INSS Insight – Asculai, Ephraim: The Istanbul-Baghdad-Moscow talks on Iran’s nuclear program are over. As expected, they did not achieve anything of significance, besides deciding on further, lower level talks. Indeed, the P5 1 and the Iranian delegations shared one objective: they did not want the process to end, thereby necessitating a decision on different tracks. The Iranians are successfully playing for time, as they have done for so many years, and the members of the P5 1 group are also trying to delay any inconvenient decisions, each group member for its own reasons. Most noticeably, the US delegation would like to postpone any major decision until after the November 2012 presidential elections. For their part, the Iranians need time to advance their nuclear program and produce as much enriched uranium as possible. Although according to many reports the sanctions are hurting Iran, they are still not hurting Iran badly enough, and the Iranians are able to bear them.
The ultimate aims of both sides are, of course, diametrically opposite. The Iranians want to retain the capability to enrich uranium to military-grade levels and to gain the ability to produce several nuclear weapons in short order, should the Islamic Republic’s authorities so decide. The Iranian strategy is very simple: they want the world to recognize the legitimacy of the Iranian uranium enrichment program. Even under limited conditions, such recognition would enable Iran to retain its technical capabilities, to perfect the enrichment process, and to leave them a potential for a breakout (defined as the start of the process to produce military-grade enriched uranium), whenever they decide to do so. In addition, the Iranians could well construct concealed facilities and secretly produce enriched uranium to whatever levels they choose to achieve.
The P5 1 want to prevent this possibility, but their remaining options are few. It is nearly impossible to envision the Security Council taking any further action against Iran, because Russia and China would likely vote against it. The first and most probable option for the West (the P5 1 minus Russia and China) is to impose the July sanctions on oil and hope for the best. The next option is to increase the sanctions considerably and wait for the Iranians to blink. The third option is military action against Iran’s nuclear facilities.
What would the Iranians do? Although the present sanctions have hurt Iran considerably, there are those who think that Iran can shoulder them indefinitely and will therefore continue with its present tactics of preventing a showdown while enriching uranium. Continue reading
An interview with Viktor Nadein-Rayevsky, Institute of World Economy & International Relations, Moscow
Thu Jun 7, 2012 4:6PM GMT
That is important that there have been several military exercises that give opportunity for joint operations here in Central Asia. Of course, this organization is the only real mechanism that can help stop terrorist activities here. It is a problem of course and this problem is on the way of solution.”
Ahmadinejad said NATO members are trying to resurrect what he called past colonialist relations, adding “the colonialists are equally opposed to the development of China, Russia, India and Iran as well as other members of the SCO.”
He further called for a new world order, saying the current one has failed because of its “inhumane and unfair nature.”
The SCO is an intergovernmental organization that was founded in 2001 in Shanghai by the leaders of China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.
Iran, India, Mongolia, Afghanistan and Pakistan are observer members of the organization.
Press TV has conducted an interview with Viktor Nadein-Rayevsky from Moscow’s Institute of World Economy & International Relations to further discuss the issue. The following is a rough transcription of the interview.
Press TV:Nadein-Rayevsky, tell us what you think about the declaration especially the fact that it seems very firm regarding the expansion of the Western countries, in particular the United States, as they have said with the concentration in the Asia-Pacific.
Nadein-Rayevsky:In fact, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in the last years has become a rather prominent and important partner of many international organizations in the world.
First of all, that was very important that it begins the cooperation from real problems; problems that are dangerous for all the countries of the region. First of all, there is the problem of terrorism and, of course, the problems of separatism and drug trafficking which are very dangerous things the countries of the region have to deal with. Continue reading
Obama’s ambassador to Moscow has gotten a rude welcome in Putin’s Russia. But he’s not going to take it anymore.
BY JULIA IOFFE | MAY 30, 2012
MOSCOW — This winter, Michael McFaul discovered a number of surprising things about himself. He was imposing odious American holidays, like Valentine’s Day and Halloween, on the Russian people. He personally whisked Russian opposition politician Alexey Navalny out of the country to Yale on a fellowship. He was inviting opposition figures to the U.S. Embassy “to get instructions.” And he was a pedophile. Or so his online tormentors claimed.
This was McFaul’s welcome to his new job: United States ambassador to Russia. Along with being attacked on state television and having picket lines across from the embassy, he was being followed — and harassed — by a red-haired reporter from NTV, the state-friendly channel. One day, a horde of activists from Nashi, a pro-Kremlin youth group, showed up at the embassy gates in white jumpsuits, and played dead: They did not want to be the victims of a revolution, like the unfortunates of Egypt, their posters said. As a result, the ambassador’s security had to be tightened.
“What I did not anticipate, honestly, was the degree, the volume, the relentless anti-Americanism that we’re seeing right now,” McFaul told me in February, a note of real hurt ringing in his normally chipper, measured voice. “That is odd for us. Because we have spent three years trying to build a different relationship with this country.” He added, almost stuttering, “I mean, I’m genuinely confused by it.”
A month later, he lost it.
The explosion came when McFaul arrived at the office of For Human Rights, an NGO in Moscow’s historic center. He was going to see his old friend, veteran human rights activist Lev Ponomarev, whom he’d known since he was an international studies graduate student running around perestroika-era Moscow. It may have been late March, but it was cold and the stuff that fell from the sky was neither snow nor rain: a long cry from McFaul’s California home. As ambassador, though, he didn’t have to bother with a jacket: he had his black Cadillac.
Had he known that the redhead from NTV would again be waiting for him with a camera crew, however, he may have dressed a little warmer.
What was McFaul going to discuss with Ponomarev?, the redhead asked as the camera bounced to follow the moving ambassador.
“Your ambassador moves about without this, without you getting in the way of his work,” McFaul said in slightly crooked Russian. He was clearly angry but maintained a wide, all-American smile. “And you guys are always with me. In my house! Are you not ashamed of this? You’re insulting your own country when you do this, don’t you understand?”
Russians are known for their warm welcomes, rolling out the red carpet for honored guests and ensconcing them in bear hugs, complete with three hearty kisses on the cheeks. Perhaps the new U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul didn’t quite expect the same gracious reception given the frosty relationship between Washington and Moscow these days, but his first few months on the job have been unusual, if not downright hostile, a lot more Cold War than Russian Reset. Upon arriving in Moscow, the ambassador greeted his guests with an effervescent — even hokey — YouTube video introducing himself, a longtime student of and friend to Russia. In response, he was met with an Arctic propaganda blast reminiscent of the early 1980s, and harassment likely without precedent for U.S. ambassadors — either in the Soviet Union or in post-Soviet Russia.
The Obama administration has since complained to the Russian government about the harassment of McFaul. “Everywhere I go,” McFaul tweeted, “[the Gazprom-owned national television network] NTV is there. Wonder who gives them my calendar. They wouldn’t tell me. Wonder what laws are here for such things.” By crowding the U.S. ambassador and filming his comings and goings, NTV reporters act not unlike former KGB myrmidons, clearly seeking to intimidate not only McFaul but even more so his Russia interlocutors, whom they try to intercept and “interview.” It wouldn’t be the first time that the Kremlin has successfully snooped into the affairs of the U.S. Embassy — in fact, there’s a long tradition of mutual suspicion and spycraft between these old adversaries, but the host government sharing his open schedule with flunkies just to intimidate the ambassador seems a new low in what was hoped to have been a new period of mutual respect and good relations.
It is always sad and maddening to hear about insults to human dignity by paid propagandists and thugs of authoritarian regimes. Yet the hounding of McFaul is particularly bizarre. Not only is he a brilliant scholar, the author of hundreds of articles and several books on Russia, and one of the most popular professors at Stanford University, but McFaul is widely regarded as a man of profound intellectual and personal integrity. In at least 20 years that I’ve known and deeply admired Mike, I’ve met no one who did not hold him in highest esteem, even those who disagreed with him professionally.
A native of Montana and a Californian by professional choice, Mike epitomizes America’s democratic spirit, free inquiry, unfettered debate, and respect for the right to question authority. He is also a sparkling, often ebullient conversationalist. Anyone who spends even a few minutes in his company finds his discourse utterly infectious.
That he is a Russian speaker and, with his shock of blond hair, Hollywood-handsome, does not hurt him a bit among Russian television viewers — not to mention his legion of longtime admirers among pro-democracy experts and intelligentsia. It is all of this — but particularly the last bit — that makes McFaul such a stark and embossing contrast to the intellectual grayness of Putinism, the vulgarity of its propaganda, and the pettiness of its cat-and-mouse games with intellectuals and pro-democracy opposition.
From the start of his ambassadorship a few months ago, McFaul seemed determined to treat Russia as a normal country: he proclaimed himself willing to speak to anyone – even his detractors. “I respect press right to go anywhere & ask any questions,” he tweeted of NTV, even as he wondered whether “they have a right to read my email and listen to my phone?”
But there is more to it than that. McFaul was among the key architects of the reset in the U.S.-Russian relations. Whatever this effort has or has not achieved and whatever built-in flaws handicapped the reset from the beginning, there is little doubt about McFaul’s sincerity, good faith, and passionate commitment that the effort would make both countries more secure and prosperous. Among other things, he worked tirelessly on the New START nuclear arms treaty and helped to secure Russia’s entry in the World Trade Organization.
By Nick Lockwood Dec 23 2011, 8:30 AM ET
The USSR developed two tools that changed the world: airplane hijackings and state-sponsorship of terror
Pilot Juergen Schumann sits in the open door of Lufthansa airplane Landshut at the airport in Dubai, United Arab Emirates on Oct. 15, 1977, prior to being killed by members of the Red Army Faction who had hijacked the flight / AP
This post is part of a 12-part series exploring how the U.S.-Russia relationship has shaped the world since the December 1991 end of the Soviet Union. Read the full series here.
In the 1960s and 70s, the Soviet Union sponsored waves of political violence against the West. The Red Brigades in Italy and the German Red Army Faction both terrorized Europe through bank robberies, kidnapping, and acts of sabotage. The Soviets wanted to use these left-wing terror groups to destabilize Italy and Germany to break up NATO. State-sponsored terrorism was a deeply Soviet phenomenon, but its practice did not stop when the Soviet Union ended. While state sponsorship continues, terrorism has mutated into something even harder for us to understand and respond to. But some of the roots of today’s terrorism go back to the Soviet Union.
Russia is the birthplace of modern terrorism. The Russian nihilists of the 19th century combined political powerlessness with a propensity for gruesome violence, but their attacks were aimed at the Tsarist state and ruling classes. Later, the Soviet Union and its allies actively supported terrorism as a means to politically inconvenience and undermine its opponents. The East German Stasi and the KGB provided funds, equipment, and “networking” opportunities to the myriad of leftist German terrorist cells in the 1960s, 70s and 80s. The Red Army Faction and the 2nd June Movement in Germany, as well as the Red Brigades in Italy, shared Marxist philosophies, a hatred of America, solidarity with the Palestinians, and opposition to the generation, some of its members still in power, that had supported the Nazis and fascists. They were good foundations for a Cold War fifth column. It was not just Europe, either: Soviet equipment, funding, training and guidance flowed across the globe, either directly from the KGB or through the agencies of key allies, like the Rumanian Securitate, the Cuban General Intelligence Directorate. Continue reading
December 16, 2011Amid all the showmanship and bravado on display during Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’slive call-in program yesterday, there also came a rare moment of sincerity.This happened when Putin was asked to comment on former Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin, who resigned under pressure following a public spat with President Dmitry Medvedev in late September.
“Aleksei Leonidovich Kudrin has not left my team,” Putin said. “We are old comrades, he’s my friend. He did a lot for the country. I’m proud that this man worked in my government. Such people are needed and will be needed in current and future governments.”
On one hand, Putin’s comments can be viewed as a subtle dig at President Dmitry Medvedev, who demanded Kudrin’s resignation after the finance minister criticized his plans to increase military spending by $65 billion over the next three years. (The rare public dust-up came just days after Putin announced that he intended to return to the Kremlin next year and planed to make Medvedev his prime minister. Kudrin was reportedly not happy about the job swap.) Continue reading
MOSCOW (AP)–Russia’s customs agency announced Friday it has seized pieces of radioactive metal from the luggage of an Iranian passenger bound for Tehran from one of Moscow’s main airports.
It was not immediately clear if the substance could be any use to Iran’s controversial nuclear program.
Iran’s semi-official news agency ISNA confirmed that material had been seized from the luggage of an Iranian passenger in Moscow about a month ago, but denied it was radioactive.
Russia’s Federal Customs Service said in a statement that agents found 18 pieces of metal, packed in steel pencil cases, at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport after a radiation alert went off. It said the gauges showed that radiation levels were 20 times higher than normal.
Spokeswoman Kseniya Grebenkina told The Associated Press the luggage was seized some time ago, but did not specify when. The Iranian wasn’t detained, she said, and it was not clear whether he was still in Russia or not. She did not give his name. The pieces contained Sodium-22, she said, a radioactive isotope of sodium that could be produced in a particle accelerator.
Kelly Classic, a health physicist at the United States’ renowned Mayo Clinic, said: “You can’t make a nuclear bomb or dirty bomb with it.”
“You’d certainly wonder where it came from and why,” Classic told The Associated Press. “It’s prudent to be a little leery considering where the person’s going.” Continue reading
Russia’s embattled ruler meets his public.
BY JULIA IOFFE | DECEMBER 16, 2011
MOSCOW – Russians had not really seen Vladimir Putin since his ruling United Russia party was walloped, at least by Russian standards, in the Dec. 4 parliamentary elections. Since then, Moscow, and the rest of the country, had been rocked by anti-government — and anti-Putin — protests. Tens of thousands of previously politically inactive people pinned white ribbons to their coats and came out across Russia to contest the elections, expressing their displeasure at being treated like idiots by the Kremlin for the past decade. Up until Thursday, the Kremlin’s reaction to this outpouring implied either panic, denial, or both. Putin remained well out of sight. He spoke through his spokesman in vague, contradictory statements, and, once, in a meeting of his People’s Front, blamed the protests on U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, claiming she had sent Russians a certain “signal.” Continue reading
December 05, 2011
This week NATO foreign ministers meet (7th & 8th), less than six months before the summit in Chicago. They have a full agenda, not least the debates over the management of withdrawal from Afghanistan and discussing lessons from the Libya experience. They will also consider the deterrence and defense posture review (DDPR) that has been developing behind closed doors, but still in a surprisingly unformed state given its planned completion in May. Internal expectations are not high for significant change, but this really is not good news.
Unless NATO member states take initiative not only to clarify declaratory policy, but also lay out the road towards the withdrawal of its symbolic nuclear deployments in Europe, and shift the tools of assurance toward non-nuclear measures, they will be responsible for freezing the arms control relationship with Russia for several years and impacting upon the chances of pulling together international consensus behind tighter measures to combat the threat of nuclear proliferation.
AP Photo/Sergey Ponomarev
MOSCOW (AP) — Firebombs have been thrown at a protest rally in downtown Moscow pitting demonstrators denouncing alleged vote fraud in parliamentary elections against hundreds of pro-Kremlin youths.
An Associated Press reporter saw at least two firebombs thrown into a crowd of pro-Kremlin demonstrators gathered outside the Tchaikovsky Concert Hall on Tuesday night. It was not immediately clear who had thrown the incendiary devices or if they caused any injuries.
Police moved in quickly on the gathering.
The concert hall is adjacent to a square where anti-government protesters had earlier tried to gather, but were broken up by police. Moscow police spokesman Maxim Kolosvetov said about 250 people had been detained.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.
MOSCOW (AP) – Police clashed Tuesday on a central Moscow square with demonstrators trying to hold a second day of protests against alleged vote fraud in Russia’s parliamentary elections.
Hundreds of police had blocked off Triumphal Square on Tuesday evening, then began chasing about 100 demonstrators, seizing some and throwing them harshly into police vehicles.
Pro-government United Russia supporters also rallied late Tuesday at Revolution Square near the Kremlin. State television footage showed a crowd appearing to number in the thousands.
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party saw a significant drop in support in Sunday’s election but it will still have a majority in parliament. Opponents say even that watered-down victory was due to massive vote fraud.
Some Moscow demonstrators Tuesday shouted “Putin is a crook and a thief!” referring both to the alleged election fraud and to widespread complaints that United Russia is one of the prime reasons for Russia’s endemic corruption.
Among the detained was Boris Nemtsov, a leader of the liberal opposition, along with prominent radical Eduard Limonov and Oleg Orlov, head of the renowned human rights group Memorial, the Interfax news agency reported.
Hundreds of young men with emblems of United Russia’s youth wing, the Young Guards, also gathered on the outskirts of the square and tauntingly chanted “Putin victory!”
Large crowds also gathered on a square in St. Petersburg, visibly outnumbering police, a Danish election observer reported.
United Russia won slightly less than 50 percent of Sunday’s vote, according to nearly complete preliminary results. Although that gives the party an absolute majority in the State Duma, the lower house of parliament, it is a significant drop from the 2007 election when the party got a two-thirds majority, enough to change the constitution unchallenged.
Yet Sunday’s election results reflected public fatigue with Putin’s authoritarian streak and with official corruption in Russia, signaling that his return to the presidency in next March’s election may not be as trouble-free as he expected.
Putin, meanwhile, called his party’s reduced number of seats in Sunday’s parliamentary election an “inevitable” result of voters always being dissatisfied with the party in power. Putin also dismissed allegations of corruption among his United Russia party members, calling it a “cliche” that the party had to fight.
United Russia party won slightly less than 50 percent of Sunday’s vote, according to nearly complete preliminary results. Although that gives the party an absolute majority in the State Duma, the lower house of parliament, it is a significant drop from the 2007 election when the party got a two-thirds majority, enough to change the constitution unchallenged. Continue reading