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Russia Reform Monitor - No. 1591

Russian navy to flex muscles in South America...;
...and renovate port in Mediterranean

Edited by Jonas Bernstein
September 12, 2008

 September 9:

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez has said that Venezuela could engage in naval exercises with Russian ships in the Caribbean before the end of the year, the International Herald Tribune reports. Chávez’s words echoed Venezuelan news reports that four warships with as many as 1,000 sailors from Russia’s Pacific Fleet could take part in a training exercise off Venezuela’s coast in November.

According to the IHT, Russian officials have confirmed that Russian naval ships, including the nuclear-powered guided missile cruiser Peter the Great and the anti-submarine ship Chabanenko, will dock in Venezuela by the end of the year. Russian Navy Assistant Commander Captain Igor Dygalo said Russian and Venezuelan warships will hold joint exercises in the Atlantic Ocean and Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Anatoly Nesterenko said the “temporary deployment” of Russian Navy anti-sub aircraft at a Venezuelan air field is also planned.

Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin, who is in Vienna, has said that Russia submitted a “draft memorandum of understanding” to OPEC, Agence France-Presse reports. Sechin, who is also chairman of the Rosneft state oil company, underscored that OPEC powerhouse Saudi Arabia and Russia are the world’s largest oil producers and referred to the “ambitious potential” of cooperation between Russia and the oil cartel.

President Dmitry Medvedev’s chief economic aide, Arkady Dvorkovich, has told the Reuters Russia Investment summit in Moscow that Medvedev’s reforms should be fully implemented and that Russia wants foreign investment. “Russia is open for business,” Dvorkovich said. “We need to fulfill those plans which were announced, plans for rather liberal economic policies, in the fullest way possible.” Meanwhile, Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin told Reuters that Russia’s political risks have disappeared following the Russo-Georgian war because a further military escalation is unlikely. The comments by Dvorkovich and Kudrin came amid a sharp sell-off in Russian stocks, bonds and the ruble as money flees Russia.

September 11:

Strategic Rocket Forces (RVSN) Commander General Nikolai Solovtsov has said that Russia may aim its ICBMs at U.S. missile defense system components deployed in Poland and the Czech Republic, Rossiiskaya Gazeta reports. If such a deployment goes forward, the RVSN will be “forced to take measures not to allow... Russia’s nuclear deterrence potential to be devalued,” Solovtsov said.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has suggested that President George W. Bush is not really in charge in Washington. According to the Times of London, Putin told a group of foreign journalists at his residence in the Black Sea resort of Sochi that he hopes he and Bush will “maintain good relations” but that “it is the court that makes the king.” Putin spoke fondly of U.S. president, saying he treats Bush “better than some Americans would,” but also accused the U.S. of training and arming Georgia’s military and encouraging its leadership to launch an assault on the breakaway province of South Ossetia. “Should we have wiped the bloody snot off our face and bowed our head?” Putin said of Russia’s military actions in Georgia. “Should we have waved our penknives?”

September 12:

The Associated Press reports that Russia has announced it is renovating a Syrian port for use by the Russian fleet in what signals an effort for a better foothold in the Mediterranean amid the rift with the United States over Georgia. According to Itar-Tass, a vessel from Russia’s Black Sea has begun restoring facilities at Syria’s Mediterranean port of Tartus for use by the Russian military. A Russian naval official, Igor Dygalo, said the two countries’ naval chiefs also met in Moscow and discussed further strengthening mutual trust and mutual understanding between the two states’ fleets.

Related Categories: Latin America; Middle East; Russia; Energy Security; Military; Caucasus; Russia and Eurasia Program

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