WEDNESDAY DECEMBER 17 CONTENTS
(1) EDITORIAL: Ask not for Whom the Bell Tolls, Mr. Obama
(2) Readalong with a Russophile Idiot
(3) Kerry on Georgia
(4) Russia’s OPEC Fraud
(5) More Arrests of Peaceful Protesters in Putin’s Russia
NOTE: CNBC is running a one-hour special on Russia’s economic collapse and its implications for American policy; the show’s web page has a schedule of the air dates, a photo gallery and a viewer poll.
Ask Not for Whom the Bell Tolls, Mr. Obama
Barack Obama has not even taken the oath of office yet, and his administration is already mired in scandal. The Democrat governor of his home state has been indicted by a federal prosecutor for trying to sell Obama’s Senate seat to the highest bidder, and while Obama has steadfastly denied any involvement in the tawdry proceedings, he’s stonewalled the investigation.
And now we know why: Obama was lying.
Anna Matveeva, Russophile Rat
The freakishly weird looking individual at left is described by the Guardian newspaper’s website, in their “Comment is Free” blog section, as “a visiting fellow with the Crisis States Research Centre at the London School of Economics.”
Remember Olga Ivanova? Well, let us introduce you to her counterpart across the pond, Anna Matveeva.
In a recent blog posting, she declares that “anti-Russian stereotypes have become commonplace in the west. It’s up to the media not to spoil a vital relationship.” It’s such a classic bit of neo-Soviet propaganda that we can’t help reviewing it line by line. Read along with us, won’t you?
First, a few general observations. Though Ms. Mateeva is a Russian citizen, she doesn’t say so to warn her readers, nor does she make any effort to examine her own bias. She doesn’t say a single word about the possibility that “russophilia” might be a bad thing, nor does she spend a single word criticizing any Ameriphobia that might be found in Russia. Worse, she doesn’t acknowledge the slightest possiblity that Russia might have done anything to provoke “russophobia” or might need to reform in any way. Apparently, she thinks its totally irrelevant that Russia is governed by a proud KGB spy. Finally, though she claims the West’s relationship with Russia is “vital” she doesn’t give one single scrap of evidence to substantiate this point. There’s nothing remotely like research or journalism to be found anywhere in her ridiculous nationalistic tirade.
With those damning faults in mind, let’s take a look at the text, in boldface followed by our commentary in normal typeface.
The President-elect [Barack Obama] made it clear that it will be important for the United States to engage with the ongoing dialogue with Russia, because we all have mutual interests. But we also make that crystal clear that that dialogue does not come at the expense of the security of Georgia, the sovereignty of Georgia, the independence of Georgia; the rights of its people or our interests here that are expressed in unison with the European community. I believe we can have a good relationship with Russia and restore a balance with respect to the interests of this region so that the sovereignty of Georgia is properly respected and so we all go forward respecting the appropriate rights of each state. So there are a clear set of principles on which we begin that kind of discussion and Russia understands that.
My judgment is that Georgia as a sovereign country needs to be upheld and respected. And the agreement that the Russians have signed up to needs to be upheld. I think we need to get the focus back from discussions of the August events and how they may unfolded to the realities of what is happening on the ground today and what we need to do to go forward in the interests of protecting the [human] rights and finding an appropriate accommodation that respects the law and the sovereignty.
The Congress of the United States and certainly the United States’ Senate will be deeply committed to continuing our assistance to Georgia, particularly in this time, when the economy is stressed and we recognize the very real importance of Georgia and of its ability to be able to sustain itself during this troubled economic times. This is about Georgia’s efforts to protect its sovereignty; to protect its people and to stand as an example of what freedom and democracy can provide.
–U.S. Senator and former presidential candidate John Kerry, Tbilisi, December 13
Streetwise Professor reports:
Oil rallied [last] week (but still finished well below $50/bbl) primarily on reports that Russia would cooperate on output cuts with OPEC. Dmitri Medvedev has hinted that Russia might actually join the organization.
There are several reasons for skepticism. First, Russia has dramatically reduced its oil export duty, and is contemplating a further cut:
Russia cut oil export duties to $287 per tonne from November 1, from $372.2 in October, in response to calls by producers who feared making losses on overseas shipments. Russia’s senior energy official, Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin, had lobbied for an even lower November tariff of $195.20. RIA Novosti reported that Russia could reduce oil export duty to USD 117 per tonne to USD 119 per tonne from the current USD 192.1.
Mr Alexander Sakovich deputy head of the customs payments department at the ministry said the average price for Urals crude on world markets in the monitoring period from November 15 to December 9 inclusive was USD 44.5 per barrel. He said the price could continue to change until December 15 given high volatility on the market. Mr Sakovich said duty on light petroleum products could be cut to $91-$93 per ton against the current USD 141.8 and on heavy petroleum products to USD 49 per tonne to USD 50 per tonne from the current USD 76.4.
The Russian government decided to set export duties on oil and oil products on a monthly basis from December 1st and abandon the previously accepted bimonthly practice.
The most effective way for Russia to curtail oil exports (which is the only way it would have an impact on world prices) is to keep its export tax relatively high. Lowering the export tax encourages exports, and is contrary to statements that it will cut output. Sechin’s support for lower duties is especially important in this regard.
Over the weekend, Garry Kasparov and Boris Nemtsov convened the first meeting of their new “Solidarity” movement. Then Kasparov tried to organize protest marches through Moscow and St. Petersburg to support the new organization. Here’s what happened next, according to the BBC:
Police have prevented two marches by anti-government demonstrators in Moscow and St. Petersburg, detaining at least 100 protesters.
Police trucks ringed two Moscow squares where protesters were to gather, and officers arrested dozens of people. In St Petersburg, police blocked 100 protesters from marching on the city’s main thoroughfare, arresting 10 people. The protests were the latest organised by former chess champion Garry Kasparov’s Other Russia movement. Other Russia has tried to stage several protests it calls dissenters’ marches. Among those arrested on Sunday was Mr Kasparov’s fellow leader, Eduard Limonov.