REALITY BITES. NATO, having enjoyed a decade of expanding and ignoring Russia’s concerns, now finds itself, in the person of its Secretary-General, asking Moscow for help. Rasmussen was in Moscow looking for weapons and training to support NATO’s efforts in Afghanistan. Too bad the people in NATO didn’t listen harder in 2000 and early 2001, when Putin and Ivanov were warning about the common enemy. While Moscow certainly has no desire to see a jihadist-controlled Afghanistan, it has no reason to trust NATO which has failed to keep any of its promises to it. What can NATO offer Moscow in return? Will it make a binding declaration that there will be no more expansion? Can it, filled as it now is with new members who regard it as nothing but an anti-Russia organisation? It’s not surprising that Rasmussen left without any commitments. Just asking is not going to do the trick: NATO must acknowledge the mistrust it has built up.
NIGHTCLUB FIRE. Earlier in the month a fire in a nightclub in Perm killed about 150 people. The fire began when fireworks set off inside (!) ignited the place and the fire exits turned out to be locked. Sergey Shoygu, the long-time head of the Emergency Ministry, reported that inspectors “had turned a blind eye to the discrepancies for many years”. The disaster has sparked inspections throughout Russia and a list of 80 deficient Moscow clubs was published yesterday; 8 have been closed. No doubt more will follow.
GLONASS. Three more satellites were successfully launched on Monday. There are now 22 in orbit, enough to cover Russia and, with another two, to provide world-wide coverage. But the program is behind schedule and there are reported to be problems with the satellites.
GAYDAR. Yegor Gaydar died yesterday at the young age of 54. His role in the initial changes in the early 1990s will be hotly debated for years, particularly the removal of price controls. The empty stores that had characterised the later Gorbachev period filled up quickly but horrific inflation wiped out everyone’s savings. His actions remain unpopular today.
CAUCASIAN RUMOURS OF WARS. In the last few weeks the authorities have been having some successes but the jihadists struck back this week: two bombs in a gas pipeline in Ingushetia were defused; a Dagestan imam was wounded in a shooting, and in the Ingush Republic, a car bomb yesterday killed two in Nazran, and a suicide car bomb today wounded several. Something, come to think of it, NATO might pay more attention to.
IRAQ. A consortium of LUKoil (85%) and StatoilHydro (15%) has won an auction to develop the large (estimated at 12.88 billion barrels) West Qurna-2 oil field in Basra province, Iraq. The consortium expects to produce 1.8 million barrels per day.
PIPELINE. The Turkmenistan-Kazakhstan-Uzbekistan-China gas pipeline was officially opened on Monday. It is planned to pump 40 billion cubic meters annually in a couple of years of Turkmenistan gas to China.
STALIN. Evidently there is some sort of Stalinist revival in New York: a letter written by him sold for US$12,500 at Sotheby’s New York.
© Patrick Armstrong Analysis, Ottawa, Canada (see http://www.russiaotherpointsofview.com/)