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Pedro Gonçalves

BBC News - Gorbachev: Nato victory in Afghanistan impossible - 0 views

  • "Victory is impossible in Afghanistan. Obama is right to pull the troops out. No matter how difficult it will be," Mr Gorbachev said
  • He said before the Soviet Union withdrew from Afghanistan, an agreement had been reached with Iran, India, Pakistan and the US.

    "We had hoped America would abide by the agreement that we reached that Afghanistan should be a neutral, democratic country, that would have good relations with its neighbours and with both the US and the USSR.

    "The Americans always said they supported this, but at the same time they were training militants - the same ones who today are terrorising Afghanistan and more and more of Pakistan," Mr Gorbachev said.

  • "I am very concerned, we're only half way down the road from a totalitarian regime to democracy and freedom. And the battle continues. There are still many people in our society who fear democracy and would prefer a totalitarian regime."

    He said the ruling party, led by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, "has been doing everything it can to move away from democracy, to stay in power".

Pedro Gonçalves

Interview: Viktor Ivanov | Foreign Policy - 0 views

  • "[In 2001] it was explained that the Taliban was a terrorist organization and that's why [the invasion] was necessary. Now many years later, it turns out that there's a so-called moderate Taliban -- moderate terrorists -- who can be reintegrated back into power. Does that mean we made a mistake nine years ago and all this time we have been correcting it?"
  • Ivanov suggested that the invasion of Afghanistan might have been partly motivated Western companies seeking to exploit Central Asian energy resources. "If we look back before the invasion, starting in 1997, a number of American companies were negotiating with the Taliban about putting in a pipeline in Afghanistan ... bringing gas from Turkmenistan south toward India. There were negotiations in Kabul and Houston and Washington. In 2001, those negotiations ended in a deadlock because the American side wanted a bigger pipeline, while the Taliban wanted smaller pipes in order to provide smaller towns and villages with gas. From the American side, the negotiator was Unocal and the negotiator from that company was the employee of that company, Hamid Karzai."
Pedro Gonçalves

Russia and U.S. swap spies in Cold War-style exchange | Reuters - 0 views

  • Russian diplomats said the timing of the announcement, just days after Obama and Medvedev's June 24 summit in Washington, could be an attempt by U.S. hardliners to torpedo the so-called reset in ties that Obama has championed.
  • A Kremlin source said Medvedev and Obama's warm relations had allowed the swap deal to be reached so swiftly.

    "This was due to the new spirit set in Russian-American relations and the high level of mutual understanding and trust between the Russian and American presidents that no one will be able to shake," the source said.

Pedro Gonçalves

Let Russia Join the WTO -- By Anders Åslund and C. Fred Bergsten | Foreign Po... - 0 views

  • It's true that Russia needs the WTO less than many other countries, since it largely exports commodities that enjoy free-market access in any case. Yet Russia's potential gains from WTO accession have been assessed at 3.3 percent of GDP a year, a major jump for the economy. The main benefits would arise from freer trade of services and foreign direct investment.
  • (Russia's main gains from WTO accession will not be from enhanced market access, although Russian steel and chemicals exports will benefit. Instead, the greatest economic benefits are anticipated on the domestic market for services and greater attraction of foreign direct investment -- leading to improved competition at home.)
  • The United States still maintains the Jackson-Vanik Amendment, adopted in 1974 denying favorable trade status to Russia, citing its restrictions on the free emigration of Jews from the Soviet Union. The law, a relic of the Cold War, has no practical effect but is a serious irritant in relations between the two countries. And as a practical matter, if Jackson-Vanik remains in force, Russia would simply not apply WTO rules to the United States, perpetuating trade discrimination against American companies. Hence the amendment should be scrapped immediately after Russia joins.
Pedro Gonçalves

FT.com / Asia-Pacific - Kyrgyzstan presses Russia to quell unrest - 0 views

  • Kyrgyzstan on Tuesday held out the possibility of reviewing an airbase agreement with the US in an apparent effort to convince Russia to provide peacekeeping forces to quell unrest in the south of the country.

  • Mr Kazakpaev’s comments will harden speculation that Russia may be holding out for some sort of commitment to close the US base as a condition for its stepping in to put an end to the ethnic violence in the country’s south, in which more than 170 people have died so far.
  • “If Russia does not help, India might come . .  They are nearer [to Kyrgyzstan] and richer,” he said.
Pedro Gonçalves

BBC News - Romania defends role in US missile shield - 0 views

  • President Barack Obama won rare praise from Moscow for scrapping that plan, which the Russians suspected was aimed against them.

    But the thaw did not last long. Last September, Washington announced what it called the Phased Adaptive Approach (PAA) to missile defence.

    This new system would start by stationing missile defence assets in south-east Europe, and slowly spread its web to the centre and finally the north.

  • As part of the PAA, Romania has announced that it will accept up to 24 land-based interceptor missiles. Talks with the US on the details will begin soon.

    And the Bulgarian government has offered to play host to the radar component which complements the missiles.

  • Romania says there are several differences between the new US plan and the earlier, Czech-Polish version.
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  • The introduction of the interceptors and radar clearly represents a shift in the balance of power in south-east Europe, following 2008's Russia-Georgia conflict, and Ukraine's new president's offer to extend Russia's lease on its naval base at Sevastopol in the Crimea.

    "The Black Sea region... will be a very interesting hub, in terms of the arms race and everything we can can see developing on the eastern border of Nato," says Radu Tudor, a defence analyst in Bucharest.

  • It will cover a wider area, it will be ready earlier - in 2015 for the south-east European segment - and the SM-3 missiles can incorporate new technology, as it is developed.
  • The Romanian authorities expect little public opposition.

    All major parties in the Romanian parliament support it, and the plan has already sailed through its first committee hearing in the Senate.

    Some politicians hope it will also help extract a long-standing thorn in Romanian-US relations - the tough visa regime Romanian visitors to the US still face.

Pedro Gonçalves

US has 'scrapped plan for missile shield in eastern Europe' - Americas, Wor... - 0 views

  • Moving to avoid a rift with Moscow, Barack Obama has "all but abandoned" plans to locate parts of a controversial US missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic, a leading Polish newspaper claimed yesterday.

    The Warsaw daily Gazeta Wyborcza said that the Pentagon has been asked to explore switching planned interceptor rocket sites from the two east European states to Israel, Turkey, the Balkans or to mobile launchers on warships

  • Controversy erupted earlier this year when rumours surfaced of a secret letter written by Mr Obama to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev allegedly hinting that the White House would back away if Russia offered help on reining in Iran's nuclear ambitions.
Pedro Gonçalves

Russia backs EU, not U.S., role in Georgia | International | Reuters - 0 views

  • Moscow welcomes the work of EU monitors in Georgia, deployed in the Caucasus state a year ago after the Russian invasion, but is opposed to the United States having a role, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Wednesday.
  • Under a peace deal brokered by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, the European Union has sent 240 unarmed monitors to Georgia to oversee a fragile ceasefire. Georgia now wants the United States to join the monitoring.

    "The presence of EU monitors on Georgian territories bordering South Ossetia and Abkhazia is an important stabilizing factor and we support such a presence," Lavrov told state-run television channel Vesti-24.

  • Georgia, keen to get Western support in its stand-off with Russia, asked the United States last month to join the EU monitoring mission -- although the EU itself has not made any such request to Washington.

    Lavrov said the Georgian request was part of a plan to drag the United States into a confrontation.

    "The idea is absolutely clear and we honestly told this to our U.S. colleagues," Lavrov said. "This is all about dragging Americans into Georgia and pitching them against the Russian military."

    "After that, the Georgian masters of provocation... will try doing their traditional job," he added. "The risks of this are clear, Europe and the United States understand them."

Pedro Gonçalves

A Missile System Strains U.S.-Russia Relations | Newsweek International | Newsweek.com - 0 views

  • The deal to reduce nuclear warheads and work together to limit nuclear proliferation signed in Moscow this week by Presidents Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev carried all the pomp of a milestone. But the official communiqués ignored an elephant lingering at the summit: Russia has a deal, signed in 2007, with Tehran to supply a state-of-the-art S300 antimissile defense system that could make a possible strike (by the U.S. or Israel) on Iran's nuclear facilities much harder. Even more than a lucrative deal for Moscow, though, this is Russia's diplomatic ace in the hole: the $1 billion system is really a bargaining chip between the powers.
  • Though the Iranians insist that the deal is on track, Russia has held back on delivering key elements of the S300 system. One key reason for the delay is a full-court diplomatic press by Jerusalem and Washington. In the week before Obama's visit to Moscow, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to ask that the deal be stopped. Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak also buttonholed Gen. Nikolai Makarov, chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces, at the Paris Air Show late last month with the same request.
  • Russia has already been rewarded for its cooperation. In April, Russia's deputy defense minister, Vladimir Popovkin, confirmed that Russia had signed a deal to buy $50 million worth of Israeli-made pilotless drones to replace the Russian-made version that performed disastrously during last summer's war with Georgia. Until recently, Israel had supplied pilotless drones, night-vision and antiaircraft equipment, rockets, and various electronic systems to Tbilisi, and the Georgian military received advanced tactical training from retired Israeli generals (including one who commanded Israeli ground forces during the 2006 offensive against Hizbullah). Now, says independent Moscow-based military analyst Pavel Felgenhauer, there is "a clear understanding" between Moscow and Jerusalem that the Israeli government will discourage private Israeli contractors from helping Georgia modernize its military.
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  • Iran's Revolutionary Guards stand to be the biggest losers if the S300 system doesn't come through, since there will be little they can do but watch the bombs fall if Western powers attack. Though Russia delivered a smaller Tor-M1 missile defense system to the Iranians last year, it's a localized weapon. The S300 system, according to Jane's Defence Weekly, is "one of the world's most effective all-altitude regional air defense systems, comparable in performance to the U.S. MIM-104 Patriot system." The latest version of the S300PMU2 Favorit has a range of up to 195 kilometers and can intercept aircraft and ballistic missiles at altitudes from 10 meters to 27 kilometers. Though it's hardly clear the S300 will pose a problem for the Israeli or U.S. air forces. The Israelis have trained in avoidance tactics on an S300 system bought by Greece and deployed on the island of Crete; the U.S. Air Force has its own S300 system, which is now deployed for training purposes in the United States. According to one senior Air Combat Command source in Washington, the U.S. Air Force has the S300 "covered."
  • Regardless of the system's effectiveness, delivery of the S300 will be a key bellwether of Russian relations with the West. Moscow has much less influence over Tehran than it likes to pretend when bargaining with the U.S., and the S300 is one of its few remaining chips.
  • For years, Russia used construction of the Bushehr reactor by the Russian nuclear company Atomenergoprom as a key element of leverage, shutting down work on the plant for long periods. But now that Atomenergoprom has completed construction and is training the Iranian staff to run it, that leverage has gone. Though Russian staff will remain on-site at Bushehr, the Iranians can now run it on their own.
  • Russians may have less pull with Teheran than it claims, but it still sees Iran-U.S. enmity as a strategic goal, both because it increases their own diplomatic leverage and because it keeps oil prices high. Furthermore, Russia has been trying to make itself a rallying point for anti-U.S. regimes from Venezuela to Syria and Iran in an effort to restore its status as a world strategic player—a retread of the Cold War model of forging alliances with any Third World dictator who would take Russian money. So while Russia doesn't want Iran to get nukes and historically fears Iranian influence in Central Asia, Moscow has little interest in helping a rapprochement between Iran and the West. Meanwhile, the Kremlin is, cannily or cynically, depending on one's point of view, keeping the S300s on the table, neither committing to scrapping the deal nor delivering the equipment—and reserving the right to continue to tack between Jerusalem and Tehran as self-interest dictates.
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