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Saturday, February 17, 2007

Small towns to be revived, Putin and Russia, Oil alternatives, Opposition split, Polish scandal, Opinion, Blogs, Sports

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  • #177

    All small towns of Belarus to be restored over five-year period

    From: BelTA
    A. Lukashenko: manufacture of import-substituting products to be set up in small and middle towns
    Import-substituting products should be made in small and middle towns, president of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko has stated today at a meeting on the draft state program for the development of regions and small towns until 2010.

    “We should do everything possible to implement the program after it is adopted”, the head of state underlined. He noted that the document provides for taking a whole set of measures to develop small and middle towns. In particular, "the document envisages creating favourable conditions for running business and for setting up new productions in the country”, Alexander Lukashenko said. “With new manufactures set up in rural regions, living conditions will improve. The state will keep everything under its control to make sure that the profits are invested in the development of small towns and villages rather than go into pockets or what is worse taken out of the country”, the president said.

    Over the five-year period we should restore all the small towns of Belarus no matter how hard it is.

    The document is targeted at 187 settlements, including 95 urban-type villages, 73 small towns, 15 medium-size towns with the population of under 50 thousand, the town of Slonim and three villages, BelTA learnt in the presidential press service.

    The program also stipulates measures to improve operation of 188 loss making companies and includes 335 investment projects (97 of which deal with creation of new manufactures).

    The government has prepared a list of companies in small and medium-size settlements which are to enjoy a 50%-reduction in the profit tax rate and which are to be exempt from real estate tax, road users’ tax and a duty benefiting the national agricultural producers support fund. The money saved thereby is to be channeled into the development and upgrading of the respective companies.

    The draft is closely connected with other state programs, first of all with the village revival program. Several other drafts and legal acts were elaborated too.

    Roughly a half of the population of Belarus lives in rural areas and in small towns.

    The quality of life in Minsk and in oblast centers is rather high and the conditions are comfortable, the head of state said. This is also true about smaller towns with the population of up to 100 thousand people. But it is rural areas and small towns with the population under 50 thousand where problems exist.

    “As for the village, we have taken all appropriate decisions. Small towns have suffered from Soviet-time bungling: town-forming enterprises were set up there, which fell into decay after the disintegration of the Soviet Union; as a result, the majority of the population was left without jobs and normal living conditions,” he said.

    To ensure growth in well-being of the population in small and medium-size towns, specialists have prepared the national comprehensive program of development of small and medium-size urban settlements for 2007-2010 that provides for the development of manufactures and economy in the regions.

    Today the Belarusian government sees great future in small towns. Alexander Lukashenko said that government investments in the development of small and medium townships should be spent frugally.

    Addressing the government executives and representatives of local authorities, the president said, “I will not let you waste the money. Concentrate funds and carry out construction projects as you should do”. “It may take long, but we should make things to last for decades”, stressed the president.

    According to Alexander Lukashenko, the state will reinforce control over the utilisation of budget funds. “They have to be spent wisely and frugally”, said the head of state.

    According to the president, small and middle towns should specialize in production of import-substituting products.

    The Belarus president demanded that the State Control Committee should institute legal proceedings for mismanagement during the implementation of projects in small and medium towns. “We chase conmen and crooks for stealing 500,000 dollars or a million. But mismanagers steal dozens and hundreds of millions of dollars”, said the president.

    Alexander Lukashenko added, “We have shown how an agro-town and a production facility should be set up. It should be done very assiduously, frugally, without additional expenses, just using what one has”. He underlined, “The basic potential is rather good even in most rundown local economies”.

    “Do not destroy routines villages have been creating for centuries. You may build more homes in villages, but do not build Potemkin villages on bare land”, demanded the head of state. The president also emphasised, there will be no pardoning for mismanagement.

    When delivering a report prime minister of Belarus Sergei Sidorskiy highlighted that the purpose of the state program in question is to ensure prosperity of people and to raise the production capacities in regions, to make live in rural areas more comfortable.

    Together with the program a draft presidential decree on the simplified taxation system has been prepared, which significantly expands the use of the system of taxation for small businesses. For example, for companies operating in small settlements, the tax rate will be slashed from 10% to 5% (without VAT) and from 8% to 3% (with VAT). A range of tax preferences will be introduced for the companies in small and medium-size towns which produce consumer goods in line with the list. In conformity with the law on the budget, the taxes paid by new business located in small towns will remain in the local budgets.

    Governor of Brest oblast Konstantin Sumar reported that 100 investment projects are planned to be implemented in Brest oblast and 47 new manufactures will be built.

    Governor of Gomel oblast Alexander Yakobson said that the oblast was going to implement 122 investment projects and create 13,500 new jobs. The unemployment should fall to 1.3% by 2010.

    Alexander Lukashenko declared that the unemployment should not exceed 1% in the country. All the regions should try to reach this target.

    The president made several remarks regarding the draft. According to him, the cost of the program is unreasonably inflated. It should, first of all, stipulate creation of new manufactures and jobs and promote business rather than repeat projects already included in other state programs.

    “There is no need to include social expenditures in the program as they are already fixed in the budget. Each town and settlement should prioritize the goals. The top priority is creation of new jobs, then – housing construction,” the president stressed.

    “The document should be optimized. Now we have to prescribe what needs to be done in each town and settlement in the industrial sphere, housing construction, social sphere, and how much it is going to cost. Do not include anything else. The rest will be done by other programs,” Alexander Lukashenko added.

    Two other drafts discussed during the sitting will be finalized soon as well.

    Belarus' economy performance positive in January

    From: BelTA
    Belarus’ economy performance in January can be evaluated as positive, prime minister Sergei Sidorskiy informed Belarus president Alexander Lukashenko on February 15.

    The Belarusian president’s press service quoted Sergei Sidorskiy as saying, despite the rising prices for Russian gas and oil sold to Belarus, the national economy managed to secure positive results in early 2007. The prime minister attributed the achievement mainly to the fact that Belarusian companies had worked out measures to decrease their energy consumption in 2006.

    The Belarusian GDP growth rate amounted to 109.7% as against January 2006. The industrial output swelled by 8.5%. Flagship companies ensured an increase as large as 13-14%. There are about 160 flagship companies in the country.

    The agricultural output grew by 7% on the whole. In particular, meat and milk production went up by 12%. The president was informed, the country stably increases the livestock population. Preparations of agricultural companies for spring field operations continue.

    Last month the inflation in Belarus totalled 1.8%, which corresponds to the forecast, Sergei Sidorskiy said. The raise in Russian energy prices accounted for 1.2% of the January growth of consumer prices.

    The replenishment of the state budget revenues and the financing of expenditures go as planned. Salaries, pensions, scholarships, welfare benefits are paid on time.

    In January 2007 investments increased by 47% in comparison with January 2006. This fact together with the stable Belarusian ruble and an effective government inflation-regulating policy allow the country to carry out a major retooling of production facilities, first of all, energy-consuming and high-tech ones. These factors also contribute to the growing volume of housing construction (over 340,000 square meters commissioned in January) and secure the inflow of new high-tech equipment in Belarus.

    Alexander Lukashenko was informed, in the future efforts aimed at optimising export-import activities of Belarusian companies will continue. The president had charged the government with securing this year’s foreign trade surplus at least as large as $500 million. Therefore, the government is now working hard to reach the goal.

    The head of state gave an instruction to step up the responsibility of executives of ministries and state agencies as well as enterprises for financial and economic stability and for securing financial development goals of enterprises.

    The president underlined, in every way the state will reward organisations, which have sufficient finance to replenish their floating assets and have developed a clear business development plan, as well as companies successful in foreign trade.

    Ukraine, Lithuania, Belarus to Establish Alternative to Russian Oil Supplies

    From: MOssNews
    The Klaipeda oil terminal in Lithuania
    Ukraine, Lithuania and Belarus said that they will establish an oil supply system that will serve as an alternative to Russian energy supplies to secure soft landing in case Moscow cuts deliveries.

    The initiative came from the Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus who said it is necessary for the three countries to coordinate their actions and diversify energy supplies.

    The idea was supported by the Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko. Speaking to the Ukrainian TV5 TV channel, he said: “I hope we will soon witness a special energy strategy of the European Union and Central Asia being developed. Certainly, as we repeatedly stress, in this context Ukraine and other transit countries should not be forgotten.”

    According to the TV report, the strategy upheld by three countries foresees acquisition of crude oil at the Rotterdam oil exchange, which will then be pumped through the Klaipeda terminal in Lithuania to Kiev or Minsk. The move would not offset the Russian oil supplies, but could provide a soft landing if Moscow cuts its deliveries.

    Russia has long been trying to reduce its dependence on transit countries. It pumps the majority of its gas to Europe through Ukrainian pipeline system. Belarus is transit territory to about one third of Russia’s Europe-bound crude. The Baltic States and Poland are also transit territories for both oil and gas. After January 2006 spat with Ukraine Russia decided to build the North European Gas Pipeline under the Baltic Sea — the move would bypass the Baltic States and Poland and has provoked harsh criticism from these countries. After January 2007 conflict with Belarus, when Russia was forced to cut oil deliveries to Europe for several days, Moscow decided to double capacity of its Primorsk oil terminal to avoid dependence on Belarus transit.

    Minsk views appointment of new PACE rapporteur on Belarus as intermediate step, foreign ministry's spokesman says

    From: Navany
    Mario Andrea Rigoni
    Minsk views the appointment of a new rapporteur on Belarus in the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) as an intermediate step, Andrey Papov, spokesman for the Belarusian foreign ministry, told reporters at Thursday's briefing.

    "As a matter of fact, for the time being, this matter should be regarded in a purely technical and organizational sense," Mr. Popov said. "The rapporteur has been appointed and we are yet to see what his activities will be."

    The PACE Political Affairs Committee of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly on February 13 appointed Mario Andrea Rigoni of Italy as special rapporteur on Belarus.

    Mr. Rigoni is a member of the Group of the European People's Party and a member of the PACE Subcommittee on Belarus.

    One should not draw far-reaching conclusions from the appointment of the new rapporteur, Syarhey Haydukevich, the Belarusian foreign minister's special representative for relations with European parliamentary organizations, told BelaPAN on Wednesday.

    "One should rather expect a dialogue, which will begin with not only PACE but also the European Union in general," said Mr. Haydukevich, leader of the Liberal Democratic Party and a member of Belarus' House of Representatives.

    There is some progress in establishing this dialogue, Mr. Haydukevich said. According to him, he has recently received a reply to his letter to PACE President Rene van der Linden. "We've agreed to meet soon when I'm in Strasbourg or Paris," he said, adding that he had also sent letters to "very many foreign ministers of West European countries."

    Mr. Haydukevich also said that some changes might soon occur in his status as the foreign minister's special representative toward expanding his functions so that he would be able to work with all European institutions

    Opposition Close to Split in Belarus

    From: Moscow Times
    Go on, take the money and run...
    The political opposition in Belarus was headed for a split on Thursday after its main leader said he would not attend a congress because of a leadership struggle.

    Alexander Milinkevich, who was awarded the European Union's top human rights prize last year, accused other politicians of ignoring voters and harboring ambitions to take over as opposition leader.

    "Rather than work together, some party leaders have begun fighting to take over the leadership," Milinkevich said in a statement released late Wednesday.

    "I can no longer remain a hostage to this situation and have no desire to be a part of any infighting," he said.

    Other opposition politicians said Milinkevich's action would invariably lead to a split.

    Microsoft reports to have increased its sales in Belarus by 50 percent in 2006

    From: Naveny
    Microsoft Corporation increased its sales in Belarus by 50 percent in 2006, Valery Lanovenko, general director for Ukraine and Belarus, told reporters in Minsk on February 15.

    He said that Microsoft is "very optimistic" about the prospects for its new products, in particular Windows Vista and Microsoft Office 2007, in Belarus. Both products are now on sale in 70 countries, including Belarus, he added.

    On March 1, Microsoft plans to open a technical assistance phone line to support legal users of software.

    "Our company is very optimistic about the growth of the Belarusian market," said Mr. Lanovenko, adding that the Belarusian IT market grows faster than those of other East European countries.

    According to Microsoft, some 100,000 computers are annually supplied to Belarus, which Mr. Lanovenko said testifies to an active increase in the number of PC users and, therefore, in the number of users of Microsoft products.

    Mr. Lanovenko said that the company currently develops a Belarusian-language version of the Windows XP Language Interface Pack. "There are no technological problems for carrying out this project, but we need to study the demand and the possible base of users of the Belarusian-language version. A discussion is underway, but we incline to believe that the Belarusian-language version should be released," he said.

    Belarus To Accelerate Plans For New Nuclear Reactor

    From: PLayfuls
    Belarus is thinking of establishing a nuclear power plant in the "dead zone" near Chernobyl.
    Belarus, the country worst hit by the Chernobyl nuclear power accident, will accelerate plans to build a new reactor, the Belapan news agency reported on Friday.

    A May 1986 reactor explosion at the Soviet Union's Chernobyl station spewed a radioactive dust cloud into the atmosphere, reaching half of Europe and hitting down-wind Belarus the hardest.

    Belarus needs to increase its use of nuclear power because of a recent doubling of oil and natural gas prices from Russia, Belarus' only source of fossil fuel energy, said Sergei Sidorskiy, Belarus Prime Minister.

    The Belarus government last year called for the construction of a nuclear power station in the country over nine years, with the first reactor to be operational in 2015.

    The station according to the updated plan will be delivering electricity to Belarusian consumers by 2011, Sidorskiy said. At present, there are no nuclear power stations in Belarus.

    Funding for construction at an as-yet unannounced site would come partially from Belarusian government income, and partly from the Moscow-based Evraziskiy Bank of Development, said Igor Finogenov, a bank spokesman.

    Belarusian atomic scientists have proposed Belarus build its nuclear power station in the Chernobyl "Dead Zone", an uninhabited and swampy area in south Belarus badly polluted by the Chernobyl accident.

    The Evraziskiy Bank is owned jointly by the Russian and Kazakhstan governments, and finances the development of atomic energy in both countries, Finogenov said.

    "If Belarus wants to participate in our (nuclear) programmes, they are welcome," he said.

    Nuclear power in Belarus is controversial not only because of the large number of radiation exposure victims living in the country, but because of neighbouring Lithuania's extensive use of reactor-produced electricity.

    Belarusian officials have criticised Lithuania's Ignalina Lithuanian plant, a Soviet-era station located on a lake shared with Belarus, as threatening to Belarusian ecology. Ignalina produces around 80 per cent of Lithuania's electricity, according to media reports.

    Lithuanian interest in constructing a new nuclear station with modern technology, after Ignalina shuts down, also has drawn fire from Belarus as potentially dangerous for the region.


    From: UCSJ
    Russian President Vladimir Putin with that other icon of human rights and tolerence, Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
    In a conference of over human rights NGOs and their leaders in Moscow to discuss the negative rule of law implications of religious discrimination and “Hate Speech, Xenophobia and Antisemitism in Russia, 21st Century 21” the discussion became further animated because, coincidentally, it came a day after Vladimir Putin’s rant against America at the Munich international security conference.

    The meeting was called in part to continue NGO planning to organize the first-ever bi-lingual, interactive human rights blog for Russia (and, soon, Ukraine and Belarus):, and an international NGO human rights monitoring coalition of the same name (Coalition Against Hate).

    “Our coalition’s blog and new strategy has become even more important since yesterday because of Putin’s aggressive anti-American speech in Munich,” one leader noted as the conference began, on February 8 at the Central House of Journalists, a traditional Moscow venue for human rights meetings and press conferences.

    The human rights leaders participated in the roundtable-style conference organized by the Moscow Helsinki Group (MHG) and the Washington-based UCSJ, including journalists, human rights activists, sociologists, UCSJ/MHG monitors, and other specialists. Many have widely disparate human rights interests and programs but all shared a common concern for the impunity of hate crimes and propaganda, including interference with the religious practices of non-Russian Orthodox confessions. Such concerns were broadly seen as symptomatic of Russia’s increasingly corrupt and dysfunctional justice system and the Kremlin’s ratcheting up of intimidation of NGOs, journalists and other independent truth tellers.

    According to Dr. Leonid Stonov of Chicago, one of the meeting’s organizers and coordinator of UCSJ’s human rights offices in the former Soviet Union, it was commonly noted that Putin’s “anti-American form of xenophobia is emblematic of today’s political and social life in Russia.” One participant, speaking for many, opined that it was “a pre-election propagandistic speech for the dissemination of anti-American rhetoric and for claiming a new era for restoring the strength of Russia – part of the run-up to the up-coming election season.” [Municipal elections beginning March 2007; national Duma, December 2007; presidential in March 2008.] There was a sense of common expectation here that, as one participant put it, “We think Putin may well be preparing to run for a [presently un-Constitutional] third term. As he foreshadowed in his speech, “many people – even some Western leaders – have asked [him] to run in the interest of Russian stability and progress.”

    Concerning anti-Georgian xenophobia, it was noted that before September 2006, Georgian nationals were popular media figures and commentators in Russia; after Kondopoga, the number of Russians against “hate speech” decreased to 45% from 66%. Concern was raised about the need to oppose “extremism” carefully, since the government has a tendency to include in this rubric human rights activists and democrats. There was a lengthy discussion of the positive impression of nationalist participants in TV discussion programs compared to weak impressions of democrats. The Levada Center cited recent public opinion sampling: “60—65% of Russians support so-called “soft” nationalism; 78% consider that the country is surrounded by enemies” – both consistent with the Kremlin's refrain.

    All participants stressed the importance of the struggle against xenophobia (including antisemitism) and the language of hatred; all “criticized the authorities for not only indifference to these provocations, but too often their role in stimulating xenophobia and political extremism,” according to notes taken at the meeting.

    At Munich, according to the February 13 Washington Post lead editorial, “Mr. Putin’s Vision,” Mr. Putin, “with astonishing nerve,” claimed that the United States had “over-stepped its national borders in every way … in the economic, political and cultural policies it imposes on other nations.” …. “Mr. Putin suggested that the United States was responsible for ‘a greater and greater disdain for the principles of international law,’ and that consequently ‘no one can feel that international law is like a stone wall that will protect them.’ … The Russian president also said that U.S. policy ‘stimulates an arms race.’ Minutes later he breezily acknowledged that Russia” is developing a new intercontinental missile, recently supplied to Iran with new air defense missiles, antitank missiles to Syria that were used last summer by Hezbollah against Israel, and is finalizing a sale to Saudi Arabia of 150 Russian T-90k tanks as well as offered them nuclear technology.

    “Mr. Putin, who has described the collapse of the Soviet Union as a ‘catastrophe,’ spoke nostalgically about the Cold War. It was a fragile and frightening peace, ‘But …it was reliable enough. Today it seems that the peace is not so reliable…. “Now, Putin asserted, the United States will be ‘afraid to make an extra step without consulting..’ That, anyway, is Vladimir Putin’s clearly stated ambition.” Further, the Post noted, “Mr. Putin may also have been seeking to preempt criticism of himself by European governments that have grown increasingly disenchanted with his regime.”

    Well said. But, as the Post notes, neither Western diplomacy nor the economic influence of foreign trade and investment have undermined Mr. Putin’s confidence or “astonishing nerve.” With no serious requirement of accountability at home he is empowered in his transgressions abroad. It will take the mobilization of international public advocacy in support of the courageous and embattled human rights NGOs at home to accomplish what happened to the Soviet Union nearly two decades ago, and what Putin most clearly fears today from political opposition and independent truth tellers.

    As in the past, it is a dangerous game to appease a strongman. The public voices of Western concerns for religious freedom and human rights must join with our Russian colleagues in our Coalition Against Hate to hold Mr. Putin’s Russia accountable to the international norms of human rights, rule of law and democracy.

    Moscow creates anti-terrorism security department

    From: Axis globe
    A new complex security department might appear at Moscow’s government to control all anti-terrorism services of the city, and it will deal with “military management” during emergency situations, supervising the media, meetings and mass public events, Kommersant reported earlier this week. The new department’s budget has not been approved by Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov. However, prefectures and municipal councils are already forming anti-terrorism divisions.

    The idea of a more thorough anti-terrorism control became relevant after Nikolai Patrushev, head of the National Anti-Terrorism Committee, announced on January 17 there is threat of terrorist acts in Moscow’s subway and surface transport.

    The new department is to carry out all activities for maintaining security. It will include six subdivisions, and its main function will be to coordinate anti-terrorism actions. One of the first tasks for the new department can be making the population familiar with “The recommendations to citizens on actions in case of terrorist act threat”.

    Meanwhile, the new department is already being created. Moscow Mayor Luzhkov will soon sign the order for organizing anti-terrorism departments in Moscow’s prefectures and municipal councils. At least 30 openings will be created in prefectures, and no less than 3 employees should be invited to anti-terrorism work in municipal councils.

  • Polish Corruption...

    Polish President and PM fight former communist agents in heir own entourage

    From: Axis globe
    The Kaczynski brothers
    In an analytical article of today’s Spiegel Online edition on current situation in Poland, Jan Puhl voices harsh critique of Kaczynski brothers’ policy apparently aimed at disclosing former communist agent networks. Following are several abstracts of the article.

    In their obsession to fight old communist networks, Poland's ruling Kaczynski twins have even begun probing their own ranks. But their plan to stage a "moral revolution" is dividing the country.

    The twins believe that the current practice, in which former secret police connections are examined by the Institute of National Remembrance -- the Polish counterpart to Germany's Birthler Commission, which is charged with investigating the records of the former East German Stasi, or National Security Service -- is much too lax.

    The new version of the so-called Purification Law forms the centerpiece of the Kaczynski twins' "moral revolution." The purpose of the new law is not to uncover Stasi connections or identify collaborators and informers, but rather to address and interpret the history of the last 18 years. It also seeks to determine whether the 1989 transition from communism to democracy marked a change in the system, or whether a network of former communists managed to adapt and retain power despite the political about-face.

    In the spring of 1989, dissidents managed to negotiate a bloodless transfer of power with the communists. Some would say it was a political tour de force. After all, Soviet troops were still stationed in Poland and the Berlin Wall was still standing at the time.

    But the Kaczynski brothers and the supporters of their cause say that the transition was not a coup. They argue that the communists quickly figured out how to regroup and, with the help of the country's intelligence agencies, managed to place their favorites in key positions in the economy.

    The twins hope to destroy this network of former party cadres, big business and the Mafia, thereby making good on one of their campaign promises. Not only do they have post-communist careerists in their sights, but also former members of the opposition, such as the group of intellectuals led by publisher Adam Michnik. In their view, Michnik's newspaper, Gazeta Wyborcza, promoted a policy of deliberately glossing over the past for 18 years, thereby enabling the communists to return to positions of power. The term the twins use for the alliance that they believe dominated the Third Republic is "the pact."

    When Stanislav Wielgus, the Warsaw archbishop-designate, was forced to step down in early January only hours before his ordination, the twins gained additional momentum for their cause. Wielgus had spent years as an informer for the former regime's secret police.

    Two weeks ago the magazine Wprost revealed that Poland's former communist rulers may have known in advance of, or were possibly even involved in, the 1981 assassination attempt on the Polish pope, John Paul II. The rumors have only spurred on those Poles who would see the country's recent past harshly dealt with.

    "The pact is a loosely knit organization led by leftists and former members of Solidarnosc," says Zbigniew Romaszewski. He claims that these people have acquired tremendous wealth in recent years and have "terribly cheated normal Poles."

    To ensure that these people are at least made to suffer in their old age, President Kaczynski proposed a special law last week. The law would require that those who were involved in imposing martial law in 1981 be demoted. This would also apply to Jaruzelski.

    The Kaczynskis have not even shied away from confronting members of their own administrations as part of their cleanup campaign. Last week, presidential advisor Andrzej Krawczyk was forced to resign under allegations that he worked as an informer for the military intelligence service in the 1980s. Krawczyk insists that he is innocent.

    Antoni Macierewicz, a nationalist politician, is the Kaczynskis' most important ally in their battle with the shadows of the past. His job is to clean up the military intelligence service (WSI), which was officially disbanded last fall. Macierewicz plans to submit his report in the coming weeks.

    The WSI's agents have been accused of all kinds of nefarious activities, including spying on and attempting to create a rift within the political right in the 1990s. The WSI allegedly employed more than 100 journalists to discredit anti-communist politicians like the Kaczynskis.

    Macierewicz is popular with the Kaczynskis, especially now that he emerged triumphant from a conflict with Defense Minister Radek Sikorski when Sikorski resigned last week. Sikorski, a worldly 43-year-old trained at the Washington-based American Enterprise Institute and with a flawless anti-communist record, was in fact one of the government's strongest international credentials. To protect Polish troops in Iraq, Sikorski would have needed a functioning military intelligence service, precisely the service Macierewicz's efforts have helped disband. Instead of shortening Macierewicz's leash, Prime Minister Jaroslav Kaczynski chose to allow the dissatisfied Sikorski to resign.

    The Gazeta Wyborcza has quoted an anonymous member of parliament in the Kaczynskis' party as saying that Macierewicz's victory over Sikorski was "shocking," and that the brothers' battle with the past has been reduced to personal purges while necessary government reforms are ignored.

    The heroes of Poland's 1989 radical transition are headquartered in a courtyard apartment on Marszalkowska Street. Jan Litynski, already a dissident in the 1960s, an advisor to Solidarnosc and a negotiator at the 1989 Round Table talks, opens the door. A mathematician, Litynski doesn't seem to have ever changed out of the sports coat and thick, horn-rimmed glasses he wore in the turbulent days of 1989.

    Despite having spent three years in communist prisons, Litynski has no axes to grind. "Former communist networks and secret police informers who have remained untouched to this day do exist, and we have some cleaning up to do," he says. "But there is no omnipotent 'pact' of the sort that exists in the imaginations of the Kaczynski brothers." According to Litynski, most former communists, in their roles as members of parliament, contributed toward Poland's political and economic opening to the West. Litynski wants to see the government impose a "political amnesty" so that Poland can finally find peace.

    "The twins see dark forces at work everywhere they look," complains former Foreign Minister Vladyslav Bartoszevski. Litynski agrees: "Whenever something goes wrong in Poland, the 'pact' is always blamed." Its most important function, Litynski believes, is to expose the architects of the Third Republic -- dissidents like him.

    Apparently the tactic has worked. Although the Democratic Party counts both Litynski and the country's first non-communist prime minister, Tadeusz Mazowiecki, within its ranks, it failed to win any seats in parliament in the last parliamentary election. And while the twins garnered only a 28 percent approval rating in recent opinion polls, only one of every 100 Poles would vote for the Democrats today.

    Polish archbishop retracts statement that he aided communist police

    From: Axis
    Archbishop Stanislaw Wielgus
    A Polish archbishop who resigned after admitting collaboration with communist secret police has withdrawn his confession and asked a court to clear his name, Catholic News Service reports.

    Lawyers for former Warsaw Archbishop Stanislaw Wielgus said he did not collaborate and that his secret police files were falsified. "There was neither secret not conscious collaboration -- in my view, the archbishop acted in the interests of the church," said Marek Malecki, a lawyer acting for Archbishop Wielgus. He said a trial would allow "a different evaluation of the stance of clergy at the time."

    Waldemar Gontarski, another lawyer, told the Zycie Warszawy daily Feb. 13 that the national appeal the archbishop delivered Jan. 5 was not his own and that "not just his signature, but the whole file covering his alleged cooperation with the secret services has been falsified."

    Malecki filed a petition with Warsaw's Verification Court on behalf of Archbishop Wielgus, who resigned Jan. 7, two hours before his formal installation ceremony as archbishop of Warsaw.

    In his January 5 appeal to Catholics, Archbishop Wielgus said he had met with secret police agents on numerous occasions in the 1960s and 1970s and signed a collaboration pledge during a "moment of weakness." Malecki told the Polish Catholic news agency KAI that passages had been added to Archbishop Wielgus' Jan. 5 statement without his knowledge, including the words: "I harmed the church by the fact of my entanglement. I harmed it again when, in recent days, facing a heated media campaign, I denied the fact of my cooperation."

    He added that the accusations against the archbishop had disregarded Polish law, which requires collaboration to be established by a constitutional court ruling, and said Archbishop Wielgus also had a right to have his case partly heard in secret. "This is an absolutely exceptional situation - a member of the clergy has decided to submit himself to verification to obtain moral exoneration," said the lawyer, who has acted successfully for other high-profile clients. "I can assure you the archbishop is determined to defend his rights and present the truth about his activities in that period to public opinion."

    In December Archbishop Wielgus, who has not spoken publicly since resigning, was named to succeed Cardinal Jozef Glemp as head of the Warsaw Archdiocese. However, the Gazeta Polska weekly accused Archbishop Wielgus of having been a "trusted collaborator" of Poland's secret police, the Sluzba Bezpieczenstwa, for 22 years.

    The allegation was confirmed in early January by separate commissions appointed by Poland's civil rights commissioner and the bishops' conference; representatives of both said they had seen documents confirming the archbishop's "deliberate secret cooperation."

    However, in a January 9 Polish TV interview, Cardinal Glemp said the archbishop had fallen victim to an "organized media action" and urged him to take legal action.

  • Opinion...

    Europe and U.S. take different views of Putin speech

    From: IHT
    An alternative view of Putin
    When the German foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, talked Sunday about the trans-Atlantic relationship at the annual Munich Security Conference, he made no mention of the speech that President Vladimir Putin of Russia had given the previous day.

    Putin's speech had become the talk of the conference, invoking for some the rhetoric of the Cold War.

    But others heard Putin as speaking for a confident, stable and rich Russia no longer saddled with high debts and the chaos of the mid-1990s.

    Steinmeier, who was in Moscow last week, kept off the subject of Russia and instead did his own bit of bashing of the U.S. record on climate change and questioned whether NATO should be dabbling in energy security issues.

    But for many U.S. delegates, Putin's speech had exuded both confidence and arrogance.

    Italy indicts CIA agents in abduction of terror suspects Spain cooling on immigrants Turkish court sentences militants for 2003 bombings

    Bruce Jackson, president of the Project of Transitional Democracies in Washington, said Putin had "missed a chance to broaden a dialogue."

    "Putin came out guns blazing," Jackson said. "Putin ran at the United States. He did more to unite Europe and the U.S. than we could ever have done."

    Brent Scowcroft, president of the Scowcroft Group and a former security adviser to three former presidents — Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush — was more circumspect.

    "Taking aside all the rhetoric, it was an obnoxious speech," Scowcroft said. "But remember, Putin said he saw no need for Iran to be able to enrich uranium. And that is exactly what we have been trying to do with Iran."

    Putin, making his first visit to the Munich conference, said from the outset that he was not going to be diplomatic. "The format allows me to tell you what I think about international security," Putin said.

    He then elaborated on his view of the world, criticizing the United States for invading Iraq and accusing Washington of encouraging terrorism and pursuing a policy of unilateralism.

    When asked about his reasons for clamping down on human rights and restricting nongovernmental organizations and to explain why so many journalists have been murdered in Russia, Putin echoed an old Soviet response — the rejection of outside interference. (As many as 13 journalists have been reported killed in Russia since 2006. Non e of the cases have been solved.)

    François Heisbourg, chairman of the International Institute for Strategic Studies in Paris, said Putin's speech was about Russia getting its own back on the United States after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

    "Russia's status was then diminished," Heisbourg said. "Russia had to accept NATO enlargement of countries in Eastern Europe. It seemed to Russia that the U.S. was abusing its position as the strongest power after the collapse of the U.S.S.R. Now we have Putin and a Russia that is purely about power."

    Several German delegates were highly critical of Putin's disdain for the media and the murder of journalists.

    In comments on the murder last October of the Russian investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya, Putin said that many journalists had been killed in Iraq.

    But the delegates praised him for other reasons.

    "He was good on Iran," said Ruprecht Polenz, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Bundestag, the lower house of the German Parliament. "And many would agree with Putin over his opposition to U.S plans to deploy the antimissile defense shield in Poland and the Czech Republic."

    Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, the NATO secretary general, said he was "disappointed" by the way Putin had criticized the enlargement of the alliance.

    Charles Krauthammer : Putin's just a mafioso seeking to diminish us

    From: Azstarnet
    I see you, You're not working!
    Vladimir Putin — Russia's president, although the more accurate title would be godfather — made headlines last week with a speech in Munich that set a new standard in anti-Americanism. He not only charged the U.S. with the "hyper-use of force," "disdain for the basic principles of international law" and having "overstepped its national borders in … the economic, political, cultural and educational policies it imposes on other nations." He even blamed the spread of weapons of mass destruction, which the U.S. has been combating with few allies and against constant Russian resistance, on American "dominance" that "inevitably encourages" other countries to defensively acquire them.

    There is something amusing about criticism of the use of force by the man who turned Chechnya into a smoldering ruin; about the invocation of international law by the man who will not allow Scotland Yard to interrogate the polonium-soaked thugs it suspects of murdering Alexander Litvinenko, yet another Putin opponent to meet an untimely and unprosecuted death; about the bullying of other countries decried by a man who cuts off energy supplies to Ukraine, Georgia and Belarus in brazen acts of political and economic extortion.

    Less amusing is the greater meaning of Putin's Munich speech. It marks Russia's coming out. Flush with oil and gas revenues, the consolidation of dictatorial authority at home and the capitulation of both domestic and Western companies to his seizure of their assets, Putin issued his boldest declaration yet that post-Soviet Russia is preparing to reassert itself on the world stage.

    Perhaps the most important line in his speech was the least noted because it seemed so innocuous. "I very often hear appeals by our partners, including our European partners, to the effect that Russia should play an increasingly active role in world affairs," he said. "It is hardly necessary to incite us to do so."

    Soviet foreign minister Andrei Gromyko once boasted that no conflict anywhere on the globe could be settled without taking into account the attitude and interests of the Soviet Union. Gromyko's description of Soviet influence constitutes the best definition ever formulated of the term superpower.

    And we know how Putin, who has called the demise of the Soviet Union the greatest political catastrophe of the 20th century, yearns for those superpower days. At Munich, he could not even disguise his Cold War nostalgia, asserting that "global security" in those days was ensured by the "strategic potential of two superpowers."

    Putin's bitter complaint is that today there remains only one superpower, the behemoth that dominates a "unipolar world." He knows that Moscow lacks the economic, military and even demographic means to challenge America as in Soviet days. He speaks more modestly of coalitions of aggrieved have-not countries that Russia might lead in countering American power.

    Hence his increasingly active foreign policy — military partnerships with China, nuclear cooperation with Iran, weapon supplies to Syria and Venezuela, diplomatic support as well as arms for a genocidal Sudan, friendly outreach to other potential partners of an anti-hegemonic (read: anti-American) alliance.

    Is this a return to the Cold War? It is true that the ex-KGB agent occasionally lets slip a classic Marxist anachronism such as "foreign capital" (referring to Western oil companies) or the otherwise weird adjective "vulgar" (describing the actions of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which infuriated Putin by insisting upon a clean election in Ukraine). He even intimated that he might undo one of the unequivocal achievements of the late Cold War era, the so-called "zero option" agreement of 1987, and restore a Soviet-style medium-range ballistic missile force.

    Nonetheless, Putin's aggressiveness does not signal a return to the Cold War. He is too clever to be burdened by the absurdity of socialist economics or Marxist politics. He is blissfully free of ideology, political philosophy and economic theory. There is no existential dispute with the United States.

    He is a more modest man: a mere mafia don, seizing the economic resources and political power of a country for himself and his mostly KGB cronies. And promoting his vision of the Russian national interest — assertive and expansionist — by engaging in diplomacy that challenges the dominant power in order to boost his own.

    He wants Gromyko's influence — or at least some international acknowledgment that Moscow must be reckoned with — without the ideological baggage. He does not want to bury us; he only wants to diminish us. It is 19th-century power politics at its most crude and elemental. Putin does not want us as an enemy. But at Munich he told the world that vis-a-vis America his Russia has gone from partner to adversary.

  • From the blogs...

    BELARUS Cybercafe owners forced to turn in customers

    From: Maiden UA
    Reporters Without Borders condemned a decree adopted by the council of ministers which forces owners of cybercafés and Internet clubs to report Internet-users looking at illegal websites to the police.

    The new law, approved on 10 February 2007, also obliges proprietors to record the last year of Internet navigation on their computers.

    "On the pretext of wanting to monitor pornographic or violent websites, the Belarus authorities are really seeking to censor opposition websites and independent media" the worldwide press freedom organisation said.

    "The decree will force cybercafé proprietors to turn themselves into police officers. Internet-users will be pushed into self-censorship and none of them will dare to go on to websites which displease the authorities."

    "Moreover, since the state already has a monopoly on Internet access, through the company Beltelekom, cybercafés were the last resort of anyone wanting to post critical news without risk of arrest," the organisation added.

    The government said the step was needed to fight Internet crime, but in Belarus criticising President Alexander Lukashenko or other members of the government is considered a serious offence punishable by a prison sentence. Internet-users have to present ID when they go to a cybercafé.

    Information Minister, Uladzimir Rusakievich, said on 31 January 2007, that an Internet law was being drafted. "We do not want to prevent the development of the Internet, but it is our duty to innovate in this field," he said.

    Belarus is on Reporters Without Borders' list of the 13 enemies of the Internet.

    Head of the Belarusian Union of Poles charged with hooliganism

    From: TOL
    UoP in Hrodno
    Meczyslaw Jaskiewicz, head of the Belarusian Union of Poles, was arrested on November 5th 2006 on a bus stop in Hrodna, allegedly for assaulting a stranger. The trial continues these days and the verdict should be announced next week. Dozens of people (about 80 on the first day of trial) have assembled to support Jaskiewicz in the front of the court building. The court refused to satisfy the defense’s request to question crucial witnesses. Jaskiewicz faces administrative punishment such as a fine or public works, or a prison term of up to 2 years if found guilty.

    Jaskiewicz was the only member of the Union of Poles’ Board who remained in a somewhat safe position up till now as the authorities couldn’t revoke his so-called “exit visa” (a stamp in the passport of a Belarusian citisen which enables one to go abroad). All the other Board members have been subject to unlawful detention, tried on similar absurd charges, beaten up and libelled in the state media over the past months.

    The Belarusian Union of Poles is under constant pressure, as the authorities aim to eradicate or control the NGO which formerly published a popular Polish-language weekly in Hrodna, as well as conducted cultural and educational activities. The NGO was one of the largest and influential cultural entities in Hrodna region, having several thousand members among the ethnic Poles residing here.
  • Note: But then again, they're Polish so it's not like they don't have it coming to them...

  • Sport...

    National ice-hockey team of Belarus to play friendlies before World Championship

    From: BelTa
    In the course of preparation for the World Ice-Hockey Championship the national team of Belarus will play a couple of games to test its forces, Curt Fraser, the coach of the Belarusian team, said today during a meeting of the executive committee of the Belarusian Ice-Hockey Federation.

    The team will gather for training on April 5 in Minsk. Besides from training, the Belarusian national team will play friendly matches with Slovenia, Italy, Slovakia and Norway as a sort of rehearsal before the 2007 World Championship which will open late in April in Moscow.

    Referring to the prospects of Belarusian teams playing in the Russian supreme league, Vladimir Naumov, chairman of the Belarusian Ice-Hockey Federation, said it has not been decided yet as to what exactly team will represent Belarus there. It is still unknown how the Dimano and Yunost will settle the issue of their unification on the eve of the new 2007-2008 season; this is why the decision has not been taken yet. The federation will not interfere with the process, he said.

    The participants of the meeting also considered the issues connected with holding an open championship of Belarus, which is finishing its regular season at the moment.

  • Sport briefs...

  • Kristina Brandi of Puerto Rico will take on Belarus' Olga Govortsova during today's semifinals of the Boston Scientific Pro Women's Tennis Classic at the Fort Snelling Tennis and Learning Center.

  • 122nd ranked Belarus's Tatiana Pouchek lost to Sania Mirza in a tough three setter in the quarter finals at the WTA Bangalore Open

  • The International Football Federation (FIFA) has released a new version of FIFA/Coca Cola World Rating. Belarus has moved up one position from month earlier – to the 69th position. Over the past month the national team played one match, registering a draw in an away game against Iran -2:2.

  • Endnote...

    Putin's Speech at the 43rd Munich Conference on Security Policy

    From: Sanders
    The American media dismisses the Russian President's recent speech in Munich as so much sabre rattling by an old Cold War warrior. The papers' leaders say it all 'US Secretary of Defense Slams Putin,' 'US overture after Putin ‘Cold War’ punch,' 'Gates tells Putin: 'One Cold War enough’,' Gates calls for stronger NATO.' Why not read it for yourself.
    Thank you very much dear Madam Federal Chancellor, Mr Teltschik, ladies and gentlemen!

    I am truly grateful to be invited to such a representative conference that has assembled politicians, military officials, entrepreneurs and experts from more than 40 nations.

    This conference’s structure allows me to avoid excessive politeness and the need to speak in roundabout, pleasant but empty diplomatic terms. This conference’s format will allow me to say what I really think about international security problems. And if my comments seem unduly polemical, pointed or inexact to our colleagues, then I would ask you not to get angry with me. After all, this is only a conference. And I hope that after the first two or three minutes of my speech Mr Teltschik will not turn on the red light over there.

    Therefore. It is well known that international security comprises much more than issues relating to military and political stability. It involves the stability of the global economy, overcoming poverty, economic security and developing a dialogue between civilisations.

    This universal, indivisible character of security is expressed as the basic principle that “security for one is security for all”. As Franklin D. Roosevelt said during the first few days that the Second World War was breaking out: “When peace has been broken anywhere, the peace of all countries everywhere is in danger.”

    These words remain topical today. Incidentally, the theme of our conference – global crises, global responsibility – exemplifies this.

    Only two decades ago the world was ideologically and economically divided and it was the huge strategic potential of two superpowers that ensured global security.

    This global stand-off pushed the sharpest economic and social problems to the margins of the international community’s and the world’s agenda. And, just like any war, the Cold War left us with live ammunition, figuratively speaking. I am referring to ideological stereotypes, double standards and other typical aspects of Cold War bloc thinking.

    The unipolar world that had been proposed after the Cold War did not take place either.

    The history of humanity certainly has gone through unipolar periods and seen aspirations to world supremacy. And what hasn’t happened in world history?

    However, what is a unipolar world? However one might embellish this term, at the end of the day it refers to one type of situation, namely one centre of authority, one centre of force, one centre of decision-making.

    It is world in which there is one master, one sovereign. And at the end of the day this is pernicious not only for all those within this system, but also for the sovereign itself because it destroys itself from within.

    And this certainly has nothing in common with democracy. Because, as you know, democracy is the power of the majority in light of the interests and opinions of the minority.

    Incidentally, Russia – we – are constantly being taught about democracy. But for some reason those who teach us do not want to learn themselves.

    I consider that the unipolar model is not only unacceptable but also impossible in today’s world. And this is not only because if there was individual leadership in today’s – and precisely in today’s – world, then the military, political and economic resources would not suffice. What is even more important is that the model itself is flawed because at its basis there is and can be no moral foundations for modern civilisation.

    Along with this, what is happening in today’s world – and we just started to discuss this – is a tentative to introduce precisely this concept into international affairs, the concept of a unipolar world.

    And with which results?

    Unilateral and frequently illegitimate actions have not resolved any problems. Moreover, they have caused new human tragedies and created new centres of tension. Judge for yourselves: wars as well as local and regional conflicts have not diminished. Mr Teltschik mentioned this very gently. And no less people perish in these conflicts – even more are dying than before. Significantly more, significantly more!

    Today we are witnessing an almost uncontained hyper use of force – military force – in international relations, force that is plunging the world into an abyss of permanent conflicts. As a result we do not have sufficient strength to find a comprehensive solution to any one of these conflicts. Finding a political settlement also becomes impossible.

    We are seeing a greater and greater disdain for the basic principles of international law. And independent legal norms are, as a matter of fact, coming increasingly closer to one state’s legal system. One state and, of course, first and foremost the United States, has overstepped its national borders in every way. This is visible in the economic, political, cultural and educational policies it imposes on other nations. Well, who likes this? Who is happy about this?

    In international relations we increasingly see the desire to resolve a given question according to so-called issues of political expediency, based on the current political climate.

    And of course this is extremely dangerous. It results in the fact that no one feels safe. I want to emphasise this – no one feels safe! Because no one can feel that international law is like a stone wall that will protect them. Of course such a policy stimulates an arms race.

    The force’s dominance inevitably encourages a number of countries to acquire weapons of mass destruction. Moreover, significantly new threats – though they were also well-known before – have appeared, and today threats such as terrorism have taken on a global character.

    I am convinced that we have reached that decisive moment when we must seriously think about the architecture of global security.

    And we must proceed by searching for a reasonable balance between the interests of all participants in the international dialogue. Especially since the international landscape is so varied and changes so quickly – changes in light of the dynamic development in a whole number of countries and regions.

    Madam Federal Chancellor already mentioned this. The combined GDP measured in purchasing power parity of countries such as India and China is already greater than that of the United States. And a similar calculation with the GDP of the BRIC countries – Brazil, Russia, India and China – surpasses the cumulative GDP of the EU. And according to experts this gap will only increase in the future.

    There is no reason to doubt that the economic potential of the new centres of global economic growth will inevitably be converted into political influence and will strengthen multipolarity.

    In connection with this the role of multilateral diplomacy is significantly increasing. The need for principles such as openness, transparency and predictability in politics is uncontested and the use of force should be a really exceptional measure, comparable to using the death penalty in the judicial systems of certain states.

    However, today we are witnessing the opposite tendency, namely a situation in which countries that forbid the death penalty even for murderers and other, dangerous criminals are airily participating in military operations that are difficult to consider legitimate. And as a matter of fact, these conflicts are killing people – hundreds and thousands of civilians!

    But at the same time the question arises of whether we should be indifferent and aloof to various internal conflicts inside countries, to authoritarian regimes, to tyrants, and to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction? As a matter of fact, this was also at the centre of the question that our dear colleague Mr Lieberman asked the Federal Chancellor. If I correctly understood your question (addressing Mr Lieberman), then of course it is a serious one! Can we be indifferent observers in view of what is happening? I will try to answer your question as well: of course not.

    But do we have the means to counter these threats? Certainly we do. It is sufficient to look at recent history. Did not our country have a peaceful transition to democracy? Indeed, we witnessed a peaceful transformation of the Soviet regime – a peaceful transformation! And what a regime! With what a number of weapons, including nuclear weapons! Why should we start bombing and shooting now at every available opportunity? Is it the case when without the threat of mutual destruction we do not have enough political culture, respect for democratic values and for the law?

    I am convinced that the only mechanism that can make decisions about using military force as a last resort is the Charter of the United Nations. And in connection with this, either I did not understand what our colleague, the Italian Defence Minister, just said or what he said was inexact. In any case, I understood that the use of force can only be legitimate when the decision is taken by NATO, the EU, or the UN. If he really does think so, then we have different points of view. Or I didn’t hear correctly. The use of force can only be considered legitimate if the decision is sanctioned by the UN. And we do not need to substitute NATO or the EU for the UN. When the UN will truly unite the forces of the international community and can really react to events in various countries, when we will leave behind this disdain for international law, then the situation will be able to change. Otherwise the situation will simply result in a dead end, and the number of serious mistakes will be multiplied. Along with this, it is necessary to make sure that international law have a universal character both in the conception and application of its norms.

    And one must not forget that democratic political actions necessarily go along with discussion and a laborious decision-making process.

    Dear ladies and gentlemen!

    The potential danger of the destabilisation of international relations is connected with obvious stagnation in the disarmament issue.

    Russia supports the renewal of dialogue on this important question.

    It is important to conserve the international legal framework relating to weapons destruction and therefore ensure continuity in the process of reducing nuclear weapons.

    Together with the United States of America we agreed to reduce our nuclear strategic missile capabilities to up to 1700-2000 nuclear warheads by 31 December 2012. Russia intends to strictly fulfil the obligations it has taken on. We hope that our partners will also act in a transparent way and will refrain from laying aside a couple of hundred superfluous nuclear warheads for a rainy day. And if today the new American Defence Minister declares that the United States will not hide these superfluous weapons in warehouse or, as one might say, under a pillow or under the blanket, then I suggest that we all rise and greet this declaration standing. It would be a very important declaration.

    Russia strictly adheres to and intends to further adhere to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons as well as the multilateral supervision regime for missile technologies. The principles incorporated in these documents are universal ones.

    In connection with this I would like to recall that in the 1980s the USSR and the United States signed an agreement on destroying a whole range of small- and medium-range missiles but these documents do not have a universal character.

    Today many other countries have these missiles, including the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the Republic of Korea, India, Iran, Pakistan and Israel. Many countries are working on these systems and plan to incorporate them as part of their weapons arsenals. And only the United States and Russia bear the responsibility to not create such weapons systems.

    It is obvious that in these conditions we must think about ensuring our own security.

    At the same time, it is impossible to sanction the appearance of new, destabilising high-tech weapons. Needless to say it refers to measures to prevent a new area of confrontation, especially in outer space. Star wars is no longer a fantasy – it is a reality. In the middle of the 1980s our American partners were already able to intercept their own satellite.

    In Russia’s opinion, the militarisation of outer space could have unpredictable consequences for the international community, and provoke nothing less than the beginning of a nuclear era. And we have come forward more than once with initiatives designed to prevent the use of weapons in outer space.

    Today I would like to tell you that we have prepared a project for an agreement on the prevention of deploying weapons in outer space. And in the near future it will be sent to our partners as an official proposal. Let’s work on this together.

    Plans to expand certain elements of the anti-missile defence system to Europe cannot help but disturb us. Who needs the next step of what would be, in this case, an inevitable arms race? I deeply doubt that Europeans themselves do.

    Missile weapons with a range of about five to eight thousand kilometres that really pose a threat to Europe do not exist in any of the so-called problem countries. And in the near future and prospects, this will not happen and is not even foreseeable. And any hypothetical launch of, for example, a North Korean rocket to American territory through western Europe obviously contradicts the laws of ballistics. As we say in Russia, it would be like using the right hand to reach the left ear.

    And here in Germany I cannot help but mention the pitiable condition of the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe.

    The Adapted Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe was signed in 1999. It took into account a new geopolitical reality, namely the elimination of the Warsaw bloc. Seven years have passed and only four states have ratified this document, including the Russian Federation.

    NATO countries openly declared that they will not ratify this treaty, including the provisions on flank restrictions (on deploying a certain number of armed forces in the flank zones), until Russia removed its military bases from Georgia and Moldova. Our army is leaving Georgia, even according to an accelerated schedule. We resolved the problems we had with our Georgian colleagues, as everybody knows. There are still 1,500 servicemen in Moldova that are carrying out peacekeeping operations and protecting warehouses with ammunition left over from Soviet times. We constantly discuss this issue with Mr Solana and he knows our position. We are ready to further work in this direction.

    But what is happening at the same time? Simultaneously the so-called flexible frontline American bases with up to five thousand men in each. It turns out that NATO has put its frontline forces on our borders, and we continue to strictly fulfil the treaty obligations and do not react to these actions at all.

    I think it is obvious that NATO expansion does not have any relation with the modernisation of the Alliance itself or with ensuring security in Europe. On the contrary, it represents a serious provocation that reduces the level of mutual trust. And we have the right to ask: against whom is this expansion intended? And what happened to the assurances our western partners made after the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact? Where are those declarations today? No one even remembers them. But I will allow myself to remind this audience what was said. I would like to quote the speech of NATO General Secretary Mr Woerner in Brussels on 17 May 1990. He said at the time that: “the fact that we are ready not to place a NATO army outside of German territory gives the Soviet Union a firm security guarantee”. Where are these guarantees?

    The stones and concrete blocks of the Berlin Wall have long been distributed as souvenirs. But we should not forget that the fall of the Berlin Wall was possible thanks to a historic choice – one that was also made by our people, the people of Russia – a choice in favour of democracy, freedom, openness and a sincere partnership with all the members of the big European family.

    And now they are trying to impose new dividing lines and walls on us – these walls may be virtual but they are nevertheless dividing, ones that cut through our continent. And is it possible that we will once again require many years and decades, as well as several generations of politicians, to dissemble and dismantle these new walls?

    Dear ladies and gentlemen!

    We are unequivocally in favour of strengthening the regime of non-proliferation. The present international legal principles allow us to develop technologies to manufacture nuclear fuel for peaceful purposes. And many countries with all good reasons want to create their own nuclear energy as a basis for their energy independence. But we also understand that these technologies can be quickly transformed into nuclear weapons.

    This creates serious international tensions. The situation surrounding the Iranian nuclear programme acts as a clear example. And if the international community does not find a reasonable solution for resolving this conflict of interests, the world will continue to suffer similar, destabilising crises because there are more threshold countries than simply Iran. We both know this. We are going to constantly fight against the threat of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

    Last year Russia put forward the initiative to establish international centres for the enrichment of uranium. We are open to the possibility that such centres not only be created in Russia, but also in other countries where there is a legitimate basis for using civil nuclear energy. Countries that want to develop their nuclear energy could guarantee that they will receive fuel through direct participation in these centres. And the centres would, of course, operate under strict IAEA supervision.

    The latest initiatives put forward by American President George W. Bush are in conformity with the Russian proposals. I consider that Russia and the USA are objectively and equally interested in strengthening the regime of the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their deployment. It is precisely our countries, with leading nuclear and missile capabilities, that must act as leaders in developing new, stricter non-proliferation measures. Russia is ready for such work. We are engaged in consultations with our American friends.

    In general, we should talk about establishing a whole system of political incentives and economic stimuli whereby it would not be in states’ interests to establish their own capabilities in the nuclear fuel cycle but they would still have the opportunity to develop nuclear energy and strengthen their energy capabilities.

    In connection with this I shall talk about international energy cooperation in more detail. Madam Federal Chancellor also spoke about this briefly – she mentioned, touched on this theme. In the energy sector Russia intends to create uniform market principles and transparent conditions for all. It is obvious that energy prices must be determined by the market instead of being the subject of political speculation, economic pressure or blackmail.

    We are open to cooperation. Foreign companies participate in all our major energy projects. According to different estimates, up to 26 percent of the oil extraction in Russia – and please think about this figure – up to 26 percent of the oil extraction in Russia is done by foreign capital. Try, try to find me a similar example where Russian business participates extensively in key economic sectors in western countries. Such examples do not exist! There are no such examples.

    I would also recall the parity of foreign investments in Russia and those Russia makes abroad. The parity is about fifteen to one. And here you have an obvious example of the openness and stability of the Russian economy.

    Economic security is the sector in which all must adhere to uniform principles. We are ready to compete fairly.

    For that reason more and more opportunities are appearing in the Russian economy. Experts and our western partners are objectively evaluating these changes. As such, Russia’s OECD sovereign credit rating improved and Russia passed from the fourth to the third group. And today in Munich I would like to use this occasion to thank our German colleagues for their help in the above decision.

    Furthermore. As you know, the process of Russia joining the WTO has reached its final stages. I would point out that during long, difficult talks we heard words about freedom of speech, free trade, and equal possibilities more than once but, for some reason, exclusively in reference to the Russian market.

    And there is still one more important theme that directly affects global security. Today many talk about the struggle against poverty. What is actually happening in this sphere? On the one hand, financial resources are allocated for programmes to help the world’s poorest countries – and at times substantial financial resources. But to be honest -- and many here also know this – linked with the development of that same donor country’s companies. And on the other hand, developed countries simultaneously keep their agricultural subsidies and limit some countries’ access to high-tech products.

    And let’s say things as they are – one hand distributes charitable help and the other hand not only preserves economic backwardness but also reaps the profits thereof. The increasing social tension in depressed regions inevitably results in the growth of radicalism, extremism, feeds terrorism and local conflicts. And if all this happens in, shall we say, a region such as the Middle East where there is increasingly the sense that the world at large is unfair, then there is the risk of global destabilisation.

    It is obvious that the world’s leading countries should see this threat. And that they should therefore build a more democratic, fairer system of global economic relations, a system that would give everyone the chance and the possibility to develop.

    Dear ladies and gentlemen, speaking at the Conference on Security Policy, it is impossible not to mention the activities of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). As is well-known, this organisation was created to examine all – I shall emphasise this – all aspects of security: military, political, economic, humanitarian and, especially, the relations between these spheres.

    What do we see happening today? We see that this balance is clearly destroyed. People are trying to transform the OSCE into a vulgar instrument designed to promote the foreign policy interests of one or a group of countries. And this task is also being accomplished by the OSCE’s bureaucratic apparatus which is absolutely not connected with the state founders in any way. Decision-making procedures and the involvement of so-called non-governmental organisations are tailored for this task. These organisations are formally independent but they are purposefully financed and therefore under control.

    According to the founding documents, in the humanitarian sphere the OSCE is designed to assist country members in observing international human rights norms at their request. This is an important task. We support this. But this does not mean interfering in the internal affairs of other countries, and especially not imposing a regime that determines how these states should live and develop.

    It is obvious that such interference does not promote the development of democratic states at all. On the contrary, it makes them dependent and, as a consequence, politically and economically unstable.

    We expect that the OSCE be guided by its primary tasks and build relations with sovereign states based on respect, trust and transparency.

    Dear ladies and gentlemen!

    In conclusion I would like to note the following. We very often – and personally, I very often – hear appeals by our partners, including our European partners, to the effect that Russia should play an increasingly active role in world affairs.

    In connection with this I would allow myself to make one small remark. It is hardly necessary to incite us to do so. Russia is a country with a history that spans more than a thousand years and has practically always used the privilege to carry out an independent foreign policy.

    We are not going to change this tradition today. At the same time, we are well aware of how the world has changed and we have a realistic sense of our own opportunities and potential. And of course we would like to interact with responsible and independent partners with whom we could work together in constructing a fair and democratic world order that would ensure security and prosperity not only for a select few, but for all.

    Thank you for your attention.