Saturday, July 26, 2008

Because crop circles are so passé...

Apparently, circles of ice have been showing up around Russia. According to, people aren't quite sure what causes them, but there is some interesting banter in the comment portion on the site about currents and bubbles and ice melting and all that jazz. My vote is still for the aliens. ;-)

Check out the site for more pictures!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

A Tale of Woe...

Now the biggest gang I know they call the government...

Kremlin Rules - An Investment in Russia Gets Trapped in Kremlin’s Vise - Series - "Mr. Browder does not know exactly why the Kremlin turned against him. But the Kremlin was consolidating control over prized companies like Gazprom and appeared to be chafing at criticism from outside shareholders.

Once things went bad, Mr. Browder had no recourse. The police confiscated vital documents from his lawyer’s office in Moscow. He discovered that his holding companies had been stolen from him and re-registered in the name of a convicted murderer in a provincial city.

Whoever was behind the scheme took over much of Mr. Browder’s corporate structure in Russia, but failed to get at his investors’ money. Even so, in recent weeks, Mr. Browder said he had learned that his former holding companies had been used to embezzle $230 million from the Russian treasury."

In particular I like the fact that the Russian government used a Western companies' holding documents to embezzle hundreds of millions of dollars from... the Russian government. Back in the spring of 2007, Grant Felgenhauer, Investment Director and General Counsel at Hermitage, gave an excellent lecture here at Stetson on Russian business prospects and the legal environment. He was guardedly optimistic at the time...

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

CEOs Portray a Dismal Forecast for the U.S. | Articles | Chief Executive - A Magazine for Chief Executive Officer (CEO)

CEOs Portray a Dismal Forecast for the U.S.

Future of the U.S. Economy will Depend on Lower Taxes, Lower Regulation Privatized Education and Free Trade

"With the economy overtaking Iraq as one of the main issues this election year, Chief Executive magazine conducted a survey among CEOs between June 13 and June 27 in an effort to gauge CEO sentiment on the direction of the U.S. economy. CEOs were asked which policy position they think the U.S. should take to increase or maintain American competitiveness as well as questions on which countries will generate the highest number of jobs and where the top paying jobs will be in the future."
OK, leaving aside the perfectly reasonable and supportable objection that lower taxes, lower regulation, and the drive to privatize everything has gotten us into this abominable economic miasma (what, twenty-eight years of Reaganism haven't exorcised the demons of high taxes and regulation???), what's really interesting about this survey is this graph:

A little over 3% of surveyed CEOs believe that Russia will be the greatest job creator. That's nominally behind the US and Brazil, and just a tick below Vietnam, one of the new Asian Tigers. The idea that Russia was on anyone's short list even five years ago is laughable.

Listen, this might be perceived as boosterism for Russian Studies, but I'm skeptical about any such claims about the future economy. I remember as an undergraduate in Political Science at Indiana Bloomington asking my professors in Poli Sci (a highly regarded program, mind you) where they thought the future jobs would be. Very clearly, I recall them intoning: Germany and Japan. Could they have been more wrong? This was at the beginning of the 1990s, right before Japan's "lost decade." I never, ever, recall the importance of China and the Middle East being discussed, though my college career intersected the first Persian Gulf War.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The Great Game, Part II

The New New Great Game. Same rules, different players, different pieces.
Gazprom Offers to Buy All Libya's Oil and Gas Exports (Update1)

By Lucian Kim

July 9 (Bloomberg) -- OAO Gazprom offered to buy all of Libya's oil and natural gas destined for export as Russia's largest energy producer strives to expand on global markets.

Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Qaddafi ``positively received'' the proposal during a visit by Gazprom Chief Executive Officer Alexei Miller, the Moscow-based company said in an e-mailed statement today.

Russia, the world's largest producer of natural gas, is seeking to lead closer coordination among nations that produce the fuel. Moscow will host a meeting of the Gas Exporting Countries Forum later this year.

Libya, Africa's third-largest oil producer, wants to build new energy partnerships after nearly two decades of international sanctions. Gazprom today received a proposal to help build ``new gas transportation capacity'' from Libya to Europe, the state-run Russian company said.

The two sides agreed to start talks on Gazprom buying ``available volumes of Libyan hydrocarbons,'' according to the statement. They also agreed to set up a joint venture to modernize existing oil refineries and build new plants.

Gazprom considers the country its priority partner in North Africa and has registered a unit called Gazprom Libya in Tripoli, the company said. Less than a month ago Gazprom opened its first African office in neighboring Algeria.