MISSILE DEFENCE. Medvedev has formally announced, after some confusion (again!) from various spokesmen, that the deployment of Iskander Missiles to Kaliningrad has been cancelled (they never were actually deployed – it was always conditional). Yesterday the Foreign Minister Lavrov said that the new US plans presented no risks for Russia, good conditions were present for dialogue and that Moscow and Washington would soon hold talks on missile defence. Of course: Moscow was concerned when the idea was to stop ICBMs, but defence against medium- and short- range missiles doesn’t bother it. On the other hand, Russia’s UN Ambassador said that it would complicate nuclear disarmament. I have often wished the Russian Foreign Ministry would get a better grip on its people and stop this dribble of confusing and partially contradictory statements. Mind you, NATO’s no better: it is asking for help while encouraging Tbilisi’s NATO aspirations. What message will any of the suspicious people out there take from these pairs of statements?
EU REPORT. The report was published last week. It is probably not a coincidence that the next day PACE rejected Tbilisi’s motion to deprive Russia of voting rights. Nino Burjanadze has accused the government of covering up the report; while Saakashvili has hailed it as complete vindication some Georgians are claiming that Russian money is to be found there. I regard it as rather little, rather late, naïve and incomplete; my argument is here. But at least it knows who started the war.
SSNs. It was announced that by the end of next year, RosAtom will have dismantled 191 out of 198 decommissioned nuclear submarines; at the moment it has destroyed 166.
SAYANO-SHUSHENSKAYA HEP ACCIDENT. RosTekhNadzor has announced the result of its enquiry. Terrorist attack has been ruled out but a full slate of blame is laid: design, operation, repair and lack of training. Anatoliy Chubays, head of the electricity monopoly 1998 to 2008, is taking some of the blame.
LOANS. The Finance Minister Aleksey Kudrin has said that Moscow will not disburse the remaining US$500 million (of a US$2 billion) loan to Belarus and will not lend Ukraine US$5 billion; he added, however, that Moscow fully supported IMF actions. The reason given was that Moscow should assess the chance of repayment. Given that Ukraine has already received US$10.6 billion of a US$16.4 billion IMF loan and Belarus received US$2.46 billion with another billion likely on its way, this may be a prudent decision. It’s not shortage of money: Russia has plenty in the kitty (the Reserve Fund is US$76.37 billion, National Welfare Fund US$91.86 billion and international reserves of more than US$400 billion).
DE-NATIONALISATION. The Finance Minister said that the government intends to sell the shares in companies that it purchased during the crisis. The only timeframe he gave was “the medium term”.
THINGS YOU WON’T HEAR ABOUT. Last week customs officers in Krasnodar claimed to have prevented an attempt to smuggle MiG-29 components to Syria. Russian rescue teams arrived in Sumatra on Sunday in response to Wednesday’s earthquake.
KARABAKH. Maybe (maybe) some movement here. An Azerbaijanian official is quoted as saying that Armenia and Azerbaijan should be able to use the Lachin Corridor jointly. Access from Armenia to Karabakh would have to be part of any genuine settlement. Meanwhile the Turkish PM is quoted as saying that Ankara and Yerevan will be signing an agreement on Saturday re-opening the border and establishing relations. I believe that Ankara could play a very important part in resolving the Karabakh issue. One of the lessons of the South Ossetia war is that these gifts of Stalin’s cartographical skills should not be left to fester.
TRANSDNESTR. Speaking of Stalin’s cartography, with the coming to power in Moldova of politicians who at one time or another called for Moldova’s absorption into Romania (the casus belli of the Transdnestr wars), it is prudent to look at that issue. And the mediators (Russia, Ukraine and the OSCE) did call for the resumption of talks. There is a doable solution that has been floating around – high autonomy for Transdnestr with the option to secede should Moldova join Romania – and hopefully it just needs some pressure to make it happen. The last thing we need is more nonsense about how it’s all Moscow’s doing. But, again, the “Georgia lesson” is, I believe, gradually sinking in.
© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Ottawa, Canada (see http://www.russiaotherpointsofview.com/)