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Industrialized dilemma: What to do about Russia?

Graeme Smith, Globe and Mail
…The Kremlin makes the opposite argument, saying that Russia is finally gaining stability after years of unrest, and top officials have recently been more candid about describing the result of this process as something other than Western-style democracy.

“The Russian notion of democracy is called sovereign democracy,” said Vladislav Surkov, Mr. Putin’s deputy chief of staff, who is widely believed to serve as the Kremlin’s chief ideologist.

“We want to be an open nation among other open nations and to co-operate with them according to fair rules, and not to be controlled from outside,” Mr. Surkov told reporters recently. “The West has something to learn from Russia. … We do not meddle in others’ affairs. Often they say one thing to Russia while thinking about something else: They speak about democracy and think about hydrocarbons.”

Alexei Mitrofanov, deputy leader of the nationalist LDPR party, put it more bluntly. “There’s only one problem, really: access to natural resources,” he said in an interview at his wood-panelled office inside the Russian Duma, or parliament. “Russia has tightened this access, and the West is irritated. That’s why you have this talk about democracy.”

For some Russians the West served as an enticing beacon of civility during Russia’s torturous journey toward democracy in the 1990s, said Sergei Karaganov, chairman of the influential Council for Foreign and Defence Policy. But that light has been snuffed out, he said, by the West’s poor behaviour in the Middle East.

Like many other analysts, Mr. Karaganov points out that even if Western leaders decide to voice their concerns forcefully to Mr. Putin this weekend, they’re no longer speaking from a position of strength. The best that foreign delegations can hope for, he said, is to avoid offending their host.

“The West can do very little, because it has lost its moral and real authority,” he said. “We’re now economically independent. You’re now consuming more energy than you produce, so what can you do?”
(15 July 2006)

Putin says can’t give Japan guarantees on planned oil pipeline

Xinhua, People’s Daily Online
Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Saturday he could not give Japan guarantees that a planned eastern pipeline would eventually reach the Pacific coast, citing uncertainty about oil supplies.

“Our position is that it’s a purely commercial project and the state shouldn’t take on any obligations in connection with completing the project.”
(16 July 2006)

Iraqi oil official seized

A suicide bomber killed at least 21 people in a cafe north of Baghdad on Sunday, while the head of Iraq’s North Oil Company was kidnapped in the capital, the second high-profile abduction in two days.

The kidnapping of Qazaz is a blow to the country’s vital oil sector, which has been trying to attract foreign investment to rebuild its dilapidated infrastructure. He was the second top oil official to have been kidnapped in little over a month.

Muthana al-Badri, director general of Iraqi’s State Company for Oil Projects, has not been seen since gunmen abducted him from his car on June 8.

Qazaz’s North Oil Company is in charge of Iraq’s northern oil fields. Exports from the fields, briefly restored last month after a lengthy suspension, have been at a standstill again since last week.
(17 July 2006)

From Group of 8, Energy Focus Is on Oil

New York Times via Transparency International
The world leaders at a Group of 8 summit meeting on Sunday issued a communique on energy policy that touched lightly on alternatives to fossil fuels, like biomass and wind power, but focused mostly on how to bring more oil to the market.

President Bush and the other leaders — from Russia, Japan, Germany, France, Britain, Italy and Canada — produced statements on corruption, trade and protection for copyrights and patents at a meeting that was overshadowed by the violence this weekend in Lebanon, Israel and the Gaza Strip.

On energy, the Group of 8 leaders said they were addressing ”high and volatile” prices, with oil soaring above $75 a barrel last week, by endorsing policies to encourage oil field investment and raise production. They said that demand for oil, natural gas and coal would rise more than 50 percent above current levels by 2030, and that these fossil fuels would constitute 80 percent of the world’s energy supply by then.
(17 July 2006)
Bill T asks, “Can these “world leaders” be as uninformed as they sound?”
A: Apparently not entirely.

Did World War III start yesterday morning?

Sharon, Casaubon’s Book
The great thing about predicting human events is that you are so often wrong. In this case, nothing would make me happier than to be in error. But, G-d help us all, I think the odds aren’t that bad that I’ m right. It is possible that yesterday morning, we started World War III.

The beginnings of wars are often hard to identify. Which act lit the spark on the tinderbox? Which straw was the final one? Like peak oil itself, the beginnings of war are often visible only in retrospect. Why today? Why, when we might make the case a world war war began when the US invaded Iraq? Why when this particular cause might turn out to be just another brush fire?

We don’t know. We can only guess. Yesterday morning, Israel invaded Lebanon in retaliation for the kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers, and began shelling civilian targets. Hezbollah is demanding the release of 9000 Palestinian prisoners. Israel is threatening to destroy Lebanon and potentially Syria as well. Iran and Syria are both making noises in support ofHezbollah, and our president and Germany are making noises in support of Israel. Iran has already threatened to close the gulf to oil transport in retaliation for any US or Israeli strike into Syria. Our government has been looking for an excuse to invade Iran, and here is one ready-made – Iran’s long standing economic support and military support of Hezbollah.
(13 July 2006)