FINLAND: FACILITATING COOPERATION
Parlamentskaya Gazeta 7, February 28, 2002, p. 7
There is a visitor from Finland in Moscow. The Finnish guest intends to discuss a number of specific issues in Finland-Russia relations. Prime Minister Paavo Lipponen is going to accelerate preparation and signing of an agreement on protection of Finnish investments in Russia, on which experts of the two countries have been working for two years, but have not been able to overcome disputes. This document is meant to drastically increase the flow of capital investment from Finland.
The issue of building a large treatment plant in St. Petersburg is also delayed. This is a pilot project of the EU North Dimension program. Funding has been allocated, according to reports of the Finnish party, including from western banks, but the case has encountered some red tape.
The Prime Minister of Finland is also going to raise the issue of the time trucks spend queueing at the border. This problem has a negative impact on freight turnover between the two countries and prevents Suomi transportation companies from supplying Russia.
The Finnish party is concerned about the situation in the town of Primorsk where Russia’s new oil terminal operates. The Finns are concerned that the operation of this port worsens the environmental situation in the Gulf of Finland. Suomi experts would like to visit this town, but have not yet obtained permission.
The parties will also discuss progress in updating the Helsinki – St. Petersburg railroad, which is intended to reduce traveling time along this route to 4.5 hours. The Finnish prime minister is accompanied by timber industry executives, from companies that would like to agree on boosting supplies of timber from north-western Russia to Suomi. As we can see, the prime minister of a neighboring country is acting as a driving force in resolving a number of important Russian problems.
BUNDESWEHR ELITE UNIT ARRIVES SECRETLY IN GEORGIA
Izvestia, February 28, 2002, p. 2
A German task force is in Georgia, a few steps away from the Pankisi gorge. The world’s news agencies and Germany’s press informs of that. The German commandos did not make this quite a long way for sheer curiosity. Bundeswehr detachments prepare to act against Chechen guerillas that settled on out-of-the-way territory.
The anti-terrorist operation of America and its allies has gone beyond the Afghan borders. The war against Al-Qaeda continues in the former Soviet Union. Representatives of the Georgian Defense Ministry persist in denying the information of foreign troops in the Pankisi gorge though. At the same time, Tbilisi admits there are western military counselors in Georgia and their number may in the near future reach “several hundreds”.
However, as far back as a few days ago news of German task force participating in an operation abroad made a major sensation. This fact became known occasionally. Budestag deputies learned about this from the press.
The German Defense Ministry states currently the long silence was explained through providing security for the operation. The Ministry assures task force participates in the war against Al-Qaeda in accord with the Bundestag resolution of November 16, 2000 on providing Bundeswehr units to battle terrorism. The explanation says “special units were sent in accord with this decision to regions of operations, including Afghanistan, where they will act within the frames of the mandate received”.
About 600 Bundeswehr troops enter the staff of the peacemaking contingent in Afghanistan. As for German troops from Kommandos Spezial Kraefte, they are looking for terrorists from Osama bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda grouping around Kandahar, together with American and British elite units. Their number remains a mystery. Defense Minister Sharping spoke at first about 100 commandos. Chairperson of the Bundestag committee for defense issues Helmut Wieczorek stated later there were surely over 200 task force people in Afghanistan. The Ministry of Defense hasn’t commented on these reports yet.
Paul Breuer, a specialist in defense issues representing the Christian Democratic Union of Germany, is sure there is no explanation for the policy of concealment the government conducts. Nevertheless, German task force people are looking for Osama bin Laden’s supporters in Georgia, while Berlin tries not to dwell on it.
EMERGENCIES MINISTRY GOES TO THE BOTTOM
Izvestia, February 28, 2002, p. 2
There was a board meeting at the Emergencies Ministry yesterday to discuss structural chages in the ministry. in connection with new Emergencies Ministry functions, especially with fire-fighting services becoming part of it, and the compilation of a list of potentially dangerous underwater objects. The amalgamation of fire-fighters and the rescue service is a step on the way to creation of the State Rescue Service that will appear by 2004. The new service will have a special telephone number – 01 (currently the number to dial when reporting a fire).
The Emergencies Ministry, in the form of a special service from its staff, will also handle the list of potentially dangerous underwater objects. There are about 17,000 potentially dangerous underwater objects in Russia today. These are sunken nuclear submarines (five in all), containers with radioactive and chemical material, etc. Fifty-three tons of toxic substances are in the Baltic Sea. The Emergencies Ministry will handle about three expeditions a year for monitoring all these objects. The Russian Academy of Sciences, as well as the Nuclear Energy Ministry, and Baltic countries will also take part in this research. Each expedition will cost about 15-30 million rubles. They will determine the most dangerous objects and make individual decisions on each of them.
RELATIVES OF TU-154 VICTIMS WAIT FOR APOLOGIES, NOT MONEY
Izvestia, February 28, 2002, p. 3
Aleksei Sazonov, adviser and envoy at the Russian embassy in Ukraine, has stated Ukraine is ready to pay $10,000 to the family of each victim of the Tu-154 plane crash in the Black Sea, regardless of citizenship. We managed to find out the first reaction of Russian relatives of the dead. They claim official apologies would be more important than money.
Pavel Kapchits, who lost his daughter and grandson, said relatives of the dead had been awaiting a completely different response from Kyiv. He wonders why there has not been a telegram with official apologies from Ukraine’s president. Besides, there is total lack of information about measures Russia might be taking to find and punish those responsible for the disaster. People want to know why the missile that hit the plane had not been destroyed, although the military had had almost three minutes to understand it was approaching the passenger jet and take measures to destroy the missile. The relevant Russian service had known about the exercises. “Why wasn’t the plane redirected along a safe flight path?” Pavel Kapchits asks. In his words, the relatives have not yet made a final decision on suing the Siberia airline, but the news of the money is not likely to affect the “relatives – airline” collision.
COMMUNITY PRESIDENTS FLY TO ALMATY
Parlamentskaya Gazeta 7, February 28, 2002, p. 1
The presidents’ arrival in the former capital of Kazakhstan provides an opportunity to consider problems on a sub-regional level. The leaders of Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, and Tajikistan will discuss possibilities to expand cooperation in the network of the Eurasian Economic Community and to render this process greater dynamics. The four countries entering the Central-Asia Cooperation (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan) must agree on the status of their unification and bylaws. The thing is this international organization appeared at the end of the past year as a result of reorganizing the Central-Asia Economic Community. The change of name means more attention will be paid to a political dialogue and working out joint measures to maintain peace and stability in the region. The presidents will also hold bilateral meetings.
A SPECIAL VIEW OF THE WEST
Izvestia, February 28, 2002, p. 5
Everyone who wished to do so seems to have discussed the topic of Russia’s soon entrance to the WTO. St. Petersburg economists joined it yesterday: there was a round table conference in the Kochubei palace: “Globalization: Challenging Russian business”. True, no one answered the main question: what will Russia gain from joining the World Trade Organization?
The conference participants were unanimous about one thing: Russia’s membership of the WTO is no longer a disputed issue. This country cannot develop independently, separated from the rest of the world. Most companies, especially transnational, are going through a transformation. While they have had to adapt their produce and services for exact regions, globalization will ensue people, including Russians, will have to get used to standardized products.
The agrarian sector remains currently the issue of sharp debate between Russia and the EU. Agriculture is absolutely non-market-oriented in Europe and this is the only sector the WTO provides subsidies for. Russian agriculture requires today $15 billion of subsidies a year, while the budget provides about $3 billion. The point of natural monopolies’ tariffs remains acute too. The WTO demands Russia level domestic and export prices for gas and electricity, which is entirely unacceptable for this country. The problem of reforming the banking sector is not solved either. At the same time, import duties to be implemented in Russia after joining the WTO would be adjusted by 70%.
KEEP FRIENDS CLOSE AND ENEMIES CLOSER STILL
Izvestia, February 28, 2002, p. 1
Gennady Gudkov, a member of the State Duma security committee: The US is invading the zone of this country’s traditional interests. The information is not yet checked, much must be specified, but the very fact Americans send their military specialists to Georgia without consulting Russia for Pankisi and our military bases in Georgia looks somewhat strange against the background of friendly protestations. Shevardnadze has once again proved he has never been and will not be Russia’s friend. This is a challenge to Russia. Americans have come for long, if not forever. And everything is quiet. It would be different if we landed troops somewhere in the Latin America on account of battling drug traffic, for example. American mass media would run amok. The same things will be in Central Asia and the Caucasus, despite all Bush declarations about temporariness of the presence. There are no permanent friends in politics, there are temporary partners. Friendship will cease, but troops beside our borders will remain. This is a factor of pressure on Russia – military, political, and economic.