Answering Noel's Challenge: Imperialism in the 21st Century

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William P. Baird

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Jan 2, 2006, 5:06:05 PM1/2/06
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Noel put out a very good challenge to the rest of us[1,2]. At the firs
time
out, I was thinking that perhaps he was being optimistic, but that I
couldn't
think of any counterpoints to what he was saying (imperialism is
deaddeaddead). The second time out when he suggested that along with
great power warfare, that imperialism was dead.

I suggested the Shanghai Cooperation Organization as a possibility of a
nascent imperialistic structure (perhaps a Sinocentric one). He didn't
answer. However! I suspect that was not from not being willing to
discuss it, but because at best, it was a weak candidate and he was
being merciful to me. I think this one has promise, especially if the
talk
of linking the economies EEC plays out, but it might not. It's rather
young. India might end up joining and negating China.

However, on the heels of all this discussion and my XMas break with my
family, Russia went and trotted out its little Gas War with Ukraine.
Agreements have been in place for a transition to market prices
already.
The Ukrianians were talking about doing a transit tax hike and that
seems
to have precipitated the crisis. The Russians have since made threats,
tried to bully the Ukrainians into selling the pipeliness to Gazprom,
cut
off the gas, and turned up the pressure on the gas lines that are going
to Europe because it seems that the pressure on the other end was
way low (prolly being siphoned off by the Ukrainians), and then been
threatened by the Europeans for the missing gas.

The Ukrainians have been claiming that this is part of an effort by the
Russians to coerce then back into the Russian orbit. It may be. It
may not be. I'm not an objective observer here. My in-laws are in
East Ukraine and facing mild problems if the gas reserves are
nonexistant (a possibility in the corruption riddled Ukraine). The
press has been rife with comments to the effect that energy rather than
military power might be the new power over states. I have misgivings
on that, but...what do you all think?

Are we seeing an example for Noel?

Will

1.
http://groups.google.com/group/alt.history.future/msg/ecdaf257c47f1a64

2.
http://groups.google.com/group/alt.history.future/msg/1053005248f676e6

--
William P Baird Do you know why the road less traveled by
Home: anzhalyu@gmail. has so few sightseers? Normally, there
Work: wba...@nersc.go is something big, mean, with very sharp
Blog: thedragonstales teeth - and quite the appetite! - waiting
+ com/v/.blogspot.com somewhere along its dark and twisty bends.

Noel

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Jan 2, 2006, 9:04:27 PM1/2/06
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William P. Baird wrote:

> However, on the heels of all this discussion and my XMas break with my
> family, Russia went and trotted out its little Gas War with Ukraine.

---Wow. Great minds think alike!

Here's what I wrote today, in another context:

"The end of empires? Russia, in an apparent attempt to
punish Ukraine for turning westward after the Orange
Revolution, cut off gas supplies yesterday when Ukraine
refused to accept a quadrupling of the (subsidized) price.
Gas pressure in the E.U. fell, Brussels (and national
governments) went ballistic, and President Putin moved
to accuse the Ukrainians of stealing. The Europeans
announced that they couldn't care less why the pressure
fell ... at which point Moscow announced that they'd turn
up the taps. The Russians also pledged not to interfere
with Turkmen gas exports to Ukraine.

"So either Ukrainians called the Russian bluff, informing
Moscow that if it broke its contracts with them, then they
could block Russian exports to the E.U., or the Russians
tried to signal Brussels that they were still powerful ... and
completely failed. Considering that Moscow is about to
host a G-8 summit devoted to 'energy security,' their mis-
calculation is even worse. After all, their contract with
Ukraine said that they would maintain prices until 2009,
and unless I've got verticle dyslexia, that's three years
away, and contract-breaking doesn't make me feel
particularly 'secure.'"

So, Will, my own personal answer to your question is
twofold.

(1) Yes, the Russians are trying to engage in 21st-century
imperialism.

(2) No, they're failing at it pretty badly, making a general
muck of things. Better to give up the whole bandwagon,
and just start charging market prices as the existing con-
tracts expire. After all, the near abroad is singularly failing
to ask "How high?" when Moscow says "Jump or we'll break
our contracts and raise your gas prices to market levels!"

Best,

Noel

William P. Baird

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Jan 3, 2006, 3:55:43 PM1/3/06
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Noel wrote:
> ---Wow. Great minds think alike!

Well, garsh...I'm not on yours, Carlos', and Doug's level,
but thanx for the compliment.

> Here's what I wrote today, in another context:

lol. My, oh my. This did sound familiar.

[...]

> (1) Yes, the Russians are trying to engage in 21st-century
> imperialism.

da. That's my opinion, but as I said, I'm rather biased here
and can't take reliably take a step back.

> (2) No, they're failing at it pretty badly, making a general
> muck of things. Better to give up the whole bandwagon,
> and just start charging market prices as the existing con-
> tracts expire.

Indeed. However, unfortunately, this seems like the opening
stage of Russia's...bad behavior?

I have a feeling that they'll work to reroute the gas pipes through
Belarus exclusively and make sure that Lukashenka stays in
their pocket. There's prolly no color revolution coming there.
Putin might then try again on the stick-it-to-em with Ukraine's
gas w/o the EU being upset.

The Russian Defense Minister made some ... interesting
comments about Ukraine if they reconsidered the rent on the
Black Sea Fleet's base in Sevastopol. Something to the effect
that it would be a 'fatal' mistake to up the rent or kick the
Russians out altogether. That's some pretty harsh language in
diplomatic terms.

I think Russia's going to try to pull some more stunts with
respect to Ukraine and be an 'Imperial Power' again. I think
you'll see Khazakstan get sown up tighter too.

Whether Khazakstan starts to gravitate to China is another
question. After all Belarus went off and asked China directly
whether or not they could join the SCO w/o consulting the
Russians first.

Personally, I think that Russia's time, as a great independant
power on par with the the alphabet soup supra/nations, has
past...and that with its insistance of "Really! I'm a big boy too!"
and bad boy behavior will end up making it someone else's
play toy in about 15 years[1].

The problem is the mean time. A pissed off Russia with its
just humiliated pride is not the 'want to have' list. Yes,
they did it to themselves. Over and under and through and
up the obscene gesture. However, just because they punked
themselves, doesn't me that they won't do something stupid
because of it.

Will

> Noel

1. Betcha its China. wine your choice. Or Doug's since we
talked about the Russia as sockpuppet for China with him.
If China plays its cards right and wants to confront the US
the the SCO, it'll deny full entry to India and Russia's influence
will fallfallfall (demographics intersects with W levels of stupidty).

Charles Talleyrand

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Jan 5, 2006, 1:21:38 AM1/5/06
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>Russia, in an apparent attempt to
>punish Ukraine for turning westward after the Orange
>Revolution, cut off gas supplies yesterday when Ukraine
>refused to accept a quadrupling of the (subsidized) price.
>Gas pressure in the E.U. fell, Brussels (and national
>governments) went ballistic, and President Putin moved
>to accuse the Ukrainians of stealing. The Europeans
>announced that they couldn't care less why the pressure
>fell ...

Maybe you can explain your position to me. I truely don't understand
it.

So Russia was subsidising Ukrainian gas supplies. When politics in the
Ukraine changed, they decided they no longer want to subsidise
Ukrainian gas supplies. The Ukarine insists on continued (slow phasing
out) of subsidies. When the Ukraine holds Russian exports to Western
Europe hostage, Russia and the Ukraine work out a deal where much of
the subsidy is now provided by Kazakstan.

In what was is this not a fair way to put the situation? Why must
Russia continue to subsidise the Ukraine? And why the heck is
Kazakstan now subsidising anyone?

-Curious
Charles Talleyrand

P.S. This should increase the tendency for additional gas lines via
Belorussia or perhaps to China.

Tim McDaniel

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Jan 5, 2006, 1:49:52 AM1/5/06
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In article <1136442098.8...@g49g2000cwa.googlegroups.com>,

Charles Talleyrand <kitpl...@gmail.com> wrote:
>So Russia was subsidising Ukrainian gas supplies. When politics in the
>Ukraine changed, they decided they no longer want to subsidise
>Ukrainian gas supplies. ...

>Why must Russia continue to subsidise the Ukraine?

<http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/4577648.stm> says

In addition, Ukraine argues that the Russians have a contract to
supply gas at the much lower rate of $50 [per 1,000 cubic metres]
until 2009 and that any dispute should be go to arbitration (The
Stockholm Chamber of Commerce is the agreed venue).

<http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/4575138.stm> says

In contrast to state channels, privately-owned Ren TV [in Russia]
said Ukraine may have the law on its side in the dispute.

Its correspondent explained that the small print in an annex to
the current gas transit agreement stated that gas prices agreed at
the time must remain in force until at least 2009.

That opinion was shared by Andrey Illarionov, who resigned as
economic adviser to President Vladimir Putin last week over what
he said were differences of opinion on economic policy.

Mr Illarionov told Moscow Echo radio that Russia was in the wrong,
and had no right to turn off the gas taps.

One party to a contract doesn't get to modify the terms at will unless
the contract says so. And it is a standard practice to buy and sell
commodities well in advance, locking in prices via long-term contracts
for the certainty of a budgetable revenue stream.

--
"Me, I love the USA; I never miss an episode." -- Paul "Fruitbat" Sleigh
Tim McDaniel; Reply-To: tm...@panix.com

jussi....@faf.mil.fi

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Jan 5, 2006, 6:26:01 AM1/5/06
to

William P. Baird kirjoitti:

> Noel wrote:
>
> > (1) Yes, the Russians are trying to engage in 21st-century imperialism.
>
> da. That's my opinion, but as I said, I'm rather biased here and can't take reliably take a
> step back.

Well, let no one say that I_am biased when it comes to the foreign
policy of the Russian Federation. And as a note to both Noel and
William: this wasn't an example of "imperialism" or
economical-political coercion on any governmental level. Rather, this
was simply a class example of pure, honest-to-God _greed_.

Russia of today is intoxicated from the surfeit of oil and gas. When
people, corporations or countries are drunk from greed and blinded by
the colour of money after a long period of thirst, they're prone to do
stupid things to ensure their nex fix. Gazprom noticed an opportunity
to reap more quick profits, and the Kremlin noticed the opportunity to
capitalize one of the past year's political losses. They seized their
chance, but their motivations were based purely on the desire for cash,
without any hidden "imperialist" agendas.

The accidental and inadverted nature of the subsequent political
collision was best witnessed by the fact that it was over fairly
quickly. At the present, the results would appear satisfactory for both
parties.

> I have a feeling that they'll work to reroute the gas pipes through Belarus exclusively and
> make sure that Lukashenka stays in their pocket.

Nope. The project of the day - as I'm sure you've heard - is to
circumvent the neighbouring states altogether and construct a direct
gas pipeline between Russia and Germany, built on the bottom of the
Gulf of Finland and on the Baltic seabed. Over twelve hundred
kilometres of pipeline, straight from the ancient Russian citadel of
Viipuri to the ancient German harbour of Gryfia [1].

(And by the way, making Belarus the main transit state sure as hell
wouldn't be in anyone's interests, least of all the Kremlin's. No one
in his right mind would want to grant Lukashenka that much
significance.)

> Personally, I think that Russia's time, as a great independant power on par with the the
> alphabet soup supra/nations, has past...and that with its insistance of "Really! I'm a big
> boy too!" and bad boy behavior will end up making it someone else's play toy in about 15

> years.

As a personal note, when I start to compare the political situation,
the general intellectual atmosphere and especially the foreign policy
of the present-day Russian Federation with those of the present-day
United States... well, let's just say that I'm still expecting better
times for Moscow, but I've pretty much ceased to do so for Washington.


Cheers,
Jalonen


[1] "Vyborg" and "Greifswald" to the historically challenged readers.

Noel

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Jan 5, 2006, 7:03:41 AM1/5/06
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jussi....@faf.mil.fi wrote:

> As a personal note, when I start to compare the political situation,
> the general intellectual atmosphere and especially the foreign policy
> of the present-day Russian Federation with those of the present-day
> United States... well, let's just say that I'm still expecting better
> times for Moscow, but I've pretty much ceased to do so for Washington.

---I'll ignore your strange optimism about Russia, although
I really can't resist pointing out that it's a cheap shot, unlike
your previous and rather incisive comparison with the late
tsarist period. Because it's gratuitous, unfair, and patently
ridiculous (at least until companies start changing hands
due to political connections, our Army starts selling wea-
pons to the Iraqi insurgents, and George Soros gets tossed
in jail) it also has the defect of ruining your usually spot-on
criticisms about the United States, in addition to being un-
becoming and insulting, and you know I certainly understand
and admit my country's myriad flaws.

So putting that aside, your lack of optimism about Washington,
seems to indicate that you're not paying attention to the news
from the United States, my friend. Not that there's anything
wrong with that, but those of us who live her are finding it quite
a relief to discover that we actually still have a functioning
political system, press, and judiciary. Admittedly, my
standards have dropped somewhat since November of
2001, but the news has been rather unremittingly good.

I really do wish that I meant the above paragraph ironically.

All the best, and see you in Helsinki later this year,

Noel

P.S. You're wrong about greed being the motivator.
Russia has contracts with other CIS countries that
it could jack up the price on without breaking con-
tractual agreements.

jussi....@faf.mil.fi

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Jan 5, 2006, 8:35:09 AM1/5/06
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Noel wrote:

> ---I'll ignore your strange optimism about Russia.

Lack of pessimism. I'm feeling complacent, and why shouldn't I? There's
a definite political change coming, sooner or later. Besides, they're
getting richer and richer, and many of them want to waste their cash
right here. Wealth is a good thing, and even better when thrown away at
other people, especially if those other people are us. Compared to
other large countries that have chosen to erect new barriers in the
name of national security, the neighbouring society is relatively open
for external influence and interaction and likely to become even more
so. Why not to look forward?

> although I really can't resist pointing out that it's a cheap shot, unlike your previous and
> rather incisive comparison with the late tsarist period. Because it's gratuitous, unfair,

> and patently ridiculous.

Gratuitous rhetoric at the Russian Federation is ignored, but equal
language against the United States is frowned upon as a "cheap shot".
Check.

> (at least until companies start changing hands due to political connections, our Army

> starts selling weapons to the Iraqi insurgents, and George Soros gets tossed in jail)

Direct analogies are seldom necessary. One could just as easily point
out that comparing Russia with the United States is ridiculous, because
the Kremlin hasn't responded to the threat of Chechen terrorism by
invading Iran. On the other hand, the similarities between certain
events that have taken place in the Caucasus with those that have taken
place in the Abu Ghraib, or the equal similarities between the various
Russian detention centres and Guantanamo are disturbing enough.

And the public response or the lack of it is even more disturbing. I'll
admit that I may not be paying enough attention - turning one's back on
the potentially positive news is one integral part of the feeling of
pessimism, after all - but I haven't noticed a credible American
version of Anna Politkovskaya yet. [1]

> it also has the defect of ruining your usually spot-on criticisms about the United States,

> in addition to being unbecoming and insulting

_I_ am known for my "spot-on criticism about the United States"? Um.
What have I done wrong? So far, my basic approach has been to direct
mock and scorn at everyone equally. If this has been mistaken for
constructive criticism, it has most definitely not been my intention.

The label of "insulting" I'll gladly accept, although I think that it
becomes me quite nicely.

> All the best, and see you in Helsinki later this year,

I visited the bloody place again on the mid-days and vowed never to
return. We'll have to see how long I'm able to keep my promise this
time around; the last time around it lasted for four months (August
2005 - December 2005).

> P.S. You're wrong about greed being the motivator. Russia has contracts with other

> CIS countries that it could jack up the price on without breaking contractual agreements.

The feature of "capitalizing on a political defeat" which I presented
is not apparent in the case of these other states that you're referring
to.


Cheers,
Jalonen


[1] Mike Moore and his look-alikes won't do. The required attribute
was, after all, "credible".

Noel

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Jan 5, 2006, 1:57:53 PM1/5/06
to

jussi....@faf.mil.fi wrote:
> Noel wrote:

> > although I really can't resist pointing out that it's a cheap shot, unlike your previous and
> > rather incisive comparison with the late tsarist period. Because it's gratuitous, unfair,
> > and patently ridiculous.
>
> Gratuitous rhetoric at the Russian Federation is ignored, but equal
> language against the United States is frowned upon as a "cheap shot".
> Check.

---Oh, tosh. You can google my record on references to
the United States. So where's my "cheap shot" at the
Russian Federation?

> > (at least until companies start changing hands due to political connections, our Army
> > starts selling weapons to the Iraqi insurgents, and George Soros gets tossed in jail)
>
> Direct analogies are seldom necessary. One could just as easily point
> out that comparing Russia with the United States is ridiculous, because
> the Kremlin hasn't responded to the threat of Chechen terrorism by
> invading Iran. On the other hand, the similarities between certain
> events that have taken place in the Caucasus with those that have taken
> place in the Abu Ghraib, or the equal similarities between the various
> Russian detention centres and Guantanamo are disturbing enough.

---Similarities ... but I am tempted to say that at some point
quantity becomes quality. But I won't in this case, because
I won't be manuvered into defending my own country's indefen-
sible actions by claiming, "The Russian Federation is worse!"
After all, I hold the United States to far higher standards than
the Russian Federation ... but about the same as I'd hold
Finland.

Seriously. Not a joke.

> And the public response or the lack of it is even more disturbing. I'll
> admit that I may not be paying enough attention - turning one's back on
> the potentially positive news is one integral part of the feeling of
> pessimism, after all - but I haven't noticed a credible American
> version of Anna Politkovskaya yet. [1]

---Anderson Cooper! OK, he's a hack. But it so nice
to watch the news programs actually report, well, news.
And critically too. I risk "post hoc ergo prompter hoc,"
but Katrina seems to have catalyzed the change.

And Syd Hersch. Gotta love him. Oh, George Packer,
too. Fred Kaplan. (Fred, not that other asshole.) Dan
Froomkin.

The public response to torture has been quite strong,
although it's taken a quieter form. But public pressure,
not private conscience, is why 91 senators voted for
the McCain bill. Which the administration is now
undercutting ... and that's making the news!

It's like emerging from a bad dream, Jussi. Then again,
I still must admit that my standards are much lower than
they were five years ago.

Returning to journalists, and including fake ones ...

You should also try Jon Stewart. In fact, I cannot more
highly recommend Jon Stewart. "The Daily Show," on
comedycentral.com. And if you can get the "Colbert
Report" segment on Venezuela giving oil away to poor
northeasterners, then you'll have quite the grand old
time.

> > it also has the defect of ruining your usually spot-on criticisms about the United States,
> > in addition to being unbecoming and insulting
>
> _I_ am known for my "spot-on criticism about the United States"? Um.
> What have I done wrong? So far, my basic approach has been to direct
> mock and scorn at everyone equally. If this has been mistaken for
> constructive criticism, it has most definitely not been my intention.

---Yes, yes, it has. You need to do better. Syd Webb
provides a template.

> > P.S. You're wrong about greed being the motivator. Russia has contracts with other
> > CIS countries that it could jack up the price on without breaking contractual agreements.
>
> The feature of "capitalizing on a political defeat" which I presented
> is not apparent in the case of these other states that you're referring
> to.

---I'm missing something. If I understand you, Russia was
defeated, not Ukraine, so how can the Russian Federation
capitalize on its own political loss?

Best,

Noel

Sydney Webb

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Jan 5, 2006, 5:52:52 PM1/5/06
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Noel wrote:

[snip]

> ---Yes, yes, it has. You need to do better. Syd Webb
> provides a template.

I have to demur. In my experience Jussi is far less critical of the USA
than I.

Bringing this back to the future, I'd like my readers to imagine a
metric called 'agreeability'. It is a property pertaining to a state
and it measures the citizen's experience of that state. It goes from 0
- dystopia, to 1 - utopia. As a way of calibrating 1974 Australia has
an agreeability index of 0.8 and 2004 Australia is 0.75

As readers can see, the metric has a little of the subjective about it.

ISTM that at present the USA's present agreeability - which I can't
exactly measure, not being a citizen - is higher than that of the
Russian Federation. But the RF, because it is starting from a low base,
is capable of a much higher rise over the next 50 years.

Of course agreeability can go down, as well as up. Russia's past
history - domination bt the Mongols, the Tsars and the Communist
dictatorship - show the possibility of wild fluctuations and things
going wrong. Whereas the United States today is the product of
two-and-a-quarter centuries of independence and the rule of law.
Democracy, a constitution and a system of checks and balances largely
work together to ensure things can't go wrong and - should they do so -
they will be rapidly corrected. Nevertheless, this does not mean we
should hold the USA to a higher standard than the RF - or indeed the
Democratic Republic of the Congo - because a higher standard implies a
double standard.

ObAH: _Foundation and Huns - Part I_ where Pelagius explains to Julian
that his new empire is quite unlike any that has gone before.

- Syd

Charles Talleyrand

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Jan 7, 2006, 12:58:57 AM1/7/06
to
>>So Russia was subsidising Ukrainian gas supplies. When politics in the
>>Ukraine changed, they decided they no longer want to subsidise
>>Ukrainian gas supplies. ...
>>Why must Russia continue to subsidise the Ukraine?

In addition, Ukraine argues that the Russians have a contract to
supply gas at the much lower rate of $50 [per 1,000 cubic metres]
until 2009

In contrast to state channels, privately-owned Ren TV [in Russia]


said Ukraine may have the law on its side in the dispute.

Its correspondent explained that the small print in an annex to
the current gas transit agreement stated that gas prices agreed at
the time must remain in force until at least 2009.

Well, that's new data to me. Thanks.

Anyone know why Kazakstan is willing to sell lower-than-market priced
gas to the Ukraine?

-Charles Talleyrand

jussi....@faf.mil.fi

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Jan 7, 2006, 4:45:16 AM1/7/06
to
Noel kirjoitti:

> ---Oh, tosh. You can google my record on references to the United States. So where's
> my "cheap shot" at the Russian Federation?

Not yours. The reference was to William Baird's remark on the
possibility of Russia becoming "someone else's play toy in fifteen
years" on this same thread.

> ---Similarities ... but I am tempted to say that at some point quantity becomes quality.
> But I won't in this case, because I won't be manuvered into defending my own country's

> indefensible actions by claiming, "The Russian Federation is worse!"

You slippery little devil, you.

> After all, I hold the United States to far higher standards than the Russian Federation ... but
> about the same as I'd hold Finland.

Isn't that something? Me, I try to hold every country to the _same_
standards, Finland and Russia included.

> ---Yes, yes, it has. You need to do better. Syd Webb provides a template.

Bloody Christ, Noel. You're trying to bring out Syd Webb as a possible
rhetorical model for me? Thanks, but no thanks. I'll rather opt
completely out for commenting on the United States. In the past, I've
generally tried to ignore discussions on the politics of the said
country, but on AHF it's considerably more difficult than on SHWI.

> ---I'm missing something. If I understand you, Russia was defeated, not Ukraine, so how can
> the Russian Federation capitalize on its own political loss?

Ah, apparently I wasn't clear enough. It's always possible for any
country to reap some benefits from its own political losses. And in
this case, the presumed new political orientation of Ukraine and its
apparent break from Moscow's orbit prompted the Gazprom to make the
best of the bad situation and consider the possibility of turning the
political setback into a financial gain. Thus, the idea of
re-negotiating the prices and raising them to the market level.

Even if this was a miscalculation and a rather badly-handled move, that
doesn't mean that there was any outright "imperialist" agenda behind
it. If there was, why didn't the Russian Federation play this same card
already in the last winter, when it could have had even more effect?
Especially when some of the more disgusting commentators in Moscow had
already made open threats of using precisely this very method of
coercion against Latvia?

Again, the fact that the whole collision between Moscow and Kiev was
over fairly quickly speaks on behalf of the conclusion that this was
just a temporary mishandling of affairs motivated by greed, not a case
of political-economic extortion aimed at Ukraine. Yesterday, Gazprom
opened similar negotiations with Bulgaria, aimed at the gradual raising
of gas prices to the market level. Does this mean that Russia has
hidden imperialist goals also in the Balkans? Wouldn't it seem more
plausible that this is only about the desire to get more profits from
the sale of gas, and nothing else?

Cheers,
Jalonen

sigi...@yahoo.com

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Jan 7, 2006, 7:11:52 AM1/7/06
to

jussi....@faf.mil.fi wrote:

> Again, the fact that the whole collision between Moscow and Kiev was
> over fairly quickly speaks on behalf of the conclusion that this was
> just a temporary mishandling of affairs motivated by greed, not a case
> of political-economic extortion aimed at Ukraine. Yesterday, Gazprom
> opened similar negotiations with Bulgaria, aimed at the gradual raising
> of gas prices to the market level. Does this mean that Russia has
> hidden imperialist goals also in the Balkans? Wouldn't it seem more
> plausible that this is only about the desire to get more profits from
> the sale of gas, and nothing else?

Data point in favor of the "stupid greed" theory: Russia also
announced that it would be cranking up the price to Armenia. Hell of a
shock to the Armenians, since they're traditionally Russophile, and are
currently Russia's only ally in the region.

On the other hand, there's plenty of evidence for the "punish the
uppity country cousins, re-assert our authority" theory too. Frex, the
media campaign against the (thieving, ungrateful) Ukrainians seemed
awfully well organized. And government figures had sound bites ready
to go at once, which is not what you'd expect if it was just Gazprom
unilaterally doing some opportunistic price gouging.

Of course, the two theories are not mutually exclusive. Not at all.
And causality could go either way: Putin murmuring "oh who will teach
these silly southerners a lesson", and Gazprom jumping on it; or
Gazprom deciding to jack prices, but first floating it past the
Kremlin. I could imagine either, no problem.

Note that, after a 15 year hiatus, Kremlinology is making a comeback.
Mystery wrapped in an enigma, what the hell did they mean by that, etc.
etc. I almost expect that in a couple of years we'll be watching who's
standing next to whom at May Day parades, just like we were in the
'80s.


Doug M.

Noel

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Jan 8, 2006, 3:15:12 AM1/8/06
to

jussi....@faf.mil.fi wrote:
> Noel kirjoitti:
>
> > ---Oh, tosh. You can google my record on references to the United States. So where's
> > my "cheap shot" at the Russian Federation?
>
> Not yours. The reference was to William Baird's remark on the
> possibility of Russia becoming "someone else's play toy in fifteen
> years" on this same thread.

---Gotcha.

> > ---Similarities ... but I am tempted to say that at some point quantity becomes quality.
> > But I won't in this case, because I won't be manuvered into defending my own country's
> > indefensible actions by claiming, "The Russian Federation is worse!"
>
> You slippery little devil, you.

---I try.

> > After all, I hold the United States to far higher standards than the Russian Federation ... but
> > about the same as I'd hold Finland.
>
> Isn't that something? Me, I try to hold every country to the _same_
> standards, Finland and Russia included.

---Seriously, I'm a cynic about countries that aren't
liberal democracies.

> > ---Yes, yes, it has. You need to do better. Syd Webb provides a template.
>
> Bloody Christ, Noel. You're trying to bring out Syd Webb as a possible
> rhetorical model for me? Thanks, but no thanks.

---My irony was lost. Apologies.

> In the past, I've
> generally tried to ignore discussions on the politics of the said
> country, but on AHF it's considerably more difficult than on SHWI.

---True, for obvious reasons. Anyway, I enjoy your comments
about the United States.

> > ---I'm missing something. If I understand you, Russia was defeated, not Ukraine, so how can
> > the Russian Federation capitalize on its own political loss?
>
> Ah, apparently I wasn't clear enough. It's always possible for any
> country to reap some benefits from its own political losses. And in
> this case, the presumed new political orientation of Ukraine and its
> apparent break from Moscow's orbit prompted the Gazprom to make the
> best of the bad situation and consider the possibility of turning the
> political setback into a financial gain. Thus, the idea of
> re-negotiating the prices and raising them to the market level.
>
> Even if this was a miscalculation and a rather badly-handled move, that
> doesn't mean that there was any outright "imperialist" agenda behind
> it. If there was, why didn't the Russian Federation play this same card
> already in the last winter, when it could have had even more effect?
> Especially when some of the more disgusting commentators in Moscow had
> already made open threats of using precisely this very method of
> coercion against Latvia?

---As Doug says, these aren't mutually-exclusive hypotheses,
given the data.

Best,

Noel

sigi...@yahoo.com

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Jan 8, 2006, 2:04:53 AM1/8/06
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jussi....@faf.mil.fi

unread,
Jan 9, 2006, 5:05:18 AM1/9/06
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Noel wrote:

> ---Seriously, I'm a cynic about countries that aren't liberal democracies.

The difference between us, I suppose. I'm a cynic about _all_
countries, regardless of their political systems.

I _live_ in a sanctimonious, complacent, worn-out and impotent "liberal
democracy". There are many things that I find enjoyable and even
admirable in the country of my residence, but the form of government
sure as hell isn't one of them.

Cheers,
Jalonen

jussi....@faf.mil.fi

unread,
Jan 9, 2006, 10:22:06 AM1/9/06
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[Delay of twelve hours is enough. I'll repost, but if this message
appears twice, my apologies.]

sigi...@yahoo.com wrote:

> Note that, after a 15 year hiatus, Kremlinology is making a comeback. Mystery
> wrapped in an enigma, what the hell did they mean by that, etc. etc.

Without any intention of going any deeper back to the issue of
frightening parallels, I still have to note that this time around, a
similar kind of a political science would seem to be emerging to
explore also the mystery that is Washington.

The attempts by the various European political commentators and
journalists to present some kind of a coherent picture of what's really
going on in the inner circles of the White House and the Pentagon in
the recent years are quite similar to the articles written on the
internal affairs of the USSR back in the '80s. Long, long analysis of
the potential ideological reasons and the hidden political motives that
are concealed behind the garbled official rhetoric and the
controversial undertakings. "What the hell did they mean by that?" is
an equally valid question on the actions of the west as well as the
east.

The present-day D.C. is getting more or less just as alien and
difficult to interpret to the Western or Northern European political
atmosphere as the present-day Moscow... or perhaps it's _more_ so. At
least to me, it's not particularly problematic to figure out all sorts
of plausible explanations for why Russia does what it does, but the
stuff that's happening on the other side of the Atlantic constantly
defies my limited understanding. And I don't mean just that war-thingy
in Mesopotamia; their approach on every damn thing confuses the hell
out of me, all the way from environmental questions to religion or
whatever the hell. To paraphrase Robert Kagan, Americans are from outer
space.

So, I think there's definitely a need for experts in Washingtonology,
both now and in the future. Of course, the United States may very well
turn out to surprise this new generation of political scientists, just
like the USSR did back in the late '80s and the early '90s.

Oops, it seems that I did go a bit too deep after all. Apologies.

Cheers,
Jalonen

Noel

unread,
Jan 9, 2006, 3:02:43 PM1/9/06
to
---If you're interested, I can recommend a breezy and relatively
short book that explains some, perhaps most, of the conundrum.

Of course, your conclusions about future "surprises" could rise
or fall, depending.

Anyway, what's confusing you? I can shed light. Oh, it won't
make *sense*, but I think I can make it make sense. Kapeesh?

I know you're interested.

All the best,

Noel

The Horny Goat

unread,
Jan 11, 2006, 4:45:50 AM1/11/06
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On 9 Jan 2006 07:22:06 -0800, jussi....@faf.mil.fi wrote:

>So, I think there's definitely a need for experts in Washingtonology,
>both now and in the future. Of course, the United States may very well
>turn out to surprise this new generation of political scientists, just
>like the USSR did back in the late '80s and the early '90s.
>
>Oops, it seems that I did go a bit too deep after all. Apologies.

Apparently it's not just Washington-ology.

On New Year's Eve I took my two teenaged daughters camera shopping and
who should I run into but our local member of parliament who knows
that my eldest daughter (freshman at Carleton University in Ottawa) is
a parliamentary intern. I called her over from the next aisle and
introduced her and he told us HIS intern is a boy from Michigan - why
an American would choose to be apply to be a Canadian parliamentary
intern is beyond me but it takes all kinds to make a world!

(writes he still rather bleary-eyed from getting up at 5 am on Sunday
morning to take the kid to the airport to send her back to Ottawa till
April...)

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