Russia: Open Line of Communications

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Taking his cues form the Obama administration's current efforts and from FDR's "fireside chats" on the radio during the Great Depression, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev pledged to continuously update Russian citizens via TV about government efforts to combat current economic crisis. "It is important to tell the truth in our lives," said the head of state at the official announcement of this outreach, which should commence shortly and will be televised on all major Russian television stations. Medvedev is planning on meeting with chief anchors of each of the TV stations in order to talk about his government's efforts in a straightforward fashion.

" I am certain that the government must talk openly about the difficulties we are currently encountering and about solutions that are taken in order to overcome the crisis." Medvedev is convinced that such dialogue with the worried population of Russia should be held on a regular basis. The President also noted that Russia is hopeful about the "signals coming form the new White House administration, which is striving to cooperate on all current problems. We are counting on that."

Russian government remained satisfied by the work of the G8 group in finding solutions to the financial crisis, even though Russia was not actively participating in the final document that outlined efforts by the world's leading economic powers to combat the ongoing problems. "Russia is satisfied by the overall result," said Deputy Prime MInister Alexei Kudrin. "Of course, we would like the communication between Russia and other states to be much better, because the main discussion took place beyond the scope of this final document. This document reflects what we were able to compromise on." The key issues discussed by the G8 involved financial structure reforms, as well as reforms of the IMF and World Bank, such as increasing the resources of these institutions during the crisis.

Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov offered high praise to the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. "She is an experienced politician, she has her own convictions and has a very strong team that is currently forming the the State Department," said Lavrov. "I think she will bring her style and her experience to the American foreign policy. We have already exchanged our points of view - by phone and on paper - and this exchange leads me to believe that she will, no doubt, serve the interest of the United States, but also taking into consideration the fact that such interests may benefit from a more equal and mutually-beneficial cooperation."

At the same time, Russian government and security experts remained critical of US President Obama's recent plans to reduce armaments, including nuclear weapons. Lieutenant-General Gennady Evstafiev (Ret.) of the External Intelligence Service (SVR), recently commented on the Russian view of such arms reductions to the daily "Izvestia." In particular, Evstafief noted a few issues that, in his opinion, are not getting due coverage by the White House. "Such deep reductions in Russian and American nuclear arsenals are impossible without involving other countries in the process. While such potential discussion may go well with France and the United Kingdom, questions still remain about the nuclear armament of China. Beijing's constantly growing nuclear arsenal is not limited by any international treaties, and does not allow for any transparency. Obviously, Russia and China are strategic partners, but the overall discussion on strategic nuclear armaments should not leave any questions."

General Evstafief also noted that any deep cuts in strategic nuclear armaments must be underpinned by a strong level of mutual trust between the two countries. "But currently, United States has not reversed any of its mistaken and destabilizing assumptions, such as NATO's advance to the east, placement of military infrastructure in eastern European countries, militarization of space and the Arctic, militarization of Ukraine and Georgia and the doctrine of offensive capability beyond the NATO zone." He further noted that "in order to move towards nuclear armament reductions, United States should show us and the entire world that it respects international stability and mutually-beneficial partnership. However, this hasn't happened yet."

Evstafiev also noted that in order for the nuclear armament discussion to truly have effect, US must be impartial and objective to the spread of nuclear technology in general. "America is very sensitive when it comes to Iran's nuclear potential, but basically looks the other way when it comes to Israel's, Pakistan's and now even India's nuclear arsenal, thus undercutting the International Non-Proliferation Treaty." The General also drew attention to America's "overwhelming superiority in conventional weapons - especially high tech. US is capable of concentrating massive offensive groups practically anywhere in the world, with support of a wide military infrastructure - which is getting closer and closer to Russia's borders. And now imagine how differently US may have behaved during Georgia's aggression against South Ossetia if it wasn't sure of the adequacy and guarantee of Russian nuclear response."

Underscoring Moscow's global reach in military exports, Russia and India recently agreed to jointly develop a fifth generation jet fighter. This announcement was made by Mikhail Pogosyan, Chief of "MiG" and "Sukhoi" aircraft design bureaus, and took place during the "Aero India-2009" international air show. For the first time, such joint fighter model will be fielded by both Indian and Russian air forces, and the first prototype of this plane is expected to fly this year. Previously, Soviet Union and later Russia supplied New Delhi with base export models that were a notch below those aircraft fielded by Soviet/Russian air force proper. Currently, India is a key customer of Russian avionics technology, including Su-30 multi-purpose combat fighter. Russia has been supplying India with military aircraft for several decades, while also remaining a steady seller of aircraft and air system to China - India's main competitor in Asia.

Yevgeny Bendersky is the Senior Strategic Advisor for International Operations at Jenkins Hill International, LLC and a RealClearWorld contributor.
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