Izvestia, November 15, 2000, p. 2

From January 1, 2005, the Russian ruble will become the national currency of Belarus. The Council of Ministers of the Russian-Belarussian Union approved the corresponding regulation on November 14, 2000. However, the most important issues, such as setting up a joint currency issuing center and locating the Standing Committee of the Union in Moscow, have not been resolved.

The decision on signing agreements to introduced a uniform currency and granting a credit to Belarus will be made on November 30, at a meeting of the Supreme State Council of the Russian-Belarussian Union in Minsk. Presumably, the Russian ruble will be the currency of the Union until 2008, and after that a new uniform currency will be introduced.


Izvestia, November 15, 2000, p. 2

On Tuesday, November 14, 2000, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov delivered a message from President Vladimir Putin to President Saddam Hussein of Iraq. No Russian foreign minister has visited Iraq since 1994. This time, Igor Ivanov began his Middle Eastern tour in Baghdad.

In Iraq Igor Ivanov announced, “Russia has always maintained, and will maintain, an active dialogue with Iraq, which is in the interests of both countries and is helpful in regulating the situation in the Persian Gulf.”

The content of Putin’s letter to Hussein has not been disclosed, but it is fair to assume that it states that Russia will continue to press for the lifting of economic sanctions against Iraq. Moscow thinks that lifting the embargo will benefit both the whole region, and Russia.

Hussein has proved repeatedly that his neighbors should not expect any good from the Iraqi military machine. Meanwhile, Moscow wants to get $7 billion of Iraq’s debt to the Soviet Union. Besides, if the embargo is lifted, Russian oil dealers will profit from it. Numerous contracts on development of Iraqi oil deposits are frozen until the sanctions are lifted.

However, if Iraq delivers its oil to the world oil market, this may cause a collapse in oil prices, which would be extremely disadvantageous for Russia.

By the way, Iraq has almost agreed with the UN to observe an international resolution in exchange for sanctions being lifted.

Thus, the priorities of Russian diplomacy are clear. The situation in the Middle East is not stable at the moment, but the source of the troubles is not in Baghdad. The Israelis and Palestinians have been killing each other for the past six weeks. However, Russian diplomacy prefers “to start from a distance.” Ivanov’s visits to Israel and the Palestinians will follow his visit to Iraq.


Izvestia, November 15, 2000, p. 3

Three agreements and the Ulan Bator Declaration have been signed during Putin’s visit to Mongolia. According to this declaration, Mongolia and Russia should work intensively on expanding trade relations, including introduction of discounts on rail transport tariffs, customs duties, and other payments. Russia has declared its intention to participate in major Russian-Mongolian energy projects. Russia has also made a commitment to train Mongolian specialists.

The Ulan Bator Declaration also touches on a number of international and geopolitical issues, such as “significant meaning of the UN Regulations” and “the UN’s leading role in maintaining world peace.” Mongolia has stated that it is unacceptable to reconsider the Soviet-American Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty of 1972. Besides, Mongolia is ready to join the Shanghai Five, which currently includes Russia, China, and three Central Asian republics.


Izvestia, November 15, 2000, p. 2

The Russian Peoples Assembly, together with the Udmurtian president and the authorities of Udmurtia, are holding a Youth Forum of Russian Peoples in Izhevsk on November 16-18. About 500 delegates from over 100 ethnic groups will take part in the forum. Such large events for youth have not been held in Russia for the past 10-15 years.


Rossiyskaya Gazeta, November 15, 2000, p. 1

On November 15, Prime Minister Mikhail Kasianov will chair a meeting on the aims and methods of restructuring Russian Joint Energy Systems. On November 17, this issue will be discussed in Novosibirsk at a meeting devoted to the strategy of Siberia’s economic development. It is expected that Vladimir Putin will take part in this meeting too.

Anatoly Chubais has made several proposals on restructuring Russian Joint Energy Systems. However, he was not supported by most regional leaders, and the reasons for this are quite understandable.