Tag Archives: Russia

Politics under the (Fake) Academic Banner

Everybody has now heard about the plagiarism scandal surrounding the doctoral thesis of the German defense minister, Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg. Meanwhile it turned out that the son of Muamar Gadaffi, Seif-al-Islam, has got a PhD from the London School of Economics that was in part plagiarized from Wikipedia.

Meanwhile to the East, Russian bureaucrats try to disguise their ignorance by acquiring doctorates or professorships while in office. It just turned out that the chairman of the Bulgarian commission in charge of seizing illegally acquired assets is not a professor, as he has claimed.

So what is it all about??? Why this struggle for academic titles? It must be linked to the status and prestige of these titles, of course. But it also signals incompetence that attempts to mask itself. In order words, these are the symptoms of both deep complacency in political life and lax academic standards.

What is Going on in Bulgaria, Really?

Taped conversations, published by a Bulgarian newspaper, allegedly expose a cover-up of smuggling schemes by the Bulgarian Minister of the Interior, Tzvetan Tzvetanov. The full transcripts of the tapes reveal pressure on part of Tsvetanov on Customs Agency Director Vanyo Tanov, who complains that Tsvetanov and the Ministry of the Interior are pressing him and his staff not to check on potential abuses by certain large companies, and to focus instead on others. The only company mentioned by name which has allegedly benefited from this protection is Lukoil Bulgaria (a daughter company of the Russian Lukoil conglomerate). The CEO of Lukoil Bulgaria is allegedly a close friend of Prime Minister Boyko Borisov. According to the leaked US embassy cable on organized crime in Bulgaria, Lukoil’s Bulgarian operations are suspected of strong ties to Russian intelligence and organized crime.

A caveat must be made: nobody has confirmed the authenticity of the tapes. The content is not conclusive and is subject to interpretation.

In any case this is worrying. Until now the Customs Agency Director has not denied the contents of the conversations.

In the light of these revelations the reservations of France and Germany over Bulgaria’s accession to the Schengen area appear more justified. The Prime Minister must take really decisive steps to dispel any suspicion of wrongdoing.



Does the French Warship Sale to Russia Constitute an Infringement of EU Law?

There is an interesting argument about the sale by France of a Mistral class warship to Russia. Latvia and Lithuania think that the sale may infringe the Common Position 2008/944/CFSP defining common rules governing control of exports of military technology and equipment.

The common position establishes criteria to assess the export licence applications made for items on the EU Common Military List. The criteria include respect for sanctions adopted by the UN Security Council or the European Union, respect for human rights in the country of final destination, preservation of regional peace, security and stability, and the behavior of the buyer country with regard to the international community.

Some French diplomat has apparently said that Russia “is not the kind of country which is the target of the code”. This is not so apparent to me.

Russian Oil Pipeline to Asia: Reports

There are a two interesting analytical reports on the opening of the East Siberia-Pacific Ocean (ESPO) oil pipeline that links Russian oil to Asian markets.

Euractiv has published an analysis by Wojciech Konończuk by Centre for Eastern Studies on the issue. Konończuk says that during the first few years ESPO will not operate at full capacity, and will have only a limited impact on the Russian oil sector. The author says that the ESPO pipeline is expected not only to stimulate the development of a new oil extraction centre in Russia and promote economic development in the Far East, but also to strengthen Russia’s position on the global raw materials market.

Platts has a technical report on the ESPO pipeline. The report says that the start of the ESPO crude exports will be a major step for Russia’s oil export infrastructure, which is currently heavily focused on moving oil west toward Europe. The report also says that ESPO can become a major price indicator of spot oil volumes in Asia.

Results from the EU-Russia Summit

So what are the particular results of the last EU-Russia summit? First, the parties signed financing agreements for five cross-border co-operation programmes (CBC) under the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument (ENPI).

Second, Russia claimed to support the energy security of the EU, though doubts remain.

Third, Russia has pledged to support the EU position on climate policy, but details remain vague.


Bulgaria Out of South Stream Pipeline?

Russian newspaper Kommersant says that Bulgaria was “kicked off” from the South Stream natural gas pipeline project and replaced by Turkey.

The Bulgarian Energy Holding denies the information.

Report by the Independent Fact-Finding Mission on the Conflict in Georgia

We now have the final report by Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on the Conflict in Georgia.

The group was established by a decision of the Council of the European Union in December 2008. As the report points out, this is the first time in its history that the European Union has decided to intervene actively in a serious armed conflict.

The report is a very careful study of a military conflict and has made in this way an important contribution to further scientific research of this episode. However, the media and the public want to know “who started it first”.

The report is equivocal in answering this question. It points out to the fact that there was provision by the Russian side of training and military equipment to South Ossetian and Abkhaz forces prior to the August 2008 conflict. There seems to have been an influx of volunteers or mercenaries from the territory of the Russian Federation to South Ossetia through the Roki tunnel and over the Caucasus range in early August, as well as the presence of some Russian forces in South Ossetia, other than the Russian JPKF battalion.

It was Georgia, however, that started a large-scale Georgian military operation against the town of Tskhinvali and the surrounding areas, launched in the night of 7 to 8 August 2008. The report says that this use of force was not justified under relevant international law.

The report also says that immediate reaction by Russia in order to defend Russian peacekeepers was totally justified. However, it says that much of the Russian military action went far beyond the reasonable limits of defense.

This is a very short summary of the report findings. I recommend reading at least the first part of the report, because it contains many interesting observations.