Archive for the ‘Russia’ Category

(TASS, 9 Dec 2019)

Northern Fleet to create air defense ‘dome’ over Russian Arctic with S-400 missile systems.

Russia continues building ramified military infrastructure in the Arctic, including hi-tech lighting systems to monitor the situation in the air, on the ground and under the water, according to the Fleet top brass.

MOSCOW, December 9. /TASS/. The Northern Fleet will arm all its Arctic battalions with S-400 anti-aircraft missile systems in coming years to create an air defense dome over the Russian Arctic, Fleet Commander Vice-Admiral Alexander Moiseyev said in an interview with the Defense Ministry’s Krasnaya Zvezda newspaper on Monday.

“This year, S-400 systems will enter service with the air defense missile regiment stationed on Novaya Zemlya. There are plans to arm all our Arctic battalions with these systems in coming years and thus create an air defense dome over the Russian Arctic,” the Fleet commander said.

Also, units of a new air defense formation have gone on experimental combat duty in Tiksi to provide security of the airspace over the Northern Sea Route, he added. (emphasis added)

“In the future, we are planning to build up the air defense capabilities of Russia’s northern frontiers,” the vice-admiral stressed.

To read entire article: https://tass.com/defense/1097107

Rosatom to enter market of commercial transshipment via Northern Sea Route in 2027

It will provide a transit corridor between Northern Europe and East Asia

MOSCOW, November 28. /TASS/. Russia’s state corporation Rosatom plans to start large-scale transshipments between Northern Europe and East Asia via the Northern Sea Route in 2027, according to the website dedicated to the company’s procurements.

Rosatom has initiated the Northern Sea Transit Corridor project, the documents said. The aim is to expand the transit potential of the Northern Sea Route. Its development is planned through providing transshipment services along the Northern Sea Route via transit ports — the hubs on Russia’s western and eastern borders. “The start of commercial operation of the Northern Sea Transit Corridor (start of shipments) is planned for 2027,” the documents read.

There are plans to estimate the prospects of the Northern Sea Transit Corridor’s development in the period between 2027 and 2050 through a marketing research, with a respective tendering procedure having already been launched….

According to the documents, regular marine traffic along the Northern Sea Route is already underway. However, it has to do mainly with the transportation of construction cargoes and exports from Arctic mining projects (Novatek, Rosneft, Gazprom Neft, Lukoil), whereas the transit potential of the Northern Sea Route remains untapped. The development plan for the Northern Sea Route has already been submitted to the Russian government, Deputy Minister for the Development of the Russian Far East Alexander Krutikov said earlier.

For more, read entire article here: https://tass.com/economy/1093735

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However… according to Polygraph.info in a March 12, 2019 article,

Russia’s New Rules for Northern Sea Route Violate International Law

New Russian rules fully regulating the Northern Sea Route violate the Law of the Sea

The Russian government has developed new rules to control the Northern Sea Route, which passes along the country’s northern coast in the Arctic, the newspaper Izvestia reported on March 6. “Russia is taking the Northern Sea Route under protection,” wrote Izvestia, in a piece headlined “A Cold Wave” – an apparent reference to the Cold War.

Russian officials claim the new regulations are designed to protect the environment and commercial shipping, in lieu (in place of) Article 234 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

In reality, Russia’s new rules concern foreign military ships and military vessels, which are sovereign immune vessels and exempt from Article 234 of the Law of the Sea. Nevertheless, Russia requires foreign military ships and naval auxiliaries to give 45 days’ advance notice and obtain “permission” to use the passage. The document must include the vessel’s name, purpose, route, timetable, and technical specifications, as well as the military rank and identity of its captain. The new Russian rules require that foreign military ships take on board Russian pilots while sailing through the Arctic. Even if the foreign vessels meet all Russia’s requirements, the Russian authorities still can reject their request for passage without explanation. In the event of an unsanctioned passage, the foreign naval vessels could be arrested and even destroyed.

Russia uses the term “Northern Sea Route” (NSR) to describe the area from the Barents Sea in the west to the Bering Strait in the east. It is part of a larger transoceanic route – the Northeast Passage connecting the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

Like the other Arctic nations, Russia is granted an exclusive economic zone of 200 nautical miles adjacent to its shores. But the scope of the NSR as described by Moscow has been disputed by other Arctic states, which say that Russia considers the route to extend beyond its exclusive economic zone and to include the Bering Strait. Provisions of the Law of the Sea regard international straits as passages that are too narrow for the high sea or exclusive economic zone regimes to apply. Transit passages and innocent passages are fully guaranteed for vessels of other states.

“Indeed, the NSR passes not only within Russia’s territorial waters, nevertheless, our country has the legal right to regulate navigation along the entire route,” said Kamil Bekyashev, vice president of the Russian Maritime Law Association.

Does Russia indeed have the right to impose a permission regime on commercial ships and sovereign immune vessels passing through the Northern Sea Route?

“This statement appears to be out of sync with the Law of the Sea treaty,” Heather Conley, senior vice president of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, DC, told Polygraph.info. “The Northern Sea Route is an international passage and this suggested wider interpretation may even call into question international use of a portion of the high seas of the Central Arctic Ocean.”

Russia has already heavily regulated commercial traffic through the Northern Sea Route, and in May 2015, the U.S. State Department sent a strongly-worded diplomatic note to Moscow warning that some aspects of Russia’s regulatory scheme were “inconsistent with international law.”

The State Department cited requirements to obtain Russia’s permission to enter and transit the exclusive economic zone and territorial sea; persistent characterization of international straits that form part of the Northern Sea Route as internal waters; and the lack of any express exemption for sovereign immune vessels.

Moscow justifies its regulation of commercial traffic by pointing to Article 234 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which allows coastal states “to adopt and enforce non-discriminatory laws and regulations for the prevention, reduction and control of marine pollution from vessels in ice-covered areas within the limits of the exclusive economic zone.”

(Washington disagrees. Read entire article for rest of this story: https://www.polygraph.info/a/fact-check-russia-claim-arctic/29817535.html)


Also please see:

https://tapister.wordpress.com/2013/10/11/northwest-passage/

I’m still interested in the Caspian Sea. (See https://tapister.wordpress.com/category/caspian-sea-oil/) While oil and gas are still my primary interests, today I’m also curious about water. Who owns the water in the Caspian Sea? Can Iran just siphon it off, without getting permission from the other littoral states? Or the major gas/oil conglomerates operating there? I’ve done an internet search about it and really didn’t find anything that addresses that question. Here’s some of what I did find today.

Its Great Lake Shriveled, Iran Confronts Crisis of Water Supply
New York Times online
JAN. 30, 2014

LakeUrmiaIranLAKE URMIA, Iran — An abandoned ship rusts in the mud on the south shore of Lake Urmia, where only 5 percent of the water remains, Iranian environmental officials say. Morteza Nikoubazl for The New York Times.

After driving for 15 minutes over the bottom of what was once Iran’s largest lake, a local environmental official stepped out of his truck, pushed his hands deep into his pockets and silently wandered into the great dry plain, as if searching for water he knew he would never find.

Just an hour earlier, on a cold winter day here in western Iran, the official, Hamid Ranaghadr, had recalled how as recently as a decade ago, cruise ships filled with tourists plied the lake’s waters in search of flocks of migrating flamingos.

Now, the ships are rusting in the mud and the flamingos fly over the remains of the lake on their way to more hospitable locales. According to figures compiled by the local environmental office, only 5 percent of the water remains.

Iran is facing a water shortage potentially so serious that officials are making contingency plans for rationing in the greater Tehran area, home to 22 million, and other major cities around the country. President Hassan Rouhani has identified water as a national security issue, and in public speeches in areas struck hardest by the shortage he is promising to “bring the water back.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/31/world/middleeast/its-great-lake-shriveled-iran-confronts-crisis-of-water-supply.html?_r=0

Iran’s parliament approves project on transfer of water from Caspian Sea
Trend online magazine
Jan 23, 2014

Iranian parliament has approved the project on transfer of water from the Caspian Sea to the deserts in the country’s central parts, Iranian Energy Minister Hamid Chitchian said, Mehr News Agency reported on Jan. 23. The minister noted that funds have been allocated from Iran’s state budget for this project.

Commenting on the Lake Urmia revival project the minister added that a committee was created for saving the lake. The committee will be chaired by Iranian First Vice President, Eshaq Jahangiri.

In April 2012 the former president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad attended the foundation-laying of an irrigation system designed for transferring of water from the Caspian Sea. However Iranian MPs and some economic experts considered this project ineffective and demanded suspension of its implementation, after which construction was delayed.

The project for transfer of the Caspian Sea waters to the central regions of Iran includes: construction of hydroelectric power stations, a desalination plant, pumping stations, power lines, water pipes and tanks, according to the message.

The headquarters of Khatam-ol-Anbia, affiliated with the Islamic Republic of Iran Guard Corps (IRGC) will control the project’s realization, according to the message.

http://en.trend.az/news/politics/2233429.html

Deputy FM in Astana to Participate in Caspian Sea Working Group
Tasnimnews.com
January 29, 2014

TEHRAN (Tasnim) – Deputy Foreign Minister for Asian and Pacific Affairs Ebrahim Rahimpour left Tehran for Kazakhstan capital city, Astana, Wednesday to participate in the 35th meeting of the special working group of the Caspian Sea.

The working group session on the Convention on the legal status of the Caspian Sea will be held in Astana for two days with the special representatives and deputies minister of the five littoral countries of the Caspian Sea.

The deputy foreign ministers of Iran, Russia, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, and Azerbaijan will in the meeting discuss the latest developments regarding the legal regime of the Caspian Sea and prepare a report for the upcoming ministerial meeting due to be held in Russia this spring. Moscow will also host The Caspian Sea Littoral States Summit late in summer.

The Caspian Sea is the largest enclosed water body on earth by area, variously classed as the world’s largest lake or a full-fledged sea.

The Caspian Sea Convention will determine the territorial rights of littoral states- Iran, Russia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan – as well as other matters related to the world’s largest landlocked body of water.

The Caspian Sea legal regime is based on two agreements signed between Iran and the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) in 1921 and 1940. The three new littoral states, established after the collapse of the Soviet Union, have not recognized the prior treaties, triggering a debate on the future status of the sea.

http://www.tasnimnews.com/English/Home/Single/263554

BP Starts Production at West Chirag in Caspian Sea
Wall Street Journal online
Jan. 29, 2014

CaspianOilFieldsLONDON—Oil major BP PLC said Wednesday that production has started at the West Chirag platform of the Azeri-Chirag-Gunashli field in the Azerbaijan sector of the Caspian Sea, completing the Chirag oil project which was sanctioned in 2010.

West Chirag production began from a pre-drilled well called J05 on Jan. 28 and will increase throughout this year as other pre-drilled wells are brought on line, BP said without indicating volumes. However, BP said the new platform has a capacity for 183,000 barrels a day with a gas export capacity of 285 million standard cubic feet a day.

“The startup of Chirag oil project marks a major milestone in the development of the super-giant ACG [Azeri-Chirag-Gunashli field],” Gordon Birrell, BP’s Regional President for Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey said.

“To date the ACG field has produced over 2.3 billion barrels of oil and with future continual major investments in new technologies and facilities, like the one we have today started up, it will continue to produce as a world-class reservoir for many decades,”, Mr. Birrell added.

BP is operator of the field with a 35.8% interest. Partners in the field include SOCAR with 11.6%, Chevron CVX -4.14% Corp with 11.3%, Inpex Corp with 11%, Statoil AS STL.OS -1.46% A with 8.6%, Exxon Mobil Corp with 8%, TPAO with 6.8%, Itochu 8001.TO +0.56% Corp with 4.3% and ONGC Videsh Ltd. with 2.7%.

http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304428004579350491065104568

BP Seeks ACG Extension to Maintain Output at Largest Azeri Field
Bloomberg News
Jan 29, 2014

BP Plc (BP/) is seeking to extend its oil contract on the Azeri-Chirag-Guneshli field beyond 2024 to allow more investment and sustain output at the largest Azeri deposit after its local partner last year said there weren’t such plans.

The Caspian Sea field produced 32.5 million tons of oil in 2013, down from 32.9 million tons. While the new $6 billion West Chirag platform that started output yesterday will help offset natural decline, BP said at least one more is needed by 2021.

“We are talking to State Oil Co. of Azerbaijan about the next phase,” Gordon Birrel, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey manager, said in Baku, the Azeri capital. “But we have no fixed and agreed plans at this point. This field needs investment and at least one more platform to maintain production.”

West Chirag is estimated to produce about 60,000 barrels a day, or 3 million tons, this year, he said. The platform will have at least 14 wells, with six running this year, Birrel said. It’s the largest and most technologically advanced of the eight current platforms in Azerbaijan’s section of the Caspian Sea, he said. The site has a capacity of 183,000 barrels of oil a day.

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-01-29/bp-seeks-acg-extension-to-maintain-output-at-largest-azeri-field.html

Several news articles caught my eye today, especially in light of Russia’s recently re-opened military base in the far north — the Artic Circle north.

NorthEast Passage tumblr_mtxud0Ed0h1qgpcs1o1_500

Arctic Assembly meets to set rules for exploration, Mineral wealth, shipping lanes coveted as icecap melts
The Washington Times
October 10, 2013

“The Arctic is America’s backyard. It is one of the most resource-rich areas in the world. American companies and the [its] economy need to have a strong Arctic” plan, says Iceland President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson, co-founder of the Arctic Circle Assembly.

Seeking to avoid a polar free-for-all in one of the planet’s last untapped economic frontiers, representatives from more than three dozen nations will gather in Reykjavik, Iceland, starting Saturday to try to set some rules for tapping the natural resources and navigating new shipping lanes opening in the Arctic.

Reflecting the intense interest in the frozen north’s economic potential, the inaugural gathering of the Arctic Council Assembly has attracted delegates not only from the United States, Canada, Russia and other border nations, but from countries as far as way as China, Brazil and Pakistan.

Alice Rogoff, publisher of the Alaska Dispatch and a member of the new assembly’s advisory panel, said she expects the Arctic to become an economic powerhouse in the coming years, comparing its potential to China’s economic growth since 1980.

The Arctic is “going from very little, virtually nothing in terms of the world’s large capital flows, to what will become the dominant region of the Earth within 50 years,” she said. “The U.S. could be more engaged and could be more involved,” Mr. Grimsson said. “The Arctic is America’s backyard. It is one of the most resource-rich areas in the world. If America wants to continue to be a big economy in the 21st century, American companies and the American economy need to have a strong Arctic” plan.

In 2012, the Arctic lost more sea ice than had ever been recorded. Since 1980, the Arctic has lost approximately 40 percent of its sea ice cover, according to NASA glaciologist Walt Meier. One upshot from the receding ice is the opening of the Northeast Passage, a shipping lane connecting South Korea to northwest Russia. With up to four ice-reduced months during summer, shipping companies hope more cargo that once had to navigate the Suez Canal can be shipped along this route.

Polar scientists believe 20 percent to 25 percent of the undiscovered oil and natural gas in the world is in the Arctic region. In addition to the oil, natural gas and rare minerals, the Arctic holds rich fishing regions and potential new clean-energy sources.

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2013/oct/10/arctic-assembly-meets-to-set-rules-for-exploration/?page=2#ixzz2hPdhbjqV

northwest-passage-mapNorthwest Passage crossed by first cargo ship, the Nordic Orion
Reuters 27/09/13

LONDON — An ice-strengthened sea freighter has become the first bulk carrier to traverse the Northwest Passage through Canada’s Arctic waters, heralding a new era of commercial activity in the Arctic. Traveling with a Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker, the 75,000 deadweight-tonne Nordic Orion left Vancouver on Sept. 17 carrying 15,000 metric tons of coal.

Canada’s enthusiasm for developing a time-saving route in global trade through the Northwest Passage arises from a rivalry with Russia, which has developed at least 10 ports on the competing Northern Sea Route, or Northeast Passage.

“The Northwest Passage is more than 1,000 nautical miles shorter than the traditional shipping route through the Panama Canal and will save time, fuel and reduce carbon dioxide emissions,” said Nordic Bulk Carriers, the Danish owner of the ship. The Nordic Orion’s route will shave an estimated four days of travel time.

http://news.nationalpost.com/2013/09/27/northwest-passage-crossed-by-first-cargo-ship-the-nordic-orion-heralding-new-era-of-arctic-commercial-activity/

nordicorionCommercial Arctic shipping a long way off, Maersk boss says
NUNATSIAQ NEWS / News Around the Arctic
October 11, 2013

Head of global shipping firm not keen on Northern Sea Route, Northwest Passage. Despite all the hype that attended the recent voyage of the Nordic Orion through the Northwest Passage last month, the chief executive officer of Maersk, the world’s biggest container shipping line, says Arctic sea routes won’t carry large volumes of commercial shipping any time soon.

“We will see some single ships sailing through the Arctic… But the reality is, for commercial shipping such as container shipping, this is not something that will happen within the next 10 to 20 years,” Nils Andersen, the head of the huge Moller-Maersk shipping conglomerate, told the London-based Financial Times Oct. 6.

The Nordic Orion, a 225-metre vessel owned by Nordic Bulk Carriers of Denmark, generated many headlines across Canada recently when it carried 15,000 tonnes of coal from Vancouver through the Northwest Passage to a steel plant in Finland.

Because the Nordic Orion’s owners sought and received Canadian permission, the voyage did not affect Canada’s legal position that the Northwest Passage is an internal Canadian waterway.

But the head of Maersk, which carries about 15 per cent of the world’s marine cargo, said he doesn’t expect to see much commercial shipping through routes like or Northern Sea Route north of Russia or the Northwest Passage. “The way global warming is going, of course there is the opportunity in a very far, very distant future that the northern sea route will open up and it will be a major shipping route. But it will definitely not be within the next 15 to 20 years in our opinion so it’s far too early to start constructing vessels for it,” Andersen told the Financial Times.

http://www.nunatsiaqonline.ca/stories/article_print/35582/

Rosneft gets access to $100bn gas and oil field in Alaska
15 Feb 2013

exxonmobil-rosneft-company-president.nImage: Russian President Vladimir Putin and ExxonMobil Exploration Company President Stephen Greenlee.

Rosneft has reached an agreement with Exxon Mobil to acquire a 25% stake in the Point Thompson Alaska oil and natural gas field. The deal is part of the larger cooperation on exploring the Russian Arctic shelf.

­The head of Rosneft Igor Sechin and the President of ExxonMobil Stephen Greenlee have signed an agreement on joint exploration of new sectors of the Russian Arctic shelf, expanding the 2011 strategic partnership agreement.

Under the deal Rosneft gets access to one of the largest fields in Alaska which is currently operated by ExxonMobil. Participation in the project will let Rosneft develop up to a quarter of the proved gas resources of the Alaska North Slope, as well as get the latest technology for exploiting liquid gas fields in bad weather conditions, according to Igor Sechin.

In return, ExxonMobil gets the rights to explore 600,000 acres of land in the Russian Arctic, including the Severo-Karsky block in the Kara Sea, three blocks in the Chukchi Sea and two in the Laptev Sea, all of which are “among the most promising and least explored offshore blocks in the world.

According to Sechin, the agreements “take the unprecedented Rosneft and ExxonMobil partnership to a completely new level.” “The acreage in the Russian Arctic subject to geological exploration and subsequent development increased nearly six-fold,” Sechin added.

Point Thompson is a large oil and gas field in the Northern part of Alaska, which was discovered in the 1960s, which has been recently cleared for development after a legal battle between ExxonMobil and the State of Alaska. In 2012 the State, Exxon Mobil and other Point Thomson stakeholders agreed that natural gas production can begin by spring 2016, or the State could begin to take back leases.

The field is estimated to hold a potential 8 trillion cubic feet of natural gas which is a quarter of the known reserves in the region, and also hundreds of millions of barrels of oil. If the estimates are correct the area could be worth more than $100 billion.

http://rt.com/business/news/rosneft-exxonmobil-field-alaska-322/

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Russia plans $25-$30 billion oil-for-loans deal with China
14 Feb 2013

Rosneft2_1804180bAn oil production platform at the Sakhalin-I field in Russia, partly owned by ONGC Videsh Ltd., Rosneft Oil Co., Exxon Mobil Corp. and Japan’s Sakhalin Oil and Gas Development Co.

Rosneft is seeking to borrow up to $30 billion from China in exchange for possibly doubling oil supplies, making Beijing the largest consumer of Russian oil and further diverting supplies away from Europe.

Four industry sources familiar with the situation told Reuters that Rosneft was in talks with Chinese state firm CNPC about the borrowing, which would echo a $25 billion deal the two companies clinched last decade.

Rosneft said it was not currently in talks about obtaining a loan from China but declined to comment when asked whether it may enter in negotiations at a later date.

In the previous deal, Rosneft and Russian pipeline monopoly Transneft borrowed money to help Rosneft acquire the assets of nationalized oil producer YUKOS while agreeing to build a pipeline to supply China with 300,000 barrels per day for 15 years.

This time, Rosneft wants to borrow money as it is close to completing a $55 billion acquisition of rival TNK-BP to become the world’s largest listed oil producer.

Entire article: http://chinadailymail.com/2013/02/14/russia-plans-25-30-billion-oil-for-loans-deal-with-china/

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BP-Rosneft deal: Who are Rosneft?
16 Feb 2013

RosneftOilBack in 2003 few people had ever heard of Rosneft. A state-owned (Russia), relatively minor player in Russia’s oil industry, the 10 year old company was dwarfed by its privately owned rival Yukos, which was controlled by the country’s then richest man Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

That all changed in December of that year. A $27bn tax claim against Yukos set off a chain of events that would eventually lead to the bankruptcy of the company and the jailing of Mr Khodorkovsky, who was last month sentenced to a further eight years in prison for tax evasion.

But, it was 12 months later with the auction of Yuganskneftegaz, the main production facility of Yukos’s empire, that Rosneft was propelled into the big time as the business was sold off to help settle the Yukos tax debt.

Despite Yuganskneftegaz being one of the most attractive oil assets put up for sale in Russia, bidders proved elusive and in the end only two offers were made for the business; one from Gazpromneft, the oil business of state gas company Gazprom, the other from Baikalfinansgrup.

If the second name is not familiar this is no surprise – the company was only set up two weeks before the date of the auction. Even more bizarrely, the company was registered in the Russian city of Tver in a building that otherwise housed a vodka bar, a mobile phone retailer, a travel agent and a handful of other small local companies.

Yet this improbable bidder won the day, offering $9.3bn after securing a multi-billion dollar letter of credit from Sberbank, a state-owned bank. Four days later Baikalfinansgrup was bought by Rosneft.

Entire article: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/energy/oilandgas/8261264/BP-Rosneft-deal-Who-are-Rosneft.html

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Maybe related, maybe not… hmmm.

More noise from China: Submarines
16 Feb 2013

chinese-submarinesOver the last five years, Chinese submarines have been going to sea a lot more, at least the diesel-electric boats have been.

This is worrying to other nations in the region, and the U.S. Navy, because it means China is training its submarine crews for war.

Previously the Chinese kept their fleet in port most of the time. This was cheaper, although in wartime it meant that Chinese warships would not last long in combat against a better trained fleet (like the Americans, Japanese, South Koreans, or Taiwanese). Now the Chinese are building better quality subs and feel they may have a fighting chance, if they have better prepared crews as well.

Pretty noisy and easy to find

For China one downside of all this training is that the U.S. Navy has more opportunity to practice hunting Chinese subs. This is particularly true for American subs, which are well equipped with passive (listen only) sonar and are even more effective if they have a lot of sound samples for enemy subs operating underwater or on the surface.

The U.S. has discovered that Chinese diesel-electric boats are rapidly getting quieter, apparently because the Chinese have learned more about advanced techniques for “silencing” subs. Still, most of the 60 Chinese subs in service are pretty noisy and easy to find.

Meanwhile, the Chinese Navy has been designing and building a rapidly evolving collection of “Song” (Type 39) class diesel-electric submarines that emphasize quietness. The changes have been so great that the latest four Songs have been called Yuan class (Type 39A or Type 41). The original design (Type 39) first appeared in 2001, and 13 have been built.

Entire article: http://chinadailymail.com/2013/02/16/more-noise-from-china-submarines/

Several articles about Bangladesh and Russia caught my attention today.

Russia grants Bangladesh $1 billion loan for weapons
MOSCOW | Tue Jan 15, 2013

PutinBangladeshPM(Reuters) – Russia, the world’s second-largest weapons exporter, has granted a $1 billion loan to Bangladesh for arms purchases, President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday after talks with the country’s prime minister, Sheikh Hasina. (She is a fascinating person in her own right; daughter of the country’s founder.)

“Our countries intend to broaden military-technical cooperation,” Putin said, referring to weapons sales and servicing. He did not specify what weapons or military equipment Bangladesh would buy from Russia.

Russia will provide a separate $500 million loan to Bangladesh to help build its first nuclear power plant, Ruppur, under an agreement signed after the meeting, Putin said. (See more below)

“We will not only provide the most up-to-date technology … but we will also provide financial support for the construction of the nuclear power plant at the initial stage,” he said.

The head of Russian state nuclear corporation Rosatom, Sergei Kiriyenko, said technical and environmental assessments would be carried out this year for the plant, which is to have two 1,000-megawatt reactors and be completed in the early 2020s. He told reporters more loans would be required at later stages.

http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/01/15/us-russia-bangladesh-idUSBRE90E0HM20130115

“A separate part of the agreements saw Russia assign $500 million to finance the construction of Bangladesh’s first nuclear power plant.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Jan. 15 met the prime minister of Bangladesh for talks that included the signing of a $1 billion arms contract, the Asian nation’s biggest since its 1971 independence.

Bangladesh has recently been expanding its defense capabilities, building a new air base close to neighboring Myanmar and adding frigates to its navy.

“Our countries intend to expand their military and technological cooperation,” news agencies quoted Putin as telling Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina during a Kremlin ceremony. “Russia will extend Bangladesh a credit of $1 billion, which will be spent on the purchase on Russian weapons and military technology,” the Russian leader said.

The arms purchase agreement included orders for armored vehicles and infantry weapons, air defense systems and Mi-17 transport helicopters, a source close to Russia’s state arms export agency told the Vedomosti business daily. The source said the purchase did not include any tank orders because Bangladesh had earlier obtained those from China.

Bangladesh also opted out of its initial plans to purchase eight advanced Mig-29 fighter jets because of their $500 million price tag.

A separate part of the agreements saw Russia assign $500 million to finance the construction of Bangladesh’s first nuclear power plant, to be built at a site called Rooppur. The two planned Rooppur reactors are expected to cost $4 billion, with Russia also agreeing to continue financing construction after the first phase of the project is complete, news reports said.

Bangladesh’s military spending spree follows the recent discovery of offshore natural gas deposits (see next article), which Russian officials believe means it will have no problems repaying the credit.

A.N.M Muniruzzaman, an analyst at the Dhaka-based Institute of Peace and Security Studies, told AFP it was the biggest defense deal ever to be signed by Bangladesh, which gained independence in 1971.

http://www.defensenews.com/article/20130115/DEFREG03/301150005/Russia-Bangladesh-Seal-1-Billion-Arms-Deal?odyssey=tab|topnews|text|FRONTPAGE

This follows Bangladesh’s recent purchase of tanks from China; click this link to read that article: http://thediplomat.com/flashpoints-blog/2011/06/30/bangladesh-eyes-china-arms/

Gazprom International to start drilling in Bangladesh
Voice of Russia, RIA

Gazprom International, an overseas subsidiary of Russia’s Gazprom energy holding, will begin commercial extraction at the Titas and Shrikail gas deposits in Bangladesh in the coming weeks.

The last preparations are being completed. A total of 10 boreholes will be drilled in Bangladesh under a $193-million deal between Gazprom and two local companies, BAPEX and BGFCL/SGFL (subsidiaries of the PetroBangla state-owned national oil company).

http://english.ruvr.ru/2013_01_15/Gazprom-International-to-start-drilling-in-Bangladesh/

Apparently Russia is expanding its trade with Bangladesh on several fronts, including the above. Read more:

Russia to expand trade with Bangladesh to $1 bln
Jan 15, 2013

Speaking after talks with Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in Moscow on Tuesday, Putin said that bringing bilateral trade to $1 billion was not unachievable, given last year’s increase of 20% to $700 million.

The two leaders issued a joint statement with Russia pledging to consider tariff privileges for Bangladeshi imports within the framework of the Customs Union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan.

The document emphasizes the need for broader cooperation in the energy sector, including oil and gas exploration and development. Russia will loan Bangladesh $500 million for the construction of a nuclear power plant and $1 billion for the purchase of Russian weapons.

http://english.ruvr.ru/2013_01_15/Russia-to-expand-trade-with-Bangladesh-to-1-bln/

asia-map2So – what is the strategic importance of Bangladesh to Russia and others? Location, location, location, maybe? Click on the map to enlarge. Look south of China, between India and Burma.

This paragraph from the Wikipedia entry on Bangladesh may contain more clues:

The United States is a major development partner of Bangladesh, giving over six billion dollars in aid since 1972. American companies are the largest foreign investors in the country, and the US is also the largest market for Bangladeshi exports.

The Bangladesh government is planning construction of the largest deep sea port in South Asia at Sonadia Island. The 500 billion taka project will be completed in multiple phases and enable Bangladesh to service the whole region as a maritime transport and logistics hub.

India, China, Bhutan, Nepal and other neighbouring countries (and Russia?) will be able to take full advantage of the strategic location and Bangladesh’s LDC (least developed country) status for exporting their goods, which are manufactured in Bangladesh.

Furthermore, with $7.5 billion a new international airport will be constructed.

Additional expressways, freeways, fly-overs, overhead rapid transit system, high-speed modern trains, metro rail system, and high-speed electric powered intercity rail network are all planned.

Several other points of interest to me from Wikipedia:

Bangladesh is the most densely populated large country in the world.

60% of the population are aged 25 or younger.

Bangladesh is the second largest Muslim populated state after Indonesia with over 150 million. Islam is the state religion.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bangladesh

From Time U.S.
12 October 2012

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta issued what he said is a “clarion call” Thursday for Americans to wake up to the growing threat posed by cyber war.

“The whole point of this is that we simply don’t just sit back and wait for a goddamn crisis to happen,” Panetta told Time. “In this country we tend to do that, and that’s a concern.”

Panetta came to the nation’s financial hub – New York City – to issue his battle cry. The city is the brightest bulls-eye on the American target for foes wishing to cripple the U.S. economy with computerized “worms” and “malware” that can infect computer networks via the Internet or insider sabotage.

“It is the kind of capability that can basically take down a power grid, take down a water system, take down a transportation system, take down a financial system,” he told Time editors. “We are now in a world in which countries are developing the capability to engage in the kind of attacks that can virtually paralyze a country.”

Aware his alarm might be drowned out by Thursday night’s vice presidential debate, Panetta stopped by the magazine’s midtown offices Thursday afternoon to detail his concerns to a Time editorial board gathering.

“Everybody knows what their iPhone can do, everybody knows what their computer can do, but I think there are too few people out there who understand the potential for the kind of attack that could cripple this country,” Panetta said. “The American people just have to be made aware of that.”

Panetta cited a series of “disruptive” attacks against U.S. companies, and detailed the far more serious so-called “Shamoon” virus attack on the Saudi Arabian state oil company, Aramco. That August strike wiped out 30,000 of the companies computers. It created the image of a U.S. flag in flames on the infected computers and “it basically burned [the computers] up,” Panetta said. It marked, he said, a significant escalation in cyber warfare.

In the hour-long session with the magazine’s editors, he also said:

— “We are facing the threat of a new arena in warfare that could be every bit as destructive as 9/11 — the American people need to know that. We can’t hide this from the American people any more than we should have hidden the terrorism-attack threat from the American people.”

— “The three potential adversaries out there that are developing the greatest capabilities are Russia, China, Iran.

— “Out of a scale of 10, we’re probably 8 [in cyber-war skills. But potential foes] are moving up on the scale – probably the others are about a 3, somewhere in that vicinity, but they’re beginning to move up.”

— He also said the U.S. military is stepping up its offensive cyber war capability: “I think we have to develop the ability to conduct counter-operations against a country we know, or anticipate, that they’re going to launch that kind of attack. So we have to have both defensive and offensive capabilities.”

Beyond merely shutting down enemy systems, the U.S. military is crafting a witch’s brew of stealth, manipulation and falsehoods designed to lure the enemy into believing he is in charge of his forces when, in fact, they have been secretly enlisted as allies of the U.S. military. The U.S. already has deployed a cyber-war offensive technology against Iran’s nuclear program, the New York Times has reported.

But the U.S. is also a target. Panetta said “potential aggressors” are probing for weaknesses in the nation’s cyber defenses. “They’re beginning to exploit transportation systems, power systems, energy systems,” he said. “Our concern is that in doing that kind of exploration, they’re doing it for purposes of determining how could they attack.”

The defense chief added that the Pentagon’s still-fuzzy rules of engagement for waging war in cyber space are being tightened, and will allow the Pentagon to defend other U.S. networks, in and out of government. But such technology isn’t cheap: major defense contractors see cyber defense as the next post-9/11 money pot – annual cyber spending is about $12 billion.

In his speech Thursday night before Business Executives for National Security from the hangar deck of the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum, Panetta warned of cyber terrorists derailing U.S. passenger trains – as well as trains laden with lethal chemicals. He told Time’s editors that both Congress and U.S. businesses have been hesitant to pass legislation – and make the investments necessary – to defend the nation’s critical cyber infrastructure from attack. Part of the reason for speaking out, he said, is to generate public pressure on lawmakers to act.

That’s one reason President Obama designated October as National Cybersecurity Awareness Month. Private-sector companies wonder if the government is exaggerating the threat. They seem willing to wait for an “electronic Pearl Harbor” to justify the investments they would need to make to protect their info-infrastructure. But Panetta and others fear that could be too late.

“Government depends on these networks to defend this country,” Army General Keith Alexander, chief of U.S. Cyber Command , told the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Oct. 4. “And it depends on the power grid to operate. So we have a vested interest in making sure that that works.”

Panetta said his prior job – running the CIA – gave him a close-up look at the damage a cagey cyber-warrior could do to the U.S. “I can tell you from my old job, the level of expertise that I saw – and I don’t consider myself to be schooled in the art of knowing what the hell cyber systems [do] and how it all works –- I’m not close to being there — but I saw people that are extremely bright, extremely able,” he said

“They can develop the kind of malware that has tremendous potential to bring down systems very effectively,” Panetta continued, making clear the U.S. is exploring offensive cyber weapons. ”Frankly, in my past capacity, having seen that potential — and now, as secretary of defense, I’m now beginning to see how that is beginning to get in to the arena of other countries that are saying: `Whoa, this has got some great potential.’”

http://nation.time.com/2012/10/12/panetta-sounds-alarm-on-cyber-war-threat/

A view of the routes from the north pole, showing the importance of the Bering Strait crossing.

Main routes of the World Land-Bridge. Existing routes are green, proposed routes are red, but the existing routes need improvement.

Project of the rail link between Eurasia and North America. View from the North Pole.

http://www.interbering.com/Bering-railroad-maps.html

Russia Green Lights $65 Billion Siberia-Alaska Rail and Tunnel to Bridge the Bering Strait
Inhabitat.com
08/23/11

The high speed railway and tunnel will be a private public partnership whose economic impact could be startling. 100 million tons of freight could be moved per year using the most efficient known way of transport. Proposed tidal energy plants could provide 10 gigawatts of energy and a string of wind power fields could churn a constant supply of clean energy, serving as a vital link to a worldwide energy grid. The tunnel alone would take fifteen years to complete — and an energy and railway network would take many more — but the project would significantly change the shipping and energy industry.
http://inhabitat.com/russia-green-lights-65-billion-siberia-alaska-rail-and-tunnel-to-bridge-the-bering-strait/2/

Russia planning Bering Strait tunnel to connect to Alaska
Digital Journal online
Aug 25, 2011

Officials are questioning the feasibility of a proposal by the Russian government to build a 64-mile long tunnel under the Bering Strait that would connect Siberia and Alaska.

“Russian officials insist that the tunnel is an economic idea whose time has now come and that it could be ready within ten years. They argue that it would repay construction costs by stimulating up to 100 million tons of freight traffic each year, as well as supplying oil, gas and electricity from Siberia to the US and Canada,” reported The Times Online.

The Bering Strait tunnel would be also be used for a high-speed railway line and to house a fiber-optic cable network between the countries. This mega-project is expected to cost $65 billion.

Aleksandr Levinthal, the deputy federal representative for the Russian Far East, said at a conference in Yakutsk that looked at way to improve the regions infrastructure, “it would be a cheaper and faster way to move goods around the world than on container ships.”

Levinthal said the tunnel would be an extension of a 500-mile rail line that is currently being built that will link Yakutsk to the Trans-Siberian railway, reports MSNBC.

Satellite image of Bering Strait. Cape Dezhnev, Russia is on the left, the two Diomede Islands are in the middle, and Cape Prince of Wales, Alaska is on the right.

Renewed by the recent support of the Russian government, plans are underway to build the tunnel, which would “pass underneath the Big Diomede and Little Diomede islands and straddle the international dateline to link East and West,” said the Daily Mail.

The Russian officials plans to submit a proposal to the United States government in the coming weeks asking for assistance in underwriting the construction of the tunnel in exchange for a share of the revenue it will produce.

A tunnel between the two countries could save the US and Russia $20 billion per year in electric costs, says supporters of the project, but it would require the US government to build railway lines from Canada to the Bering Strait to connect the tunnel with the rest of North America.
http://digitaljournal.com/article/310733#ixzz233TXVwH6


Detailed updates, maps, sketches (such as above), photos, and multiple links to practical information is available on the InterBering website, “Construction of Interhemispheric Railroad Canada – Alaska (USA) – Russia and Bering Strait Tunnel.”

“We at InterBering believe that the entire project on the American continent can be financed through private funding, without the financial help of central governments. This is in fact the way the Eurotunnel was built. With approval by local territorial governments – if not those in Washington and Ottawa – sufficient money could be found through private investors.”
http://www.interbering.com/

Also see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bering_Strait_crossing

(Did you ever wonder about scriptures suggesting Russia will come against Israel in the last days? Here are some clues as to why that might be: Tamar, Dalit and Leviathan Mediterranean gas fields. Be sure to read both articles below.)

Russian President Medvedev to visit Israel in mid-January
DEBKAfile December 15, 2010

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev’s first visit to Israel in mid-January, part of a Middle East tour, is intended to signify a major switch in Kremlin Middle East policy to warmer relations with Israel and correspondingly less intense ties with Iran, Syria and the radical Palestinian Hamas….

Furthermore, the Russians have got two bids in play for a slice of the as-yet untapped Mediterranean gas. While offering to partner Lebanon in exploring the oil and gas potential opposite its shores earlier this month, Debkafile’s sources report that the Russian energy giant Gazprom sent secret envoys to Tel Aviv at the same time.

They came to discuss investment opportunities with the Israeli firms holding the concessions for the Tamar, Dalit and Leviathan Mediterranean gas fields off the Israeli shore and a possible partnership in Israel’s Ashkelon-Eilat oil and gas pipelines.

According to our sources, Russian energy experts calculate that Israel’s offshore gas reserves, currently estimated at about 25 trillion cubic feet, are in fact much bigger, and maintain they could be better explored with Russian professional assistance. Leviathan is seen as the most promising of the three strikes….

Moscow sent five messages to Jerusalem:

1. For the purchase of military UAVs for the Russian army – for which an agreement will be signed – Moscow will guarantee to withhold advanced weapons, such as the sophisticated S-300 interceptor missile systems, from Iran and Syria. By this move, the Medvedev-Putin administration is drawing a line limiting Russia’s vital contribution to their military buildup and upgrade.

2. Moscow shares Israel’s view that any hi-tech Russian military hardware sold to Damascus or Tehran would eventually reach Hizballah. The Russians have no wish to upgrade Hizballah’s arsenal and therefore has a further incentive for keeping this weaponry out of Iranian and Syrian hands.

3. The Kremlin has recently shifted ground on the Palestinian issue and is no longer willing to automatically endorse Palestinian demands of Israel. Unlike Palestinian negotiators headed by Mahmoud Abbas, Moscow is prepared to look at interim solutions for the Palestinian-Israel dispute. The Russians say the Palestinians are aware of the new winds blowing in Moscow….

4. The Russians ask Israel to take note of another change in its favor: Hamas’s Damascus-based leader Khaled Meshaal is no longer welcome in Moscow.

5. Moscow is seeking to exploit the deepening strategic ties between Israel and Greece to jump aboard their plans to build an underwater gas pipeline linking Greece to the Israeli Mediterranean port of Ashkelon. This would link up with the existing Ashkelon oil and gas pipeline to Eilat, Israel’s Red Sea port.

Russian energy strategists are eyeing the planned and existing segments of this route with great interest, having calculated that the quickest and cheapest outlet for marketing Russian gas to the Far East is through Eilat.

Israeli leaders, President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu have high hopes of the Medvedev visit.

http://www.debka.com/article/20457/

——————————-

Moscow, Ankara move in on Lebanon’s offshore energy potential
DEBKAfile December 8, 2010

Photo: An effusive Kremlin welcome for Lebanese PM Hariri. With his sharp instincts for chances in the field of energy, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin was stirred into discreet action by Israeli entrepreneurs’ discovery in the past year of a gas bonanza – three fields, dubbed Tamar, Dalit and Leviathan, off Israel’s Mediterranean coast, Debkafile’s Moscow sources report.

Their currently estimated reserves of 25 trillion cubic feet would more than cover Israel’s energy needs and enable it to become a gas exporter, revolutionizing an economy which has developed despite a paucity of natural resources.

Neither did Putin miss Beirut’s claim that Israel was “looting” Lebanese gas resources, or that Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri had encountered a polite rejection when he travelled to Nicosia on Oct. 21 to ask Cypriot President Dimitris Christofias for help in mapping the borders of oil and gas fields in the Mediterranean.

Moscow accordingly went into action by inviting Hariri for a visit, which took place Nov. 16-17. With his back to the wall in a life-and-death struggle to save his government from falling into the hands of Hizballah, the Lebanese prime minister was granted the rare honor of an elaborate welcome by both Putin and President Dmitry Medvedev.

The Russian prime minister then pitched into his spiel: Moscow could help Lebanon place itself on the map of oil and gas fields and pipelines in the eastern Mediterranean. But to exploit its oil and gas wealth under the sea, Lebanon needed Russia as energy partner and provider of funds, equipment and skilled labor.

Russia would reciprocate with heavy investments in the Lebanese economy that would restore Beirut to its former prestige as financial capital of the Middle East and an assured supply of advanced weapons at token prices to secure those investments.

None of this prevented the Russian prime minister from sending a delegation to Tel Aviv last week to sound out Israel’s gas new tycoons for opportunities. On offer were Russian investments in funds and equipment and a Russian-Israeli partnership in laying the gas pipeline which Israel and Greece are planning as part of their evolving strategic alliance.

The Lebanese prime minister left Moscow with an understanding in his pocket on three points. As a mark of Russian goodwill, he was promised the gift of six MI 24 helicopters 31 T-72 tanks, 36 130 mm cannons complete with half a million shells and thirty thousand artillery shells – an unprecedented donation to a country outside Moscow’s sphere of influence. Their understanding extended to three key areas:

1. They would discuss big Russian firms building a number of gas-powered electricity plants in Lebanon, backed by Kremlin guarantees and financing – against a Lebanese guarantee to purchase their output over a 30-year period.

2. The Russian-built Arab Gas Pipeline Project Phase II, designed to bring gas from Egypt and run through Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Turkey, would grow a Lebanese branch. On Dec. 5, a Kremlin official said: “We want to study a possibility of gas shipment from Syria to Lebanon, for example, by using the Arab Gas Pipeline capacity.”

3. Moscow offered to build three nuclear power plants in Turkey.

The second understanding was the real reason for Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s visit to Beirut Wednesday, Nov. 24 and his talks with Hariri. Erdogan now has a new interest in defusing the tensions in Lebanon and keeping Hariri in power.

Debkafile’s military sources say that, in addition to his abiding interest in energy, Vladimir Putin keeps his eye on the big Russian naval base going up in Tartous, Syria. As headquarters of the Russian Black Sea and Mediterranean fleets, this base will also guard Moscow’s investments and holdings in gas and oil fields in the Mediterranean.

http://www.debka.com/article/20435/