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    MOSCOW, February 13 (RIA Novosti) Analyst says nuclear-free world no longer seems utopian/ Russian Bears buzz U.S. aircraft carrier/ Kiev believes conflict with Russia is entry ticket to NATO - expert/ Kremlin opponent suspends his party membership/ AvtoVAZ chooses Renault to save it from crisis/ Russia set to build coal-fired power plant in India

    Novye Izvestia

    Analyst says nuclear-free world no longer seems utopian

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Tuesday in Geneva that Russia would support the idea of a nuclear-free world, which was recently suggested by U.S. analysts. The official spoke at an annual Geneva Disarmament Conference.
    It is possible that Washington will adopt the idea of non-use of nuclear weapons as its official policy after the next presidential elections. Both Russian and American analysts are convinced that the goal of a nuclear free world is no longer a utopia.
    The article Toward a Nuclear-Free World by former secretary of state George P. Shultz, former defense secretary William J. Perry, former secretary of state Henry A. Kissinger and Senator Sam Nunn published by The Wall Street Journal on January 15 sounded like a political manifesto proclaiming the need to abandon the use of nuclear weapons.
    Barack Obama, one of the front-runners in the presidential campaign, has already seconded the appeal. American experts are convinced that Hillary Clinton will support the idea, too, only she held back from announcing it before the elections. Since all the authors of the article are supporting the Republican Party, John McCain must also agree with the manifesto's key points.
    A Foreign Ministry source confirmed to Novye Izvestia that Russia is likely to make the goal of a world free of nuclear weapons its strategic priority.
    "This time, it is not a populist rhetoric, but a determination to adopt a specific political course," said Alexei Arbatov of the Moscow Carnegie Center, an associate member of the Russian Academy of Sciences. "Earlier they said that a nuclear-free world was a utopian concept and that specific arms control treaties had to be discussed instead. However, as one can see now, without a general strategy, the global security system has come to the verge of collapsing. None of the international laws regulating the nuclear sphere is functional today. Unfortunately, the current U.S. government failed to realize there was a problem. But now that such prominent U.S. political experts as Kissinger, Shultz and Nunn - not exactly white doves - have begun talking about a world free of nuclear weapons, there is a chance that the international community will make some progress in strengthening international security. Although it is unlikely to be reached in the immediate future, a nuclear-free world several decades from now is no longer a utopian construct," the expert concluded.

    Gazeta.ru

    Russian Bears buzz U.S. aircraft carrier

    On February 9, two Russian Tu-95 Bear bombers buzzed a US nuclear-powered aircraft carrier reminiscent of the Cold War and what military analysts believe are renewed training flights, while the media are excessively overplaying the situation.
    The incident occurred on Saturday as the Nimitz and its battle group, including the guided missile cruiser USS Princeton, neared the coast of Japan for a long-planned friendship visit.
    In the early hours of Saturday morning four Tu-95 Bear bombers - armed with an array of missiles - took off from the Ukrainka air base in the Amur Region in Russia's Far East.
    From the very start, the four planes were being monitored by the Nimitz battle group.
    Two of the bombers headed straight for the Nimitz. One of them dropped to about 610 meters, flew almost directly over the aircraft carrier and then turned and buzzed it for a second time.
    The other bomber continued to circle the carrier at 91 km range.
    There have been other similar incidents in the last few years. In July 2004, a Tu-95 bomber buzzed the carrier USS Kitty Hawk in the Sea of Japan.
    In August 2007, another Russian bomber flew toward Guam Island in the Pacific Ocean.
    The West has started talking about Russia's desire to revive its former military power that waned after the break-up of the Soviet Union.
    Alexander Pikayev, a defense analyst for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said Russian pilots were required to know the geography of specific regions where they were flying, that regular Soviet-era reconnaissance flights were no surprise to anyone.
    Pikayev said the flights stopped after 1992 due to a lack of funds and that the government was now providing finance for them once again while the West was unhappy about the situation.
    He said Western media was concerned when Russian bombers flew 800 km from U.S. ships, but showed no such concern over Washington's plans to deploy a missile-defense system 150 km from Russian borders.

    Rossiiskaya Gazeta

    Kiev believes conflict with Russia is entry ticket to NATO - expert

    While realizing the importance of strategic and stable partnership between Russia and Ukraine, Moscow and Kiev are not forgetting about their own interests, including in the international arena. There is some tension in bilateral relations, especially around the issue of Ukraine's NATO membership.
    On February 12, Russia's President Vladimir Putin made it clear that although Ukraine is a fraternal nation for Russia, Russia could target its missiles at Ukraine, too, if it deploys NATO military bases on its territory.
    According to Alexander Rahr, an expert at the German Council on Foreign Relations, the "orange" coalition, which has regained power, is doing its utmost for Ukraine to gain membership to NATO and the European Union. Most probably, the Ukrainian leadership hopes to reach these goals by creating an image that it is an unfriendly or even hostile country to Russia. They believe the West will protect Ukraine and fast track its accession to the two influential international organizations.
    Considering short-term prospects [for Russian-Ukrainian relations], the picture is not too rosy. The "orange" coalition wants the Russian navy to leave the Crimea as soon as possible. It hopes that by 2017 Ukraine will join NATO and the alliance's bases will appear in the Crimea. In this way, Ukraine wants to separate itself from Russia.
    Ukraine joining the World Trade Organization is another complicated issue in Russian-Ukrainian relations. In line with the wishes of its European partners, Ukraine will be able to faster integrate into the international community with the WTO's help. However, this is likely to have a negative effect on Ukraine's relations with Russia and such countries like Kazakhstan, for instance.
    Yulia Tymoshenko, a model populist among politicians, is to blame for many of the Russian-Ukrainian conflicts. She will do anything from conflicts to rapprochement with Russia, if this is in her interests in a certain point in history. This, however, does not mean that Moscow will not be able to find a common language with her. It should take into account her mentality and political goals and find ways to manipulate them.

    Kommersant, Vedomosti

    Kremlin opponent suspends his party membership

    Boris Nemtsov, a founder and former leader of the Union of Right Forces (SPS), has suspended his membership in the opposition party.
    According to sources of the business daily Kommersant, the decision was precipitated by differences with Anatoly Chubais, a member of the SPS Political Council and head of electricity monopoly RAO UES, over an analytical report on Vladimir Putin's presidency.
    In the past few months, Nemtsov has become the unofficial leader of the SPS' radical wing that advocated tough opposition to the Kremlin and the pro-Kremlin United Russia party during the December 2007 presidential election. The boycott of the presidential election was Nemtsov's idea, which not all party leaders supported.
    However, he has not suspended his membership in the SPS for political reasons.
    A source in his team said Nemtsov made his decision because of the "Putin: Results" report, which he co-authored with Vladimir Milov, director of the Institute of Energy Policies. Milov and Nemtsov said that the goal of the report is "to open people's eyes to the Russia that Putin and his successors are leaving to them."
    According to the above source, Chubais read the report on a website and was unhappy with it. He was summoned to the Kremlin, where he was told, "The report is a bomb that will explode the situation."
    Chubais then demanded that the report should not be presented at the party's office. The presentation was shifted to Nemtsov's office, who announced before - and following a one-on-one meeting with Chubais - that he was suspending his party membership.
    Sergei Mitrokhin, deputy chairman of another opposition party, Yabloko, said: "The SPS probably received instructions via Chubais to support [presidential candidate Dmitry] Medvedev. Knowing that this would happen and unwilling to lose face, Nemtsov has taken a proactive step. The party's master, Anatoly Chubais, needs a loyal SPS to preserve his position in the power system."
    The business daily Vedomosti presumed that Nemtsov made his surprise decision ahead of the Democratic Conference, to be held in St. Petersburg in March. An informed source told the newspaper that a new coalition might be established in the place of The Other Russia, an umbrella group of anti-Putin parties, and that Nemtsov probably hopes to lead it.

    Vedomosti

    AvtoVAZ chooses Renault to save it from crisis

    Five key managers from French carmaker Renault, a team which has played a key role in saving Japan's Nissan Motor Company out of a crisis, will join the board of Russia's AvtoVaz in summer as part of a strategic deal.
    Renault and Troika Capital Partners signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in Togliatti, Russia, in late 2007, and will make their final decision later this month. But the current shareholders of Russia's leading carmaker, state corporation Russian Technologies and brokerage Troika Dialog, have proposed five Renault managers be elected at the annual board meeting, without waiting for the deal to come through.
    Overall, 17 candidates have been nominated for the 12 seats on the AvtoVAZ board. Current Chairman Sergei Chemezov will most likely keep his post according to two sources close to AvtoVAZ.
    "The idea is to give all board and management positions, which are concerned with technology and cost cutting, to representatives of Renault, while those from Russian Technologies will remain in key positions to represent the controlling shareholder," the paper quoted one of them as saying.
    Yelena Sakhnova from Deutsche Bank said it was very wise of Russian Technologies and Troika, as Renault CEO Carlos Ghosn and his team famous for saving Japan's Nissan Motor Company out of the crisis, will certainly be able to improve the AvtoVAZ situation as well.
    Mikhail Pak, an analyst at the Capital investment company, said: "That Renault representatives have been put forward to join the company's board indicates that there are no problems with due diligence and that the deal will be final soon."
    AvtoVaz also needs Renault representatives on its board because the two companies are discussing technological cooperation. Several sources said AvtoVaz and Renault were in discussion to assemble Logan and Megane models.

    Kommersant

    Russia set to build coal-fired power plant in India

    Before going to New Delhi, Russian Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov sent a letter on changing the contract conditions for building the coal-fired Barh power plant to the Indian government. Pending an answer, Russia's state-owned thermal power plant builder Tekhnopromexport is proposing buying the Barh facility.
    Analysts said this would be a political, rather than commercial, investment.
    Moscow is requesting that the contract's 20% escalation ceiling be abolished.
    Tekhnopromexport CEO Sergei Molozhavy said construction would go ahead if the contract was changed, and that the company would otherwise try and buy the Barh plant from India.
    Under the 2005 contract, there were plans to build three 660 MW units worth $2 billion by 2006. However, the project was halted for eight months because Tekhnopromexport became a public company and New Delhi refused to sign a new contract.
    Construction prices increased by 20% after a new contract was signed and the Indian side refused to increase the escalation ceiling. Molozhavy said New Delhi has invested $600 million into the project, which has now ground to a halt again.
    He said Russia's Federal Property Fund could take over the Barh plant, which would be managed by Tekhnopromexport.
    Matvei Taits, utilities analyst at UralSib Financial Corporation, said the Barh project was worth $3 billion.
    Bank of Moscow analyst Dmitry Skvortsov said the contract could cost as much as $3.5 billion due to rising prices for metal and cement.
    Taits said Russia would profit from taking over the Barh plant only if the facility received coal from local mines because transport rates accounted for 50% of coal prices.
    Skvortsov said the Barh plant would generate about 1% of the country's electricity, and that its possible takeover by Russia would increase Moscow's influence in the Indian market.


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