RA’s Daily Russia News Blast – March 9th, 2009

090309.jpgTODAY: US and Russia ministers’ meeting goes smoothly, Lavrov praises ‘wonderful’ relationship; Poland says US won’t give up on missile defense; mainstream media worried about unrest; heroin; oligarchs on the way out? Pro-Kremlin youth pin-up.

The first one-on-one meeting between US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov saw the symbolic presentation of a box containing a reset button.  Lavrov afterwards described his relationship with Clinton as wonderful, but, says the Washington Post, it seems unlikely that the US is going to give up on missile defense, and Poland’s president says he still believes that the US will honor its agreement to build a missile defense base in his country.  Russia has set out its demands for a nuclear treaty with the US that will replace the previous START agreement.  Lavrov says Russia wants to reduce nuclear warheads, regulate strategic delivery systems, and prohibit ‘the weaponization of outer space’.

Russia’s mainstream media is reportedly becoming increasingly willing to talk about fears of social unrest stemming from the economic crisis, says the Financial Times.  But Maria Sergeyeva, the 24-year-old ‘pin-up’ of Russia’s pro-Kremlin youth, sees it as a simple matter of positive thinking:‘People are scared of the crisis and I obviously hit a chord. Mymessage was simple: we are in the right hands and we’ll come out ofthis stronger if we stay positive.’  The head of Russia’s drug control service says Russia is now the world’s ‘absolute leader in the opiate trade and the number one heroin consumer.

The New York Times writes about the predicament of Russia’s oligarchs in the financial crisis, as it is estimated that few of them will be able to pay their debts this year, and that government assistance is drying up.  The Wall Street Journal reports that the oligarchs will be forced to sell assets to survive, as there are no more government funds to bail them out.

PHOTO: US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, right, and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov press a red button symbolizing the intention to “reset” U.S.-Russian relations during their meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, Friday, March 6, 2009. (AP Photo) (AP)