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Marching On Moscow

By       Message Conn Hallinan     Permalink
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All talk of Putin recreating the old Soviet Empire is just silliness, which there is a lot of out there these days. A perfect example was the New York Times' embarrassingly thin story about Putin's personal wealth that rested on the fact he wore expensive watches.

There is some silliness on the Russian side as well. Yes, the overthrow of Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych was a coup -- what else do you call an armed uprising that causes an elected president to flee? -- but it wasn't just ex-Nazis and fascists. There was genuine mass anger at the corruption of the Yanukovych government.

At the same time, two of the groups that spearheaded the coup -- and who currently control seven ministries in the Western Ukraine government -- celebrate those who fought with Waffen SS divisions during World War II. The Germans killed some 25 million Russians during that war, so if they are a bit cranky about people who hold celebrations honoring the vilest divisions of an evil army, one can hardly fault them.

The Americans and the Europeans have long had their eye on Ukraine, though their interests are not identical because their economic relations are different.

Russia supplies the EU with 30 percent of its energy needs; for countries like Finland and Slovakia, that reaches 100 percent. U.S. trade with Russia was a modest $26 billion in 2012, while for the EU that figure reached $370 billion. More than that, several large European energy giants, including BP, Austria's OMV, ENI, Royal Dutch Shell, and Norway's Statoil, are heavily invested in Russian gas and oil. If oil and gas are combined, Russia is the largest energy exporter in the world.

For Europe, Russia is also a growing consumer market of 144 million people, where retail spending has grown 20 percent a year between 2000 and 2012... Any attempt to ratchet up sanctions will have to confront the fact that isolating Russia is not in the interests of some very powerful business interests in Europe -- and even a few in the U.S., like Chevron, ConocoPhillips and ExxonMobil.

Russia is the world's eighth largest economy, and one that is well integrated into the world's economy, particularly in Asia through the Shanghai Cooperation Council. The Council includes not only Russia and China, but also most of Central Asia's countries, with observer status from Iran, Pakistan and India

The emerging BRICS countries--Brazil, India, China and South Africa (Russia makes up the "R")--did not support the recent UN resolution condemning Moscow's annexation of the Crimea and would certainly not join any sanctions regime. The Russians and Chinese inked a 30-year, $400 billion gas deal, and bilateral trade between the two countries is set to reach $100 billion by 2015 and $200 billion by 2020. Russia and Iran are reportedly negotiating a $10 billion energy deal as well.

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http://dispatchesfromtheedgeblog.wordpress.com
Conn M. Hallinan is a columnist for Foreign Policy In Focus, "A Think Tank Without Walls, and an independent journalist. He holds a PhD in Anthropology from the University of California, Berkeley. He oversaw the (more...)
 

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