Thursday, December 27, 2007

RIP: Benazir Bhutto

It is unfortunate that the 2007 holidays will be remembered for the assassination of Benazir Bhutto.

Memory Eternal.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Progress at Bushehr

December 17, 2007: Russia has made its first shipment of nuclear fuel to the Iranian nuclear power plant in the southern city of Bushehr.

Iran contends its plant is strictly for civilian purposes, but the project concerns the United States and contend that the plant could be used to build nuclear weapons.

The American position was weakened earlier this month with the release of a new U.S. intelligence report that concluded Iran had halted its nuclear weapons development program in 2003 and had not resumed it through at least the middle of this year.

Even though Russia has opposed the imposition of further sanctions on Iran, it also repeatedly has urged Tehran to cooperate with efforts to resolve concerns over the nuclear program.

Last week, officials at Atomstroyexport, the Russian contractor for Bushehr, raised the prospect of creating a Russian-Iranian joint venture that would provide greater security at the facility.
This could be an indication that Russia wants to ensure that enriched uranium at the plant is not stolen or diverted. Depleted fuel rods also could be reprocessed into plutonium.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Kasparov: Checkmate?

Garry Kasparov, Putin critic and former world chess champion will not run in Russia's March 2008 presidential elections.

Kasparov was jailed for five days after a rally in Moscow last month.

After the Russian Parliamentary elections held in December 2007, President Vladimir Putin said that he supported Dimitri Medvedev to become Russia's next president.

Medvedev reciprocated, asking that Putin be his prime minister.

As Prime Minister, Putin would retain substantial power without violating or changing the constitution, which prohibits presidents from serving more than two consecutive terms.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Prime Minister Putin?

Dmitrii Medvedev, President Vladimir Putin’s designated successor, called for Putin to become prime minister after the March 2 election.

The Russian Constitution prohibits Putin for running for a third consecutive term, but Putin clearly wants to retain a powerful role once he steps down.

Medvedev's proposal provides such a role, especially if the constitution were amended to increase the prime minister's powers.

This is well within the realm of possibility as the pro-Putin faction in the newly elected Duma has enough votes to amend the Constitution.

Medvedev's support for Putin's policies and his proposal that he become prime minister caused some to ask whether he would be a genuinely independent president or essentially a figurehead, doing Putin's bidding.

Both Medvedev and Putin worked under St. Petersburg's Mayor Anatolii Sobchak in the early 1990s. After Putin became prime minister in 1999, he summoned Medvedev to Moscow to become deputy chief of staff of the Cabinet. He was appointed to head the board of state natural gas giant Gazprom in 2002 and became full presidential chief of staff in 2003.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

The Russian Position on NATO

Russia will not increase its military presence along its western border as long as NATO refrains from a military buildup.

Russia said that in mid-December of 2007 it will stop its obligations under a key European treaty limiting the deployment of tanks, aircraft and other heavy weapons.

Officials said they did so not as a threat, but to persuade NATO nations to ratify a 1999 update of the 1990 Conventional Forces in Europe treaty that is more acceptable to Moscow.

Russia says the 1990 treaty has become hopelessly out of date as Europe's geopolitical boundaries have shifted following the collapse of communism. They claim that since several former Warsaw Pact members have joined NATO, deployments in western Russia have been restricted.

Moscow has repeatedly expressed concern over NATO's eastward expansion and deployments close to Russia, particularly U.S. plans for missile defense facilities in Poland and the Czech Republic.

Russian Parliamentary Election: Final Results

Here are the final results of the Russian election (name of party, percentage of vote, number of seats):

United Russia 64.1 315

Communist Party of the Russian Federation 11.6 57
Liberal Democratic Party of Russia 8.2 40
Fair Russia 7.8 38

Agrarian Party of Russia 2.3 0
Russian Democratic Party "Yabloko" 1.6 0
Civilian Power 1.1 0
Union of Right Forces 1.0 0

Patriots of Russia 0.9 0
Russian Social Justice Party 0.2 0
Democratic Party of Russia 0.1 0
Invalid ballot papers 0.1 –
Total 100 450

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Russian Parliamentary Election: Preliminary Results

December 2, 2007: An exit poll showed that President Vladimir Putin's United Russia (Единая Россия: Edinaya Rossiya) party was winning with 61 percent of the vote in today's parliamentary election.

Russia's liberal, pro-Western parties are not expected to obtain the seven percent minimum required for representation in the Duma.

It is likely that pro-Kremlin parties would have enough seats in parliament to change the constitution.

The West's main election monitoring body, the ODIHR, did not monitor the election, claiming visas had not been issued in time, a claim refuted by Russian officials.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Russian Parliamentary Election: December 2nd, 2007

Legislative elections will be held in the Russian Federation on December 2, 2007. All of the 450 seats in the State Duma (Gosudarstvennaya Duma), the lower house of the Federal Assembly of Russia will be chosen.

On October 1, 2007, Putin announced he would run in first place on the United Russia (Единая Россия: Edinaya Rossiya) list and that he might consider becoming Prime Minister after the elections.

United Russia is the
largest and most popular party in Russia.

Other pro-Kremlin parties einclude the new Fair Russia party led by Sergei Mironov and the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, which have also been favorable towards President Putin's policies.

The largest opposition party is the Communist Party of the Russian Federation. The liberal democratic opposition is to be represented by the free-market Union of Right Forces, the more socially minded Yabloko, and Civilian Power representing right liberal ideology.

Chechnya will hold a constitutional referendum on the same date.