EU GIVES U.K. BELATED BACKING IN DISPUTE WITH RUSSIA
The Portuguese EU Presidency issued a statement on July 18 supporting Britain in its dispute with Russia over the Russian authorities' refusal to extradite Andrei Lugovoi, the prime suspect in the 2006 London poisoning death of former Russian security officer Aleksandr Litvinenko, international media reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," July 18, 2007). The statement said that "the EU expresses its disappointment at Russia's failure to cooperate constructively with the U.K. authorities." The Portuguese Presidency noted that the affair "raises important questions of common interest to EU member states," and that Litvinenko's murder was "a grave and reckless crime." The statement also appealed for "constructive cooperation in the matter." In Berlin, Chancellor Angela Merkel said during a visit by British Foreign Secretary David Miliband on July 18 that London and Moscow should settle their dispute as quickly as possible, adding that "the common sense of all involved should see to that," Deutsche Welle reported. On July 18, the Gazprom-owned daily "Izvestia" commented ironically that the former security agent "Litvinenko would be pleased" to know that British Prime Minister Gordon Brown is using what the paper called an approach reminiscent of the Cold War in dealing with Russia. "Gazeta" on July 18 contrasted the delay in formulating an official Russian response to the British moves with the almost immediate calls in the largely state-run media for a tough Russian stance. On July 19, the state-run daily "Rossiiskaya gazeta" quoted German Russia expert Alexander Rahr as saying that a "powerful anti-Russian axis" is being formed in Europe, led by Britain and Poland and including the Baltic states and Romania, newsru.com reported. PM
IS RUSSIA'S CONSTITUTIONAL BAN ON EXTRADITIONS FLEXIBLE?
In London on July 19, Russian Ambassador to Britain Yury Fedotov stressed that Moscow had no role in the "heinous" poisoning death of Litvinenko, the BBC reported. Fedotov called on the British authorities to respect Russia's "laws and constitutional arrangements," which prohibit the extradition of Russian citizens, and drop calls for the extradition of Lugovoi. In Moscow on July 17, however, Svetlana Gannushkina, chairwoman of Russia's Civic Assistance human rights group, told RFE/RL's Russian Service that the authorities have in fact extradited Russian citizens when it suited the Kremlin's political purposes. She said that "our citizens have already been extradited on several occasions, although quite often Russia, perhaps to justify its actions, revoked their Russian citizenship post factum or expressed doubts that they even had [Russian citizenship]. As far as I know, the first time it happened was in 2002, when Murat Garabaev was extradited [to Turkmenistan]." She noted that "in 2005, Alisher Usmanov, a Russian citizen, was even abducted as he was leaving prison after serving a term for a minor offense. He was abducted by the secret services and sent to Uzbekistan, where he was sentenced to eight years in prison. Russia did not make an attempt to bring him back and showed no interest in the fate of this person. And there are many cases like that. Usually they have to do with this kind desire to please [Uzbek President Islam] Karimov." PM
SELF-EXILED OLIGARCH SAYS HE WAS TARGET OF KREMLIN MURDER PLOT
Self-exiled oligarch Boris Berezovsky told RFE/RL's Russian Service in London on July 18 that "a month ago, officers of Scotland Yard called me and informed me that there is a plot to kill me, that there is someone who I know here, and they asked me, as quick as possible, to leave the country." Berezovsky added that he left Britain on June 16 for a week and returned only after police informed him the plot had been foiled. A British police spokeswoman said on July 18 that an unidentified Russian man was arrested in London on June 21 and handed over to immigration officials two days later. He was then sent back to Russia. Berezovsky, who is a staunch critic of President Vladimir Putin, said on July 18 that numerous threats have been made against his life in recent years. He added that "all these threats bear the hallmark of Russian security service activity.... Putin changed the law last year to empower agents to commit murder overseas." PM
FOREIGN MINISTRY SAYS U.S. PUBLICATION TRIED TO 'CENSOR' RUSSIAN MINISTER
The Foreign Ministry said in a statement on July 19 that it decided not to publish an article by Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in the U.S. bimonthly "Foreign Affairs" because the publication's editors, "citing internal reasons, strongly edited, if not censored, the article," which was submitted in May, Interfax reported. The statement added that "some of the edits would have made Lavrov give his approval to some of the U.S. administration's well-known foreign-policy positions, which we reject as going against our principles." The ministry noted that it could not agree to have the article subtitled with a reference to preventing a new Cold War or conflict, stressing that "Moscow is guided by the assumption that there cannot be any talk of a new Cold War, to say nothing of a conflict, between our two countries." PM
PUTIN ACCEPTS AIDE'S RESIGNATION
President Putin on July 18 accepted the resignation of former Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov as secretary of the National Security Council, a post he held since 2004, Russian media reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," July 9, 2007). Ivanov's deputy, Valentin Sobolev, who joined the KGB in 1972, became acting secretary. "Izvestia" on July 19 quoted Ivanov as saying that he has spent most of his life in government service and now wants to engage in scholarly work in his chosen field of international relations. Media speculation centered on whether Ivanov quit because he felt marginalized or whether he was pushed to make way for someone else. PM
DO PRO-KREMLIN YOUTH ENJOY SPECIAL RIGHTS?
The Moscow daily "Novye izvestia" reported on July 18 that members of the pro-Kremlin youth movement Nashi (Ours) enjoy official protection that enables them to flout the law. The paper noted that "like any other official youth movement, Nashi could be shut down at any time for violating its own charter. Organizations like Nashi, Young Guard, and Mestnye (The Locals), formally established for educational and cultural purposes, actually engage in political campaigns bordering on extremism and promoting xenophobia. The only thing that saves them from being shut down is their close relationship with the authorities." The daily noted that "opposition activists say that if they did anything similar, their organizations would be shut down, and they might even be jailed." The paper quoted Ilya Yashin of the youth wing of the liberal Yabloko as comparing Nashi to the Chinese Communists' Red Guards, who were organized in 1966 as Chairman Mao Zedong's shock troops. The daily also noted that many young people join movements like Nashi for opportunistic reasons to secure a place at a university or a good job. Britain's "Financial Times" reported on July 19 that 10,000 Nashi activists are currently attending a two-week summer camp at Lake Seliger northwest of Moscow, which some observers compared to Soviet-era Komsomol summer camps. A slide show posted on the "Financial Times" web site (http://www.ft.com/nashi) shows young people undergoing paramilitary training, engaging in mass gymnastics, walking past large portraits of opposition leaders made to look like prostitutes, and camping in tents beneath a huge photo of President Putin. PM
BOMB EXPLODES IN INGUSHETIA AT SLAIN TEACHER'S FUNERAL
An explosive device detonated on July 18 during the burial at a cemetery in the village of Ordjonikidzevskaya in Ingushetia's Sunzha Raion of a Russian teacher, Lyudmila Terekhina, and her son and daughter who were shot dead in their sleep during the night of July 15-16, ingushetiya.ru reported. Six mourners and four police officers were wounded by shrapnel fragments. Local administration official Antonina Kharsiyeva was quoted by kavkaz-uzel.ru as suggesting that both the killings and the explosion at the cemetery were perpetrated by resistance fighters who seek to deter Russians who left Ingushetia and Chechnya over the last 15 years from returning, and to drive out those few who remain. But Gennady Gudkov, who is a member of the Russian State Duma's committee on security, told regnum.ru on July 18 that the cemetery blast may have been intended to discredit Ingushetian President Murat Zyazikov. In Moscow, Vasily Likhachev, who represents Ingushetia in the Federation Council, told Interfax on July 18 that he considers it imperative to convene an immediate session of Russia's Security Council to evaluate the situation in Ingushetia, including the recent attack on the home of Zyazikov's relatives (see "RFE/RL Newsline," July 17, 2007). LF
CHECHEN PRISONER KILLED IN MURMANSK
A 25-year-old Chechen man, Azamat Uspayev, was beaten to death at a prison colony in Murmansk on July 1, chechenpress.info reported two weeks later, citing the Chechen Committee for National Salvation. The camp authorities claimed that Uspayev and two other Chechens fell out of a second-floor window; photographs of his body showed signs of beating and a fractured skull. The other two men were reportedly seriously injured, but survived. Uspayev appealed last month to the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights against his sentencing in 2003 by a Chechen Republic court to 17 years' imprisonment on charges, to which he pleaded guilty only under torture, of participating in the armed resistance. LF
DAGHESTANI WRESTLER, TRAINERS FINED FOR MOSCOW BRAWL
Russia's Wrestling Federation has handed down hefty fines to an Ossetian freestyle wrestler and three trainers from Daghestan who engaged in a brawl during a wrestling match in Moscow earlier this month, kavkaz-uzel.ru reported on July 18 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," July 9, 2007). The trainers were banned from refereeing fights until after the 2008 Olympic Games. LF
ARMENIAN COURT REFUSES TO REINSTATE SACKED ACADEMIC
Armenia's Appeals Court on July 18 ruled that Sasun Saribekian should not be reinstated at his post at Yerevan State University from which he was dismissed earlier this year, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. University Rector Aram Simonian dismissed Saribekian on the basis of a complaint allegedly signed by his students that he disparaged the country's leadership, but several signatories to that letter subsequently admitted that they never attended any of his classes. Saribekian claimed his assessment of the Armenian government was "objective," and appealed his dismissal in a lower court without success. The court ruled that Saribekian's dismissal was unfounded, but declined to reinstate him, citing his "strained relationship" with the university authorities. LF
KARABAKH ELECTION CHALLENGER ALLEGES FRAUD
The electorate of the unrecognized republic of Nagorno-Karabakh began voting on July 19 for a new president to succeed Arkady Ghukasian, who is barred by the constitution from seeking a third term. Former Nagorno-Karabakh National Security Service head Bako Sahakian is widely regarded as the candidate most acceptable to both Armenia and Russia; of his four opponents, only Deputy Foreign Minister Masis Maylian is regarded as having a real chance (see "Nagorno-Karabakh: Who Will Be The Next President?" rferl.org, July 13, 2007). Shortly after polling stations opened, proxies for Maylian alleged that voters were coming to one polling station in the village of Kolatak in Mardakert Raion with several passports and casting more than one vote. As during previous elections in Nagorno-Karabakh, the Azerbaijani government and international organizations, including the Council of Europe and NATO, have said they do not consider the proceedings legal and will not recognize the results as legal and valid. LF
EMBATTLED AZERBAIJANI ARMY OFFICER ARRESTED
Lieutenant Colonel Rasim Muradov, the Azerbaijani Army officer who has requested political asylum abroad to protest the authorities' refusal to permit him to retire after 21 years of service (see "RFE/RL Newsline," July 9, 2007), was placed under arrest on July 18 at the military unit in which he serves, day.az reported. Earlier that day, Muradov told journalists by telephone that he has renounced his Azerbaijani citizenship. LF
ABKHAZIA, RUSSIA COMMENT ON UN KODORI REPORT
Sergei Shamba, foreign minister of the unrecognized republic of Abkhazia, told journalists in Sukhum(i) on July 18 that the Abkhaz leadership sees no point in resuming negotiations with Georgia, having exhausted over the past 12 years all possibilities for reaching a compromise, kavkaz-uzel.ru reported. He dismissed U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Matthew Bryza's recent statement that Abkhazia has no moral right to reject the recent peace proposal by Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, saying that Georgia has made no such concrete proposal, while ignoring Abkhaz President Sergei Bagapsh's "Key to the Future" peace plan (see "RFE/RL Caucasus Report," May 12, 2006). In a statement to Abaza-TV reported on July 18 by apsny.ru, Shamba likewise rejected a Georgian proposal to establish in the upper Kodori Gorge a UN Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG) monitoring post equipped with radar to preclude the recurrence of the intrusion by a helicopter into the gorge four months ago (see "RFE/RL Newsline," March 12 and 13, and July 16 and 17, 2007). He said such a post is unnecessary, and accused Georgia of merely seeking to "consolidate its position" in Kodori. In Moscow, the Russian Foreign Ministry released a statement, posted on its website (www.mid.ru) on July 17 disclaiming any responsibility for the helicopter intrusion and dismissing as an attempt to offload the blame statements by Georgian and U.S. officials that construed the inconclusive findings of UNOMIG's investigation into the incident as corroborating Georgia's initial claim that the helicopter was Russian. Georgian parliamentary speaker Nino Burjanadze dismissed the Russian Foreign Ministry statement on July 18 as "totally incorrect," Caucasus Press reported. LF
GEORGIAN MOVES FORWARD ON PLANS TO DEFINE STATUS OF SOUTH OSSETIA
Georgian President Saakashvili told a government session in Tbilisi on July 18 that a government commission to be headed by Prime Minister Zurab Noghaideli, which he established on July 5, will begin work soon, in conjunction with the pro-Tbilisi provisional administration in South Ossetia headed by Dmitry Sanakoyev, on determining the breakaway republic's status within Georgia, Caucasus Press reported. He said these will be "serious negotiations," not simply "formal talks." Georgian Minister for Conflict Resolution Merab Antadze for his part was quoted as saying de facto South Ossetian President Eduard Kokoity will be invited to participate in those talks. Georgian Security Council Secretary Kote Kemularia said that the formal designation of South Ossetia is less important than the actual degree of autonomy the region will enjoy, an argument that fails to take into account the fact that the very term "autonomy" is totally discredited and regarded as meaningless throughout the former USSR. South Ossetian officials on July 18 ruled out participation in the work of the commission. Dmitry Medov, who is the unrecognized republic's representative in Moscow, told Interfax that "we believe there is no sense whatsoever in any proposals or talks on South Ossetia returning to Georgia." In Tskhinvali, parliament chairman Znaur Gassiyev told journalists that the republic remains committed to achieving recognition as an independent state, Caucasus Press reported. He added that South Ossetia has not received any invitation to join Noghaideli's commission, and that any talks on status must be preceded by the rehabilitation of the conflict zone. LF
MEDICS IN KAZAKHSTAN SEEK NEW INVESTIGATION INTO AIDS SCANDAL
The Union of Medical Workers of Kazakhstan on July 18 issued an appeal to the Prosecutor-General's office, the Supreme Court, and the presidential human rights commission to open a new investigation into the outbreak of HIV infections in Southern Kazakhstan Oblast last year, Kazakhstan Today reported. A court in Shymkent sentenced last month 16 doctors and medical workers to prison terms of between three and eight years, having pronounced them guilty of negligence in administering transfusions of tainted blood to some 120 children, 10 of whom have subsequently died of AIDS (see "RFE/RL Newsline," October 11, 2006, and March 19 and June 28, 2007). The other five defendants in the case received suspended sentences. Medical workers in Shymkent claimed at a news conference on July 2 that the convicted doctors were "scapegoats" for the authorities, and that the source of the outbreak has still not been pinpointed. Meanwhile, an AIDS center in Shymkent has identified a longtime blood donor as HIV-positive, Kazakhstan Today reported on July 18. LF
UZBEKISTAN REGISTERS SOLID GDP GROWTH
Uzbekistan's Cabinet of Ministers convened on July 18 to review socioeconomic indicators for the first six months of 2007, uzmetronom.com and regnum.ru reported. Prime Minister Shavkat Mirziyoyev announced that GDP increased by 9.7 percent compared with the same period for 2006, while industrial output grew by 11.6 percent, production of consumer goods by 19 percent, and agricultural output by 5.5 percent. The volume of new investment was up 40.2 percent on last year's figure. Real incomes reportedly rose by 20.3 percent, and some 314,800 new jobs were created. Mirziyoyev characterized those trends as creating a "firm foundation" for achieving this year's projected economic growth targets. Projected GDP for 2007 is 7.7 percent, compared with 7.3 percent in 2006, Interfax reported. LF
BELARUSIAN KGB OFFICERS REPORTEDLY ASSAULT GOVERNMENT OFFICIAL
The Belarusian independent news site Zautra (http://www.zautra.by) on July 17 reported that the Prosecutor-General's Office has launched an investigation into an assault on State Monitoring Committee Chairman Zyanon Lomats. According to Zautra, Lomats was beaten in the eastern city of Mahilyou on July 12 by eight men who claimed to be officers of the Interior Ministry. They were subsequently arrested by city police. Seven attackers reportedly turned out to be State Security Committee (KGB) officers, and one was an officer of the Security Council of Belarus. Zautra writes that the assault on Lomats was a provocation staged by the KGB in order to compromise Interior Minister Uladzimir Navumau. The news site also suggests that the assault was the reason behind President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's dismissal of KGB chief Stsyapan Sukharenka on July 17 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," July 18, 2007). JM
BELARUS TO CONTINUE PARTICIPATION IN CFE TREATY
Syarhey Hurulyou, Belarus's first deputy defense minister and the chief of staff of the Belarusian armed forces, says Belarus will not take any "practical steps" following Russia's recent withdrawal from the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty, Belapan and Interfax reported. Hurulyou was speaking at a meeting with Ukrainian Armed forces Commander-in-Chief Serhiy Kyrychenko in Brest on July 18. "We are parties to the treaty, we have ratified it and we understand that the treaty is needed, although in its current version it is totally different from the 1990 treaty," Interfax quoted Hurulyou as saying. The CFE Treaty, originally signed in 1990, was amended in 1999 to reflect changes following the breakup of the Soviet Union. JM
CLEAN-UP EFFORTS CONTINUE AFTER PHOSPHORUS SPILL IN UKRAINE
Rescue teams on July 19 continued to clean up waste from the toxic spill that took place in Lviv Oblast on July 16 when a train carrying tanks of yellow phosphorus derailed, Interfax-Ukraine reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," July 17 and 18, 2007). According to the agency, 81 people, including 28 children and 25 officers of the Emergency Situations Ministry, have so far sought medical aid because of exposure to toxic smoke from the phosphorus fire that followed the train wreck. More than 800 people have been evacuated from the area affected by the accident. "The evacuation is necessary, but after this chemical is out of the air, people can return home," former Ukrainian Environment Minister Serhiy Kurykin told RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service on July 18. "We're not talking about a long-term evacuation here. Comparing this to a second Chornobyl is incorrect, to put it mildly. But in any case consuming this year's harvest in this territory is out of the question." JM
POLAND OPEN DOORS TO TEMPORARY WORKERS FROM BELARUS, UKRAINE, RUSSIA
As of July 20, Poland will allow citizens of Belarus, Ukraine, and Russia to take up temporary jobs without work permits, dpa and Interfax reported on July 18, quoting Poland's Labor Ministry. Under the new regulations, Polish companies will have the chance to hire job-seekers from those three countries twice a year for three-month periods. A simplified procedure makes low-cost visas available to potential workers at Polish consulates in Kyiv, Moscow, and Minsk with the completion of a one-page form. The Labor Ministry estimates that Poland needs some 500,000 foreign workers annually to work in low-paid manual jobs, chiefly in the agriculture and construction sectors, in order to fill the gap created by Poles who have left the country to work abroad since Poland's entry into the EU in 2004. JM
SERBIA SAYS UN SHOULD DECIDE NEXT STEPS TOWARD KOSOVA SOLUTION
Vladeta Jankovic, an adviser to Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica, said on July 18 that Serbia believes that responsibility for resolving Kosova's future status should be passed from the UN to the international Contact Group for the Balkans only with the approval of the UN Security Council, Serbian national television reported. The Contact Group comprises four veto-holding members of the UN Security Council -- Britain, France, Russia, and the United States -- plus Germany and Italy. Western diplomats have in recent days suggested increasingly loudly that they could abandon efforts to find a solution through the Security Council; Javier Solana, the EU's foreign-policy chief, said on July 17 that the Contact Group will "probably" take the lead in diplomatic efforts (see "RFE/RL Newsline," July 18, 2007). Serbia and Russia have both rejected a new draft resolution on Kosova that envisages four months of additional talks. The international media reported on July 18 that the resolution provides for the Contact Group and EU diplomats to oversee the 120-day period of discussion. AG
KOSOVAR POLITICIANS WANT ELECTIONS IN AUTUMN
Kosovar President Fatmir Sejdiu said on July 18 that Kosovar Albanian leaders have agreed that parliamentary and local elections should be held this November, adding that the international community should not see the vote as "justification for delaying" a decision on Kosova's final status, local and international media reported. Elections are due in November, but the international community's failure to reach a consensus on Kosova's independence has raised the possibility of the elections being postponed. The final decision on the date of the elections will be taken by Joachim Ruecker, the head of the UN Mission in Kosova (UNMIK), who has already said he wants the original timetable to be maintained (see "RFE/RL Newsline," July 9, 2007). A spokesman for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Sven Lindholm, told reporters in Kosova on July 18 that, while the OSCE believes six months of preparation are needed for "good elections," "these timelines can of course be shortened." Serbia is also due to hold elections -- presidential, in its case -- in the autumn, but the government is reportedly thinking of postponing the vote if Kosova's status is decided soon (see "RFE/RL Newsline," July 12, 2007). AG
FORMER BOSNIAN SERB MINISTER ACQUITTED OF WAR CRIMES
A minister in the Bosnian Serbs' wartime government, Momcilo Mandic, was cleared on July 18 of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity during the Bosnian war, local and international media reported. Prosecutors alleged that Mandic, a deputy interior minister and justice minister of the self-proclaimed Bosnian Serb republic, the Republika Srpska, led an attack on a police-training center in Sarajevo early in the 1992-95 war, during which captured non-Serbs were tortured. Mandic, as a wartime minister, was also alleged to have been responsible for prisons across the Republika Srpska in which civilians were tortured and killed. Mandic is currently serving a nine-year sentence for defrauding a local bank of $3.3 million after the war (see "RFE/RL Newsline," October 30, 2006). Mandic left Bosnia for Serbia shortly before the war ended, becoming a wealthy businessman in Serbia. He was arrested in Montenegro in 2005. AG
BOSNIAN MUSLIM SENTENCED FOR WAR CRIMES
Bosnia's war crimes court on July 17 jailed a Bosnian Muslim for 30 years for crimes committed against Serbs in the 1992-95 war, local and international media reported. Niset Ramic was found guilty of murdering four Serbian civilians "at will" during an operation in 1992 to seize weapons in villages near the town of Visoko in central Bosnia. The 30-year prison term is reportedly the longest war-related sentence passed by a Bosnian court on a Bosnian Muslim. Ramic is already serving a 20-year sentence for murder and robbery. The sentences will run concurrently. AG
SERBIA BRINGS WAR-CRIMES CHARGES AGAINST KOSOVAR ALBANIAN
Serbia's war-crimes prosecutors on July 18 charged a Kosovar Albanian guerrilla, Sinan Morina, with the "expulsion, imprisonment, torture, rape, and killing of eight Serbian civilians" in July 1998, local and international media reported. The crimes were uncovered in April 2005 when UN officials found 25 bodies in or near a cave near the village of Opterusa in northwestern Kosova. The victims had been shot or thrown off a cliff. Morina was arrested in Montenegro in late 2006 and then extradited to Serbia. Another 34 separatists are thought to have been involved in the killings; three of the suspects were jailed by a Serbian court in 2000. Morina and other members of the group are also accused of destroying religious property. AG
MACEDONIAN OFFICIALS JAILED FOR GUN SMUGGLING
Three senior figures in Macedonia's Defense Ministry were jailed on July 17 for smuggling arms, local media reported. A businessman, Gligor Stojanov, was also put behind bars. The three officials, who worked in the ministry's logistics department, were found guilty of selling decommissioned army guns at discount prices to a Bulgarian company, defrauding the state of $690,000. They were arrested in December 2006 shortly after police seized shipments leaving an army base. AG
U.S., RUSSIA HAVE CARDS ON THE TABLE, BUT ARE THEY PLAYING THE SAME GAME?
Only a few weeks have passed since Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President George W. Bush's summit in Kennebunkport, and already relations between the two countries are back on a downward trajectory.
Last week, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice rejected the Russian proposal for a joint Russian-U.S. missile shield, while saying that the United States would stick to its plans to base missile-defense radars and interceptors in Poland and the Czech Republic.
Just a day after the summit, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov, who is currently seen as a front-runner to succeed Putin in 2008, threatened that Russia could respond to any such move by deploying cruise missiles to Kaliningrad.
Most recently, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was also on the offensive, hinting that Russia will push for full Iran's full membership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which brings together Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, and he called on the organization's member states to close ranks to curtail growing U.S. influence in Central Asia.
Few analysts expected that the "Lobster Summit" would produce any tangible results, yet it is still striking how quickly the goodwill displayed at the summit has dissipated. The summit will be remembered for Putin's proposal for missile-defense cooperation and Bush's reaffirmation of trust in his "friend Vladimir." But the most telling sound bite came from Putin, who said that all the "cards are now on the table" and that he hopes that the United States and Russia are now "playing the same game."
But in fact the two sides are not playing the same game. Policymakers and experts in Washington and Moscow have very different views about the fundamental nature of international relations, and this is at the very the root of the growing hostility and mistrust between the two countries.
Over the last decade and a half, the liberal idealism that characterized the foreign policies of Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin has gradually given way to a realpolitik consensus characterized by a pessimistic and hard-nosed view of international relations. This brand of Russian realpolitik closely resembles the thinking of prominent American realists like Kenneth Waltz, John Mearshimer, and Henry Kissinger. It sees the international environment as a Hobbesian state of nature, where there is no sovereign power to keep order and where states can only rely on themselves to guarantee their own security. States have no other choice but to seek to maximize their power -- even if they pursue this objective at the expense of others.
In this kind of world, cooperation between states is only possible when it is cooperation between equals. Peace and stability can only be maintained through a balance of power between states. No one state can be allowed to dominate and states must respect each other's sovereignty. Establishing a more balanced multipolar global order is a priority of Russian foreign policy and is seen as being more conducive to global peace and stability than the present unipolar order dominated by the United States.
U.S. policymakers and scholars have traditionally been uncomfortable with what they see as the amoral side of realpolitik. U.S. presidents from Woodrow Wilson to George W. Bush have made concerns for human rights and democracy central features of their foreign policies -- often eliciting critiques from both American realists, who accuse them of being naive and idealistic, as well as from American liberals, who accuse them of hypocrisy. Nevertheless, liberal idealism does pervade U.S. foreign-policy thinking.
Many U.S. policymakers and scholars see the modern world as a realm of interdependence rather than conflict and are optimistic about the possibilities of cooperation. They believe that principles like democracy and human rights can play a stabilizing role in world affairs, and that states have an interest in pursuing these goals, even if doing so risks upsetting the balance of power between states. The advancement of democratic governance, human rights, and trade is the most effective recipe for securing lasting global peace and stability.
These conflicting world-views explain why the two sides find themselves at an impasse on important issues like missile defense. The United States cannot understand how the Russians can believe that a missile-defense system in Eastern Europe, which is only slated to deploy 10 interceptor missiles, is a threat to Russia's formidable nuclear arsenal. This gives rise to suspicions that the real reason the Russians are protesting is that they still harbor a desire to reassert their authority in their former imperial backyard. The Russian side, on the other hand, argues that these missiles represent a direct threat to the country's national interest. Many Russian experts believe these missile interceptors are part of a larger strategy designed to nullify their country's nuclear arsenal and eliminate Russia as a geopolitical competitor to the United States.
These kinds of theories may seem fantastic from a U.S. point of view, but they are common among the Russian elite. Moreover, from a Russian realpolitik perspective, this kind of U.S. policy is perfectly justified. As one Russian academic recently observed, the current administration in Washington would be negligent if it did not pursue such a policy.
Moscow is blocking independence for Kosova because it believes sovereignty is one of the few inviolable principles in world politics. Sovereignty is of critical importance in a world where peace and stability can only be maintained through the balance of power between states.
Moscow is also frustrating U.S. efforts in Iran for similar reasons. Its often perplexing Iran policy must be understood in this light, as part of a larger geopolitical objective of countering U.S. global hegemony in favor of a multipolar world. For Russian proponents of realpolitik, a nuclear-armed Iran is less of a danger to Russian interests and global security than the unchecked power of a reckless United States.
Viewed from the United States' liberal internationalist lens, many of Russia's realpolitik policies look like a return to traditional Russian imperialism. Russia's criticism of democracy promotion and human-rights standards can only be explained by the current regime's insecurities and fears of domestic democratic opposition. From the Russian realpolitik point of view, the United States uses democracy promotion and human rights as tools to pursue its own selfish imperial ambitions, ignoring the consequences that this has for global stability. The only solution is to check U.S. hegemony and establish an equitable global balance of power.
The fundamental problem in Russia-U.S. relations is much deeper than a simple conflict over national interests. In most of these cases, states can usually negotiate and come up with some kind of accommodation that is acceptable to both sides. Washington and Moscow are operating from radically different sets of assumptions about the nature of world politics. All the cards may be on the table and both sides may be favorably disposed to play with each other, but this won't lead anywhere if they insist on playing different games. Both sides will have to start playing the same game before trust can truly develop and they can begin to deal with the pressing issues that face the world.
(Andrej Krickovic is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of California in Berkeley and is currently in Moscow on a Fulbright Fellowship.)
BRITAIN, CANADA SAY NATO FORCES IN AFGHANISTAN INSUFFICIENT
A British government report released on July 18 found that NATO countries are not providing enough support in Afghanistan, while evidence shows that the Taliban is growing stronger, Reuters reported. The study, conducted by the House of Commons Defense Committee, discussed the poor training given to Afghan police and staff involved in poppy eradication, but its focus was NATO's failure to provide sufficient troops for its International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). The growing number of incidents involving Iraqi-style bombs and suicide attacks and Al-Qaeda-linked foreign insurgents fighting in the region is evidence of the Taliban's success in expanding its sphere of influence beyond its strongholds in the south, the report said. The report, which Defense Minister Des Browne called "balanced," also noted that civilian casualties undermine support for ISAF and fuel insurgent propaganda, which further endangers the troops. Approximately 36,000 troops are currently serving with ISAF, 7,100 of whom are British. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper likewise said on July 18 that NATO does not have enough troops in Afghanistan to accomplish the mission and "long-run objectives" it has set for itself, namely to stabilize the country, Reuters reported. While on an official visit to Chile, Harper told reporters that he is also concerned that Canada's 2,500 soldiers in Afghanistan are handling a disproportionate amount of the fighting against Taliban militants, who have been fighting foreign and Afghan forces since they were ousted from power in 2001. On July 16, a study published by the Ipsos-Reid Institute said only 23 percent of 1,002 Canadian citizens surveyed were strongly in favor of Canada's mission in southern Afghanistan, while 27 percent were somewhat supportive, AFP reported on July 17. Canada has lost 66 soldiers in its operations in Afghanistan. JC
TALIBAN SUICIDE BOMBINGS KILL AT LEAST 15 IN AFGHANISTAN
A series of Taliban suicide bombings and attacks across Afghanistan on July 18 left at least 15 people dead, including nine Afghan police, AFP reported. A suicide bomber wounded a member of the Turkish special forces and an Afghan civilian when he tried unsuccessfully to enter an armored vehicle in a Turkish convoy and subsequently blew himself up, according to a Turkish Foreign Ministry statement. Police said another suicide bomber, disguised as a policeman, approached the provincial police headquarters in Khost Province and blew himself up, killing three policemen and a civilian. Police fatally shot a second attacker. Six Afghan police were killed when their convoy, traveling in Zabul Province, was hit by rebel gunfire and rocket-propelled grenades, provincial police chief General Mohammad Yaqub said. Police said Taliban rebels also attacked a private construction company in Paktia Province, killing an Afghan and a Philippines national. JC
TWO GERMANS MISSING IN AFGHANISTAN
The German Foreign Ministry on July 18 said two Germans have been reported missing in Afghanistan, while local authorities say they have been kidnapped, AFP reported. The German Embassy in Kabul and other authorities were notified by an unnamed party after the foreigners disappeared earlier in the day, Foreign Ministry spokesman Martin Jaegar said. The BBC quoted local authorities as saying the pair were kidnapped along with five Afghans. German nationals have previously been kidnapped in Afghanistan; in June, a German and his Afghan translator were kidnapped and then released unharmed a week later. Islamist militants abducted a German woman and her son in March and threatened to kill them if Berlin did not withdraw its troops from Afghanistan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," March 12, 2007). Germany has approximately 3,000 troops in Afghanistan. JC
IRANIAN STATE TELEVISION SHOWS U.S. DETAINEES 'CONFESSING'
Against objections from human rights groups and the U.S. government, Islamic Republic of Iran News Network (IRINN) broadcast a program on July 18 featuring two Iranian-American scholars who have been detained and charged with crimes against Iran's national security, RFE/RL and Radio Farda reported. The program, called "In The Name Of Democracy," was to include a second segment on July 19. The first program focused on U.S. nationals Haleh Esfandiari and Kian Tajbakhsh, both of whom have been jailed in Iran since early May and accused of endangering Iranian security. The show interspersed scenes from the so-called color revolutions -- Ukraine's Orange Revolution, Georgia's Rose Revolution, and the Tulip Revolution in Kyrgyzstan -- with footage of Esfandiari, Tajbakhsh, and Ramin Jahanbegloo, a Canadian-Iranian academic arrested and later freed in 2006, speaking. Esfandiari and Tajbakhsh are believed to be at Tehran's notorious Evin prison, and rights groups and the U.S. State Department have dismissed any purported "confessions" as nonsense. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack described the U.S. government as "outraged" that two U.S. citizens were "paraded" on Iranian state television. Esfandiari, director of the Middle East program at Washington's Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, was shown in edited segments in an office-like setting saying that the United States wants to "bring about a change in the decision-making bodies in Iran from within, to bring about a change in the decision-makers themselves." Tajbakhsh was shown in a similar setting, talking about his job as an urban-planning consultant with financier George Soros's New York-based Open Society Institute. "The fact that the U.S. administration gave money to the Soros Foundation reflects the fact that Soros and the United States share the same views on Iran," Tajbakhsh said. Human Rights Watch (HRW) had urged the Iranian government to pull the broadcast from its schedule. HRW Middle East program Director Joe Stork noted on July 18 that forced confessions are used by dictatorial regimes around the world to crush prisoners' spirits and scare citizens into remaining silent. "We know that these individuals themselves have been held in almost incommunicado detention, they've not been able to see legal counsel, [and] they've been only provided the opportunity to have very brief phone conversations with some of their relatives," Stork said. "So under the circumstances, these confessions have no validity whatsoever and we're afraid that they would be used -- since the individuals are charged with various national security crimes -- that they might be used against them in some sort of legal proceedings to come." Parnaz Azima, a journalist for Radio Farda, and Ali Shakeri, a founding board member of the University of California, Irvine, Center for Citizen Peacebuilding, have also been prevented from leaving the country and are facing criminal charges. AH
UN INSPECTOR ACKNOWLEDGES GREATER COOPERATION FROM IRAN ON NUCLEAR PROGRAM
Muhammad el-Baradei, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said in Kuala Lumpur on July 18 that he sees positive signs of Iran's cooperation in revealing the nature of its atomic program, AFP reported. He said Iran has agreed since talks held days ago in Tehran to answer the IAEA's long-standing questions regarding its nuclear program. Several factors have heightened suspicions among some Western states that Iran is not pursuing a strictly civilian program, as it claims. Iran and the IAEA are to hold more talks in Vienna on July 25 and 26, while Iran reportedly has agreed to the inspection in late July of a research installation being built near Arak, in central Iran, AFP reported, adding that Iran blocked access to that site in April after the approval of a second round of UN Security Council sanctions designed to curb its program. El-Baradei urged patience. "We need consistent effort by Iran to work with us," el-Baradei said, adding that the international community should appreciate that it might take time to ascertain the nature of Iran's nuclear activities. VS
IRANIAN JOURNALIST CONCERNED OVER COMING POLLS
While some 150 state officials, including 50 senior officers of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), have resigned in the hopes of becoming candidates for parliamentary elections scheduled for March 2008 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," July 11, 2007), some observers in Tehran are concerned over whether or not the elections will be fair and competitive, Radio Farda reported on July 17. Tehran-based journalist Mohammad Sadeq Javadihesar told Radio Farda that reports of the resignation of 50 IRGC officers suggest the ongoing determination of that military force to place its members or ex-officers in various state institutions, including the executive and legislative branches. President Mahmud Ahmadinejad has already appointed some of its officers to executive posts. Javadihesar warned that "there will be no real competition" if institutions are discreetly used to help these military candidacies. Iranians, he said, will witness whether or not these "friends" will compete equitably with other candidates. Javadihesar predicted that voter participation will likely decrease if the Guardians Council, a state body with a key supervisory role in elections, is very strict in vetting aspiring candidates and rejects many, as it has done before. Javadihesar foresaw a scenario wherein the council might approve mostly right-wing and IRGC-affiliated aspirants as legitimate candidates, to assure a right-wing majority favorable to the Ahmadinejad government in the next chamber. "It seems some in [Iran] have decided to run the country with minimal public participation, and may feel they can run it better that way," he told Radio Farda. VS
IRAN ELECTION SUPERVISORS VOW TO ABIDE BY THE LAW
Guardians Council spokesman Abbas Ali Kadkhodai told reporters in Tehran on July 17 that the council will show care and precision and abide by election laws in examining candidacies for coming parliamentary polls, ISNA reported. He said the council has taken note of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's recent calls for it to strictly apply electoral rules (see "RFE/RL Newsline," July 13, 2007). Kadkhodai said the council and the Interior Ministry are studying various plans to "mechanize," meaning perhaps computerize, vote counting. VS
LAWYER ASKS UN TO EXAMINE STATE OF WOMEN IN IRAN
Tehran-based lawyer and Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi has urged UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbor in an open letter to send an envoy to examine the state of women in Iran, Radio Farda reported on July 18. Ebadi reportedly said the situation for women's rights advocates has become difficult in Iran in recent years. She cited the case of nine women whom she represents who have been given jail sentences and ordered to be whipped for allegedly acting against national security because they took part in a June 2006 demonstration against discriminatory laws (see "RFE/RL Newsline," June 13 and 14, 2006). VS
IRAN'S FOREIGN MINISTER COMMENTS ON TALKS ON IRAQ
Foreign Minister Manuchehr Mottaki said in Tehran on July 18 that any second round of talks on Iraqi security between Iran and the United States would be at the "level of the two countries' ambassadors in Iraq," IRNA reported. Hasan Qazemi-Qomi and Ryan Crocker represent the two countries, and a first round was held on May 28 (see "RFE/RL Newsline," July 18, 2007). He said talks would be on "the basis of agreements made and to create security and stability in Iraq." He added that Iran and Iraq are pursuing the case of five Iranian officials detained by U.S. forces in Irbil, northern Iraq, in January and said, "I hope they will be released as soon a possible." VS
IRAQI PREMIER MEETS WITH TRIBAL LEADERS...
Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki met with tribal leaders from the central Wasit Governorate in Baghdad on July 18, state-run Al-Iraqiyah television reported. Al-Maliki praised the leadership of the tribes in Wasit, saying their actions should serve as a model for a peaceful, cooperative, and stable society. He told tribal leaders that it is necessary to mobilize public support against terrorism, adding that the key to mobilizing public support is in the hands of scholars, tribal, and civil society leaders. KR
...AND CRITICIZES ROLE OF MEDIA, REGIONAL STUDIES CENTERS
Prime Minister al-Maliki told tribal leaders at the July 18 meeting that regional academic institutions and media outlets are promoting strife in Iraq through their inaccurate depiction of the Iraqi government. "We are facing an aggressive campaign of organized accusations and plots waged by media machines and strategic studies centers in various parts of the world and the Arab region against the Iraqi people, government, and its political experiment and project," al-Maliki said. "Among the accusations leveled against us are supporting sectarianism and terrorism, pledging allegiance to the occupation, and extending hands to Iran. These accusations aim to tarnish the image of Iraq and the Iraqis in the eyes of the Arabs, Muslims, and the entire world," he noted. "These accusations are baseless and false." KR
GROUP SPLITS FROM ISLAMIC ARMY IN IRAQ...
A group calling itself the Al-Furqan Army has announced its decision to split from the Islamic Army in Iraq, claiming that the Islamic Army has engaged in the political process through talks with the U.S. military, Al-Jazeera television reported on July 18. Islamic Army in Iraq spokesman Ibrahim al-Shammari told Al-Jazeera in an interview that the Al-Furqan Army is "a very small group," adding that the split came after the Al-Furqan Army adopted "policies that go against the Islamic Army's" stance. Despite the apparent tensions, al-Shammari expressed disappointment over the split, saying: "We wish that the number of mujahedin increase, but not under pseudonyms. Separation is not the character of Islamic action." Al-Shammari also denied that the Islamic Army in Iraq engaged in any talks with the U.S. military. He said the army's position that the Iraqi people are free to choose whether or not to participate in the political process through the Iraqi Accordance Front is well-known. That position, he maintained, does not conflict with the group's determination to fight U.S. and Iraqi forces. KR
...WHICH NOTES NEED TO WORK WITH TRIBES
The Islamic Army in Iraq's online bimonthly magazine, "Al-Fursan" (The Knights), noted in its July issue, posted on the Internet on July 17, that the Jihad and Reform Front will work to establish better relations with tribal leaders. The front was formed in May by brigades from the Islamic Army in Iraq, the Mujahedin Army, and the Ansar Al-Sunnah Army. An unidentified editor wrote in the magazine that establishing better relations with the tribes is a "key priority" of the front, and should be handled carefully. The writer stressed the importance of the tribes in sheltering insurgents. He criticized the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Islamic State of Iraq for harming relations between insurgents and tribes, saying the Islamic State's reckless behavior has prompted some tribes to begin working with U.S. and Iraqi forces to fight the insurgency. KR
KURDISTAN REGIONAL GOVERNMENT PROMISES ACTION AGAINST HONOR KILLINGS
Kurdistan regional Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani said his government will begin enforcing tough measures against those who commit honor killings against Kurdish women, regional media reported on July 18. "Recently there have been horrendous crimes committed against women in some areas" of the region, Barzani said at a meeting of ministers and human-rights leaders in Irbil, AKI reported on July 19. "The government authorities will take the toughest legal measures" against perpetrators of these crimes, he added. "While we condemn these crimes, we also rebuke the government ministers and other bodies for not having applied suitable solutions to prevent such episodes [from] reoccurring." Barzani proposed changing the definition of honor killings to "murder" in the region's Penal Code. There has been a sharp rise in the number of honor killings in Iraq in recent months. The brutality of such attacks was documented in the stoning of a 17-year-old Yezidi girl in April for her alleged relationship with a Muslim boy. The Yezidis are a pre-Islamic religious minority, who in Iraq are largely ethnic Kurds. The stoning was filmed by participants and bystanders using mobile telephones and was later circulated widely throughout the Kurdish region. KR