Russian energy ties with Iran send US a message

With European and US companies out of the competition, Russia’s Gazprom has an edge as it bids for a bigger role in developing the world’s second-largest gas reserves

AS the United States warns the world away from business with Tehran, Moscow’s tightening ties to Iran’s energy sector underline Russia’s differences with Washington over Iranian nuclear plans and Kosovo’s independence.

While the timing of Moscow’s announcement on Tuesday may have been political, the deal for Russian state-controlled energy giant Gazprom to take on big new Iranian oil and gas projects was a long time in the making and dovetails with Gazprom’s strategic ambitions, analysts said. Gazprom, the world’s biggest gas producer, will play a larger role in developing Iran’s giant South Pars gas field and will also drill for oil.

“The Russian government and the United States are at loggerheads over how to engage with Iran, with Russia actively favouring a more open relationship,” said Ronald Smith, chief strategist at Alfa Bank. “This makes Gazprom rather indifferent to American policy wishes.” The US accuses Iran of using uranium enrichment to develop weapons, while Tehran says it needs nuclear power. Russia has been reluctant to impose more UN sanctions on Iran.

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War pimp alert: Over 40 Russian planes to take part in naval drills in Atlantic

MOSCOW, January 24 (RIA Novosti) – Over 40 aircraft of Russia’s Air Force will take part in the final stage of a naval exercise in the Atlantic later this month, an aide to the Air Force commander said on Thursday.

“The Air Force will play an active role in the final stage of the naval task force exercises. Over 40 planes will be employed from January 28 to February 1,” Alexander Drobyshevsky said.

He said Tu-160 Blackjacks, Tu-95MS Bears, Tu-22M3 Backfire C strategic bombers, A-50 Mainstay airborne early warning aircraft, Il-78 Midas aerial tankers, MiG-31 Foxhound long-range interceptors and Su-27 Flanker frontline fighter aircraft will participate in the drills.

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Vladamir Putin: “The world’s most popular leader”?

By Mike Whitney

12/01/07 “ICH ” — — – On Sunday, Russians will vote in their country’s parliamentary elections. The results are a foregone conclusion. Putin’s party, United Russia, is expected to win in a landslide. The only question is whether the margin of victory will exceed 70%. If it does, then Putin will continue to be the most powerful player in Russian politics even after he steps down from office next year.

Vladamir Putin is arguably the most popular leader in Russian history, although you’d never know it by reading the western media. According to a recent survey conducted by the Wall Street Journal, Putin’s personal approval rating in November 2007 was 85% making him the most popular head of state in the world today. Putin’s popularity derives from many factors. He is personally clever and charismatic. He is fiercely nationalistic and has worked tirelessly to improve the lives of ordinary Russians and restore the country to its former greatness. He has raised over 20 million Russians out of grinding poverty, improved education, health care and the pension system, (partially) nationalized critical industries, lowered unemployment, increased manufacturing and exports, invigorated Russian markets, strengthened the ruble, raised the overall standard of living, reduced government corruption, jailed or exiled the venal oligarchs, and amassed capital reserves of $450 billion.

If there’s a downside to Putin’s legacy, it’s hard to see.

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Putin slams foreign nations for backing opposition

By Guy Faulconbridge

MOSCOW (Reuters) – President Vladimir Putin, using Cold War rhetoric, accused foreign governments on Wednesday of sponsoring his opponents in next month’s election to weaken Russia and carry out “dirty tricks” against it.

Putin warned that victory for his United Russia party in the December 2 parliamentary election was the only guarantee that the chaos that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union in the 1990s would not return.

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Russia begins large-scale military exercises in Far East

KHABAROVSK, October 28 (RIA Novosti) – Russia began on Sunday large-scale military exercises in the Far East to practice interoperability between troops, the press office of the Far Eastern military district said.

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Caspian Summit: Putin Puts Forward A War-Avoidance Plan

The visit to Tehran on Oct. 16, by Russian President Vladimir Putin was officially billed as his participation in the second summit of the Caspian Sea littoral nations, convoked to deal with legal and other aspects of resource-sharing in the oil-rich waters. Although that summit did take place as scheduled, and important decisions were reached by the leaders of Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Russia, and Iran, the main thrust of Putin’s visit was another: The Russian President’s trip–the first of a Russian head of state since the 1943 Tehran conference of war-time powers–was geared to register his government’s commitment to prevent a new war in the region, at all costs. That new war is the one on the strategic agenda of U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney, against Iran.

Putin’s participation in the summit, especially, his extensive personal meetings with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, constituted a spectacular gesture manifesting Russian support for war-avoidance factions in the Iranian government, in their showdown with Cheney’s neocon war party. As one Iranian political source put it, Putin’s visit was tantamount to saying to Washington: If you want to start a war against Iran, then you have to reckon with me, and that means, with Russia, a nuclear superpower. Perhaps not coincidentally, Putin right after his return to Moscow, stated in a worldwide webcast press interview, that his nation was developing new nuclear capabilities. His Iran visit was, as one Arab diplomat told me, a message to the warmongers in Washington, that Russia is still (or again) a superpower, and is treating the Iran dossier as a test for its status as a great power.

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In Iran, Putin Warns Against Military Action

TEHRAN, Oct. 16 — President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia told a summit meeting of five Caspian Sea nations in Iran today that any use of military force in the region was unacceptable and in a declaration the countries agreed that none of them would allow their territories to be used as a base for launching military strikes against any of the others.

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran in Tehran today.

“We should not even think of making use of force in this region,” Mr. Putin said.

Mr. Putin’s comments and the declaration come at a time when France and the United States have refused to rule out military action to halt Iran’s nuclear energy program, which they believe masks a desire to develop nuclear weapons. Iran says its program is solely for peaceful purposes.

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