CORRUPTION. Medvedev has sent the first elements of his anti-corruption legislation to the Duma. At the first meeting of the Council for Corruption Prevention on Tuesday, introducing the effort, he said “Corruption in our country has become rampant. It has become commonplace and it characterises the life of Russian society… In effect, the solution of this strategic task is connected to most of the tasks we have set ourselves”. I believe he is correct in seeing corruption, at every level, as the principal problem in Russia. It has deep roots in the Soviet system (blat and na levo) and was greatly intensified (with Western help; see Wedel’s book) in the 1990s.
SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC. The government has produced a draft social and economic program to cover the period up to 2020. The principal points are said to be raising life expectancy to 72-75 and at least doubling real incomes.
DUUMVIRATE. These two programs show, I believe, how the division of labour between Medvedev and Putin is settling out. Anti-corruption is a “presidential” program: it’s strategic and it affects everything. The social program is “nuts and bolts” and is a continuation of what the government has been trying to do for some years. Likewise, during the August war, Medvedev basically handled the “outside” duties and Putin the “inside” duties.
MILITARY. Putin has announced that an additional 80 billion rubles (about US$3 billion) will be allocated to buy new military hardware and armaments. The August war showed some deficiencies. And, had something similar happened anywhere else, the Russian forces could not have reacted as quickly as they did.
TNK-BP. Last month the two sides signed an MoU by which CEO Robert Dudley will leave by the end of 2008 and BP will propose a replacement to be approved unanimously by the TNK-BP Ltd board.
HISTORY. After some legal action, the Main Military Prosecutor’s Office has granted the relatives of the Polish officers murdered at Katyn in 1943 access to some classified documents.
GAS WARS. Ukrainian PM Tymoshenko is in Moscow and a principal purpose of her trip will be to negotiate new gas prices. She will not have a happy time. The old agreement, by which Ukraine paid much less than the going rate, was in large part a consequence of Turkmenistan’s willingness to sell its gas (about 60% of what Ukraine burns) at a low price. But it is not willing to do so any more. Meanwhile Gazprom is getting nearly US$500 tcm in Germany. She says that there will be no intermediaries this time (the earlier agreement had a number of very opaque middlemen) and hoped that the “world price” could be phased in “within a period of several years”. She and Putin announced an agreement today which, said Putin, “could later serve as a basis for a future gas treaty between Gazprom and Naftohaz Ukrainy”.
TRANSDNESTR. A Moldovan minister told the OSCE that Chisinau was ready to continue direct contacts with Transdnestr without any preconditions and President Voronin has made an important statement. He said there was no question of Moldova ever joining NATO and that reunification with Transdnestr would “strengthen the country’s constitutional neutrality”. Russian troops in Transdnestr were guarding warehouses with weapons “that were hastily withdrawn from Germany and other members of the Warsaw Pact after the break-up of the Soviet Union”. The statement may be designed to clear the way for a settlement.
GEORGIA. Erosi Kitsmarishvili, a former close ally of Saakashvili, has broken with Georgia’s “discredited authorities” and calls the death of former PM Zurab Zhvania murder. The Public Defender says Georgia is not “ruled correctly” and that it is necessary to replace the existing “authoritarianism” with real democracy in order to save the country; he lists 13 demands. It seems that the only people still calling Georgia a “democracy” without any qualifier are Saakashvili himself and his supporters in the USA. Nino Burjanadze has presented a list of 43 questions for the authorities to answer. Generally they are of the theme how could the government have been so stupid and irresponsible as to have started the war? She has made a common error; the proper question is: what war did the authorities think they were starting? Certainly not the catastrophic defeat that happened. Meanwhile the EU observers have arrived and the Russian forces are withdrawing from the buffer zones on schedule. And, just to show that the situation is more complicated than most Western coverage describes, Georgia resumed export of power to Russia from one of its HEP stations – there is a long-standing agreement under which Georgia sends power north in the summer and receives it back from Russia in the winter.
© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Ottawa, Canada