Friday, May 8, 2009

Friday Shorts

Russian Defense Minister on Israeli UAV Deal

The Russian mainstream newspaper Rossiiskaya Gazeta published an interview with the Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov in which he makes comments regarding the $50 million Russia-Israel UAV deal. According to Serdyukov, the first batch of Israeli unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) will be delivered to Russia soon. Serdyukov noted, "The deal is being formalized. The contract is there, we have made an advance payment and we are soon to get the first small batch."

Russian Foreign Minister Makes His First Visit with the Obama Administration

Barely advertised in advance Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov's first official visit to Washington under the Obama administration consisted of two important meetings with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama on Thursday, May 7. In their respective remarks at the joint press conference Secretary Clinton and Minister Lavrov affirmed that both sides view negotiations on strategic nuclear arms reductions (which are due to begin on May 19 in Moscow) independently from their disagreements over Georgia. Lavrov defended the pending sale of S-300 advanced air defense systems to Iran in an oblique reference made at the event organized by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Lavrov noted, "Whatever we sell to Iran in particular is only of a defensive nature." Here you can watch and listen to Minister Lavrov's comments during the Q&A session at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

[Video Credit: Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov delivering remarks during the questions-and-answers session. Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Washington, DC. May 7, 2009. Video courtesy of Russia Today TV/Autonomous Nonprofit Organization "TV-Novosti" 2005-2009.]

NATO-Russia Row over Estonian Spy Continues with the Expulsion of Canadians

In response to the expulsion of two Russian diplomats from Brussels, the Russian Foreign Ministry declared two Canadian diplomats working for the NATO Information Office in Moscow persona non grata. Interestingly, as of Thursday, May 7, the Russian diplomats remained in Brussels while their Canadian colleagues — Isabelle Fran├žois, director of NATO Information Office in Moscow, and her deputy, Mark Opgenorth — were still in Moscow, according to the alliance spokesperson James Appathurai.

Russia is Asking the World Bank for a Couple of Billion Dollars

It appears that one of the topics discussed by the Russian Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin in Washington, DC in late April was the request for the loan from the World Bank in the amount of several billion dollars in the next two years, according to the Facing first deficit in a decade, Russia may have a wider budget gap than the official estimate of 7.4% of GDP, according to Kudrin. Russian Deputy Economy Minister Andrei Klepach stated that the Russian economy contracted 9.5% in the first quarter of 2009. It should be noted here that the World Bank's last loan to Russia was in 1998 in the amount of $1.5 billion.

Sensational Announcement of Putin's Possible Visit to Poland

In a sign of growing rapprochement between Poland and Russia, Moscow tentatively confirmed that Prime Minister Vladimir Putin will attend the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of the World War Two in Gdansk scheduled for September 1. This announcement follows a productive two-day visit to Moscow by the Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski, who led a large delegation of dozen cabinet ministers and co-chaired with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov the Polish-Russian Cooperation Strategy Committee, which has not convened since December 2004. According to Gazeta Wyborcza, after participating in the official ceremonies Putin may even attend the first Polish-Russian prime minister-level intergovernmental consultations since 1989. It should be noted that the last time Putin visited Poland was in 2005, when he attended the commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp.

Second Trilateral Meeting on South Ossetia Collapses

The Russian, South Ossetian and Georgian sides did not meet for the second planned meeting within the framework of the incident prevention and response mechanism in the Georgian village of Ergneti, which is located close to the de facto border between the breakaway region and Georgia proper. The disagreements between the Georgian and South Ossetian sides over the location of the second meeting were cited as the main reason. The first meeting, which took place on April 23, was covered by this blog.

Reuters Fact Box on the NATO Exercises in Georgia

Reuters put together a very useful fact box on the Cooperative Longbow 2009/Cooperative Lancer 2009 exercises, which are under way in Georgia.

DOD Spokesperson Reveals the Number of Pentagon Personnel in Georgia

Commenting on the abortive attempt at a military coup in Georgia this week, Pentagon spokesperson Bryan Whitman stated that the U.S. Department of Defense now has fewer than two dozen personnel in the country.