MOSCOW, January 18 (RIA Novosti)
MOSCOW, January 18 (RIA Novosti)
Tajikistan Will Ratify Military Base Agreement Only After Moscow Honors Commitment on Immigrants
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov visited Tajikistan on Thursday to discuss the implementation of agreements reached during a recent trip by President Vladimir Putin.
Tajikistan intends to ratify the agreement on the deployment of a Russian military base only after Russia ensures preferential treatment for Tajik labor immigrants and lifts duties on petrochemical exports. Moscow wants to address these issues as a package.
After his meeting with Lavrov, Tajik Foreign Minister Hamrokhon Zarifi told Kommersant that they will only ratify the agreement on the status of Russia’s 201st Military Base after Russia honors the two memorandums signed at the same time as the agreement.
Russia and Tajikistan signed an agreement extending the deployment of the Russian base by 30 years during Putin’s visit in October. Moscow also promised preferential treatment for Tajik immigrants, to lift customs duties on 1 million metric tons of Russia’s annual petrochemical exports to Tajikistan, to allocate $200 million to rearming the Tajik army and to invest in small- and medium-sized hydroelectric power plants in Tajikistan.
The first two promises were formalized in memorandums, and Tajikistan is currently waiting for Russia to honor them. But Moscow insists that they first settle several related disputes.
For example, the parties have agreed that Tajik nationals will be able to stay in Russia without registering for up to 15 days, and to receive three-year work permits.
However, a source in the Russian delegation told Kommersant that Moscow wants Dushanbe to streamline the immigrant process, for example by establishing special agencies to oversee the process.
Tajikistan maintains that the provision on the preferential treatment for labor immigrants became effective immediately upon signing, and that they would streamline the process on the go. According to Russia’s Central Bank, money transfers that Tajiks in Russia send back home account for nearly half of the Central Asian country’s GDP.
The memorandum on petrochemical exports includes a disputed provision on re-export. Moscow does not want Tajikistan to resell Russian petrochemicals to other countries, but Dushanbe is unwilling to guarantee this.
Tajikistan wants the parties to settle the immigration and petrochemical issues quickly for financial and political reasons. President Emomali Rahmon would like to visit Russia before the Tajik presidential elections in November of this year in order to secure the Kremlin’s support for his policies. The successful implementation of the recent agreements would increase his status.
Following Thursday’s talks with Tajik leaders, Sergei Lavrov said both of these disputes would be settled by the end of March. A source in the Russian delegation told Kommersant that Moscow needs to synchronize these issues with the Tajik ratification of the agreement on the Russian military base. “We are ready to meet Tajikistan halfway on the disputed issues, but only if it completes the process involving the base,” the source said.
A Security Sect
National security in the KGB sense resembles sectarian ideology. Faithful national security adherents abide by a system of beliefs which can change over time but which will always retain one key feature: the threats with which they are obsessed can be neither confirmed nor denied.
Duma deputies discuss “foreign agents” as if it’s a concept everyone is familiar with. Strikingly, some people still take this seriously. What’s even more striking is that this approach can underlie an entire country’s national policy.
In her recent book, Iron Curtain, Anne Applebaum gives a detailed analysis of the process by which a Soviet external government was established in Central Europe after World War II. The first thing the Soviet authorities did, even before invading a country, was hire and train a basic security services staff. The first thing this new security services staff did was eliminate certain local public organizations.
To accomplish this, anti-fascists were accused of fascism, youth leaders of molesting youths, and anti-corruption activists of being corrupt. Weak people were bribed and public leaders blackmailed and pressured. The local media, once under these new authorities’ control, were used in the campaigns. The secret services preferred to destroy their opponents’ social influence and reputation rather than actually kill them physically. These techniques are common to all secret services.
The intimidation campaign against opposition blogger Rustem Adagamov resembles that used against writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn in the 1970s and 1980s, those applied to Polish, Hungarian and Czech intellectuals in the 1940s through 1960s, and to Russian intellectuals in the 1920s.
Every Russian speaker should be familiar with this modus operandi as Russian tabloids and Russian television aren’t averse to using it.
The security services’ perverted fear and distrust of independence dates back to the Bolsheviks, or even further, to that ugliness described by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Underground activity is not reserved for noble revolutionaries. Security services also, obviously, operate in secrecy which in turn breeds ignorance and conspiracy theories.
The KGB thwarted independence on the orders of the Bolshevik state. The modern sectarians in the Kremlin and military and security agencies have lost their old idols, but nonetheless adhere fanatically to this destructive notion of security. Adherents of this philosophy have been destroying Russia’s intellectual potential for decades.
A country’s intellectual potential is comprised of independent associations, freely developing networks and private initiatives. Fear of those reflects fear of society and of the future. The only thing that can counter destruction is social development.
True security in fact means low-risk, long-term investment and confidence in ownership rights. Public and private property both act as guarantees of security and the future. This is the kind of security the government should work to ensure if it is to preserve some bond with society.
No Cigarettes and Alcohol for State Duma Deputies
Cigarettes and alcohol will no longer be on sale at cafeterias and shops in the parliament building, says Deputy Chief of Staff Yury Shuvalov. The decision was made during the Duma’s previous convocation but will now come into force.
One alcohol shop to be closed is located next to a drugstore and bookstore at entrance 10. Sergei Popov, Head of the Committee on Regulations and Procedures, said his committee deals with services and supplies for State Duma members.
“We’ll continue to supply other categories of goods, but the shop selling alcohol and cigarettes at the entrance will be closed.”
Lawmakers were disappointed to learn that other shops were closed after the New Year’s break as well, including the florist and a photo studio. Popov said these closures were due to late lease payments and that the shops would reopen soon.
The ban on cigarette sales could reduce the number of smokers in the State Duma and protect non-smokers from the negative effects of secondhand smoke, believes Liberal Democrat Roman Khudyakov.
“I support the ban on smoking in public places, including the State Duma. We know that non-smokers are affected worse by passive smoking. I smoke and I know I will have to smoke only at home and in designated smoking areas.”
A Just Russia member, Igor Zotov, argues that the ban on cigarette and alcohol sales will change nothing.
“I don’t care about this ban. I never buy cigarettes or alcohol at work. I didn’t even know the shop existed. It’s not about a ban, it’s about thinking. You can always buy cigarettes elsewhere. I’ve decided to quit smoking as soon as the law enters into force and that’s my motivation.”
The State Duma is one of the few government buildings with smoking areas and shops selling cigarettes and alcohol. Government House’s smoking rooms were closed several years ago. The lower house of parliament will have to impose new workplace restrictions when the government introduces the ban on smoking in public places.
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