The Russian president’s initiatives: Bush is glad, Castro feels sorrow, Russia is puzzled

Russia is facing a radical change in its foreign policy. The question about the withdrawal of Russian troops’ from Abkhazia has been solved; at the same time, Russia liquidates its bases in Cuba and Vietnam. President George Bush has already expressed his “full assent and agreement” to the recent initiatives of President Putin, while Fidel Castro has expressed his full “disagreement." In Russia, President Putin is called “Gorbachev number two." Regarding the liquidation of the bases in Cuba and Vietnam, the Russian president discussed his reasons yesterday at a meeting in the Defence Ministry. According to him, the decision has been taken about the withdrawal of the Russian military contingent of the Cam Ranh Bay base in Vietnam. Moreover, the Russian Lurdes radio-electronic center in Cuba will be liquidated. The defence minister is charged with realizing this decision by January 1, 2002. The reasons for the liquidation of the last Russian foreign military bases could be explained by economical factors. Anatoli Kvashnin, the chief of Russian Armed Forces’ General Staff, said to journalists after the meeting that the funds spared thanks to withdrawal of these military bases could be spent for the equipping of the Russian military. According to the general, the lease of the radio-electronic center in Cuba costs about 200 million dollars a year. For this sum, 20 reconnaissance satellites could be bought. The funds connected with the Cam Ranh Bay base in Vietnam are equal to maintenance costs of an up-to-date atom submarine, Kvashnin stated. At the meeting, Vladimir Putin announced that Russia would increase by 27 billion rubles (approximately $ 931 034,482 million) funds for buying up-to-date armament and military equipment. Already today, US President George Bush announced he welcomed the Russian President’s decision. “This decision shows that the Cold War has finished," he said while making a stop in Trevis air force base on his way to Shanghai. “President Putin understands that Russia and the US are no longer enemies." Cuba reacted negatively to Russia’s decision. Fidel Castro expressed his “full disagreement’ with the Russian president’s decision. “The agreement about the radio-electronic center in Lurdes cannot be cancelled, because Cuba has not given its approval yet," the statement spread in Cuban capital says. Cuba considers this decision to be a concession to the US that is a serious danger for Cuba’s security." In Russia, this initiative was valued differently. This initiative really seems to be a concession to the US, and in this sense, Bush’s reaction is very significant. Public opinion also should be taken into account, which still regards Russia as a superpower. All the more, since Putin came to power, many steps were made for the reestablishment of Russia’s image on the world stage. These steps first of all influenced Russian public opinion. However, today, it turns out that most of these plans have not been realized: for example, the first; over the 10 years of democracy in Russia, the big campaign of the Russian fleet in the Meditteranean Sea. On the contrary, the ABM treaty was ratified, Russia made concessions (at least, it agreed to negotiations)… The number of these concessions to the US is really great. At the same time, it is significant that Fidel Castro’s opinion echoed in the Russian press. Already today, President Putin is being compared with Gorbachev, who reduced armament and withdrew troops from Europe. Today, State Duma Deputy Vladimir Lukin, while commenting on the president’s initiative, also noticed the concessions should not be one-sided. According to him, Russia should not expect from the US eithe encouragement or understanding, but for real steps adequate tfor the activities of Russia.

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