MOSCOW, August 25 (RIA Novosti)
Russia ready to recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia/Russia should delay recognizing South Ossetia and Abkhazia/The West will have to respect Russia's security interests/ Moscow becomes attractive destination for Middle East leaders/Turning down Khodorkovsky parole politically unwise/ Russian law on foreign access to strategic sectors comes into effect
Russia ready to recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia
Judging by what Russian MPs are saying in public, they are ready to recognize the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The two houses of Russia's parliament are to hold extraordinary sessions today.
They argue that this would allow Russia to maintain its military presence in the two breakaway Georgian republics, because Russian peacekeepers will be unable to remain there legally after the recent lightning war.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said last week Moscow "is not trying to orchestrate [the recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia by other countries]."
His words can be interpreted as Russia's readiness to do so.
Sources of business daily Kommersant said the Russian Foreign Ministry was ready to implement a plan to recognize the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia any day now.
According to a government source, Moscow has no illusions that such actions are in compliance with international law.
"By recognizing the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, we will violate the principle of the territorial integrity of Georgia as a sovereign state," the source said. "In addition, there is a UN Security Council resolution on Abkhazia stipulating that the settlement of the conflict must not violate Georgia's territorial integrity. If Tbilisi brings the case to court, the verdict will not go in Russia's favor."
Moscow plans to argue in court that Georgia's attack against Tskhinvali was an act of genocide.
"Russian diplomacy recognizes the right of nations to self-determination, but not to secession, which is possible only if the state has committed crimes against an ethnic group," the source said. "Russia did not recognize the act of genocide by Serbs in Kosovo, but it may use the argument" in the case of Georgia.
Since few of Russia's foreign policy allies have openly supported it in the past weeks, not many of them will officially recognize the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
Ivan Makushok, an aide to the state secretary of the Russia and Belarus Union State, said Moscow hoped Minsk would support its plan, which will allow Abkhazia and South Ossetia to apply to join the Union State.
"This would suit Russia, because they would appeal for admission not to Moscow, but to the Union State," Makushok said.
Russia should delay recognizing South Ossetia and Abkhazia
The latest events in the Caucasus have revealed the enormous scope for double standards in international politics, said Vladislav Inozemtsev, head of the Center for Postindustrial Studies, a Moscow-based think tank. The situation in Georgia's rebel regions is in fact very similar to what happened in Kosovo a decade ago.
The only difference is that Georgia's "order-enforcement" effort was harsher than the Serbian one, and Russia's "peace-enforcement" response was faster and more effective.
Admittedly, Russia took advantage of the circumstances created, in part, by its own puppets in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, and the Georgian government, using it as a pretext to unleash military intervention similar to that attempted by NATO in 1999. However, the West is seemingly uncomfortable with such moves being accepted as standard practice, the expert said.
Russia has plunged into political games that the West seems to consider its sole prerogative, a fact that cannot be reversed. Russia doesn't need new territories, just like Europe doesn't really need Kosovo, but we need to prove to the West that we can and will play by their rules.
Young democracies, even good and faithful, often use nationalist rhetoric as a trump card, which naturally provokes violence. They need to be put down. They need to know that we are advocates of humanitarian intervention and defenders of minorities. We do not violate the rules set by the West, but try to apply them. Similar solutions need to be applied for similar conflicts, Inozemtsev concluded.
For all the hysteria aroused by the United States, the European nations will be the ones to decide on Georgia's NATO and EU accession. Russia and Europe need a common general approach to dealing with separatist regions.
We should refrain from recognizing South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states today, August 25, the expert urged. Better let it lie for a short while, until Europe becomes ready to accept it as an objective reality.
Russia and the EU are not just neighbors. They are responsible for the future of Greater Europe. And that future will be rather dark unless both learn, perhaps through trial and error, to work out uniform standards of action on the international arena, he added.
The West will have to respect Russia's security interests
The tone and contents of the final statement approved at the NATO emergency ministerial meeting and the creation of the Georgia-NATO Council have shown that the bloc has not overcome the virtual reality syndrome of the 1990s.
The West has a dim view of Russia's foreign policy motives because all kinds of phobias prevent it from making a sober analysis of the developments. When its fight against Russia's alleged vicious plans fails to bring the desired results, it suspects Russia of even darker schemes.
The West claims that Russia's pathological hatred of freedom is the irrational motive for its actions. However, the West ignores all of Russia's rational arguments because it cannot challenge their essence, especially in public.
Indeed, how can U.S. President George W. Bush say the United States has been arming Georgia for years, and when it had grown sufficiently strong on American support it attacked South Ossetia to cleanse it of Ossetians? This would not go well with Western audiences, which are more used to hearing about Putin's authoritarian Russia attacking the "hated democracy" in small neighboring Georgia.
Since the Western media use irrational arguments regarding Russia, the Western public sees Russian actions as strange and irrational.
In the past two years, Moscow has more than once warned NATO and Washington that they should not ignore Russia's security interests, and that the bloc should stop its continued advance to Russia's border or be prepared to pay the price.
Putin's speech at the security conference in Munich in February 2007, Russia's moratorium on the conventional armed forces treaty in Europe, and patrol flights by its strategic bombers were clear indicators that the West had approached the dangerous line.
However, the West presented them as the Kremlin's saber rattling or as moves designed for internal consumption. Russia's Western partners actually refused to discuss the adjusted CFE treaty.
The ultimate result of all this was the "unexpected" and "unjustified" use of military force against Georgia. But hasn't the Western public blinded itself with its shallow discussions about Russia's policy?
The West, not ready to spread allied security guarantees to Russia, will have to accept the fact that Russia's security interests differ from the Interests of the United States and NATO - and respect them.
RBC Daily, Kommersant
Moscow becomes attractive destination for Middle East leaders
Analysts say the clash with Georgia has shown Middle Eastern countries that Moscow can offer an alternative to the U.S. vision of a unipolar world.
Many foreign dignitaries have visited Russia over the past few weeks. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was in Russia in mid-August, and last week President Dmitry Medvedev met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Sochi. Yesterday he had a meeting with King Abdullah II of Jordan, and the next foreign visitor will be Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, said a source in the Presidential Executive Office.
Each of these Middle East leaders has his own reasons for cooperation with Russia. Syria wants to break out of its political isolation and normalize relations with Israel. Turkey, whose elite has seen that the European Union is unlikely to accept it as a member, also needs an alternative plan.
Jordan is apparently concerned over U.S. plans to set up a Palestinian state in Jordan, which is to be transformed into a federation or a confederation. Jordan remembers 1970 and the country's Black September when its army had to fight armed Palestinian groups on its own territory after the six-day Arab-Israeli war of 1967.
Political analyst Dmitry Yevstafyev said: "King Abdullah has serious problems. He knows that if the United States, Jordan's main ally, decides to re-carve the Middle East, Jordan will be the first victim of that plan."
Analysts say the Middle East and Central Asian leaders are bound to come to Moscow.
"This will be a major blow for the U.S. because before the storming of Tskhinvali the U.S. foreign policy was based on the assumption that Russia was not a serious player," Yevstafyev said. "However, now Russia has joined the molding of geopolitical realities."
The analyst said Washington had no means to deter Moscow.
Alexander Sobyanin, chief strategist at the Association of Crossborder Cooperation, said Russia had pursued a wise and balanced policy in the Middle East in the last few years, especially through Gazprom and the military.
This policy "is yielding its first fruit," he said. "Our immediate goal now is to promote ties with Iran and Pakistan."
Turning down Khodorkovsky parole politically unwise
A Russian court rejected jailed oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky's parole application on Friday. His lawyers are now working on an appeal on the ruling claiming the court verdict had nothing to do whatsoever with law and justice.
Experts are convinced that by turning down the former Yukos head's parole bid Russia is showing to the West that it won't make concessions.
Gleb Pavlovsky, president of the Effective Policy Foundation, said: "It is a serious political error. The reason is Russian authorities' surprising lack of confidence and failure to understand the current state of society and its own long-term goals.
"Some of our political generals continue to wage war in the deep rear of their own policies; an old war which has long been won. It's a habit, stereotype thinking. The government isn't ready for modernization. Modernization goals are very different from restoration of statehood; on this path, one faces new enemies and new complicated problems."
Mikhail Vinogradov, head of the Center for Current Politics in Russia, said: "The lobbyists for Khodorkovsky's release weren't active enough, so they didn't gain much. It was bad luck, too. We have recently seen Alexander Kozulin, Belarus' highest profile political prisoner, leave jail. The opposition leader's release was seen as Minsk's goodwill gesture aimed at pleasing Europe.
"Coming immediately after the armed conflict in South Ossetia, Khodorkovsky's release would have looked as a concession, something undesirable amid Russia's current confrontation with the West. Still the idea hasn't been dropped altogether."
Independent political analyst Dmitry Oreshkin said: "Khodorkovsky's release would have been a challenge to the system of priorities established by [former president Vladimir] Putin. It would have meant an end to Putin's era and a beginning of some other one.
"Putin has established a simple discussion rule within the political elite: the strongest one is always right. In a different set of rules, the former tycoon's release would have meant compassion, mercy, or humanity; in Putin view, it means weakness.
"If he released Khodorkovsky, it means he succumbed to pressure from someone, possibly from George Bush. Therefore, the mere mention of Khodorkovsky's release only sparks irritation in Putin who sees it as a form of pressure on himself."
Russian law on foreign access to strategic sectors comes into effect
A government commission on foreign companies' access to strategic sectors of the Russian economy may hold its first meeting in mid-September. At present, the Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS) is considering applications by two foreign companies to purchase assets in the diamond production and aircraft building sectors.
According to Svetlana Levchenko, FAS's head of the department for control over foreign investment, three applications have been submitted to the service. Two of them are currently being examined and the third one has been returned to the applicants for failing to provide all the necessary documentation. Levchenko refused to talk about the projects involved.
An official from one of the federal agencies says that FAS is considering an application from De Beers for the purchase of Arkhangelskgeoldobycha (AGD), a LUKoil subsidiary, and another one from Italy's Alenia Aeronautica (part of the Finmeccanica concern) for the purchase of Sukhoi Civil Aircraft, a subsidiary of the Sukhoi aviation holding.
In April 2008, Archangel Diamond Corporation (ADC), a De Beers subsidiary, reached an agreement with LUKoil on the purchase of a 49.99% stake in AGD holding the license for the Verkhotina area with diamond reserves estimated at $5.5 billion. LUKoil will keep the rest of the shares. Initially, the deal worth $225 million was to have been completed by June 1. When it became known that the deal was to be coordinated with the government, the date was postponed to December 31.
Svetlana Sitnikova, press secretary of the De Beers Russian office, told the Vedomosti paper that on August 1, 2008, ADC submitted an application to FAS compiled in accordance with new regulations for foreign investors buying assets in Russian strategic sectors. A LUKoil spokesman has confirmed this information.
The second application is from Alenia for the purchase of a 25% stake plus one share in Sukhoi Civil Aircraft established to build the Sukhoi Superjet 100 regional aircraft. The sides signed a tentative agreement back in 2005. If the government approves the deal, the Russian company is expected to hold an additional share issue worth about $190 million in favor of the Italian company. As a result, foreigners may take up to 25% of the seats on the company's management bodies. However, the company's head must be a Russian citizen.
Valerio Bonelli, head of Alenia's press service, and Olga Kayukova of Sukhoi Civil Aircraft have confirmed the submission of the application to FAS. Bonelli is sure that the deal will be signed in September, as was initially planned, and recalled that "Vladimir Putin personally approved it." In January 2008, while still being Russia's president, Putin signed a directive allowing Alenia to buy a blocking share packet in Sukhoi Civil Aircraft.
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