Welcome to the new version of European Tribune. It's just a new layout, so everything should work as before - please report bugs here.

Is Putin losing control?

by Jerome a Paris Wed Jan 7th, 2009 at 02:44:18 PM EST

Putin's recent involvement in the gas crisis, to announce a complete interruption of all gas deliveries to Europe is incomprehensible, and can only be analysed as a loss of control over what the oligarchs are doing.

By this action, Russia becomes the obvious target of Europe's ire, as the guilty party. As long as the gas cuts targetted only Ukraine, it was reasonably easy to blame Ukraine for siphoning gas, but this blanket interruption shifts the responsibility clearly towards the Kremlin. By making it an openly political decision, all commercial arguments for the cut appear hollow or artificial. By directly cutting all gas deliveries to Europe, it directly undermines Gazprom's credibility as a stable supplier.

So what goals is Putin pursuing through these actions? I fail to see any Russian interest which is enhanced. All I see as a likely reason for it is that oligarchs behind the scenes are escalating their fight for control of the shady underside of the Russian-Ukraine gas trade, and are willing to hold the national policy of Russia hostage to their private fights. But it means that they are actually able to use the infrastructure of Gazprom, and the instruments of the Russian State, to reach their ends, and Putin is either unwilling or unable to prevent them.

This is a pretty momentous development, even if the gas cuts do not last long. I still expect supplies to be restored quickly, but the blatant demonstration of how public institutions are diverted for private gain is not going to be forgotten for a long time.


Display:
Well, that's probably Putin's reaction after reading your paper in the Financial Times...

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet
by Melanchthon on Wed Jan 7th, 2009 at 02:57:38 PM EST
As long as the gas cuts targetted only Ukraine, it was reasonably easy to blame Ukraine for siphoning gas, but this blanket interruption shifts the responsibility clearly towards the Kremlin.

WHat do you mean by "blanket interruption"? Only gas flows via Ukraine are affected.

Most economists teach a theoretical framework that has been shown to be fundamentally useless. -- James K. Galbraith

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jan 7th, 2009 at 03:06:22 PM EST
gas flows through Ukraine still amount to 80% of Russian exports. There's Blue Stream to Turkey, and Yamal via Poland to Germany. Everything else goes through Ukraine.

But by cutting more than the volumes 'bought' by Ukraine, Russia unambiguously targets European deliveries rather than those at stake in the official conflict with Ukraine.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Wed Jan 7th, 2009 at 03:23:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
by cutting more than the volumes 'bought' by Ukraine, Russia unambiguously targets European deliveries rather than those at stake in the official conflict with Ukraine.

That's what I thought, thanks.

Most economists teach a theoretical framework that has been shown to be fundamentally useless. -- James K. Galbraith

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jan 7th, 2009 at 04:56:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But weren't they protesting that Ukraine was "stealing" a lot more than the volumes they 'bought'?

Come, my friends, 'Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
by poemless on Wed Jan 7th, 2009 at 05:00:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Right!How you expect Russians (state or private) to continue with gas supply through Ukraine while Ukraine is STEALING gas???On the contrary EUROPE should discipline Ukraine (if they want gas) cause Europe has real influence on Ukraine (money wise)...Sorry Jerome but this is logic here (for me) and I do not see why Russians are to be blamed...

Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind...Albert Einstein
by vbo on Wed Jan 7th, 2009 at 08:44:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Ukraine can get away with it (the hold Russia's exports hostage).

It would definitely be to Russia's advantage to sell gas at the Ukrainian border and let the Europeans deal with the transit. The problem is that the current situation is not driven by Russia's interests, but by those of a select few Russian and Ukrainian oligarchs who benefit from that situation - capturing a lot of money, mostly from Gazprom, but also from Ukrainian central authorities.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Thu Jan 8th, 2009 at 04:17:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I see how this is not in Russia's interest but I can't see how "select few Russian and Ukrainian oligarchs" can benefit from this situation "capturing a lot of money, mostly from Gazprom, but also from Ukrainian central authorities. " ??? If there is no gas supply how they (anyone) can benefit? I am just a dummy in this field so please explain...
 Also I have no idea what the deal Russia has with Ukraine about pipeline and transit so I do not understand how Russians can "sell gas at the Ukrainian border and let the Europeans deal with the transit".It makes sense if it's possible but on the other hand it also makes possible for Ukraine to get gas again even if they do not intend to pay for gas previously used (and this would not be just).

Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind...Albert Einstein
by vbo on Thu Jan 8th, 2009 at 09:15:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If there is no gas supply how they (anyone) can benefit?

They can make money all year round on supplies to the privatised, cash-paid part of the Ukraine market. The wars are about sharing the spoils: who gets how much?

As to "letting the Europeans deal with it", that would mean EU monitors checking that no gas gets "lost" during transit.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Jan 9th, 2009 at 03:05:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Gee, if you don't pay your gas bill, like Kiev hasn't, you get cut off.
We can suspect that this is the latest trick of the Atlanticist cabal, their beloved NATO attempting to hang for relevance, by picking yet another fight with "the former Soviet Union."

They do this during a time when the Czech Presidency is attempting to keep crazy Grandpa Klaus under control...

by euamerican on Thu Jan 8th, 2009 at 06:13:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
We can suspect that this is the latest trick of the Atlanticist cabal, their beloved NATO attempting to hang for relevance, by picking yet another fight with "the former Soviet Union."
---------
Yes.

Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind...Albert Einstein
by vbo on Thu Jan 8th, 2009 at 09:35:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'd say "you wouldn't believe this!" but you would.

I watched a whole Deutsche Welle Journal piece on freezing Bulgarians in which the journalists did not once mention the word "Ukraine."  The whole thing was a story about how Russia was abusing the Bulgarian people, basically.

And you know, it made me think.  If Saudia Arabia decided to stop giving us oil altogether, I think most Americans would not think "Whaa! Why doesn't SA care about us?  They are oppressing us!  Call the UN!"  We'd blame ourselves for being idiot enough to rely on them.  We already do.

Come, my friends, 'Tis not too late to seek a newer world.

by poemless on Sat Jan 10th, 2009 at 02:47:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm surprised you didn't see this during the morning today.  it's only really significant, however, if it lasts more than a few days (or even perhaps longer).  As you often point out, gas is not a "just-in-time" product, and there are significant winter supplies stored in most countries.

My take is that Putin knows that people in the major EU gas companies and governments know full well about the shady underbelly of Ukrainian gas, and he's playing some hardball here.  He believes Russia can take the media hit, because the key players know it's not true unless it lasts weeks.

He wants to end 17 years of annual disputes, and end the hold of the oligarchical middle-men (persons).  Since the "energy weapon" is already reality in the West media, though not true, he can afford to lose some face to slam the third parties without significant risk that Russian is newly seen as belligerent, since they are already seen that way.

But i defer completely to your take, as i have nowhere near your experience here.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anaïs Nin

by Crazy Horse on Wed Jan 7th, 2009 at 03:08:59 PM EST
Not to mention, from the Salon:


KREMLIN PUSHING NEW PIPELINE PROJECTS

The disruption of gas flows to Europe has highlighted the fragility of transit routes -- playing into the Kremlin's hands as it tries to persuade Europe to back alternative pipelines.

Russia has been struggling to win European approval for the Nord Stream pipeline, which will ship gas under the Baltic Sea to Germany, bypassing potential troublesome transit states.

Nord Stream, a joint venture between Gazprom, Germany's BASF

and E.ON and Dutch firm Gasunie, has encountered resistance, on political and environmental grounds, from several European Union states.

Moscow is also pushing the South Stream pipeline, which will ship Russian gas under the Black Sea and direct to the EU. Russia is seeking to sign up more European states to the project.

In that context, the gas row with Ukraine is "all opportune, from the Russian side," said a European diplomat in Moscow.

"Russia might find an interest in promoting Nord Stream and it will be clear to many Europeans there should be an alternative route."

Asked if the dispute would bolster the Nordstream and South Stream projects, Julian Lee of the Centre for Global Energy Studies said: "That's certainly what Gazprom is hoping for."

Also mentioned as potential Rusian endgames are:

  •  Driving up the price of gas
  •  Warning shot to Ukraine on NATO
  •  Personal animosity amongst the leaders


"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anaïs Nin
by Crazy Horse on Wed Jan 7th, 2009 at 03:24:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I've read the comments below, so i want to point back to this thread because i do think it's important.

Don't have time for cites and blockquotes, but the media reporting that Putin cut off supplies to Europe seem to be false.  As in the early days of the Georgia conflict.

Even Barrosso said something like "if both parties are doing what they say, then we don't have a problem here."  He said that after speaking today with both Prime Ministers.

This is the playing field of some of the most powerful interests in the world game.  Remember that Timoshenko made her fortune in gas.  I'd give the above article some respect, though of course we don't know and can't analyze what's really happening.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anaïs Nin

by Crazy Horse on Wed Jan 7th, 2009 at 05:04:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This is definitely a part of calculus on Russian side. After 2006, big western European gas companies started to line up behind the North Stream, with GdF being the latest addition. This episode couldn't lead to anything less.
by Sargon on Thu Jan 8th, 2009 at 03:53:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
but I'm skeptical. Putin's track record is not one of cleaning up oligarchs, just ensuring that they show fealty to him publicly. In this case, he's still the one that announces the cuts, so that is still the case, but the policy itself makes little sense to me.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Wed Jan 7th, 2009 at 03:24:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In the news reports of the cutoff, Russia still blamed "siphoning."  To me that's exactly code for all you've been writing about the underbelly of Ukrainian gas dealing.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anaïs Nin
by Crazy Horse on Wed Jan 7th, 2009 at 03:28:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In announcing his agreement with Miller this morning to cut off all supply to Ukraine, Putin is quoted as saying this should be done "openly, in the presence of international observers".

This echoes EU requests to monitor transit through Ukraine (Timoshenko said today Ukraine would accept EU transit monitors - once supplies were resumed... in other words, not while evidence of Ukrainian siphoning off could be seen).

But I still can't really see the sense of what Putin was saying. What need is there for observers to note that the pipelines are closed, if Russia says they are and Ukraine says they are? It made me wonder what Miller had told him about the (possible) inevitability of pipelines being closed in an opaque way (not "openly"), by power centres within the structure which would soon be getting out of control. Then Putin has to agree publicly or lose face. And, though the reference to observers sounds probably specious and cynical, it might almost be a wish.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed Jan 7th, 2009 at 04:13:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
International observers?  Sounds more like his snarky sense of humour and flare for the dramatic.  

Come, my friends, 'Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
by poemless on Wed Jan 7th, 2009 at 04:19:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It does sound like that. And it's probably far too Kremlinological of me to want to read hidden significance into Putin's public statements.

But there isn't much sense in what he's doing unless his hand is being forced in some way.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed Jan 7th, 2009 at 04:48:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Clarification

Ukraine has allowed no access for independent monitors to its gas metering stations since January 1.
"Tymoshenko and Jose Manuel Barroso agreed to provide immediate access to EU technical experts for permanent monitoring of natural gas supplied by Russia to meet the European Union's demand," the Ukrainian government's press service said in a statement.

Gazprom accused Ukraine of stealing more than 86 million cubic meters of gas since the start of the year.

It seems the monitors are not just going to oversee the turning off of the gas, but to make sure Ukraine is not stealing it.  Maybe.  

Hell, the way this article reads, it sounds like Ukraine is turning off the gas.  

MOSCOW, January 7 (RIA Novosti) - Russian energy giant Gazprom halted on Wednesday gas supplies to Ukraine for transit to Europe.
A final check established that Ukraine was not carrying any gas to Europe despite Russia's move to continue gas supplies to Ukraine through the Sudzha station.

Earlier in the day, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin warned his Czech counterpart that Gazprom would be forced to cut gas supplies to Ukraine unless Kiev cancels its decision to close all four pipelines carrying Russian gas to the EU.

"Unless the Ukrainian authorities reconsider their decision soon, Gazprom will be forced to stop deliveries of gas via Ukraine, which become senseless with European consumers not receiving it anyway," Putin told Mirek Topolanek.

The proposal to stop gas supplies to Ukraine was made by the head of Russian energy giant Gazprom earlier on Wednesday.

Ukraine cut off gas to the EU, so Russia cuts off gas to Ukraine.  Acc'd. to RIAN.  Why did Ukraine cut off gas to EU?    


Come, my friends, 'Tis not too late to seek a newer world.

by poemless on Wed Jan 7th, 2009 at 04:31:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The Ukraine government decision was parsed like this in the Reuters wire I was using:

Ukraine PM says agrees on EU gas transit monitors | Markets | Reuters

KIEV, Jan 7 (Reuters) - Ukraine would guarantee Russian gas transit to Europe once supplies are renewed and allow European Union inspectors to monitor the flows, the government quoted Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko as saying on Wednesday.

But yes, there does seem to be an agreement that monitors can go in "immediately".

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed Jan 7th, 2009 at 04:44:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Notice that it was Tymoshenko mentioned, not Yushenko. Ukrainian politicians were eerily silent on the subject, but if anything, Yushenko was more visible.

There seems to be a tectonic change in Kiev - just yesterday, talks between Gazprom and Naftogas "were not scheduled" but Naftogas chairman was ready to be in Moscow on 8th. All of a sudden, there has been a midnight meeting between them in Moscow - yes, on 8th. And right now they are in Brussels, hammering things out with EU mediation.

The whole Ukrainian politics of autumn and early winter could be considered as a positioning for this very moment. Ukraine knew that it's going to refuse any increase in price, and this spat was going to happen. What mattered was - who would be at the negotiating table at the moment?

Looks like Tymoshenko won. One less player to consider, the end game could be closer.

by Sargon on Thu Jan 8th, 2009 at 03:49:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
See our threads on the Ukrainian politics of the Summer here:
  • The first comment subthread to UK minister says "f*ck climate, we need more energy now" by Jerome a Paris on August 27th, 2008
  • A Salon thread from August 28 on The Independent's Is the Ukraine the new Cold War front?
  • And another Salon Thread from September 4 on The Times' Ukraine government teeters amid President Yushchenko 'coup' claim - that's when things got interesting with crossed accusations of treason between President Yushchenko and Prime Minister Tymoshenko.


Most economists teach a theoretical framework that has been shown to be fundamentally useless. -- James K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jan 8th, 2009 at 05:18:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
All of a sudden, there has been a midnight meeting between them in Moscow - yes, on 8th. And right now they are in Brussels

Yes. I was about to post this, (my bold):

The Associated Press: Gazprom's CEO holds talks with Naftogaz's Dubina

MOSCOW (AP) -- The heads of the Russian and Ukrainian gas companies have held an unexpected meeting in Moscow to discuss the dispute that has caused an energy crisis in Europe.

Both companies confirmed they met early Thursday but released no details. It was the first face-to-face meeting between Gazprom's Alexei Miller and Naftogaz's Oleh Dubina since talks over prices broke down New Year's Eve.

The meeting was unexpected because both men are due in Brussels Thursday to meet with EU officials.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Jan 8th, 2009 at 07:23:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, after YUKOS case oil companies started to pay something resembling taxes compatible with their profits.  This didn't extend to Gazprom and some metals producers, though, so the "cleaning up" exists, but it's rather selective.

Certain imports were almost completely cleaned up - it's not the level of oligarchs, but midi-garchs perhaps.

by Sargon on Thu Jan 8th, 2009 at 03:42:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, my initial reaction was that you can only threaten to cut it off so many times before the threat loses its bite.  I mean, who can be surprised by Russia, or shady oligarchs or Putin or whomever, deciding to send an explicit message like this?  I mean, they're more of a horse head in the bed than a polite memo crowd anyway.

As for Europe.  1) Aren't they trying/wanting/justifying the need to build a pipeline to Europe that is sep. from Ukraine?  2) They don't care if you like them.  They care if you need them.  Turning off your gas will piss you off, but you will still beg them to turn it back on.  3) Theoritically, if Putin were in control And ok'd this, do you think it could have anything to do with pure politics?  Tit for Tat for August or anything?

As for who is in charge, does anyone even really know?  I just got a book in today, "Plan Putina -2010."  I don't see a "Plan Medvedeva" in the series...  OTOH, Sean's had some article's about this on his site.

For those of you who read Russian, there has been a few articles of late on the status of the Medvedev-Putin "tandem."  Russian Newsweek has an interesting story (translated in JRL #233) arguing that Medvedev and Putin have a difficult relationship.  Much of the day to day governance has moved from the Kremlin to the White House.  Medvedev continues to act as the apprentice or sidelined as one by constantly looking to Putin for his approval.  Konstantin Faaze and Mikhail Fishman write:

People who know Medvedev say that he is extremely busy -- "he sleeps only five hours a day" -- and takes his duties extremely seriously. For instance, since the beginning of the crisis he has been holding conferences several times a week with ministers, vice premiers, and his aides. But that does not change anything, a Kremlin staffer asserts: Putin's signature is always needed, just the same. According to him, Medvedev writes this on the documents that he sends to Putin: "Esteemed VV (Vladimir Vladimirovich), please take a look." Or: "To V.V. Putin. Your opinion? With respect, Medvedev." Putin, when he used to send papers to his prime ministers, would usually write: "Look into it and report back." Or simply: "Report.".

In fact it is not so easy to get Putin's signature. The situation has changed -even compared with this past summer. All the sources in the Kremlin and the White House assert that the prime minister does very little work. "Something needs to be decided, but he is not there," a Kremlin staffer confides, "that is to say, he is nowhere to be found, and (chief of Putin's bodyguard Viktor) Zolotov says: I don't know what to advise you, I'm not going to harass him." A situation has apparently been repeated twice where financial speculators were buying up currency and the Central Bank delayed reducing the ruble rate of exchange for 24 hours because they could not find Putin.

An article in Vedomosti, however, doesn't see an conflict between the two leaders but notes that Medvedev does look to Putin for advice, if not approval. Part of the reason is because the latter has more experience.  The other is that Putin commands more political authority in the country. Another reason is that each side of the tandem has their own spheres of influence.  Putin is tackling the economy-"the market considers him in charge"-and he has the authority to subordinate Russia national and regional elite.  Medvedev' sphere is centered around legal reform-amending the constitution and fighting corruption.  Medvedev has also exercised his power to appoint governors, the most recent being making former SPS Nikita Belykh the govenor of Kirov.

Nezavmisimaya gazeta puts the point simply:

Western analysts can't cease their interest: Who's in charge? When will Medvedev cast off Putin? or the opposite, when will Putin return to power? They are naive people, though very intelligent.  They don't understand that Medvedev and Putin are allies.

Indeed. For some reason, Western analysis fail to see that Russia's ruling elite are a team.  It's not a team of equal players for sure, but a team nonetheless. And as a ruling elite they have corporate interests that they share with a constituency-Russia's business elite.

You raise a good question about the Oligarchs, though.  It's not clear Putin was ever concerned about the legitimacy of their business, just that the state profit from it.  You seem to be suggesting they're going rogue.  I just can't imagine this was done without the explicit consent of the government.  So why did they consent?  They thought it politically sound?  I mean, it's not like the country is in a state of chaos like in the 90's.  The gov. is not a charade.  In fact, it's usually argued they have too much control, not the opposite.  Maybe they just couldn't find Putin. ;)"

You know, I was thinking about it, about the whole Russia v. Ukraine, and Euope and NATO being on the side of Ukraine thing this morning, and it occurred to me that it is quite possible, even probably, that Russia more than any country is invested in the welfare of Ukraine, not Europe or NATO.  To us, Ukraine is a pawn.  To Russia, it's a step-child.  


Come, my friends, 'Tis not too late to seek a newer world.

by poemless on Wed Jan 7th, 2009 at 03:59:02 PM EST
  1. I agree that Putin and Medvedev are a team. I would not know where to put people like Sechin, though - or the ohe siloviki types

  2. I agree that Russia cares a lot more about Ukraine's welfare than Europe.


In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Wed Jan 7th, 2009 at 04:02:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Does Russia really care about Ukraine's welfare?  In a Stalinesque way? The strategic importance is clear but there is little evidence that Russian leaders have ever cared about their own people's welfare, let alone that of neighbouring states whom they accuse of being ungrateful and disloyal.
by russellw on Thu Jan 8th, 2009 at 04:49:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
With blanket statements like "there is little evidence that Russian leaders have ever cared about their own people's welfare" you're not going to get very far.

Maybe Yeltsin cared but was just an incompetent drunk, but Putin has done more for the welfare of the Russian people than Yeltsin except possibly for the latter stepping on a tank in 1991 (forgetting for a minute than he later sent tanks to bomb the Parliament). And Gorbachev also did care but  was in an impossible situation. And Khrushev cared enough to roll back Stalinism... And then there's Peter the Great.

Whether it is for misplaced reasons (I say panslavism, you say imperialism) or not, Russia does care about Belarus and Ukraine, and also about the millions of ethnic Russians in the former Soviet republics.

Now, you may not like their style but, come on!

Most economists teach a theoretical framework that has been shown to be fundamentally useless. -- James K. Galbraith

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jan 8th, 2009 at 05:04:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well you know you had me with your first sentence, which I can't really defend and was of course not intended to be taken that literally; but then you spoil it by suggesting that Putin's improvements are motivated by something other than self-interest.  
by russellw on Fri Jan 9th, 2009 at 03:33:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I won't deny Putin's self-interest. But he has other motivations. You have to admit his has been a relatively enlightened self-interest from the point of view of ordinary Russians, if his approval ratings are anything to go by. Compare and contrast with Bush the Lesser's unenlightened self-interest and approval ratings.

I am as appalled as the next person by some of the things that have been going on in Russia under Putin re: human and political rights, press freedom, and the way terrorism and separatism have been handled, etc, but analysis of Russia which starts from the premise that Putin is the devil gets us nowhere.

Most economists teach a theoretical framework that has been shown to be fundamentally useless. -- James K. Galbraith

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Jan 9th, 2009 at 04:08:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Unfortunately I don't have to admit any such thing.  I hope you are right and I am wrong, but Putin's approval ratings seem to me to stem from a collective Russian inferiority complex that manifests itself in a compelling and overly romantic desire to be seen as a great nation.  Which it is of course by many measures, but politically and militarily its best days are behind it. Economically only time will tell, but what used to be its cheapest and most abundant resource, people, is now in decline and widespread maladministration has led to a squandering of natural resources.

With a declining Russian population of course the people as well as the territory of Ukraine are attractive to Putin, but only as yet more resources to be exploited, I fear.

by russellw on Fri Jan 9th, 2009 at 05:24:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
A compelling and romantic desire to be seen as a great nation - not to mention a squandering of natural resources - are hardly uniquely Russian failings.
by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Fri Jan 9th, 2009 at 05:57:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Poemless:  this is an interesting series of observations.
In fact it is not so easy to get Putin's signature. The situation has changed -even compared with this past summer. All the sources in the Kremlin and the White House assert that the prime minister does very little work. "Something needs to be decided, but he is not there," a Kremlin staffer confides, "that is to say, he is nowhere to be found, and (chief of Putin's bodyguard Viktor) Zolotov says: I don't know what to advise you, I'm not going to harass him." A situation has apparently been repeated twice where financial speculators were buying up currency and the Central Bank delayed reducing the ruble rate of exchange for 24 hours because they could not find Putin.
Not to deny that Putin and Medvedev are a team, even if unequal, but it may be that Putin is frustrated by having to work through someone rather than having more direct control.  Could he be having "buyers remorse" over the situation that has resulted from staying within the formal bounds of their constitution?  And/or, could this be producing mood swings or other mood problems that make it more difficult for him to function? SAD? If so that could be further complicating efforts to control an already difficult situation.  

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Wed Jan 7th, 2009 at 05:52:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
OMG are you diagnosing Vovochka with seasonal affective disorder?  Maybe he just get's depressed and turns off the gas to Ukraine each year?  LOL.  Poor Mr Putin.  He needs one of those special sunlight lamps.    

And I thought the Russkie Newsweek story was silly!

Mind you that anyone could grow up in St. Petes and have SAD and live to the age of 56 w/o committing suicide is miraculous, really.  You know, it is like dark there half the year...

Come, my friends, 'Tis not too late to seek a newer world.

by poemless on Wed Jan 7th, 2009 at 05:59:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Now, now.  SAD was only the last of a series of possibilities I set forth, certainly not a diagnosis.  But people can be affected by it even if they are from polar latitudes and it is not necessarily incapacitating.  Then perhaps the reports of him being unavailable, etc. are just gossip or misdirection.  But Putin is human and subject to frailties, even if he is your hero. :-)

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Wed Jan 7th, 2009 at 06:07:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
To us, Ukraine is a pawn.  To Russia, it's a step-child.  

Very much agree – but you know the West.

by Humbug (mailklammeraffeschultedivisstrackepunktde) on Wed Jan 7th, 2009 at 05:57:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This column has a lot of the usual cliches in it, but also some appreciation of Gazprom as an industrial power, with interests separate from the government.

Mark Almond: A capitalist revolution | Comment is free | The Guardian

Gazprom is at the heart of modern Russia. Its former chairman is the country's president, and many key executives work part-time in the Kremlin. It is, above all, not only Russia's biggest company but the world's biggest energy supplier. Back in the sleepy Brezhnev days it was run like the gas board here under Harold Wilson, and with as much geopolitical significance. Now the west's fear is that Gazprom is beginning to play a role like that of America's oil companies or BP in the days when the west's energy interests determined who ran countries such as Iran.
by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Wed Jan 7th, 2009 at 05:39:12 PM EST
Gotta run, but flipping through some other blogs about this, I saw the following comment.  It is a classic, and I will cherish it forever:

Vladimir Putin is the exact opposite of Enya.


Come, my friends, 'Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
by poemless on Wed Jan 7th, 2009 at 06:27:33 PM EST
but I have no idea what it's even supposed to mean...

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Thu Jan 8th, 2009 at 04:17:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Nor me, the Enya I've heard of being a female singer.

A dreadful pun on her "Orinoco Flow" maybe?

"Ukraine-no Flow" maybe?

<hides>

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Thu Jan 8th, 2009 at 05:16:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Now that makes sense!

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Thu Jan 8th, 2009 at 06:06:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Speaking of Orinoco, I've actually invented a drink called Orinoco Heavy (after that heavy Venezuelan crude (yes I'm such a nerd)).

Orinoco Heavy

  • Take a highball glass and fill it with plenty of ice cubes.

  • Squeze all the juice out of a slice of lemon in the glass. Rather too much lemon juice than too little.

  • Add 4 cl's of unflavoured pure vodka.

  • Fill the remaining volume with 1/3 orange juice and 2/3 coca cola.

  • Stir and enjoy, in spite of the fact that the drink is the same colour as the Orinoco river.


Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Thu Jan 8th, 2009 at 06:55:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh, Enya is synonymous with vapid new age mind-numbing warm fuzzies vibes. I just thought the images were funny.

Come, my friends, 'Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
by poemless on Sat Jan 10th, 2009 at 02:40:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]


Display:
Go to: [ European Tribune Homepage : Top of page : Top of comments ]

Top Diaries

The Brexit effect

by Frank Schnittger - Oct 25
20 comments

A Trip to the Woodshed

by Cat - Nov 3
20 comments

Catalonia?

by Frank Schnittger - Oct 28
17 comments