Zee Beam News

Miscellaneous news from the CIS ...

 Gazprom   RusEnergy   World   Pipeliners  Zee Beam 

Monday, April 21, 2008

Get a Grip on the Successor

Apr. 21, 2008 - Kommersant by Gleb Cherkassov - Vladimir Putin is finishing the formation of a new political system, which won’t allow Dmitry Medvedev, his successor, to even attempt to act on his own. The incumbent President’s consent to become the leader of United Russia has been a key element in creating the new system. Vladimir Putin’s decision to become the leader of the United Russia Party starting with May 7 must have been the first serious political step of the second President of Russia which was announced in advance. It’s noteworthy that the members of United Russia and officials within the Kremlin Administration as well as the general public learned that Putin would head the party during the parliamentary elections as the decision was announced from the tribune at the United Russia pre-election congress. Spring, 2008 it is less important for Vladimir Putin to overwhelm people with extraordinary deeds than once again assert that everything goes according to his plan and it’s he who keeps a grip on power, not Dmitry Medvedev. As Putin moved into the Kremlin December, 1999, he didn’t have more political power than Dmitry Medvedev, elected President March, 2008. Eight years ago as well as at present the head of state assuming his office was far from being the most influential politician in the country, unable to boast anything except for a high approval rating. By the beginning of 2000 a group of state officials and financiers (known as Semya – the Family) led by the Head of the Russian Presidential Administration Alexander Voloshin had shaped the policy of Russia. Not only was Vladimir Putin to appoint Voloshin the Head of his Administration, he also had to take account of his opinion when taking almost all critical decisions. Besides Vladimir Putin had to keep in his team such politicians as Russian Railways Minister Nikolay Aksenenko, Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov and EMERCOM (Ministry for the Affairs of Civil Defense, Emergency Situations and Disaster Relief) Minister Sergey Shoygu, who Semya considered possible successors to Boris Yeltsin. As successor to Boris Yeltsin, Vladimir Putin had at least to seem committed to the political line of the First Russian President. 2008 Russia’s policy is determined by a group of managers and CEOs of state corporations headed by Vladimir Putin. Dmitry Medvedev will have to appoint him Prime Minister and take account of his opinion when arriving at all critical decisions. During his work visits, Dmitry Medvedev will have to regularly meet with those who could have become the United Russia presidential nominee. After all, the new president will have to base his policy on the 2020 Strategy, or Putin’s plan. The only difference between Vladimir Putin 2000 and Dmitry Medvedev 2008 lies in the fact that from the very outset, the former had the opportunity to make seemingly marginal appointments. At first they gave way to a series of jokes about “those from St.-Petersburg,” and as time went by, those people formed the mainstay of the notorious vertical of power. Short after appointed Prime Minister August, 1999, Vladimir Putin managed to make Dmitry Kozak the Chief of Staff with the White House, and Dmitry Medvedev – his deputy, Igor Sechin being in charge of the Secretariat of the Prime Minister. Before moving into the Kremlin November 15, 1999 Vladimir Putin succeeded in appointing his associate Sergey Ivanov Secretary of the Security Council. December 31, the day when Boris Yeltsin stepped down, Dmitry Medvedev became the First Deputy to Alexander Voloshin. Igor Sechin moved into the Kremlin, with the general public barely giving attention to the fact. January 5, 2000 a decree was issued to appoint Victor Ivanov Deputy Head of the Presidential Administration. Russia’s Finance Minister Alexey Kudrin and future Minister of Economics and Trade German Gref, whom Putin knew well (they had worked together in the administration of St.-Petersburg), were to stay in the government. The Unity faction within the State Duma was headed by another Putin’s “compatriot” Boris Gryzlov. Then other appointments followed, making the incumbent president a bit stronger, and Semya – a bit weaker. In the middle of Vladimir Putin’s first term Alexander Voloshin was surprised to find that he was not the “all-mighty” master of the Presidential Administration anymore, and similarly, Mikhail Kasyanov understood that certain ministers dared defy him. But it was too late to change anything. This said, as soon as promoted, Vladimir Putin moulded and led a team, which enabled him to become the absolute master of the Kremlin. Among others, Dmitry Medvedev participated in the process, with his role being one of the leading. You can recall, for instance, that it was Dmitry Medvedev who succeeded to Alexander Voloshin as Head of the Administration and urged the resignation of Mikhail Kasyanov. Since the events listed have happened recently, the participants remember them pretty well. That is why, when preparing to move from the Administration to the government, Vladimir Putin did his best to arrange it so that his successor couldn’t be seduced into applying the old scheme of grabbing power he knew from the inside. Operation “Successor” cost too much the state machine and Vladimir Putin in particular to let the key object behave inappropriately and spoil everything. The incumbent president is not going to repeat the mistakes of Semya, whose leaders believed that the new head of state could be entrusted as much political power as he could handle. Now the experienced President Putin ascertains that Dmitry Medvedev doesn’t get more power than apportioned to him. Three factors must match for an appointment to be made: There is to be a competitor, a vacancy and political will. Assuming that Dmitry Medvedev is very ambitious and has benchwarmers (at least you can hardly prove the opposite), the matter to be addressed is finding the posts for the people. Vladimir Putin wants to fortify this very front. By the time Dmitry Medvedev will have assumed office, all major posts must be occupied by those promoted by the incumbent president, whom they owe their careers. It’s vital that the appointments be negotiated and made at the time when both incumbent and elected presidents are in the arena together moulding the structure of executive bodies. Consequently, every attempt of Dmitry Medvedev to appoint someone must be preceded by an attempt to fire someone, which can be regarded the incumbent president’s acknowledgement of being mistaken and a straightforward way towards a clash Dmitry Medvedev isn’t ready for. He lacks the power for staff maneuvers. If the post of Prime Minister were a mere formality, all appointments in the White House could be made overriding the Premier’s will. Apparently, Vladimir Putin is not the man to allow this. He wants to be a truly influential Prime Minister, not just play a supporting role. He is willing to select teammates and take charge of them. At that, a major government reshuffle is unlikely to be carried out within a year; even if any of the ministers makes a grave mistake, he/she will first render an account to Vladimir Putin, and then to Dmitry Medvedev, perhaps. Security officials are accountable to Vladimir Putin too. It need be noted that he has been keeping the post of the Security Council Secretary free for some nine months, the position enabling to be in control of the security block in the government. Of course one can’t rule out the possibility of Dmitry Medvedev to promote his adherent to this post, but Vladimir Putin has always regarded the appointments in this field his prerogative. Dmitry Medvedev will have no opportunity to influence the government via the parliament. The chairpersons of both chambers had been elected before he was nominated, and they always act in accordance with the line of Vladimir Putin. Dmitry Medvedev can have some freedom when determining the structure of the Presidential Administration. In theory, the opportunities in this sphere can make up for all other limitations (during eight previous years you must have gotten used to the Kremlin surpassing all other institutions in terms of political power). But this was be possible only in those cases when the head of state (or the Head of the Administration) was an unqualified political leader, whose position couldn’t be challenged. The might of the Administration is based on vague unofficial traditions, rather than constitutional powers. Under Vladimir Putin’s truly influential government and the Putin-oriented parliament the ability of the Administration to impact the line of the government will turn out limited. More to the point, Dmitry Medvedev is likely to have to negotiate his appointments with Vladimir Putin. At the same time, the former president will hardly hinder Dmitry Medvedev in his attempts to establish new councils under his administration or change the composition of those existing: Their role is mainly symbolic. The President will retain control over the State Council, a seemingly powerful institution rarely referred to in practice. Dmitry Medvedev has been entrusted to head its sessions already. The matter of appointing representatives of the government within those companies the state has interest in, is usually addressed in the government. This rule will remain unchanged, and the unofficial tradition of negotiating the appointments in the Administration will be abandoned to some extent. So the Prime Minister will determine who will represent the state within Gazprom and the First Channel. Vladimir Putin’s decision to become the leader of United Russia is another measure taken, so that Dmitry Medvedev couldn’t be seduced into accumulating too much power. Becoming the leader of United Russia, Vladimir Putin became de jure and de facto leader of the state’s administrative and economic bureaucracy. Currently, United Russia appears to be an institution of state management, rather than merely an electoral machine, thanks to the bureaucrats underpinning it as well as the institutions it trampled. United Russia has repeatedly asked Vladimir Putin to become its member, but he decided to head it only after it became too strong, and it was getting dangerous to leave it without control. Even so, it was more important to overhaul the tradition, according to which United Russia modeled its line on that of the Administration. The amendments adopted at the party congress extend the powers of the Chairman of the party. Vladimir Putin will be able to suspend work of any agency of the party and the commissions of any activist. In reality it can mean that any manifestation of disloyalty or carelessness will be nipped in the bud. Account taken of the character of the party Vladimir Putin is going to preside over, one can presume that it can be just hinted at the possibility of using sticks to sap any opposition within the party. Obviously, Dmitry Medvedev and those in his Administration will have opportunities to co-operate with United Russia and some of its activists. But this must be approved by Vladimir Putin or his deputy in the party. Dmitry Medvedev shouldn’t fear that United Russia will impede him, and at the same time he can rely on it only if his interests don’t contradict those of Vladimir Putin. It is fair in a way: since 1999 Vladimir Putin has so much contributed to the development of the party that he can now enjoy the ability to use it the way he needs. If Dmitry Medvedev turns out equally useful for the party, he may succeed in incorporating United Russia into his vertical of power. If he there is a necessity, of course.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Russia cancels Libya's $4.5 bln debt in exchange for contracts

TRIPOLI, April 17 (RIA Novosti) - Moscow wrote off on Thursday Libya's $4.5 billion debt in exchange for multi-billion dollar contracts for Russian companies. The cancelation of the debt, accrued on Soviet arms supplies, was one of over a dozen intergovernmental trade and cooperation agreements signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin and Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi. After the signing ceremony, the outgoing Russian leader told reporters: "We are satisfied with the way we have resolved this problem. I am absolutely convinced that the scheme we have arrived at will benefit both the Russian and the Libyan economies, as well as the Russian and the Libyan people." Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin, who accompanied Putin on his visit to the North African state, told reporters that the size of Libya's debt to Russia had been brought down by $100 million from $4.6 billion to take into account Russian state bank VTB's debt to Libyan companies. The deals signed include a $3.5-billion contract for rail monopoly Russian Railways to build a 500-km (310-mile) section from the city of Sirte to Benghazi, Putin said. Kudrin said 70% of the equipment and steel products required for the project would, under the contract, be supplied by Russian companies. Another major deal was closed between Russian natural gas giant Gazprom and Libya's National Oil Corporation to set up a joint venture to engage in both upstream and downstream oil and gas operations. Kudrin said the Soviet-era debt had hampered bilateral economic cooperation, whereas now the hurdles would be removed, adding Russia's position in Libya had grown stronger. The two countries also signed a military cooperation agreement. The parties announced their intention to strengthen cooperation in the areas of national security and defense, particularly through closer ties between the bodies involved. Russia and Libya also agreed to collaborate in arms control measures, nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament, to boost efforts to turn the Middle East into a zone free of weapons of mass destruction and to reduce military operations in the Mediterranean in order to make it a region of peace, stability and cooperation. Moscow and Tripoli pledged to coordinate their efforts to prevent and resolve armed conflicts in certain African regions and facilitate post-conflict revival. Libya's main weapons supplier during the Cold War, Russia is trying to regain its position in the country. Earlier reports said Russia had hoped to sign arms contracts worth some $3 billion with Libya, selling 12 of the latest Su-35 Flanker multi-role fighter and Tor-M2E short-range missile systems, and offering spare parts and maintenance services for Soviet-era military hardware. Libya's ties with the West have improved since the UN lifted sanctions against Libya in 2003 after Qaddafi announced he would halt the country's nuclear weapons program and later accepted responsibility for the 1998 terrorist bombing over Lockerbie in Scotland, agreeing to pay compensation to the victims' families. Russia's president arrived in Tripoli on Wednesday for a two-day visit. This evening he left for Sardinia, to meet with Italian incoming-prime minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Russian court upholds decision on $10.8 mln PWC back tax claim

MOSCOW, April 14 (RIA Novosti) - A Moscow arbitration court upheld a ruling on Monday claiming over 260 million rubles ($10.8 million) in back taxes from auditing firm PricewaterhouseCoopers. The court rejected an appeal by the Russian subsidiary of PricewaterhouseCoopers, one of the 'Big Four' international auditing firms, submitted against Russian tax authorities. On February 2006, Russian tax authorities accused the auditor of illegitimately underrating its profit tax base in 2002 by transferring money to the Dutch PricewaterhouseCoopers Russia B.V. for services provided by foreign specialists to Russian clients. The tax authorities claimed that in reality the services were provided by staff of the auditor's Russian subsidiary. PWC applied to a Moscow arbitration court, which rejected the company's lawsuit, after which the auditor made full payments on the 2002 back tax claim and filed an appeal to the Higher Arbitration Court, which sent the case for retrial. However, the Moscow arbitration court upheld the previous ruling on the 2002 back tax claim against the company. In a similar case, auditor Ernst & Young said last week it had received a back tax claim for over 390 million rubles ($16 million) in Russia for allegedly underrating its 10.5 million ruble ($400,000) profit for 2004 by 630.3 million rubles ($24 million). The company said the sum was for the payment of services rendered by its parent company in Cyprus as personnel had been involved in the audits of Russian clients. However, the tax authorities said the company's claim that payment had been made to consultants outside of Russia was ungrounded.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Hermitage Says Raid Led to Identity Theft

Hermitage Capital Management Limited, the advisor to the largest Russia-dedicated fund -- Hermitage Fund.Monday, April 7, 2008 - The Moscow Times - by Tom Cahill and Torrey Clark - Bloomberg - Hermitage Capital Management, the $3 billion hedge fund run by William Browder, says it is a victim of corporate identity theft, according to legal filings sent to prosecutors in Russia and the Channel Islands. Hermitage says the attack began with an inquiry by Moscow tax officials into a Cyprus-based account it managed. Last June, Interior Ministry investigators raided the Moscow offices of Hermitage and its lawyers at Firestone & Duncan, according to court filings by a unit of HSBC Holdings, the trustee and administrator of the fund. They took Hermitage's corporate seal, tax registration and charter, according to the filings. A month later, Hermitage, once the largest foreign owner of Russian stocks, was defended by lawyers it did not hire in a lawsuit in St. Petersburg that it did not know about, the complaints said. The court ordered Hermitage to pay $367 million, a ruling that has since been reversed, documents show. "None of these events or actions could have occurred, including the falsification of new corporate bylaws and the powers of attorney, without those responsible having gained access to the original corporate documentation and corporate seals seized by the Interior Ministry," wrote Paul Wrench, a director at HSBC's Guernsey branch, in a complaint to the Guernsey Financial Intelligence Service dated Feb. 13. Wrench filed similar complaints to the Prosecutor General's Office and the Interior Ministry's internal affairs division in Moscow in December. The ministry's investigative unit, the one Hermitage and HSBC says employs the people behind the campaign, said Feb. 5 that it would investigate the charges. Pierre Goad, a spokesman for HSBC in London, declined to comment Friday. Interior Ministry spokeswoman Yulia Kiselyova declined to comment, as did Browder, a U.S. native and British citizen who has campaigned against waste and mismanagement at some of the country's largest companies, including Gazprom. Wrench did not respond to calls seeking comment. In all, at least six lawsuits against Hermitage funds and companies totaling $1.5 billion in claims have been filed since the Moscow raids, all but one of which have been reversed, a Hermitage spokesman said, declining to be identified because the cases are pending. Browder has campaigned to renew his visa since it was revoked without explanation in 2005. He petitioned First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev directly at the World Economic Forum in Davos on Jan. 28, 2007. Kommersant said Thursday that Browder had been charged in absentia with evading more than 4 billion rubles ($169 million) in taxes. Kiselyova, the Interior Ministry spokeswoman, denied Friday that Browder was charged and declined to comment on Hermitage's accusations. A critic of corporate mismanagement in the country since 1996, Browder, has supported Putin and defended the Kremlin's campaign against Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who was the county's richest man before he was arrested in October 2003 and sentenced to eight years in a Siberian penal colony on fraud and tax-evasion charges.

New York bank sued for laundering Russian cash

New York bank sued for laundering Russian cashApril 7, 2008 - Russia Today - Moscow’s Arbitration Court has adjourned until May 13 hearings into the money laundering case against a U.S. bank. Russia’s Federal Customs Service is suing the Bank of New York (BoNY) for $22.5 billion. BoNY, which is also an asset management firm after merging with Mellon last year, is being accused of illegally helping to transfer billions of dollars out of Russia in the 1990s. The bank says any Russian court decision is invalid. Main prosecution barrister Ekaterina Dukhina says she is confident that Moscow’s Arbitration Court will back the charges and that the decision will be upheld in the United States. “That money was illegally transferred from Russia through the Bank of New York has been proven in the U.S.,” Dukhina said.

Government denies charging UK investor with tax fraud

Government denies charging UK investor with tax fraudApril 3, 2008 - Russia Today - The Interior Ministry has denied bringing charges against William Browder, head of a major investment fund operating in Russia. Business newspaper Kommersant reported earlier that Browder had been officially accused of tax dodging. Browder is the head of Hermitage Capital Management, one of the biggest foreign investment funds working in Russia. The company invests in shares in Gazprom, Sberbank, Surgutneftegas, Transneft and other major Russian companies. His Russian visa was revoked in 2005 and is now based in London. He has been unavailable for comment on the latest speculation. A spokesperson for the investigative unit had said the Browder case was handed to them just recently. She declined to comment on details of the probe. She was also not aware which agency had handled the case previously. Russian media reported that an investigation into Browder's tax record had been launched in 2007. Hermitage was allegedly using Cyprus-based offshore entities for tax evasion.

Capital outflow from Russia reached $22.8 billion in 1Q08

MOSCOW, April 4 (RIA Novosti) - Net capital outflow from Russia reached $22.8 billion in the first quarter of 2008, the Central Bank said on its website on Friday. Russia's top bank and the Finance Ministry expect capital inflow to resume in the country in April. According to various estimates, it could reach $26-40 billion in 2008. Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin said earlier that Russia had built a solid financial system capable of resisting similar capital outflows. The country's financial system collapsed in 1998, when net capital outflow exceeded $20 billion. However, economic growth is now steady in Russia, Kudrin said. Capital inflow exceeded capital outflow by $100 million for the first time in 11 years in 2005. Net capital inflow into Russia doubled from $42 billion in 2006 to a record $82.3 billion in 2007.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

North Atlantic Blockade

// They won't let Putin turn Bucharest into another Munich
Apr. 02, 2008 - Kommersant by Mikhail Zygar, Vladimir Solovyev - Mikhail Kasyanov will speak at Bucharest, Vladimir Putin won't The NATO summit opens today in Bucharest and it may be the most scandalous summit in the organization's history. Ukraine and Georgia will make last ditch efforts to receive membership action plans from the alliance, and Russia and its key economic partners will try to stop them. The format of the Russia-NATO meetings will not give Putin a chance to make another Munich speech. The presidents of Georgia and Ukraine and former Russian prime minister Mikhail Kasyanov will have their say though. Anti-Munich Even before the summit began, Russian President Vladimir Putin's participation in it was a source of controversy. The Russian leader is to arrive in Bucharest on Thursday to participate in a meeting of the Russia-NATO council on Friday, the summit's final day. The day before the summit began, however, the Russian side accused the alliance of intending to deprive Putin of the chance to be heard. Notably, Russian Ambassador to NATO Dmitry Rogozin, when asked in an interview published in Moskovsky komsomolets newspaper on March 31 if the Russian president would make another Munich speech in Bucharest, stated that would be impossible because of the different format of the NATO summit. “The Munich speech was public and addressed not so much to persons making the decisions as to the people. In Bucharest everything will be different. The entire discussion of the Russia-NATO council will be in the format that it is usually held in – closed.” But in the evening of the same day, Rogozin expressed a different point of view.
World Practice
Rogozin noted that the Ukraine-NATO and Russia-NATO councils were set up differently. In the first instance, NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer and Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko will deliver opening addresses. In the latter instance, only de Hoop Scheffer will. After the first council, de Hoop Scheffer and Yushchenko will hold a joint press conference, while, after the second, de Hoop Scheffer alone will hold a press conference. Rogozin concluded that “the leadership of the alliance has chosen a course toward curtailing the discussion. The Russian president will be unable speak publicly about important questions of world politics. It looks incorrect and all attempts to cite the rules are out of place.” At NATO headquarters, Kommersant was assured that the format of the Russia-NATO council was indeed traditional. In 2002, that functions of that organ were reformatted at Russia's initiative. Previously, the NATO secretary general and the Russian representative sat together on the podium and representatives of the NATO member countries sat at a common table. In 2002, Russia became an equal partner of NATO and its representative (who will be Putin in Bucharest) now sits at the round table with the presidents of the member countries, who are seated in alphabetic order by name of country – Putin will sit between Romanian President Trajan Basescu and Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Gordon Brown. Since 2002, the NATO secretary general has been the sole chairman of the council. He opens the meeting, after which the press leaves the auditorium and the council members discuss their business. “Since Russia is an equal member of the Russia-NATO council, it would be unethical in relation to the other leaders to give Vladimir Putin the floor along with the secretary general,” a spokesman at NATO said. “Then President Bush, President Sarkozy or Chancellor Merkel might have the desire to speak. Then there would be no constructive discussion at all, everyone will speak exclusively to the public.” An official NATO representative said that all meetings since 2002 have taken place away from journalists and so far the Russian side (as Rogozin admitted in his interview with Moskovsky komsomolets) had not objected. In addition, the NATO press service told Kommersant, they had been informed that Putin intended to hold his own press conference immediately after de Hoop Scheffer's. “And why would NATO invite Vladimir Putin to the summit, if it didn't wish to listen to him?” the spokesman asked. The format of Ukraine-NATO meetings is different by tradition. Ukraine is not an equal partner, and Yushchenko can appear side-by-side with the NATO secretary general twice before journalists. The disagreement did not stop there. Traditionally, the participants in the council have passed a joint declaration at the end of it. But it is not clear what they can agree on. Russia and the NATO countries have differing views on all the principle questions (SALT, missile defense, Kosovo). Another problem is the initiative to create Russia-NATO council public forum, which would carry out informational work on the cooperation between Moscow and Brussels, that is, partially, strive to improve NATO's image in Russia. For that purpose, Russia and the alliance are supposed to spend joint funds on conferences, seminars and surveys on issues of Euro-Atlantic security. Moscow is not terribly interested in the project, however, fearing that NATO will use it to create “undependable” noncommercial organizations. The only real joint accomplishment Russia and NATO have is an agreement to simplify the procedure for overland transport of NATO cargo to Afghanistan. According to information obtained by Kommersant, Russia is considering not issuing any declaration after the council session if the discussion takes a bad turn. Moscow's charges over the format of Putin's Bucharest speech can be considered a warm up for just such a turn.
A conference being held March 1-3 by the Romanian Foreign Ministry, the German Marshall Fund and Chatham House may turn into a second scandal at the NATO summit. The NATO forum is structured in such a way that the majority of the leaders attending it will not have a chance to make an effective speech, just as Putin is unable to. But some of them will speak from the podium of the Bucharest conference. The presidents of the United States, Latvia, Afghanistan and Estonia, prime ministers of Canada and Romania and foreign ministers of Poland and Turkey are speaking there today. Tomorrow will be the most unpleasant day for the Russian delegation, however. It will begin with a discussion entitled “Does Ukraine Need NATO,” with two former Ukrainian foreign ministers and members of the Rada from the Party of the Regions and Our Ukraine Konstantin Grishchenko and Boris Tarasyuk taking part. Then the topic of missile defense in Europe will be raised, with chairman of the Russian State Duma Committee on Foreign Affairs Konstantin Kosachev, Polish Defense Minister Bogdan Klich and Czech Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Vondra invited to the discussion. The last and most intriguing debate will be dedicated to Russia itself. Former Russian prime minister Mikhail Kasyanov, State Duma member Sergey Markov and member of the British parliament from the Conservative Party Baroness Neville-Jones will take part. Thus, Kasyanov will have the opportunity to speak before a broad audience in Bucharest, and Putin will not. Another distinguishing feature of the Bucharest conference is that Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili took part in its opening. He was also given the chance to express himself in the so-called night session, which had not begun at the moment this story was filed. The press service of the Georgian president told Kommersant that Saakashvili will take that opportunity to urge the opponents of giving his country a membership action plan to change their minds.
The 26 members of NATO have two questions to settle at the summit. They will accept three new members into their ranks that have gone through all the preparatory steps for alliance membership. They are Albania, Macedonia and Croatia. Then they will respond to the petitions of Georgia and Ukraine, whose authorities simultaneously asked to be given membership action plans. There is no controversy over accepting the new members. Only Greek authorities are disturbing the idyll there. Since the collapse of Yugoslavia, Greek authorities have been strongly opposed to Macedonia calling itself Macedonia, since a region with the same name existed as part of the ancient Greek world. A compromise is likely to be found today, since Macedonia in NATO documents is already known as “The Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia.” The situation with the membership action plans for Ukraine and Georgia is ambiguous, although the countries tried from the beginning to unite their efforts to obtain their passes to NATO membership. Ukraine filed its application for a membership action plan with de Hoop Scheffer in January of this year. A month later, Georgia did the same. “I will not hide the fact that we are carefully coordinating our actions with Viktor Yushchenko and Yulia Tymoshenko,” Saakashvili told Kommersant. “Much unites our countries, and that is not just because President Yushchenko is my son's godfather. Our interests simply coincide.” The interests of Georgia and Ukraine clearly coincide with those of the U.S. as well. Washington willingly took on patronage of those countries. Last month, when Georgia's application for a membership action plan had just reached Brussels, the American Senate vote unanimously in favor of a resolution in support of NATO membership action plans for Ukraine and Georgia. Among the authors of the resolution was presidential favorite Barack Obama. They call on U.S. authorities to do everything possible that Ukraine and Georgia should become members of the alliance as soon as possible. U.S. President George W. Bush received Saakashvili at the White House in March and promised to support his efforts to draw closer to the alliance. He made the same promise to Yushchenko yesterday in Kiev, where he told the press after his talks with Yushchenko that he had spoken to Putin by telephone recently and told him that he was "going to work as hard as I can to see to it that Ukraine and Georgia are accepted into MAP," but Russia had “nothing to fear” because NATO is a peaceful organization that helps democracies. Bush praised Kiev yesterday for the active role it played in NATO operations. He called Ukraine practically the only non-NATO state that is supporting all the alliance's missions, including in Afghanistan and Iraq. He was clearly exaggerating, since Ukraine withdrew its peacekeepers from Iraq in 2005 and never had a military presence in Afghanistan, only civilian specialists. It is possible that the American president intentionally overstated Kiev's services before the summit to make an impression on the opponents of Ukraine and Georgia's integration into NATO, since there is no consensus on the matter within NATO. Fundamental NATO members such as Germany, France and The Netherlands oppose the former Soviet republics' membership and have expressed their opposition repeatedly in recent days. They point out that there is no consensus within Ukraine on its NATO intentions, and Georgia has unresolved territorial conflicts. Saakashvili assessed the motives of the Western European countries in an interview with Kommersant. “European business has many connections with Russia and it, of course, pays attention to negative relations with Moscow. But Europe has already made such mistakes in the last century and paid heavily for them. The current generation of European politicians remembers those mistakes and is not likely to repeat them,” he said.

Putin says Russia to remain attractive to foreign investors

Vladimir PutinNOVO-OGARYOVO, April 2 (RIA Novosti) - Russian authorities will continue to create favorable conditions for foreign investors, outgoing President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday. "We intend to continue with a policy of encouraging and improving the climate for foreign investors, including using administrative regulation and investment laws," Putin said at a meeting with Italian businessmen at his country residence near Moscow. The president's comments came after the country's lower house of parliament, the State Duma, approved earlier on Wednesday a bill restricting foreign investors' access to "strategic" sectors of the economy. The bill requires foreign investors seeking to buy a stake of more than 50% in a company in one of 42 key sectors to receive government approval. A commission comprising economists and security officials will review such deals. State-controlled foreign companies will be required to seek permission to acquire more than 25% of shares in enterprises of strategic sectors, which include oil, gas, the nuclear industry, arms production, fisheries, airspace, and the media. Putin, who will step down in May to give way to his ally Dmitry Medvedev, said Russia's continued economic growth has encouraged foreign investment. "As a result nearly $121 billion was invested in the Russian economy in 2007, which is an almost 2.2-fold increase on the previous year." Putin met with 15 Italian business people, including top executives of energy group Eni, Enel, Finmeccanica industrial group, home appliance producer Indesit, Ferrero chocolate producer and other companies.

Forbes names Duma as world’s richest Parliament

Forbes names Duma as world’s richest ParliamentApril 1, 2008 - Russia Today - In recent years it has become a clichĂ© that the Forbes rich-list is packed with the names of Russian citizens. Less well known, perhaps, is that Russia’s politicians are also a pretty wealthy bunch. The American business magazine has named the Russian parliament the richest on the planet. There are no less than 12 billionaires with seats in the State Duma. Leading the pack by miles is stockbroker Suleiman Kerimov. He’s worth an incredible $U.S.17.5 billion. Next richest is businessman Gleb Fetisov, worth $U.S.3.9 billion. But what makes Russia's parliament the world’s richest is the total net worth of all twelve men - a staggering $US 41 billion

Contact me:  

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?