Putin’s Assertive Diplomacy Is Seldom Challenged - 2006

This is an interesting case of getting royally screwed and then being made to thank the person that screwed you. Depending on who will write history books in the future, Putin will either be given the title "Putin the Terrible" or "Putin the Magnificent." Nonetheless, these parasites in Russia deserved far worst.

Arevordi

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Putin’s Assertive Diplomacy Is Seldom Challenged

2006

Inside the Kremlin last week, the executives of three major international companies — Royal Dutch Shell, Mitsubishi and Mitsui — heaped praise on the man whose government had effectively forced them to cede control of the world’s largest combined oil and natural gas project.' "Thank you very much for your support,” Shell’s chief executive, Jeroen van der Veer, told President Vladimir V. Putin during a meeting that ended a six-month regulatory assault on the project, Sakhalin II, but only after the companies surrendered control of it to the state energy giant, Gazprom. “This was a historic occasion.”

It was also a telling one, with lessons that extend beyond energy policy to such disparate matters as the killings of Alexander V. Litvinenko, a former K.G.B. agent in London, and Anna Politkovskaya, a prominent journalist. Mr. Putin’s Russia, buoyed by its oil and gas riches, has become so confident — so arrogant, its critics say — that it has become impervious to the criticism that once might have modified its behavior. And those who might have once criticized, from investors to foreign governments, have largely acquiesced to the new reality. The Kremlin is now dictating its terms with greater assertiveness than it has at any time since the collapse of the Soviet Union — which was 15 years ago Monday, to be precise. Many hoped that Russia’s presidency of the Group of 8 industrial nations this year would temper Mr. Putin’s diplomacy, but it has not.

Russia began 2006 by making good on a threat to cut off natural gas to Ukraine to get a higher price for Gazprom. The shutoff, though brief, provoked concern in Europe about dependency on Russian energy, and now Russia is ending 2006 by warning Belarus of the same fate. Vice President Dick Cheney famously leveled the harshest criticism of the Kremlin to date when he accused it of using oil and gas as “tools of intimidation or blackmail.” That was in May, but since then American policy toward Russia has changed imperceptibly, with one significant exception: the Bush administration gave its approval for Russia’s long-coveted membership in the World Trade Organization. “Russia since last year has been enjoying some feeling of euphoria, that feeling that we have so much money, so many resources that we can do what we want,” said Fyodor A. Lukyanov, the editor of Russia in Global Affairs.

The United States and Europe have little leverage beyond persuasion. And persuasion no longer works, as the Kremlin’s campaign against Sakhalin II, the largest foreign investment project in Russia, showed. The campaign was so transparent that it seemed comical, beginning with surprise inspections by a little-known environmental inspector who threatened to fine the project’s developers for every tree they cut down. As the campaign unfolded, analysts issued warnings. Western diplomats and their governments protested. But in the end the Kremlin got what was clearly its goal: state control of a lucrative project that opens the gas market to Asia. The three companies with the most to lose said nothing critical as they sold 50 percent plus one share of Sakhalin II for what some analysts called a discounted price, $7.45 billion. Mr. Putin immediately declared that the project’s environmental problems could “be considered resolved.”

“Experience has disappointed many foreign investors in Russia,” said Valery Nesterov, an energy analyst at Troika Dialog, an investment firm in Moscow. And yet when it comes to energy or other investments, it does little to deter them. “The attraction is so large,” Mr. Nesterov said, adding that companies like Shell still held out hope of winning access to Russia’s other oil and gas fields in the future.

The Sakhalin affair has revived memories of the government’s assault on Yukos Oil and its founder, Mikhail B. Khodorkovsky, in 2003 and 2004. When it all started, even Russia’s supporters worried about the potential damage to the country’s reputation, especially among investors. If damage was done, it is hard to quantify now. The company is a rump of its former self, under bankruptcy receivership with its major assets now belonging to the state oil company, Rosneft. Mr. Khodorkovsky, once the richest man in Russia, remains in a Siberian prison on charges of fraud and tax evasion, and he is reportedly facing a new round of criminal charges. Although Russia’s stock market plunged 21 percent in the month after Mr. Khodorkovsky’s arrest, with the Russian Trading System Index dipping below 500, it is now above 1,800.

The international response to the killings of two prominent Kremlin critics — Mr. Litvinenko in exile in London and Ms. Politkovskaya here in Moscow — also underscores the new reality. There is as yet no evidence directly linking anyone in Russia to the killings, even if critics have been quick to say so, reviving some of the worst fears about the country Russia has become. In the wake of Mr. Litvinenko’s death, The Daily Telegraph of London declared flatly, “Russia is rotten to its heart.” A recent cover of The Economist showed Mr. Putin dressed like a gangster, holding a gasoline nozzle as a machine gun.

The British government, by contrast, has said nothing so critical, even after British detectives who came to Moscow were confronted with strict limits on their ability to question witnesses. Wealth has emboldened Mr. Putin and those around him. At a roundtable interview this month, the first deputy prime minister and chairman of Gazprom’s board, Dmitry A. Medvedev, brushed aside questions about the company’s management, its corporate philosophy and its investments in newspapers and other ventures seen as political. He suggested that the Kremlin, perhaps, had been right, and all of its critics wrong. “The value of Gazprom in 2000 was $9 billion,” Mr. Medvedev, often cited as a potential successor to Mr. Putin, said. “Today it is between $250 and $300 billion.” Others warn that Russia is ignoring the consequences of its behavior, that the monopolistic policies of Gazprom, the erosion of political competition and the easy dismissal of critics blinds the Kremlin to the dangers of the overly centralized system Mr. Putin has created. Mikhail A. Kasyanov, Mr. Putin’s prime minister from 2000 until 2004 and now one of his biggest critics, said the foreigners who rushed to join Russia’s boon were equally complicit. “Investors are very shortsighted,” he said in an interview.

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/12/27/wo...5f4&ei=5087%0A

Putin Rails Against US Foreign Policy


Vladimir Putin threw down the gauntlet to the west in a confrontational speech on Saturday, attacking what he called "illegal" US unilateral military action and arguing it had made the world more dangerous. In a speech before an annual security conference held in Munich, he attacked the US for its use of "illegal" military force and its plans to build anti-missile defences in Europe, the expansion of Nato including countries that were formerly part of the Soviet Union, and a host of other western policies. To a shocked audience that included Robert Gates, US defence secretary, John McCain, US presidential contender, and a group of Washington lawmakers, Mr Putin declared the end of the unipolar world, which he described as a failure for the world and the US itself. In a presumed reference mainly to the war in Iraq, Mr Putin said, "unilateral illegal actions have not resolved any single problem," emphasising the many more people who had been killed as a result of US military action. He added: "We don't have enough force to resolve anything comprehensively." He said that only the United Nations – not Nato or the European Union - could authorise the use of military force around the world, and even then it should be as a last resort. Mr Putin also called into question a nuclear missile disarmament treaty that formed the bedrock of arms reduction efforts during the cold war. He said he was concerned about the spread of medium range missiles around the world to countries such as North Korea, Iran, Pakistan and India.

In a worrying development for arms control advocates, he said that only the US and Russia had made commitments not to build such weapons – and said these commitments had to be revisited to ensure security. Under the 1988 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty agreed by Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, the US and Soviet Union agreed to eliminate and renounce nuclear and conventional ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges of 500-5,500km. The Russian president said the treaty was outdated because it prohibited the US and Russia from possessing such weapons while other countries were not restricted in developing them. "We are forced to think about guarantees of our security," Mr Putin said. In 2005, Sergei Ivanov, the Russian defence minister and potential successor to Mr Putin, asked Donald Rumsfeld, then US defence minister, how the Bush administration would respond if Russia quit the INF treaty. US-based experts at the time were divided over whether he was representing the Kremlin, or just the views of the Russian defence ministry. Mr Putin's attacked Washington's missile defence plans, which he suggested could trigger an arms race. "We can't be happy with plans to deploy elements of anti-ballistic missile defences in Europe," he said. He cast doubt on the justification for such defences in Europe, saying no "problem state" had missiles capable of reaching European soil. The US has long said its missile defences were aimed not at major nuclear powers, such as Russia or China, but at "rogue" states with just a handful of missiles. Speaking in Seville earlier this week, Mr Gates said the rudimentary US missile defence system was not aimed at Russia. "We have made quite clear that it is not directed at them," said Mr Gates. "In India, deputy prime minister [Ivanov] acknowledged that it posed no threat to Russia or its strategic interests."

Asked whether Washington would be prepared to sign a binding agreement saying the system was not intended as a defence against Russia, Mr Gates responded: "I don't know if that would be appropriate." Mr Putin said Russia's decision to deploy new Topol M long range missiles in Russia were to ensure that Moscow's nuclear deterrent remained potent in the face of more developed US missile defences. "If you say that your ABM system is not directed at us, our missiles are not aimed at you," he said. He said militarisation of space could have unpredictable consequences for world security and was unacceptable. To deal with this, Russia had drafted a treaty to prevent the placing of weapons in space, which it would send to its international partners in the near future, he said. He was critical of western countries for not ratifying a treaty signed in 1999 to reduce the number of conventional forces in Europe – and of US construction of so-called forward operating bases in Romania and Bulgaria. Even in the investment field, Russia was discriminated against, he said. Foreign companies were responsible for the extraction of 26 per cent of Russian oil. But Russian companies faced obstacles when they wanted to invest abroad: the ratio of inward investment by foreign companies in Russia to outward investment by Russian companies abroad was 15:1. In almost the only conciliatory remarks in his presentation, he described President George W. Bush as a "decent man". "One can do business with him…when I talk to him I assume Russia and the US will never be enemies and I agree with him."

John McCain, the influential Republican senator and potential candidate for the 2008 presidential race, hit back at Mr Putin's suggestion that the US was operating unilaterally under the assumption that the end of the cold war had produced a uni-polar world. "Today's world is not unipolar," Mr McCain said "The US did not single-handedly win the Cold War in some unilateral victory. The transatlantic alliance won the Cold War, and there are power centres on every continent today. Russian leaders' apparent belief to the contrary raises a number of difficult questions." Mr Putin did provide a glimmer of hope that Russia might put more pressure on Iran to respond more positively to efforts by the International Atomic Energy Agency to force Iran to resolve the standoff over its controversial nuclear programme. In his speech, Mr Putin said: "I don't understand why Iran has not responded positively and constructively to these [nuclear] concerns and the proposals by [IAEA chief Mohamed] El Baradei that would address these concepts". The international community should provide incentives, he said, to show Iran that "cooperation is better than confrontation". While criticising Mr Putin for making the "most aggressive remarks by a Russian leader since the end of the Cold War", Mr McCain welcomed his comments on Iran as a "positive note".

News Source: http://www.euro2day.gr/articlesfna/28500209/

Putin Lashes Out at 'Wolf-Like' America

http://static.guim.co.uk/sys-images/Guardian/Pix/pictures/2008/02/12/putin10a.jpg

Relations between the US and Russia sank to the lowest point in a decade yesterday when Vladimir Putin harshly rebuked Washington for its criticism last week and compared the US to a hungry wolf that "eats and listens to no one". Mr Putin, stung by an attack from xxxx Cheney, the US vice-president, used his annual state of the nation address to denounce US expansionism and military spending. He also questioned Washington's record on democratic rights. Although he refrained from mentioning the US by name, it was clear that the "wolf" in question referred to Washington.

The deterioration in relations is risky for the US at a time when it is trying to persuade Russia to support a United Nations resolution against Iran over Tehran's nuclear programme. The acrimony will also encourage senior US Republicans such as John McCain to renew calls for Mr Bush to boycott this year's meeting of the Group of Eight, the world's wealthiest countries, which is scheduled to be held in Russia for the first time. The war of words is a long way from the optimism with which George Bush said, after his first face-to-face meeting with Mr Putin in 2001, that he had looked into the Russian president's soul and liked what he saw. Mr Cheney, reflecting Washington's growing disenchantment, told a conference in Vilnius, Lithuania, last week that Russia was sending "mixed signals" over democracy, as well as using its energy resources to "intimidate and blackmail" neighbours. Mr Putin, in his speech, noted that the American military budget was 25 times the size of Russia's and said the US had turned its home into a castle. "Good for them," the Russian president said, looking up from his notes, directly at his audience, "but this means we must make our own home strong and reliable. Because we see what is happening in the world. We see it."

He added, in what appeared to be a reference to the US-led invasion of Iraq and its approach to Iran: "As they say, 'comrade wolf knows whom to eat. He eats without listening and he is clearly not going to listen to anyone'." He accused the US of hypocrisy over its criticism of Russia's patchy human rights record. "Where is all this pathos about protecting human rights and democracy when it comes to the need to pursue their own interests?" In another veiled reference to Washington's approach to Iraq and Iran, he said: "Methods of force rarely give the desired result and often their consequences are even more terrible than the original threat." He added that Russia was "unambiguously" against the spread of nuclear weapons. In another apparent jibe aimed at the US, he said countries should not use Russia's negotiations over membership of the World Trade Organisation to make unrelated demands. "The negotiations for letting Russia into the WTO should not become a bargaining chip for questions that have nothing in common with the activities of this organisation," Mr Putin said. US senators visiting Moscow last month said Congress would consider its application in the light of Russia's behaviour on human rights and Iran. Mr Putin said Russia had to resist foreign pressure by bolstering its army, which is currently a ragtag group of a million conscripts galvanised by special forces and nuclear weapons. "We must always be ready to counter any attempts to pressure Russia in order to strengthen positions at our expense," he said. "The stronger our military is, the less temptation there will be to exert such pressure on us."

Much of his hour-long address was dedicated to Russia's demographic plight, which some forecasts have suggested could see the population fall from 142 million to 100 million by 2050. "The number of our citizens shrinks by an average of 700,000 people a year," he said, promising to double state payouts for a first child to £30 a month, with £60 for a second one. He said a healthy population, free from the vices of smoking and drinking, was vital for a healthy army to protect the state. Boris Makarenko, deputy head of the Centre for Political Technologies, said the speech marked the beginning of a new approach in which Russia, bolstered by high oil and gas prices, had stopped discussing democracy and other issues with the west and had said instead: "We are strong, we have wealth and we'll use it in a way we consider necessary." Mr Makarenko said the bitter exchange between Washington and Moscow during the past week was designed to get their mutual criticisms out of the way prior to Russia chairing the G8 summit in St Petersburg in July.

Source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/frontpage/...772258,00.html

In related news:

Cool War as Russia Muscles up


CONCERNS are growing over a new bout of East-West confrontation after Russia unveiled a big increase in military spending. Russia's move follows the US decision to locate parts of its controversial missile defence system in eastern Europe. Russia's hawkish Defence Minister, Sergei Ivanov, revealed an ambitious plan for new intercontinental ballistic missiles, nuclear submarines and possibly a fleet of aircraft carriers. He said Moscow also would revamp its early-warning radar system. This overhaul of Russia's military infrastructure would cost around 5000 billion roubles ($A243 billion) over eight years. The sharp rise in expenditure comes at a time of growing coolness in US-Russian relations. President Vladimir Putin has been incensed by the Bush Administration's intention to site missile defence systems in Poland and the Czech Republic. The US says the installations are being built to shoot down possible long-range missiles fired by Iran or North Korea. But Mr Putin says the real target of the missile shield is clearly Russia and its vast nuclear arsenal.

Mr Putin is expected to deliver Russia's scathing response to the US plans in Munich, where leaders are gathering at the weekend. Defence and security leaders are to meet in the German city to wrestle with issues such as Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iran. Mr Putin and Mr Ivanov will deliver speeches, as will the new Pentagon chief, Robert Gates, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and Ali Larijani, the key Iranian official for Tehran's suspect nuclear program. Analysts said Moscow was worried the defence shield in eastern Europe could turn into a Trojan horse. "This is irritating for Russia," said Yevgeny Miasnikov, a senior research scientist at Moscow's Centre for Arms Control. "When the Soviet Union collapsed, a vacuum was created in the countries of the former Warsaw bloc. The US has tentatively moved into the vacuum and is creating infrastructure that might threaten Russia. "The Bush Administration's system is not justified. Iran doesn't have a missile capability yet to hit the US. The logical place to put a defence system would be in Turkey, or in Russia itself."

In his speech to Russia's parliament, Mr Ivanov said the military would get 17 ballistic missiles this year, compared with an average of four in recent years. The plan envisaged the deployment of 34 new silo-based Topol-M missiles and control units, as well as another 50 such missiles mounted on mobile launchers by 2015, he said. Russia has already deployed more than 40 silo-based Topol-Ms. Writing in a Munich newspaper yesterday, Mr Ivanov said: "The deployment of American missile defence in Europe has not only a military but also a symbolic significance. Fifteen years after the end of the Cold War, a situation is obviously being created in which the continent again can only manage with American protection and with reinforced American military presence."

Source: http://www.theage.com.au/news/world/...24298469.html#

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