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Cablegate: Embassy Moscow

VZCZCXRO1995
PP RUEHHM RUEHPB
DE RUEHMO #3239/01 1840921
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 030921Z JUL 07
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1785
INFO RUEHZN/EST COLLECTIVE
RUEHRL/AMEMBASSY BERLIN 1969
RHEHAAA/WHITE HOUSE WASHDC

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MOSCOW 003239

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR EUR/RUS (GREENSTEIN, SIKORRA), EEB/CBA
(MERMOUD), OES/STAS (DR. ATKINSON), OES/STC (DAUGHARTY)
WHITE HOUSE FOR OSTP (DR. MARBURGER)
BERLIN FOR...
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MOSCOW 003239 SIPDIS SENSITIVE SIPDIS DEPARTMENT FOR EUR/RUS (GREENSTEIN, SIKORRA), EEB/CBA (MERMOUD), OES/STAS (DR. ATKINSON), OES/STC (DAUGHARTY) WHITE HOUSE FOR OSTP (DR. MARBURGER) BERLIN FOR ROBERT HAGEN E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/03/2017 TAGS: TSPL TNGD TPHY RS

Classified By: EST Counselor Daniel J. O'Grady. Reasons: 1.4 (b,d)

1. (C) SUMMARY: The Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) recently appointed Mikhail Koval'chuk and Anatoliy Grigoriev as acting Vice Presidents, reflecting a continuing struggle between the government and the RAS. While Grigoriev is a respected full member of the RAS, Koval'chuk only aspires to full RAS membership. Koval'chuk brings to the RAS, however, the multibillion dollar GOR budget for nanotechnology, but he also represents the prospect of increased governmental control. This conflict will play out against the backdrop of legislative and Presidential elections in December 2007 and March 2008. Its outcome, and the continuing turmoil itself, will adversely impact the investment in new technology. END SUMMARY

2. (SBU) On June 26, the Presidium of the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) appointed Mikhail Koval'chuk as acting Vice President in a move deemed by many in the media and the Academy to be a compromise with the Ministry of Education and Science in the struggle for government control of the RAS. Media reports and commentary cited a reputed tradeoff in that Kovalchuk's close connections to the government will bring the RAS access to the 130 billion ruble (approximately $5 billion) budget for nanotechnology research and development that he administers as Director at the Kurchatov Institute and the Institute of Crystallography. (REF A) Since Koval'chuk is only a corresponding member of the RAS and not a full member, he technically did not qualify to be an officer. However, in a move called "face saving" by the independent newspaper Kommersant, the Presidium also named RAS Secretary for Biological Sciences Academician Anatoliy Grigoriev as acting Vice President to share the duties. (NOTE: Grigoriev and Koval'chuk were appointed to "acting" posts because an officer can only be elected during the RAS elections that take place during the annual RAS General Meeting, which is expected to occur in April or May of 2008 after the March Russian Federation Presidential election. END NOTE)

3. (SBU) Grigoriev is Director of the Institute of Medical and Biological Problems (IMBP) and Head of the RAS Division on Life Sciences. He is co-chair of the U.S.-Russian Joint Working Group on Space Biomedicine, Life Support Systems and Microgravity Sciences that has met frequently with NASA medical scientists for three decades. He has an exemplary scientific background and is respected widely for his skill at bringing together people with opposing viewpoints. He has a forceful personality and will be an equal match for the domineering Koval'chuk. (NOTE: Koval'chuk hosted a dinner for Undersecretary of Commerce Robert Cresanti to celebrate the 2006 opening of the Nanotech Center of Excellence in Moscow. When Koval'chuk rose to leave at the end of the meal, the entire Russian delegation of approximately a dozen people stood up --some of them in mid-sentence-- and departed in a few seconds. END NOTE) When ESToff met Grigoriev at the IMBP-hosted meeting of the Joint Working Group last November, several Russian attendees mentioned that he is a potential candidate to succeed Yuriy Osipov as head of RAS, which places him squarely in competition with Koval'chuk. (REF C)

4. (C) The government, acting through the Ministry of Education and Science (MES), has been trying for the past two years to rein in the RAS and gain access to the assets and associated revenues controlled by the hierarchy of the RAS and its various institutes. (REF D) In March, RAS members rejected the new MES-drafted charter that would have placed a Supervisory Council over the administration of the RAS. The membership voted by a large margin in favor of a charter that maintained its 200-year old independence from government oversight. As he revealed in remarks made in an April meeting with EST, Koval'chuk belongs to a wing of the RAS that feels the older RAS generation has abused its position and stayed in power too long. (REF B) As such, these Young Turks welcome the opportunity for government intervention to unseat the elder wing. Koval'chuk represents a ready instrument of government action.

5. (C) Academy Member Yury Ryzhov (protect), President of MOSCOW 00003239 002 OF 002 the International Engineering University, told EST last week that "this business of the RAS vice presidents appointments has nothing to do with science. This is all part of another plan to gain bureaucratic control over the Academy." He noted that Koval'chuk's appointment was packaged with the huge nanotech budget as a means for the government to "sweeten the pill" and put its own person in the Academy administration. On the issue of the enormous spending on nanotechnology, he disagreed with Koval'chuk's position that Russia could catch up with U.S. nanotech prowess by massive investment. He called current Russian use of the term nanotechnology "unscientific" because there is no commonly agreed definition of its purpose. Another contact at the Academy told us recently that the RAS needed to cover the new field of nanotechnology and Koval'chuk was a good candidate. She pointed out that Grigoriev's appointment was timely because the previous incumbent vice president for life sciences had died recently. She did not see Koval'chuk's appointment as tied to the nano money, but she said his selection had the effect of asserting governmental supremacy over the RAS.

6. (C) COMMENT: The appointment of Koval'chuk has all the appearance of a prepackaged deal similar to the agreement to allow Yuriy Osipov to stay on as president of the RAS past the mandatory retirement age of 70 in exchange for his backing the MES charter. The defiance of the Academy rank and file in an election year -- Duma elections are in December and the Presidential election in March 2008 -- has compelled the government to proceed cautiously. The Academy seems to be holding its own, however, as demonstrated by the appointment of Grigoriev, who will be a formidable rival to Koval'chuk. In this chess match, there is no end game in sight, but both sides are guarding their flanks. This struggle has put the nanotech money in play and will divert time and attention from the effort to invest in needed science and technology reforms. RUSSELL

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