MOSCOW, September 15 (RIA Novosti) Russia did not aim at Nabucco in the Caucasus conflict / Moscow, Washington need code of behavior in conflicts with other countries / Putin becomes increasingly outspoken / Should Russia start an economic Cold War with the West? / MAN AG set to build truck plant in Russia / GLONASS receives additional funding after Caucasian war
Russia did not aim at Nabucco in the Caucasus conflict
It would not be correct to view Russia's military action in the Caucasus as an attempt to foil Europe's plans to develop alternative energy routes, a Russian analyst writes.
Mikhail Krutikhin, a partner at the RusEnergy consultancy, writes in the popular business daily Kommersant that it would be wrong for several reasons to portray Russia's South Stream and Nord Stream bypassing Ukraine and Belarus as rivals to Europe's Nabucco.
Most importantly, the volume of natural gas Gazprom can physically deliver to Europe is dwindling and hence cannot replace the planned Nabucco supplies. The gas monopoly's statistics forecast that gas output at its greatly depleted deposits will dwindle from 601.9 billion cubic meters in 2010 to 412.2 billion in 2015 and to 191.6 billion in 2020.
To fulfill its contracts, Gazprom has to commission new deposits with a total capacity of at least 215-300 billion cu m a year by 2015 and 780-880 billion by 2030, Krutikhin writes.
Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller said the company would supply one-third of Europe's natural gas by 2020, but Reiner Hartmann, head of E.ON Russia, thinks Gazprom's share in Europe will go down from 26% to not more than 22%.
Gazprom's projects will not increase Europe's energy consumption, but will redistribute the flows, forcing Ukraine and several other countries to buy gas from its subsidiaries in Germany, Austria and other European states.
Krutikhin also said it would be illogical to assume that one of Russia's goals in the Caucasus conflict was to interrupt Central Asian gas supplies to Europe.
Azerbaijan is unable to export more than 6-8 billion cubic meters of natural gas annually, whereas Nabucco needs at least 30 billion.
Turkmenistan will need to agree with Azerbaijan on the division of the Caspian Sea, develop its western deposits or build 622 miles of pipelines from its eastern gas fields, and stop deliveries to China to become a partner in the Nabucco project. These are impossible conditions.
Besides, Russian gas producers in Central Asia are competing not with European companies but with China.
The Gazprom strategists can be accused of inefficient management of the unwieldy monopoly and strategic planning mistakes, Krutikhin writes. But it would be silly to think they had provoked the Caucasus conflict to harm its imaginary rival, Nabucco.
Moscow, Washington need code of behavior in conflicts with other countries
The West is now trying to shift the discussion of the situation in and around South Ossetia from rational lines to emotional judgment. It is trying to limit the talks with Russian representatives to assumed facts, not basing them on real knowledge, which inevitably leads to false assessments, writes Alexei Bogaturov, deputy director of the International Security Institute think tank.
Meanwhile, there is only one question the international community needs answered: whether or not Washington had a deliberate plan to use Georgia as a tool to test Russia's military strength in the Caucasus, its government's military and political resolve, and its top-level decision-making on military policies.
If the answer is "yes," it could help decide whether or not the United States is considering real military preparations against Russia.
Judging by the moderate tone of the Russian leaders' statements, Moscow is inclined to believe that the United States does not realize what the "price of confrontation" will be.
One gets a feeling from the statements by U.S. politicians that Washington is shocked by Moscow's harsh position. Indeed, Moscow hasn't acted in such a determined manner for 25 years, because there were no wars directly on its borders.
The Soviet Union and the United States signed a series of agreements in the late 1960s-early 1970s to prevent a possible war between them, even a nuclear one. They derived the need to do so from the experience of their bilateral relations, the war in Vietnam, and the Soviet-Chinese confrontation. The idea was to prevent a conflict between the two great powers triggered by actions (or provocations) by third countries.
After the Soviet Union's disintegration, the United States managed to convince Russia that the agreements were obsolete because they failed to reflect the new realities.
I am convinced that their judgment was off. Moscow and Washington need to enter in consultations to work out some effective rules of conduct, formal or informal, during conflicts with third countries, because the probability of such conflicts is bound to grow and to affect Russia's defense interests, judging by the trends of the past decade.
The bipolar world order used to have powerful stabilization tools, which modern international relations lack. Therefore, we need to create such regulators now, using elements from past experience if necessary.
Putin becomes increasingly outspoken
A recent meeting of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin with members of the Valdai International Discussion Club has confirmed major changes in his behavior.
Putin as president rarely used sharp words, for example about wasting someone in the loo, or about circumcision. But at least he did not permit two such shocking phrases per function.
As prime minister, he has become much more sharp and outspoken and is speaking quite differently. Or is he simply saying what he is thinking now?
His meeting with members of the Valdai International Discussion Club was awash with rough words.
He said about Russia's allegedly disproportionate use of force in the conflict in South Ossetia: "Did you expect us to wipe our bleeding nose and bow our head down? What did you expect us to do, wield a stationery knife there? Did you expect us to fight with slingshots?"
He probably said more, but we will never know because the larger part of the meeting was held behind closed doors.
It looks as if Putin, after ceding his post to Dmitry Medvedev, sees no reason for restraint. As president, he represented Russia and had to speak in a civilized manner. But the prime minister must work, not make nice speeches.
In his new role, Putin feels more like the national leader than ever before, something all the members of the Valdai Club have noticed. Moreover, he understands his leadership differently now. He no longer represents the interests of Russians but has become father to them, and fathers punish their kids for bad behavior and protect them from old enemies.
This is probably why Putin is twice as popular with Russians as Medvedev, according to a recent poll by the Levada Center.
Should Russia start an economic Cold War with the West?
After suffering a military-political slap in Georgia, America and Europe have started to punish Russia economically. Foreign investors are withdrawing their money, banks are experiencing liquidity problems, and western credits are becoming harder to obtain.
Standard & Poor's rating agency issued last week a series of official reports couched in the same (one would say, gloating) vein: although Russia has ample economic reserves, they say, it will not avoid serious economic problems in the future.
First they warned us and foreign investors that although the Russian banking system has recovered after the 1998 default, some relapses are possible. Then came a reminder that "outside finances are a key factor for Russian economic growth." It was all capped with a report about poor prospects for Russia's food retail business. Lastly, the Kremlin was given a clear hint: if you try to maintain your financial markets with the National Welfare Fund, no credits will be forthcoming.
State purchasing of private shares to raise their prices seems a strange method indeed: it is fraught with graft, if not abandonment of the market as such. But what stands out here is the context in which a seemingly correct remark is made. The government is faced with a difficult choice: either to allow the stock market to fall further, or to have problems with outside financing.
Russia cannot plead with foreign money to return - even if the president himself steps in. It has to think up an asymmetrical response (as during the Cold War). And there and then Russia agreed with OPEC to coordinate its moves on the world oil market. How long ago did the West experience a growth of gasoline prices? How long ago did they trigger higher corporate production costs and lower profits? Perhaps the West should not frighten Russia with outside financing problems?
Economic saber-rattling may be as gratifying as simple saber-rattling, but any asymmetrical response has one drawback - you remain incapable of resorting to a symmetrical one. That might be the case with oil: the West could reduce consumption while Russia would still need its credits. A wish to make Moscow a world financial hub can only be welcomed: it would be a symmetrical response. But it would be too expensive.
MAN AG set to build truck plant in Russia
On Friday, the Russian Transport Ministry's press service said MAN AG, a German engineering company and one of Europe's leading manufacturers of engineering equipment and commercial vehicles, could build a truck plant in Bryansk, 379 km (234 miles) southwest of Moscow.
The press service issued the statement after talks involving Deputy Minister of Transport Yevgeny Moskvichev, the Bryansk Region administration and MAN Trucks Russia deputy CEO Vladimir Korobeinikov, who called Bryansk a front-runner for construction.
A regional administration official said $300 million would be invested in the construction project. The region will offer several construction sites, after MAN submits its proposals in the near future, another administration official told the paper.
MAN spokesman Andreas Lampersbach said the company did not plan to build plants in Russia because its Polish plant was enough to meet Eastern European demand. But we are studying all opportunities and do not rule them out, Lampersbach told the paper.
Although MAN remains undecided, Sweden's Volvo Trucks has started building a 100 million euro plant with an annual capacity of 10,000 Volvo and 5,000 Renault trucks in a free economic zone outside Kaluga, a city about 188 km (116 miles) southwest of Moscow.
Sweden's Scania, another European manufacturer of heavy trucks, buses and diesel engines, is also ready to enter the Russian market and to build a truck plant that would annually turn out 10,000 heavy-duty trucks. And German automotive giant Daimler-Benz is buying a 42% stake in the Russian KAMAZ truck maker from the Troika Dialog brokerage.
MAN has increased sales of heavy-duty trucks weighing 11 tons and more in Russia. The National Industrial Information Agency, surveying automobile markets in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan, China and other countries, said MAN controlled 23.3% of the national truck market segment with 4,300 vehicles, followed by Volvo and Scania with 3,000 and 2,200 trucks, respectively.
GLONASS receives additional funding after Caucasian war
The Russian government is setting aside an additional 67 billion rubles ($2.6 billion) for the country's Global Satellite Navigation System (GLONASS) similar to the Global Positioning System (GPS) of the United States.
Analysts said the number of GLONASS satellites would increase by 100%, enabling the system to compete with the GPS.
Such unexpected generosity is probably motivated by the lack of navigation support for the Russian forces that fought the Georgian army in South Ossetia, one of Georgia's breakaway provinces, just over a month ago.
Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov said the funding would be used to swell the GLONASS cluster in the next few years. There will be 22 satellites in orbit, after six new spacecraft are launched this year.
Market players said they had expected this decision. "The expanding GLONASS cluster can seriously influence the Russian hi-tech market. The project's correct development could help to promptly revive the national electronics industry," Gennady Krasnikov, head of the microelectronics division of Moscow-based firm Sitronics, which develops GLONASS receiver chips, told the paper.
Dmitry Znamensky, head of public relations at Angstrem Corp. another micro-electronics manufacturer in Zelenograd outside Moscow, said the decision to allocate additional funding was correct and necessary.
According to Znamensky, an expanded satellite cluster would hardly prove useful unless private navigation equipment is available.
"The companies are borrowing money in order to develop such equipment at their own expense. In May 2008, the government decided to subsidize loan interest, but has so far failed to create the required mechanisms," Znamensky told the paper.
Analysts said the government had decided to spend more on GLONASS, after assessing the Russian army's operations in the five-day war against Georgia.
"Although additional funding was discussed long ago, the sum total exceeds all expectations," Andrei Ionin, corresponding member of the Tsiolkovsky Space Academy, told the paper.
He said Russian leaders wanted to quickly improve the situation and to provide global navigation support to the country's armed forces.
According to Ionin, Russian forces did not use "smart" weapons in South Ossetia due to the lack of a full-fledged GLONASS cluster, the troops lacked navigation support, and reconnaissance units were not up to the mark.
RIA Novosti is not responsible for the content of outside sources.