RELATED LONDON: Fighter jets and nuclear submarines for milk! The extraordinary offer was made by Russia to New Zealand in 1993, a new book has claimed. After the collapse of the Soviet Union , Russia was struggling to pay the $100 million it owed New Zealand for a range of imported dairy products, Guardian reported. In a meeting with Russian officials to chalk out payment terms, Jim Bolger, then New Zealand prime minister, was left “absolutely stunned” to be offered a nuclear submarine and two MiG fighter jets in lieu of money, according to Clive Lind, the author of the book, ” Till the Cows Came Home “. Lind, who interviewed Bolger and former New Zealand Dairy Board chairman Dryden Spring, who was also present at the meeting, said the offer had been made by Alexander Shokhin, then deputy prime minister of Russia. “The Russians were trying to come up with lines of credit before Shokhin mentioned there were other funding arrangements,” Lind was quoted by the daily as saying. “He pointed out that MiG jets were highly desirable and that they also had surplus tanks to offer. Jim Bolger had to explain that he wasn’t in the market for second-hand tanks,” Lind added. Perhaps most remarkably, Shokhin then offered a nuclear submarine to wipe out Russia’s debt. Noting that New Zealand was a staunchly non-nuclear-powered country, he suggested hooking the vessel up to the national grid and using it as a power plant for a coastal city, the report said. “Bolger recalled the reaction he would have got if he returned to a nuclear-free New Zealand and told people that he hadn’t got any money for them but had secured a nuclear submarine instead,” Lind said. “It simply wasn’t going to fly.” After politely declining the offer of the military equipment, New Zealand managed to secure a number of periodic payments from Russia, totalling about $30 million less than a third of the total debt. “The world was awash with butter at the time and we needed Russia to take ours. While we needed the money to pay our farmers, we also needed to secure a market for our butter, which Russia agreed to.
EU embrace of Ukraine fuels Russia tensions
Mother Russia?” Click here for the full story. Elton John In spite of Russia’s anti-gay legislation, the Rocket Man has vowed not to cancel his forthcoming Moscow performance. “As a gay man, I cant leave those people on their own without going over there and supporting them,” he said. “I dont know whats going to happen, but Ive got to go.” Read the full story here. Cher The legendary singer-actress said she turned down the chance to perform at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi because of Russia’s anti-gay law. “I cant name names but my friend called who is a big oligarch over there, and asked me if Id like to be an ambassador for the Olympics and open the show,” Cher told Maclean’s writer Elio Iannacci. “I immediately said no. I want to know why all of this gay hate just exploded over there.” Click here for the full story. Blake Skjellerup The New Zealand speed skater, who is openly gay, told HuffPost Live’s Josh Zepps that a boycott would hurt the athletes themselves more than Russia. “I don’t support a boycott at all,” he said. “I believe the greatest way to bring about change is to have a presence. Being present in Sochi is going to be greater for the cause than not being there at all.” Click here for the full story. Nick Symmonds After winning a silver medal at the World Track & Field Championships in Moscow on Aug. 13, the American middle distance runner openly dedicated the victory to his gay and lesbian friends in his home country. The act reportedly makes Symmonds the first athlete to critique and oppose Russia’s anti-gay legislation while in Russia.
She is an arch-rival of Ukraine’s President Viktor Yanukovych, Moscow’s favourite who narrowly beat her in the 2010 presidential election. Western values The EU has been pursuing closer economic and social ties with ex-Soviet states for many years, in a so-called “Eastern Partnership”. The plan is to sign a far-reaching association and free trade agreement with Ukraine – seen as an important step towards eventual EU membership. Agreements would also be initialled with Georgia and Moldova. Kiev has responded with reforms and legislation, and a flurry of diplomacy is under way to seal the deal in time. “The allure of a relationship with the EU for some of these countries is a matter of concern for Russia, and legitimately so,” says John Lough, associate fellow on the Russia programme at the Chatham House think tank. “The EU is a powerful symbol of Western values and institutions. Its neighbours’ choices could fundamentally change the way the Eurasian region is structured and administered.” Russia is putting pressure on ex-Soviet republics to join its own customs union instead. Moscow wants to create a Eurasian trading bloc that could eventually rival the EU, but without the commitment to democracy and openness demanded by Brussels. Kazakhstan and Belarus have already signed up. And last month Armenia signalled interest in joining the Russian-led bloc – surprising EU negotiators who were trying to forge closer ties with Yerevan. In January 2009 Russia suspended gas exports to Europe because of a price dispute with Ukraine Trade tensions Russia appears suspicious about the EU’s ambitions in former Soviet republics. Some countries previously ruled from Moscow have been hit by Russian import bans on certain products.