The Tentacles of the Octopus
We also left behind all kinds of highly compromising documents, code machines, etc. to keep Russian military intelligence for days. They did capture Israeli intelligence people and by report, treated them very brutally. The Russians must have been reading Bush’s orders on torture! Anyway, there is genuine terror in the halls of the Department of State, the Pentagon and the White House that terrible things could emerge. Guess what, kids? They will. Mr Harring has good social connection with some Russians and I think he is planning to put out a special Journal to put up the really neat nuggets that could never be put up on the Internet. Keep posted!”
The Tentacles of the Octopus
by Brian Harring
Jews are known for their intelligence…and cunning …. but in the matter of the Georgian War, they greatly miscalculated. Israel had many of its citizens and local co-religionists in power in Georgia, had enormous influence with the Bush administration, sold weapons to a U.S.- funded Georgia, supplied them with military advisors, ran the unmanned reconnaissance drones from that country and felt they were successful in getting the Baku-Tiblisi-Ceyhan pipeline extended to their port of Asheklon for highly profitable oil transshipments to Asia . In spite of their power, or very possibly because of it, their geopolitical and economic house of cards collapsed in less than eight days. Like the Bush administration, they lost everything, money and face, and are now screaming with rage and struggling to create more havoc in the area to regain what they have lost.
American neocons, all of whom are Jewish, have always been hostile towards Russia. Russians traditionally detest Jews and as a result, the neocons supported the war in Kosovo that resulted in a break up of Serbia, a long-time Russian friend and ally. This politically powerful group also has supported the Chechnyan rebellions against Russia, and demand NATO membership for Eastern European countries , such as the Baltic states and Poland, that had once been part of the Russian empire. And most especially, the neocons have aggressively instigated an American policy of providing so-called “defense” missiles to both Poland and the Czech republic. The rationale for these missiles are that they are intended to “protect Europe from Iran” but Iran has no possible reason to attack Latvia or Prague and the obvious reason for this farce is to poke at the Russians and listen to them complain.
Another major neocon source of anger is that Russia delayed sanctions against Israel's arch-enemy Iran and has supplied Iran with nuclear material as well as a mass of Russian-maintained anti-aircraft missile systems that have been installed to protect Tehran and all of its nuclear installations.
The American neocons, Kristol, Krauthammer et al, do not like and wish to get rid of Vladimir Putin for very clear reasons. He has no use for their antics in the first place and in the second, he caused the Jewish community terrible economic damage when he put a stop to the systematic lootings of the so-called Oligarchs, a gang of Jewish tycoons that took over control over all the industrial base of Russia when the USSR fell apart. These Oligarchs has close connections with the United States through various bank holdings (the Bank of New York for instance, was owned by an Israeli citizen), and their powerful influence in the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. They had clear sailing under Boris Yeltsin, a chronic drunk and in the pockets of both the Oligarchs (who backed his 1996 presidential bid) and the CIA who sponsored him in the first place.
Very rich with their pickings of an economically prostrate Russia, the controlling Oligarchs made the terrible mistake of supporting Vladimir Putin’s successful bid for the presidency. Once in control, Putin gradually reasserted state control over Russia’s natural resources, in essence taking physical control of the oil and gas fields the Oligrachs had peddled to American oil and gas interests.
When Putin arrested and jailed Mikhail Khodorkovsky, head of Yukos, the immense Russian oil company, howls of rage went up from the global Jewish community. In America, Richard Perle (later disgraced for “improper” financial dealings while a government official), George Soros, Stuart Eizenstat and Senator John McCain R Arizona (a great favorite of the neocons and the Likudists in Israel for his blind support of their desires) all demanded that Khodorkovsky be released from jail at once. Putin, apparently, was not listening or properly subservient because the former oil mogul is still in solitary confinement in a Siberian jail.
And with regards to John McCain’s connections, his top foreign policy advisor, Randy Scheunemann, has been revealed as having received hundreds of thousand of dollars from the U.S.-controlled Georgian government. He is also President of the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, still sponsored by arch-neocon William Kristol’s ‘Project for a New American Century’. Kristol is now strongly agitating for American confrontation with Russia, something that could easily lead to a war between the two countries
While the international Jewish community loathed czarist Russia for its repression of the radical Jewish community, they joyfully supported and delighted in the triumph of Bolshevism which brought them to power in the new Soviet Union and resulted in great waves of terror and repression against the loathed Orthodox Christian Russian community. Their chagrin and fury at the disastrous collapse of their Georgian plannings will create a huge uproar in their media in America that will go so far as to press military confrontation with Russia. That having been said, the American military community does not care for Israeli grand plans and a war with Russia seems very remote. Perhaps, however, a stray missile from some unidentified source, might have some kind of an atomic warhead that would tragically explode over Tel Aiv when Cheney is visiting there.
And who would survive this incident?
The rest of the world for certain.
Russia remains a Black Sea power
by M K Bhadrakumar
If the struggle in the Caucasus was ever over oil and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's (NATO's) agenda towards Central Asia, the United States suffered a colossal setback this week. Kazakhstan, the Caspian energy powerhouse and a key Central Asian player, has decided to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Russia over the conflict with Georgia, and Russia's de facto control over two major Black Sea ports has been consolidated.
At a meeting in the Tajik capital Dushanbe on Thursday on the sidelines of the summit meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), Kazakh President Nurusultan Nazarbayev told Russian President Dmitry Medvedev that Moscow could count on Astana's support in the present crisis.
In his press conference in Dushanbe, Medvedev underlined thathis SCO counterparts, including China, showed understanding of the Russian position. Moscow appears satisfied that the SCO summit also issued a statement on the Caucasus developments, which, inter alia, said, "The leaders of the SCO member states welcome the signing in Moscow of the six principles for regulating the South Ossetia conflict, and support Russia's active role in assisting peace and cooperation in the region." The SCO comprises China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
There were tell-tale signs that something was afoot when the Kazakh Foreign Ministry issued a statement on August 19 hinting at broad understanding for the Russian position. The statement called for an "unbiased and balanced assessment" of events and pointed out that an "attempt [was made] to resolve a complicated ethno-territorial issue by the use of force", which led to "grave consequences". The statement said Astana supported the "way the Russian leadership proposed to resolve the issue" within the framework of the United Nations charter, the Helsinki Final Act of 1975 and international law.
The lengthy statement leaned toward the Russian position but offered a labored explanation for doing so.
Kazakhstan has since stepped out into the thick of the diplomatic sweepstakes and whole-heartedly endorsed the Russian position.
This has become a turning point for Russian diplomacy in the post-Soviet space. Nazarbayev said:
I am amazed that the West simply ignored the fact that Georgian armed forces attacked the peaceful city of Tskhinvali [in South Ossetia]. Therefore, my assessment is as follows: I think that it originally started with this. And Russia's response could either have been to keep silent or to protect their people and so on. I believe that all subsequent steps taken by Russia have been designed to stop bloodshed of ordinary residents of this long-suffering city. Of course, there are many refugees, many homeless.
Guided by out bilateral agreement on friendship and cooperation between Kazakhstan and Russia, we have provided humanitarian aid: 100 tons have already been sent. We will continue to provide assistance together with you.
Of course, there was loss of life on the Georgian side - war is war. The resolution of the conflict with Georgia has now been shifted to some indeterminate time in the future. We have always had good relations with Georgia. Kazakhstan's companies have made substantial investments there. Of course, those that have done this want stability there. The conditions of the plan that you and [President of France Nicolas] Sarkozy drew up must be implemented, but some have begun to disavow certain points in the plan.
However, I think that negotiations will continue and that there will be peace - there is no other alternative. Therefore, Kazakhstan understands all the measures that have been taken, and Kazakhstan supports them. For our part, we will be ready to do everything to ensure that everyone returns to the negotiating table.
From Moscow's point of view, Nazarbayev's words are worth their weight in gold. Kazakhstan is the richest energy producer in Central Asia and is a regional heavyweight. It borders China. The entire US regional strategy in Central Asia ultimately aims at replacing Russia and China as Kazakhstan's number one partner. American oil majors began making a beeline to Kazakhstan immediately after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 - including Chevron, with which US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was associated.
Unsurprisingly, Kazakhstan figured as a favorite destination for US Vice President Dick Cheney and President George W Bush has lavishly hosted Nazarbayev in the White House.
The US had gone the extra league in cultivating Nazarbayev, with the fervent hope that somehow Kazakhstan could be persuaded to commit its oil to the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, whose viability is otherwise in doubt. The pipeline is a crucial component of the US's Caspian great game.
The US had gone to great lengths to realize the pipeline project against seemingly hopeless odds. In fact, Washington stage-managed the "color" revolution in Georgia in November 2003 (which catapulted Mikheil Saakashvili to power in Tbilisi) on the eve of the commissioning of the pipeline. The general idea behind the commotion in the South Caucasus was that the US should take control of Georgia through which the pipeline passes.
Besides, Kazakhstan shares a 7,500 kilometer border with Russia, which is the longest land border between any two countries in the world. It would be a nightmare for Russian security if NATO were to gain a foothold in Kazakhstan. Again, the US strategy had targeted Kazakhstan as the prize catch for NATO in Central Asia. The US aimed to make a pitch for Kazakhstan after getting Georgia inducted into NATO.
These American dreams have suffered a setback with the Kazakh leadership now closing ranks with Moscow. It seems Moscow outwitted Washington.
Belarus voices support
The other neighboring country sharing a common border with Russia, Belarus, has also expressed support for Moscow. Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko visited Medvedev in Sochi on August 19 to express his solidarity.
"Russia acted calmly, wisely and beautifully. This was a calm response. Peace has been established in the region - and it will last," he commented.
What is even more potent is that Russia and Belarus have decided to sign an agreement this autumn on creating a unified air defense system. This is hugely advantageous for Russia in the context of the recent US attempts to deploy missile defense elements in Poland and the Czech Republic.
According to Russian media reports, Belarus has several S-300 air defense batteries - Russia's advanced system - on combat duty and is currently negotiating the latest S-400 systems from Russia, which will be made available by 2010.
Attention now shifts to the meeting of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), which is scheduled to take place in Moscow on September 5. The CSTO's stance on the crisis in the Caucasus will be closely watched.
It appears that Moscow and Kazakhstan are closely cooperating in setting the agenda of CSTO, whose members are Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. The big question is how the CSTO gears up to meet NATO's expansion plans. The emergent geopolitical reality is that with Russia's recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, Moscow has virtually checkmated the US strategy in the Black Sea region, defeating its plan to make the Black Sea an exclusive "NATO lake". In turn, NATO's expansion plans in the Caucasus have suffered a setback.
Not many analysts have understood the full military import of the Russian moves in recognizing the breakaway Georgian republics. Russia has now gained de facto control over two major Black Sea ports - Sukhumi and Poti. Even if the US-supported regime of Viktor Yushchenko in Ukraine creates obstacles for the Russian fleet based in the Crimean port of Sevastopol - in all probability, Moscow will shrug off any Ukrainian pressure tactic - the fleet now has access to alternative ports on the Black Sea. Poti, in particular, has excellent facilities dating to the Soviet era.
The swiftness with which Russia took control of Poti must have made the US livid with anger. Washington's fury stems from the realization that its game plan to eventually eliminate Russia's historical role as a "Black Sea power" has been rendered a pipe dream. Of course, without a Black Sea fleet, Russia would have ceased to be a naval power in the Mediterranean. In turn, Russia's profile in the Middle East would have suffered. The Americans indeed had an ambitious game plan towards Russia.
There is every indication that Moscow intends to assert the strategic presence of its Black Sea Fleet. Talks have begun with Syria for the expansion of a Russian naval maintenance base at the Syrian port of Tartus. The Middle East media recently suggested in the context of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to Moscow that Russia might contemplate shifting its Black Sea Fleet from Sevastopol to Syria. But this is an incorrect reading insofar as all that Russia needs is a supply and maintenance center for its warships, which operate missions in the Mediterranean. In fact, the Soviet navy's 5th Mediterranean Squadron had made use of Tartus port for such purpose.
China shows understanding
Moscow will approach the CSTO summit pleased with the SCO's backing, even it it was not without reservations. Medvedev said of the SCO meeting,
Of course, I had to tell our partners what had actually happened, since the picture painted by some of the Western media unfortunately differed from real facts as to who was the aggressor, who started all this, and who should bear the political, moral and ultimately the legal responsibility for what happened ...
Our colleagues gratefully received this information and during a series of conversations we concluded that such events certainly do not strengthen the world order, and that the party that unleashed the aggression should be responsible for its consequences ... I am very pleased to have been able to discuss this with our colleagues and to have received from them this kind of support for our efforts. We are confident that the position of the SCO member states will produce an appropriate resonance through the international security, and I hope this will give a serious signal to those who are trying to justify the aggression that was committed.
It must have come as a relief to Moscow that China agreed to line up behind such a positive formulation. On Thursday, the Russian Foreign Ministry in Moscow also seems to have had its first contact with the Chinese Embassy regarding the issue. Significantly, the Foreign Ministry statement said the meeting between Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexei Borodavkin and Chinese ambassador Liu Guchang took place at the Chinese initiative.
The statement claimed, "The Chinese side was informed of the political and legal motives behind Russia's decision and expressed an understanding of them." (Emphasis added.) It is highly unlikely that on such a sensitive issue, Moscow would have unilaterally staked a tall claim without some degree of prior tacit consent from the Chinese side, which is a usual diplomatic practice.
The official Russian news agency report went a step further and highlighted that "China had expressed its understanding of Russia's decision to recognize Georgia's breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia".
The favorable stance by Belarus, Kazakhstan and China significantly boosts Moscow's position. In real terms, the assurance that the three big countries that surround Russia will remain on friendly terms no matter the West's threat to unleash a new cold war, makes a huge difference to Moscow's capacity to maneuver. Any time now - possibly this weekend - we may expect Belarus to announce its recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
Clearly, Moscow is disinterested to mount any diplomatic campaign to rally support from the world community for the sovereignty and independence of the two breakaway provinces. As a Moscow commentator put it, "Unlike in comrade Leonid Brezhnev's time, Moscow is not trying to press any countries into supporting it on this issue. If it did, it could find quite a few sympathizers, but who cares?"
It serves Moscow's purpose as long as the world community draws an analogy between Kosovo and the two breakaway provinces. In any case, the two provinces have been totally dependent on Russia for economic sustenance.
With the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, what matters critically for Moscow is that if the West now intends to erect any new Berlin Wall, such a wall will have to run zig-zag along the western coast of the Black Sea, while the Russian naval fleet will always stay put on the east coast and forever sail in and out of the Black Sea.
The Montreal Convention assures the free passage of Russian warships through the Straits of Bosphorous. Under the circumstances, NATO's grandiose schemes to occupy the Black Sea as its private lake seem outlandish now. There must be a lot of egg on the faces of the NATO brains in Brussels and their patrons in Washington and London.
Ambassador M K Bhadrakumar was a career diplomat in the Indian Foreign Service. His assignments included the Soviet Union, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Germany, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Kuwait and Turkey.
Punishing Russia could prove costly
by Mikhail Molchanov
On the eve of his visit to Ukraine, David Miliband, Britain's foreign secretary, said he wanted to forge "the widest possible coalition against Russian aggression in Georgia". The next day, he warned that Russia must not start a new cold war.
Russians reacted defensively, saying a cold war is not what they want, yet arguing it is better to lose so-called friends in the West than lose national dignity.
The row that has started over Russia's using force to rebuff a Georgian military attack on a separatist minority is now continuing over Moscow's decision to recognize the de-factoindependence of the two pariah statelets that have been effectively self-governed for the last 16 years.
Russia's decision to recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia in Georgia should come at no surprise to those who know the region. South Ossetia had never been a part of Georgia until Joseph Stalin separated the Ossetian homeland into two parts and attached the northern part to Russia, while giving the South to Stalin's native Georgia.
Stalin's plan included a measure of autonomy for Abkhazia and the two Ossetias. However, yet another Georgian dictator, Zviad Gamsakhurdia (1939 - 1993), abolished South Ossetian autonomy and liquidated the autonomous status of the Abkhazian Republic even before the Soviet Union formally ceased to exist in 1991. At about the same time, when Georgians proclaimed their independence from Moscow, the parliamentary assembly of the Republic of Abkhazia reasserted its sovereignty and announced separation from Georgia. Tbilisi responded by sending bands of looters to both breakaway regions.
Gamsakhurdia's officially chauvinist policy of "Georgia for the Georgians" encouraged the ethnic cleansing that followed. When South Ossetians and Abkhazians tried to throw the rascals out with the help of popular militias specifically assembled for that purpose, Georgia sent in police forces and regular troops. This started an armed conflict which lasted until a 1992 ceasefire agreement brokered by the Russians. All sides agreed to accept Russian troops as peacekeepers.
For the last 16 years, Moscow had staunchly refused to heed numerous requests of the separatist leaders to acknowledge their de-facto independence from Georgia. Even so, the one and only channel of material aid reaching breakaway enclaves was coming from Russia. Tbilisi has not contributed a penny to help restore cities and villages ravaged by the Georgian fire. As time went by, more and more Georgians left for Georgia proper. Abkhazian and South Ossetian economies lost all connections to Georgia and became fully oriented toward Russia.
Georgia's claims of sovereignty over the separatist republics are based on the Soviet precedent and the Western desire to "discipline" Russia, while rewarding the US-propped regime of Mikheil Saakashvili. The idea of North Ossetia and South Ossetia reuniting as a new republic of the Russian Federation is simply unpalatable to the West, no matter how many referendums would prove the people's will and how genuinely democratic those referendums would be. After all, as former US national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski argued, Russia was too big even in its curtailed post-Soviet form; would it not be great to tear apart Siberia and the Far East?
Interestingly, some people among the Russian so-called "liberal" elite met the idea with sympathetic understanding. Indeed, if your personal fortune is based on an indiscriminate sell-off of the country's natural riches, central oversight is not the first thing on your mind.
During the whole Boris Yeltsin decade, Russia's foreign policy did not significantly deviate from the master plan devised in Washington. The country was ruled by the oligarchs, not by the elected government. The West has called this "democracy". While the two small Caucasian nations were clamoring for protection, Moscow's hands were tied by the fear of Western disapproval.
The slightest sign of independent orientation in foreign policy was cited as a proof of Russian "imperialism". Never mind that thousands in both unacknowledged republics were carrying Russian passports. Russia was forced to turn a blind eye to the continuing misery of the people that could not live as a part of Georgia - and were not allowed to exist independently.
In the meantime, humanitarian reasons worked well for East Timorese, Kosovars, and factually independent Kurds in Iraq. Not so for Abkhazians and South Ossetians. On August 8, the Georgian army was given a command to "retake" South Ossetia, and launched a barrage of GRAD rockets against the civilian population of Tskhinvali. Close to 2,000 Ossetians were soon dead, and 30, 000, or one quarter of the total population, fled their destroyed homes, many ending up on the Russian side of the border. A dozen Russian peacekeepers were killed in the attack. The UN was "concerned", yet nobody among the Western leaders indicated even a slightest displeasure.
However, the displeasure became pronounced when Russian troops moved in to protect the threatened minority and stop the conflict. The Russian offensive accomplished these tasks in five days and with minimal bloodshed.
Western displeasure grew into a universal chorus of condemnation when President Dmitry Medvedev, acting on a direct and unanimous mandate of both chambers of the Federal Assembly, decided to extend Russia's recognition of independence to the two nations that have been factually independent since 1992, and paid in blood for that privilege.
Rather than seeing Russia's actions as dictated by considerations of humanity, or, at the very minimum, sheer political realism (can anyone in their right mind believe that fiercely proud North Caucasian nations would voluntarily accept the rule by those who deny their very right of existence as separate ethnicities?), the Western press is chanting cold war.
Moscow's position is, if friendship with the West can only be bought by standing idly by and ignoring desperate pleas for help from a kindred, ethically affiliated nation, Russia cannot afford such a friendship. Cold war or not, the time of a politically correct, US-style Russia is now over.
Instead, it is the time of a Russia that has restored the dignity of its elected government offices; a Russia that owes nothing to the world financial institutions, and itself holds near US$100 billion in US agencies' debt; and a Russia that supplies one-third of Europe's total gas. This is a country whose army is, once again, capable of procuring world-class armaments and training soldiers in their proper use.
This Russia is prepared to beef up its military collaboration with China, ensuring comprehensive modernization of the Asian giant's forces. This new Russia has re-established its diplomatic and economic presence world-wide, has friends and partners in both hemispheres, and is capable of influencing geopolitical situations in the areas much further distanced than the neighboring Caucasus.
Attempting to punish this new Russia, one way or another, may be a rather costly adventure. Is the West prepared to bear those costs - just to show Russia "who is the boss here", while denying two smaller nations that very same right of self-determination that Georgians now enjoy?
Mikhail A Molchanov is a professor of political science at St Thomas University, Canada. He has published several books and articles on Russia's post-communist transition and foreign policy, Russian-Ukrainian relations and international problems of Eurasia.
Russia 'could destroy NATO ships in Black Sea within 20 minutes'
MOSCOW, August 29 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's Black Sea Fleet is capable of destroying NATO's naval strike group currently deployed in the sea within 20 minutes, a former fleet commander said on Friday. (Russian Navy modernized - Image gallery)
Russia's General Staff said on Tuesday there were 10 NATO ships in the Black Sea - three U.S. warships, the Polish frigate General Pulaski, the German frigate FGS Lubeck, and the Spanish guided missile frigate Admiral Juan de Borbon, as well as four Turkish vessels. Eight more warships are expected to join the group.
"Despite the apparent strength, the NATO naval group in the Black Sea is not battle-worthy," Admiral Eduard Baltin said. "If necessary, a single missile salvo from the Moskva missile cruiser and two or three missile boats would be enough to annihilate the entire group."
"Within 20 minutes the waters would be clear," he said, stressing that despite major reductions, the Black Sea Fleet still has a formidable missile arsenal.
However, Baltin said the chances of a military confrontation between NATO and Russia in the Black Sea are negligible.
"We will not strike first, and they do not look like people with suicidal tendencies," he said.
In addition to its flagship, the Moskva guided missile cruiser, Russia's Black Sea Fleet includes at least three destroyers, two guided missile frigates, four guided missile corvettes and six missile boats.
NATO announced its decision to deliver humanitarian aid to Georgia after the conclusion of hostilities between Tbilisi and Moscow over breakaway South Ossetia on August 12. Moscow recognized on Tuesday both South Ossetia and Abkhazia, another breakaway Georgia republic, despite being urged by Western leaders not to do so.
Russia's General Staff later said the alliance's naval deployment in the Black Sea "cannot fail to provoke concern", with unidentified sources in the Russian military saying a surface strike group was being gathered there.
According to Russian military intelligence sources, the NATO warships that have entered the Black Sea are between them carrying over 100 Tomahawk cruise missiles and Harpoon anti-ship missiles.
Putin reminds EU of Russia's Pacific oil pipeline
by Guy Faulconbridge
MOSCOW, Aug 31 (Reuters) - Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said on Sunday that Russia's first oil pipeline to Asia must be completed without delay, underlining Russia's energy clout just hours before European Union leaders meet to discuss Georgia.
Russian state-owned news agency RIA said Putin had signed a government order "on speeding the building of phases of the Eastern Siberia - Pacific Ocean (pipeline) and not allowing delays," while on a visit to the Far East.
He was speaking in Kozmino, a giant oil terminal being built on the Pacific coast to take the oil from the pipeline, which is being built by Transneft.
Russia, the world's No. 2 oil producer, is fighting back at criticism from the United States and European states for recognising Georgia's two breakaway regions as independent and sending troops deep into the tiny ex-Soviet nation.
EU heads of state are set to meet on Monday at an emergency summit to discuss what to do about Russia, whose energy reserves give the Kremlin significant leverage over major EU economies.
Russia's Asian pipeline, which will stretch from Eastern Siberia for thousands of kilometres (miles) to the Pacific coast, has been showcased by the Kremlin as a way to diversify Moscow's dependence on energy sales to the European Union.
But the two-stage pipeline has been delayed by a year and building costs have soared as constructors grapple with the wilds of Eastern Siberia, where temperatures regularly fall to 50 degrees Celsius below zero and infrastructure is nonexistent.
Putin, who stepped down as president in May after eight years as Kremlin chief, is in personal charge of the pipeline project and while president he was instrumental in building closer ties with China.
The latest launch date for the first part of the pipeline has been set for late 2009.
The 2,700-km (1,680-mile) pipeline is being built from Taishet in Eastern Siberia's Irkutsk region to Skovorodino on the Amur region near the Chinese border. It will cost more than $12 billion.
About the distance between London and Istanbul, the Taishet-Skovorodino part of the pipeline will have a capacity of 30 million tonnes per year (600,000 barrels per day).
The oil terminal at Kozmino is being built where crude will be transported by rail from Skovorodino until a second section of pipeline can be built stretching to the coast.
That second section is likely to cost at least another $12 billion, Russian officials have said..
The project is a key part of Russia's aim to boost sagging oil production and diversify oil supplies to the booming economies of Asia, where China is hungry for oil to drive its economic transformation.
State major Rosneft , and Russian oil firms TNK-BP and Surgutneftegas , are seen as the main suppliers of the pipeline from the largely untapped fields of East Siberia.
Editing by Robert Hart
The Voice of the White House
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