Daily Archives: October 12, 2007

October 12, 2007 — Contents


(1) Blocking Russian Energy Imperialism

(2) As Usual, Putin’s Russia Simply Ignores the Law

(3) Another Chink in Putin’s Armor Exposed

(4) Sarkozy Spits in Putin’s Eye, and with Such Class!

(5) Annals of Shamapova: Oh, did ums faw down get boo-boo again?

NOTE: Check out La Russophobe‘s latest installment on Publius Pundit, where she reports on the latest neo-Soviet outrage against freedom of artistic expression. Welcome back to the barbaric, uncivilized USSR!

Blocking Russian Energy Imperialism

The AFP reports that Russia’s former slave states are losing no time in banding together to block Russia’s attempt to weaponize its energy resources. Whilst the West is dithering, these nations who have seen the horror of Soviet dictatorship up close and personal just get busy.

Five former communist-bloc countries signed a deal Wednesday to extend an oil pipeline that bypasses Russia, in a move that could diversify supplies and cut Moscow’s energy clout. The presidents of Azerbaijan, Georgia, Poland, Ukraine and host nation Lithuania looked on as government ministers and state oil company bosses inked an accord creating the “Sarmatia” consortium, which is to build the new network. Most ex-communist countries — and much of the rest of Europe — rely heavily on energy imports from Russia. Many are seeking to diversify their energy suppliers amid fears that Russia is increasingly exploiting its oil and gas market dominance to try to tame governments which fail to toe Moscow’s line.

“This indicates the unity and commitment of the entire region for progress, self-determination and a guarantee for sovereignty,” Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus told reporters after the ceremony. His Georgian counterpart Mikheil Saakashvili, who has regularly fallen foul of the Kremlin because of his pro-western stance, said the deal was a sign of “new strategic ties”.

“This is a big change not only in the energy policy of Europe but I think also in wider geopolitics, in the wider configuration of the post-Soviet and post-communist space,” Saakashvili said.

Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan said the deal would “lead only to more predictabilty, more cooperation and more mutual assistance between our countries.” Polish President Lech Kaczynski acknowledged that the project “has both an economic nature .. and a huge political impact.” He added, however, that “this agreement is not made against any other country.”

The specific goal of the five governments is to create a new oil route linking the Caspian and Baltic Seas, based on an existing pipeline running through Ukraine, with the aim of opening the taps by 2011. The Ukrainian pipeline currently ships Russian oil from the Black Sea port of Odessa to Brody, near Ukraine’s western border with Poland. The plan is to extend the pipeline to the central Polish city of Plock, home to the country’s largest refinery, allowing new supplies to be shipped onwards to the Baltic Sea port of Gdansk. Lithuanian authorities have also said that another branch of the pipeline could eventually run to the country’s own oil export hub of Klaipeda. The goal of the Sarmatia network is to enable oil to be pumped from energy-rich Azerbaijan — and potentially Kazakhstan, which sent Energy Minister Sauat Mynbayev to the Vilnius talks — through Poland and on to western European markets. “These countries constitute one of the leading locomotives that can help build the prospects for the European energy market,” said Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko. Ukraine has been under pressure from Russia’s state gas giant Gazprom and on Tuesday signed an agreement to settle a debt dispute that had raised fears in Europe of possible disruptions in supplies.

The Odessa-Brody pipeline was initially built in 2001 to reduce Ukraine’s dependence on Russia for oil and carry supplies from the port towards the rest of Europe. But when Ukraine failed to clinch the necessary oil supply deals with other countries it grudgingly agreed in 2004 to transport Russian oil in the opposite direction, for export from Odessa’s tanker port. The five governments plan to meet again in 2008 in the Ukrainian capital Kiev to set down the “entire schedule” of the pipeline deal, including its precise route and funding, Yushchenko said. “Today, I cannot see any serious problems, neither financial nor commercial,” he said.

As Usual, Russia Simply Ignores the Law

Writing in the Moscow Times Andrei Kolesnikov, a deputy editor of The New Times, explains the Russian pattern of simply ignoring the law. In light of this, the Kremlin’s opposition to the extradition of Andrei Lugovoi to face trial in the killing of Alexander Litvinenko seems simply insane — that is, fully neo-Soviet.

Every Russian or Soviet leader changes the structure of government to serve his own tactical interests. It’s highly unlikely that Nikita Khrushchev, NKVD chief Lavrenty Beria or Georgy Malenkov, chairman of the Soviet Council of Ministers, thought too much about observing the spirit and letter of the Soviet Constitution of 1936 when they divided power right after the death of Josef Stalin.

When Beria needed to centralize power by strengthening the role of the Council of Ministers, a simple resolution was enough to accomplish this. In order to deprive Beria of his authority, however, the other two members of the triumvirate had to use other means — arrest.

In 1957, Khrushchev tried to weaken the concentration of power in the Kremlin that Beria had instituted by introducing the Regional Economic Councils. This was an attempt to decentralize the federal ministries by creating 105 regional zones to improve local planning and management. In 1958, Khrushchev became a head of the government.

When Khrushchev’s opponents ousted him in 1964, they once again changed the government structure. A new triumvirate later emerged: Alexei Kosygin, chairman of the Council of Ministers, Nikolai Podgorny, chairman of the presidium of the Supreme Soviet and Leonid Brezhnev. Although Podgorny was formally the main figure in the Soviet government, the de facto leader of the country was Brezhnev, the general secretary of the Communist Party. It took Article 6 of the 1977 Constitution to codify this new distribution of power into law.

In 1988, when the Communist Party’s power was gradually fading, Mikhail Gorbachev concentrated power in the parliament and combined the positions of general secretary and head of the Supreme Soviet. A new model of government was necessary, and in 1990, the position of president of the Soviet Union was introduced, which was not provided for in the 1977 Constitution.

Throughout the 1990s, it was impossible to rely on laws to rule the country. Russia was instead ruled by presidential and Cabinet decrees.

Legal contradictions have never been an obstacle for Russian and Soviet leaders to change the structure of government and how power is allocated. There is no model that cannot be invented or manipulated in order to decide the main issue for a leader — how to preserve his power. The only requirement is the political will to push a new model through.

History has shown that coups, conspiracies, plots and revolutions are often carried out under the pretexts of restoring law and order. And when leaders try to achieve “stability” by manipulating the laws to increase their own power, this is fraught with tremendous political risk.

Another Chink in Putin’s Armor Exposed

The Independent reports:

One of Vladimir Putin’s top law enforcement officials has for the first time claimed publicly that in-fighting within the Russian security services is threatening the stability of the country, as a power struggle deepens just months before the President is supposed to leave office.

The security services and the siloviki – hardliners with security service backgrounds – within the presidential administration wield vast power in the opaque system of government under Mr Putin. While analysts frequently offer guesses about murky power struggles within the Kremlin, it is extremely rare for such clashes to be made public from the inside.

In an open letter in the Kommersant newspaper on Monday, Viktor Cherkesov, the head of the Federal Drugs Control Service, warned that the security services were in danger of becoming embroiled in an “all- against-all” war for power and influence.

Mr Cherkesov wrote that the intelligence community provided a “hook” for Russian society to hang on to in the 1990s, saving it from destruction. But the intelligence “corporation” now has such a powerful role that “the fate of the country” is in the balance if this corporation becomes overwhelmed with internal turf wars.

Mr Cherkesov served for 25 years in the KGB and its successor agency, the FSB, including as a deputy to Mr Putin when the latter was director of the FSB in the late 1990s.

His letter seems to have been prompted by the arrest of three top-ranking officials from his service last week. The officials are currently being held in custody and have been charged with a range of offences, including extortion. Mr Cherkesov hinted that they were arrested as revenge for a corruption scheme they uncovered last year involving FSB operatives. But his letter went wider than that, calling into question the very nature of the siloviki and their influence on Russian politics.

“The President’s circle is full of siloviki, and it’s difficult to determine their spheres of influence, which often overlap,” said Alexei Makarkin, a Moscow-based political analyst. “When they were all fighting the same enemies, such as Mikhail Khodorkovsky, their internal differences were put to one side. But now they have ‘won’ and control everything, they have started to fight among themselves.”

Analysts say Mr Cherkesov is no longer part of Mr Putin’s inner circle, which is another reason for the unprecedented decision to publish an open letter. “It’s very unusual practice for high-ranking officials to go public like this, especially those from the security services,” said Dmitry Badovsky, of the Institute for Social Systems. There has been no response from the Kremlin or the FSB yet, and Mr Cherkesov failed to turn up to the launch of an anti-drugs report yesterday. “It’s clear that the authorities are keen for any further discussion of these issues to take place privately,” said Mr Badovsky.

Mr Putin has indicated he will not change the constitution to seek a third term as president, but last week indicated he may stay on as prime minister. “Nobody knows what will happen in 2008, so everyone is trying to strengthen their position as much as possible in the build-up,” said Mr Makarkin.

The letter has confirmed fears that, far from the Russian elites standing together behind Mr Putin, they are engaged in private turf wars. “This is the reason behind Putin wanting to keep control after next year,” said Mr Makarkin. “He is the only person who has the authority to carry out a balancing act between these forces. Otherwise the country could descend into chaos.”

Once Again, Sarkozy Spits in Putin’s Eye (this time, with savoir faire)

In Moscow to visit Russian dictator Vladimir Putin, Nicolas Sarkozy of France once again showed that he’s the West’s current leader of the opposition to the rise of the neo-Soviet state. He confronted Putin over Russia’s provocation of Georgia, met with one of the pro-Putin set’s most despised figures, leading dissident Svetlana Gannushkina (saying of her group “I thank God that there are organizations like this in the world able to take, and that are taking upon themselves the responsibility to point out mistakes to the powers that be”), issued tough new rhetoric on Russia’s support of Iran, and lectured Russia about “acting responsibly” as if it were a child. And he did it all while pouring on the charm — brilliantly frustrating any Kremlin propaganda effort to dismiss him as a “russophobe” and laying the groundwork for even more devastating attacks to come while making Putin look rigid and uncooperative. Meanwhile, the head of one of France’s leading companies, oil giant Total, declared he has no interest in partnering with Russia’s Gazprom.

To sum it all up, as the Moscow Times reported: “During [one] ceremony, Sarkozy turned to Putin with a smile and, when Putin did not reciprocate, laughed to himself.”

Indeed. Bien joue, Monsieur Sarkozy! Clearly, a man to be reckoned with.

Annals of Shamapova: So What Else is New?


Another early round straight-set loss to a player not
ranked in the world’s top 30. And this time, in Moscow*.

(Lucky thing for her she’s a nice piece of ass, huh?)

*Talk about a snub! Only one of the six non-Russians in the world’s top 10 chose to travel to Russia to play in this tournament.

October 11, 2007 — Contents


(1) Another Original LR Translation: Latynina on the Trail of Anna’s Killers

(2) The Fangs of Inflation Continue to Poison Russia

(3) The Wild, Wild East: So Much for Russian “Superiority”

(4) Annals of Russian Xenophobia: Now, Its Official

(5) Annals of the Russian Comedy: Talk about Being Hard up for Heroes!

(6) The Mailbag: Russian Royally Flushed

NOTE: Check out La Russophobe’s latest installment on Publius Pundit where, relying on scholar-blogger Paul Goble’s outstanding reports, she reviews Iran’s efforts to export its brand of radical Islam to Azerbaijan and the consequences for Russian security.