Saturday, October 25, 2014

AP Interview: Gorbachev criticizes Putin’s party

Mikhail Gorbachev

Mikhail Gorbachev

MOSCOW – In some of his strongest criticism of his successors, Mikhail Gorbachev on Thursday likened Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party to the worst of the communists he once led and helped bring down, and said Russia is today a country where the parliament and the judiciary are not fully free.

In an interview with The Associated Press some 20 years after the Soviet empire started its rapid collapse on his tumultuous watch, Gorbachev also said the global economic crisis showed capitalism should be tempered with elements of the socialist system he played such a critical role in sweeping away.

The last Soviet leader was interviewed in the offices of his Gorbachev Foundation, a think tank founded in 1992 to promote “democratic values and moral, humanistic principles” – as well as, some say, Gorbachev himself. A little aged and more heavyset perhaps, Gorbachev, 78, seemed feisty, friendly and often reminiscent of the man who once ruled one of two superpowers on Earth.

Gorbachev is a paradoxical figure even after all these years – widely credited around the world with a historic convulsion he admits he did not intend. He sought to fix communism, not destroy it, and in the interview said that while he was willing to let Eastern Europe go its own way he very much hoped the republics that formed the Soviet Union would stay united.

“I was a resolute opponent of the breakup of the union,” said Gorbachev, who was forced to step down on Dec. 25, 1991, as the country he led ceased to exist.

He still holds out hope that one day Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Belarus will join with Russia in forming a new union.

He seemed to view the global meltdown as partly the result of years of Western hubris and excess.

“The American media trumpeted … about the victory in the Cold War, that socialism is down. This disease of extreme self-confidence led to it – the (belief) that things would always go on this way. And it did last long … I think that now everyone is learning a hard lesson.”

“It is necessary to overcome these mistakes of super-consumerism, of super-profits.” he said. “We have to think about finding – through the G20 or other institutions – new models of development (and) cooperation.”

The world should look for a composite system, he said, which incorporates “the past experience of all that the capitalist system brings, like competitiveness, and what socialism gives – especially a social safety net.”

Gorbachev also said the moment was right for improved U.S.-Russia relations, expressed skepticism about the wisdom of Ukraine joining NATO, and called on the world community to head off the prospect of an Iranian nuclear weapon not with confrontation but rather “a maximal dialogue.”

“Let (Iran) integrate itself into the global community, build normal relations,” he said.

Gorbachev had harsh words for the current Russian leadership, singling out United Russia, the party Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has built into a political juggernaut at the center of a tremendously centralized – albeit popular – power structure.

“I criticize United Russia a lot, and I do it directly,” the last Soviet leader said. “It is a party of bureaucrats and the worst version of the CPSU” – the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. “Regarding our parliament, I cannot say that it is independent (and) also our judiciary does not fully comply with the provisions of the constitution.”

Is the world waiting for such advice? If there are takers, most will be outside Russia, where he has become a rather marginal political figure: For every Russian who appreciates his role in ending communism there are certainly many more inclined to blame him for the privations of the process he unleashed: the impoverishment many suffered in the 1990s, the vastly unequal distribution of wealth that bedevils society even today, the failings of Russian democracy – and the humiliating loss of the once-vast empire ruled from the Kremlin.

Asked about the fateful Nov. 9, 1989, when the Berlin Wall fell, Gorbachev said that he never contemplated force to stop the process that within months saw most of the Warsaw Pact break free. He said it was inevitable that the states of that region would be free to do as they wished.

Yet even in Eastern Europe, as the region gears up to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the fall of communism, Gorbachev gets only the rarest of mentions and he is forced to share credit for the revolution with a slew of others – Poland’s Lech Walesa, Vaclav Havel, Ronald Reagan and the late Pope John Paul II.

“We live more freely now than in the communist era because of what he did and achieved,” said Peter Nagy, a 37-year-old public employee in Budapest. “However, he was still the leader of a dictatorial system, not a democrat. I would not accept him today as a leader.”

Havel, the former Czech president, in his memoirs “To the Castle and Back” described Gorbachev as both a special and tragic case and said the collapse of communism would have been much more violent without him.

In Warsaw, former anti-communist dissident Adam Michnik said he feels “great gratitude” toward Gorbachev. “I don’t have the slightest doubt that it was Gorbachev and his policy of glasnost and perestroika that opened the gates for the great changes that first took place in our country and then in this part of the continent,” Michnik said.

In the interview, Gorbachev was philosophical about his declining political fortunes.

“Personally, as a politician, I lost. But the idea that I conveyed and the project that I carried out, it played a huge role in the world and the country. But now the situation is such that more and more people are starting to understand what Gorbachev did …

“But anyway, we have gone far, and there’s no return.”

Gorbachev laughed when asked whether his recent appearance in Louis Vuitton ads might not cheapen such a momentous legacy, saying his foundation needed the money. He noted that he had also once appeared in Pizza Hut ads, and asked if any other offers might be forthcoming.

By DAN PERRY, Associated Press Writer Dan Perry, Associated Press Writer Thu Mar 5, 2009

Monika Scislowska in Warsaw, Poland; Karel Janicek in Prague, Czech Republic; and Bernadette Tomsits in Budapest, Hungary, contributed to this report.

Afghan Supply Chain a Weak Point

The U.S. military is laboring to shore up a vulnerable supply chain through Pakistan and Central Asia as it seeks to expand the flow of supplies into Afghanistan by at least 50 percent to support an influx of tens of thousands of new troops, according to defense officials and experts.

One new link is now undergoing testing with the first shipment of U.S. military nonlethal cargo through Russia, officials said. That cargo has already crossed into Kazakhstan on its way to Afghanistan, according to the Russian news agency Interfax.

Escalating attacks on supply convoys in Pakistan, the anticipated closure in less than six months of the Manas Air Base in Kyrgyzstan — the last remaining U.S. air hub in Central Asia — and slow progress in opening up the northern supply route into Afghanistan have added urgency to the effort to strengthen the logistical backup for the troop increase, they said.

“If you ask me what I worry about at night, it is the fact that our supply chain is always under attack,” said Gen. Duncan McNabb, commander of the U.S. military’s transportation command, in testimony that focused on Afghanistan last week.

McNabb said that so far 130 contract drivers have been killed trucking U.S. supplies through Pakistan, for example. Once inside Afghanistan, he said, some roads are so dangerous that the U.S. military will have to fly over them to carry in supplies and personnel.

“As we increase the troop presence there, we will have to look at which areas will you secure, which areas will you convoy through and which areas will you have to jump over — in other words, go by vertical lift,” he said in House Armed Services Committee testimony.

The U.S. military is seeking to expand its flow of ground cargo into Afghanistan by at least 50 percent, to more than 100 containers per day, to meet the needs of the initial increase of 17,000 U.S. troops this year ordered by President Obama last month, McNabb said. There are currently about 38,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, and U.S. commanders have asked to increase that number to as many as 60,000 to combat an intensifying Taliban insurgency.

Up to 90 percent of U.S. military ground cargo, which consists of nonlethal supplies such as food, fuel, water and construction materials, currently flows through Pakistan, defense officials said. Those supplies enter Afghanistan primarily through Torkham gate at the Khyber Pass and Chaman gate further south.

“You very clearly have an issue of flow through a small number of choke points that seem increasingly vulnerable,” said Craig Mullaney, who served as an Army officer in Afghanistan before becoming a war adviser to the Obama campaign.

The military wants to open a significant new ground supply distribution route into Afghanistan through the north, primarily through rail lines in Termez, Uzbekistan, which connect with tracks that extend about 10 miles across the border into Afghanistan, officials said. Tajikistan and Turkmenistan also agreed last month to allow nonlethal U.S. military cargo to travel on their roads and rail lines, officials and experts said.

The goal is for the northern route via the Russian rail system to handle about 20 percent of the ground cargo destined for the U.S. military in Afghanistan, or about 100 20-foot containers per week, compared with about 500 per week through Pakistan, officials said.

So far, however, that flow is much smaller, partly due to bureaucratic problems, they said. “There are obviously learning curves in crossing different boundaries and making sure customs paper work is in place,” said one defense official, who like the others spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of ongoing negotiations over supply routes.

Apart from the ground cargo, all lethal and sensitive U.S. military supplies, as well as all personnel, travel into Afghanistan by air. Such supplies include ammunition, weapons and vehicles with sensitive communications and other gear. Air cargo demands will increase significantly as fresh troops move into Afghanistan, according to McNabb. For example, when the Army’s Stryker combat brigade heads to Afghanistan this summer, all of its vehicles will be flown into the country, he said. The military’s mine-resistant armored vehicles are also flown in to avoid attacks, he said.

The U.S. military’s efforts to sustain and grow air supply in the region faced a setback, however, with Kyrgyzstan’s decision last month to close Manas Air Base, the last remaining U.S. base in Central Asia following the shutdown in 2005 of a base in Uzbekistan.

Manas, a key mobility hub, served annually as a base for thousands of air missions, the transport of about 50,000 tons of cargo, and the refueling of more than 5,000 airplanes to support the counterinsurgency effort in Afghanistan, according to U.S. data for 2007.

Indeed, the requirement to remove the Air Force tanker refueling aircraft from Manas will pose one of the biggest problems for the U.S. military if the base is closed as expected. Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev told the BBC on Wednesday that “the doors are not closed” for talks on the base. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates “remains hopeful” that the base agreement can be extended before the six-month deadline imposed by the Kyrgyz government for U.S. troops to leave, Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said yesterday. Still, Morrell said the Pentagon has “a number of very good alternatives” if Manas closes.

Experts said the refueling could be done from U.S. bases in the Middle East — perhaps from Bahrain or Qatar — but that would be far more expensive and time-consuming given the distance from Afghanistan. Defense officials said negotiations are underway on possible places to relocate the tankers.

Still, experts said they do not foresee other Central Asian countries allowing the U.S. military to station an air base on their territory. “If you define the region as the five former Soviet republics of Central Asia, I don’t think there is a possibility at this time for an air base of the kind we had in Manas or in Uzbekistan prior to 2005,” said Evan Feigenbaum, a former U.S. envoy in Kyrgyzstan who is currently a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. “A fixed American military installation is a huge undertaking politically for them,” he said.

One important factor is what experts see as Russia’s efforts to expel the U.S. military from bases in Central Asia.

“For Moscow, the absolute priority is holding onto their sphere of influence” in former Soviet republics in Central Asia, said Stephen Blank, a Russia expert at the Strategic Studies Institute of the Army War College in Carlisle, Pa. “That overrides everything else. That means excluding the U.S.”

By Ann Scott Tyson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 6, 2009; A10

Main Issues During its 63rd session

Financing for Development

The Follow-up International Conference on Financing for Development was held in Doha, Qatar, on 29 November to 2 December 2008.

As the Conference took place at the time of the ongoing global financial crisis, nearly all statements focused on the severe consequences of the crisis for development and the need for bold and urgent measures to address them, including strengthening of the financial oversight and global regulatory system and building a more stable and inclusive financial system.

Member States also underscored the global food crisis, which, if not addressed urgently, threatens to become a prolonged humanitarian tragedy. The financial implications of climate change and the need to strengthen the FfD follow-up process featured prominently on the agenda as well.

The two key messages of the Doha Declaration highlighted the strong commitment by developed countries to maintain their ODA targets irrespective of the current financial crisis; and the decision to hold a United Nations Conference at the highest level on the impact of the current financial and economic crisis on development to be organized by the President of the General Assembly.

Other highlights of the Doha Declaration are:

  • Domestic resource mobilization: the importance of national ownership of development strategies and of an inclusive financial sector, as well as the need for strong policies on gender equality and human development, with a provision for adequate policy space in developing countries.
  • Mobilizing international resources for development: the need to expand the reach of private flows to greater number of developing countries and to expand areas of investment to include human resources, transport, energy, communications, information technology, etc.
  • International trade as an engine for development: the importance of concluding the Doha round of multilateral trade negotiations, with a meaningful development content, taking into account special needs of the Least Developed Countries.
  • Increasing international financial and technical cooperation for development: the importance of maintaining ODA commitments by donors while addressing special needs of low- and middle-income countries, and the call for the close monitoring of ODA flows.
  • External debt: the need to strengthen crisis prevention mechanisms and to explore enhanced approaches for debt restructuring mechanisms.
  • Addressing systemic issues: a strong criticism of the existing global economic governance arrangements and the call for major and comprehensive reforms, particularly of BWIs; and the call for a major UN conference to discuss the impact of the financial crisis on development, the modalities of which to be decided by the end of March 2009 at the latest.
  • Other new and emerging issues: recognition of the challenges posed to FfD by the climate change and the fluctuations in the prices of primary commodities, including food and energy.
  • Staying engaged: the call for strengthening the follow-up mechanism of the Monterrey and Doha Conferences.

Climate change

Climate change in a divided but ecologically interdependent world

Climate change is a central multi-dimensional issue in this XXI century.  An unsustainable and selfish culture of production and consumption has created a vast problem of future dramatic consequences for Mother Earth and for future generations. The threats to stability and human security are very serious and will affect the whole international community, with the most negative impacts on its poorest and the most vulnerable members, the small island states and the least developed countries.

The 63rd. session of the General Assembly is taking place in the process of the Bali Road Map negotiations under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and its Kyoto Protocol.

The aim during this session will be to provide the most wide and substantial support to the climate change negotiations in Poznan, Poland and to the following meeting in 2009 towards the Copenhagen Conference in December. This will happen by the recent adoption of the resolution “Protection of global climate for present and future generations of mankind” which contains messages for the UN climate conference in Poznan and onwards and by the organization of thematic debates. Among possible subjects for these multilateral gatherings in New York could include: transfer of cleaner energy and adaptation technologies to developing countries, vulnerability and adaption, unsustainable consumption patterns and interfaith dialogue towards a moral call for action on climate change.

UN Decade “Water for Life” (2005-2015)

General Assembly: a legitimate answer for the Water Crisis.

The 63rd. session of the General Assembly is taking place during very troubling times.   Existing structural problems like   armed conflicts, poverty, lack of access to health and education, trade injustice and environmental degradation are aggravated by unprecedented energy, food and financial crisis. We are in a very dangerous situation originated and aggravated by human selfishness, greed and lack of democratic governance.

Among the priorities identified by the President is the need to implement and achieve the goals of the United Nations Decade: “Water for Life” (2005-2015), adopted by Resolution 58/217 in February 2004. In its preamble the resolution recognizes that water is critical for sustainable development, including environmental integrity and the eradication of poverty and hunger, and is indispensable for human health and well-being.

Water issues are currently under the agenda of a profusion of a complex network of intergovernmental organizations, hybrid public-private constituencies, transnational corporations and non governmental organizations.

As we are approaching the first half of the Water for Life decade, the global water crisis deepens. There is an urgent need to search for sustainable development solutions and to discuss at the highest political level issues like water governance and access, water scarcity, the role of water in fulfilling the Millennium Development Goals, water quality,  water conservation, sanitary infrastructure, privatization, the role of agriculture, transboundary water issues (also under the agenda of the International Law Commission and the Sixth Committee) and conflicts, science and technology, informed and legitimate water assessments, climate change, adaptation, natural disasters, gender, equity and human rights issues related to water. The international crisis described above will disproportionately affect the poor and the water sector is critical for their survival.

The General Assembly is the most legitimate political global body.  Its unique representativeness and democratic character make it the natural place for debating, affirming principles and providing answers for the global water crisis. The General Assembly could enable the dialogue of governments and civil society organizations towards human and global solutions on water conservation, world water justice and democracy, establishing a new decision making and governance international structure for water issues.  It will also be an opportunity to send a clear signal for international development agencies to focus and redirect its actions towards water services that fulfill human needs and in particular those of the neediest sectors.  At the same time, this unique multidimensional issue, water, would be a meaningful possibility for the restoration of the Assembly’s powers, one of the other priorities for this session.

Water and poverty are strong symbols of inequality of the world, and the General Assembly has to perform a central role in fighting this injustice.  The Assembly must be the democratic and unifying factor that will transform the current pessimism in optimism by reaching political commitments that can formulate a path working toward equity and justice and with the establishment of social, scientific and technological innovations. The President, in consultation with Member States and competent UN agencies, will inform the future concrete steps to start advancing these objectives.

Implementation of the Counter-Terrorism Strategy

Implementation of the Counter-Terrorism Strategy, with full respect for human rights

A multilateral landmark in the collective fight against international terrorism was the adoption of the United Nations Counter Terrorism Strategy, in September 2006. The strategy forms a basis for a concrete plan of action: to address the conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism; to prevent and combat terrorism; to take measures to build state capacity to fight terrorism; to strengthen the role of the United Nations in combating terrorism; and to ensure the respect of human rights while countering terrorism. The strategy builds on the unique consensus achieved by world leaders at their 2005 September Summit to condemn terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.

The Presidency of the 63rd. General Assembly will contribute with all its efforts to strengthen the implementation of the Strategy, which was reviewed in September this year by adopting a resolution reaffirming its commitment to the Strategy and its implementation.

The Presidency recalls the important work on the issue of the conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism being done by the United Nations and its overall efforts to promote peace, security, sustainable development, human rights and the rule of law. We have an urgent need to resolve the underlying regional and internal conflicts as well as the dehumanization of victims of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, the lack of the rule of law and the violations of human rights, ethnic, national and religious discrimination, political exclusion, socio-economic marginalization and lack of good governance.

Fighting against terrorism must proceed with full respect of principles and rules of international law, human rights law, humanitarian law and refugee law. The presidency will continue its support to the important work of the Special Rapporteur on Terrorism and Human Rights and is considering the organization of thematic events on these essential issues for 2009.

[print_link]