posted to www.marxmail.org on September 30, 2004
Shortly after the terrorist attack on Beslan, James Petras wrote an attack on Chechen nationalism that contained the following:
“Anglo-US governments and their ‘political fronts’ provide sanctuary to the Chechen terrorist leaders as part of their strategy to sustain a war of attrition against Russia and especially Putin using the Chechen people as guinea pigs. The outcome of Chechen independence would most likely resemble Kosovo – a client state, with a big US military base, run by gangsters and warlords, trafficking in drugs, sex-slaves and military contraband – and deeply involved in fomenting separatist terror along Russia’s southern border – namely the Republic of Dagestan (which is multi-ethnic and close to the oil and gas rich Caspian Sea). The enemy of Russia is not an autonomous Chechen Republic but a terrorist gangster-run state, controlled by US and British security forces, aimed at further dismembering Russia and destroying Putin’s efforts to reform the Russian state.”
This facile analogy between Kosovo and Chechnya can only be made if one ignores political economy. The breakup of Yugoslavia was intended to remove one of the few remaining legacies of socialism in Eastern Europe. Secessionist movements in Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia and Kosovo were encouraged as a battering ram against the state-owned enterprises favored by Milosevic and elements of the Yugoslav army. In Serbia, after CIA-backed “dissidents” finally came to power in a coup against Milosevic, they began dismantling the Titoist base of the economy. The end result has been economic misery.
What was the model for these CIA-backed “dissidents”? None other than the Yeltsin government in Russia, whose successor now presides over a class-divided society where capitalism is being built free of the counterproductive excesses of the Yeltsin era.
Although much is made over NGO agitation on behalf of the Kosovars and the Chechens respectively, the contrast between them and the real locus of power cannot be sharper. Not only has Washington has refused to confront Yeltsin or Putin over the war against the Chechens, President Clinton stated that Yeltsin was a Lincoln-esque figure trying to preserve the union against secessionists.
Putin has also ingratiated himself to Washington. You’ll recall that just at the time that the claim that weapons of mass destruction existed in Iraq was being debunked for good, Putin stepped forward to say that Russian intelligence had proof that they did exist. His proof was about as solid as Donald Rumsfeld’s.
By serving as an effective steward over the capitalist transformation of Russia and an accomplice to US imperialist goals, Putin has earned George W. Bush’s undying friendship. The May 20, 2002 Guardian reported that Bush has even coined a pet name for him: “Pootie-Poot”. The article quotes Condoleezza Rice on their male bonding: “To see the kind of relationship that Presidents Bush and Putin have developed and to see Russia firmly anchored in the west, that’s really a dream of 300 years, not just of the post-cold war era”. Time magazine quoted a former Putin aide as saying the Russian leader “devoured an enormous amount of information on Bush and everything related to him”. That sounds a little bit like making an effort to read every novel ever written by Tom Clancy.
Reading today’s NY Times would certainly go a long way in allaying fears about Western imperialist plots to break up Russia in order to seize control over the oil fields. It turns out that the Russians themselves are all too happy to cut deals with multinationals in much the same way that rival mafias hammer out a deal to share in drug profits. Not only has Conoco become a partner in Lukoil, they share a common interest in robbing the Iraqi people of one of their few assets: oil.
NY Times, September 30, 2004
ConocoPhillips Buys Stake in Lukoil
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
MOSCOW (AP) — In a deal paving the way for future joint ventures, U.S. oil giant ConocoPhillips on Wednesday won an auction with a bid of nearly $2 billion for the Russian government’s 7.6 percent stake in Russia’s Lukoil — the world’s No. 2 oil company by reserves.
In the biggest privatization in Russia’s history, ConocoPhillips offered $1.988 billion, only a fraction above the $1.928 billion starting price.
“Of course, we are satisfied with the biggest price in Russia’s privatization,” said Lukoil vice president Leonid Fedun. “We are expecting a significant increase in the capitalization of the company.”
Immediately after winning the auction, ConocoPhillips announced in a joint statement that it planned to increase its stake to 20 percent, which would allow it to record a share of the company’s reserves of 20.1 billion barrels of oil equivalent in its books.
It also announced that it had offered to buy a 17.5 percent stake in a production sharing agreement allowing Lukoil to develop Iraq’s giant, 4 billion barrel West Qurna field, and would pay another $374 million to secure a 30 percent stake in a new joint venture to tap into rich Siberian oil reserves in the Timan Pechora region.
“People were expecting a knock-out number,” said Ronald Smith, oil and gas analyst at the Renassiance Capital investment bank of the auction results. “We thought maybe they’ll give a real signal that Russian assets are undervalued. But they ConocoPhillips got a great deal. If you look just at Timan Pechora — it means they can add 12 percent to their liquid reserves immediately.”
Lukoil’s 1997 deal to drill at West Qurna, one of the most promising Iraqi oilfields, has hinged on approval of the new Iraqi administration.
“Iraq is a wild card,” Smith said. “If that ever comes off, both companies will be terribly tickled: no analysts include the Iraq numbers in their reports, though.”