Day: April 18, 2007

Sarkozy on Chechnya

Via RIA Novosti:

The candidate most likely to become the next French president said Wednesday that he would prefer forging closer relations with the United States rather than Russia.

Nikolas Sarkozy is the leader of the ruling right-of-center party UMP and the former interior minister who stepped down in March to focus on his presidential bid in the upcoming election.

“If you want to know which one is closer to me – the U.S. or Russia, which we saw in action in Chechnya – I will say the U.S.,” the candidate said.

Passing the Ball

In Insight , Andrei Piontkovsky has an interesting article comparing Boris Berezovsky and Leon Trotsky – both when in exile claimed undemonstrably wide support inside Russia. But there the similarity ends. Piontkovsky has always characterized Berezovsky as “acting as an extremely valuable foreign agent for Putin by trying to ‘head,’ and thereby discrediting, any opposition to Putin’s regime.”

From the article’s conclusion:

Once he was in emigration, Berezovsky began claiming, and clearly knew what he was talking about, that these explosions were the work not of Chechens but of the Russian authorities. In the process, he omitted to mention who was effectively ruling Russia in the autumn of 1999. The highest authority in the land was the team in charge of “Operation Successor,” (Berezovsky, Voloshin, Yumashev, Diachenko) who were acting on behalf of an incapable President Boris Yeltsin. By means of the incursion of Basaev and Hattab in Dagestan, the blowing up of apartments in Russian cities, and the destructive war in Chechnya, they and their television hit men ushered into the presidency a certain Vladimir Putin. At the time, Putin was totally unknown and unable to take any independent decisions. Their aim was to avert a takeover of the Kremlin by the rival clan of Luzhkov and Primakov, which threatened their business interests.

The shameful secret of how the Putin regime was conceived binds Putin and Berezovsky together with a single chain. It seems strange that they fail to understand this. Or perhaps they know it full well, and that is why they pass the ball to each other so deftly.

The Same Rules for All

Writing in the International Herald Tribune, Yulia Tymoshenko considers ways in which the countries of Europe can deal with a Russia that is increasingly relying on energy politics to achieve its geopolitical and strategic aims. An excerpt:

What can the West do to dissuade the Kremlin from pursuing its expansionist designs?

Today, Russia needs Western markets, not Western aid. Yet it exhibits the worst of monopolistic behavior.

One path of engagement is for the European Union to work with Russia on energy in much the same way the EU engages other perceived monopolistic entities, Microsoft being a landmark example. European competition policy, which has successfully engaged companies both inside and outside the EU, could also help turn Gazprom into a reasonable competitor. One must ask how it is that Apple’s iPod and iTunes are challenged by EU regulators yet Gazprom is not?

In such a policy approach, the EU should consider breaking Gazprom’s monopoly on pipeline infrastructure as well as licensing independent gas producers. Independent producers already account for 20 percent of domestic gas sales in Russia and are boosting their output. Further gains would require market incentives. Europe can help by explicitly linking its acceptance of Russia’s WTO membership to Russia’s ratification of the Energy Charter and its attendant Transit Protocol, which would guarantee access to Russian pipelines for Gazprom’s competitors.

In this way, Europeans would shore the risks of any possible energy blockade equally among themselves, rather than allowing separate deals that leave others vulnerable to energy blackmail. Such a policy would need to incorporate a consensus that no country could reach a deal with Gazprom that undercuts EU plans to help construct pipelines from Central Asia that bypass Russia.

The EU’s collective engagement would be a model for the developing democracies on its borders, including Ukraine, and provide constructive model for Russian commercial behavior.

Russia should be welcomed in institutions and agreements that foster cooperation. But Russia’s reform will be impeded, not helped, if the West turns a blind eye to its expansionist pretensions – be they economic or political. The independence of the republics that broke away from the Soviet Union, including Ukraine, must not be tacitly downgraded by the West’s acquiescence to Russia’s desire for hegemony.

(via MAK)