Russia's Victory Day Parade Bolsters Nationalism - May, 2010

Watching the great military spectacle on my television screen last Sunday what impressed me more than the mobile ballistic missile systems, the flights of strategic nuclear bombers, the scores of mechanized armor or the ten thousand troops from around the world parading in Red Square was the sight of Chinese President Hu Jintao and German Chancellor Angela Merkel tightly sandwiched between Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. The splendid military parade on Sunday was more about Russia's military/political muscle flexing than about commemorating the Soviet Union's victory over Nazi Germany in 1945. The Kremlin wants the whole world to know that it is a superpower again and that pivotal nations like China and Germany (the two economic giants of Eurasia) are considered to be its close partners. If Moscow's plan comes to fruition eventually all roads will no longer lead to Washington. The unipolar political world of the post-Soviet years (i.e. Western global hegemony) is fundamentally the reason why the world today is a volatile powder-keg on the verge of exploding. But this is the dawning of a new era. Geopolitical and socioeconomic trends emanating from Eurasia strongly suggests that the twenty-first century will prove to be a multipolar world.


Парад, посвящённый 65-летию Победы в Великой Отечественной войне (Russian):

Military Parade in Moscow on Victory Day 2010 - Part 1 (English):

Military Parade in Moscow on Victory Day 2010 - Part 2 (English):
Victory Day Parade in Moscow 2010 (full version, part 9 of 10):


Russia's Victory Day Parade Bolsters Nationalism

The Victory day military parade on Red Square in Moscow

Soldiers from four NATO countries, including the US, joined about 10,000 Russian troops for a massive military parade across Red Square on Sunday to mark the 65th anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany. This year's Red Square parade was the first time foreigners have ever taken part in the march, an annual red banner and hammer-and-sickle festooned event that continues to evoke powerful emotions in the former USSR, which lost 27-million people in World War II. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, joined by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Chinese President Hu Jintao, and about two dozen other high-level foreign guests watched the parade from the same granite viewing stands, next the mausoleum of Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin, formerly occupied by Communist leaders.

This year's parade was the most elaborate since the collapse of the Soviet Union almost twenty years ago, featuring almost 200 tanks – including vintage wartime vehicles – mobile howitzers, anti-aircraft rockets, and giant intercontinental missiles rumbling across Red Square's pink cobblestones, and followed by a thundering flyover by 150 modern warplanes and helicopters.

New weaponry

During the cold war, military parades were closely watched by Western intelligence agencies because they often were employed as a showcase for new weaponry. The Kremlin didn't disappoint this year, rolling out six recently-developed hardware systems: the Pantsir-S1 and Buratino anti-aircraft rockets, the Topol-M intercontinental missile, and the Yak-130 air trainer. Military experts show particular interest in two new attack helicopters that were displayed in public for the first time, the Mi-28 – Russia's answer to the Apache – and the exciting new Ka-52 gunship. Despite the sovietesque atmospherics, the main political theme of the event was historic reconciliation between Russia and its former cold war foes.

Medvedev: Peace is 'still fragile'

"Today, at the military parade, soldiers of Russia, of countries of the former Soviet Union, and of the Allied powers march together, in one column, which is evidence of our common readiness to defend peace," Mr. Medvedev said in a Red Square address. "Peace is still fragile and it is our duty to remember that wars do not start in an instant," he said. "It is only together that we shall be able to counter modern threats." Communist and nationalist politicians had denounced the invitation to NATO troops to take part in the parade, but a poll last week by the independent Levada Center in Moscow found that less than a third of Russians agreed with them, while 55 percent viewed the participation of the wartime allies favorably.

The Victory day military parade on Red Square in Moscow

Another controversy swirled around a decision by Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov to include portraits of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, who led the country through World War II, among the publicity materials for the Victory Day celebration. The Russian government rescinded that decision, and no pictures of Mr. Stalin were visible around Red Square on Sunday, but the furore illustrates the ongoing sensitivity of many unresolved Soviet-era historical disputes in Russia. The Voice of America quoted the commander of the participating American unit, Capt. Matthew Strand, as saying that the experience of marching in Russia's Victory Parade raised the level of camaraderie between NATO participants and their Russian counterparts.

Captain Strand told the VOA that his 90-year-old grandfather was a US pilot during the war. "Every time my grandpa meets a veteran from World War II, even if he doesn't know him, the second he meets him, they automatically have something in common," Strand said. "And just by me having a grandfather that was in it, I have something in common with the veterans I meet here in Russia."


Show of Unity Rings Hollow on Victory Day

The Victory day military parade on Red Square in Moscow

Yelena Jo Van Der Burgt, a Dutch citizen of Russian descent who attended Victory Day celebrations with her husband, said May 9 should become a day of reconciliation for all nations of the former Soviet Union. “We have all fought shoulder to shoulder, not against Germany but against Nazism, so it is sad to watch how all of the common memory is stomped on,” she said. But this call for unity rang a little hollow on Sunday, when troops from NATO countries marched on Red Square for the first time but many world leaders shirked the ceremony and one post-Soviet nation was not invited. German Chancellor Angela Merkel was the only prominent European leader to attend the grandiose parade celebrating the Allied victory over Nazi Germany. Merkel was joined by Chinese President Hu Jintao and Israeli President Shimon Peres, whose country, home to a large Russian community, also celebrates Victory Day on May 9. Other foreign dignitaries included Wojciech Jaruzelski, a war veteran and Polish president during the Communist era, and Poland's acting president, Bronislaw Komorowski.

But French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi canceled their trips to Russia, citing the economic crisis in the European Union. U.S. President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown declined invitations to attend, citing other obligations. Some media reports suggested that Prime Minister Vladimir Putin personally rejected their proposals to be represented by Vice President Joe Biden and Prince Charles, respectively, because of Biden's vocal support of Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili and Britain's refusal to extradite Russians sought by Moscow. Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the allegations are “so absurd and far from reality that they require no comment,” Interfax reported Monday. Saakashvili was not invited to the parade.
About 20 heads of state attended Sunday's festivities, a far cry from the 50, including then-U.S. President George W. Bush, who attended the 60th anniversary celebrations five years earlier, during Putin's presidency. Meanwhile, more than 17 million Russians, including 4 million Muscovites, took part in the celebrations nationwide that concluded with a 15-minute fireworks display, police said. No serious accidents were reported. The parade, broadcast live on state television, showed off tanks and Topol-M strategic rockets and was followed by a military air show. Troops from four NATO member states — the United States, Britain, France and Poland — marched on Red Square for the first time as part of what observers called a token of Russian political goodwill toward former war allies. Britain was represented by a battalion of Welsh guards who marched in traditional bearskin hats.

Foreign guests also included veterans of the Normandie-Niemen air fighter squadron, a group of French pilots who flew Soviet planes as part of the Red Air Force. President Dmitry Medvedev praised the allies for their war efforts, including Lend-Lease programs that supplied aid to the Soviet Union, but he also said the Soviet resistance to Nazism was “unparalleled in terms of bravery and power.” Troops from many post-Soviet countries, including Armenia, Ukraine, Belarus and Azerbaijan, also took part in the parade. Turkmen soldiers were led by a commander on a prancing white horse with golden hooves. The horse, from the famous Akhal-Teke breed, is a descendant of the steed that Red Army commander Marshal Georgy Zhukov rode during the first Victory Day parade in June 1945, a presenter said during the television broadcast. The presenter also reminded viewers that Meliton Kantaria, a native of Georgia, was among the three Soviet soldiers who raised the conquering force's flag atop the German parliament building in 1945.

But Georgia was not officially invited to the parade because of its 2008 war with Russia. More than 700,000 Georgians fought in the Red Army during World War II, and 300,000 of them were killed, Georgian parliamentary speaker David Bakradze said Sunday, RIA-Novosti reported. Medvedev did not mention the absence of Georgians in his Red Square speech, focusing instead on the overall efforts of the Soviet people. “We will never forget the soldiers fighting on the front, the women and children working in the factories,” Medvedev said. In an interview with Izvestia on the eve of the celebrations, Medvedev said those who place “the Red Army and the Nazi invaders” on the same level “are committing a moral crime.” In the interview, Medvedev harshly criticized Josef Stalin, the country’s leader during World War II, saying the dictator, still a popular figure among many Russians, “committed many crimes against his own people.”

Yury Gnatyk, an 84-year-old war veteran who attended the parade with his family, did not take kindly to Medvedev’s decision to downplay Stalin's role. “How can we say that the war was won without a commander? We all admire Kutuzov, but he abandoned Moscow to the enemy, while Stalin did not,” Gnatyk said, referring to the 19th-century Russian commander who burned Moscow in a tactical maneuver during the war with Napoleon Bonaparte's invading French army. Gnatyk’s sentiments were echoed by another decorated war veteran, Colonel Vladimir Korzh, 85, a former military doctor. “Hitler wanted to destroy the whole country and turn us into slaves. The victory was achieved by the Communist Party and by Josef Stalin personally,” he said.

Korzh dismissed the repressions that took place during Stalin's rule as unavoidable mistakes, saying that although “some people were repressed illegally,” Stalin “acted in very difficult period.” Those too young to remember Stalin's crimes were ambivalent about his role as the country’s leader. “Would we really have been able to achieve the victory without Stalin? It's a difficult question, and it remains to be answered,” Vladimir, 20, a Moscow student, said as he watched the veterans march past on Tverskaya Ulitsa. Vadim, 21, who was on Tverskaya with his girlfriend during the celebrations, had found the answer for himself. “My relatives were fighting on the frontline, and I know that they were fighting for me," he said. "If I were sent to war like they were, I would fight not for Putin or Medvedev but myself and my loved ones.”


Russia: V-E Day and a Declaration of Intent

The military Victory day parade on Red Square in Moscow


During the Soviet era, V-E Day was one of the Soviet Union’s most important holidays, celebrated with foreign dignitaries from around the world and the full spectrum of Soviet military hardware passing across Red Square. But V-E Day became bittersweet after the fall of the Soviet Union, since it served as a reminder of how far Russia had fallen since its post-war heyday. Now the national holiday is resuming its former meaning.


On May 9, Russia will celebrate the 65th anniversary of V-E Day, commemorating the allied victory in Europe during World War II. For Russians, the celebration marks the time when the Soviet Union “liberated” Central and Eastern Europe from Nazi rule and was thereby legitimized as a global leader and powerful force with which the rest of the world would have to reckon.

During the Soviet era, the holiday was one of the Soviet Union’s largest, celebrated with foreign dignitaries from around the world and the full spectrum of Soviet military hardware passing across Red Square. But V-E Day became bittersweet after the fall of the Soviet Union, since it served as a reminder of how far Russia had fallen since its post-war heyday, its sphere of influence leaking satellite states like a sieve throughout the early 1990s. The holiday continued to be celebrated in Russia but without the enormous pomp and circumstance.

But the glorious past behind the holiday started to return in 2005. Then-Russian President Vladimir Putin was in power, and his overall objective was to return Russia to its status as a “great power.” Putin’s goals were to first consolidate Russia internally and then push the country back out to its more comfortable Soviet-era borders — whether formally or informally. From 2000 to 2005, Putin meticulously worked on the first part of this plan, consolidating government control over energy, restructuring the government, purging powerful classes like the oligarchs, beginning to rebuild the military and engaging in the second Chechen War.

In 2005, on the 60th anniversary of V-E Day, Russia celebrated its re-stabilization by rolling out the full military panoply and inviting heads of state from around the world, from countries like Germany, France, Poland and China. The world did take notice that Russia was stronger and more internally stable, but it was not clear then that it could pull off its grander designs of resurging past its borders.
This year the V-E celebration fully takes back its former meaning, celebrating Russia as a real power once again. Over the past few years — and especially in the past few months — Russia has pushed its influence back into most of its former Soviet states through military intervention, revolution, customs unions and pro-Russian governments. Moscow is not looking to re-create the Soviet Union, but it does want to create an umbrella of states under its control that buffer Russia from the West and other regional powers.

Russia also is looking to show other powers and former client states in the region that it cannot be ignored. This is why it is important that the list of guests coming to Moscow for V-E Day includes German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Chinese President Hu Jintao, Polish interim President Bronislaw Komorowski, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, Czech President Vaclav Klaus, Serbian President Boris Tadic, Greek President Karolos Papoulias and most of the leaders from the former Soviet states. These are the states that Russia is hoping to prove itself to, ally with or control at some point in the future. More than anything, this V-E Day celebration in Russia is its declaration of these intentions.


Armenian Leader Attends WW II Allies’ Parade in Red Square

Video of president Sargsyan’s interview with Russian media (in Russian):
Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan joined top leaders and representatives of more than two dozen countries at a huge military parade staged in the Russian capital Sunday to mark the 65th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe. At the May 9 event in Red Square, Moscow, hosted by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and attended by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Israeli President Simon Peres and leaders and representatives of former Soviet republics and countries of the anti-Hitler coalition, Sargsyan watched an elite Armenian review unit marching proudly among the first at the parade, following (due to the Cyrillic alphabet) a similar unit from Azerbaijan – a rare sight of the two rival armies’ representatives at the same place.

On the eve of the celebration Sargsyan visited the grave of Armenian Marshal Hovhannes Baghramyan at the Kremlin wall in Red Square. Baghramyan, a Soviet military commander who made a major contribution to the defeat of Nazi Germany in 1941-1945, was one of four Armenian Marshals of the Soviet Union, the USSR’s highest military rank, along with Hamazasp Babajanyan, Armenak Khanperyants (Sergey Khudyakov) and [Navy Admiral] Hovhannes Isakov. Sargsyan also talked about the contribution of Armenians in the 1945 victory in an interview with Russia-24 news channel. He said that the post-war generations in Armenia had been brought up on the examples of 119 Heroes of the Soviet Union and 27 holders of all three degrees of the Order of Glory that the former Soviet republic produced during the years of the Great Patriotic War.

“A generation of Armenians that had experienced the inhuman atrocities of the 1915 Armenian Genocide took part in that war. And it was not accidental that Armenians were fighting against fascism not only in the [Red] Army and in the [Soviet] rear, but also in resistance movements and a number of troops of the anti-Hitler coalition,” Sargsyan underlined. The Armenian leader called it a ‘great honor and responsibility’ to be in Moscow and see Armenian servicemen march at the parade along with counterparts from other former Soviet republics. “This symbolizes the unity that we had,” he said.


Armenians join Russians, WWII Allies in Victory Day Parade

For the first time since Soviet victory over Nazi Germany, national contingents from former Soviet republics, including Armenia, and WWII Allies joined Russian forces in the annual May 9 parade on Moscow's Red Square. Leaders of China, Germany, Israel, a number of Eastern European states, as well as former Soviet republics, including Armenia's president Serge Sargsyan, watched the parade together with Russian leaders. More than half a million Armenians served in the Soviet and other Allied armed forces during World War II, with some 200,000 losing their lives in humanity's deadliest conflict. Several dozen WWII veterans from Armenia (including Karabakh) joined fellow vets from other Soviet republics in Moscow for the occasion. May 9 is a public holiday in Armenia, marking both the victory in WWII in 1945 and the 1992 capture of Shushi, a key turning point in the Karabakh war. In his holiday message, Pres. Sargsyan said the coincidence of two events was "determined by destiny" and that taking of Shushi "was our response to those, who had unleashed ethnic cleansing, pogroms and war against our people." "The Armenian nation is resolute to live free, and we will not tolerate any kind of violence against us," he added.

Historical legacy and symbolism

Parade participants included units from France, Poland, United Kingdom and United States, Soviet Union's WWII allies, as well as from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Ukraine. The Armenian column was made up of an element of the army regiment that traces its history to the 89th rifle division established in Yerevan in December 1941. The 89th was the most prominent of six Armenian national divisions that fought the invading Nazi forces. Fighting in the Caucasus, Crimea, Poland and Germany, it earned the honorific "Tamanskaya" and took part in the capture of Berlin, eventually linking up with Allied forces on Elbe river in May 1945. The division's modern-day successors were led on the Red Square by Lt. Col. Vartan Khanferiants, grandson of Soviet Field-marshal Armenak Khanferiants, who was chief of staff of Soviet Air Forces during WWII. Lt. Gen. Mikael Grigorian, commander of the joint Russian-Armenian military task force, oversaw the unit's preparation for the parade, which also provided an opportunity for Armenian soldiers to show off their newly adopted field uniforms.


Armenia Marks Soviet Victory In WW2

Tens of thousands of people walked to a World War Two memorial in Yerevan on Sunday as Armenia marked the 65th anniversary of Soviet victory over Nazi Germany which had taken a heavy toll on its population. More than a hundred Armenian soldiers, meanwhile, marched through Moscow’s Red Square with troops from Russia, other ex-Soviet republics and key NATO states, in a massive military parade watched by two dozen world leaders, including President Serzh Sarkisian. In a written address to the nation issued on the occasion, Sarkisian spoke of his “pride” for hundreds of thousands of Armenians, among them over 30 generals, who fought in the Red Army in 1941-1945.

“Our people saved nothing for that victory,” he said. “We suffered numerous casualties, whose memory will be kept alive by our children as well. We had heroes and military leaders, whose exploits will inspire the current and future generations as examples of patriotism and the art of warfare.”

At least 320,000 residents of Armenia, then a republic of less than 1 million people, were drafted to the Soviet army during the bloodiest war in the history of humankind. The total number of its Soviet Armenian participants is estimated at more than 500,000. Only just over half of them returned home alive. The overall number of Soviet citizens killed in the war totaled a staggering 26 million. More than 8.5 million of them were soldiers. The number of surviving war veterans has shrunk rapidly in the past few decades. Only about 3,700 veterans remain alive in Armenia at the moment. Hundreds of them were at the center of rare public attention on Sunday in Yerevan’s Victory Park, the main venue of V-Day celebrations in the country. With wartime medals decorating their chests, the silently filed past the eternal fire of the war memorial to pay their respects to their fallen comrades.

Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian, Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian and other top Armenian officials as well as representatives of foreign diplomatic missions in Yerevan laid flowers by the fire in the morning. Scores of ordinary Armenians did so throughout the day. President Sarkisian, meanwhile, was in Moscow, attending official ceremonies there marking the victory anniversary together with fellow heads of state from almost all ex-Soviet republics, several European countries and China. The culmination of the celebrations was Russia’s biggest military parade since the break-up of the Soviet Union staged on Red Square.

“Sixty-five years ago, Nazism was defeated and a machine that was exterminating whole peoples was halted,” Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said in a speech preceding the impressive display of his country’s military might. “There was one choice -- either victory or to become slaves.”

The parade also featured troops from several other ex-Soviet nations, including Armenia, as well as the United States, Britain and France, Moscow’s WWII allies. In a moment of great symbolism, an Armenian army company that goose-stepped in the vast square was led by a grandson of Sergei Khudyakov (born Armenak Khanferiants), a Soviet Air Force marshal who played a prominent role in the war. Sarkisian sent wreathes to the Moscow graves of Khudyakov, Marshal Hamazasp Babajanian and Admiral Ivan Isakov (born Hovannes Ter-Isahakian) on Saturday. He also made a point of visiting the tomb of the Red Army’s most famous ethnic Armenian commander, Marshal Ivan Baghramian. The latter was buried under the Kremlin wall facing Red Square.


As Russia Reclaims Its Sphere of Influence, the U.S. Doesn't Object - April, 2010

Overflowing with natural resources and having learned dearly from its grievous mistakes of the twentieth century, Russia today is poised to become a global leader in the twenty-first century; if it can get its act together, which seems it be the case as of late. Drawing inspiration from its Christian Orthodox heritage as well as its imperial past, Moscow has been on a grinding offensive to reclaim lost spheres of influence from one end of the Eurasian continent to the other. The political sophistication and prowess shown by the Kremlin during the last several years have been nothing less than astounding. Moscow has successfully used sociopolitical power in the Ukraine, subversive power in Kyrgyzstan, gas/oil power in the EU, military power in Georgia, diplomatic power in the US and economic power in China. Even Poland has now suddenly opened up to Moscow as a result of the tragedy in Smolensk. With Washington preoccupied with long-term combat commitments in the Middle East, Iran and Afghanistan, as well as being indefinitely stuck in an economic quagmire of its own making, Moscow's concerted effort in reclaiming lost territory is proving somewhat easy. The US today is in no shape to stop Russia's advances and officials in the Kremlin know it. If it plays its card correctly we can expect to see Russia calling the shots on the global stage in the near future. And if Russia will be in the diver seat in the twenty-first century, I would like Armenia to at the very least be in its passenger seat...



As Russia Reclaims Its Sphere of Influence, the U.S. Doesn't Object

U.S. President Barack Obama (R) greets Russian President Dmitry Medvedev at the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington April 12, 2010.

Medvedev Interview with RT Director Margarita Simonyan:

Medvedev in Brookings: From iPhone to iRan (part 1):

Five years ago in the former Soviet Union, governments loyal to Moscow were falling roughly every six months. Those were the glory days of the "color revolutions" that brought new leaders to Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan in quick succession between 2003 and 2005, all with the backing of the United States. The region's political center of gravity was tilting sharply toward the West. But now that trend has been reversed. In the past three months, two of those governments have been ousted. Leaders far friendlier to Russia have again taken power in Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan, displacing the Orange and Tulip revolutions respectively. (Indeed, Kiev just agreed to extend Moscow's naval lease on the Black Sea port of Sevastopol in exchange for cheaper gas; the previous Ukrainian regime had opposed the move.) The region's last standing leader of a color revolution (the Rose), Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili, is feeling lonelier than ever, and he has a warning for the Obama administration: Don't give Russia a free hand in the former Soviet bloc.

In an interview with TIME at his glass-domed presidential palace, Saakashvili laid out how he sees the situation: President Barack Obama has been put in an awkward spot by his drive to invigorate ties with the Kremlin, having to deal with the legacy of George W. Bush, who had infuriated Moscow by supporting the color revolutions and building close ties with the governments they brought to power. Now Obama is being urged by the Russians to back away from those relationships. "It's not just about abandoning your ally Georgia. No, Russia is asking the U.S. to give back the Soviet sphere of influence," Saakashvili says.

In practical terms, this seems to require three things of the United States and its European allies: do not push for any more ex-Soviet countries to join NATO; do not openly support any opposition movements that seek to oust pro-Russian governments; and more generally, make sure to consult Moscow before going ahead with any big initiatives in Russia's backyard, especially military ones. Under the Bush administration, all three were ignored, and relations with Russia became nastier than they had been since the Cold War. Obama, on the other hand, has been far more obliging, and his Administration believes Moscow is reciprocating — much to Saakashvili's chagrin.

Nowhere has this been more clear than in NATO's changing attitudes. In a statement on April 14, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen urged NATO countries to integrate Russia into their security strategy instead of seeing Russia as a potential threat. "The United States and Russia now clearly see eye to eye on a range of security issues. And we should use this new momentum to take further steps to enhance our common security," Rasmussen said. Earlier plans to put Ukraine and Georgia on the fast track to NATO membership have been put aside, and as a result, Russia is helping NATO get its supplies into Afghanistan. The American approach to missile defense in Eastern Europe has also changed. Whereas Bush plowed ahead with his plan despite Moscow's fierce objections, Obama has invited the Kremlin to take part in a dialogue over the issue.

The Russians are taking notice. "It's been very encouraging that the U.S. has refused to interfere in Ukraine's domestic policy in the way it was doing during the Orange Revolution [in 2004]. Americans have also sharply cut their support to Georgia. At least they are not giving one dollar of military assistance, as far as I know, to Saakashvili," says Sergei Markov, a long-time Kremlin spin doctor and a parliamentary deputy for the United Russia party led by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

Officially, of course, the Obama team insists it has not turned away from U.S. allies for the sake of better ties with Moscow, and Saakashvili says he has "no reason to complain about day-to-day relations." The U.S. has also continued to criticize Russia for occupying about a fifth of Georgia's territory after the two countries fought a war in 2008. But that war still marked a turning point for America's broader strategy. It showed that Russia was willing to use force to defend its interests in the region, while the United States could be dragged into a war if it continued to oppose those interests to the end. Even the Bush administration was not prepared to take that risk. "[Bush's Secretary of State] Condoleezza Rice told me that you must avoid an open military conflict with Russia," says Nino Burjanadze, former speaker of the Georgian parliament and now a leading opposition figure. "She told me, 'We respect Georgia, but we will not go to war with Russia over Georgia.'"

That approach probably saved the U.S. from a military catastrophe, and now under Obama, the U.S. has become even less willing to cheer on Russia's adversaries. It has instead embraced Russia as a partner for global security, and this tactic is paying off. Concrete agreements have already been signed, most notably this month's treaty to reduce the world's two biggest nuclear arsenals by a third. But it remains to be seen how countries like Georgia will fit into this budding relationship. Right now, it doesn't appear congenial to the government in Tblisi. As Russia continues to clamor to have Saakashvili removed from office, the United States seems to be keeping him at arms length. At this month's nuclear non-proliferation conference in Washington, Obama snubbed Saakashvili's request for their first one-on-one meeting, and instead sat down with the new Kremlin-friendly president of Ukraine, who had agreed at the summit to get rid of his country's highly enriched uranium.

Sitting in his luxurious office a few days before the Washington summit, Saakashvili was in a dour mood, and seemed a bit nostalgic for the Bush years. He is still the only leader to name a street after George W. Bush, and says there is a lesson to be learned in the way the previous White House tried to "pre-empt" the risk of Russian aggression, "rather than turn a blind eye and hope it goes away." The threat Russia poses to his government, he says, is still as strong as ever, and the West's softer tone toward Russia is not going to help. "From my experience of the Russian perspective, every softening of language is perceived as weakness, as an acknowledgment of any strength Russia has locally." That strength is clearly growing with the arrival of Kremlin-friendly governments in Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan, and Washington seems fine with that as long as relations with Russia thrive. As for the color revolutions, they look to be fading away.


Ukraine Fleet Deal Expands Russia's Regional Reach

KHARIV, UKRAINE - APRIL 21: Russian President Dmitry Medvedev (L) speaks with Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich (R) during their meeting on April 21, 2010 in Khariv, Ukraine. Medvedev is visiting Ukraine to sign a deal on nuclear energy.

Smoke grenades, eggs & tomatoes turn Ukraine parliament into battlefield:

Ukraine agreed Wednesday to extend the lease of Russia's Black Sea Fleet base in return for sharply lower natural-gas prices, a long-term trade-off that reasserts much of Moscow's influence over its former Soviet neighbor after years of tension. The deal was the latest sign of Russia's determination to use its vast energy resources to restore dominance lost when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. It will allow Russia to keep a strategic military presence beyond its borders until 2043, a quarter-century beyond the end of its current lease for the naval base on Ukraine's Crimean peninsula. Ukraine, hit hard by the global economic downturn, received a waiver of export taxes that will knock as much as 30% off the price of Russian gas over the next nine years, avoiding disputes that have often led to midwinter gas cutoffs.

The commitments were a clear sign that Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, who took office two months ago, is moving the country closer to Moscow after years of rule by pro-Western leaders of Ukraine's Orange Revolution. Some of those politicians, now in opposition, condemned Mr. Yanukovych's concession on the naval base as a sellout of Ukraine's sovereignty. Mr. Yanukovych and his Russian counterpart, Dmitry Medvedev, announced the accords after meeting in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv. Mr. Medvedev told a joint news conference that the gas and base accords were linked. "This was a step we have awaited for a long time," he said of the base extension. In return, he said, "our Ukrainian partners will receive a discount in the price of gas."

Ukraine, a country of 46 million people wedged between Russia and the European Union, has struggled to balance its relations with the two since independence in 1991. Mr. Yanukovych's predecessor, Viktor Yushchenko, infuriated Moscow by trying to kick the fleet out of Ukraine, calling it a hostile presence. The Black Sea Fleet was once part of the Soviet navy and remained in Ukraine under the Russian flag. The current lease on the base was signed in 1996. Mr. Yanukovych, who has abandoned his predecessor's goal of bringing Ukraine into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, now risks alienating a large part of his compatriots by allowing the fleet to stay. Former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who leads Ukraine's largest opposition party, said the decision violates a constitutional prohibition on foreign military bases in Ukraine—a ban that allows exceptions for stationing troops under a temporary lease. "It's not just treason," she said. "It's the start of the systematic destruction of the independence of our state."

Ukraine's Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying: "We do not regard the Black Sea Fleet as a source of threat to Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity." Mr. Medvedev said the fleet's continued presence would provide "a greater, better guarantee for European security in the Black Sea basin." The base extension will have repercussions for other former Soviet republics. The fleet, consisting of about 40 combat vessels, provided maritime support for Russian ground forces during a brief war with Georgia in 2008 and sank a Georgian vessel carrying missile launchers. Russia on Wednesday also confirmed it plans to buy a French Mistral-class warship, according to state news agency RIA-Novosti, a vessel capable of carrying tanks and helicopters and conducting an amphibious landing.

Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, who was in the U.S. for a nuclear security summit, called Wednesday's moves further signs of an expansionist Moscow agenda. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, he said in an interview, "doesn't make any secret of trying to restore some kind of Soviet empire... Ukraine, more or less from their point of view, has been fixed." "I hear lots of talk [in the U.S.] that the Cold War is over," he said. "It might be over for America, but certainly it's not over for Vladimir Putin." For Russia, the price of Ukrainian cooperation will amount to billions of dollars in export duties from which Kiev will be exempted. Ukraine has been paying $330 per 1,000 cubic meters of Russian gas under a 10-year agreement on a market-based pricing scheme signed last year. Mr. Yanukovych called the accord an unsustainable burden on Ukraine's economy, which shrank 15% last year, and pledged during his election campaign to renegotiate it.

The new gas deal, signed Wednesday by Russian gas exporter OAO Gazprom and Ukraine's state energy firm Naftogaz, will waive export duties on 30 billion cubic meters of gas that Ukraine will buy this year and on 40 billion cubic meters it expects to buy in subsequent years until 2019. Gazprom said the discount will be 30% of the market-based price but not more than $100 per 1,000 cubic meters. Dragon Capital, a Kiev-based investment bank, estimated that the price cut will save Ukraine about $1.5 billion this year. That will allow the country's new government to adopt a budget for this year and secure renewed lending from the International Monetary Fund, officials said. Deputy Prime Minister Serhiy Tihipko will head to Washington on Thursday to present an economic-growth plan to the IMF, which last year suspended a $16.4 billion loan program after large social-spending increases were passed into law.

Gazprom's chief executive, Alexei Miller, said the company's profits will be unaffected by the new arrangement. He also said that under the deal, Ukraine won't pay penalties if it buys less gas the agreed in the contract. "This deal is a win for everyone," said Matthew Saegers, a Eurasian energy specialist at Cambridge Energy Research Associates. "Gazprom wins because it maintains its profitable position. Ukraine gets a reduction in price. And the Kremlin gets what it wants—to show that it's the deal maker and geopolitical master in this part of the world."


Before Kyrgyz Uprising, Dose of Russian Soft Power

Ousted Kyrgyz leader flees country, flies to Kazakhstan:

Shortly before the uprising in Kyrgyzstan two weeks ago, online news sites posted a series of hard-hitting exposés accusing the family of President Kurmanbek Bakiyev of skimming money from the public coffers, an allegation that touched a nerve in this poor country and galvanized opposition to his government. When the authorities responded by blocking the Web sites on local servers, complaints came in from the usual places — the Committee to Protect Journalists and Freedom House — but also from an unlikely advocate for free media in the wired world: the Russian Foreign Ministry.

Rather than a change of heart on press freedoms, still stifled at home, Russia’s stance in Kyrgyzstan appeared to be a new tactic in dealing with the former Soviet republics it regards as within its sphere of influence. Backing freedom of expression — in this case to oppose a leader with whom it was unhappy — was just one element of a wider, behind-the-scenes role in the uprising that may help Russia win influence in the new government. Russia and the United States have been dueling for the upper hand in this small but strategically important Central Asian country, where the United States maintains an air field outside the capital as a logistics and refueling hub for the war in Afghanistan. But Russia appears to have learned well the lessons of the so-called color revolutions in Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan in the past decade. In those uprisings, which overthrew governments allied with Russia but that had become alienated from their own populations, the West provided open support for opposition elites and free media.

This time, the Russians staked out a remarkably similar position and used it to their advantage. In Kyrgyzstan, an American diplomat said, the Russians “had a color revolution of their own color.” Russia’s use of so-called soft power mirrored a long policy of American support for civil society in the former Soviet republics, under programs like the Freedom Support Act and financing for nongovernmental groups. Just five years ago that support, including United States financing for a publishing house in the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek, which produced reports of corruption, was credited with preparing the ground for the previous Kyrgyz uprising, the so-called Tulip Revolution. Russia’s newfound influence is likely to affect elections scheduled in six months to establish a permanent government in Kyrgyzstan, and it could also ripple throughout the region as the authorities in Moscow have cultivated ties with opposition figures in Georgia and Belarus.

In Kyrgyzstan, Mr. Bakiyev had been trying to play the Russians and the Americans against each other for his own benefit. He had particularly angered the Kremlin by accepting $450 million in Russian aid tacitly linked to an agreement to close the American base at Manas airport but then allowing the base to remain, renamed as a “transit center.” In July, the same month the Bakiyev government concluded the base renewal agreement with the United States, Kyrgyz opposition leaders began to get audiences with leaders in Moscow, according to Aleksandr A. Knyazov, then director of a Russian-backed nongovernmental group in Bishkek, the CIS Institute. Mr. Knyazov said he brokered the meetings, which he said began with relatively unimportant members of the Russian Parliament but evolved into audiences with influential figures, whom he declined to name.

In March, Roza Otunbayeva, now the head of the interim government, traveled to Moscow to attend a conference of former Soviet political parties and to meet Sergei M. Mironov, speaker of the upper chamber of the Russian Parliament and a close ally of Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin. According to Mr. Knyazov, she warned the Russians that popular discontent in Kyrgyzstan was exploding and that a mass protest would soon take place. While it is not clear whether she received any explicit commitments from the Russians, Moscow was already applying pressure on the Kyrgyz government. That month, Russian state television and local opposition media in Kyrgyzstan stepped up the publication of incriminating stories about the Bakiyev government, which responded by blocking access to the news Web sites Ferghana and Bely Parus and the blog site LiveJournal, and by seizing the print runs of two newspapers.

The Russian Embassy in Bishkek then issued a statement saying that it had “heard from a large number of Russian and Kyrgyz citizens who had trouble accessing Russian Internet sites because they are blocked” and that the Russian government was “concerned” about online censorship. On April 1, Russia raised tariffs for refined petroleum products exported to Kyrgyzstan, causing a spike in gasoline prices and inflation that further fanned discontent. Russia also shut down some banking transactions with Kyrgyzstan, and Russia’s allies Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan tightened their borders, curtailing Kyrgyzstan’s lucrative trade in smuggled Chinese consumer goods.

With these tactics gaining traction, the United States was at a loss for how to respond, according to the American diplomat in Bishkek, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. Though the negative reporting on Mr. Bakiyev dovetailed with a Russian agenda, to counter Russian influence would have required the United States to publicly support the closing of newspapers and blocking of Internet news sites. To have thrown support behind the president, no great friend of the United States anyway, would have meant “we would have been seen as aiding in the repression” of civil society and the free press that the United States had spent years and millions of dollars building, the diplomat said. By early April, the role reversal for the United States was clear when one of the leaders of the Kyrgyz opposition walked into the American Embassy and told a political officer, “The revolution begins on Wednesday.” The diplomat said he replied by saying, “Really?”

On Wednesday, April 7, protests broke out around the country to protest the government’s brutality and corruption, as well as the increase in utility rates. Within 24 hours, the government had fallen. But it was hardly a clean sweep for Russia, producing an interim government that includes members with close ties to Russia and the United States. Since then, both countries have actively courted the new leaders, resuming the contest for influence in this rugged, landlocked country of about five million people. The United States has offered support for the new government, which has promised to extend the lease on the American air base. Russia has offered $50 million in aid and subsidized fuel in the future.


Nord Stream Takes Shape: A Big Victory For Russia

VYBORG, RUSSIA - APRIL 9:  Russian President Dmitry Medvedev (L) and Head of the Nord Stream, Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder attend a ceremony to mark the beginning of the construction of Nord Stream offshore pipeline on April 9, 2010 in Vyborg, Russia. Nord Stream plans to bring natural gas from Russia to Germany via a pipeline under the Baltic Sea comprised of two  lines each approximately 1,220Km in length. The pipeline in Russia will connect the world's largest gas reserves, with the European gas pipeline network to secure natural gas supplies for the continent after its completion in 2012.

Gimme Fuel: $11 billion pipeline launched, EU to get gas directly via Nord Stream:

Russian President Medvedev inaugurated the construction of the controversial undersea natural gas pipeline system Nord Stream on 9 April 2010. The geo-political importance of Nord Stream cannot be overestimated. With the construction of the pipeline, Europe and Russia will be tied to each other even more closely. Russia will get a direct link with Western Europe without transit through Eastern Europe. Russia already meets a quarter of Europe’s energy needs. Nord Stream will increase European dependence on Russian natural gas further. Russia presently supplies about 140 billion cubic metre (bcm) of gas every year to Europe. Nord Stream will add up to 55 bcm per year to this capacity.

The gas will be supplied via two parallel steel pipelines of 27.5 bcm/year capacity each. The length of this under sea pipeline is 1220 km. It will begin at Vyborg in Russia near St. Petersburg, cut across the Baltic Sea (maximum depth 210 metres) and reach Greifswald in Germany. It will cost about US $12 billion to build and will be ready to deliver gas by 2012. It will be the largest underwater gas pipeline system when built. The pipeline will pass through the territorial waters and/or economic zones of Russia, Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Germany. Several side pipelines will be built in different countries to connect with the main pipeline.

The pipeline, discussions about which began in 1997, is an outcome of the strong commitment from former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroder and Vladmir Putin, the former President and current Prime Minister of Russia. Schroeder is presently the chairperson of the Shareholders’ Committee. The strongest objection for the pipeline has come from Poland. In 2006, the Polish defence minister compared the agreement between Russia and Germany with the 1939 Nazi-Soviet Pact. There have also been apprehensions that the pipeline may be misused by Russia for spying purposes. Russia has dismissed these allegations as unfounded. Countries like Ukraine, Poland and Belarus stand to lose US $1 billion per year in transit fees when the pipeline is constructed.

Thirty per cent of the funding for the project will be provided from the equity holdings while the rest will be raised by various banks. Several European banks have joined the project to raise funds. Nord Stream is a truly pan-European project in which a large number of companies are joining hands. Russia’s Gazprom holds 51 per cent of shares in Nord Stream AG, Germany’s Wintershall and E.ON Ruhrgas hold 20 per cent each, and the Netherlands’ Gasunie holds 9 per cent. These companies have wide experience in building and operating natural gas pipeline projects around the world. Some other companies are expected to join the project. The equity holding pattern will change in future as more companies join the project. Already funding to the tune of US $4 billion has been raised from 22 banks.

The project will supply Russian gas to Germany, France, Denmank, Belgium and the Netherlands. Eventually a pipeline may be built to connect the United Kingdom also. The pipeline will help Russia diversify its routes and Russia’s dependence upon Ukraine for supply of gas to Europe will reduce. The recipient countries will be freed from supply disruptions caused by Russian-Ukrainian spats in the last few years. This factor alone has compelled Germany to back the pipeline project. Nord Stream will get its gas supples from Yuzhno-Russkoye gas field which has an proven gas reserves of 700 bcm and estimated reserves of one trillion bcm. The fields in the Yamal peninsula, Ob-Taz bay and Shtokman gas fields will also be added. These are some of Russia’s largest gas fields.

The project will change the nature of Russian-European relations. It is hoped that energy interdependence will forge better ties between the EU and Russia. Nord Stream is crucial for Europe’s energy security. Europe currently needs about 543 bcm of gas annually. This will go up to 629 bcm by 2025. Eighty one percent of this will have to be imported. Nord Stream will meet about 25 per cent of the projected growth in Europe’s gas imports. No wonder the project is listed as a priority project in EU’s Trans-Europe Energy Network (TEN - E).

Despite the beginning of the construction of the pipeline environmental concerns remain. The Baltic Sea is considered to be one of the most polluted seas in the world. Chemical and conventional munitions were dumped into the Baltic Sea after the two world wars. Several surveys have been carried out in the past to map the sites where such munitions may be lying. The pipeline route seeks to avoid sensitive sites. The concern is that construction activities in the sea may stir up the toxic waste in the Baltic Sea. Russia has said that the environmental impact studies done for the Nord Stream show that the pipeline is safe. Finland would not allow any construction ships to anchor in its economic zone. The pipeline project has obtained safety and environmental clearances from the concerned countries and agencies but environmental NGOs like WWF have criticised the environmental impact clearances obtained as inadequate.

Doubts have also been expressed about the economic viability of the project. Will it deliver Russian gas to European customers at an affordable price? Despite these apprehensions, Nord Stream should come as a great relief to energy starved Europe. Europe is looking for alternative non-Russian sources of energy supply as well. The Nabucco project is one such project aimed at delivering gas from Central Asia to Europe. Russia’s counter to Nabucco project is the South Stream project through the Black Sea into Southern Europe. It may be noted that together Nord Stream and South Stream gas pipelines will equal the gas pipeline capacity of the Russia-Ukraine-Europe system.

Russia is no doubt an energy super power. The dependence of individual European countries on Russian gas varies from 21 per cent in the case of France and 43 per cent for Germany to 74 per cent for Austria, 79 per cent for Poland and 100 per cent in the case of Finland. This dependence is likely to continue in the foreseeable future. The Nord Stream Project will further strengthen Prime Minister Putin’s vision of positioning Russia as a major power in the world.


Russia, Venezuela Strengthen Economic, Political Ties

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is decorated by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez (R) at Miraflores Palace in Caracas April 2, 2010.

Putin and Chavez talking weapons, money and medals:

"We have talked about nuclear energy, and we're ready to start drawing up the first plan of a nuclear power plant, obviously with peaceful aims," Mr. Chavez said. "One question, why nuclear? Long term investment, very expensive," Peter DeShazo questioned the details. He's the director of the Americas program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. "There's not a whole lot of transparency in all this, so it's pretty hard to determine really how much money is being spent, has been spent, is to be spent, what the details of all these agreements really are. None of this is all that clear," he added. In the past five years, Venezuela has purchased $4 billion of Russian arms, including fighter jets, Mi-17 helicopters and 100,000 Kalashnikov rifles. The Russian prime minister said after this trip, Venezuela will buy $5 billion more in Russian weaponry.

The United States wants to know why. "We are hard pressed to see what legitimate defense needs Venezuela has for this equipment," State Department Assistant Secretary P.J. Crowley said. Michael Shifter is president of a Washington foreign policy group. He says the world should be concerned about Venezuelan motives for all that firepower. "It has sort of a belligerent quality to it and that can lead to I think reckless conduct, that can lead to serious consequences, so I think it is a problem," Shifter said. Mr. Chavez has said the purchases are to counter U.S. influence in Latin America, especially in Colombia. But the Russian motivation is a bit different. Experts, including Mr. Putin himself, say it's mainly a commercial venture and Russia is filling a void. "If the United States does not want to sell its military equipment to other countries, and in particular Venezuela, well it's difficult for him to hear, but it's good for us, and long may it continue - as we say in Russia, there's always someone to fill a vacancy," Putin stated.

Some think Russia also wants to prove its strength, especially in America's backyard....Latin America. But the promises of more arms and agreements for space programs, oil and nuclear power come at a time when both Russia and Venezuela face monumental internal problems. "There's no electricity and no water for the people Chavez represents, the poorest people," Shifter said. "I think it's very hard to take seriously that pledge that he's going to move in that direction." Meantime, the two men are seriously reinforcing their relationship. Mr. Chavez, ended their Caracas meeting, by giving Mr. Putin the Simon Bolivar sword -- the symbol of Venezuela's independence.


Black Sea Chill

"I hear lots of talk [in the U.S.] that the Cold War is over. It might be over for America, but certainly it's not over for Vladimir Putin." So said Georgia's President Mikheil Saakashvili during a visit to our offices this week, and the news from his region bears watching (excuse the pun). On Wednesday, Russia paid off Ukraine with cheaper natural gas to extend the lease of its Black Sea fleet, which is up in 2017, for another 25 years and to keep a strategic toehold on the Crimea. The same day, Moscow announced plans to buy Mistral-class amphibious assault ships from France.

Both events sent a chill through the area, nowhere more so than across the Black Sea in Georgia, a fifth of whose territory remains under Russian occupation after the Kremlin invaded in August 2008. Russian officers have said that with the Mistral in hand they'd have conquered Georgia in half the time. Georgia also recently lost a close ally in Ukraine President Viktor Yushchenko, the leader of that country's 2004 Orange Revolution who was replaced in elections this winter by his more Russia friendly rival, Viktor Yanukovych. But the Georgian leader doesn't see Ukraine as lost. Ukraine's elites are too closely tied to the West to want to rebuild the old vassal-like relationship with Moscow, even if some Russians will think that "they're on the way back to getting what [Prime Minister] Putin always promised them, the Soviet Union empire back."

The recent events in Kyrgyzstan are another warning. Five years after that Central Asian country's Tulip Revolution, another popular uprising has ousted an autocratic and corrupt leader, Kurmanbek Bakiyev. But this time, those protests were guided and supported by Russia, which was angered by Mr. Bakiyev's decision to keep an American air base open. "Russia is not strong—yet," said Mr. Saakashvili. But Kyrgyzstan shows that "they can do things if there is perception that there is no other player in the region."

He didn't say so directly, but it's not hard to guess who he's talking about. The missing player is President Obama, who has focused his attentions on a "reset" in U.S.-Russia relations that downplays the 2008 war and Russia's slide into strongman rule at home. Fragile democracies like Georgia live in fear of such a vacuum, and they want an engaged America to help shield them from a re-assertive Kremlin.


Leaders of Brazil, Russia, India and China Attend the BRIC Summit - April, 2010

The Bretton Woods system of international finance is slowly but surely coming to an end. The economic turmoil we are currently experiencing is merely the early symptoms of an incurable ailment the West is suffering from. Eventually, the current financial system will collapse because it never was the proper one to begin with. The current system did not develop due to a natural evolution of international trade and finance, it was artificially put together in the state of New Hampshire at the end of the Second World War by a conglomeration of Anglo-American-Zionist politicians, financiers and industrialists; and then it was imposed on the "free world" through various methods. Naturally, the epicenter of this financial system was the United States and the virtual money called the US Dollar. And all financial roads have since then led to and emanated from Washington.

The financial/political agenda founded at the Bretton Woods conference in 1944 was rather easily imposed on the global community in the aftermath of National Socialism's defeat in Europe and during the Cold War. And throughout the postwar years, the value of the almighty US Dollar was kept high through military interventions, blackmail, subversion and manipulation. However, many fundamental things have changed since, not the least of which was the collapse of the Soviet Union. Other factors at play here are also China's rise as an economic superpower, Russia's reemergence as a great geopolitical power in Eurasia, Brazil/India's rise as regional economic powers, the growing clout of the European Union and the global community's growing realization that the current system of government in the United States is actually not qualified to be called a "beacon of democracy" but it is rather a real danger to world peace and development.

It was only a matter of time before emerging powers got together to offset Washington's global reach. The emergence of entities such as BRIC and SCO are clear signs today that a new world order is slowly emerging to challenge the one we have lived under for the past sixty-five years. Russia has the landmass and the natural resources, China has the population and production capability; and they both have a well trained work force and very potent militaries. If current trends continue, ten or twenty years from now Russia and China (along with their satellites) may be the two top political players in the world.



Leaders of Brazil, Russia, India and China Attend the BRIC Summit

Leaders of Brazil, Russia,  India and China attend the BRIC summit

On the Rise: BRIC ready to recast world order (RT video):

CrossTalk on New World Order: The house the BRICs built (RT video):

CrossTalk on IMF: To be or not to be (RT video):

Leaders of Brazil, India, Russia and China gathered in the Brazilian capital Thursday to advance talks for what the four nations see as a multipolar world -- interdependent but largely away from a Western umbrella. The leaders of the four major economies grouped under the BRIC banner will be talking about alternatives to the U.S. dollar as a global reserve currency, their own respective roles in the world economy and greater say in whatever evolves as a new economic order on the ruins of the 2008 economic meltdown.

Brazil and India also want their economic presence reflected in permanent membership of the U.N. Security Council, where China and Russia already have permanent seats. BRIC nations represent about 40 percent of the world's population and 20 percent of global economic output but, as a group, they are just beginning to flex their muscle, after the first summit of the four in Russia last year.

Other major emerging economies, such as South Korea and South Africa, are watching the group's rise with interest, as are oil-producing countries that include some of the world's biggest spenders with the least political leverage. Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is playing host to Chinese President Hu Jintao, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. South African President Jacob Zuma is also attending. At the first BRIC summit in 2009 in Russia, BRIC leaders advanced their own recipes for a global economic overhaul that included finding alternatives to the U.S. dollar as the global reserve currency.

The Obama administration's attention is focused on Chinese moves on the yuan, which is pegged to the dollar and is crucial to keeping China's exports attractive for the rest of the world. Economists attending a BRIC seminar in Brasilia said trade between the four countries helped to stabilize their economies amid a continuing global economic downturn. The speakers cited figures to show that trade among the four nations continued to grow as global trade shrank in volume, the Xinhua Chinese news agency reported.

Biswat Dhar of the Indian Research and Investigation Center said the "BRIC countries have put the crisis behind them." The need now, he added, was to find more "export synergies to increase trade engagement." During the nine years ending 2008, trade within the four-nation group grew nine-fold, while global trade only doubled, said Zhang Yuyang, professor of international economics at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. "Even so, trade between the BRICs has substantial room to develop," Zhang said.


BRIC Develops Into Powerful Decision-Making Force - Medvedev

The BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) group is gradually becoming a global force capable of making concrete decisions, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said on Friday. The leaders of the four leading emerging powers have gathered in the Brazilian capital to discuss ways to improve of the current global economic and political situation and strengthen their cooperation. "The BRIC format is becoming fully-developed. It allows us not only to coordinate our efforts but also to make concrete decisions," Medvedev told a news conference after the summit. Medvedev said that although the summit had been scaled back due to a devastating earthquake in China, which forced Chinese President Hu Jintao to go home earlier than planned, the leaders managed to discuss a wide range of political and economic issues on the global agenda. In a six-page joint statement, the four increasingly influential countries praised the key role of the G20 group of leading world economies in efforts to overcome the global financial crisis and urged a broader use of local currencies in global and regional trade. The document also includes the BRIC group's consolidated position on energy security, climate changes and the fight against terrorism. The countries agreed to hold the next BRIC summit in China in 2011.