Friday, February 15, 2008

Hello Pot

... this is President Putin calling.

Putin is one interesting guy. While his recent statement about energy supply routes is farcical, it does reflect a pattern, in my opinion:

Putin: Energy routes avoiding Russia are 'stupid'
[RIA Novosti, Thomson Financial, 14 February; Reuters, 15 February] Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his annual press conference at the Kremlin, described Western efforts to find alternative routes for energy supplies that avoid Russia as "incorrect", "stupid" and "unprofessional". He said that Europe and the USA were "trying to find new routes for delivery of energy resources, bypassing Russian territory, and correspondingly put pressure on these countries." Putin added, "I think this is an incorrect policy, stupid, not to mention unprofessional."

This, from the guy who has already wielded the Energy Sword multiple times against his natural gas customers in the past couple of years. That's funny.

What's not so funny is the pattern. Putin appears to be doing unto the U.S. what Reagan did unto the USSR back in the 1980's. Russia was strapped for cash (remember the grain sales to the USSR back in the 1970's and 1980's and the debts that piled up form that?), was depleting her oil and was embroiled in a long war with no clear path to victory in Afghanistan. Reagan would make bellicose comments now and again, pursued a very aggressive military program and the Russians rose to the bait, spending themselves into bankruptcy. (That's one version of the story, others place most of the credit with the Pope, the Democratically-controlled Congress, Peak Oil, etc.)

Today, Russia is flush with oil money. Russia spent the 1990's collapsing down to a much simpler military regime (out of necessity, not out of choice) and so has a far lower level of expense there. Russia has cash while the U.S. has massive debts and foreign wars, Russia can fly a few bombers around, tweaking the U.S. and our allies and prompting unbelievably huge sums to be spent countering this new "threat." Here's hoping the political elites in the U.S. don't let themselves be yanked around by this guy. Fiscally, things are bad enough already.

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