Russia 110908 Basic Political Developments

Japan Govt: Watching Russia Military Training Area Near Disputed Islands

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Japan Govt: Watching Russia Military Training Area Near Disputed Islands
TOKYO (Dow Jones)--Japan's top government spokesman said Thursday that the government is aware of and is closely monitoring an air training area set up by the Russian military near the sea of Okhotsk.

"The Japanese government is closely watching the training air space set up by the Russian military from a national security point of view," Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura said at regular press conference.

"We have communicated with the Russian government about our concern and are we are currently gathering information," he added.

He also said that the Russians have come unusually close to Japanese territory.

-By Toko Sekiguchi, Dow Jones Newswires;             +81-3-6269-2787      ;

Mr Cameron goes to Moscow – finally and forlornly
By Denis MacShane

08.09.2011 / 05:11 CET

The UK prime minister's visit to Moscow also reveals much about the EU's relationship with Russia.

The UK prime minister's visit to Moscow also reveals much about the EU's relationship with Russia.

David Cameron makes his first visit to Russia to meet his opposite number, Vladimir Putin, on 12 September. While Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel and France's President Nicolas Sarkozy rushed to Moscow when they arrived in power, the British prime minister has waited 16 months, preferring to travel to China, India, Turkey, the US and any number of EU capitals before going to Moscow. In fact, the closest Cameron has got to Russia was in 2008, when, as leader of the opposition, he went to Tbilisi just after the Russian invasion of Georgia to show solidarity with the Georgian people. 

He arrives in Moscow with a long list of difficulties in UK-Russia relations. This may seem odd as Russia and the UK have no obvious geopolitical rivalries. London is home to Russian oligarchs who own Chelsea football club as well as two of the UK's most important newspapers, the Independent and the Evening Standard. British private schools are full of the children of rich Russians who help keep the high-end London housing market flourishing.

Yet the Moscow-London ‘reset' button seems stuck, and pressing on it continues to yield little result.

In London, there is frustration at endless Russian foot-dragging at the UN. Britain would like Russia to help unfreeze conflicts such as Transdniester and South Ossetia, a tiny region of Georgia occupied by Russian soldiers. Russian backing has reinforced Serbia's refusal to accept a final peace settlement in Kosovo, obliging NATO to maintain its costly mission in Kosovo. However, as long as Britain remains bogged down in Afghanistan and remains anxious about Iran's nuclear ambitions, the need to keep open relations with Moscow will trump concerns about Russia's refusal to co-operate at the United Nations.

On the economic front, there is frustration at continuing attacks on BP, a UK oil firm, including a heavy-handed raid by special forces on BP offices in Moscow on 31 August.

In November it will be five years since the murder of Alexander Litvinenko in London. The picture of his face fading from life as a result of polonium poisoning is one of the era's iconic images. Now there is a major UK parliamentary and press campaign over the death in prison of Sergei Magnitsky, the lawyer of US-born British citizen William Browder. British MPs from all parties want Cameron to follow the US example and impose a travel ban and asset freeze on 60 Russian officials allegedly connected to Magnitsky's death in prison in 2009 – and, preferably, to do so before he visits the Kremlin. The European Parliament has voted for such a ban, as has the Dutch parliament.

It is hard not to feel sorry for Cameron as he arrives in Moscow with so many problems and demands. That challenge would be eased if the EU could adopt a common policy on Russia, whether on oil or on co-operation in inquiries into the murders of Litvinenko and Magnitsky. But as long as Sarkozy and Merkel remain indifferent to a common EU Russia policy on Russia, Cameron will have little room for manoeuvre.

Still, on one level, this is a meeting of minds. The Kremlin privileges bilateral relations and looks with open disdain at dealing with the EU as a power in its own right. This coincides with British government ideology. So two Eurosceptic prime ministers will meet in what is likely to be a formal and functional few hours. Cameron will try to show that his stand-offish approach to Russia is not damaging British interests; Russia will resist all pressure.

At the end, the reset button on one of the biggest and most difficult relationships in Europe will remain stuck. Russia will have made no progress in pushing forward its ambitions for EU visa liberalisation and EU know-how to widen its mono-economy. And Europe's inability to forge a united policy toward Russia will again be on display. The EU's reset button with Russia is as badly stuck as the UK's.

Denis MacShane is a member of the UK's national parliament and was the UK's minister for Europe in 2002-10.

© 2011 European Voice. All rights reserved.

Cameron visit points to thaw in UK-Russia ties
Wed Sep 7, 2011 4:50pm GMT

By Adrian Croft

LONDON, Sept 7 (Reuters) - David Cameron goes to Russia next week on the first visit by a British prime minister since the murder of a Kremlin critic in London five years ago, symbolising both sides' interest in expanding trade and business ties despite political differences.

The Kremlin announced Cameron would visit Moscow on Sunday and Monday. Tony Blair in 2006 was the last British prime minister to visit Russia.

The focus will be squarely on business and trade and analysts expect no movement in the persistent dispute over the murder of Alexander Litvinenko, a former Russian spy who died in London later in 2006 from poisoning by radioactive polonium-210.

Russia's refusal to extradite Andrei Lugovoy, who Britain wants to prosecute for Litvinenko's murder, sent diplomatic ties between the countries plunging to a post-Cold War low.

"It won't achieve an awful lot, certainly not in terms of substance," said James Nixey, a Russia expert at London's Chatham House thinktank, said of Cameron's visit.

"The business relationship is good but it would be an awful lot better if the Russian business environment were more predictable and less arbitrary," he said.

More than 20 business executives, including oil firm BP's Chief Executive Bob Dudley , are set to join Cameron on the trip, the latest of a series he has made to large emerging markets to try to win more trade and business and strengthen Britain's faltering recovery from a deep recession.

Russia needs more foreign investment to reduce its dependency on oil.

Cameron was invited by President Dmitry Medvedev but is also expected to meet Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

British government sources said some business deals will be signed during Cameron's visit although they will not be on the scale of the multi-billion-pound agreements reached during Cameron's visits over the past year to China and Gulf countries.


"For the last five years there's been a frosty, even icy relationship that has hindered business investment," said Chris Weafer, chief strategist at Troika Dialog, a leading Moscow brokerage.

"But that hasn't stopped Russians buying property in London, sending their kids to British schools, buying football clubs and being very socially visible," he said.

BP, one of Britain's biggest companies, was dealt a blow last week when U.S. giant Exxon Mobil Corp and Russia's Rosneft signed an agreement to extract oil and gas from the Russian Arctic.

That sunk any hope of BP reviving a similar deal that had been blocked in May by its partners in another Russian venture.

However, Troika Dialog's Weafer said: "BP needs to get into the Arctic and they are still in the game. Russia needs to do several of these joint venture-type deals, not just one."

The Litvinenko row led to London and Moscow expelling diplomats in July 2007. Britain halted talks on easing visa rules and Russia stopped the British Council, the British government's cultural arm, from operating in two Russian cities.

Since then, both countries have largely agreed to disagree on those sensitive issues while developing business ties.

Relations have warmed slightly but are still far behind the relations Moscow has with either Washington or with other European Union nations such as France, Germany, Spain or Italy.

The Russian Ambassador to Britain, Alexander Yakovenko, called in an article last week for a drive to overcome the mistrust between the two countries. He suggested they could cooperate on technology and energy efficiency.

Britain is the sixth largest foreign investor in Russia, accounting for $21.3 billion of the $315 billion Russia has attracted from abroad since the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union, according to Russian government figures.

Britain and Russia are both G8 members and permanent members of the U.N. Security Council but Russia has been critical of NATO bombing of Libya, in which Britain has played a leading role, and opposed a British drive for a tough U.N. resolution on Syria.

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