MOSCOW, April 3 (RIA Novosti) Washington maneuvers between ABM and NATO / United States wants to inspect missile defense facilities near Moscow / United Russia congress to boost with pomp Putin's image as national leader / Politkovskaya was killed on orders from London / Gazprom's long-term plans may leave Russians without gas / Sukhoi to vie with Embraer and Bombardier
RBC Daily, Vedomosti
Washington maneuvers between ABM and NATO
U.S. President George W. Bush proposed at the NATO summit in Bucharest yesterday that Russia's early warning radars in Gabala, Azerbaijan, and Armavir, in the Krasnodar Territory, be added to the facilities in the Czech Republic "as part of a wider threat monitoring system."
If Russia accepts the offer, he said, the United States might abandon the idea of building a site for 10 interceptors in Poland.
Experts say the offer has come too late.
Russia previously urged the United States to review its plans to build ballistic missile defense facilities in Poland and the Czech Republic, saying that its Gabala and Armavir radars could be used jointly with U.S. systems to monitor possible missile launches from Iran.
Henry Obering, director of the Missile Defense Agency (MDA), said at the hearing in Congress on Tuesday that the United States might accept part of the offer even if it fails to come to terms of the deployment of interceptors in Poland.
Experts doubt that the creation of a united Russian-American radar system in Europe is possible.
Andrew Brooks of the International Institute of Strategic Studies in London told RBC Daily that the Americans traditionally use only their own ballistic missile defense systems and mistrust even NATO equipment.
Alexander Pikayev, an analyst at the International Security Center of the Moscow-based Institute of World Economy and International Relations of the Academy of Sciences, said Russia should wait for the outcome of the U.S. presidential elections, adding that the ABM plans for Eastern Europe could be curtailed if a Democratic candidate comes to power.
"By agreeing to unite its ABM system with American facilities, Moscow would undermine its arguments regarding NATO expansion" and give NATO a reason for disregarding its opinion, Pikayev said.
Russia's consistent policy has convinced many bloc countries to halt the admission of Georgia and Ukraine, which will not become NATO members in the next five or six years.
Alexander Rahr, an expert at the German Council on Foreign Relations, told the popular daily Vedomosti: "Germany has vetoed the admission of Ukraine and Georgia to NATO in the short term."
"Georgia and Ukraine have a sovereign right to seek admission to the bloc, while the countries that will have to protect them in the event of a conflict have a sovereign right to consider if this will strengthen their security," Rahr said.
Fyodor Lukyanov, editor-in-chief of the Moscow-based magazine Russia in Global Affairs, said: "Ukraine and Georgia's admission to NATO has not been precluded. But Europe doesn't want to affect its relations with Moscow ahead of the change of power in the Kremlin."
The European Union is also preparing for talks on a new strategic agreement with Russia.
United States wants to inspect missile defense facilities near Moscow
A well-informed source in Moscow said the United States was ready to compromise on the East European missile defense issue and to allow Russian officers to inspect U.S. bases in the Czech Republic and Poland.
However, Washington also wants to inspect Russian missile defense facilities, including those near Moscow. Presidents Vladimir Putin and George W. Bush will probably discuss this issue in Sochi, a Russian resort on the Black Sea coast, after the NATO summit in Bucharest.
Russian military experts called this an unfair exchange.
Although the Pentagon claims that U.S. missile defense facilities in Europe will deal with a possible Iranian missile strike, Moscow believes that they threaten Russian national security.
Some experts have proposed covering the Czech early-warning radar with reinforced concrete, so that it would not be able to scan Russian territory, and postponing the deployment of the 10 silo-based ground-based interceptors (GBIs) in Poland.
Lieutenant General Nikolai Rodionov (Retired), a former commander of a detached early-warning unit who worked on Moscow's missile defense system in Soviet times, said the United States was offering an unequal exchange.
He said Russian officers would be allowed to inspect the less important missile defense facilities in the Czech Republic and Poland, and that U.S. experts would gain access to the Russian capital's missile defense system.
Rodionov said it was impossible to mothball the Czech radar because any early-warning station could be promptly reactivated. When the Iraq war began in 2003, 150 U.S. experts quickly reactivated a radar in Cyprus and detected targets in Iran, a theoretical enemy, Rodionov told the paper.
He said it would be logical to deploy a U.S. missile defense base in Turkey or Italy against Iran, and that the Czech radar could scan the whole of European Russia.
According to Rodionov, GBIs have a range of several hundred kilometers and can hit targets in western Russia. Moreover, it would be pointless to deploy them in Poland to counter the Iranian missile threat.
He said it was easier to destroy ballistic missiles immediately after lift-off or during the boost phase, and that GBIs were ineffective outside silos, that they lacked the range to destroy Iranian missiles, and that they could be loaded inside silos in just 10 minutes.
"Washington's proposals are like soap bubbles distracting us from the main purpose," Rodionov told the paper.
United Russia congress to boost with pomp Putin's image as national leader
A United Russia congress scheduled for April 14-15 is planning to boost Vladimir Putin's image as a national leader able to continue uniting the country's elite.
Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev will both attend the congress of the "party of power," said sources in the Kremlin and United Russia. Speeches by the current president and the president-elect will be the highlights of the event's second day.
As conceived by the organizers, the 9th United Russia congress should become the most spectacular and all-embracing occasion in the party's history. The sponsors firmly believe that the congress should display a wider panorama of recognizable faces than the one traditionally associated with United Russia. This, in their view, will strengthen Putin's image as a national leader, and one who, regardless of his either presidential or prime ministerial post, will always remain so.
A new national idea for development strategy until 2020 should be the rallying point for the political elite. Party members will suggest that Vladimir Putin be considered the main exponent of the new national idea.
The Kremlin is planning the congress as a key political event, and since the national idea as a product is aimed at the Russian consumer, no guests from foreign parties are likely to be invited, unlike at the previous congresses.
Politkovskaya was killed on orders from London
A chief Russian investigator has claimed that investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya was killed in October 2006 on orders from self-exiled businessman Boris Berezovsky, who is currently living in London.
Dmitry Dovgy, the head of the main investigation department at the Investigation Committee of the Russian Prosecutor General's Office, told the Izvestia daily that her murder was ordered with the purpose of undermining trust in Russia's law-enforcement agencies.
Dovgy has recently been suspended on suspicion of taking several bribes to the amount of 3 million euros. According to the newspaper, he granted the interview before his suspension, and the interview was only published much later because the text had to be agreed upon first.
"We believe that it was Berezovsky who ordered the assassination [of Politkovskaya] through Khozh-Akhmed Nukhayev," Dovgy told the newspaper.
Nukhayev, a member of the so-called government of Ichkeria (Chechnya), is on the wanted list in Russia.
"She was killed not because of her articles, but because of her personality," Dovgy said. "She was a bright person who stood in opposition to the authorities and met with Berezovsky several times."
The organizers of the crime "wanted to show that prominent people are routinely killed in Russia, and that the law-enforcement agencies cannot solve such crimes," Dovgy said. "But the Interior Ministry and our commission have laid this claim bare."
"The person who killed Politkovskaya is still wanted, but we think we will apprehend him soon. His accomplices, who took him to the site of the crime, monitored Politkovskaya's movement and provided requisite information, have been arrested," Dovgy said.
It is not the first time Russian law-enforcement officers claim that the murder of Politkovskaya was ordered by Boris Berezovsky. However, top officials, such as Alexander Bastyrkin, head of the Investigation Committee, and Prosecutor General Yury Chaika, previously hinted at the businessman's involvement in the crime.
Gazprom's long-term plans may leave Russians without gas
On April 2, 2008, Russian gas giant Gazprom lowered its upper forecast figure for gas output in 2020. Gazprom thinks that independent producers will account for one third of Russia's total gas output in the next 12 years.
Experts, however, do not believe that independent companies will be able to reach such output levels.
The gas concern intends to annually produce from 620 to 640 billion cubic meters of gas. According to its estimates, Russia's total annual gas production should reach 940 billion cubic meters.
"It is hard to say now whether Gazprom will be able to boost output to this level," says Ivan Andriyevsky, a managing partner at the 2K Audit - Business Consulting company.
"Note that production is falling at the largest deposits in Nadym, Urengoi and Yamburg. Judging by its declarations, the holding is planning to invest in exploration in new regions. The main thing is, perhaps, that Gazprom has a trump card up its sleeve - the richest Yamal field whose prospected reserves are estimated at over 10 trillion cubic meters," he said.
Add to this the Shtokman field on the Barents Sea shelf with estimated reserves of 3 to 4 trillion cubic meters of natural gas.
However, in the opinion of Mikhail Zanozin, an analyst at Sobinbank, Gazprom's plans as regards independent gas producers are obviously overstated and hard to implement.
"According to our estimates, Rosneft, LUKoil, TNK-BP, Novatek and other gas producers will increase their gas output by that time, but only to 200 billion cubic meters a year. Where they will get another 100 billion cubic meters is a big question," the expert says.
What can be clearly seen however is the gas monopoly's striving to concentrate all its efforts on gas exports and leave the problem of domestic consumption to independent gas producers.
If Gazprom and the independent gas producers fail to provide Russia with the necessary amounts of gas, both Russian companies and ordinary people will find themselves at risk. Then they can expect another rise in gas prices, because the bulk of Russian gas output will be sold on a free market, not at prices regulated by the Federal Tariff Service, as at the moment.
Sukhoi to vie with Embraer and Bombardier
Russian aviation giant Sukhoi Civil Aircraft plans to supply the first Sukhoi SuperJet-100 medium-haul passenger airliner in November 2008 and to launch mass production next year. The company hopes to sell 800 SSJ-100s in Russia and elsewhere by 2024 and to post $2.9 billion profits in the next 20 years.
Maxim Grishanin, the company's senior vice president on economy and finance, said Italy's Alenia would buy a blocking stake in Sukhoi Civil Aircraft and would promote the new plane on global markets, and that it had approved the business plan.
An Alenia spokesperson agreed with Grishanin and said at least 1,000 aircraft would be sold worldwide.
Grishanin said Sukhoi Civil Aircraft would earn $27.4 billion, including $4.2 billion in EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) and $2.9 billion in net profits from 2003 till 2024.
Under the business plan, aircraft sales will account for 85.6% of corporate earnings; and the rest will come from warranty and post-warranty support.
Grishanin said the project would pass the break-even point in 2012 and would completely repay the $1 billion project loans in 2014.
Experts said they saw no reason for such landmark achievements.
Yevgeny Shago, chief analyst at Ingosstrakh Investments, called the company's plans "too optimistic." If implemented, the plans would herald a breakthrough in the Russian aircraft industry, he told the paper.
Sukhoi Civil Aircraft plans to sell 60 SSJ-100s per year, or as many as Brazilian and Canadian aviation giants Embraer and Bombardier, who currently dominate the short- and medium-haul aircraft market.
Shago said the company would post an impressive 15.3% operating profit, namely, a measure of its earning power from ongoing operations, equal to EBITDA or operating income.
He said the operating income of Embraer and Bombardier was just 5%, and that Sukhoi Civil Aircraft could not expect more.
Several Russian companies and Italian carrier ItAli Airlines have signed contracts for the purchase of 73 SSJ-100s, the first of which was rolled out last September.
Shago said the plane was still grounded, that Sukhoi Civil Aircraft had not yet scheduled its maiden flight, and that European companies wanted to assess the SSJ-100's specifications and performance.
He said the plane had a chance of entering European markets if it performed better than the Embraer and Bombardier planes.
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