By Mike Whitney
Most people wonâ€™t pay any attention to this weekâ€™s energy summit in Lahti, Finland, but they should. It is particularly instructive for anyone who is interested in the latest developments in the global resource war.
The purpose of the meeting was to work out the nettlesome issues of energy policy, but the hidden agenda was to pressure Russian President Putin into signing away the control of his countryâ€™s critical assets to the big-players in the world energy cartel. The proposed â€œEnergy Charter Treatyâ€ is designed to tie up Russiaâ€™s resources through legal obligations which serve the overall interests of the energy giants. The treaty is no different than the EU Constitution which was voted down last year when the â€œinformedâ€ European public realized that it was just another boondoggle set up by big business to override national sovereignty, environmental safety, and civil liberties. The Energy Charter Treaty and the EU Constitution focus on the very same objectives, that is, establishing the legal framework for placing the world and its dwindling resources in the hands of a small cadre of obscenely-wealthy western plutocrats.
Western elites have been waging an intensive public relations
campaign against Putin since he nationalized Yukos Oil and put it under
control of Gazprom. Gazprom is quickly growing into the worldâ€™s largest
oil corporation and will probably achieve that goal within the decade.
Putinâ€™s move to nationalize the industry has been popular at home (his personal approval rating is consistently over 70%) and has had a profound effect on stabilizing the ruble and raising the standard of living. Most Russians still remember the countryâ€™s bleak experiment with â€œfree marketâ€ capitalism during the 1990s when the ruble fell through the floor and Russiaâ€™s national assets were raffled off by the chronically-inebriated Yeltsin (under the supervision of western advisors). â€œThe Oligarchsâ€, as they were known, contributed significantly to Russiaâ€™s economic decline as well as its loss of prestige in the world. Putin has restored national pride, fueled the new prosperity, and is quickly rebuilding Russia into a world power. If energy prices continue to soar, as they undoubtedly will, Russia will be a force to reckon with throughout the 21st century.
American politicians and corporatists are concerned about Russiaâ€™s meteoric rise and are developing strategies to undermine its progress. The ultimate goal is to integrate Russiaâ€™s prodigious natural resources into the global system, which is another way of saying that a plan is being devised to assert direct-control over Russian oil and natural gas.
Since greed is inexhaustible, it is not likely that this battle will end anytime soon.
Putinâ€™s name already features prominently in the register of American enemies, which now includes, Ahmadinejad, Chavez, Morales, Castro, Kim Jung-Il, al Assad, Haniyeh, and Muqtada al Sadr. Anyone who defends their national interests over the prevailing system of global feudalism can expect to find themselves in Washingtonâ€™s crosshairs and to be duly demonized in the American media.
The Energy Charter Treaty
According to the BBC, the proposed Energy Charter Treaty would create a â€œtrade partnershipâ€ which would make it easier for companies to invest in the Russian energy sector, and use Russian pipelines to export the oil and gas they produce. The pact would also be designed to ensure that Russia treated all European countries equally, and lay the basis for a long-term trade partnership.â€
Why should Putin allow foreign companies to share in Russiaâ€™s wealth? Putin is not running a â€œcharityâ€. He is expected to use his nationâ€™s resources to improve things for the Russian people, which is exactly what he is doing. The insistence that he do otherwise by entering into a â€œtrade partnershipâ€ violates the central tenet of capitalism; the right to private property. These are Russian resources. They do not belong to the extended family of predatory corporatists.
The meeting in Finland has nothing to do with any principled appreciation of capitalism or â€œfair playâ€ or anything else for that matter. Itâ€™s just more-of-the-same extortion and coercion masquerading as â€œmultilateral negotiations.â€ Itâ€™s all baloney.
Putin has been criticized for using oil and natural gas to send a message to rivals in Georgia and Ukraine. Vice President Cheney has called this â€œblackmailâ€. In reality, it is an effective and peaceful way to send a message to provocateurs that there are limits to oneâ€™s patience. It is unwise to tweak the nose of the man who is heating your house and powering your vehicle.
Besides, Cheney is the last one who should be talking about â€œenergy blackmailâ€. Can anyone forget the extortion-racket that Enron conducted against the American people; bilking them of tens of billions of dollars while the Federal Energy Commission (FEC) breezily looked the other way? Or the skyrocketing gas prices (which created unprecedented profits for the oil giants) which have mysteriously plummeted at the pump just weeks before the mid-term elections?
Putin is no tyrant and the mediaâ€™s spurious attacks on him are ludicrous at best.
Is it mere coincidence that Americaâ€™s stooge in Georgia, Mikail Saakashvili, arrested 4 Russian officials inciting a furious response from Moscow, just weeks after American elites decided to take a â€œtougher approachâ€ with Putin? Or is it beyond the realm of imagination to think that the Bush administration would engineer a crisis just to provoke Russia?
And, what about the murder of journalist Anna Politkovskaya?
The western press seems to have found Putin guilty already without any evidence whatsoever. Thumbing through the 1,400 articles written about the incident, one would believe that they found Putinâ€™s bloody fingerprints all over the corpse, but, of course, that is not true.
Consider this absurd piece in the New York Times10-22-06 edition by Thom Shanker: â€œMs. Politkovskaya, shot to death this month in what appeared to be a professional killing, had made a name for herself with tough reporting on the war in Chechnya, and was a fierce critic of the administration of President Vladimir Putin.â€
Therefore Putin killed her?!?
If Putin was involved in Politkovskayaâ€™s death then he is guilty of a heinous crime for which there is no defense. But was he? The journalistâ€™s death may seem familiar to readers who followed the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. The American-backed investigation produced no solid evidence of Syrian involvement, but the damage from the slanted coverage in the media forced Syria to withdraw its troops from Lebanon. This, in turn, paved the way for an attack by Israel just months later.
It is unfortunate that the media hasnâ€™t taken a similar interest in the 130 journalists whoâ€™ve been killed in Iraq as they have in Politkovskayaâ€™s death. In the most recent case, that of Terry Lloyd, the coroner ruled that he was â€œunlawfully killedâ€ when he came under fire by American troops. Andrew Walker, the assistant deputy coroner of Oxfordshire said, â€œHaving carefully taken into account all the evidence I am satisfied so that I am sure that had this killing taken place under English Law it would have constituted unlawful homicide.â€
How did that escape the attention of the EU? Or is their indignation as selective as that of the American media, which chooses its heroes and villains according to a script that is written in Washington?
As for the EU and the western mediaâ€™s sudden interest in Putinâ€™s â€œrollback of democracy in Russiaâ€; weâ€™ve heard no similar complaints about the flurry of repressive legislation passed by George Bush in the USA; including the Patriot Act and the Military Commissions Act of 2006 which repeals the 800 year old right to habeas corpus. Nor has the EU shown any particular interest in the proliferation of American gulags, like Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib, which are now spread across the globe like grains of sand tossed in the wind. The bogus claims of â€œanti-democratic behaviorâ€ are naturally limited to the adversaries of the Bush team.
Putin is a fierce nationalist. Heâ€™s doing his best to raise Russiaâ€™s standard of living while making the necessary compromises with the global energy giants. According to the Russian News Agency Novosti, Putin said:
â€œDraft laws are being considered by the Duma aimed at securing foreign and other investments into Russiaâ€™s economy, guaranteeing ownerâ€™s rights, and minimizing the number of spheres where foreign investment cannot be used.â€
â€œThese spheres,â€ Putin added, â€œwill mainly be restricted by security issues, and will also include the largest and most unique deposits to be found in the world and Russia. These can be counted on one hand. All the rest will be accessible.â€
Putin is opening Russiaâ€™s markets and looking for ways to satisfy the major oil corporations while growing the Russian economy at the same time. He believes that â€œmutual dependence strengthens the energy security of the European continent and creates good prerequisites for further rapprochement in other fields.â€
Heâ€™s right, but heâ€™s also tragically naÃ¯ve. Has he taken a look at Iraq lately?
Entire civilizations are being pummeled into rubble to satisfy the worldâ€™s lust for oil. Why would Russia be spared?
We should expect more violence in Chechnya and Georgia as well as a steady stream of abuse in the western press.
Putin is moving up on Washingtonâ€™s target-list. He is the new Hitler; we just didnâ€™t realize it before.