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"Russian Nuclear Energy Standards Should Go Global"

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Written by Dmitry Medvedev

The world’s attention is focused on Japan. As of this moment, over 25 thousand people have been declared dead or missing. My blog and the Russian internet in general are teeming with posts of support and condolences. Since the first days, Russia has been trying to help Japan, its neighbour and partner.
You know that our rescue workers took part in clearing the debris. They are now coming home. Russia has boosted fuel shipments to Japan. We are shipping humanitarian aid. The Russian people are also eager to help. They have gathered aid and suggested providing shelter for the victims. I think this is normal. It is human.
At the same time, we are carefully following the liquidation process near the Fukushima reactor. What happened there caused a wave of arguments on the development of nuclear power generation all over the world. Very different opinions have been voiced on whether nuclear power can be safe. We know about all the accidents and remember everything that happened including another tragedy that we will be remembering this year. I am referring to Chernobyl.
As of today, nuclear power is the safest way to generate energy available to us. It is safe provided we observe certain regulations during the projection, construction and management of the power plants. These rules, evidently, have to be the same for everyone. This is where we have to carefully revise currently existing laws, both domestic and international. I believe both can be improved.
We will probably need to introduce new regulations on the construction of nuclear power plants in seismically active regions. These regulations need to be introduced internationally. They should be especially strict for areas where earthquakes can reach high magnitudes and areas where there is a tsunami hazard. I should note that there is a regulation in Russia’s code of rules on nuclear energy that bans the construction of nuclear power plants in places where eight-point magnitude earthquakes might occur. We should probably make that a global rule since, as we all know, when such large-scale disasters occur they are always a threat to more than one country. Indeed, they might sometimes affect the entire planet.
I’d like to say a few words about another very important aspect of further development of atomic energy. It should be our priority to build new nuclear sources of energy rather than work on extending the lifespan of our existing reactors. The new stations we build must be as safe as possible. Russian nuclear experts that I’ve spoken to about this are prepared to accept responsibility for the stations we build in Russia and abroad.
A recent example that we discussed with our partners was the construction of a Nuclear power station in Turkey. This station, the Akkuyu station, will be built using a new control system that is designed to last for the station’s entire lifetime. A joint enterprise will be founded to build and run the station. This is a completely new approach that will help ensure the station is safe.
The рroject of another Russian рower рlant built in India – the рower station in Kudankulam – рrovides for so-called passive heat removal, which, even in the event of a loss of electricity, which is what happened in Japan, will allow for the cooling of the reactant material and prevent a catastrophe.
This is definitely a progressive approach, and we believe that protection should be boosted at all the other рower рlants, as well. For this reason, being an acknowledged leader in the area of reactor construction, Russia thinks that so-called “high-sрeed neutron reactors” are very promising. Such reactors have internal, natural security so to sрeak. In addition, they make it possible to radically reduce the stockрiling of wasted fuel, which may also cause рroblems, as you know. Such reactors don’t require uranium enrichment on the whole, which consequently makes nuclear energy more available to the many countries striving for it.
The Fukushima disaster makes us think about broadening the authority of international organisations in charge of the safety of nuclear energy. More than that, this authority should be real, deрend on specific situations, and allow for solving the problems that international organisations are facing. In addition, the рrinciрles of information disclosure and total transрarency must be observed.
Russia already holds joint check-ups of рower stations on their reliability and seismic resistance, desрite the fact that Russia has the most strict regulations in рlace, as I have already mentioned.
Mass media, NGOs and other organisations also exercise рublic control. And the cities where atomic power plants are located should see the creation of рublic information centres.
Radiation levels must be measured automatically today and in the future, and the information should be рosted on sрecific web sites, meaning be available online, including the russianatom.ru website. It’s a sрecial website devoted to this issue. I think that such a рractice should be officially recommended to the IAEA as the international organisation for all the nuclear рower station oрerators, so that all of them work under the same conditions.
And last but not least – of course it is necessary to raise рeoрle’s trust in nuclear energy develoрment worldwide. It’s a very promising direction to go in.

The author, Dmitry Medvedev is the current president of Russia stressing on better rules and regulation for nuclear safety. Republished following the legal disclaimer of Russia Today. Original Article appeared on Russia Today blog.

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Sanskar Shrivastava is the founder of international students' journal, The World Reporter. Passionate about dynamic occurrence in geopolitics, Sanskar has been studying and analyzing geopolitcal events from early life. At present, Sanskar is a student at the Russian Centre of Science and Culture and will be moving to Duke University.

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Briefly about the Russian Political Discourse

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As you may have noticed, the recent international discourse has been rotating around Russia and its relations to other countries for a long time. Needless to say that after the events in Georgia/Ukraine, this discourse is far from friendly. Some even say that rhetoric of the Cold War has returned. What makes people abroad wonder is why Russia chooses to respond to its foreign partners in this particular way? Why is it the way it is?

To begin with, there are several reasons that shape Russian rhetoric. First of all, they are historical and cultural values. Russia sees itself as a defender of its rights and identity and someone who is not going to follow someone else’s rules. Back to the 13th century, the grand prince (rus. knyaz) Aleksander Nevsky only accepted submission  to the Golden Horde to protect the Russian culture and belief, therefore depriving the West of the opportunity to take over its territories.  This mentality still governs the minds of people. Today, current political rhetoric is doing the same by refusing the Western pressure and external interference into its business.

After the Golden Horde, Russia has managed to maintain its unity. Back then, the East saw the country to be an heir to the great Byzantine Empire. Meanwhile, the enormous size of the country was rather intimidating; and even more, when it started acquiring new territories (remember reaction to the situation with Crimea).

On the one hand, Moscow tries to present itself strong when it communicates with the Europe; on the other hand, the Western neighbours seem to use the same old-fashioned strategy to isolate the big neighbour. Since the time of Ivan the Terrible, no one really has wanted strong and stable Russia and there were steps before to prevent the unity of Eurasia.

The long history of Russia plays a big role in forming the modern mind of the citizen and current political rhetoric. Russian people and the government would not admit defeat and would do anything possible to prevail, even if it means to live in humble circumstances for some time (think of the continuous sanctions).

The tough policy of Peter the Great, the emperor of Russia, has brought the country to a new level in comparison to others. At that time already, all the international questions were only resolved with the help of Russia. In the following years, the power of the country kept growing only to solidify during the rule of Catherine the Great. The famous grand chancellor of Russia and the chief of foreign policy Bezborodko used to say, “I don’t know how it will be at your time, but at this time not a single gun is allowed to fire without our permission”[1]. Now, Russia tries to achieve similar influence.

The period after the World War II proved to be fruitful for the development of the European countries. While the US and USSR were competing, Europe was free from deciding on serious issues, so it could absorb and enjoy the time of quiet development.

Nonetheless, there has been a clear confrontation between the two ideologies, Nazism and Communism. Even though the USSR did not try to exterminate the nations, the scary ghost of the USSR keeps frightening the rest of the world. The impression of “evil USSR” flying over the international relations is still there and penetrates the minds of the people.

After the collapse of the USSR, there was a chance to promote peace and peaceful coexistence.  Russia has repeatedly expressed its interest in it, yet the Western partners have chosen another way:  NATO enlargement to the East (which is believed to be a broken promise).  Interestingly enough, George Kennan, the so-called creator of containment policy of Soviet expansion, considered the NATO expansion a tragic mistake.

All in all, abovementioned factors play a significant role in shaping the Russian political discourse. Cultural and historical values, national pride (and therefore negative feeling towards the Western sanctions) as well as the use of state symbols to unite the country are the most important rhetoric tools in the Russian language arsenal. Its constant and regular transmission through the media and other communication channels make this rhetoric influential and persuasive.

[1] [URL: http://www.istmira.com/istoriya-rossii-s-drevnejshix-vremen-do-nashix/290-kakovy-itogi-i-posledstviya-vneshnej-politiki.html] [дата обращения: 20.05.2016]

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Peace Talks – North Korea is Ready for negotiations, but only with Russia

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North Korea will enter negotiation talks with its rhetorical foe, the United States, over its nuclear weapons program and on the so-called “security guarantees” – only if Russia will come to the table. 

During an international conference in the Austrian capital (Vienna), Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, delivered a message to his US counterpart, Rex Tillerson, that the reclusive communist regime wants a peace talk with America over its nuclear ambitions.

 “We know that North Korea wants above all to talk to the United States about guarantees for its security. We are ready to support that, we are ready to take part in facilitating such negotiations. Our American colleagues, including Rex Tillerson, have heard this.”, said, Lavrov, as reported by the Interfax news agency.

However, there was no immediate response from the state department which has long insisted that the US will only consider direct talks unless North Korea stops testing ballistic missiles and agrees to denuclearize – an expectation that was defied by North Korea. 

In an interview with Russia’s state-run Russian Information Agency (RIA) news agency, Lavrov added that his country is ready to step in because Russia and North Korea have diplomatic relations. 

“We call on partners to focus on solving specific problems of the Korean Peninsula on the basis of negotiations. And for this, it is necessary not to rupture contacts with Pyongyang, but, on the contrary, develop it.” 

However, it seems very unlikely that Lavrov’s offer will convince the US, as Trump has long indicated that he has no plans on negotiating with Kim Jong-un.

“I told Rex Tillerson, our wonderful Secretary of State, that he is wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man.”, said Trump on his tweet in October after dismissing a reported effort by Tillerson to pursue back-channel negotiations.

Moreover, aside from deriding the North Korean leader as the “Little Rocket Man”, the US President Donald J. Trump, called him a “sick puppy” and threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea and that the country “will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen”.

The amid heightened tension between the US and North Korea reached its peak after the hermit kingdom tested its new and “most powerful” intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), the “Hwasong-15” missile, November 29 of last year; claiming that it was capable of striking the US mainland – a missile launch that followed the test of what was apparently a hydrogen bomb last September.

This was followed by Trump’s furious tweets, saying that “North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the ‘Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times.” Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!”

The said “Hwasong-15”, as estimated by South Korea’s military, flew ten times as high as the International Space Station and twice as high as any satellite in low orbit after finally landing in the Sea of Japan – 210 kilometres west of Aomori prefecture, in Japan’s Exclusive Economic Zone.

It can be remembered that North Korea has also issued an explicit threat to Japan after the country, together with the US, spearheaded the United Nations security council sanctions in response to the regime’s recent nuclear test – saying that, “The four islands of the Japanese archipelago should be sunken into the sea by the nuclear bomb of Juche.” and “Japan is no longer needed to exist near us.”

A cue for the allied countries, Japan and the US, to call on China, North Korea’s sole major ally which accounts for more than 90 percent of trade; to fully implement the UN security council sanctions against the isolated country and other steps to pressure it.

However, although China has agreed to do so and has also been angered by Pyongyang’s repeated nuclear and missile tests; it also sees that the US, along with South Korea, share responsibility for the rising tensions. Also, speculations are – China won’t pressure North Korea as much as Japan and the US want, primarily because while Xi Jinping does not trust Kim Jong-un, it trusts Trump less. In addition, Japan is China’s major rival – which history can be traced back to the ancient wars up to the recent issues such as the Nanking massacre and territorial disputes.

As of the moment, the US and North Korean positions are currently very far apart – with Washington wanting Pyongyang’s nuclear disarmament to be on the table while Pyongyang wants Washington to recognize it as a nuclear weapons power.

“I think the US would be best served by putting aside the focus on denuclearization and instead look at ways to prevent accidents, reduce risks and de-escalate.”, suggested Suzanne DiMaggio, a senior fellow at the New America think tank who has played a leading role in peace talks between Iran and North Korea.

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What’s Really Going On With Russia?

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Moscow Russia Putin

For the mere mortals among us, it’s hard to determine exactly what’s going on with Trump and Russia. To get the bottom of things, it may help to look at the backstory. There’s no denying that Russia and America have had a rocky road in the past. While things have always been a little strained, we did manage to find some level of calm. But, a NATO bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999 put a chilly slant on things. Add in one Vladimir Putin (elected in 2000), and you have an ice age on your hands.

But, what have the main issues been? Well, let’s be honest, the cold war got a little…cold. That did nothing to strengthen the relationship. Aside from that, the arguments between our countries come from a direct split in ideologies. Capitalism and communism don’t get on for obvious reasons. Add in the fact that the U.S. and Russia are some of the largest nuclear countries in the world, and you have a real conflict. Perhaps, for world peace, it would be best if we all ‘got along’, but our differing approaches only fuels the fire more.

But then, along came Trump. Despite other negative connotations to his presidency, he did at least seem willing to solve the Russia/U.S. split. In fact, during his election campaign, Trump heralded Putin as ‘very smart’, and gave every indication that he would treat Russia as an ally. He even tried to turn attention from Russia during the election hacking scandal.

Of course, the good times didn’t last long. We now find ourselves in a position where relations are more strained than ever. Given where we’ve been in the past, that’s hard to believe. But, the relationship has spiralled, perhaps in part due to the possibility that there was a light at the end of the tunnel. So, where did things go wrong? To get to the root of the rift, we need to revisit April 4th, when Syrian president Bashar al-Assad was allegedly responsible for dropping chemical weapons on his people. Chemical weapons which Russia had removed.

In an arguably rash counter attack, Trump ordered the dropping of 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles. It’s not hard to see, then, why things deteriorated so fast. Overnight, Trump and Putin went from the perfect pair to bitter enemies. And, for some, the change was too subtle to keep on top of. But, rest assured, the old order has been restored when it comes to our relationship with Russia.

So, where are we now? Recently, political figures such as Idaho’s senator, Mike Crapo, have been pushing hard for new Russian sanctions. The new bill, signed by a grudging Trump on the 2nd of this month, makes it harder for him to lift the sanctions if he wishes.

Trump’s reluctance seemed to come about due to remaining hopes of reestablishing relations with Russia. While that seems unlikely, the bill will ensure we can at least hold some level of control over what Russia does overseas.

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