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Consulting Editor Patrick Armstrong: Russia and CIS Weekly Situation Report - 3 October, 2003

Pravda.Ru's Consulting Editor Patrick Armstrong has a look at Kyoto, energy, Iran and Iraq, the armed forces, and a sign of the times
KYOTO. It looks as if Moscow will not ratify the Kyoto Protocol. Putin said that a Russian signature was still under study – to examine "Russia's national interests" – and cited doubts about the validity of the science behind the Protocol. The next day an advisor made ratification look less likely by saying that Russia's present advantage (its pollution "ceiling" is set at 1990 levels) would not last when the Russian economy grew. In short, a strong indication that ratification will not be considered to meet "national interests." Ratification requires agreement by 55 countries (already happened) and ratification by countries that together account for 55% of pollution. Without Russia’s "pollution allowance" it seems unlikely that it the Protocol will get the 55% of total world pollution. Thus, Moscow appears to have killed Kyoto.

ENERGY. There were no dramatic developments from the Bush-Putin summit, but why should there be? If relations are normal, one cannot expect "major breakthroughs" very often. The relationship languished for years as Washington pretended Moscow was important to it and they talked about nuclear weapons. But, since the reduction treaty has made nukes relatively unimportant, the subjects have broadened somewhat. Now they seem to be subsumed under two headings: Russia as an ally in the war against the Wahhabi jihadist network and international problems in which Moscow might be able to do something useful (UNSC, North Korea et al). But for the relationship to really take off and "thicken", there must be business and trade relations that are both deep and wide. And here the talk seems to be concentrated on Russia as an energy supplier to the USA. This will require investment - a pipeline up to Murmansk is often mentioned - and has obvious geo-strategic benefits to the USA. It doesn't take a Metternich to complete this sentence: "In five years or so, oil coming from Iraq and Russia will mean that oil from (fill in the blank) will be much less important."

IRAQ AND IRAN. While we haven't seen any details, Moscow's rhetoric about Iraq is quite mild. Moscow insists on a UNSC resolution, but expresses optimism that something will appear. In the meantime, there are suggestions that Russian businesses will flourish in Iraq. In Iran, Moscow has moved a fraction closer to Washington's concerns. But the money it is getting from the Bushehr reactor makes Moscow loath to give it up. To say nothing of the fact that it's one of the few high-tech Russian exports. This is yet another reason for both sides to try to increase US-Russia trade.

ARMED FORCES REDUCTIONS. Are, says Putin, "mainly complete." I'll bet there will be more in the next five years. Russia would be much better served by 500,000 good quality, well paid and equipped soldiers than the million or so that it has now.

"PRIMAKOV PACT". Yevgeniy Primakov, who has been a major player in Russia since he gave the signal for glasnost in foreign policy back in 1987, and is now head of Russian Federation Chamber of Commerce and Industry, has come up with a scheme to secure peace between the government and the big businesses. He suggests the government guarantee the results of all the (insider) privatisations before 1988 and, in return, the businesses will agree to pay full natural-resource fees to the state. On the 25th Putin told the New York Stock Exchange that he would consider granting amnesty to property and businesses acquired in violation of law during the 1990s. So perhaps a deal is in the offing.

IRAQ AND CHECHNYA. I wonder if the Americans are beginning to appreciate just how hard it is to fight against a small number of fanatics, complete with suicide attackers and a complete indifference to civilian casualties, while enduring media coverage that is one-sided and often outright false?

HMMMM. It is today reported that an American official is in Georgia to talk to Georgian intelligence. Tbilisi is, as usual, claiming that Pankisi is empty of Chechen/Mujahaddin but that's not quite true. That's probably the subject of talks. A couple of years ago it would have been about Georgia resisting Russian "imperial designs." How times change.
Patrick Armstrong, Ottawa

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