Russia’s political bomb
Russia has come a long way since the fall of the Soviet Union, and Vladimir Putin, like his predecessors, strives for democracy. The Ukraine incident, although disappointing, is one of a string of energy cutoffs in Russia’s history (“Europe spurs Russia to turn on gas,” Page 1, Tuesday). When Russia’s oil companies were privately owned, taps were turned off on residents, who in one year alone reported 3 percent electricity cutoffs in metropolitan areas, 8 percent in large cities and 14 percent in small cities.
In December 2000, Russia’s gas and electricity to Georgia’s capital, Tbilisi, were cut off for a day, leaving 1.2 million people in the dark without heat. The Russian mentality is, “Why should the owner pay the bill?” Europe and North America’s mentality is different because their circumstances are different. They can pay the bill, and financial aids are in place in case they can’t. Russia’s circumstances are episodes of unpaid bills and the absence of safety nets. Hence, they repeat history by turning off the taps.
They need to iron out these issues, but until they do, like Margaret Thatcher once remarked: “I like Mr. Gorbachev — we can do business together,” so should we with Mr. Putin, and not let this incident determine his future reliability.
As President Vladimir Putin assumed his tenure on the first day of 2006 as rotational head of the Group of Eight democratic and industrialized nations promising to promote global energy security and stability, Russia was cutting off gas supplies to both Ukraine and Europe in what could only be called economic blackmail, thus creating an awkward, ironic political situation for the other G8 members.
Le Monde in Paris called this action “the first declaration of war in the 21st century.”
The Russian Federation can no longer be called a truly democratic nation like the other G8 countries nor widely industrialized like even members of the Group of Twenty nations (excluding the center, of course, Moscow and St. Petersburg).
Andrei Illarionov, who up until last week was Mr. Putin’s economic adviser, resigned in protest. He has publicly warned that democracy has been rolled back so far under President Putin that Russia would be refused entry to the club of leading industrialized nations if it applied for membership today.
Russia’s retreat from democratic reforms and principals, including legislation to limit the freedom of all foreign nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in Russia that criticize the Kremlin’s policies; the curtailing of all independent sources of opposition in the media, parliament and in the regions; the cancellation of regional elections; the support of autocratic regimes of Belarus and Uzbekistan; Russia’s stationing of troops in Transdniester, a separatist region of Moldova, despite commitments to withdraw them back in 1999; and the sale of weapons to Syria and nuclear technology to Iran, all challenge not only Mr. Putin’s ability and credibility as head of the G8, but also Russia’s very membership in the G8.
The United States and the other members of G8 should strongly criticize Mr. Putin’s use of Gazprom as an instrument of Russian foreign policy, especially Dmitry Medvedev, who is both a deputy prime minister and chairman of Gazprom’s board of directors — an obvious conflict of interest.
G8 member countries should boycott the next G8 summit scheduled in St. Petersburg in July, deny Russia full membership in G8, as well as support growing international calls for sanctions and evict Russia from the G8 club of democratic nations for its continued democratic rollbacks
Center for European, Russian
and East Asian Studies
Munk Center for International Studies
University of Toronto
The rise of gas prices for Ukraine does not make any economic sense for Russian gas monopoly Gazprom (“The other gas crisis,” Op-Ed, Dec. 29). Ukraine can increase its transit tariff and gas-storage fees to generate enough cash for buying the same volume of gas it received last year. Then Gazprom would have higher expenses, no profit and three times higher export duties.
In wintertime, the transit flow of Russian gas through Ukraine to Europe exceeds 13 billion cubic feet a day. According to our estimations, in the case of an adequate response from Ukraine, the price rise would cause Gazprom a loss of more than $1 billion a year.
This indicates that there is no free market in Russia. In a free economy, all independent gas producers would have been knocking at Ukraine’s door. Independent producers can easily beat Gazprom’s price of $230 per 1,000 cubic meters. Instead, all they can do is to sell gas to Russian consumers at the state-regulated price of $30 to $45.
East European Gas Analysis
Uncovering Jamestown’s history
Regarding the story “Curiosity key to unlocking Jamestown history” (Metropolitan, Tuesday), those of us who do genealogy know that if we get lucky enough and find enough records, we find the medieval connection in American history. As Virginia celebrates its 400th anniversary, as the film “The New World” draws audiences and as archaeologists uncover medieval artifacts, we will see more finds such as the signet ring with a crest uncovered by archaeologist William Kelso. When the archaeologist said, “Most people don’t think American history can be Shakespearean,” he was not referring to America’s genealogists.
In 2005, the Scottish Court of the Lord Lyon, which was formed in the 13th century to research and verify the ancestry of the kings of Scotland, granted me a coat of arms based on genealogical records I had uncovered. My grandmother’s ancestor, a Scotsman among our many African ancestors from Ghana (as confirmed by DNA) was both a merchant and a nobleman. Noble merchantswerecalled burgesses. These burgesses, Shakespearean guild merchants, were instrumental in the formation of the earlyAmerican Colonies.
Medieval guild-merchant-burgesses extended their control from Shakespeare’s environs to the first American Colonies, where the Virginia House of Burgesses (formed in Jamestown in 1607, first met in 1619) was America’s first legislative group aside from the American Indian federations. Medieval guild merchants formed the foundation of business and legal stirrings in the Colonies that became the United States. Genealogists of all backgrounds are uncovering these surprises.
The guns aren’t the problem
In the article “Barry robbed at SE home by men he helped” (Page 1, Wednesday), former Mayor Marion Barry and police Capt. C.V. Morris were both quoted as saying that guns in the District are the cause of crime and that getting them off the streets should be the “No. 1 priority of the city.” This thinking could not be any further from reality.
It is not a firearm that creates a criminal; there are definite good and evil people in this world, and criminals will continue to be evil whether they are armed with guns or baseball bats. So, even if the District’s gun ban were able to keep all weapons out of the city there would still be crime because the people committing the crimes have not yet been removed.
What the District’s gun ban has been able to remove is the only threat to criminals (armed citizens). Because they know that no law-abiding person in Washington will be able to put up any real resistance, criminals have been emboldened in Washington.
Instead of blaming firearms for the problems in Washington, police and politicians should focus their attentions on finding and prosecuting the people behind the guns. And instead of holding onto a law that has only disarmed law-abiding citizens, the District of Columbia should allow its honest people to own and carry firearms so that thugs will have to think twice about what might happen to them the next time they try to mug someone.
STEPHEN J. PETER