Letter From the Editors: May 19-25, 2014
Issue #21 Letter From the Editors
Issue #21 Table of Contents
Ukrainian Elections, Russia-China Gas Deal – Don’t Hold
The past week has been buzzing with anticipation.
Geopolitical bets have been placed, and now the participants are awaiting the
outcome with bated breath. Ukraine is anxiously anticipating the presidential
election, set for May 25. If the current situation is any indication, it could
be a wild ride – clashes
continued in southeast Ukraine, with the number of dead and wounded
possibly creeping into the hundreds. Ukraine’s Prosecutor General has labeled
the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk republics terrorist organizations as a second
round of talks failed to yield results. Experts point out the central
government’s inherently flawed approach of reaching out to local elites, who
actually have no control over the armed bandits running amok in the region.
Even the imposing figure of billionaire Rinat Akhmetov isn’t holding much
weight. According to Nezavisimaya gazeta, the oligarch – a supporter of
Ukraine’s territorial integrity – has so far been unable to establish
dialogue with the separatists, much to Kiev’s chagrin.
miners, a crucial electorate, also found themselves hostage to the current
crisis after separatists seized the offices of a major mining company. With the
police and the local government out of the picture, union reps managed to
negotiate some concessions from the separatists, but the building remains under
siege. Instances of miners being abducted and tortured by the separatists run
rampant, says Mikhail Volynets, chairman of the Independent Trade Union of
Miners of Ukraine. Will the election help remedy the situation? Doubtful, he
says, since Donetsk probably won’t even get a chance to vote.
highly anticipated event took place this week, when Russia and China signed a gas deal that
President Putin called “historic.” Having been in the works for many years, the
deal includes contracts for Gazprom to sell China 38 billion cubic meters
of gas a year, writes Rossiiskaya gazeta. It comes at a price tag of
$400 billion. So is this Putin’s “answer to Chamberlain,” wonders
Vedomosti? After all, in light of Western sanctions, it is more important than
ever for Russia to show it can find friends elsewhere. Or is it another
worthless megaproject to nowhere, as columnist Yulia Latynina maintains?
of megaprojects, experts this week debated whether those can solve Russia’s
economic woes – or add to them. With the Russian economy in for stagnation at
best, is it time to turn
to yet another megaproject like the Sochi Olympics, wonders Nezavisimaya
gazeta. After all, private investment cannot be relied on at this point. While
megaprojects can give a much-needed economic boost, writes The Moscow Times,
they can only work as
part of a balanced economy that includes a strong private sector. Certainly
not the case in Russia! So are megaprojects just another pie in the sky?
then Russia isn’t the only one daydreaming: Kyrgyzstan pitched a highly ambitious
railway venture to China on the sidelines of a security conference in
Shanghai. The project would get China to join a
Russia-Kazakhstan-Kyrgyzstan-Tajikistan-Afghanistan-Iran railway project.
Together with Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan’s transportation capabilities took a hit
after the breakup of the Soviet Union. Official Bishkek and Dushanbe say the
railway would help them transport goods to the West. Experts, however, see the
move as a signal to Moscow, which has been reluctant to get on board the
project. The vague idea looks more like an attempt to pit Russia and China
against each other, says expert Aleksandr Knyazev. Will this attempt bear