Adolph Hitler’s diplomatic and PR track record.  But Medvedev is a protégée of whom?  Vladimir Putin, if we recollect correctly….

By Vladimir Frolov
The Moscow Times

President Dmitry Medvedev’s first state-of-the-nation address raised a lot eyebrows abroad both by its content and tone. If the objective was to make people shake their heads in bewilderment, it succeeded beyond expectations. But if the intention was to send a reassuring message to the international community, it was a stunning failure.

It is hard to understand why, after so much preparation, Medvedev’s team managed to deliver such a disastrous act of public diplomacy.

The speech was purposely delayed to Nov. 5 to give Medvedev an opportunity to send a signal to President-elect Barack Obama several hours after his election victory was announced. Medvedev’s team deliberated for some time whether Medvedev should send Obama a warm, handwritten note or an impersonal diplomatic cable. They wound up sending him a public ultimatum on missile defense. “It was an almost caricature case of the Kremlin being tone-deaf,” said one prominent Russia analyst in the United States.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev speaks at the Washington Club ... 
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev speaks at the Washington Club in Washington, November 15, 2008. Medvedev visited Washington to attend the Summit on Financial Markets and the World Economy on Saturday.REUTERS/Yuri Gripas (UNITED STATES)

If the intention was to signal the Kremlin’s willingness to re-engage the United States under the new administration, then the Iskander missile threat and the failure by Medvedev to immediately congratulate Obama directly was really dumb.

Medvedev’s clueless speech, filled with lots of U.S.-bashing, made it much more difficult for those on Obama’s team who argued that the relationship with Russia, badly bungled by the administration of President George W. Bush, needed the priority attention to be repaired.

Medvedev’s Iskander threat sounded like an attempt to publicly blackmail Obama out of missile-defense deployments in Poland and the Czech Republic. By laying down this marker, Medvedev unintentionally made it much more difficult for Obama to back down from the missile-defense deployments. To cancel the project now would be tantamount for him to buckling to Moscow’s pressure — something that U.S. presidents are not too fond of doing. Moreover, blackmailing a U.S. president-elect is not the best way to improve U.S.-Russian relations.

Russia's "Iskander" missile system on display ... 
Russia’s “Iskander” missile system on display at a military exhibition in the Siberian town of Nizhny Tagil in 2005. President Dmitry Medvedev has said Russia will place short-range missile systems on the EU’s eastern border to counter planned US missile defence installations in Eastern Europe.(AFP/VEDOMOSTI/File/Evgeny Stetsko)

Medvedev took a page right out of Soviet leader Yury Andropov’s book by threatening to place missiles on the country’s western borders. Many Russian specialists in Washington believe that Medvedev’s threats make him sound like President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad or Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

In a few months, Medvedev’s Kremlin will encounter a tightly knit and efficient Obama administration. Medvedev needs much better advice to hold his ground with Obama in public diplomacy. Right now he is clueless in Moscow.

Vladimir Frolov is president of LEFF Group, a government relations and PR company.

Related:
Russia’s Putin and the Great Deception

Time To Manage Iraq and Russia like flashing traffic lights

November 12, 2008

“Ready, Fire, Aim” caricatures how U.S. administrations and governments often behave. Had George W. Bush  not succumbed to this syndrome in going to war in Iraq, President-elect John McCain might be fashioning his transition. Instead, millions at home and abroad are congratulating and saluting the next American president, Barack Obama.  

By Harlan Ullman
Op-Ed
The Washington Times

Flush with a historic victory, the Obama team is planning his administration. President Bush has promised full cooperation. Despite the danger warnings, will Mr. Obama and his senior advisors fall into the trap of ready, fire, aim in translating campaign promises and slogans into policies and in selecting people for high office? The electoral rout of Republicans giving Democrats large majorities in both Houses of Congress will add political adrenaline rather than restraint to this transition process.

Clearly, economic and financial crises along with the war in Iraq and the conflicts in Afghanistan and Pakistan will rise to the top of Mr. Obama’s already overcrowded agenda filled with a myriad of other competing pressures and decisions that must be made. So what can Mr. Obama and his team do to ensure that his administration will reflect aims and objectives based on the nation’s best interests rather than on campaign sound bites, political IOU’s and partisan biases? Step one is defining the problems and the possible corrective actions. Step two is identifying the skill sets that will be needed in assembling a team for governing. Step three is prioritizing step one and connecting with step two. Given the on-going wars and economic crises, Mr. Obama will be under great pressure to make these choices quickly if only to build public confidence in his ability to lead.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev speaks during a meeting with ...
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev speaks during a meeting in the Kremlin in Moscow November 11, 2008.REUTERS/Natalia Kolesnikova/Pool (RUSSIA)

Consider three of the most pressing issues: the economy, Iraq and with President Dmitry Medvedev’s latest challenge to install short range missiles along its western borders to counter the missile defense systems being installed in Poland and the Czech Republic.

Mr. Obama’s economic team will extend far beyond his choice for Treasury. The heads of the National Economic Council and the Council of Economic Advisers are part of the team. The skill sets must include wide experience in economic crises; deep appreciation of macro-and microeconomics and business; and master political abilities to deal with diverse and often adversarial constituencies. No person has all of these qualities. But which are most important for each position? That judgment should drive the choice and not merely the need to name names of people who are competent but not necessarily in the crucial areas.

An employee shows dollar notes at a foreign exchange unit at ...

At the same time, Mr. Obama has promised to cut taxes for 95 percent of Americans. The other 5 percent however pay the lion’s share of taxes. And if the Bush tax cuts are not extended next year, everyone’s pocket book will be hit. A cardinal rule in times of recession is not to raise taxes. The new team better understand this reality, otherwise the economic mess will worsen irrespective of campaign slogans and promises.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
Iran’s Ahmadinejad

Read the rest:
http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2008/n
ov/12/with-all-deliberate-speed/

Kremlin Says ‘Early’ Meeting Needed Between Medvedev, Obama

November 8, 2008

A Bush administration plan for setting up a missile shield close to Russia’s borders has been a sore point with the Kremlin and has served as another dent in its battered relationship with the U.S.  Now Russia’s Medvedev wants to set up an early meeting with Barack Obama….

From the Associated Press

-elect Obama spoke to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Saturday as the future American leader had another round of phone calls with counterparts in other nations.

A Kremlin statement said Obama and Medvedev “expressed the determination to create constructive and positive interaction for the good of global stability and development” and agreed that their countries had a common responsibility to address “serious problems of a global nature.”

Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev greets the audience as ...
Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev greets the audience as he arrives for his annual state of the nation address in the Kremlin in Moscow, November 5, 2008.REUTERS/Alexander Natruskin

To that end, according to the Kremlin statement, Medvedev and Obama believe an “early bilateral meeting” should be arranged.

Obama’s office did not issue a statement describing the call.

A Bush administration plan for setting up a missile shield close to Russia’s borders has been a sore point with the Kremlin and has served as another dent in its battered relationship with the U.S.

On Wednesday, the day after Obama’s election, Medvedev threatened to move short-range missiles to Russia’s borders with NATO allies even as the U.S. offered new proposals on nuclear arms reductions as well as missile defense. Allowing Russian observers at planned missile defense sites in Poland and the Czech Republic were among them, U.S. officials said.

During the presidential campaign, Obama expressed skepticism about the system, saying that it would require much more vigorous testing to ensure it would work and justify the billions of dollars it would cost.

Obama foreign policy adviser Denis McDonough said Saturday that Obama had “a good conversation” with Polish President Lech Kaczynski about the American-Polish alliance but that Obama had made no commitment on the missile shield plan.

“His position is as it was throughout the campaign, that he supports deploying a missile defense system when the technology is proved to be workable,” McDonough said.

That was in contrast to a statement issued by the Polish president. Kaczynski said Obama “emphasized the importance of the strategic partnership of Poland and the United States and expressed hope in the continuation of political and military cooperation between our countries. He also said that the missile defense project would continue.”

President Bush wanted construction of a European missile shield — installations would be in Poland and the Czech Republic — to begin before he left office in January with a completion date of 2012. Experts in the Defense Department believe more interceptor testing is required, according to reports over the summer. Additional tests could delay the program for years.

Obama’s office had no comment on a statement from Khaled Mashaal, leader of the Palestinian militant group Hamas, that he is ready to talk to Obama “with an open mind.” The exiled militant leader told Sky News from Damascus, Syria, that the election of an American president with African roots is “a big change.”

The Bush administration has boycotted Hamas, as has most of the international community, because Hamas refuses to renounce violence or recognize Israel.

Russia Aims to Be High on Obama’s Agenda

November 8, 2008

To the extent that he focused on Russia at all, Barack Obama’s attention was concentrated primarily on the need to keep Soviet nuclear weapons stockpiles out of the hands of terrorists.

But now, President Dmitri A. Medvedev of Russia has thrown down a gauntlet intended to demonstrate to the American president-elect that the post-cold war era may not be so post after all.

By Helene Cooper
The New York Times

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev looks at a banknote while ... 
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has his eye on Russia’s oil, Russia’s money, Russia’s importance in the world and barack Obama; photo taken in St. Petersburg in Russia, Friday, Nov. 7, 2008.(AP Photo/RIA-Novosti, Dmitry Astakhov, Presidential Press Serivce)

On Wednesday, while leaders around the world were falling over themselves to hail Mr. Obama’s election, Mr. Medvedev delivered a harsh welcome-to-the-new-cold-war speech in Moscow.

He never mentioned Mr. Obama by name, but Mr. Medvedev said he would deploy short-range missiles near Poland capable of striking NATO territory if the United States pressed ahead with plans to build a missile defense shield in Europe, something that Mr. Obama has said he supports.

Mr. Medvedev put Mr. Obama on notice on the Georgia crisis as well, vowing that “we shall not retreat in the Caucasus.”

Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev visits cosmodrome Plesetsk, ... 
Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev visits cosmodrome Plesetsk, October 12, 2008.REUTERS/RIA Novosti/Kremlin/Dmitry Astakhov

Even his one-paragraph congratulatory telegram to Mr. Obama was brusque. “I hope for a constructive dialogue with you, based on trust and consideration of each other’s interests,” Mr. Medvedev wrote.

“It was a giant, ‘Hey, welcome to the game,’ ” said George Friedman, chief executive at Stratfor, a geopolitical risk analysis company. “While Obama would like to deal sequentially with Iraq, Afghanistan and, when he gets to it, the Russians, the Russians themselves want to be a burning issue at the top of his list.”

A general view of the Russia's oil major LUKOIL oil refinery ... 
A general view of the Russia’s oil major LUKOIL oil refinery near the town of Kagalym in western Siberia, July 7, 2004 in this file photo.  (Viktor Korotayev/Reuters)
Russia's "Iskander" missile system on display ... 
Russia’s “Iskander” missile system on display at a military exhibition in the Siberian town of Nizhny Tagil in 2005. President Dmitry Medvedev has said Russia will place short-range missile systems on the EU’s eastern border to counter planned US missile defence installations in Eastern Europe.(AFP/VEDOMOSTI/File/Evgeny Stetsko)

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http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/08/world/europe/08russia.html?_r=1&oref=slogin