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Russia

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Index
  1. Russia Main Page
  2. The Bolshevik Revolution
  3. Emergence of the USSR
  4. The Berlin Blockade and the Cold War
  5. Dissolution of the USSR
  6. Financial Crisis, Political Upheaval, and Putin's Rise to Power
  7. A Shocking Hostage Situation, a Move Towards Climate Change, and Radiation Poison
  8. Crumbling Relations with the United States and Conflict with Georgia
  9. String of Suicide Bombs Sparks Fear of a Crackdown by Putin
  10. Protests and Unrest Surrounds the 2012 Presidential Election
  11. Russia Blocks U.N. Action in Syria
  12. New Laws Passed against Political Activists, Pussy Riot Arrested
  13. Russia Joins World Trade Organization while at Odds with U.S. over Weapons Pact, Snowden, and Syria
  14. International Protests and Multiple Bombings Threaten 2014 Olympics
  15. Russia Annexes Crimea, Experiences Economic Fallout Due to Sanctions
  16. Putin Signs Gas Accord with China, Begins Eurasian Union as Ukraine Fallout Continues
Russia Joins World Trade Organization while at Odds with U.S. over Weapons Pact, Snowden, and Syria

After 19 years of negotiations, Russia became the newest member of the World Trade Organization on Aug. 22, 2012. Russia has cut tariffs on imports and set limits on export duties as part of a series of reforms enacted to qualify for entry into the international trading arena. Expectations of membership include an increase of 3% in the Russian GDP, more foreign investment, and a doubling of U.S. exports to Russia—as long as trade relations are normalized through the lifting of the 1974 Jackson-Vanik amendment.

On Oct. 10, 2012, the Russian government announced it would not renew the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program with the United States when the agreement expires in the spring of 2013. The agreement was part of a successful 20-year partnership between Russia and the United States. It eliminated nuclear and chemical weapons from the former Soviet Union and protected against the threat of nuclear war. For example, as part of the agreement, 7,600 nuclear warheads were deactivated and all nuclear weapons were removed from former Soviet territories such as Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine.

Russian officials explained that their country's economy had improved since the agreement. In a statement, Russia's Foreign Ministry said that it had increased its budget allocation "in the field of disarmament." The statement went on to say, "American partners know that their proposal is not consistent with our ideas about what forms and on what basis further cooperation should be built." The statement left open the possibility of a new agreement with the United States, but no specific conditions of a new agreement were given.

In early July 2013, Fugitive American intelligence contractor, Edward Snowden, asked international human rights organizations to help him receive asylum in Russia. Snowden had been seeking refuge at an international transit zone at Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport since June 2013. When he first arrived at the Russian airport, he expressed a desire for asylum in Russia. President Putin responded by saying that Snowden could stay in Russia only if he ceased "his work aimed at inflicting damage on our American partners." Meanwhile, the United States made diplomatic moves to prevent Snowden from receiving permanent asylum in Bolivia, Nicaragua, and Venezuela, the three Latin American governments that have stated they would take him.

Snowden filed a temporary asylum request after more than three weeks at the airport in Sheremetyevo on July 17, 2013. After the request was filed, Putin would not say whether or not Russia would grant Snowden's request. Instead, Putin reiterated that Snowden must do no further harm to the United States. The following week, while Edward Snowden still waited on approval of his temporary asylum request, U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., attempted to dissuade Russia from granting the asylum. Holder wrote in a letter to Russian Justice Minister Alexander Konovalov that Snowden would not face torture or the death penalty should he be returned to the United States to face charges of espionage. Despite these efforts, on Aug. 1, 2013, Russia granted Snowden asylum for one year. The temporary asylum allowed him to leave the Moscow airport where he had been since June. Russia granted Snowden asylum despite strong urging from the U.S. not to do so. In response, President Obama canceled a planned summit meeting with Putin which was to be held in Moscow in September.

On Sept. 9, 2013, U.S. secretary of state John Kerry suggested half-heartedly that a strike on Syria could be averted if Syrian President Bashar al-Assad agreed to hand over all chemical weapons. Russia took the proposal seriously, and Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov said, "If the establishment of international control over chemical weapons in the country will prevent attacks, then we will immediately begin work with Damascus. And we call on the Syrian leadership to not only agree to setting the chemical weapons storage sites under international control, but also to their subsequent destruction." Syrian foreign minister Walid al-Moallem also embraced the option. "We are ready to reveal the locations of the chemical weapon sites and to stop producing chemical weapons and make these sites available for inspection by representatives of Russia, other countries and the United Nations," he said in a statement on Sept. 12. It was the first time the Syrian government acknowledged it had chemical weapons. Given the uncertainty of Congressional authorization, diplomacy would spare Obama a potential rebuke that could undercut his authority for the remainder of his presidency.

Russia and the U.S. reached an agreement on Sept. 15 that said Syria must provide an inventory of its chemicals weapons and production facilities within a week and either turn over or destroy all of its chemical weapons by mid-2014. If the government fails to comply, then the UN Security Council would take up the issue. The timetable is extremely aggressive; such disarmament typically takes years, not months. While the agreement delayed a Congressional vote on a military strike, the U.S. kept that possibility on the table. "If diplomacy fails, the United States remains prepared to act," Obama said.

On Sept. 16, the UN confirmed in a report that the chemical agent sarin had been used near Damascus on Aug. 21. "Chemical weapons have been used in the ongoing conflict between the parties in the Syrian Arab Republic, also against civilians, including children, on a relatively large scale," the report said. "The environmental, chemical and medical samples we have collected provide clear and convincing evidence that surface-to-surface rockets containing the nerve agent sarin were used." The report did not indicate who was responsible for launching the attack. Two days later, Russia denounced the UN's report, calling it incomplete. In a statement broadcast on Russian television, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei A. Ryabkov said, "We think that the report was distorted. It was one-sided. The basis of information upon which it is built is insufficient."

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