Zee Beam News

Miscellaneous news from the CIS ...

 Gazprom   RusEnergy   World   Pipeliners  Zee Beam 

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Russia's foreign policy: another year of shattered illusions

MOSCOW (RIA Novosti political commentator Dmitry Kosyrev) - The year 2004, which began with surprising events in neighboring Georgia, where new and largely unexpected for Moscow forces used non-parliamentary methods to come to power, is ending with similar events in another neighboring state, Ukraine. No matter how the crisis in Ukraine ends, the very fact that it exists should be enough for Moscow, or rather its political elite, to abandon illusions about the rapid development of harmony, accord and mutual understanding between world powers in economic development. Unlike professional politicians and diplomats, ordinary people in Russia tend to fall in love with the world and expect the world to love their country in return. This is why we have suffered so often from shattered illusions. At the beginning of 2004, we witnessed another peak of Russian enthusiasm at the world around it. The world seemed nearly beautiful: The US was deadlocked in Iraq and desperately needed the assistance of friends, and Europe shied away from the bold US moves on the world scene and seemed to be quickly moving closer to Russia, finding a common language with it at least over the US and Iraq. As for the other neighbors and leading partners - the CIS, China, India and others - everything seemed to be going well (or well enough) in relations with them. The main achievement of Russia's foreign policy in 2004 was a substantial strengthening of relations with the Asian giants (China and India), the beginning of new relations with Brazil, and progress in contacts with Southeast Asian states. Moscow does not have major political or ideological differences with them, though it did have quite a few technical, trade and other problems, in particular, with China. Relations with it were nearly ruined by problems with the delivery of the pledged amount of oil. Many such problems were settled in 2004 and Russia's trade with the above countries flourished. But Russia's main economic partner, the EU, which accounts for over a half of Russian trade, turned out to be its main foreign policy headache. The recent EU-Russia summit in The Hague and a session of the OSCE Council of Ministers in Sofia were shining examples of conflict-burdened international meetings. In The Hague, Europe as good as put on ice the project of the four common spaces, an example showing that a European country can have close relations with the EU without attempting to become its member. The same happened in Sofia, where Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov refused to sign a final document, thus canceling the results of the conference and forcing the OSCE to halt work for the first time since its establishment in 1975. The OSCE was created so that all Europeans, both members and non-members of the EU, could discuss and settle their problems. But its continued existence became senseless when the OSCE turned into an agency of the EU monitoring the fulfillment of the EU's will by non-members. It appears that the OSCE is still needed merely because it is neither the EU nor NATO. It is a paradox but Europe, which was nearly an ally of Russia during the Iraqi crisis, plummeted to the bottom of the list of Russia's partners within a year. The US, which seemed to be the main target for Russian, European and other critics, is still a rung or two above Europe. Why? Is it because Russia has joined China and Japan in keeping some of its growing hard currency reserves in US Treasury Bonds, thereby financing the US crisis economy and working against "Project EU" which rivals "Project America"? Or is the reason the specific European ideology, according to which Europe is either the EU or it is not Europe? The general impression is that Europeans, with their intolerance of dissent, cannot decide what they should do even about Turkey, let alone Russia. The European mindset spent the 1990s entertaining the illusion that Russia was moving closer to Europeanvalues, whatever they may be. When it became clear that this was not the case, that there can and should be different sets of values, Europe became frozen in surprise and remains frozen to this day. Much can be said about the strange results of this paralysis. Europeans have demonstrated the essence of European values by supporting the illegal actions of the losing side at the presidential election in Ukraine, ignoring the interests of the majority of voters, pushing the country into a crisis and facilitating its split, and demanding new rounds of the election until the candidate that suits Europe wins. This is not the Russian (or European) idea of democracy. But it worked a year ago, with Europe's approval, in Georgia. As a result, the conflict between Georgians and Ossetians flared up again on the Russian-Georgian border, one of the most dangerous zones in Europe. And Moscow had to put it out. Why are European sympathies in the CIS invariably given to the opposition leaders who have no political or administrative experience but have problems with the law? Do the post-Soviet states need such leaders? Why did Russia tolerate similar situations in Georgia and Yugoslavia but its patience has run out now? During his recent visits to India and Turkey, President Putin decided to speak about things that had long been worrying the Russian political quarters and the press, in particular, the dictatorship of political standards in international affairs. The point is that the attempts to bring chaos to Ukraine, meaning to Russia's border, are unacceptable. In the early 1990s, Ukraine was split into the east and west and its economy was mired in a deep crisis. Hardly had it restored stability and got its economy working when Europe provoked a new crisis. There is one more reason for the unexpected frankness of the Russian president. Last year and 2004 were a time of unrestrained economic growth in Russia, which created the confidence that iscrucial for national awareness. Besides, Russia put on combat duty new strategic and other types of weapons, which the general public is not aware of but which also bolsters national confidence. In a word, the weakness of the 1990s is gone and forgotten, even though Russia has not regained the status of great power. Humiliated by the economic troubles of the past, the Russian nation was prepared to tolerate any injustice and blows. But it has regained its normal state now, which is based on the "live and let live" principle. What next? What conclusions will Moscow draw from the mixed foreign policy experience in 2004? If economic growth (and foreign trade, in particular with Europe) slows down, Mr. Putin may return to his early practice - no conflicts and no verbal clashes. But if he sees that the battle of ideas with Europe does not seriously affect the growing economic ties between Russian and European business, he may - and one might well argue should - continue the ideological dispute. So far, we have a standard picture: one group of countries is aggressively forcing their values on the rest of the world, which is grimly resisting or even more grimly accepting them.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Forbes - Russia's Golden Hundred

27.05.2004 mosnews.com
The Russian version of Forbes Magazine published its Golden Hundred this May, listing the richest people in Russia - and perhaps in the world. The net worth of this exclusive club grossed $140 billion this spring - to be a member, you must be worth at least $210 million. To reach the top ten list, like the infamous tycoons - at least $4 billion. For better or worse, jailed oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky currently tops the list at $15.2 billion. Roman Abramovich - the Chelsea owner recently declared the richest man in England - trails him at $12.5 billion...
Full story...

Contact me:  

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?