RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – Dec 2nd, 2008

021208.jpgTODAY: US snubs Russia’s Latin American cooperation; NATO and EU seek to mend Russia ties; corruption in Armed Forces over $75 million; Far East security, HIV, art slump.

Joint exercises by the Venezuelan and Russian navies have begun in the Caribbean Sea today, ‘close to US territorial waters‘, prompting Condoleezza Rice to insist that ‘a few Russian ships [are] not going to change the balance of power‘.  The Washington Post suggests that the next US president ‘ignore the whole affair‘ of Latin America’s role in Russia’s ‘imperial game‘.  Rice is also disparaging of NATO’s attempts to engage with Russia.  If the US is not careful, says the New York Times, Moscow could benefit from serious disagreements between Washington and Berlin.

Russia was triumphant following news that Ukraine and Georgia would not be granted NATO membership any time soon – how will the EU integrate Russia into compromise and cooperation if ruling EU leaders are most concerned with getting back to ‘business as usual‘?  Although, as one columnist points out, NATO is entering its ‘twilight years‘.  Its ministers are currently meeting to discuss resuming cooperation with Russia in the wake of the Georgian war, and the EU resumes its partnership agreement talks with Russia today.

According to a senior Russian prosecutor, corruption in the Russian Armed Forces cost the state budget $78.6 million in the first nine months of 2008.  But this ‘pillar of the state‘ is running into difficulties in the face of attempted reform.  The Security Council is focusing its efforts on Russia’s Far East and its role in the country’s overall security.

Prejudices and misinformation about HIV in Russia have helped the disease to spread.  Russia’s art market may be experiencing a downturn, but the effects are more marked due to its exceptional growth in recent years.

PHOTO: Russia’s Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov smiles as he attends the annual Russian Communist Party Congress’ wreath-laying ceremony at the Soviet founder Vladimir Lenin’s mausoleum on Moscow’s Red Square, Sunday, Nov. 30, 2008.  (AP Photo/Mikhail Metzel)