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RUSSIA


  
  

 

Key Economic Data 
 
  2003 2002 2001 Ranking(2003)
GDP
Millions of US $ 433,491 346,520 310,000 16
         
GNI per capita
 US $ 2,610 2,140 1,750 97
Ranking is given out of 208 nations - (data from the World Bank)

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Update No: 351  (25/03/10)

The dominant trio
Russia is of course a major player on the world scene. So naturally are China and the US. It looks as if the former two are forging an alliance against the US.

Putin, China's Xi vow 'strategic' support in first meeting
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping, tipped to become China's president, hailed the strength of bilateral ties on March 23 as they looked to forge a counterbalance to the power of the US. "We are in favour of Russia playing an important role in international and regional affairs," Xi, currently China's vice-president, said after the pair held their first talks. "We will surely support you. In our opinion, China and Russia should in the future facilitate the establishment of a multipolar world and democratisation of international relations," he added, speaking through a Russian interpreter.

The meeting came as Moscow and Beijing seek to put behind them the rivalries of the Cold War, a period when the two Communist powers eyed each other with suspicion. Now they are positioning themselves as counterweights to US global dominance. In both countries, the issue of political succession is expected to be one of the dominant aspects of the political agenda in the coming years.

Xi is being groomed to take over the Chinese presidency in 2012-13, while in Russia many observers believe Putin -- still considered the country's top decision maker -- may return to the Kremlin as president in 2012.

Putin called China the country's "strategic partner in the full sense of this word," offering Moscow's support for China's position on Taiwan. "We have always supported China on the most sensitive issues, including the Taiwan problem," Putin said, who last visited China in October 2009 for talks with China's President Hu Jintao.

China considers Taiwan, where the mainland's nationalists fled in 1949 after losing the civil war, to be a territory awaiting reunification, by force if necessary.

Russia and most of the world also view Taiwan as an integral part of China, but Taiwan trades with and receives support from numerous countries, notably the United States.

Both leaders praised growing Russian-Chinese business relations, with Xi calling on the two countries to resolve all outstanding economic issues.

Russia, which has been watching Beijing's growing economic and political might with a mixture of awe and uneasiness, wants to diversify its energy client base to Asia.

US-Russia axis
But the US is still there. With the United States and Russia still haggling over the fine print of a long-delayed arms control pact, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton arrived in Moscow on March 18 to meet Russian leaders as the Obama administration tried to push the negotiations across the finish line.

Mrs. Clinton met President Dmitri A. Medvedev and the foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, who expressed confidence that a deal could be soon reached. That would allow President Obama to present the agreement, which would make deep cuts in the nuclear arsenals of both countries, at an international summit meeting on nuclear non-proliferation in April in Washington.

“Certainly this is a moment when we’ve made a lot of progress, and we certainly hope to make more, and the secretary’s involvement is extremely important,” the under secretary of state for political affairs, William J. Burns, told reporters travelling on Mrs. Clinton’s plane. “We want to move ahead to finish the agreement,” he said.

In Moscow, Mrs. Clinton will also meet with leaders from the European Union and the United Nations, as well as Russia, to discuss the fallout from a sharp conflict between the United States and Israel over the Israeli government’s announcement last week of a housing plan for Jews in East Jerusalem.

Although an arms deal could theoretically be announced while Mrs. Clinton is in Moscow, the months of tortuous negotiations have made administration officials extremely leery of predicting the end of a process they had once claimed would be wrapped up by the end of last year.

In recent weeks, Mr. Obama has thrust himself into the negotiations, speaking twice by phone with Mr. Medvedev in the last three weeks. In the first call, Mr. Obama was surprised to hear the Russian president raise several fresh hurdles, including the revised American plan for a missile-defence system, which Mr. Obama believed had been settled by negotiators in Geneva.

“Every time you think you’re done, new issues pop up in Geneva, and what seemed like trivia become major political issues,” said another senior administration official, speaking on the condition on anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly.

Now, both sides said the talks were back on track, though administration officials conceded that there were still differences over a handful of issues like transparency and the missile-defence system. Russia reacted badly to an announcement in January that Romania would host part of the system, and reintroduced a demand that the treaty contain language limiting the system.

Mr. Obama held a second, more upbeat call with Mr. Medvedev last Saturday, and the White House hopes that Mrs. Clinton’s meeting with the Russian president at his dacha will build on that momentum.

“Otherwise, it does not get done,” the official said. “Otherwise, it drags on like the last START Treaty, which I think took nine years.”

The agreement, which would replace START, the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty of 1991, would be a symbol of the new relationship Mr. Obama is trying to forge with Russia. It would reduce deployed strategic warheads and delivery systems by at least 25 percent.

Citing another sign of better ties between the countries, officials said that 30 percent of supplies for American troops in Afghanistan were now being shipped through Russian territory, either by airplane or train.

Mrs. Clinton is also expected to seek a public show of support from Russia for tougher United Nations sanctions against Iran, which could help the administration press its case with a resistant China.

Russia has been more open to a harder line toward Tehran since the Iranian government rebuffed a proposal to ship much of its lightly-enriched uranium to Russia and France. The uranium was to be enriched to a higher level to fuel a research reactor in Tehran that produces medical isotopes.
But China has so far insisted on using diplomacy rather than additional sanctions, which has left the United States scrambling to line up international support for a resolution in the Security Council.

Mr. Burns, the under-secretary of state, said he was confident a resolution would be adopted, though he did not offer a timetable. “There’s a sense of urgency that we feel, and we’d like to move this ahead as quickly as we can,” he said.

The UK-Russia axis
US and Russian diplomats naturally speak to each other in English. Two centuries ago it would have been in French. But English took over as the international language a century ago at the height of the British imperial reach. The Russians retain a special feel for the British, and vice-versa. London is their favourite foreign port of call – and place of residence.

There is a certain affinity between the UK and Russia, despite the vast disparity between them in size and climate. Being an island power is rather different from being a continental one.

They both acquired huge empires, the former mainly by commerce and naval conquest, the latter by military means. They both developed strong monarchies in the process, but with a massive difference.

The British monarchy was overthrown during the English Civil War in the mid-seventeenth century, but was then triumphantly restored in 1660 as a constitutional monarchy respecting the rights of parliament and people. There were to be several changes of dynasty, notably the Great Revolution of 1689 and the advent of the Hanoverians in 1714, who are still with us today. But monarchy remained the cornerstone of the British state and of the British Empire. It has now transmuted into the British Commonwealth of Nations, a novelty that the Russians decided to emulate with their Commonwealth of Independent States. This encompasses the former USSR, less the Baltic states.

Tsardom was felled in 1917, never to be restored. The restoration of capitalism has created a new class of super-rich, intensely nostalgic for the Tsarist epoch. They fancy themselves as new aristocrats, not as nouveaux riches engaged only in conspicuous consumption. They want to belong to the West, not be classified as Eastern. Everything Western is a la mode in Russia; the East, and everything there from, is inferior and even despicable, yet a threat.

This was true of old. Russian aristocrats spoke French as their second language and even amongst themselves. Their emulators today in the Russian super-rich naturally speak English instead. They wish to do it with class; that means English English, not American English. Where better to learn it than in England – and at a young age as well? English public schools are being populated in large numbers by Russians, nearly all the offspring of the plutocracy.

The major British companies are heavily investing in Russia, notably the energy ones, BP, Shell, etc. There are all sorts of new opportunities opening up; but they depend on how the Russian economy itself is developing. How is that?

The long view
Russia's economy certainly has problems now, although less affected by most by the world debt crisis. It sells necessaries not luxuries in the primary sector, energy etc, to the world economy.

Its long-term prospects are excellent. It has a very modest population for its size, falling of late to under 150 million. Vast stretches of the Far North are available for development and settlement, with copious mineral resources to be found and exploited. If its government shows a modicum of sense, Russia could become even more of a magnet for foreign investment than today, importing the best world practices.

 

 

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