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Russia Ready to Ratify WTO Agreements
RIA Novosti - 6.7.12 - JRL 2012-103

MOSCOW, June 7 (RIA Novosti)-The Russian government has approved the agreements for the country's accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) and sent them to the State Duma, the lower chamber of the Russian parliament, for ratification, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said on Thursday.

WTO logoAll documents to become a full member of the WTO must be ratified by the Russian government, parliament and president by July 23, 2012. Russia spent 18 years trying to enter the WTO, completing its accession in December 2011.

"I would like to congratulate everyone [who is in charge of the WTO accession] for the completion of such important deal. The decision is being made and we have sent the documents [to the Duma] for ratification," Medvedev told a government meeting.

The State Duma will examine the documents at its meeting on July 4, Igor Rudensky, head of the government committee for economic policy, innovation development and business, said earlier on Thursday.

Keywords: Russia, Economy, Trade, WTO - Russian News - Russia

MOSCOW, June 7 (RIA Novosti)-The Russian government has approved the agreements for the country's accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) and sent them to the State Duma, the lower chamber of the Russian parliament, for ratification, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said on Thursday.

WTO logoAll documents to become a full member of the WTO must be ratified by the Russian government, parliament and president by July 23, 2012. Russia spent 18 years trying to enter the WTO, completing its accession in December 2011.

"I would like to congratulate everyone [who is in charge of the WTO accession] for the completion of such important deal. The decision is being made and we have sent the documents [to the Duma] for ratification," Medvedev told a government meeting.

The State Duma will examine the documents at its meeting on July 4, Igor Rudensky, head of the government committee for economic policy, innovation development and business, said earlier on Thursday.

Keywords: Russia, Economy, Trade, WTO - Russian News - Russia

File Photo of Bashar al-Assad with Sergei Lavrov"The plan calls for a negotiated political settlement that would satisfy Syrian opposition groups but that could leave remnants of Mr. Assad's government in place. Its goal is the kind of transition underway in Yemen, where after months of violent unrest, President Ali Abdullah Saleh agreed to step down and hand control to his vice president, Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi, in a deal arranged by Yemen's Arab neighbors. Mr. Hadi, though later elected in an uncontested vote, is viewed as a transitional leader," The New York Times wrote.

Obama hopes that Putin will be able to pressure Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad into accepting a "Yemen Scenario," where the warring Syrian parties, cajoled by the international players, agree on a political transition that allows president Assad and his entourage to safely leave the country while keeping the rest of the regime intact to prepare for democratic elections.

According to The New York Times' sources, Obama will "press the proposal with President Vladimir Putin of Russia next month at their first meeting since Mr. Putin returned to his old post on May 7. Thomas E. Donilon, Mr. Obama's national security adviser, raised the plan with Mr. Putin in Moscow three weeks ago."

"When Mr. Obama brought it up with Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev of Russia at the Group of 8 meeting at Camp David last weekend, Mr. Medvedev appeared receptive, American officials said, signaling that Russia would prefer that option to other transitions in the Arab upheaval. During the meeting, 'Medvedev raised the example of Hosni Mubarak in a cage,' a senior official said, referring to Mr. Mubarak's confinement at his trial. The official, who requested anonymity because of the delicacy of the discussions, said Mr. Obama had then 'countered with Yemen, and the indication was, yes, this was something we could talk about.'" Indeed, the "Yemenskiy variant" (the Yemen scenario), widely discussed in Moscow, is probably the only good option left on the table. All other alternatives are all but untenable.

In the midst of a fierce reelection battle, Obama risks facing another "Srebrenica moment" if Syrian security forces continue killing civilians and the death toll jumps to thousands (not hundreds, as in Houla last week). This will build political pressure, both domestic and international, to intervene militarily on the side of the Syrian opposition, bypassing the UN Security Council, where a decision to use force would be blocked by Russia and China.

This option is incredibly messy because Syrian forces are well trained, well equipped and motivated, while the opposition groups are dispersed and incorporate, unsavory elements. It might be easier to carve out and protect a safe heaven zone for civilians on the Syrian border with Turkey and defend it with Turkish ground forces with heavy U.S. air support. But it would be an act of aggression and it might not stop the fighting in other parts of Syria. It also risks a protracted war by proxy with Iran and, possibly, with Russia.

For Moscow, Western military intervention in Syria without a UN authorization would be a huge loss of face and international prestige, just like the unpalatable option of the Security Council voting on a regime change in a sovereign nation with Russian abstention.

In what appears to be a significant policy shift on Syria, Russia supported a United Nations Security Council statement on Sunday condemning Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his forces over a massacre in Houla two days earlier, in which 116 civilians, including 49 children and 34 women, were killed by artillery and tank shelling.

Russia now sees Assad as a political liability and believes that the regime's days may be numbered. On a tour of Berlin and Paris last Friday, Putin distanced Moscow from Assad's regime. A day after the UN Security Council statement, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said: "Russia is not tied to Assad's staying in power."

But Russia is seeking a political settlement in Syria that would at least seem like the result of an internal agreement between the conflicting parties, with international facilitation, but not a solution imposed from the outside, particularly under threat or through the means of military intervention. The "Yemenskiy variant" provides just that cover, but it needs a UN-mandated political framework that the now moribund Kofi Annan's mission may provide were the Syrian parties to halt violence. Hence Putin's pleas in Berlin and Paris "not to prejudge Annan's mission as failure."

Would Obama and Putin really work together to stop the killing and secure a political settlement in Syria through the "Yemenskiy variant," with Assad out of power and out of the country? Will Putin agree to pressure Assad in accepting this option? Is Russia in a position to secure Assad's agreement, or is its leverage with the Syrian regime too limited to hope for such an outcome? Would productive cooperation on Syria help to patch up the strained relations between Moscow and Washington and between Putin and Obama? Were Putin to emerge as a real peacemaker in Syria, would it help change the West's negative attitudes toward the Russian leader?

Dale Herspring, Distinguished Professor, Kansas State University, KS

I think Frolov has written an excellent description of the problems faced by both the East and the West. As far as Putin is concerned, this is his "coming out party." It is his first chance to show Russia and the world what he can do as president.

Having followed and written about him since he came to power, I think a couple of things are clear about him: he is a problem solver; he is not about to sacrifice Russia's interests, regardless of what others may think or offer; he believes that he holds the key cards now. Obama is locked up in an election campaign that he appears to be losing as present. What does Putin want? A situation unlike the Libyan campaign, where he was locked out, and an arrangement where Russia retains its access to Syria, especially when it comes to the sale of weapons. Putin doesn't really care about details of the cease-fire arrangement. His primary purpose is to stop the violence while appearing as man on the white horse to the rest of the world.

With this in mind, the key concern on the part of those interested in getting his cooperation is to come up with practical, albeit sensible suggestions that will allow everyone to appear in a good light. He will brush atmospheric babble aside.

Ira Straus, U.S. Coordinator, Committee on Russia in NATO, Washington DC

The talk of a "Yemen scenario" shows a welcome maturing both in the United States and Russia. But what about the action?

The maturing is sorely needed, following dangerous policies on both sides ­ the initial U.S. enthusiasm for the toppling of two of the most benign regimes in the region, Egypt and Tunisia, before the Saudis and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) stepped in and told the United States to sober up, and the Russian policy of propping up the most malign regimes in the region, Syria and Iran (and Libya, except for the brief moment ­ which Putin has demonized ­ of semi-lucidity). Will Russia really mature now?

The "Yemen scenario" took a year to implement in Yemen. It had U.S. support from the start. President Saleh agreed to go and delayed going for a year. The United States and the GCC kept telling him he had to go. Finally he went. It isn't over, but there's some hope. It's a year late to start in Syria. Why the delay? The United States always wanted it. Russia kept protecting Assad, lying for him, telling him he didn't have to go, blocking the UN except for inadequate initiatives whose implementation Assad sabotaged with Russia's backing. Russia will have to put consistent pressure on Assad now, and heavy pressure at that, to get him to leave in a relevant timeframe.

Yes, if Putin were to turn to a responsible policy, it would greatly improve Russia's image in the world. It would have to be a real turn, with substance and some consistency. The mistakes of neither country, the United States nor Russia, can excuse those of the other. The Mideast is more important than Russia's polemic with the West about it. In its obsessive stance against the United States and NATO, Russia is scoring one "goal" after another ­ pushing Syria deeper into civil war (as it long did with Libya, too), humiliating the UN by keeping it incompetent, making NATO into the only locus of hope and making Syrians want a more unilaterally assertive West.

All these things are exactly what Russia keeps accusing the West of doing, the opposite of everything Russia says it wants. When will it realize that its rhetoric about stability and international law, no matter how often repeated, is the opposite of what its policy is, and that the future of the Mideast is more important than its polemic?

Moscow is once again cultivating phobias against NATO, making further deductions from its 1999 belief that "NATO is bombing Belgrade today, Moscow tomorrow." Letting policy get swung on the tail end of this polemic is bound to be self-defeating.

James George Jatras, Principal, Squire Sanders, Public Advocacy Director, American Council for Kosovo, Washington DC

The so-called "Yemen scenario" is a trap. Moscow must not fall for it. Any such "deal" between Washington and Moscow would only be a replay (with the roles switched) of the 1973 Paris Peace Accords on Vietnam, with Bashar al-Assad's departure soon followed by the regime's collapse, a horrendous massacre of Alawites, Christians, Shia, secular Sunni, and others ­ and by Russia's humiliation.

First, even assuming good faith in Washington (already a faulty basis), the jury is out on the workability of the "Yemen scenario" even in Yemen and, on the same principle, in Egypt, where Washington is both the patron of the corrupt established regime (bad) and a sponsor of the rising Islamic forces (worse). Even playing both sides, it is doubtful the United States can manage to keep the latter from sweeping the field. Certainly no such balancing act is possible where the United States has a priori decided that not only must Assad go, but the Baathist regime along with him, taking one of Tehran's pieces off the board (in the overly simplified view here), and Moscow's and Beijing's, too (few tears would be shed for Syria's Christians, mostly Orthodox. Who in Washington cares about the Orthodox Christians of Kosovo or the mostly Catholic Christians of Iraq? You can't make an omelet without breaking eggs. They probably had it coming, anyway).

Weeks ago, I predicted a made-to-order atrocity in Syria to serve as a "trigger" on a par with "Serbian marketplace mortar-bombings" in Bosnia, the "Racak massacre" in Kosovo, the "Benghazi humanitarian crisis" in Libya ­ and now here's Houla, right on cue. U.S. policy, in concert with our European NATO allies, the neo-Ottoman Recep Tayyip Erdo an regime in Ankara, and our Jeffersonian democratic friends in Riyadh, have shown a dogged determination to stick with "Plan A," which is to keep our jihadist buddies pumped with arms and money and wait for "bad stuff" to happen (big surprise that the Syrian rebels are getting terrorist instruction from the "Kosovo Liberation Army"). If Houla doesn't pass muster as a trigger, keep trying ­ eventually another, even more horrific future atrocity will. Either Russia (with China following suit) will succumb to the pressure to dump Assad and work out a "deal" ­ and get stung, like on Libya ­ or an excuse will be found to bypass the Security Council via the Kosovo and Iraq "coalition of the willing" route.

Moreover, Syria offers an advantage these other splendid little wars didn't: a border with a NATO county. Syria's violence has already slopped into Lebanon. All that is needed is a plausible encroachment into Turkey, and Ankara can invoke Article V of the North Atlantic Treaty for "defense of a NATO member's territory" against Assad's perceived aggression. Since NATO is a "collective self-defense organization" under the UN Charter, the war then would be, ipso facto, legal.

The funny thing is, I'm not convinced that Obama wants this war, which could be far worse than Libya (for that matter, he doesn't appear to have had much of an appetite for Libya, either). But in an eerie echo of the foreign policy novice George Bush's unfortunate reliance on "experts" that got him into Iraq, Obama may find himself boxed in by the same combination of the Libya "triumfeminate" of Hillary Clinton, Susan Rice, and Samantha Power, hawkish members of Congress of both parties, lurid media reports, and the eagerness of Mitt Romney (and probably more importantly, some of his campaign advisers) to characterize any and every exercise of restraint as "weakness." It's still possible that cooler heads in Washington will prevail, but Moscow can't count on it or mistake nervousness for goodwill.

Undoubtedly Moscow sees this impending scenario and shudders at the possible conflagration that may ensue. Indeed, that dread is essential to getting Russia to fall for the "Yemen scenario" deceit and ­ as an extra added bonus ­ handing president Putin, newly returned to the Kremlin, a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't choice: either hope that this time his Western interlocutors aren't repeating the tried and true deceptions of the past, or steel himself for the worst and back Assad all the way.

Vladimir Belaeff, Global Society Institute, San Francisco, CA

We need to confront some hard realities on Syria. First, although all diplomats must maintain the pious fiction that a civil war in Syria is a future danger, experts must recognize that a civil war has been in progress for some time. This is particularly true now that the motley Syrian opposition has unilaterally denounced the Kofi Annan plan and no longer complies with even that feeble framework for peace.

Second, the opposition is segmented and does not have a unified command and control center. There is no body with which a diplomatic discussion can occur and no common authority to guarantee the maintenance of a ceasefire. Syria is not Libya, where there was a functioning power center in Benghazi. One is reminded of the final scenes of the film "Lawrence of Arabia," which are set in a Damascus that has just been liberated from the Ottoman Turks.

Third, Assad is in a political cul-de-sac; there is no "upside" option available to him. The West demands regime change, and this means to Assad the fate of Saddam Hussein or Egypt's Mubarak at best, or of Libya's Muammar Gaddafi at worst. Assad has no incentive to lay down arms; given the bleak consequences of a defeat, he might as well fight in the hope of outlasting his insurgent enemies. Furthermore, Assad the individual is also hostage to his political and tribal allies who are also facing social and political calamity in the event of defeat. The Annan plan would open the opportunity of a "Yemen scenario" for Assad and would provide an alternative to the fight to the death mentioned above. But the materially weak though ambitious opposition wants Assad's blood, and has de facto unilaterally abandoned the Annan plan. The West is now obligated to support the demands of the opposition, in particular after the recent withdrawal of ambassadors. And it is far from proven that Russia has as much influence on Assad as the Kremlin may believe. Thus, the tails wag the dogs.

Fourth, a military intervention sounds appealing to many, but Syria is not Iraq or Libya ­ it is large, has a big population and substantial armed forces. Considerable troops and materiel would have to be committed for years to remove Assad, forcibly pacify Syria and rebuild the country into some semblance of a working society. All this while keeping Iran out of the operational theater and suppressing any extremist insurgency, which as we now see is a hallmark of the previously so cheerfully welcomed "Arab Spring."

Can a "Yemen scenario" be implemented for Syria, given the conditions listed above? The readers should be able to judge for themselves.

It is true that for many reasons of grand politics, there has to be swift and sharp justice for the evil perpetrated in Syria. The big problem is: who will administer this justice and with what force, and what will happen afterward? The United States is still involved in Afghanistan and Iraq, and a third military operation, so near Iran and also Israel, may put considerable strain not just on its resources, but on political and diplomatic structures as well. An intervention by a Muslim coalition, organized by the League of Arab States (LAS), might be more palatable for many reasons, but there does not seem to be much willingness in those quarters to volunteer blood or treasure in order to cure Syria of its Assad. It seems like the LAS would prefer the non-Muslim West to absorb the human and political costs and to solve what is properly an Arab issue.

Dick Krickus, Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the University of Mary Washington, former H.L. Oppenheimer Chair for Warfighting Strategy at the U.S. Marine Corps University, Washington DC

Press reports indicate that both Obama and Putin favor a settlement to the Syrian crisis similar to the outcome that occurred in Yemen, where President Ali Abdullah Saleh resigned in favor of his second in command, Abd Rabbuh Mansur al-Hadi.

Analysts in Washington, however, do not believe that what has been called the "Yemen scenario" has much hope of working. In response to the UN ceasefire orchestrated by Kofi Annan, Bashar al-Assad not only continues to wage war against his own people, but his troops and paramilitary goons who support him have also engaged in a number of atrocities, resulting in the odious murder of women and children in Houla and Homs.

They, in turn, underscore two important conclusions for most of the world community. First, Assad has no intention of negotiating a peace with his political opponents because he obviously believes that his murderous tactics will keep him in power.

The second conclusion is that the only way to remove this killer from power is through armed conflict. Since neither the leaders in the White House nor the Pentagon favor the interjection of U.S. forces into the crisis, the United States will remain on the sidelines ­ although it may provide humanitarian, air and communications assistance for the Syrian fighters and those among Syria's neighbors who cannot stand by and allow a 21st century Arab Hitler to continue his unconscionable slaughter of women and children.

Obama is under pressure to do more than that, and that includes the deployment of U.S. troops, but the people exerting the pressure have little credibility since they favored the disastrous invasion of Iraq and are also lobbying for the United States to bomb Iran. They are beating the war drums at the very time that hope for a settlement between Iran and the international community regarding its nuclear activities may be in the works. In short, the sanctions are forcing the Mullahs to negotiate a settlement with the major powers.

Those who are urging Obama to send U.S. troops to Syria forget a very compelling fact: most Americans of all political persuasions oppose new American military adventures.

Meanwhile, president Putin continues to endorse the Assad narrative that rests on bogus claims that foreign provocateurs are responsible for the mayhem in his country, and the atrocities are largely the work of radicals associated with Al-Qaeda who will take over the country should Assad be toppled. Then a truly horrible bloodletting will take place as minority Alawites, Christians, and Kurds will be slaughtered by revenging Sunni jihadists.

Those in the Kremlin who encourage Putin to embrace this narrative are doing him, and Russia, a disservice because the vast majority of outside observers know that Assad is the principle source of the violent mayhem in Syria. The Friday protests that continue in the face of Assad's killers testify to the fact that a majority of Syrians appear to be in favor of his removal from office.

It is said that Putin and his Chinese counterparts, who met this week in Beijing, believe that Assad will emerge victorious and they will continue to employ their Security Council vetoes to protect him. But while most observers believe that Assad will fight to the very end, his monstrous behavior will ultimately bring about his undoing ­ an end that will look more like Quaddafi's fate than that of Saleh. It will be fighters directly supported by Assad's Sunni neighbors who will ultimately undermine his regime ­ Qatar, Turkey and Saudi Arabia taking the lead in this campaign.

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