This event seems like yet another skirmish in the new Cold War, much heralded in the aftermath of Russias planting of its flag on the Arctic seabed in August 2007. But Russias stance on the Greenpeace protestors is not primarily about the Greenpeace protest: Its about the future of the Arctic. Will international actors seek to restrict Russias activities in a region that, for a variety of geographical and historical reasons, it sees as its own? For most of the 1990s Russias interests in the region were ill-defined, but since 2000 it has adopted a more active stance on the Arctic; a region in which around one-fifth of Russian territory lies and upon whose resources Russias global economic competitiveness will, in the future, largely depend. In 2003, Russia resumed the Soviet-era practice of sending manned drifting ice stations to the North Pole. The year after Russia planted a flag in the Arctic seabed in 2007, it adopted a formal Arctic policy document. These developments were accompanied, on occasions, by self-serving nationalist and aggressive rhetoric. Putin is clear that Arctic oil and gas will form the basis of Russias future economic prosperity, and thus Russia wants to send the message that anybody who attempts to interfere in its Arctic activities will feel the full legal and political force of the state. In stark contrast, between 2009 and 2011 Russia pursued a policy of cooperation in the region, suggesting a realization by the Kremlin that if its relations with the other Arctic states improved, then it could focus on the economic benefits the area offers. In April 2009, the Arctic Council (of which Russia is a member) proclaimed an atmosphere of complete mutual understanding in Arctic affairs. In September 2010, Russia resolved a 40-year-old dispute with Norway over dividing the Barents Sea (and part of the Arctic Ocean) between the two countries. And, in May 2011 the Arctic Council signed its first legally binding treaty. WhileRussia claims that its response to the challenges provided by climate change and the opening up of the Arctic is purely peaceful, its behavior since 2011 suggests otherwise. In July 2012, Russia beganconstruction on afourth Borei-class submarine, designed to carry its newest and most powerful intercontinental nuclear missile, the Bulava, while patrolling the Arctic Ocean.

Russia brings back Ukraine gas middleman – source

The company logo of Russian natural gas producer Gazprom is seen on an advertisement in front of the White House in Moscow February 8, 2013. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller has said the transit of Russian gas exports to Europe is at risk again due to low levels of gas in underground storage in Ukraine ahead of winter, when cold weather pushes up demand. “This deal with Ostchem will make it possible to increase the level of gas storage in Ukraine and provide for safe passage of Russian gas to Europe,” the source said. Ostchem declined to comment. Gazprom had no official comment. With the extra volumes purchased by Firtash, Ukraine will hold 19 bcm of gas in storage, “the level required to ensure trouble-free gas deliveries to Europe in the 2013-14 winter season,” Alfa Bank said in a note. Gazprom meets a quarter of Europe’s gas needs, and more than half of Russia’s gas exports to the European Union flows across Ukraine. The remainder traverses Belarus or goes via the Nord Stream pipeline under the Baltic Sea to Germany. The issue of Russian gas exports to Europe has come to the fore this week with reports that a London court froze $21.7 million out of a $75.8 million eurobond coupon payment by Ukraine’s state oil and gas company Naftogaz. Ukraine has $10.8 billion of foreign currency debt maturing through 2014. Its foreign currency reserves are just over $20 billion, but they are likely to keep falling, particularly if local Ukrainians try to buy foreign currency. A row between Moscow and Kiev in January 2009 over gas prices and debts led to several weeks of supply cuts that hit eastern European countries tied to Gazprom’s export pipeline network particularly hard. After the row, both countries signed a 10-year supply deal and eliminated Firtash’s company, RosUkrEnergo, from the role of intermediary between Gazprom and Naftogaz NAFTO.UL. Last year, Ukraine, the second-largest buyer of Russian gas after Germany, bought 32.9 bcm of gas from Gazprom. UKRAINE-EU DEAL Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday Ukraine would get the volumes for underground storage at a discount, paying $260 per 1,000 cubic metres (tcm). He did not elaborate.

Violent raid exposes risks for investors in Russia

They particularly deter investors in small and medium-sized businesses which account for just 17 percent of gross domestic product compared with 50 percent in the United States. But big companies also fall foul of the system. McDonald’s, one of the first Western investors in Russia, has failed so far to defend its ownership of a building from the Moscow government which put it up for auction in November 2012. A spokesperson said the company had filed a claim to challenge Moscow city’s right to “own non-residential property built by CJSC ‘Moscow-McDonalds’ at the company’s own expense”. According to RAPSI, a legal newswire, the Moscow Commercial court ruled in favour of the government and against McDonald’s in February. It is not clear whether McDonald’s will appeal. BETTER “KRYSHA” Putin made improving Russia’s investment climate a priority when he returned to the Kremlin last year for a third term. He has since pushed through an amnesty on some economic crimes that has seen hundreds of entrepreneurs released from jail. Critics say the changes are cosmetic and that the weak rule of law and collusion between corrupt law enforcement and justice officials still mean that victims of corporate raids lack adequate recourse to defend their rights. Several small and medium-sized businesses in Moscow polled by Reuters for this article described an insecure environment with movable laws, weak enforcement and the threat of being targeted by government or law enforcement officials on the make. Only one felt Russia’s business climate was improving. One foreign businessman, the sole outsider in a Russian media and communications company, said he and his partners sought out protection from two local investors who were “very well” connected politically, when they set up in 2007. “We needed protection in case anything dodgy happened, if anyone decided to put pressure on us.

US, Russia Want Clarity on Iran Nuclear Issue

Credit: Reuters/Maxim Shemetov/Files MOSCOW | Wed Oct 9, 2013 11:00am EDT MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russian investigators said on Wednesday they found drugs aboard a Greenpeace ship that was used in a protest against offshore Arctic drilling and would press new charges against some of the 30 people being held for alleged piracy. In addition to drugs, the Investigative Committee said searches of the Arctic Sunrise, which was boarded by Russian coast guards after the September 18 protest at the Prirazlomnaya oil rig, had revealed equipment with potential military uses. It also said investigators were trying to establish which of those being held were responsible for what it called attempts to ram coast guard boats, endangering the lives of their crew. “In view of the data obtained while investigating the criminal case, charges … are expected to be adjusted,” the committee said. It said that “a number of detainees will be presented with charges of committing other grave crimes.” Russia arrested the 28 activists and two freelance journalists who were aboard the Dutch-registered Greenpeace vessel during the protest and has charged all of them with piracy, which is punishable by up to 15 years in prison. The Investigative Committee said morphine and poppy straw, a ingredient for heroin and opiates, were found on the ship. Greenpeace lawyer Alexander Mukhortov said the vessel’s American captain legally kept morphine in his safe for medical purposes, and expressed doubt about the other claim by investigators. “The Investigative Committee ‘found’ narcotics. We are waiting for it to find an atomic bomb and a striped elephant. This is possible in Russia these days and can hardly surprise anybody,” Greenpeace Russia said on its Twitter account. The environmentalist group says the piracy charges are absurd and unfounded and that the conditions of detention for the detainees, who come for 18 countries, have in some cases violated their civil rights. Kumi Naidoo, the head of Greenpeace, offered in a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday to move to Russia and stand as security for the release on bail of the detainees.

Secretary of State John Kerry (on the sidelines of an economic summit in Indonesia) that Iran likely wants “more clarity” about the way forward. “Iran probably wants more clarity,” Lavrov said. “More specific steps to be spelled out on the road to the result which we all want to achieve. And I think this will be discussed next week in Geneva, a meeting to which Iran agreed. And to which Iran and three plus three are getting ready in a very constructive mood, as our contacts in New York show.” Kerry said the United States is encouraged by Iran’s recent outreach efforts, but that actions, and not words, are what will make a difference. “So what we need are a set of proposals from Iran that fully disclose how they will show the world that their program is peaceful,” Kerry said. “And we have made it clear that if there are those indicators, the United States and our allies are absolutely prepared to move in appropriate ways to meet their actions. Kerry said Iran has not responded to an offer the P5+1 group made earlier this year, which called for Iran to stop enriching uranium to 20 percent and halt enrichment at one of its nuclear facilities. Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said Sunday that offer was no longer valid, and that the P5+1 should come to next week’s negotiations with a “new point of view.” Iran says its nuclear program is strictly for peaceful purposes and wants the international community to lift a range of sanctions imposed for its refusal to halt enrichment activity. The possible threat of a ballistic missile strike from countries like Iran has led the United States to plan a missile shield in Europe. Russia disagrees with the move, saying the system could neutralize its own strategic missile force and leave it vulnerable to the West. Kerry said Monday it is too early to make determinations about the system as long as the Iranian threat continues.

Russia says drugs found on Greenpeace ship, plans new charges

“The preliminary results of our audit, which Russian experts will conduct until October 12, have been unsatisfactory,” Interfax news agency quoted Federal Veterinary and Phytosanitary Monitoring Service chief Sergei Dankvert as saying. He said his Dutch counterparts approved the safety of Dutch dairy “without seeing the product”. Russia has often been accused of using trade as a diplomatic weapon. It banned dairy imports from rotating EU president Lithuania on Monday following the Baltic state’s attempt to draw ex-Soviet countries such as Ukraine closer to the 28-nation bloc. Tensions with the Netherlands first surfaced last week when the country filed a legal case against Russia’s arrest last month of the crew of a Dutch-flagged Greenpeace ship that was protesting Arctic oil drilling. The crew members — who come from 18 countries including Britain and the United States — have been charged with piracy and face jail terms of up to 15 years. Russia has shrugged off the Dutch legal move and has put the entire crew in pre-trial detention for two months pending an investigation. Relations deteriorated further on Tuesday when Russia accused the Dutch authorities of illegally detaining a top Moscow diplomat in The Hague over allegations of domestic abuse. Russian President Vladimir Putin called the detention at the weekend of diplomat Dmitry Borodin “the most gross breach of the Vienna Convention” and demanded a formal apology from the Netherlands. The Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations grants diplomats immunity from arrest. The Dutch side said it was investigating the incident and would only apologise “if the investigation shows that this was handled in a way that contravened the Vienna Convention.” The dairy spat risks testing ties even more, with Dankvert’s assistant Alexei Alexeyenko telling Moscow Echo radio that Russia this year has already placed 15 Dutch dairy producers “under special control” — a move observers say is often followed by product bans. zak/am/mfp