MOSCOW AND NATO FINALLY AGREE ON SOMETHING…

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MOSCOW AND NATO FINALLY AGREE ON SOMETHING…

Izvestia, March 1, 2001, p. 7

For the first time in years, Moscow and NATO have agreed on something. Within hours of each other, the Russian Foreign Ministry and NATO Secretary General Lord George Robertson virtually issued statements on the situation on the border between Kosovo and Macedonia. They both blame Albanian guerrillas for the armed clashes and escalation of the situation.

THE KAMRAN NAVAL BASE: AN UPDATE

Izvestia, March 1, 2001, p. 2

We need Vietnam more that Vietnam needs us nowadays. The last major Russian naval base abroad is in Kamran, Vietnam. One of the two Russian ELINT electronic intelligence centers abroad is also there (the other is in Lourdes, Cuba). The cost of these facilities is currently being discussed. The matter does not concern the cost of equipment or personnel (there are approximately 600 Russians in Kamran). It seems that Vietnam wants almost $2 billion from Russia for the last decade, and refers to the precedent set in Cuba. Russia pledged to deliver $200 million of goods every year to Cuba for the ELINT base at Lourdes. Actually, Vietnam’s appetites might have provoked Russia’s desire to expand its presence in Kamran. This concerns the idea of moving a reconnaissance wing of Naval aviation there. The rent agreement expires in 2004. Russian diplomatic sources say that the negotiations will be “difficult and lengthy.” They will take place within the context of Vietnam’s debts to Russia, almost the only leverage Moscow can use against Hanoi. The debts amount to $1.7 billion; last year they were $11 billion, but were partially written off in September. Moscow believes that its concession in writing off the greater part of the debt will stimulate Russian-Vietnamese economic cooperation. Trade turnover between our countries amounts to the modest sum of $420 million, with Russian exports making up $270 million of this. Relative activity is reported only in the oil and gas sector.

GAZPROM FINDS MONEY ABROAD

Izvesia, March 1, 2001, p. 2

Not only Russia as a gas exporter, and Turkey as a buyer, are interested in seeing Blue Stream implemented, and the sooner the better. All of Europe is interested. It is no coincidence that the consortium also includes the German concern Ruhrgaz and the Italian ENI.

RUSSIAN GOVERNMENT WILL SPONSOR A PUBLICITY CAMPAIGN IN THE UNITED STATES

Izvestia, March 1, 2001, p. 2

Essentially, this means restoring the system of counterpropaganda. The government clearly considers this to be very important. Firstly, the idea has been expressed by a federal minister. Secondly, the minister promised to spare neither time nor effort.

Vladimir Kulistikov, head of the RIA-Novosti news agency: Yes, I’ve heard of the idea. I do not find fault with it. The problem is that the West is really short of information. I do not want to say that only positive information should be sent to the West. We all remember from Soviet times that direct and primitive propaganda is not effective. It is just that the world should be given a complete picture. I think that we should establish something like a TV channel. Let is broadcast all over the world in English and provide news online. Germany, for example, has Deutsche Welle. Some moves of the president and the government have to be promoted. I mean initiatives on missile defense, for example. Or the fact that we have a 13% flat-rate income tax as of 2001. I do not doubt that many people in the West will find such information interesting.

However, there is a problem here. I mean the quality of propaganda and who it is aimed at. Trying to change the minds of the US Congress, the American people, or journalists is a waste of time. I think Russia’s image will change only when Russia itself has become a European democratic state, with a truly liberal economy. And we will not have to spend money on propaganda efforts then.

ON PRESIDENT PUTIN’S TOUR

Versty, March 1, 2001, p. 1

In the wake of his visit to South Korea, President Putin said he had carried out his program and was satisfied with the results of the visit.

Seoul agreed to accept from Russia $700 million worth of T-90 tanks and KA-52 helicopters in partial repayment of Russia’s debt. An agreement was signed. Russia’s debt to South Korea amounts to $1.9 billion. Some specialists condemn the arms deal, saying that it may disrupt the fragile parity in the region.

But for the time being, this is all Russia has to offer to Seoul as payment of debts. South Korea decided to go ahead, probably having received an affirmative nod from its major ally, the United States, which considers North Korea a rogue state. Moreover, Washington attributes its determination to deploy a national missile defense precisely to what it calls North Korea’s aggressive plans.

With his visit to North Korea six months ago, Putin essentially established Pyongyang’s dialogue with the outside world and strenthened Russia’s position in the international arena.

There is more to Russia’s mediation in reconciling the two Korean states than mere political weight. A unified Korea could become a valuable asset in development of the Russian Far East.

Moscow is already prepared to offer some mutually beneficial projects to South Korea. Linking the Trans-Siberian Railway in Russia and the Trans-Korean Railway would shorten the route by which Korean goods and commodities reach Europe. Extraction of gas in Russia and its transportation to Korea via China was also discussed, to say nothing of a Russian-Korean industrial complex in the Nakhodka free economic zone.

It should be noted that the schedule of Putin’s foreign visits is well-balanced. European trips alternate with Asian tours. The president visits centers of power, like China and India, and does not forget Russia’s old allies. He has already visited Mongolia, and is now en route to Vietnam.

Specialists say that Russia should activate its foreign policy in Asia.

OPINION POLLS ON LAND INDICATE…

Versty, March 1, 2001, p. 1

Latest opinion polls indicate that the land ownership problem remains important for most Russians. Most respondents would not want land to be privately owned.

ON MIKHAIL KASIANOV’S NEGOTIATIONS IN ROME

Trud-7, March 1, 2001, p. 4

Prime Minister Mikhail Kasianov’s three-day talks in Rome are over. Italy is Russia’s sixth-largest trading partner and seventh-largest investor ($630 million). ENI, Gazprom’s partner, has supported the Blue Stream Project with investments. Purchases of Russian energy by ENI amount to 40% of Russian-Italian trade turnover. It was agreed during Kasianov’s visit to boost deliveries of gas to 28 billion cubic meters, from the 20 billion Italy bought from Russia in 2000.

In other words, Kasianov had every reason in the world to say: “The Italians are optimistic about development of their businesses in Russia. Trade turnover in 2000 reached $9 billion. Moreover, I see that Italian executives appear interested in investing in Russia.”

The Russian government tried to attract Italian business, promising “to assist foreign investment if investors purchase part of Soviet debts from their federal treasuries in return.” This model may be used in dealings with investors from other countries as well.

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