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President Putin goes east: Indonesia, Australia, United Arab Emirates

President Vladimir Putin is starting a mega-tour of the Eastern Hemisphere. He’ll make an official visit to Indonesia, move on to the APEC summit in Australia, and finish off with a quick trip to the United Arab Emirates. This is one of Putin’s longest tours.


President Vladimir Putin is starting a mega-tour of the Eastern Hemisphere. He’ll make an official visit to Indonesia, move on to the APEC summit in Australia, and finish off with a quick trip to the United Arab Emirates. This is one of Putin’s longest tours, covering a broad range of issues – from economic affairs and arms sales to meeting with compatriots.

At the recent MAKS 2007 air show, Indonesia and Russia signed a memorandum of intent for three Su-27SKM and three Su-30MK2 fighter jets. The deal is estimated to be worth $150 million. The two countries are also discussing the possibility of Indonesia buying Russian helicopters, and even submarines, on very favorable terms: Russia will extend a state loan of $1 billion to Indonesia for “acquiring Russian military products.”

Nuclear power should be another interesting item on the agenda. The Indonesian government intends to build its first nuclear power plant, by 2015-16, at the foot of a dormant volcano, Mt. Muria. The international tender for this power plant should be announced in 2009-10. Presidential aide Sergei Prikhodko said: “We are starting well in advance, in our efforts to secure the contract for building this nuclear power plant.” Then again, the Indonesians might call off the project, as they have cancelled nuclear plans before due to hostile public opinion and a lack of money. Islamic theologians are already arguing that building this power station would be “sinful,” since earthquakes are all too frequent in the region – so the potential damage is far greater than the potential advantages.

President Putin has never visited Australia before, apart from a brief stopover en route to New Zealand in 1999. In fact, this visit is full of anniversaries: 200 years since the first Russian ship sailed into an Australian port, 150 years since our first consuls started working there, and 65 years since we established diplomatic relations.

The APEC heads of state summit itself is also an anniversary summit: the 15th. This doesn’t rule out the possibility of some suspense. The main items on the agenda in Sydney are similar to those seen at the G8 summit in Germany a few months ago: global climate change and enery security. At the G8 summit, Putin made his sensational offer to President George W. Bush: sharing the use of a radar station in Azerbaijan. Putin intends to meet with Bush in Sydney; according to Prikhodko, missile defense will be among the issues they discuss.

Putin is accompanied by a delegation of ministers and agency chiefs – and Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov. Experts say that Luzhkov is aiming to bolster Moscow’s position in the race for the 2010 Youth Olympics. Luzhkov is expected to join Putin in meeting with compatriots in Sydney. And in Abu Dhabi, Putin’s next stop after Australia, he will attend the opening of an exhibition of Kremlin treasures. Shortly before Putin’s visit, the UAE should see a truly historic event: laying the foundation stone for the first Orthodox church on the Arab Peninsula.

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