August 16, 2002 - Washington Post: Serious Disagreements between the United States and Russia may imperil Peace Corps in Russia

Peace Corps Online: Peace Corps News: Headlines: Peace Corps Headlines - 2002: 08 August 2002 Peace Corps Headlines: August 16, 2002 - Washington Post: Serious Disagreements between the United States and Russia may imperil Peace Corps in Russia

By Admin1 (admin) on Sunday, August 18, 2002 - 8:09 pm: Edit Post

Serious Disagreements between the United States and Russia may imperil Peace Corps in Russia


The stories about the visa problems with Peace Corps Volunteers in Russia began appearing on August 12 with the stories in the Wall Street Journal and Washington Post about "U.S. Peace Corps scaling back its operations in Russia after authorities denied visas to almost half its volunteers."

The tenor of the stories escalated the next day with the story on Fox News that "without any official explanation, Russia is refusing to accept a large number of American Peace Corps workers."

The Associated Press reported on August 14 that this issue was being addressed at the highest levels of government with the news that Secretary of State Powell has made no progress in talks with Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov in overcoming Moscow's unexplained refusal to grant visas to Peace Corps volunteer.

At the same time Russian newspapers began criticizing the Peace Corps when Izvestiya said that one volunteer on her last trip to Russia was fined for drunkenness by the police, that another volunteer met a large number of people whose activities are very closely connected with manufacturing and the economy and is thus gaining access to information about the state not only of individual enterprises but also whole regions, and that Valerie Ibaan, who used to be head of the Far East branch of the Peace Corps, violated the border regime.

For the past several days this story has been out of the news. We have said from the beginning that this story may have nothing to do with the Peace Corps but that the Peace Corps was possibly being used to send a signal from the Russian government to the United States to express displeasure with other aspects of US foreign policy.

Now read this story from the Washington Post that shows that there are serious disagreements between Russia and the United States and says that "in making concessions on strategic issues once unthinkable for a Kremlin ruler, Putin has shown he expects an economic trade-off from the West and likewise has evinced little willingness to budge in disputes with an economic cost to Russia."

Read and comment on this story from the Washington Post that seems to confirm the theory that the visa problems with Peace Corps volunteers in Russia may be part of a much larger area of disagreement between the two countries at:

Putin's Concessions To U.S. Are Limited By the Bottom Line*

* This link was active on the date it was posted. PCOL is not responsible for broken links which may have changed.

Putin's Concessions To U.S. Are Limited By the Bottom Line

Russia Unyielding on Iran Nuclear Project

By Peter Baker

Washington Post Foreign Service

Friday, August 16, 2002; Page A15

MOSCOW, Aug. 15 -- Over the last year, Russia has given the United States most everything it could want. It watched quietly as U.S. forces moved into Central Asia for the war on terrorism. It closed its own bases in Cuba and Vietnam. It even stopped trying to block development of a missile defense system and the expansion of NATO.

But in the new and refined relationship between former adversaries, Moscow seems to have drawn a red line around one area: nuclear cooperation with Iran. The reason: an $800 million check from Tehran, with more possibly to follow.

The recent dust-up between U.S. and Russian officials over the issue during meetings in Moscow demonstrated that the single most defining priority governing President Vladimir Putin's foreign policy is economic. In making concessions on strategic issues once unthinkable for a Kremlin ruler, Putin has shown he expects an economic trade-off from the West and likewise has evinced little willingness to budge in disputes with an economic cost to Russia.

The same dynamic that has created headaches for U.S. officials worried about nuclear proliferation involving Iran also stands to complicate the Bush administration's stated goal of a regime change in Iraq. While Washington would like to win at least private acquiescence from Putin for the overthrow of President Saddam Hussein, Russia has even broader business interests in Iraq's oil fields than it does in Iran's nuclear industry.

Putin's focus on economic matters, according to analysts, stems from the belated recognition that Moscow no longer plays the same muscular role in world affairs it once did. To restore its influence, Putin believes, Russia needs to rebuild an economy that today is smaller than that of the Netherlands.

"Economic policy is dictating all the other aspects of international relations," said retired Russian Gen. Vasily Lata, who spent years negotiating arms control agreements. "Putin sees the future of Russia a bit further. He sees that without positive economic development, Russia has no future."

With that in mind, Putin has spent little energy lately fighting the geopolitical battles of the past. While it still rankles traditionalists here that U.S. forces have been deployed to former Soviet republics in Central Asia and that NATO will soon offer membership to former Soviet republics in the Baltics, Putin evidently sees little practical gain in a major confrontation. Likewise, once he accepted that President Bush was determined to scuttle the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty of 1972, Putin decided the issue was not worthy of rupturing the relationship.

At the same time, he closed an old Soviet military base at Cam Ranh Bay in Vietnam and the eavesdropping post at Lourdes in Cuba, moves seen as gestures to the West but decisions also driven by economics. Closing the Cuba base alone saved an estimated $200 million a year.

"The Cam Ranh base was militarily useless because it was in such bad technical condition," said retired Gen. Vladimir Dvorkin, a former leading strategist in the Russian military. "To reconstruct it would have cost a lot and it was even more expensive than the rest."

But as Dvorkin noted, "A lot of our military leaders didn't agree with the decision." In fact, Putin's concessions collectively have generated substantial resentment within a military establishment less focused on economic factors.

And so far, Putin has been able to show few tangible benefits to justify his policy to domestic skeptics. Hopes for early admission to the World Trade Organization have faded so much that some Moscow analysts now believe it will not even happen until after the next presidential election in 2004. While many foreign investors are giving Russia a second look as a result of the new political climate, the checks have yet to clear; direct foreign investment decreased by 25 percent in the first half of this year.

Putin's policy is predicated on the idea "that concessions on military and political issues may encourage economic cooperation, and that's wrong," Alexei Arbatov, one of the most influential members of parliament, said in an interview. "That won't happen and he'll be left with little economic cooperation and a very weak strategic position after selling out in a lot of areas."

From the Russian perspective, the Bush administration has not come through with the payoff Putin deserves. The most it has offered has been official U.S. recognition that Russia now has a market economy, a designation even Kazakhstan had already won.

The biggest symbol of Russia's disappointment has been the Bush administration's failure to push Congress to lift Jackson-Vanik trade restrictions. Under Jackson-Vanik, a Cold War-era law intended to punish Communist countries for their repressive emigration policies, Russia must still win an annual waiver to enjoy normal trading rights with the United States -- something even China no longer must do, although it is still governed by the Communist Party.

Bush aides had hoped to repeal that requirement, first last fall and then by this spring's Moscow summit with Putin, but so far have gotten nowhere.

"America has gotten used to taking Russia for nothing," said Arbatov. "The administration doesn't consider itself obliged to live up to its very small commitments."

And so as the Americans come calling for more concessions, the Iran issue, long a source of tension, has taken on heightened importance in Moscow.

Just days before a U.S. delegation was due to arrive last month to urge Russia to halt nuclear cooperation with Iran, Putin's government released a 10-year plan for expanding its nuclear assistance to Tehran. Not only would Russia complete the $800 million civilian reactor underway at Bushehr, it would build five more reactors under the plan.

Such a program could be worth another $6 billion to $10 billion to Russia's nuclear industry, depending on the estimate, or roughly equivalent to the country's entire official annual military budget.

"If one were to calculate the cost of such a plan, it would be quite high," said Deputy Atomic Energy Minister Lev Ryabev. "I consider it very important. These would be respectable, solid financial resources, fairly beneficial contracts. Of course, we show interest."

The same economic interest motivates other Russian policies that concern U.S. officials, such as arms sales to countries the United States considers hostile. Russia, the world's No. 2 arms supplier, aggressively promotes the sale of tanks, planes, ships and other powerful weaponry.

"Why do we do that? Because no NATO country buys our weapons," said Dmitri Babich, foreign editor of the Moscow News. "The market for these people is not with rich Western countries. . . . So where do they go to sell these? They go to China, India and, at worst, Iran."

The recent American visitors, led by Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham and Undersecretary of State John R. Bolton, tried to make the point that good relations with the United States would ultimately be worth more.

"The real question they need to consider eventually is [whether this is] penny-wise and pound-foolish," said a senior U.S. official. "Do they want to do business with us or do business with Iran? In the long term it's very shortsighted."

After Abraham and Bolton complained vigorously, Russian officials backed off somewhat and described the Iran plan as merely a technical document, hinting that there were disagreements about it within the government.

In an interview, Ryabev confirmed that his boss, Atomic Energy Minister Alexander Rumyantsev, did not know about the document before it was released. "It was coordinated but not at the top ministerial level," he said. "That goes to show that this document is more of a procedural direction rather than one of concrete agreements for implementation."

Asked if Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov signed it, as reported, Ryabev said: "The prime minister signed it but I'll put it this way: He signed it not as a program between Russia and Iran approved by the government. He signed it as a direction for discussion of this issue for future talks between Russia and Iran."

Still, like other Russian officials, Ryabev bristled at the implication that Russia's civilian nuclear assistance would help Iran build nuclear weapons. "It all remains just an emotional call to stop such activities," he said. "What are the complaints? The specific complaints for spreading proliferation? There were no specific complaints."

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This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; Special Reports; Peace Corps - Overseas Programs; COS - Russia



By elisabeth17 ( - on Tuesday, April 04, 2006 - 11:24 am: Edit Post

hey nice article

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