18 July 2006

European Tribune - Temper tantrum

The very smart and very right Jerome a Paris responds to Philip Stephens op ed in today's FT.  The FT piece requires subscription if you read all the quotes in Jerome's piece you get the whole article and a commentary.

Anyway here it is; European Tribune - Temper tantrum.

The collective ET reply is posted below:

Sir,

In his column today (“The west folds before Putin's bluff”), Philip Stephens sees the energy relationship with Russia as a zero-sum game where one party has to lose, and he finds fault with our political leaders for giving up without a fight.

However, he does not make clear in what precise fashion this is a win-or-lose situation, or what fighting harder (or “calling Putin's bluff”) would entail. And beyond that, this article is revealing of an unacceptable attitude to sovereign foreign nations and the natural resources on their territory.

It is no coincidence that this is happening at a time when the UK and North America are suddenly losing their natural gas self-sufficiency and look to a future where, like Japan and most European countries, they need to import a significant portion of their gas, in particular from Russia. As energy becomes scarcer, we have the choice to either use less of it or to deal with those able to provide us with our needs. “Dealing with” does not mean “ordering around” or “being sanctimonious to”. It means listening to, and in all likelihood taking into account what is said. And if we don't like it, then we can always go back to option one: using less energy.

Describing the Putin years as a “steady drift from nascent democracy to authoritarian kleptocracy” is also disingenuous. A “steady drift from chaotic kleptocracy to authoritarian kleptocracy”, a net positive for most Russians, would be more appropriate. “A steady drift from cowed-impotent-and-submissive to uppity-and-impossible-to-ignore” might be an even better label from the perspective of Western elites and explains their current annoyance (as expressed in Mr Stephens' column)...

To date, Russia (and before it, for many years, the Soviet Union) has been an extraordinarily reliable supplier of gas, and there is no reason to believe that this will change. Gas infrastructure creates co-dependencies and neither party can use the mutual dependency to any lasting profit - both lose out from conflict. Russia is currently benefitting from much higher oil and gas prices, caused by our reckless push for ever more energy to be burnt, and is reacting mostly benignly to what can only be described as the self-indulgent tantrums of a spoilt kid. We have no God-given right to the energy resources of the rest of the world, and Russia, despite the supposed decline or weakness imputed by Mr Stephens, is unlikely to have its hand forced.

It's time to drop the self-righteous tone and speak in good faith with Russia - or to work on reducing energy demand.

Best Regards,

Jerome Guillet
Editor, European Tribune

Note: a longer comment on Mr Stephens' article can be found on European Tribune, at http://www.eurotrib.com/?op=displaystory;sid=2006/7/18/11939/9588
My comment is posted below - if nothing else you will note the paucity of my writing (a native) versus that of Jerome a Paris (who you have to believe isn't.)
“Some simplistic sentences undermine your underlying point.

If turned on its head you might want to ask why the Bush, Chirac and Blair and Koizumi folded like proverbial deck chairs. VVP is genuinely popular. He is not a lame duck despite an expiry date that is similar to Bush and Blair.  Popularity may not be a good measure of democracy.  Which should make Bush and Blair's foray in to Iraq intensely democratic.

Russia never had a nascent democracy.  It briefly had a populist drunkard.  Russians voted for roubles in pockets ahead of a desire to vote for an egomanical local dictator (now otherwise foundly remembered as Governors, previously thought of as truly organised crime.) You may disagree with the people's choice, but they made a concious descision that a TV made somewhere other than Belarus was a step in the right direction and and a Ford Focus ahead Zhiguli was a giant leap - now they just have to learn to drive.

I will agree that Russia is increasingly an authoritarian kleptocracy - this however is better than a disorganized kleptocracy that is now foundly remembered in the West as a nascent democracy.

There is much that is very wrong with Russia; but by fixating on democracy and kleptocracy you allow VVP's pair of 7's seem like a strong hand.

It may also be worth trying to square the sentiment that Russia does not have the capital to develop Shtockman (for example) with your previous assertion that Russia is strong due to the high natural resource prices.”


[composed and posted with
ecto]


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1 comment:

copydude said...

It is interesting the number of op-eds one reads that suggest Russia is either a paper tiger or fast approaching doom. Or both.

A quote from the op-ed: "In short, Russia has none of the attributes of a 21st-century superpower. In poker terms, the country's oil and gas reserves give the Russian leader a hand equivalent to, say, a pair of sevens. But Mr Putin knows how to bluff"

These op-eds appear to be written to a template. A recent piece by Peter Ziehan - "Russia, Where Now" is a model of the genre.

Such articles begin by listing Russia's insurmountable ills. These may include such disparate things as Siberia melting, Muslims breeding faster than ethnic Russians or a declining interest in chess.

The 'analysis' then finds a common factor which has prolonged all these ills. It used to be communism, but now writers are having to be more inventive. Peter Ziehan has decided it's 'The Andropov Doctrine'.

The conclusion is always the same. The only salvation for Russia is to embrace Western banks and hand over its consumers, assets and what have you. Regime change would be nice too. But . . . "President (insert current President's name) just doesn't get it."

As you note, such articles now routinely contain nostalgia for the Yeltsin years. Ziehan writes about 'the idealism of the group . . . in the early 1990s'.

This piece was very widely syndicated on the net and I wonder what Russians make of it. Particularly the '25 years of the Andropov Doctrine'. My Russian history is fuzzy, but I'm sure the guy was hardly around long enough to formulate a doctrine.

18 July 2006

European Tribune - Temper tantrum

The very smart and very right Jerome a Paris responds to Philip Stephens op ed in today's FT.  The FT piece requires subscription if you read all the quotes in Jerome's piece you get the whole article and a commentary.

Anyway here it is; European Tribune - Temper tantrum.

The collective ET reply is posted below:

Sir,

In his column today (“The west folds before Putin's bluff”), Philip Stephens sees the energy relationship with Russia as a zero-sum game where one party has to lose, and he finds fault with our political leaders for giving up without a fight.

However, he does not make clear in what precise fashion this is a win-or-lose situation, or what fighting harder (or “calling Putin's bluff”) would entail. And beyond that, this article is revealing of an unacceptable attitude to sovereign foreign nations and the natural resources on their territory.

It is no coincidence that this is happening at a time when the UK and North America are suddenly losing their natural gas self-sufficiency and look to a future where, like Japan and most European countries, they need to import a significant portion of their gas, in particular from Russia. As energy becomes scarcer, we have the choice to either use less of it or to deal with those able to provide us with our needs. “Dealing with” does not mean “ordering around” or “being sanctimonious to”. It means listening to, and in all likelihood taking into account what is said. And if we don't like it, then we can always go back to option one: using less energy.

Describing the Putin years as a “steady drift from nascent democracy to authoritarian kleptocracy” is also disingenuous. A “steady drift from chaotic kleptocracy to authoritarian kleptocracy”, a net positive for most Russians, would be more appropriate. “A steady drift from cowed-impotent-and-submissive to uppity-and-impossible-to-ignore” might be an even better label from the perspective of Western elites and explains their current annoyance (as expressed in Mr Stephens' column)...

To date, Russia (and before it, for many years, the Soviet Union) has been an extraordinarily reliable supplier of gas, and there is no reason to believe that this will change. Gas infrastructure creates co-dependencies and neither party can use the mutual dependency to any lasting profit - both lose out from conflict. Russia is currently benefitting from much higher oil and gas prices, caused by our reckless push for ever more energy to be burnt, and is reacting mostly benignly to what can only be described as the self-indulgent tantrums of a spoilt kid. We have no God-given right to the energy resources of the rest of the world, and Russia, despite the supposed decline or weakness imputed by Mr Stephens, is unlikely to have its hand forced.

It's time to drop the self-righteous tone and speak in good faith with Russia - or to work on reducing energy demand.

Best Regards,

Jerome Guillet
Editor, European Tribune

Note: a longer comment on Mr Stephens' article can be found on European Tribune, at http://www.eurotrib.com/?op=displaystory;sid=2006/7/18/11939/9588
My comment is posted below - if nothing else you will note the paucity of my writing (a native) versus that of Jerome a Paris (who you have to believe isn't.)
“Some simplistic sentences undermine your underlying point.

If turned on its head you might want to ask why the Bush, Chirac and Blair and Koizumi folded like proverbial deck chairs. VVP is genuinely popular. He is not a lame duck despite an expiry date that is similar to Bush and Blair.  Popularity may not be a good measure of democracy.  Which should make Bush and Blair's foray in to Iraq intensely democratic.

Russia never had a nascent democracy.  It briefly had a populist drunkard.  Russians voted for roubles in pockets ahead of a desire to vote for an egomanical local dictator (now otherwise foundly remembered as Governors, previously thought of as truly organised crime.) You may disagree with the people's choice, but they made a concious descision that a TV made somewhere other than Belarus was a step in the right direction and and a Ford Focus ahead Zhiguli was a giant leap - now they just have to learn to drive.

I will agree that Russia is increasingly an authoritarian kleptocracy - this however is better than a disorganized kleptocracy that is now foundly remembered in the West as a nascent democracy.

There is much that is very wrong with Russia; but by fixating on democracy and kleptocracy you allow VVP's pair of 7's seem like a strong hand.

It may also be worth trying to square the sentiment that Russia does not have the capital to develop Shtockman (for example) with your previous assertion that Russia is strong due to the high natural resource prices.”


[composed and posted with
ecto]


Technorati Tags: , , , ,

1 comment:

copydude said...

It is interesting the number of op-eds one reads that suggest Russia is either a paper tiger or fast approaching doom. Or both.

A quote from the op-ed: "In short, Russia has none of the attributes of a 21st-century superpower. In poker terms, the country's oil and gas reserves give the Russian leader a hand equivalent to, say, a pair of sevens. But Mr Putin knows how to bluff"

These op-eds appear to be written to a template. A recent piece by Peter Ziehan - "Russia, Where Now" is a model of the genre.

Such articles begin by listing Russia's insurmountable ills. These may include such disparate things as Siberia melting, Muslims breeding faster than ethnic Russians or a declining interest in chess.

The 'analysis' then finds a common factor which has prolonged all these ills. It used to be communism, but now writers are having to be more inventive. Peter Ziehan has decided it's 'The Andropov Doctrine'.

The conclusion is always the same. The only salvation for Russia is to embrace Western banks and hand over its consumers, assets and what have you. Regime change would be nice too. But . . . "President (insert current President's name) just doesn't get it."

As you note, such articles now routinely contain nostalgia for the Yeltsin years. Ziehan writes about 'the idealism of the group . . . in the early 1990s'.

This piece was very widely syndicated on the net and I wonder what Russians make of it. Particularly the '25 years of the Andropov Doctrine'. My Russian history is fuzzy, but I'm sure the guy was hardly around long enough to formulate a doctrine.