Monday, November 27, 2006

EU-Russia energy dialogue

As part of my study abroad here at EUI, a major research paper is required. My topic, which goes back to one of my old warhorses, involves Russian energy. This time, instead of Russia and the Near Abroad, the topic is the EU-Russia energy dialogue.

Consequently, I'm immersed in myriads of documents pertaining to energy, most of which point to the fact that the EU has extremely limited bargaining chips in its negotiations for more favorable energy deals with Russia (surprise, surprise). Nevertheless, that doesn't seem to stop the EU from grandiose prognostications of immense future success, overwhelming optimism about the partnership, and platitudes regarding the state of the dialogue.

None of this really adds up when the current situation is taken into account.

My short and dirty take on it: Russia was willing to concede some points back around 2004, so as to not jeopardize its relationship with the accession countries, which are largely entirely dependent on Russia for oil and gas. By allowing the removal of destination clauses and other mechanisms of that ilk from long term supply contracts, Russia placated a nervous EU. Now, with oil prices remaining high, and Russia's economic position strengthening, Russia is blocking further discussions that might lead to a more genuine partnership between the two powers. Why give in to the EU when it keeps bringing up pesky human rights issues in the middle of discussions purportedly about energy?

Russia's got the upper hand. It's got the resources. Europe doesn't. Europe needs the resources. Western Europe is willing to let things slide. Eastern Europe isn't. They joined the EU to get away from Russia - and they're not going to give in to Russia that easily.

Long-run: unless the EU finds a way to give Russia a seat at the negotiating table, nothing much is going to happen. The EU can't just dictate energy policy for Russia, since Russia has no interest in accession to the EU. Does the legal structure of the EU allow for this? Stay tuned...

Friday, November 17, 2006

Goodbye to two sports legends

Two of the greatest sports legends are dead.

Ference Puskas, the legendary Hungarian soccer player whose 2 goals in the 6-3 win by the Hungarians over the English at Wembley in 1953 assured the Hungarian team immortality in soccer history. Puskas had been battling Alzheimers for a number of years.

More sadly, Bo Schembechler, the immortal former U of M football coach, is dead after collapsing before a TV interview.

Michigan, tomorrow is your biggest football game in recent memory - this is the real national championship game, and everyone knows that. Don't let Bo's death slow you down - instead, play for him, and for the legacy that he left. Let this be a tribute to Bo.

Go blue!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Things that make me smile...

While doing some research on Westlaw, I discovered that there exists a journal called the Journal of Sugar Beet Research.

This makes me smile.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

More optimism...

In my last blog post, I mentioned how I approved of the choice of a former CIA man for Rumsfeld's post. Robert Baer (the former CIA guy whose book was the loose basis of Syriana)'s essay about Robert Gates gives me even more optimism.

Robert Gates, if Robert Baer is correct, sounds like just the man for the job.

Cautious optimism

I'd like to apologize for my long absence from this blog - I've been busy with classes, parental visits, research and just living life. But I'm back.

Tuesday brought me the best birthday present I could have hoped for - a Democratic win in the elections. That alone, however, did not suffice to really make me optimistic about the future of America. With Bush still in control of the presidency, and with his prediliction for presidential decrees, I felt that the two years leading up to the presidential election would be marked by an inability of Congress to enact any significant exit strategy, and a subsequent swing back to the Republicans at the time of the next elections.

Then Bush made the decision to get rid of Rumsfeld.

And suddenly I'm filled with more optimism, albeit cautious optimism. Replacing Rumsfeld with a former CIA director is a huge step forward. No matter what one thinks about the CIA's tactics and information purportedly presented on WMDs by the CIA, the CIA is an organization that I respect. Intelligence work is difficult, sometimes unreliable, but generally the people involved have a good idea of the situation on the ground.

Besides, anything is better than Rumsfeld. A two year old child with a xylophone would be better than Rumsfeld. And at least we won't have to see his menacing face on the news all the time anymore.

So cautious optimism it is...for now.