Energy is at the centre of Russia's strategic partnership with
the European Union.
Oil is the cause of its struggle with the US over the routes of
pipelines from the Caspian and Central Asia –Le Monde..
Moscow's relations with the Middle East during the Cold War were
mostly focused on socialist and nationalist regimes, ranged against
Kingdoms and conservative Western allies , but USSR's collapse and
its disintegration saw its influence shrink. Now a coherent Russian
Federation around an Orthodox Slav core, minus the old ideological,
ethnic and religious mixed baggage, under an astute President
Vladimir Putin has assiduously re-built almost from a scratch its
influence in the region, and taking advantage of the follies of the
Bush administration, broad banding relationships from Rabat to
A confident Putin , chose the 43 annual security conference in
Munich on 10 February, for a blistering attack on Washington's
unilateral and destructive policies, stunning his Western audience ,
led by US Secretary of State Robert Gates and European leaders .He
announced Moscow's plans for a more robust role ,now that the real
world wants and is reverting to a multi-polar mode against US's
assumptions of having become the New Rome. A fierce nationalist
Sunni resistance in Iraq , once described by US Vice-President Dick
Cheney as dead enders and in its last throes ,has exposed limits of
US military's might on the ground ,while the US installed and
unwillingly supported Shia ruling regime in Baghdad , mostly
nurtured , trained , financed in and by Tehran is making Bush
Administration go around the palm trees on the Tigris , Euphrates
and Iraqi swamps. US has little idea of how to get out of the
quagmire of its own making .The more it stays the course , faster
would become the world truly multi-polar .
No wonder soon after his dressing down of the West at Munich, Putin
was warmly welcomed in Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Jordan , old and
close US allies almost totally dependent on US for their protection
. Moscow has already built up close strategic and economic relations
with Iran, almost revived old ties with Syria and has good relations
with Israel, Egypt and others, with warm relations with Turkey
.Almost all countries in the region are suffering from the fall out
of unilateralist US policies which have created havoc and
instability .But Bush insists on 'staying the course' ,even
promising a surge ( in violence ) in spite of fierce opposition at
home .The region nay the world needs protection from Washington and
Moscow has taken the lead and slowly emerging as a counterpoise.
Even the tail Israel which wags the dog is having doubts about US
policies , more so after its defeat by Hezbollah in the Lebanese war
last year. Policies responsible for US decline were cooked up by
Neo-cons , mostly Jews , which were rejected by Israel but embraced
by Neo-Cons and fundamentalist Christians embedded in the Bush
Administration. The malevolent role of Israeli Lobby in US is now
being discussed in USA , rousing the former's ire ,even against
venerable Jimmy Carter who questioned the apartheid like Israeli
treatment of Palestinians. Americans do not like to be losers .The
quagmire and its diminishing influence in the Middle East and the
world would soon require some scapegoats.
A fast rising China with huge appetite for energy and other raw
materials is spreading its tentacles in Africa , where US had a free
run. Latin America , is finally emerging from the strangle hold of
US multinationals and its coercive military and CIA operations ,
with a clutch of new populist leaders like Chavez ,Morales and
others , inspired by the epic struggle of Cuba's Fidel Castro and
coming together to dismantle US hegemony . USA has been defeated in
Iraq , defied by Iran and north Korea and getting bankrupt by the
After centuries of war fare between Persia on one side and the
Romans and Byzantines on the other had exhausted them, a new power
from the deserts of Arabia filled the vacuum .If Soviet Union
collapsed because of unconscionable high military expenditure , the
cold war legacy is alive and thriving in Washington in its all
powerful military industry complex , eating into US creative and
economic entrails .US is losing its manufacturing and technological
superiority .The Cold War based capitalism's demise in 1998 was
delayed perhaps by the injection of higher productivity by Info tech
revolution and transfer of wealth from Russia , former socialist
states ,East and South East Asia and other economies .US political
and economic system appears unable to correct itself .It just can
not get itself out of the Iraqi quagmire and but still preparing for
a war against Iran , which would be catastrophic to the region, the
world and USA itself , hastening the rise of China and giving
greater clout to Russia , India, Europe Union and others . US
political system is far too degenerated .Money rules the roost .The
system does not respond to peoples votes or needs and its corporate
owned media can not act as democracy's watch dog.
Putin visits to Saudi Arabia , Qatar and Jordan.
Putin's visit to Riyadh , the first ever by a Russian President ,
since relations were established 80 years ago is a mile stone .His
high-level delegation was warmly welcomed by King Abdullah himself ,
Crown Prince Sultan, Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal and top
civilian and military officials. Saudi Arabia with its two holiest
cities of Mecca and Medina is home of Islam and exercises great
influence among Muslims and the world economy by manipulating oil
prices under US presure.
Riyadh and Moscow first established diplomatic relations in the
1920s. But in 1938 Josef Stalin closed his embassy in Saudi Arabia.
Several attempts to reopen the embassy in the 1980s failed because
of what Saudi Arabia described USSR's "belligerent attitude" toward
its Muslim population. Even now Muslims make up around 20% of
Russia's 145 million population. The diplomatic missions were
re-opened in September 1990, at the height of the Gulf crisis after
Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in August.
In September 2003, Abdullah, then Crown Prince, went to Moscow; the
last important official visit was in 1932 by Prince Faisal, who
later became the King. During Abdullah's trip, Russian and Saudi
energy ministers signed an agreement for cooperation in the oil and
gas industry including joint ventures and scientific research. In
2004, Riyadh awarded Lukoil Holdings, Russia's biggest oil company,
the rights to explore and produce natural gas in an area known as
"Zone A," located near Ghawar, the world's largest oil field.
To a question from the Russian media on Saudi women driving cars as
in other Gulf states, King Abdullah replied that a decision must
come from Saudi society. It is the state's duty is to provide a
conducive atmosphere for any decision society deems suitable but in
conformity with the Shariah. But the King enumerated the progress by
Saudi women in higher education and their role as engineers,
doctors, teachers, and businesswomen in Saudi Arabia's development .
King Abdullah congratulated his security forces in confronting
terrorism which is against the teachings of Islam and values of the
Kingdom. He assured a fight against terrorism at the national and
international levels until it was wiped out. The King also stressed
the importance of respecting other cultures. All human civilizations
emerged from one source and have benefited from each other. He
called for the integration ie dialogue of civilizations and looked
forward to Russian intellectuals participation at the Janadriya
Heritage and Culture Festival soon. He also emphasized the desert
values of humaneness, open-mindedness, sincerity, chivalry, courage,
magnanimity, romantic spirit and closeness to God.. Abdullah said
that a position of power entails a big responsibility ;of fulfilling
the hopes and aspirations of ordinary people
"I see in ... Putin a statesman and a man of peace and fairness,"
Abdullah said, according to official Saudi Press Agency before the
visit. "That's why the kingdom of Saudi Arabia extends a hand of
friendship to Russia."
Putin's large delegation included apart from the head of the
state-controlled gas monopoly Gazprom, Aleksei Miller; Russian
Railways head Vladimir Yakunin, a number of other oligarchs, and
some high-ranking Muslim officials like Tatar President Mintimer
Shaimiyev and Vagit Alekperov, the head of the petrochemical giant
LUKoil and the only Muslim among the Russian oil magnates. In
keeping with local tradition, all female members of the delegation
and journalists wore chadors (Indira Gandhi during her visit to
Riyadh in early 1980s kept her head covered with Saree and wore full
On bilateral relations, recalling their great cultural heritage ,the
King pointed out the huge economic potential with vast natural
resources and investment opportunities. Both are very influential in
world affairs .The visit would raise bilateral relations to new
heights with strategic perspectives, he said.
The two sides signed three major agreements and two memorandums of
understanding covering cooperation in the fields of oil, gas,
science and technology, trade and sports. Agreements were also
signed for the protection and promotion of investments, air
transport and avoidance of double taxation. Riyadh is keen to expand
cooperation in research, education and technology. The King wants
greater cooperation and coordination with Russia to ensure adequate
oil supply and oil market stability .The two sides discussed the
serious situation in the region and global challenges and
The Saudi King described the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as the
longest in modern history and emphasized the need for finding a
quick and lasting solution , which will resolve many other problems
in the region releasing financial resources for the development . On
Iraq the King proposed a three-pronged solution :reinforce security
by eliminating all sources of violence ie all armed militias without
discrimination; achieve national unity among all Iraqis ,ie ensuring
equal rights to all ; and preserve Iraq's sovereignty, independence
and territorial integrity.
Putin told a business forum in Riyadh that Russia wants to develop
cooperation with Arab countries and begin a dialogue of
civilizations .He said , 'We favour the creation of a more fair
international order based on the principles of equality and respect
for all people, regardless of their religious views,' 'Russia is a
multinational country and home to Christians, Muslims and
representatives of other religions, who have coexisted as good
neighbours in accord for many centuries,' he said.
This is a 'unique experience' that should be preserved. Putin said
many Muslim countries share Russian position on the dialogue of
civilizations. He added that Russia would also develop cooperation
as part of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) and
thanked the Saudi King for helping Moscow acquire the status of
observer at the OIC. "Russia is keen to improve cooperation with the
Islamic world," Putin told the businessmen.
Putin said Saudi Arabia could benefit from Russia's expertise in gas
exploration. In 2000, Russia's LUKOIL and Saudi Aramco launched an
80-20 per cent joint venture called LUKSAR to explore and produce
gas in an area of the Rub al-Khali desert. Trade exchanges between
Saudi Arabia and Russia rose 230 per cent from 2000 to 1.5 billion
riyals ($591 million) in 2005, with Saudi exports accounting for a
small fraction of them.
Putin said that Saudi business leaders are collaborators, not
competitors in developing world energy. He invited Saudi banks to
open 100-per cent-owned branches in Russia and added that bilateral
investments would grow , now that the Saudi Development Fund has
signed an agreement during the visit with two Russian state banks.
Putin came with a big business delegation who exchanged views with
hundreds of Saudi counterparts. Some Saudi businessmen criticized
high Russian customs duties amounting to up to 200 per cent and
cited the absence of direct transport links and long formalities at
Russian banks. But many are keen to diversify because of
difficulties in getting visas for USA following the Sept. 11
attacks. Out by 19 highjackers , 15 were Saudis. Said a Saudi
businessman "When I go as a businessman to the USA, I have to prove
first I am not a criminal," "While in a place like China I'm treated
like a king."
A senior official from King Abdulaziz Science and Technology City,
disclosed that five Saudi satellites for telecommunications and data
transfer would be launched from a base in Kazakhstan ; the sixth
will be for remote sensing.
Saudi purchase of Russian arms ;
Putin held a one-on-one meeting with Saudi Crown Prince and Defence
Minister Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz before leaving Riyadh for
Qatar .Riyadh confirmed that it was negotiating for possible
purchase of Russian weapons for the first time and welcomed Moscow's
offer to help it develop nuclear energy.
"There are no obstacles to cooperation between the two countries in
all fields pertaining to... armament and nuclear energy," said
Foreign Minister al-Faisal after the visit . "On the armament front,
there have been discussions between the two countries. They are
taking place in accordance with the kingdom's requirements in terms
of armament and with what Russia can provide of the kingdom's needs
for such equipment," the Minister said. A diplomatic source had said
earlier that the visit would to lead to a "verbal understanding" on
the sale of about 150 Russian T-90 battle tanks. Tests were carried
out in Saudi Arabia last year to ascertain their suitability for
harsh desert conditions. Moscow also wants to sell Mi-17
Russian Gulf Nuclear Cooperation ;
Foreign Minister al-Faisal told the media that Russia offered to
help Saudi Arabia develop nuclear energy. "We contacted the other
countries in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) during Putin's visit
and put the Russian proposals to them," al-Faisal said. The Gulf
states only want nuclear energy for civilian purposes "and distance
themselves from the topic of atomic weapons."
The GCC comprising of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman and
the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is keen to develop nuclear energy
with Russian help . Two months ago GCC announced its desire to go
for nuclear energy technology. But it raises concern of a regional
arms race with analysts saying the bloc wanted to match Iran's
nuclear program where Russia has helped set up a nuclear power
Al-Faisal did not say whether the GCC's nuclear plans had anything
to do with Iran's nuclear program, but he did mention a European
Union plan that Iran could enrich uranium for its nuclear power
plants in a "neutral country" without naming it. On Tehran's
concerns over the Islamic world being divided ( by US policies )
into Sunnis and Shias, al-Faisal said. "We wish to avoid this
(dividing the Islamic world)." He said, "We are neutral as to our
stand towards Sunnis and Shiites."
GCC have close relations with Washington and buy their arms from US
.Verily they depend on USA for their protection. US led coalition
had expelled Iraq from Kuwait in 1991 , which was invaded in 1990.
From Riyadh ,Putin made a five-hour stop over at Doha ,Qatar on
February 12 and held talks on military and trade cooperation with
Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, the Emir of Qatar, "We seek to
develop special relations between Qatar and Russia," said the Emir
after Putin's arrival. "Relations at all levels have been developing
vigorously over the past year and a half."
Speaking at a press conference in Doha, Putin reiterated his earlier
statement that a cartel is "an interesting idea," but said that
there would be many difficulties . "We do not reject the idea of
creating a gas cartel," Putin told the media. "But this initiative
requires more study." He would dispatch experts in April to a
natural gas conference in Doha to discuss the creation of a cartel
modeled like OPEC. "It's important to cooperate and to help each
other," said Putin. "We also work together to defend the interests
of gas exporters and coordinate our relations toward the consumers."
Many experts believe that a gas cartel is an unlikely proposition.
While oil is traded on stock exchange , Gas is usually sold on
long-term contracts that eliminate price fluctuations.
Qatar has become a major natural gas producer and LNG exporter. In
2005 it exported about 28 bcm of LNG and will increase many fold.
Trade with Qatar stands at $55mn, with deliveries of Kamaz trucks
making up $50mn. Even after tripling in 2005 , it is only $140mn.
If not a Gas cartel Russia and others specially Iran have been
toying with the idea of informal or formal consultations for assured
supplies of the gas at reasonable prices .Russia has been quite
active Putin discussed this proposal during his visit to Algeria
last year, first such Presidential since USSR's collapse , another
old friend from the days of the Algerian war of independence .The
two sides discussed bilateral cooperation in supplying natural gas
to the European market .Russia controls about 26 percent of that
market, while Algeria, with about 10 % is the 3rd leading supplier
after Russia and Norway.
According to the business daily "Vedomosti" of last March 9, Gazprom
offered Algeria's Sonatrak a deal under which Sonatrak would supply
gas to Russia's European customers if supplies from Russia were
interrupted while Gazprom would deliver gas to Algeria's customers
in other regions. Gazprom also offered Sonatrak a role in developing
some gas deposits in Russia.
Apart from the question of supply, the battle is over pipeline
routes which provides strategic control , like the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan
pipeline , built by Western companies .They want to station security
forces for the pipeline and enter Russia's strategic near abroad.
The idea of a gas cartel was first floated by Putin in 2002 , his
second year as president. It was quickly trashed by Western energy
multinationals .But he was supported by the leaders of Central Asian
gas-producing nations, who remain very keen . Putin decided to wait
for a more opportune time.
In May last year , Gazprom Deputy Chairman Aleksandr Medvedev when
pressed by West Europe said that Moscow would create "an alliance of
gas suppliers more influential than OPEC" -- In August, with the
concept of an "alliance of gas suppliers" Russia and Algeria signed
a memorandum of understanding calling for coordinated gas prices.
Putin has complained that consumer countries in the West focused
only on their own energy interests while ignoring those of
producers. They want suppliers to pledge continuity of shipments for
the long term. But "consumers should not be able to turn around and
say, 'We don't need it now.' Security works both ways. We need
Russia refused to ratify the European Energy Charter treaty signed
under boozy Yeltsin regime that gave foreign investors from the West
greater access to Moscow's deposits and pipelines. But US led West
refuses to allow Russia and China investment in their own down
stream business in return. US `led West is so used to running the
Gulf Kingdoms like their fiefs and uses them manipulate oil prices ,
which hurt Russia in mid 1980s and Iraq in early 1990 , which forced
Saddam Hussein invade Kuwait.
Do only US and UK have a 'right' to invade oil producing country
like Iraq against UN charter and world opinion. They force oil
producers to trade oil in US dollars thus supporting it as a reserve
currency. The Gulf states are also forced to purchase arms from the
West , which like Kuwait in 1990 they are hardly able to use even
when invaded .Kuwait , Saudi Arabia , other Gulf states , Japan and
Germany were made to pay US led coalition hundreds of billions of
dollars for the 1991 Iraq war , basically to protect US vested
interests . This is too good a thing and has lasted too long.
Putin's visit at least provides some flexibility to the Gulf energy
producers in pricing and supply .It will also provide some
competition to the West in sale of arms.
In fact a little known quasi- gas cartel , without staff or
headquarters and more like a talking shop , already exists in
nebulous form ie The Gas Exporting Countries' Forum (GECF) which
first met in Tehran in 2001, with Algeria, Iran, and Russia among
its founding members. It has 15 gas-producing members who control 73
percent of the world's gas reserves and 41 percent of production.
NATO is worried and in November 2006 warned members that Russia may
be seeking to create a natural-gas cartel stretching from Algeria to
Central Asia to use as a political weapon in its dealings with
Visit to Jordan;
Putin's visit to Amman was more about their efforts to help revive
long-stalled peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians. Nearly
60% of Jordan's population are of Palestinian origin , which
underlines the Hashemite King Abdullah II's deep concerns about the
terrible conditions in occupied territories .To a population of 4 ½
million have been now added nearly a million refugees, mostly Sunnis
,from US occupied Iraq , making it a potent cocktail . Jordan signed
a peace treaty with Israel , but Israel's problems with other
neighbours like Syria and Lebanon remain unresolved . So the
question of Israeli-Arab disputes was the main subject in Amman.
A joint statement issued by the royal court said that Jordan and
Russia agreed to boost military cooperation, although it did not
give details and signed deals to bolster trade and economic ties.
Jordan has offered major projects to Russian businesses.
"President Putin and I agreed that negotiations toward the
establishment of a viable, independent Palestinian state should be
accelerated," King Abdullah II said after more than two hours of
talks in Amman with Putin. "We are witnessing a unique opportunity
to restart the effort to achieve a comprehensive Middle East peace,"
said the Hashemite King , who has visited Moscow 4 times.
Putin said that "support is growing" for a Russian proposal for a
wide-scale Middle East peace conference that also would tackle ways
to "conquer international terrorism." The two also "agreed that
negotiations for the establishment of a viable Palestinian state
should be accelerated." The Hashemite King called the
Palestinian-Israeli conflict the "core conflict" in the Middle East.
Russia has "an important role to play" as a member of the Middle
East Quartet, which also comprises the United States, the United
Nations, and the European Union, the King added.
Putin paid tribute to "the good relations between Russia and Jordan"
and noted "an increased interest in Russia on the part of our Arab
partners" during his visits , which have opened the way for "big
possibilities for Russia." He reaffirmed that. "For Russia the
Middle East is strategically important.
"We understand that this possibility of action must be done in a
delicate and balanced manner," he said in apparent reference to US
Abdullah II also said that he and Putin discussed Iran's nuclear
problem with the West and "continue to believe that a diplomatic
solution to this crisis must be found."
Last month, Abdullah II said Amman wanted to develop nuclear
capabilities for peaceful purposes. Washington has indicated it had
no objection to a peaceful Jordanian nuclear program. Many other
Arab states from Morocco to Egypt also want to go in for nuclear
Western media claims it as a message to Iran but the Arabs have in
mind hundreds of Nukes in Israel's arsenal, which Tel Aviv has
successfully used for black mail and continuing brutal occupation of
Palestine since 1967.
The King also praised the "personal courage and leadership" of
Putin.[ whose visit to the region has been seen by Arabs Moscow's
objective to reassert its international clout and the balance of
power with Washington.]
"Arab populations are angry with American policies. They look
forward to better ties with Moscow, a more effective Russian role in
securing a peaceful solution to regional crises, and offsetting US
strategy in the region," Jordan's independent (?) Al Arab Al Yawm
said in an editorial.
Although there were no official comments, Jordanian dailies gave
wide coverage to Putin's plain speak against US foreign policy in
Munich. The Russian leader said that Washington had disastrously
"overstepped" its borders, "imposed itself on other states," and
that US dominance was "ruinous."
Western media sarcastically commented that Jordan is a close ally of
Washington, which has poured close to $5 billion in financial aid
since 1952. How much US led West has made out of its control and
exploitation of Arab oil .It will run into trillions of US ~Dollars.
Before leaving Amman Putin, later met with visiting Palestinian
leader Mahmoud Abbas urging him to set up an "efficient" government
that would be taken seriously by Israel to reach a final peace
settlement. Abbas and his Fateh faction reached an agreement last
week with the ruling militant Hamas to form a national unity
government aimed at ending a crippling US led Western sanctions.
The Quartet is scheduled to meet on February 21 to try to revive the
peace process, two days after Abbas is due to have talks with US
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud
Arab Media on the visits ;
On the results of President Putin's visits , Jordan's al-Arab al-Yawm
commented that it might be too early to predict if it will establish
a new historic era in Russian-Arab relations. However, it added,
that progress in mutual Arab-Russian political, economic and
strategic interests could help in confronting U.S. unilateralism.
The daily said that Russia strong role in influencing policies in
the Middle East it enjoyed during its Soviet days could be revived.
It emphasized that this can happen if Moscow distances itself from
U.S. policy and asserts its independent role in the Mid East Quartet
and to provide Arab countries with the needed military, scientific
and economic technologies, "just like it does with Iran and Israel."
It added that for Russia to reinforce its ties with the Arabs, Putin
administration should also put an end to its war on Chechnya, as
this issue has a negative effect on Russia's image in Arab and
Muslim world. The paper stated that Arab societies felt outraged by
U.S. policies, and look for better relations with Moscow so that it
can take strong measures towards peaceful solutions to the Middle
Bahrain's pro-government daily al-Awasat said that Riyadh has
understood the changes since the collapse of the Soviet Union and
the U.S. war on terror that largely targeted Muslims . Riyadh has
taken a more pragmatic approach in dealing with powerful nations and
opened doors of reconciliation. The visit constitutes a historic
milestone in relations between the two countries, especially when it
comes "at the start of a new era of a second Cold War." It argued
the rules of the second Cold War are different than the previous
one, since it's not ideological between Moscow and Washington, but
it will be carried out based on "multilateral interests and
pragmatism." This kind of multilateralism, it stressed, gives an
opportunity for Arab and Muslim countries, especially Saudi Arabia,
to take up their positions and play an effective role on the
Oman's pro-government al-Watan commented that Putin summarized the
problems facing the world at the conference in Munich - that an
American unipolar world was a disaster. "It's as if Putin wanted to
say, 'Come, let's build a power in the face of the power and build a
different approach to what is happening in our universe,'" the daily
argued. It said that the Russian President appears to be seeking to
re-establish Russia as a direct buffer against U.S. policies in the
weaker parts of the world, stressing that it is essential to return
to the Cold War so that the world will calm down. It said that Iraq,
and Afghanistan earlier are examples of becoming victims after the
Cold War, and " we don't know who is next so long as there is no
power facing another and so long as the U.N. is totally consolidated
to the United States and its hegemony," it stated.
The London-based al-Hayat said the Russian President did not say
anything new at Munich by accusing the United States of having
destructive policies. The reportedly Saudi-financed daily alerted in
a commentary that Putin seems to have ignored the limited
capabilities of his country as NATO is now "knocking on Russia's
door." It opined that the Soviet ideology has completely collapsed
and all that remains is the memory on which "some intellectuals
spread across the Arab world live, having been disappointed from
failing to save Moscow from its inevitable end." The Cold War is
indeed over, the daily said, and it's not likely to return in the
near future. "But the repercussions of this war remains," it
concluded. [Another example of Saudis trying to have it both ways .]
Any patch up between the two divides in Islam is too farfetched as
another London-based daily, al-asharq al-Awsat, blasted Iranian
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for continuing his aggressive rhetoric
instead of assuring the world and his neighbors on the occasion of
the 28th anniversary of the Islamic revolution. Iran's rhetoric is
copied from various regimes in history that had a tragic end, it
stressed, adding it is "an ideological language that believes its
mission is conquering the enemy and an insolent America ... It is a
language in which humanity has paid a high price " in history. The
Saudi-owned daily compared the Iranian rhetoric to Fascism, Nazism,
Zionism, extremist Islam and Saddam Hussein's regime. It warned that
"revolutionary Iran" will face a historic crisis if it does not
shift from "revolution" to "state," saying this requires a new
understanding of itself and for others in terms of the international
and regional balance of power. "Iran needs bread more than nuclear
arsenal; it needs the trust of its neighbors and region more than
appeasing others," it opined. The paper declared that the language
used 28 years ago at the time of the Islamic revolution is not
necessarily valid today.
A pro Neo-Con US website Starfor explained the complex factors in
the problem .It claimed that there is some evidence that recent
declines in oil prices are linked to decisions in Riyadh that are
aimed at increasing production, reducing prices and hurting the
" This creates a problem for Russia. While Moscow has substantial
room for maneuver, the fact is that lowered oil prices impact energy
prices overall, and therefore hurt the Russians. The Saudis,
moreover, need the Iranians blocked -- but without going so far as
to permit foreign troops to be based in Saudi Arabia itself. In
other words, they want to see the United States remain in Iraq,
since the Americans serve as the perfect shield against the Iranians
so long as they remain there. Putin's criticisms of the United
States, as delivered in Munich, would have been applauded by Saudi
Arabia prior to the 2003 invasion of Iraq. But in 2007, the results
of that invasion are exactly what the Saudis feared -- a collapsed
Iraq and a relatively powerful Iran. The Saudis now need the
Americans to stay put in the region."
"The interests of Russia and Iran align more closely, but there are
points of divergence there as well. Both benefit from having the
United States tied up, militarily and politically, in wars, but
Tehran would be delighted to see a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq that
leaves a power vacuum for Iran to fill. The Russians would rather
not see this outcome. First, they are quite happy to have the United
States bogged down in Iraq and would prefer that to having the U.S.
military freed for operations elsewhere. Second, they are interested
in a relationship with Iran but are not eager to drive the United
States and Saudi Arabia into closer relations. Third, the Russians
do not want to see Iran become the dominant power in the region.
They want to use Iran, but within certain manageable limits."
Trilateral meeting in New Delhi;
East of Munich in the Middle East and even farther east in Asia ,
the compulsions of energy security are bringing India and China
closer to Russia and Iran .
After a trilateral meeting on 14 February in New Delhi between
Pranab Mukherjee , Li Zhaoxing and Sergei Lavrov , Foreign Ministers
of India, China and Russia respectively, fixed during Putin's
January visit to New Delhi , in a joint statement they agreed to
coordinate action against international terrorism, illegal drug
trafficking, and trans-national organized crime besides promoting
business cooperation among themselves .It said that the "key to
building an increasingly multipolar world order would be on the
principle of equality of nations, big or small, respect for
sovereignty and territorial integrity." It stressed the importance
of dialogue rather than confrontation, strengthening the UN to make
it more effective and multi-lateral diplomacy rather than a unipolar
world. This declaration was aimed at Washington though it was not
Sources indicated that Pakistan's "deeply ambivalent" role on
terrorism came in for sustained scrutiny during discussions on
Afghanistan. But Delhi did not complain against Washington in view
of emerging relationship . While the joint statement states that
both Russia and China would actively facilitate India's membership
to the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation , the membership question
is quite complex. Russia is not keen on either Iran or Pakistan
joining the SCO, while China will agree to India only if Pakistan
too is let in.
Lavrov said at the media conference that they had discussed the
"most burning issues" of the moment ie Middle East , Afghanistan,
Iraq, Iran and North Korea.
The next trilateral meeting would be held in China The Ministers
also urged their business federations to hold a trilateral business
forum within a year.The trade volume is low: $30 billion between
Russia and China in 2006, $20 billion between China and India, and
$3 billion between Russia and India. But the potential remains high.
The Foreign Ministers have met four times in the past -- twice on
the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in 2002 and 2003 and then
Almaty in 2004 .Their last meeting was in Vladivostok in June 2005.
Together they are home to two-fifths of the global population and
all are nuclear powers.
It was the old strategic thinker on Asia and Middle East , Yevgeny
Primakov , then Russian Prime Minister under Boris Yeltsin , who
first suggested a "strategic triangle" between Russia, India, and
China back in 1998. It was laughed off and dismissed as far-fetched,
absurd. The Chinese were hesitant, the Indians were mystified but
the Russians have persevered. At the G-8 summit in St Petersburg
last year, President Putin, determined to send a signal to the West,
held a separate meeting with the Indian Prime Minister and the
Chinese President, politically giving the triumvirate high level
Putin only articulated at Munich what the other emerging centres of
power in 21st century like China, India and Brazil and others also
oppose ie imposition of 'unipolar' world order by USA and blatant
chaos and destruction brought to the Middle East region . In spite
of undiplomatic interventions by the US ambassador in Delhi ( and
loutish threats by Sen. Lantos in the Senate ) Indian Foreign
Minister Pranab Mukherjee was in Teheran on February 6-7 and made
clear in his media comments that India opposed any use of force
against Iran. He called for the Iran nuclear question to be referred
back to the International Atomic Energy Agency , Vienna to handle
the issue. After being bamboozled into voting against Iran on the
nuclear question in 2005 , India is now quietly asserting itself and
proclaiming that strengthening of relations with Iran is vitally
important for India. Mukherjee described Iran as a factor for
stability in the region thus trashing Washington's propaganda that
Iran is a terrorist state that is threatening regimes in
Close relations with Tehran are crucial for India's energy security
so that its economic march is not throttled .Because of India's
negative vote and the Pakistan situation ,the gas pipeline project
from Iran to India via Pakistan and a 25-year deal on liquefied
natural gas have slowed down .Along with Russia ,India-Iran energy
cooperation forms a crucial vector of emergent Asian security ,which
will include China as well . Finally Indian Prime Minister Manmohan
Singh accepted during Putin's visit that energy security as 'the
most important of the emerging dimensions' of the Indo-Russian
strategic partnership. "For receiving the gas coming through the $7
billion pipeline, infrastructure development within India alone will
generate business close to $40 billion." And Russia has ample funds
to invest and pipe laying expertise.
India is watching Europe's plans , which depends on Russia for 25%
of its gas needs ,to diversify its supply which will iinclude Iran.
Europe would face gas shortages by 2015. Thus competition for
Iranian gas between Europe and Asia has begun. Thus results of the
Russian-Iranian energy dialogue , with which the Gulf states could
coordinate and even join becomes very interesting and important .
In spite of all the media bites on the Indo-US nuclear deal ,which
many in US want to roll back India's nuclear deterrent , Washington
would like to use it to pressurise Delhi to obey its dictates .With
a long gestation period ,Nuclear energy will remain marginal to the
Indian economy in the near future .USA itself has not built any
nuclear plants in recent years and it changes the terms of contract
whenever it so feels , making it a unreliable partner.