Fidel Castro weighs in on U.S.-Russia missile shield debate - April, 2008

One of the 20th century's greatest statesmen comments on US-Russian relations.



Fidel Castro weighs in on U.S.-Russia missile shield debate

Retired Cuban leader Fidel Castro said U.S. plans for a global anti-missile shield were a menace to Russia, and advised Moscow to seek its main allies in Asia. The U.S. is developing a global missile defense system which it claims is needed to counter possible strikes from rogue states such as Iran. The system's components are located in Alaska and California with preparations underway for a third site in Central Europe - Poland and the Czech Republic. "Why should the United States have its space ports, radars and launch pads in Europe if not to threaten Russia?" Castro said in an interview with Cuban daily Granma. Russia is opposed to the U.S. plans, calling them a threat to national security and a destabilizing factor for Europe. Castro said the U.S. military plans were also threatening "China and all other countries without exception, to turn them into allies or enemies of an empire with an unsustainable economic and political system." He said that although Europe is a cultural and scientific center and the main consumer of Russian oil and gas, Moscow should be oriented towards Asia, whose international trade institutions via the Shanghai Cooperation Organization are more eager to cooperate with Moscow than the World Trade Organization, in which Russia is seeking membership.


In other news:

Russia, Libya seal debt accord, eye arms deals

Russia agreed to cancel $4.5 billion of Libyan debt on Thursday, unlocking big military and civilian export orders in the face of fierce Western competition for the former outcast state's booming market. The deal was one of 10 accords reached on a visit by Russian President Vladimir Putin that saw Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi give equal emphasis to political ties, hailing his visitor as "our great guest" in an unusually effusive speech of welcome. Gaddafi, keen to balance growing ties with the West with alternative sources of support such as Moscow, said the world needed a Russian "superpower" to counter a dominant force -- a thinly veiled reference to Washington -- that was fuelling a new arms race. "It's said the Cold War is over, but I say that unfortunately the Cold War continues," the official Jana news agency quoted Gaddafi as saying on Wednesday evening.

"The arms race has begun once again due to the international imbalance," he said at a dinner for Putin, who was making the first visit by a Kremlin leader to the OPEC member since 1985. The Russian agreements on debt, energy, railways and investment mark a renewed effort by Moscow to grab a slice of a growing market aggressively courted by Western companies seeking contracts for big state infrastructure projects. Libya, owner of Africa's largest oil reserves, earned more than $40 billion from oil and gas in 2007 and is seeking to rebuild an economy run down by decades of sanctions. The largest commercial deal was a 2.2 billion euro ($3.48 billion) contract for Russian state railways, with payment tied to the debt deal. Russian Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin said the debt would be cancelled once payments for the railway deal and other contracts arrived in Russian companies' bank accounts. Analysts say the debt was built up during the Cold War, much of it as a result of Soviet arms supplies to Libya. "I am satisfied by the way we have solved the debt problem," Putin told reporters. "The deal will not only employ Russian defence enterprises but will also help strengthen Libya's defences."


A defence source said in the next few days the countries would sign a contract worth several hundred million dollars for Russia to modernise some weaponry sold previously to Libya. Russia's Interfax news agency said on Monday Moscow hoped to sell Tripoli anti-aircraft systems, jet fighters, helicopters and warships worth 2.5 billion euros. Russia, Libya's traditional weapons supplier, is seeking to revive its role as a global power, which diminished after the Soviet Union collapsed. In another deal, Russian gas monopoly Gazprom and Libya's state energy conglomerate National Oil Corporation (NOC) signed a memorandum of cooperation on Thursday, officials said. Details were not announced. Libya's ties to the West have warmed since it abandoned its weapons of mass destruction programmes in 2003. But Gaddafi has long complained that Libya has been inadequately rewarded. Gaddafi, a fierce critic of what he depicts as U.S. unilateralism, suggested a parallel between Libya's effort to gain international acceptance since 2003 and Moscow's abandonment of some of the policies of the former Soviet Union.


Russia: Old Friends Putin, Berlusconi Meet In Sardinia

Putin in Italy on last Presidential trip abroad:

Outgoing Russian President Vladimir Putin has held talks with an old friend -- Silvio Berlusconi, the billionaire set to serve as Italy's prime minister for a third time. Meeting on the Italian island of Sardinia, the two men discussed energy and business ties -- and gave the European Union reason to worry that Moscow's influence in Europe will only continue to grow. Putin "is very friendly. He has shown himself to be a great friend by coming here," Berlusconi said. "This shows a close relationship that has never been interrupted. The Russian Federation is very important for us. We get 30 percent of our oil and gas from them." Berlusconi and Putin have been close allies since Berlusconi's second term as prime minister in 2001-06. It's a friendship that doesn't make everyone happy. Many European leaders worry the relationship that will hurt the EU's chances of forging a common policy on Russia and its energy. The April 18 meeting on Sardinia comes as both men are facing a political transition. Berlusconi, Italy's richest man, is about to serve as prime minister for the third time. Putin, having served out two highly successful presidential terms, has just been named head of the dominant Unified Russia party and will become prime minister in early May.

Sealing Deal?

Putin is the first foreign leader to visit Berlusconi since the results of the Italian elections were announced on March 14. At a press conference, the Russian president quickly dismissed a question from an Italian journalist about stories of his alleged divorce from his wife and plans to marry a 24-year-old gymnast. From then on, he was all business, saying the two sides had discussed the terms of a swap in which the Russian giant Gazprom would receive from Italy's ENI energy assets in the North African country of Libya in exchange for access to energy assets on Russian territory: ENI "has received access to assets on Russian territory, and Gazprom hopes it can receive adequate assets in other countries, particularly in Libya," Putin said. "We have a wide range of joint projects, from the joint extraction of energy resources to the development of infrastructure and pipeline systems." The Russian leader traveled to Sardinia from Libya, a major oil and gas supplier. Russia, which supplies more than one-quarter of the natural gas consumed in the EU, has been looking to consolidate its position by striking new deals with North African suppliers.

Putin also addressed the issue of Italy's ailing flagship carrier Alitalia, which had been looking to Air France-KLM for possible investment. The Russian leader suggested that Aeroflot might also become involved in the talks. "I spoke with the chairman of the Aeroflot board of directors today," Putin said. "They are ready to resume contacts with their Italian partners [at Alitalia]. Of course, we don't know what the result will be. These are commercial negotiations." Aeroflot late last year withdrew its interest in acquiring a 49.9 percent stake in Alitalia that the Italian government had sought to sell. The two leaders had also expected to address the sometimes thorny relations between Brussels and Moscow. Berlusconi has offered himself as a would-be peace ambassador, saying Europe's relations with Russia should be "much warmer," and suggesting he could use his friendship with Putin to improve ties.


Abbas sees greater role for Russia in Mideast peace process

A Moscow Mideast peace conference slated for June will strengthen Russia's role in resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas said in an interview with a Russian daily. He arrived in Moscow on a three-day visit on Wednesday, and is expected to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin later today. Abbas told Nezavisimaya Gazeta he hoped the meeting would remove obstacles in the way to a peace settlement and "will salvage the peace process." He said that Russia is geographically close to the region and "therefore, stability is among its priority interests," adding that the upcoming peace conference would "strengthen its role in the peace process." Putin first voiced the idea of holding a Moscow Mideast peace conference in 2005, and received the backing of several Arab countries prior to talks at a U.S.-sponsored conference held last year in the U.S.

Abbas said that several barriers continue to block the implementation of commitments made in Annapolis. The Annapolis summit saw a resumption of talks between the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) and Israel after a seven-year hiatus. The sides pledged to do everything possible to draft a peace settlement by the end of 2008, as well as to come to an agreement on the form of a future independent Palestinian state. However, the talks came to a halt last month following a devastating Israeli offensive on the Gaza Strip left 120 Palestinians dead. Abbas announced he would resume talks following a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice at the end of March. The fragile peace talks were again under threat after the past week saw an escalation in violence in the region, on Thursday 20 Palestinians, most of them civilians, were killed along with three Israeli soldiers in air strikes and fighting in the Gaza Strip. Abbas' Fatah party controls the West Bank after being ousted by the hard-line Islamic group Hamas, considered a terrorist organization by the U.S. and some EU states, from the Gaza Strip in a bloody conflict last June. Asked whether Hamas could be invited to the Moscow conference, Abbas said that would not be possible since Hamas members "are not part of an official government." "Hamas did not even attend the Arab League summit in Damascus. It simply has no such rights," he said.


India's largest TV channel to start broadcasts in Russia

India's largest channel Zee TV plans to open an office in Russia and start satellite or cable broadcasts in Russian by the end of 2008, a Russian business daily said on Friday. Zee TV will be the first foreign television company to operate directly on the Russian market rather than dealing via a distributor, despite a requirement that the controlling stake in foreign TV broadcasters belong to a Russian resident, Kommersant said. Initial investment in the project is expected at about $7 million. India's most popular channel plans to show Indian movies and programs about the country to be made and translated at its studio in Mumbai, the paper said citing a businessman engaged in cooperation talks. Zee TV is expected to open its branch in December, the daily said citing a source in Sistema Mass Media (SMM), a leading player on the Russian pay-TV market.

Zee TV's representative in Russia, Surab Shom, and SMM Deputy General Director Artyom Kudryavtsev, confirmed cooperation talks to the daily, saying that the Indian company was trying to obtain a broadcasting license for a 24-hour channel. Russian experts quoted by the newspaper said the channel is likely to be a success. "Indian movies have been always popular in Russia, but there are no channels to promote them on the market," Natalia Pavlenkova from Tandberg, a video conferencing and audio and video content company, told the newspaper. India TV, which broadcasts on Russia's NTV+ satellite channels, has gained 7 million viewers in Russia since it was launched in July 2006, Kommersant said. India TV revenue could be now about $2 million a year after two years on the market, according to Stream Content head Nikolai Zatsepin quoted by the paper.

Russia's pay-TV market hit $650 million in 2007, growing by 30% on the previous year, and its advertising segment exceeded $26 million, up 28%, Kommersant said, citing the Discovery Research agency. All foreign satellite channels work in Russia via distributors due to a Russian law requiring that 51% in a foreign television company working in the country be held by a Russian resident. National Geographic is represented in the country by Telco Group, and Discovery Channel and Animal Planet by Media Broadasting Group. Kommersant said Shom did not reveal Zee TV's partner in Russia. Zee TV, which broadcasts in Russia in Hindi via Kosmos TV satellite television operator, has some 2,000 subscribers in the country, the paper said.


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Dear reader,

Arevordi will be taking a sabbatical to tend to personal matters. New blog commentaries will henceforth be posted on an irregular basis. The comments board however will continue to be moderated on a regular basis.

The last 20 years or so has also helped me see Russia as the last front against scourges of Westernization, Globalism, American expansionism, Zionism, Islamic extremism and pan-Turkism. I have also come to see Russia as the last hope humanity has for the preservation of classical western civilization, Apostolic Christianity and the traditional nation-state. This realization compelled me to create this blog in 2010. Immediately, this blog became one of the very few voices in the vastness of cyberia that dared to preach about the dangers of Globalism and the Anglo-American-Jewish alliance, and the only voice preaching the strategic importance of Armenia remaining within Russia's orbit. From about 2010 to 2015 I did monthly, at times weekly, commentaries about Russian-Armenian relations and Eurasian geopolitics in general. It was very difficult as I had no assistance in this endeavor. The time I put into this blog therefore came at the expense of work and family. But a powerful feeling inside me urged me to keep going; and I did.

When Armenia finally joined the EEU and integrated its armed forces into Russia's military structures a couple of years ago, I finally felt a deep sense of satisfaction and relaxation, as if a very heavy burden was lifted off my shoulders. I finally felt that my personal mission was accomplished. I therefore felt I could take a step back, as I really needed the rest. Simply put: I have lived to see the institutionalization of Russian-Armenian alliance. Also, I feel more confident now that Armenians are collectively recognizing the strategic importance of Armenia's ties with Russia. Moreover, I feel satisfied knowing that, at least on a subatomic level, I had a hand in the outcome. As a result, I feel a strong sense of mission accomplished. I therefore no longer have the urge to continue as in the past. In other words, the motivational force that had propelled me in previous years has been gradually dissipating because I feel that this blog has lived to see the realization of its stated goal. Going forward, I do not want to write merely for the sake of writing. Also, I do not want to say something if I have nothing important to say. I feel like I have said everything I needed to say. Henceforth, I will post seasonal commentaries about topics I find important. I will however continue moderating the blog's comments section on a regular basis; ultimately because I'm interested in what my readers have to say and also because it's through readers here that I am at times made aware of interesting developments.

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