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Moscow Times
September 29, 2004
Illarionov Says Kyoto Will Be Ratified
By Greg Walters
Staff Writer

Andrei Illarionov, the country's fiercest opponent of the Kyoto Protocol, said Tuesday that Russia will ratify the international treaty to limit greenhouse gases even though he believes the move will destroy its chances of doubling GDP by 2010.

Illarionov, President Vladimir Putin's top economic adviser, said Russian officials do not believe in the treaty's scientific or economic merits but will ratify it anyway in a political gesture toward the European Union.

The EU has long been pressing Russia to move forward on Kyoto, which needs Russia's ratification to come into force.

Asked Tuesday whether Russia will ratify the Kyoto Protocol, Illarionov said simply, "I think so."

The move would be a purely political calculation for Russia, he said. But he declined to say what Russia might receive in return.

"It's not back-scratching," he said by telephone. "It's a gesture toward the European Union. Nothing more."

Illarionov said senior officials believe the treaty will not help the environment or boost the economy, contrary to claims by its supporters. He declined to comment on Putin's personal views.

"Nobody among Russian officials believes the protocol is good for Russia," Illarionov said. "Nobody sees any sense in the economic nature of this document. Nobody sees any scientific relevance in this document. Nobody sees any advantages for Russia in this document. It is just purely politics."

Illarionov's comments are a powerful indication that Russia will in fact ratify the treaty after years of foot-dragging, analysts said.

"If he says that Russia will ratify, it means that there is a decision," said Ksenia Udayeva, an analyst at the Carnegie Moscow Center. "His statement basically means that now Russian authorities think it is the correct political moment."

Illarionov's remarks came amid a steady stream of signals that the government is moving toward ratification. Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref has signed a document giving his support, Reuters reported Monday, citing a government source.

The Natural Resources Ministry has also approved the pact.

Putin has told key ministers to sign off on the documents necessary for ratification, and the State Duma should ratify Kyoto in the "next few weeks," the World Wildlife Fund said last week.

Illarionov has played a central role in the international debates that have raged around Kyoto, which aims to limit worldwide emissions of greenhouse gases to 5.2 percent below their 1990 levels. In blistering denunciations of the treaty, he has compared it to an international "Auschwitz" and said it represents a "total war" against Russia.

EU officials have suggested that Illarionov was using Kyoto as a leverage tool in Russia-EU negotiations for Russia's accession to the World Trade Organization.

Illarionov flatly denied a WTO link to his position Tuesday. He said his conviction that Russia would not be able to meet Putin's goal of doubling GDP by 2010 was reason enough to scrap the treaty.

Analysts said the timing of his remarks suggests a link to other issues -- although there was little agreement over what those issues might be.

Movement this month toward ratification might indicate an attempt to soften EU criticism of Putin's moves to scrap the popular vote for governors and individual races for the State Duma, Udayeva said.

Alternatively, Moscow could be using Kyoto as a tool to help secure European support for a Russian-drafted UN resolution on terrorism aimed at preventing abuse of the political asylum system, she said.

Many analysts insisted, however, that Kyoto is a political concession to win over the EU in WTO negotiations.

"I'd say that the Kyoto Protocol is only about the EU and only about the WTO," said Timofei Bordachyov, deputy editor of Russia in Global Politics, a political journal.

Illarionov caused alarm among Kyoto's supporters in Europe and elsewhere in December, when he said Russia would not sign the treaty in its current form and that he was speaking for Putin.

"It was the position that had been taken by the Russian authorities at that time," Illarionov said Tuesday.

The Kyoto Protocol's supporters have argued that Russia will make billions of dollars by selling unused emissions quotas, as parceled out under the terms of Kyoto, to over-polluting countries in Europe.

Russia's emissions goal would be the equivalent of 1990 levels, and Putin said last year that Russia has since fallen below that amount by about a third.

But Illarionov said the breakneck speed of economic development in the next few years will cause the country to exceed the 1990 levels and force it to cut back on economic growth.

Kyoto will also "destroy the European economy," he said.

Some Kyoto supporters have argued that Russia stands to benefit from huge European investments into its energy industry, since the pact allows countries to count emissions cuts in other countries as their own.

"I'm not a very big specialist in this area," but such investment projects would be on a "very low scale," Illarionov said.