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Russia is to pass an exam for foreign political maturity in 2006
Russia is to pass an exam for foreign political maturity in 2006, which is 15 years since the collapse of the Soviet Union. On January 1, Russia for the first time takes over for one year the rotating presidency of the elite club of the most industrialised nations, the Group of Eight (G8). Neither Moscow nor its partners doubt that the premiere will prove successful, but a lot of work is to be done for that. A G8 president sets priorities on which the leading countries should concentrate. It is also to demonstrate the art of multilateral diplomacy, professionalism and competence. Russian diplomats say that Moscow began preparing for 2006 soon after the 2002 summit in Kananaskis, where Russia’s future presidency of the G8 was declared. Courses were opened two years ago at the Diplomatic Academy of the Russian Foreign Ministry two years ago for upgrading the skills of Russia’s specialists. Some 80 officials listened to lectures on different aspects of work of the G-8 and tried to give a finer finish to their English language. The Russian president’s aide Sergei Prikhodko, who heads the organising committee of the summit, said that the schedule ofG8 ministers had been approved. One of their first meetings will be held in Moscow in the middle of January, presidential administrative department chief Vadim Kozhin said. He said that the “reconstruction of the building of the former of House of Friendship on Moscow’s Vozdvizhenka Street has been completed and its unique interior has been restored”, referring to an exquisite mansion not far from the Kremlin. “We hope that we shall be able to prepare the meeting of the leaders better than Britain in 2005,” Prikhodko said. More experienced G8 colleagues, in particular British Prime Minister Tony Blair, French President Jacques Chirac and Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi had promised assistance to Russia’s first presidency of the G8. “There have been no disputes about Russia’s future presidency of the G8. Nobody has ever questioned it,” Russia’s sherpa Igor Shuvalov had repeatedly said. “Even though journalists write things and American senators are worried, Russia’s presidency has not been discussed in the Club and has not been put in doubt”. Moreover, “all ask Russia to well prepare and organise the 2006 summit”, Shuvalov said. Over the past years, discussions of world leaders revolved around the overcoming of poverty, terrorism, non-proliferation, the state of the world economy and liquidation of dangerous diseases. Some of these issues will be on the agenda of the summit in Russia, but Moscow has found new topics of interest to the G8. Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that these would be the energy policy, the demographic situation and education problems. He also said that to it would be important to discuss the situation in the space of the former Soviet Union, as not all of its former republics fared well at present. The issue of energy deliveries is likely to be brought up. Russia is facing a check by a so-called financial G7, a club of finance ministers and central bank chiefs. “Our partners have questions, not all of which we can answer; they concern the objctive state of affairs in our economy,” Prikhodko said. He added that “Russia has chances to be included in the financial G7 by the time of its presidency of G8, and the completion of talks on accession to the Word Trade Organization will become determinant”. The Russian president and his sherpa Igor Shuvalov agree that no enlargement of the G8 is not in sight so far. “Russia itself has recently become a member of this club, and it would be inappropriate for us to raise this question,” Putin said. Shuvalov is convinced that the mechanism of the G8 “has not exhausted itself”. “We all of us take a consolidated stance in the G8 about impossibility of the enlargement of anybody. The current format of communication when the leaders can speak straight about everything, be it Iraq or be it anything, makes the enlargement inexpedient,” he explained. The G8 is personified by definition. Putin’s personality will make an imprint on Russia’s presidency of it. Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Zhukov said that about one billion roubles were slated in the 2006 budget for hosting the G8 summit. Putin’s aide Sergei Prikhodko promised that “spending will be very rational, not inflated, and we shall try to show an example to other countries”. Russia with its new ideas for the elite club claims not just a place in a line for the G8 presidency, but seeks to demonstrate its ability to be a “trendsetter” in world politics, aiming its sights at the next presidency of the G8 in 2013.
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