Russian Navy deploys ships to Venezuela

By Ilya Kramnik
RIA Novosti military commentator, 23/09/08

MOSCOW - A Russian Navy squadron set off for Venezuela Monday in a deployment of Russian military power to the Western Hemisphere unprecedented since the Cold War.

During the Cold War, Latin America became an ideological battleground between the Soviet Union and the United States.

The Kremlin has recently moved to intensify contacts with Venezuela, Cuba and other Latin American nations amid strained relations with Washington after last month's conflict between Russia and Georgia.

The squadron comprising the Russian Northern Fleet's Pyotr Veliky (Peter the Great) battle cruiser and the anti-submarine warfare (ASW) ship Admiral Chabanenko will participate in exercises off the Venezuelan coast.

In the past, the world's major powers would demonstrate their naval capabilities in various regions, hinting ominously that they could disrupt enemy lines of communication in case of conflict.

Gunboats and other small warships, rather than capital warships, were an effective instrument for accomplishing such objectives.

However, the Pyotr Veliky and the Admiral Chabanenko are the Russian Navy's newest capital ships. Moscow's decision to send them to Venezuela implies that both warships can show their flags and defend them.

Military analysts often stress that the Russian Navy is vastly outnumbered by the U.S. Navy and those of NATO countries, and that Russian warships would be unable to score any impressive results.

Although the U.S. Navy is a powerful fighting force, it cannot be strong everywhere. The arrival of two capital Russian warships in the Caribbean Sea, traditionally a U.S. sphere of influence, will be a nasty surprise to Washington, compelling it to devote more attention to regional defenses.

The Pyotr Veliky displaces 25,000 metric tons and carries 20 P-700 Granit (SS-N-19 Shipwreck) supersonic anti-ship cruise missiles that can destroy ships of any class. The Russian battle cruiser is also heavily armed for ASW and air-defense missions; such weaponry also enhances its combat survivability.

The Admiral Chabanenko, which carries eight P-270 Moskit (SS-N-22 Sunburn) anti-ship missiles and surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems, is intended to locate and destroy enemy submarines.

Both warships can support each other and have the capability to inflict major losses on any adversary before they are outgunned.

The Russian squadron's objectives, rather than its capabilities, are a high-priority issue. The Kremlin has recently used the Navy during the peace enforcement operation in Georgia and now wants to display its naval might at America's doorstep.

Nevertheless, the Russian Navy's state will not improve as a result of Moscow's modified policies. Hopefully, the government will soon start restoring and rearming the Navy because any show of strength will otherwise prove ineffective.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.

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Russia Won't Meet With U.S. on Iranian Nuclear Program

By Steven Lee Myers
New York Times, 23/09/08

Russia said on Tuesday that it would not participate in a meeting with the United States this week to discuss Iran’s nuclear program, the most significant indication yet of how Russia’s war with Georgia has spoiled relations regarding other security issues.

Russia’s move apparently effectively scuttled the meeting.

The Russian Foreign Ministry issued a biting statement that criticized remarks last week by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who declared that Russia had taken "a dark turn" away from democracy and respect for international norms.

"We would very much like Washington, in the end, to make up its mind what kind of relations they want with Moscow," a ministry spokesman, Andrei Nesterenko, said in the statement. "If they want to punish Russia, that is one thing," he said. "If they agree that we have common interests that need to be jointly advanced, then that’s another."

Sean McCormack, the State Department spokesman, said in a press briefing on Tuesday that the decision to cancel the meeting was mutual and not a game of tit for tat with the Russians. "We agree with them the time is not right to have a meeting at the ministerial level," he said.

Russia and the United States, with China, Britain, France and Germany, had been scheduled to meet Thursday in New York to discuss additional punitive actions against Iran in the wake of a report by the International Atomic Energy Agency criticizing Iran’s failure to fully answer questions about its nuclear activities.

Russian officials had already made clear that they did not support new sanctions beyond three rounds already approved by the United Nations Security Council.

Ms. Rice is scheduled to meet her Russian counterpart, Sergey V. Lavrov, on Wednesday on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

A senior administration official, attending the meetings, acknowledged relations with Russia were in "a very rocky period" that tested the administration’s efforts to continue to cooperate on security issues even as President Bush and his aides strongly criticized Russian actions after the brief war with Georgia.

"They definitely don’t share the same sense of urgency that we and some of our European partners have," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the delicacy of the matter.

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Russia in talks with Cuba, Venezuela on joint use of Glonass satellites

RIA Novosti, 23/09/08

MOSCOW - Russia is negotiating with Cuba and Venezuela on the joint use of Russia's Glonass navigation satellites, the head of the federal space agency said on Tuesday.

"I have just returned from a working visit to Cuba. They are very interested in cooperating with us in the use of the Glonass system, which will cover the globe by 2010," Roscosmos chief Anatoly Perminov told reporters in Moscow.

He said Moscow and Havana are working on a space cooperation agreement and have considered ways of jointly using earth remote sensing satellites.

Russia has previously said it intends to share its space technology with Cuba, and has begun discussions on building a space center in the country.

Perminov also said Russia would like to station several ground based space communication facilities in Venezuela, but stressed that they would have no military application.

Glonass (Global Navigation Satellite System) is the Russian equivalent of the U.S. Global Positioning System (GPS), which is designed for both military and civilian use, and allows users to identify their positions in real time.

Russia plans to launch six satellites in the next three months to increase the existing Glonass grouping to 18-19 spacecraft.

According to the Central Research Institute for Machine Building, the Glonass system currently consists of 16 satellites, with 13 satellites working in orbit, two undergoing maintenance, and one due to be withdrawn from the orbital grouping.

Perminov earlier said that the number of Glonass satellites will be increased from the current 16 to 30 by 2011.

A total of 9.9 billion rubles (around $400 million at the current exchange rate) was allocated for Glonass from the federal budget in 2007, and 4.7 billion rubles ($190 million) in 2006.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin signed a directive on September 12 allocating an additional $2.6 billion to develop the Glonass system.

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Georgia 'downs Russian drone'

Al Jazeera, 23/09/08

Georgian officials have said that an unmanned Russian reconnaissance drone has been shot down just south of the breakaway region of South Ossetia.

Moscow denied the claim on Tuesday and accused Tbilisi of "provocation".

"This is the latest media provocation by Georgia with the aim of destabilising the situation in the region," Alexander Drobyshevsky, the Russian defence ministry spokesman, said.

"The aircraft of Russia's defence ministry have conducted no flights in the security zone," he said.

Russian forces moved into Georgia in support of South Ossetian separatist forces last month after Tbilisi launched an offensive to retake the region.

Drone 'patrolling'

The Georgian interior ministry said the drone was shot down on Monday morning near the town of Gori, about 30km from the de facto border with South Ossetia

"It was flying over the territory between the villages of Khurvaleti and Tsitelubani," Shota Utiashvili, an interior ministry spokesman, said. "We believe it was patrolling the territory where the Baku-Supsa [oil] pipeline runs."

The ministry displayed what it said was the downed Russian drone during a news conference. The aircraft was around one metre in length and 1.5 metres wide.

Utiashvili said it was a short-range drone capable of taking photographs, and suggested it had been launched from Russian positions at a "security zone" just a few kilometres north of Gori.

Russian forces continue to hold positions inside undisputed Georgian territory. A French-brokered deal which requires Russian forces to withdraw from "security zones" adjacent to South Ossetia and another breakaway region, Abkhazia, by October 10.

European monitors

A European Union mission of at least 200 monitors begins deploying this week to observe the pullback.

Before last month's war, Georgia flew unmanned reconnaissance aircraft over Abkhazia. A United Nations report concluded one of them had been shot down by a Russian jet, though Moscow denied this.

One Georgian police officer was killed and three others were wounded on Sunday by fire from separatists fighters in Abkhazia. Another two Georgian officers were wounded on Monday when they went to the area to investigate and stepped on a landmine.

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Bush chides Russia in UN speech

George Bush calls for more unity in the United Nations

BBC, 23/09/08

George W Bush has accused Russia of violating the UN's charter by invading Georgia, in his final speech to the world body as US president.

Mr Bush urged world leaders gathered at UN in New York to "stand united in our support of the people of Georgia".

In a wide-ranging speech, Mr Bush also urged the international community to continue the fight against terrorism.

He also gave an assurance that the US was taking decisive action over the current global economic crisis.

Mr Bush's speech touched on the themes of his presidency.

He accused Iran and Syria of continuing to sponsor terrorism, saying they were growing more isolated.

He also urged the UN to enforce sanctions on North Korea and Iran over their nuclear programmes.

'Equal rights'

On terrorism, the president warned that the world's leaders could not simply pass resolutions condemning terrorist acts after they had happened.

He said that instead, terrorism should be confronted with a "clarity of vision".

Referring to Russia's recent military action in Georgia, he said: "We must stand united in our support of the people of Georgia.

UN General Assembly
Economic issues are expected to dominate this year's assembly

"The United Nations charter sets forth the equal rights of nations large and small. Russia's invasion of Georgia was a violation of those words."

Mr Bush's comments came hours after Georgia said it had shot down a Russian reconnaissance drone flying over its territory.

It said the unmanned plane was downed south of its de facto border with the breakaway region of South Ossetia.

Russia dismissed the claim as a "media provocation by Georgia".

Mr Bush also assured world leaders that the US was acting decisively to contain the current global economic crisis.

He said he was confident that his plan to buy up the bad debt blocking the flow of credit would be passed by the US Congress "in the urgent timeframe required".

Summit call

Speaking after Mr Bush, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said Europe's message to Russia was that it could not accept the use of force to settle disputes.

Mr Sarkozy also called for a summit of world leaders to be held by the end of the year to discuss lessons learned from the global financial turmoil.

And he said the G8 group of leading industrialised countries should be expanded to include China, India, South Africa, Mexico and Brazil.

World financial problems were also a major theme of the address by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon when he opened the annual assembly.

He said the financial turmoil put at risk the achievement of the UN-agreed Millennium Development Goals set in 2000 to halve global poverty by 2015.

He added that the crisis demanded a new approach with less "uncritical faith in the 'magic' of markets".

"The global financial crisis endangers all our work-financing for development, social spending in rich nations and poor, the Millennium Development Goals," he told the meeting.

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Bush accuses Russia of violating UN Charter in Georgia conflict

RIA Novosti, 23/09/08

WASHINGTON - U.S. President George W. Bush accused Russia on Tuesday of violating the UN Charter in its recent conflict with Georgia, and said the U.S. would continue to support Georgia.

"The UN Charter sets forth the 'equal rights of nations large and small.' Russia's invasion of Georgia was a violation of those words. Young democracies around the world are watching to see how we handle this test," Bush said in his farewell speech to the UN General Assembly.

He said Washington would work with its NATO allies and with the European Union to defend Georgia's territorial integrity.

Russia came under strong criticism for Western powers in its five-day conflict with Georgia last month, which followed Georgia's August 8 attack on breakaway South Ossetia. Russia subsequently recognized South Ossetia, along with Abkhazia, as independent states.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy also singled out Russia for criticism in his speech to the assembly, saying Moscow "cannot compromise on the principle of states' sovereignty and independence, their territorial integrity."

The main focus of the UN General Assembly session was the ongoing global financial crisis.

In his speech, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned that financial troubles in rich nations could harm aid to poor countries, and called on states to abandon their "uncritical faith" in market forces.

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Abkhazia to host two Russian military bases

RIA Novosti, 23/09/08

SUKHUMI - Abkhaz President Sergei Bagapsh confirmed Tuesday that two Russian military bases are to be stationed in the republic, recognized as an independent state by Moscow on August 26.

He said the bases would be located in the towns of Gudauta and Ochamchira, in the west and east of the republic, respectively.

Bagapsh said a military airport would be reopened in Gudauta. "New housing and an appropriate infrastructure will also be built for the families of Russian servicemen," he told a press conference.

The Abkhaz leader also said a seaport would also be restored in Ochamchira. "Taking into account that, after everything, Georgia will still in the near future join NATO, Abkhazia should do everything necessary to strengthen state security," Bagapsh said.

Russia recognized Abkhazia and South Ossetia, another breakaway Georgian region, as independent states last month after a brief armed conflict with Georgia. The five-day war began when Georgia attacked South Ossetia on August 8.

Russia signed friendship and cooperation treaties with South Ossetia and Abkhazia on September 17, promising them military and economic support.

South Ossetia and Abkhazia have so far only been recognized by Russia and Nicaragua. Belarus has pledged to follow suit in the near future, and Venezuela has voiced support for Russia's recognition of the two republics.

The two republics broke away from Georgia following the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s amid wars that claimed thousands of lives.

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