Russian Roundup

Not a lot of added value in this post, but I wanted to flag some Russian news items of recurring or semi-recurring interest. French FM Bernard Kouchner used President Dmitry Medvedev’s inauguration yesterday to reiterate France’s desire for a “new tonality” in the EU-Russian relationship. In particular, Kouchner emphasized Europe’s willingness to take Moscow’s concerns into account, and called Russia “. . .a part of [Europe’s] future.” The declaration reads at the same time as a call for Russia to put aside its confrontational posture, but also as a reassurance of Europe’s good intentions.

Also, the U.S. and Russia signed a previously announced nuclear cooperation agreement (Moscow Times here, Kommersant here) as the clock was running out on Vladimir Putin’s presidency, to prevent the risk of further delaying the accord until the Medvedev administration gets its bearings. The accord very gradually lifts limits on Russian enriched uranium exports to the American market, without addressing the downblended uranium agreement between the two countries scheduled to run out in 2013. As Miles Pomper pointed out in a WPR article last March, that threatens efforts to diminish Russia’s stockpile of weapons grade uranium.

And speaking of Russian nuclear exports, Azerbaijan released the Russian shipment bound for Iran’s Bushehr nuclear reactor late last week, after holding onto it for over a month. That seems like a long time for paperwork, especially for insulation equipment.