Russia News Roundup

  • Russia is ‘studying ‘ new proposals on the United States’ planns for an anti-missile defense system in Central Europe. Medvedev’s threat to respond to the shield by placing missiles in Kaliningrad is more likely a tactical rhetorical move than a real plan. He knew that everyone would pay attention to his speech the day after the U.S. elections (Russians intensely follow the U.S. political process and plan their moves in coordination with it). Perhaps the hope on the Russian side is that a weary American public will not support missile defense if it means an escalation in tensions with Russia, especially since the Czechs deferred a decision on the shield until after the new president takes office. I personally think that daring President-elect Obama to go through with the shield – which he has been critical of in the past, before supporting the system more recently – will have the opposite effect. Anti-missile defense has been the elephant in the room since 1983 , and I doubt these new ‘proposals’ will yield any breakthroughs…should we just abandon the idea?
  • Medvedev’s anti-corruption legislation is quietly making the rounds in the Duma and a second reading should come shortly. The Duma approved a few minor amendments to the legislation, including a new requirement that judges must be Russian citizens who do not hold citizenship in another country and have never been convicted of a crime; and Central Bank employees will be prohibited from working for credit institutions for two years after their government service. Follow the path of the legislation here (in Russian).
  • In strategic industry law news, the Russian government approved Imperial Energy’s acquisition by India’s Oil & Gas Corp. The Federal Anti-Monopoly Service announced that the deal was already approved because the subsoil agency determined that Imperial Energy is not a strategic company, and therefore not subject to the law’s requirements. Imperial develops oil fields in Western Siberia, including the Tomsk region. The oilfields covered by the law include those with recoverable reserves of 70 million tons of oil. Thus, it is curious that the subsoil agency deemed that Imperial is not subject to the law, as the company’s Russian Registered Recoverable Reserves were at 526 million barrels of oil (according to page 4 of its report ), which is a little over 70 million tons. Could this have anything to do with the fact that stronger ties with India are a priority of the Russian government? Don’t forget to read my paper on the strategic industries law if you would like more information.
  • Experts are saying that Russia has passed through the worst of its economic crisis, though a large number of Russians are now worried about their job security due to the crisis and manufacturing output fell last month [again]. The Russians, no doubt, are anxiously awaiting the rise in the price of oil.
  • And, at long last, the NYT gives front-page, below the fold, coverage to Georgia’s false South Ossetian War claims – the very claims that the newspaper itself parroted when the war was still relevant and ongoing. Perhaps they were shamed into publishing this article by the thrashing dealt to them by Mark Ames in The Nation last month?
  • The Washington Capitals win in the last ten seconds of the game against their division rival Carolina Hurricanes last night, thanks to the spectacular playing of their three Russian phenoms – Sergei Fedorov, Alex Ovechkin, and Alexander Semin (pronounced syo-min).
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