From Correspondent, Michael K, Tomsk Russia:
I do apologise for the clumsy links. My browser is not very responsive at the moment.
“It is this biased, unbalanced, unipolar world in which a handful of Anglo-Saxon nations have an inflated notion of their own importance in which Russia, as President of the G8 has the chance—and the obligation—to make its mark in 2006.”
Yes, that’s right, Russia, the model for justice and democracy is hosting the ‘Group of Eight’ this summer. Currently the finance ministers of the G8 are meeting in Moscow conducting talks in preparation to this summer’s conference held in St. Petersburg.
Since the announcement in 2002 that Russia would host the 2006 G8 summit many questions have been raised regarding the legitimacy of Russia taking an active role within the Group of Eight.
There has been talk of a possible suspension of Russia from the G8 over concerns with “selective prosecution of political opponents”, “suppression of free media” (Reporters Sans Frontiers rates Russia at 140th out of 167 for press freedom--this is a ranking only one notch up from the Democratic Republic of Congo), military abuses in Chechnya, and for selling military equipment and technology to both Syria and Iran.
But as of lately there have been few loud voices of contention. Russia’s dominance as an energy producer at this thirsty epoch has hushed governments’ opinions over the matter. Energy security is the topic of choice and Russia may not be one of the 8 in economic size but it’s resources give reason to boast. Russia controls the largest natural gas reserve, the 2nd largest coal reserve and lays claim to being the second largest exporter of crude.
Russia’s energy policies with Ukraine and Georgia, the former, which affected several EU countries, have spooked the EU with sudden realisations of its own energy dependence on Russia. Gazprom, a state controlled Russian company and the world’s largest gas producer currently supplies a quarter of Europe’s gas. With Europe’s need for reliable energy they are in a position to appease and not oppose Russia’s presidency of the current round of G8 talks.
‘The Foreign Policy Centre’ a centrist British think tank composed a scorecard for the G8 nations.
Scores from 1 to 5 are awarded for: openness and freedom of speech, political governance, rule of law, social capital, economic weight in the world, inflation, economic stability and solvency, unemployment, trade volume, level of protectionism, energy market conditions, and discernible stance on key international issues.
Perhaps not surprisingly, Russia did not score above a 3 -- "sporadic compliance with G8 norms" -- in any category.
In its "key findings" section, based on published sources ranging from the U.S. government-backed Freedom House to the World Bank and Russia's State Statistics Service, the report declared: "The size of Russia's economy does not merit its inclusion in the G8; Russia is neither politically nor economically free; Russia's presidency of the G8 is correspondingly anomalous; the other G8 nations must develop a concentrated policy to force Putin to live up to his international obligations."
In defence to any criticism of Russia leading summit talks, Pravda published this:
“The new role performed by the Russian Federation will allow this giant the chance to assume its rightful position as a major player on the world stage as regards both its external and internal policies.
Externally, the Kremlin can stress Russia's role as a defender of a multi-lateral approach to crisis management based upon the rule of law and not lies, deceit and blackmail and using the UN Security Council as the forum for dialogue, discussion and debate, not belligerence and bullying, the Bible and the bullet. While some nations have not thought twice about breaking international law, breaking the UN Charter and breaking the Geneva Conventions while carrying out the most shocking acts of butchery, Moscow, alongside Berlin, Paris, Brasilia, Beijing and others, has pressed for a world order based upon international law and respect for the terms of treaties, charters and conventions signed.
Russia can also take the opportunity to present its important reserves of oil and gas as a strategic asset for the future, upon which larger economies will rely.
Internally, Russia will benefit from the feel-good factor as its citizens see their country's resources controlled by Russians and not foreigners and see their country at the hub of international affairs, enjoying a status which had been missed since the heady days of the Soviet Union.” (http://english.pravda.ru/main/18/88/354/16701_Russia.html)
Granted, Pravda is not the most newsworthy source, but it fairly represents a large portion of Russian opinion.
In the coming months more will follow on Russia, its domestic and foreign policies and the upcoming G8 summit.