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Георгий Бовт

An Upgrade for NATO

08 Дек 2009 — Георгий Бовт, Независимый журналист
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The long-awaited draft of the Russia’s new trans-Atlantic security treaty was recently presented and sent by the Russian President to the heads of relevant states and chief executives of international organisations operating in the Euro-Atlantic region such as NATO, the European Union, the CSTO, the CIS, and the OSCE.

President Dmitry Medvedev has announced his idea to “reset” the whole system of international security just after he came to power in May 2008, but so far the proposal has lacked the details which western leaders were hoping to see. There were also warnings from them that there was no need actually to replace existing security arrangements and treaties with any new document. Most of the Western politicians and observers also anticipated that Moscow would try to weaken NATO in some way or suggest replacing it with a new organisation. Now it is time to study and to consider what Medvedev has proposed in his draft.

When he initially put forward an initiative to develop a new pan-European security treaty on June 5, 2008, the main idea of this proposal was to create a common undivided space in the context of military and political security in the Euro-Atlantic region in order to finally do away with the Cold War legacy. Medvedev suggested formalising in international law the principle of indivisible security as a legal obligation and accordingly where no nation or international organisation is entitled to strengthen its own security at the cost of other nations or organisations. »

Олена Пристайко

The Post-Soviet Space in EU-Russian Relations

03 Дек 2009 — Олена Пристайко
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The issue of common neighbourhood remains one of the major stumbling blocks in EU-Russian relations. Last week Russia took a number of steps which were intended, either directly or indirectly, to consolidate its near neighbourhood. On Friday 27th November the Presidents of Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus signed a package of documents relating to the creation of the Customs Union. They agreed on the creation of a unified customs tariff starting on 1 January 2010, as well as a unified customs code (effective from 1 July 2010).

On Sunday, 29th November, the draft of the European Security Treaty was published on the Russian President’s website. The document puts forward, “formalising in international law the principle of indivisible security as a legal obligation pursuant to which no nation or international organisation operating in the Euro-Atlantic region is entitled to strengthen its own security at the cost of other nations or organisations”. This means, according to the state-controlled Russian mass media, that the Kremlin is calling on the West “to refrain from spreading its influence in the post-Soviet space”.

These economic and security initiatives are not new in Russian policy towards the post-Soviet states. They have been put forward before in differing forms, but there has been no apparent will to implement them and therefore they have never come to fruition. »

Георгий Бовт

EU-Russia Relations: Reset or Stagnation?

24 Ноя 2009 — Георгий Бовт, Независимый журналист
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After the 24th EU- Russia summit, held in Stockholm, Sweden, Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev announced that European and Russian leaders had reached agreement on all outstanding issues concerning energy co-operation. “We spoke of the development of big economic projects including energy co-operation, and the development of energy safety,” Medvedev said. By big energy projects he meant the agreement on the “North Stream” project for which Russia is persistently lobbying, awaiting permission from Denmark, Sweden, and Finland for its construction on the floor of the Baltic Sea. The second project is South Stream, competing with Nabucco. Last week Slovenia was the last country to sign the agreement with Moscow to become a partner in the project. Thus, Moscow continues its struggle to remain a strategically important energy supplier for Europe, trying to neutralise all other competitive options. How long could that last, and how economically effective could that strategy be amid the search for alternative sources of energy and the intensifying process of liquid gas technology development? Isn’t this a short-range strategy with no long-range vision?

The discussions in Stockholm on energy security were preceded by an agreement signed in Moscow two days previously; providing for an early warning mechanism that would prompt both sides to join forces to solve any problems, commercial or technical, that might threaten deliveries. »

Фрейзер Камерон

Europe and Russia: Moving to Win-Win

15 Ноя 2009 — Фрейзер Камерон, Директор Центра ЕС-Россия
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When EU and Russian leaders meet in Stockholm for their regular summit this week it might be a useful occasion for a stock-taking exercise. This will be the last such summit for Javier Solana and Benita Ferrero-Waldner, the EU’s two top foreign policy chiefs. Next year, under the Lisbon treaty, their jobs will be merged thus giving the EU more coherence, continuity and visibility in external relations – or so it is hoped.

The Stockholm summit will take place just after Sweden and Finland have granted permission for the controversial Nordstream project to go ahead. It will also take place less than a month before the Copenhagen climate change conference. But unlike the EU, climate change is almost a non issue in Russia. Their major focus is on the economy and restoring Russia’s influence in its neighbourhood. The summit will hopefully give a push to the faltering PCA negotiations although little can be expected in the remainder of 2009. Russia is already looking to Spain, the next EU Presidency, to push the reset button.

What can the summiteers learn from the past five years and where should EU-Russia relations be heading? An obvious win-win area is economic cooperation. Russia has been hit more severely than the EU or most large countries by the global financial crisis. While China expects to grow at 8.5% this year, Russia faces a dramatic 11% drop in its growth rate. »

Георгий Бовт

The Wall: the second edition

11 Ноя 2009 — Георгий Бовт, Независимый журналист
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It is hard to believe that only twenty years ago many Eastern European countries were cut off from Western countries and living in fear of aggressive invasion. The West also lived in fear – of Soviet tanks invading from the East, fear of a Third World War and of nuclear annihilation. Only twenty short years since Europe was torn between the capitalist West backed by the USA and socialist East with the mysterious and mighty Soviet Union lurking behind its East European satellites.

And then, all of a sudden, the whole Eastern bloc collapsed. It happened so instantly, within only a few weeks, that future historians will be surprised at how the bloc could have managed to survive for several decades after the Second World War, so unnatural seems the communist system in hindsight.

Nevertheless, nobody can boast today that they foresaw the current state of contemporary Europe and the EU all that time ago; to foresee the continent transformed to such a great extent that even to travel across it (a troublesome experience in the past) has ceased to be a problem at all. Younger Europeans can hardly imagine that their contemporary way of life would have been regarded as miraculous by their senior, post-war predecessors.

But looking back at the events of early November 1989 one could also become surprised at the naivety of most politicians of the day when they expressed their hope for a “common future of Europe from the Atlantic to the Urals”. »

Эберхард Шнайдер

Review of Russian Domestic Politics: October

09 Ноя 2009 — Эберхард Шнайдер, Профессор, член Совещательного совета Центра ЕС-Россия
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President Medvedev’s State of the Nation Report
According to Kremlin sources, President Medvedev will deliver his state of the nation report on 12 November to the Federal Assembly. Then the second reading of the draft budget legislation will follow one week later. And on 21 November Vladimir Putin will speak before United Russia. Given that the priority in the state of the nation report will be the modernisation of the economy, one can expect changes in the composition of the budget. Medvedev has also let it be known that he intends to take up some of the themes he outlined in his Forward Russia article, which attracted some 13,000 comments on line.

The Institute for Contemporary Development has also published a study outlining the priorities to be addressed in order to help modernise Russia. The authors doubt whether there can be a successful modernisation programme as long as the Putin elite remains in power. They believe that it does not make sense to demolish the system that Putin established but rather to set up a parallel power structure. The two structures could exist side by side for some time before the new pushes the old to one side.

Mikhail Khodorkovsky has also entered the debate with an article in Vedomosti speculating on who could lead the President’s modernisation programme. It could not be the bureaucracy and its allies in business nor the siloviki. »

Георгий Бовт

The Russian elections and European values

03 Ноя 2009 — Георгий Бовт, Независимый журналист
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President Dmitry Medvedev was dressed in black and abstained from smiling in the presence of TV-cameras when he met leaders of four parliamentary parties at his residence. The meeting was at the request of the three opposition parties (Communists, Just Russia and Liberal-Democrats) who were united in their protests at massive falsifications in the October 11 regional elections.

In an unprecedented gesture in modern Russian history, these three parties even organised a temporary boycott of a parliamentary session on October 14, in what appeared to be an unpleasant surprise for the Kremlin, which is used to treating these parties as obedient, political puppets.

During the meeting, President Medvedev sat on one side of the table with the deputy head of his administration Vladislav Surkov (responsible for dealing with political parties) and three top-level leaders of the ruling party “United Russia”, while three leaders of the opposition were sat on the opposite side. For Medvedev this was quite a delicate situation, because it was almost impossible for him to stand up to the United Russia in his role as a higher status objective arbiter. To do so would have been seen as a personal challenge to Vladimir Putin, the leader of the ruling party. On the other hand, it would have been also q difficult for Mr Medvedev to totally ignore the protests of the opposition, who had appealed to him as a guarantor of the Constitution. »

Георгий Бовт

CIS: Is it Almost Dead?

15 Окт 2009 — Георгий Бовт, Независимый журналист
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Some observers have already labelled the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) summit in Chisinau, Moldova, as the funeral of the Commonwealth. Not only because there three acting presidents of the CIS-member states were absent, (the first time since the collapse of the USSR, when the CIS was established); but also because the organisation has proved itself incapable of setting out and following any common agenda, as well using any kind of effective mechanism of multilateral cooperation, never mind any thoughts of integration.

The most striking feature of the meeting in Chisinau was the absence of the Presidents of Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan. The only guest from the Central Asian region of the former Soviet Union was president of Kyrgyzstan. Kurmanbeck Bakyev’s motive for being there was quite clear: Russia had promised him a loan of $1.7 billion to finance the construction of several hydroelectric power stations in the republic. However, the process was put on hold after it became evident to Moscow that Bakyev was cheating Russia with a promise to close the American air force in his country.

The most annoying surprise for Russia was the absence of Kazakh President, Nursultan Nazarbaev, perhaps the biggest supporter of the CIS, after Russia. »

Евгения Весанто

Russian domestic policy

30 июля 2009 — Евгения Весанто, Директор информационного центра ЕС-Россия
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In June, President Medvedev took some measures to ease the situation of NGOs in Russia. On 17 June the president introduced into the Duma a bill to amend NGO legislation. A first reading of this bill was approved by 391 (out of 450) members. Those in favour included members of the United Russia, Just Russian and Liberal Democrat parties with the communists against.
Garri Minch, the president’s representative in the Duma, said the purpose of the bill was to liberalise the legal position of NGOs. In future, NGOs seeking (re) -registration should receive it within three months if they had produced all the required documents. If registration were refused the notification period would be reduced from three months to 14 working days and notice of this decision would be given within three days. NGOs will only need to renew their registration every three years instead of the current annual requirement.
This bill was drafted by a presidential working group under the chairmanship of Vladislav Surkov, first deputy leader of the presidential administration and included representatives from the justice ministry, the Duma, the Federal Council and civil society. It was the result of a long process in which Medvedev had recognised the problems facing NGOs in Russia. This is in contrast to Prime Minister Putin, who, in 2005, sought to make life for NGOs more difficult and then because of pressure from outside the country had to ease some of his proposed measures. »

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