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Wednesday, December 13, 2006

U.S. Scholar Highlights Russia's Energy Clout

Marshall Goldman / Photo from www.harvard.edu08.12.2006 - Voice of America - U.S. scholar Marshall Goldman says energy wealth and control over export pipelines have made Russia more powerful than at any time in its history. Professor Goldman told the Jamestown Foundation that Russia’s post-cold war power is built on its oil and gas resources. He said both eastern and western Europe have become dependent on Russia for oil and gas and that alternative supplies are not available. The recent boom in oil and gas prices, said Professor Goldman, has greatly boosted Russia’s economic and political clout. “I end up arguing, and I’m putting my neck out, that Russia is more powerful now than it ever was during the czarist era or the Soviet era,” he noted. “In the Soviet era there was mutually assured destruction. They had nuclear weapons. We had nuclear weapons. We didn’t use them, because we were worried they would and vice versa. Here you don’t have that kind of restraint.” Goldman says Russia has a long history of using oil and gas as a foreign policy tool. “In the Soviet era they cut off the flow of oil to Yugoslavia under Tito, to Israel after Sinai, to China after Mao broke away, to Cuba, to Finland, and more recently to Lithuania because there is a dispute over who is going to control the refinery there that Yukos is trying to sell,” he explained. Yukos is Russia’s second largest oil company. Goldman attributes much of President Vladimir Putin’s popularity to the economic resurgence that the country is experiencing, in large part because of its energy exports. Russia now has the world’s third largest foreign currency reserves, after China and Japan. Mr. Putin’s re-nationalization of state assets and moves against the economic oligarchs who wielded enormous power under Boris Yeltsin have also been popular. Professor Goldman says Russia’s geographic position between Europe and Asia may make energy-hungry China vulnerable to Moscow, primarily because so many energy pipelines run through Russia. “Just as the Europeans have become dependent on Russia for its gas, if the pipelines are built to China, the Chinese will become equally vulnerable,” he added. Russia, concludes Goldman, in just nine years has made an extraordinary transition from economic weakness to great strength. He credits President Putin with restoring national pride and ending the threat of political fragmentation within Russia.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Russia's domestic debt creeps up

RBC, 06.12.2006, Moscow 18:53:02.The Russian domestic debt denominated in government securities edged up 1.8 percent and amounted to RUR1,002bn (approx. USD382.73bn) as of December 1, 2006, according to the Finance Ministry's verified data. As of January 1, 2006 domestic debt amounted to RUR851.121bn (approx. USD32.51bn). The debt consists of three major components. Its major part is federal loan bonds with debt amortization (OFZ-AD) accounting for 66.56 percent (RUR667.43bn, or approx. USD25.49bn). The second largest part is federal loan bonds with a constant yield (OFZ-PD), with 19.9 percent of the total amount of debt (RUR200.12bn, or approx. USD7.64bn). And finally - federal loan bonds with a fixed coupon yield (OFZ-FK), accounting for 9.4 percent (RUR 94.834bn, or approx. USD36.22bn). A smaller part of the debt is in government savings bonds with a fixed interest rate (GSO-FPS), with 4 percent of the total amount of debt (RUR40bn, or approx. USD1.53bn).

Russia, Belarus and Ukraine regret collapse of U.S.S.R. - survey

MOSCOW, December 7 (RIA Novosti) - Most people in Russia, Belarus and Ukraine regret the collapse of the Soviet Union 15 years ago, according to a survey by the Eurasian Monitor international research agency. Gathering in the city of Minsk, the capital of Belarus, on December 8, 1991, the leaders of Russia, Belarus and Ukraine declared that, given the profound crisis in which the Soviet Union found itself, the country cease to exist. They then signed an agreement on the formation of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), which was later joined by other former republics of the Soviet Union. The survey said that most of the respondents who regret the collapse of the Soviet Union are in Russia, amounting to 68%, while in Ukraine the percentage is 59%, and in Belarus 52%. Between 44% and 47% of respondents in the surveyed countries said it would have been possible to avoid the collapse, but a majority said the union cannot be restored, with 68% of respondents in Russia, 71% in Ukraine and 76% in Belarus holding that view. Most of the respondents in Russia said the unification of their country with Belarus, Ukraine or Kazakhstan is possible. Sixty-four percent of respondents in Belarus said they favor a union with Russia, 30% with Ukraine and 23% with the European Union. Respondents in Ukraine were divided along almost the same lines as Belarus. The survey was conducted throughout November in Russia by the All-Russia Public Opinion Research Center (1,600 surveyed respondents), in Belarus by the Novak social laboratory (1,107 surveyed respondents), and in Ukraine by the Research and Branding Group company (2,215 surveyed respondents).

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