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#6 - JRL 7029
The Peninsula (Qatar)
January 22, 2003
Russia has improved image post 9/11: Expert
By Gina Coleman

DOHA: Russia has seen the events of September 11 as a window of opportunity to improve its global image, change its economic, political and security relations with the west, smoothen some of its own security problems and develop its non-military exports, said Dr Mette Skak, an expert on Russia.

Dr Skak was delivering a lecture on Russia Post 9/11 at the invitation of Qatar University and the Gulf Studies Centre in Doha yesterday.

Dr Skak, an Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science at Aarhus University in Denmark has extensive personal experience of both the Soviet Union in the Brezhnev era, and of the modern Russian Federation.

The transition from communism in Russia has not been easy; it has been slow, and at times turbulent. However, economic reform began under Yeltsin and has progressed under President Vladimir Putin, who is even more goal-oriented. Russia has had positive growth figures since 1998 in fact 6.5 per cent in 1999-2001, slowing down slightly in 2002, but still presenting a very healthy macroeconomic picture.

Russias improved ties with the west, and the increased stability of the Russian Federation have strengthened its influence over the ex-Soviet states, made foreign investment more realistic, and have offered Russia the potential to surpass Saudi Arabia as the key oil producer in the world, contends Dr Skak.

Dr Skak also took questions from the audience, in a session modulated by Dr Hassan Al Ansari, Director of the Gulf Studies Centre. Several related to Russias relationship with the Arab world, past and future, with questioners expressing the view that Russia had abandoned the Middle East in order to befriend the US and Europe.

On an optimistic note, Dr Pavel Yakovenko, Counsellor at the Russian Embassy in Doha, expressed the personal view that the Chechnya problem would be resolved politically through a forthcoming scheduled referendum.

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