Thursday, June 28, 2007

Kremlin lays claim to huge chunk of oil-rich North Pole

Kremlin lays claim to huge chunk of oil-rich North Pole

It is already the world's biggest country, spanning 11 time zones and stretching from Europe to the far east. But yesterday Russia signalled its intention to get even bigger by announcing an audacious plan to annex a vast 460,000 square mile chunk of the frozen and ice-encrusted Arctic.

According to Russian scientists, there is new evidence backing Russia's claim that its northern Arctic region is directly linked to the North Pole via an underwater shelf. Under international law, no country owns the North Pole. Instead, the five surrounding Arctic states, Russia, the US, Canada, Norway and Denmark (via Greenland), are limited to a 200-mile economic zone around their coasts.

On Monday, however, a group of Russian geologists returned from a six-week voyage on a nuclear icebreaker. They had travelled to the Lomonosov ridge, an underwater shelf in Russia's remote and inhospitable eastern Arctic Ocean. According to Russia's media, the geologists returned with the "sensational news" that the Lomonosov ridge was linked to Russian Federation territory, boosting Russia's claim over the oil-and-gas rich triangle. The territory contained 10bn tonnes of gas and oil deposits, the scientists said.

Russia's Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper celebrated the discovery by printing a large map of the North Pole. It showed the new "addition" to Russia - the size of France, Germany and Italy combined - under a white, blue and red Russian flag. Yesterday, however, some scientists doubted whether Russia's latest Arctic grab stood up to scrutiny. To extend a zone, a state has to prove that the structure of the continental shelf is similar to the geological structure within its territory. Under the current UN convention on the laws of the sea, no country's shelf extends to the North Pole. Instead, the International Seabed Authority administers the area around the pole as an international area.

"Frankly I think it's a little bit strange," Sergey Priamikov, the international co-operation director of Russia's Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute in St Petersburg, told the Guardian. "Canada could make exactly the same claim. The Canadians could say that the Lomonosov ridge is part of the Canadian shelf, which means Russia should in fact belong to Canada, together with the whole of Eurasia." Mr Priamikov said the area was one of breathtaking natural beauty. It was much drier, colder and quieter than the western Arctic, he added. "I've been there many times. It's an oasis for marine life," he said. Asked whether it would be feasible to drill for oil, he said: "Yes".

The shelf was 200 metres deep and oil and gas would be easy to extract, especially with ice melting because of global warming, he said. Russia has the world's largest gas reserves. It is the second largest exporter of oil after Saudi Arabia. The Kremlin is keen to secure Russia's long-term hegemony over global energy markets, and to find new sources of fuel. Russia first made a submission in 2001 to the UN commission on the limits of the continental shelf, seeking to push Russia's maritime borders beyond the existing 200-mile zone. It was rejected.

But the latest scientific findings are likely to prompt Russia to lodge another confident bid - and will alarm the US, which is mired in a 13-year debate over ratification of a UN treaty governing international maritime rights. The Law of the Sea Treaty is the world's primary means of settling disputes over exploitation rights and navigational routes in international waters. Russia and 152 other countries have ratified it. But the US has refused, arguing it gives too much power to the UN. If the US does not ratify it, Russia's bid for the Arctic's energy wealth will go unchallenged, proponents believe.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Lantos to Host Russian Leaders for First-Ever Joint Congress-Duma Meeting Open to the Public

(some commentary which I usually do not do....but while this is a great event to have, it's a shame that it's worthless because the Russian Duma has about as much power in Russia as the delegate from guam has here in america)

Lantos to Host Russian Leaders for First-Ever Joint Congress-Duma Meeting Open to the Public

Washington, DC - Chairman Tom Lantos today announced the schedule for a ground-breaking, open meeting next week between the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and the foreign affairs committee of the Duma, the legislature of the Russian Federation.

"The United States and Russia are facing a wide range of challenges," Lantos noted. "Thus, it is singularly appropriate that we continue our useful tradition of dialogue and inter-parliamentary exchange. And this time, all the world can listen in on the conversation." The June 21 joint session will mark the third in the series of meetings between the American and Russian foreign affairs committees, with previous sessions held in Moscow (June 2004) and Washington (November 2005). It will be the first such meeting ever to which the media and members of the public will be invited.

The gathering will focus on four key themes: democracy and human rights, unresolved regional conflicts, strategic stability and trade and economic issues "This joint session will be ground-breaking," Lantos said. "I look forward to meeting with my Russian colleagues to discuss pressing issues such as human rights and regional stability, to discuss our differences and to expand our common ground."

Agenda for Public Session of Joint Meeting

June 21, 2007 Room 2172 of the Rayburn House Office Building

10:00 a.m. - 10:30 a.m. Opening Statements
10:30 a.m. - 10:55 a.m. Humanitarian Issues (including democracy, human rights)
10:55 a.m. - 11:20 a.m. Unresolved Regional Conflicts (including Kosova, Georgia, Moldova)
11:20 a.m. - 11:40 a.m. Strategic Stability (including the Conventional Forces in Europe treaty, non-proliferation, missile defense)
11:40 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. Trade and Economy (including energy security)

Following the morning's public session, members of the Committee on Foreign Affairs and the Duma will meet for a private lunch and an afternoon closed-door session.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Putin calls for new financial world order

By Neil Buckley and Catherine Belton in St Petersburg

Russian president Vladimir Putin called on Sunday for a radical overhaul of the world’s financial and trade institutions to reflect the growing economic power of emerging market countries – including Russia. Mr Putin said the world needed to create a new international financial architecture to replace an existing model that had become “archaic, undemocratic and unwieldy”.

His apparent challenge to western dominance of the world economic order came at a forum in St Petersburg designed to showcase the country’s economic recovery. Among 6,000 delegates at the biggest business forum ever held in post-Soviet Russia were scores of international chief executives including heads of Deutsche Bank, BP, Royal Dutch Shell, NestlĂ©, Chevron, Siemens and Coca-Cola.

Business deals worth more than $4bn were signed at the conference – including an order by Aeroflot for Boeing jets – as executives said they were continuing to invest in Russia despite deteriorating relations with the west. Mr Putin’s hosting of the forum capped a week in which he dominated the international stage. He warned last Monday that Russia might target nuclear missiles at Europe if the US built a missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic, then offered a compromise at the G8 summit involving switching part of the US system to Azerbaijan.
His speech on financial institutions suggested that, along with an aggressive recent campaign against US “unilateralism” in foreign policy, he was also seeking to challenge western dominance of the world economic order.

Mr Putin said 50 years ago, 60 per cent of world gross domestic product came from the Group of Seven industrial nations. Today, 60 per cent of world GDP came from outside the G7. “The interests of stable economic development would be best served by a new architecture of international economic relations based on trust and mutually beneficial integration,” Mr Putin said. The Russian president said there was increasing evidence that existing organisations were “not doing a good job regulating global economic relations”.

“Institutions created with a focus on a small number of active players sometimes look archaic, undemocratic and unwieldy. They are a far cry from recognising the existing balance of power,” he said.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Police Seize Drafts of Books on Putin

DOUGLAS BIRCHAssociated Press Writer

MOSCOW (AP) - A Russian journalist said Friday that law enforcement officials searched his apartment and carted off computers that contained draft chapters of two books he was writing about President Vladimir Putin. Vladimir Pribylovsky said he was told the seizures were part of an investigation into the unsolved slaying of a former senior official of the main successor agency to the KGB. But Pribylovsky, who runs a Web site critical of the Kremlin, said he suspects officials were really interested in finding out what he planned to publish about Putin. "I believe that they wanted to read what I was writing," he told The Associated Press. The Moscow prosecutor's office declined to comment.

Pribylovsky said he had previously written about the killing of Col.- Gen. Anatoly Trofimov, a former deputy head of the Federal Security Service shot in 2005 by a masked gunman outside his Moscow home. The author said that he agreed to remove some materials relating to the case from his Web site three months ago at the request of officials. The working titles for the books are "Putin's Comrades," and "Operation Successor," said Pribylovsky, who was working on the latter with Yuri Felshtinsky, a historian and author living in the United States. Felshtinsky told the AP that his co-author's computers contained "a huge volume of information" on ranking government officials. "There is a lot of very interesting and important information, which might be lost because they could drag on the investigation, any investigation, for some years now, and the idea was to publish the book before the election," Felshtinsky said.

Felshtinsky co-authored a book, "Blowing Up Russia," with Alexander Litvinenko, who died in a London hospital in November after being poisoned with radioactive polonium-210. The book alleged that Russian security forces had played a role in a series of mysterious bombings of apartment buildings in Russia in 1999 that killed more than 300 people. The explosions were blamed on Chechen rebels and served as a key reason for the Kremlin to launch the second war in Chechnya. After Litvinenko's death, Felshtinsky said, he and Pribylovsky continued to collaborate on "Operation Successor," parts of which have been published in various periodicals. But the two authors halted all direct contacts out of concern for Pribylovsky's safety.
"Pribylovsky is in a much more dangerous position than I am because I am in the United States and he is in Russia," Felshtinsky said.
British prosecutors have named Andrei Lugovoi, a Moscow businessman and former FSB agent, as their chief suspect in Litvinenko's murder.
The search of Pribylovsky's apartment took place the same day that Lugovoi held a news conference to protest his innocence, and to claim there was evidence the British secret services were involved in the slaying.