Saturday, December 31, 2005

More commenter analysis

Here's some more analysis from a commenter who signs himself LEvko. It belongs up here:

The Ukraine-Russia gas crisis is part of a trial of strength in the wake of Kremlin's humiliation during and after last year's Orange Revolution - "The Empire Striking Back?"

Putin's Kremlin has rather overplayed its hand so early in this poker game
- Western European countries are already getting anxious about their gas supplies.

A piece in today's 'FT' on the gas crisis states: "The Austrian government
on Wednesday attempted to calm fears of gas shortages across Europe as Ukraine's fuel and energy minister arrived in Moscow for emergency talks aimed at finding
a solution to a row over prices that could see Russia cut exports. Martin Bartenstein, economics minister, said ensuring energy supplies would be a priority of Austria's presidency of the European Union from January 1. "Europe needs more investment and greater diversification of its energy sources," he said.

Suez, the Franco-Belgian energy group, said the dispute was an "alarm bell" for Europe's politicians over the risk of becoming too dependent on Russian gas imports. Gerard Mestrallet, Suez chief executive, said: "Geographical concentration of supply at a time when our dependence is growing does not set the stage for prices to ebb from the high levels they have reached in recent months.

"Echoing these sentiments, the German Embassador in Ukraine, in an interview in today's Ukraininan 'Delo' newspaper is clearly sympathetic to Ukraine's plight, considers Gazprom's attitude unreasonable, its ultimatums unacceptable, and suggests gas price increases should be staged. Worryingly for Russia, he says, "..Russia and Ukraine are our partners, and if they mess us about, we will look for energy sources in other places.

"Putin and his Kremlin associates, for it is they who are pulling the strings, by uncompromisingly threatening to terminate gas supplies to Ukraine and recklessly increasing the price of gas from $160 to $230 per Mcm, have nailed their colours to the mast and left little 'wiggle room' in any further negotiations. Any lower figure when a deal is finally done will look like defeat and more loss of face for Putin when dealing in Ukrainian matters.

Apparently if no deal is reached by 1st January, in a propaganda stunt straight from the Khruschev era, some Russian TV channels will transmit live pictures of the theatrical turning off of valves on pipelines supposedly transporting gas to Ukraine.

As in any dispute where goods or services are provided by long-term suppliers to consumers, 'status quo ante' conditions normally apply until agreement is achieved, and then back-dated financial adjustments and repayments made. I suspect that EU Embassadors are beginning to lean on the Kremlin telling them to bear this in mind, and get things sorted.

European consumers, transit countries, and supplier countries whether they like it or not are mutually interdependent and are bound together is this dispute. In my opinion the Ukrainian authorities are doing OK in trying to get as good a deal for themselves as possible, I hope they don't get too cocky. Yushchenko's comments to the press tend to be bland, and [deliberately?] obfuscating, so maybe they won't.

On the internal politics front in the run-up to the VR elections, statements from Yanukovych have been somewhat contradictory. Although he considers $230 per Mcm unacceptable and " a blow below the belt," he blames the current government for this crisis. How it is affecting voters' preferences I'm not sure. It's all most interesting..

LEvko: This is the kind of comment that I would like to see as a blog post. If you have any interest, please contact me and maybe we can get you access to post here.

Russia prepares to turn off gas to Ukraine?

So is it official? --Russia prepares to turn off gas to Ukraine. Come 10 a.m. tomorrow Russia will shut off the gas supplies to Ukraine? And it will be televised?

It would be hard to know how they can shut it off. I guess they could just refuse to send any gas through the Ukrainian pipeline but that would affect the end-user Europeans. Or they could subtract, I guess, the amount of gas to be supplied to Ukraine from the total. But Ukraine says it has rights to 15% to pay the transit fee. And more could be siphoned off and not all of it would be with the approval of the government. That is how it has happened before.

It just astounds me though how the Kremlin can risk upsetting the Europeans like this. It can't possibly help either with its diplomatic relations or with its commercial relations. Its a damn them all strategy in effect, though they may think that pointing a finger at Ukraine is enough to remove any responsibility. It isn't. Russia has to be a dependable supplier for Europe or they will look at alternatives. And there is already some indication that Europeans are doing just that.

How about this for a resolution? Russia says it turns off the gas and there is an agreement in the next day or two for less than what Russia demands. The Kremlin talks it up as in the best interests of all parties to have a deal and thereby avoids a black eye--in their view. But that would be the view of an isolated Kremlin that sees the world in stark us-vs.-them terms. The damage has already been done.

Who knows though if such a result will take place. The Kremlin--I don't think the term "Russians" describes really the interests behind all of this--has signed a deal for Turkmen gas that will leave very little for Ukraine to be able to purchase. They are closing the noose a bit tighter it looks like.

I think it's clear that when it comes to Ukraine the Kremlin has lost its mind.

Of course, others who support Kremlin interests think differently about this. They argue that Ukraine has stiffed them at every turn in everything that they have done. Of course, they figure this only from the point of the Orange Revolution. What happened before that was just alright with them. But that shows what really sticks in their craw--freedom and independence for Ukraine.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

A play for the Crimea?

Review of Ukraine base lease 'fatal'--Russia

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko, who is resisting Russia's demand for a nearly five-fold increase in gas prices in 2006, has hinted Ukraine could hit back by reconsidering the terms of leasing the Sevastopol base in the Crimean peninsula.

"The agreement on the Black Sea fleet base is one part of a bilateral treaty, the second part of which contains recognition of mutual borders," Sergei Ivanov said in televised comments. "Trying to revise the treaty would be fatal."

The 1997 pact gave new legal status to the historical home base of the Black Sea fleet, which Russia inherited from the Soviet Union, and ruled out Moscow's territorial claims to Ukraine.
One wonders what the Kremlin means by all this. Does it mean that Russia will make a play for the Crimea? Are they going to invade? When we were there, close down by where the Russian fleet lies at acnhor we came upon a new monument celebrating the "Russian city" Sevastopol's 300th anniversary. And the Russian flag flies not only over the fleet but also over the train station there. (When we asked someone on the train we were with, who said he was Ukrainian through and through even though he lived in the Crimea and spoke Russian predominantly, why the flag flew over the train station, he was perplexed by it. I don't think he had taken note of it before.)

Maybe they could take the Crimea back. Maybe the people in Crimea would welcome them back. (The Tartars might not feel all that comfortable doing it, one would think.) I guess that would solve the Tuzla problem once and for all.

But this is just irresponsible on the part of the Kremlin, if they want to take their place in the world. I guess though they want their place to be on their own terms. And those terms sound an awful lot like empire.

Tymoshenko pointed at the Russians as the culprits every time something went wrong. She was wrong on all counts and is one other reason why she is unfit to govern. Ukraine needs good relations with Russia and Russia shouldn't be blamed for everything to stir up the people.

But Russia does deserve blame here. One commenter here says that Russia shouldn't subsidize a country that kicks them at every turn. This is a breathtaking charge. For one thing, it suggests that Russia is not as big a power as it asserts itself to be that it cannot ignore a country that is smaller than it is, poorer than it is, with not much in terms of any military that could challenge it.

But the problem really is that it's got the morality skewed badly. A guy has someone pinned down, beating him, gets a face full of spit for his troubles. "Can I really give a guy like that a break who would spit in my face?" His friends shake their heads. You can hear this talk from inmates quite a bit. "Well, if he hadn't gotten in my way, he'd be alive today." Or, "It was the way he looked at me. If he hadn't looked at me like that he'd be alive today." Or, better, from the rapist: "She had it coming to her." They have their points don't they? In an amoral world, yes.

I can't see that Russia comes out of this better off. Maybe Europe will bury its head in the sand and ignore it as long as the gas keeps coming. But that can't be true for all of Europe. For the newer states, this just confirms what they feel already about Russia. And maybe they would be as bothersome as a couple of ticks on a steers hide for all they could do in Europe. And thsi would not be the case for all Europeans. Some are advocating moving away from Russian dependence right now. Would that be good for Russia?

United Press International - NewsTrack - Ukrainian slaves rescued from Russian ship

This--United Press International - NewsTrack - Ukrainian slaves rescued from Russian ship --reminds me of a joke I posted here before that has made the rounds here in Ukraine.

A Ukrainian and a Russian are both in the desert in need of water. They come upon a bottle filled with it buried partially in the sand. Grabbing it, the Russian turns to the Ukrainian and says, "Let's share this like brothers!" The Ukrainian responds, "I'd prefer fifty-fifty."

The New Crimean War? More on natural gas

Here's some more on the natural gas crisis - The New Crimean War.

As to why, the article states:

First, Russia seeks to influence Ukraine's March 2006 parliamentary elections by suggesting to Ukrainian voters that the current government in Kiev is economically incompetent and its pro-Western tilt harmful to consumers.

Second, the Kremlin seeks to discredit Ukraine's "Orange" government among Russian citizens in order to inoculate its population from the contagion of democratic revolution.

Third, Russia seeks to drive a wedge between Europe and Ukraine by painting the Kiev government as reckless and unreliable.

If this is what they're thinking, they are playing a game of high risk. Is it necessarily all that clear that the results they think will come about will in fact occur? Point the finger at Ukraine if things go south and expect the world to see Ukraine as the culprit. Not very smart.

One thing about Saudi Arabia they have been smart about is not to push the price of oil too high that it creates incentives to conserve or to seek alternatives. That is smart from a business point of view. But Russian natural resources are being used as political tools by an insular Kremlin that miscalculates chronically.

Here's one for you: Why would the Kremlin support Iran in the face of Iranian support for Chechen terrorists? Seems like the same kind of thinking. What look like short-term gains trump anything that might be had in the long run. But that is the Kremlin.

Monday, December 26, 2005

A change in the blog

I am thinking about making a change here in the next few weeks. I want to make this a co-blogger affair. There are any number of people out there who have made comments on the site who have some good insights into Ukraine and into this area of the world. It is those kind of insights I think would be something to offer readers on a more consistent basis.

There is a lot going on around here and I don't have all that much time to track it all. This is not only true for Ukraine but also for Central Asia and for Russia. These are all neighbors and for some of them, the effects of the Orange Revolution are still being felt, if not in imminent revolution, then in a certain paranoia that is influencing policy still. And Europe is an issue too since Ukraine is moving in that direction. All of these countries are places of interest for this humble little blog.

If you would prefer anonymity, that is a possibility too. We could work up s pseudonym for you to work under.

So anyway, if you have any interest, let me know. I am looking for from 2 to 4 others. Email me at foreignnotes at hotmail dot com.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Merry Christmas

A very Merry Christmas to everyone.

Even though it was all uncertainty for awhile, though our youngest daughter didn't give up hope in the face of repeated cross examination and skepticism from her father, Santa Clause visited our humble square of air and brought us all presents.

Of course, we have jumped the gun on it all. Christmas here isn't until January 7th. But Ded Moroz. Ukraine's Santa Claus, comes on January 1st. So we are ahead of the Christmas season wave here. The kids don't mind it though--not one bit.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Is it blackmail?

Some in the Russian press object to calling the demand for price increases blackmail. Technically, they may have a case, but that is not all they are saying. This from ITAR-Tass:

The Ukrainian TV had broadcast statements on "the Kremlin blackmail"throughout last week without caring to explain why the demand to honestly pay for the gas it consumes is regarded as blackmail in Ukraine, which is now a market-economy country.

Ukraine is not being honest because it is not paying for what it gets now? Of course, the price paid for now is the price mutually agreed upon in 2004 I think it was. So it is dishonest to pay an agreed to price? In the Kremlin's world where all is Russian interests narrowly conceived, it looks like it is. And wasn't that agreement to extend to 2009? Seems like it was. So is it dishonest to raise the issue that legally speaking the agreed to price is binding? Or is it only binding as long as it is in Russian interests, as conceived by the Kremlin? What about all that talk from Putin about rule of law? So much lip service being paid to it by the Kremlin. If it is in Russian interests, the rule of law bends to do the Kremlin's bidding. Or is the feeling of the Kremlin and Russian elites that rule of law should only be for Russians? (Or those capable of exercising it, which seems to be the present formulation. It's yours if you have the power to keep it.)

And what about this market economy business they argue? Wasn't Ukraine a market economy back when it signed the agreement? Or are they saying it wasn't back then? If they aren't a market economy then a price differential should be the norm? But if it is a market economy, then pay the international rate? Is it just a coincidence that all non-market economies in the area are in line with the Kremlin? This is just so much opportunism looking around for a justification.

And you can spare me the Russophobe label here. When the interests of the elite are in issue, the term "phobia" is dragged out and put to good use. So when Chernobyl exploded, any statement about the potential effects of radiation were termed "radiatophobia." If they had had the power to do it then, anyone talking about it would have been committed for observation by pliant psychologists. But this is just another case of bending everything to serve Kremlin interests. It's just more of the same.

Much more gas analysis

Here some more analysis of the gas crisis here--One Gas Mask For All. Yulia MOSTOVAYA. Zerkalo Nedeli On The WEB. And it is a crisis.

This is not to say that economically Ukraine wouldn't be better off to eat the higher prices. It would be much better off, in the long run. But it needs to be in manageable bites. Maybe that is impossible to do--industries and governments are not usually motivated to do what they aren't forced to do. But economic devastation could be a real possibility. And Yuschenko and the gains of the Orange Revolution might not be the only casualties. Democracy could also be a casualty. The great cynical irony is that after the Orange Revolution, Russian analysts sneered that Ukraine would dabble in democracy and that it would then be discredited leaving Ukraine on the more natural path that Russia blazed with Putin. "You'll be with us in the end," was what they said.

It looks like it won't be the result of any kind of Slavic inevitability or historical necessity but because of Russian meddling. (And if you don't think it is meddling, just look at the prices Belarus and others who toe the line pay.) They will give history a big shove and then talk about the inevitability of it all. It seems like that is a result no one should want in Ukraine.

Of course, they could just cede the pipeline to Russia if that is what they are really after. Easy to resolve then. But that only makes sure you get eaten last, to paraphrase Winston Churchill.

So the government has to mobilize. But it looks like nothing is being done. And the opposition is looking to what will amount to a carving up of the cadaver. Criminally irresponsible still.

Does Europe see this all with any degree of concern? If appeasement seems to come to mind readily there might be a reason for it. Hunker down and maybe they'll pass us by. If the argument that Lavrov has made that they will use it for their near neighbors gives them any feeling of relief they are naive. Using resources as a tool of foreign policy has no natural limit. If it is in their interest to use them against Ukraine, when it is in their interests again, they will be used again. Anything else is living in a Disneyland world. All is joyous and wonderful inside and all the problems are left outside--for a hefty price. But those problems still press in and eventually you have to come out and deal with them.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Some other good gas analysis

Here's some very good analysis of the gas problem here by a commenter to the last blog post of mine. I thought it should be up here on its own.

Dear Scott - Your comments describing the Ukraine-Russia gas crisis are most interesting and quite sobering. As I see it Ukraine has a [semi] monopoly position as a transit country, and Russia is a [semi] monopoly supplier, so the situation is developing into a high stakes poker game, the prize being the Ukrainian gas transit system. Are we as close to gas supply disruption as your piece suggests? Curtailment of gas supply, even if temporary, to many high volume gas consuming industrial processes, particularly continous processes, can be disastrous.

European consumers have supply contracts with Gazprom, and not with Ukrainian companies, so wouldn't they be legally liable for losses incurred due to non delivery of gas, rather than Ukrainian companies? As you say the vituperative statements emerging from Gazprom and the rest must be unnerving the Europeans too. Nobody likes as bully and a blackmailer.

My guess is that for the moment Russia has too much to loose by reducing gas shipment through Ukrainian pipelines, and Ukraine has too much to loose if it starts
reducing throughput of gas, so this is going to drag on for a while.

Some commentators say that Putin is trying to influence next Spring's VR elections. Would he be so crude as to suggest, 'Vote for Yanuk, and you'll get cheap gas, vote for the others, and you pay 'top whack' for gas'. I don't think so. I think he knows that he has already lost Ukraine. Akhmetov and the rest must be just as worried about steep gas price increases, as everyone else. Their effects would be felt particularly hard in Eastern Ukraine - Yanuk's home turf. I think that the local populus would feel doubly betrayed by Russia if their factories were closed and domestic radiators were cold this winter.

I might have some more comment on this later. I have been busy this weekend with new bundle of joy matters so I haven't been around here much.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Hardball on natural gas

Here's some more of the same on Russian gas to Ukraine--KREMLIN HAS UPPER HAND IN GAS NEGOTIATIONS WITH UKRAINE - Eurasia Daily Monitor.

Triggering that round of presidential telephone calls was the breakdown of negotiations on Russian gas supply to Ukraine and gas transit via Ukraine to European Union countries. On December 5-6 in Moscow, Naftohaz Ukrainy chairman Oleksiy Ivchenko and Gazprom's management took irreconcilable positions on the supply and transit agreements for 2006. Without a Russia-Ukraine transit agreement taking effect on January 1, 2006, it is not clear how or on what terms Russian gas can reach the European Union.

In a remarkably vituperative press statement, Gazprom charged that the Ukrainian side was being "totally unconstructive, playing a very dangerous game, holding the Ukrainian people hostage [and] endangering the energy security of European consumers of Russian gas" (Interfax, December 6). With the January 1 deadline fast approaching, Moscow expects the EU to lean on Kyiv. Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov, in Brussels for a joint meeting of the European Commission and the Russian government, complained about Ukraine and warned the EU of "possible delays in Russian gas deliveries to Europe" because of Kyiv's position. He asked the EU to use its "convincing arguments in advising Ukraine to ensure unimpeded transit of gas to Europe" (Interfax, December 7).

Ukraine may face national bankruptcy if the Russian price hikes and cash-only payments take effect overnight, as Moscow now demands. Ukraine's gas bill to Russia would in that case rise from some $1.25 billion to an estimated $4.5 billion annually. Moreover, Ukraine's metallurgical and chemical sectors -- the main industrial consumers of gas -- could be forced out of operation, warns Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs chairman Anatoly Kinakh, currently Secretary of Ukraine's National Security and Defense Council. According to Kinakh, the
chemical industry overall would operate at a loss if the price of gas exceeds $95 per 1,000 cubic meters, and the metallurgical sector overall would become loss-making if the gas costs more than $103 per 1,000 cubic meters. These two sectors jointly account for 30% of Ukraine's annual GDP and 45% of the country's export revenue, according to Kinakh's estimates (Interfax-Ukraine, December 9). Moscow at this point demands $160 per 1,000 cubic meters of gas.

However, rather than bankrupting Ukraine, Gazprom may well be aiming for
a deal to acquire part-ownership of Ukraine's transit pipeline system, in return for conceding soft terms on gas supply to Ukraine. The Kremlin could score a major net strategic gain in this event.

I think the Russians believe they have the upperhand when it comes to the negotiations here. Ukraine can't go to anyone else for its supplies. Russia is it. So they have to deal. And Russia wants to increase the price threefold and have threatened to cut off supplies by January 1st if their price demand is not met. They say they will just send it to the EU.

If Ukraine cuts of all gas transiting to the EU and the EU complains, the Russians will say, "It's not us!" and point to Ukraine. I think they expect the EU to lean on Ukraine because of the potential for a shutoff. (They get 40% of their requirements from Russia.) And the EU just might do this. "It's only business. Nothing personal." To think they might want to risk jeopardizing their gas supplies to help Ukraine in the face of a Russian powerplay might just be too much to expect. Principle is one thing when you are warm and comfy and your industry is not subject to work stoppages. But it is quite another thing when the populace is faced with natural gas shortages and the specter of paying a much higher price or risk freezing in their homes.

But, as uncharacteristic as it may sound, the EU might take Ukraine's side in this. It might think it has more in common with Ukraine than it does with Russia and it might think its interests are more in line with nurturing the growth of democracy here than with aligning itself with Russia in this dispute.

But that might split the EU. Germany has shown itself eager to please Russia. They may stand to lose the most if supplies are cut off. They will probably deal on their own. Could they block any kind of effort on the part of EU institutions to respond in favor of Ukraine? Maybe. That would bother the newer additions like Poland, Czechoslovakia and the Baltic states no end. I think they would see it as treachery. Maybe Germany would see this as so much buzzing of gnats around their national head. "Just do it an let the gnats buzz. It may be a nuisance but nothing more." But would they not lose anything from this? The newer additions don't have all that much power so there might not be all that much they can do about it. But it could constitute a fundamental breach for them and might not bode well for the future of the EU. Can it survive if all countries seek only their own narrow interests at the expense of the other countries?

I think that there is a downside for Russia in this. If the EU gets the idea that Russia is willing to risk the shutting off of supplies to the EU because of some power play with the countries it considers to be in its sphere of influence, I don't think that would go over well. Some in the EU think that it must decrease its dependence on Russian gas supplies right now. They may have a hard time doing it through other suppliers. But they might look to decrease dependency through the use of alternatives. Would that be a good thing for Russia? Or do they think they can just sell it to someone else?

But sitting here, I would be prone to tell Russia to take our last offer and if they don't like it to cut off the supply. I would schedule an address to the nation and tell the people that the Russians are doing it to us again, that we need to hunker down to be able to weather this much as we have other agressions by the usual parties, uh, party.

Then I would retaliate by blocking the supplies to the EU and call it a self defense measure. We would then see what happens. It could be that the Russians might not like the result.

But I am sitting here with nothing riding on what I might think. The possibility that people could freeze in their homes and that industry would be stopped here in Ukraine would be hanging heavily over all of this. Anything to avoid that result would probably be most likely.

This could have much broader implications for the country than the elections in March. We'll see.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Ukraine Bird Flu Outbreak Spreads

It looks like it's getting closer--Ukraine Bird Flu Outbreak Spreads.

Ukraine's bird flu outbreak appeared to have escalated Monday as health officials reported new cases of domestic foul found dead in two cities and 19 villages on the Crimean peninsula.

The bird flu virus had been confirmed only in nine of the villages, said Irina Shakhno, spokeswoman for the Emergency Situations Ministry's Crimean office.

The Health Ministry said that reports were coming in about domestic birds found dead in 10 other villages, the regional capital, Simferopol, and another city, Feodosia. It was not immediately clear how many birds had died.

Feodosia is along the coast. Simferopol, on the other hand, is in the middle of the peninsula. Is it creeping this way? Who knows but it started out in the Danube delta area in southwestern Ukraine near Romania. Romania was where the first outbreaks were in the area. The Crimea is closer to Kiev than that though it isn't in a straight line.

And we are having chicken tonight.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Putin Talks Tough Over Ukraine Gas

More natural gas talk from the Russians--Putin Talks Tough Over Ukraine Gas

President Vladimir Putin struck a hard line Thursday in a dispute with Ukraine over natural gas supplies, saying that the country could afford to pay the market price for Russian gas.

Cabinet officials reported to Putin that Russia and Ukraine had failed to strike a deal on Russian natural gas supplies to Ukraine next year. 'Difficult work is under way and no solution has been found yet,' Industry and Energy Minister Viktor Khristenko said.

Can Ukraine afford to pay for natural gas at world market rates? That would mean a tripling of the price that Ukraine has paid in the past. And they might be able to do it in absolute terms. But that increase in cost would make industries that were once competitive, competitive no longer. Maybe that is a good thing economically, but it will be a severe shock to the whole system and people. One Russian analyst said that the prevalence now of mortgages for homes along with the increase in prices Russians are paying means that Russians may have to mortgage their homes to pay for the increased costs of things like energy. That might end up being true here. And there would be a major shake-out of industries and workers would suffer. Economists might say it is a kind of shock therapy needed to more rationalize the economy and that Ukraine and Ukrainians would benefit in the long run. And maybe they would, economically. But what it might do politically here would run from a house cleaning at least to disaster at most. Yuschenko will get the blame and anybody involved with him. It would make him radioactive politically. Democracy might also be blamed much as it was in Russia for all the economic problems. They could look for a strong man to set things right again.

The irony would be that Russian analysts have made the argument that Ukraine would follow them from the bright sunlight uplands of democratic freedom to the twilight world of the firm handed uncle that keeps everything straight. (Well, maybe they didn't put it quite that way.) "Just wait," they say, "what you see happening in Russia is in your future too." And it could happen because of Russian gas.

This is the one area where Tymoshenko would be right in putting this all down to clear Russian heavyhandedness attempting to affect the policies of Ukraine. But she is silent about it. I wonder why?

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Moderating comments

I have taken to switching on the moderate comments function on this blog. I have found to my utter disgust that the comment spam rats have shown up and chewed holes in just about everything. Some old posts of mine have close to 200 spam comments. And a lot of them have some.

How in the world do you get rid of those except for one at a time? I could selectively turn off comments but that is a lot of work. Having to moderate the comments is a bit of an inconvenience to any commenters here, but there aren't all that many so the inconcenvenience to the few is outweighed by the ability to prevent any new incursions.

I only wish I could just fumigate the place. Ticks me off not a little bit.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Yushchenko to Stay Out of 2006 Vote

This interesting--Yushchenko to Stay Out of 2006 Vote--not so much for the fact that Yuschenko will stay out of the elections--I don't know what that means practically--but for the change in the poll numbers for the Our Ukraine party. A week or so ago, they were trailing Tymoshenko's party by about the same difference that they now lead. Maybe some of the successes are starting to make headway with the voters.

The Party of Yanukovych leads and they are blitzing the radio with political ads. (We have only heard the ones on the radio. Don't know if they have been doing the same thing on TV.) Their message is that things were better when we were in charge. That has a lot of traction now because of the economy and because there has been no effective rebuttal. But if, hopefully, when the pro-government parties get into gear, pasting Yanukovych's picture on the screen in any number of ways and linking him back with the thuggery that he was responsible for would be an effective response. I don't know why they haven't done it now except that maybe they are still canvassing who will be in what coalition and who will agree to do what in support. But they have to get moving on this.

Any increase in support that Yanukovych has is because there has been no effective response. As a matter of fact, there hasn't been any kind of response. The enemies have all been in the family, it seems like, and all the plotting and strategy has been directed against them. This has allowed a resurgence in support of Yanukovych's party.

So what gives? Is he a joke or isn't he as I have said? The answer is still yes but anything more said on this will have to wait.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Business uncertainty

Here's an article on Andy Grove, ex-head of Intel, that deals with managing in uncertainty. I call it the "business uncertainty principle," a borrowing from subatomic physics. The basic idea is that business doesn't progress by adding facts, it progresses by adding constructs. Those constructs are views of the world and determine, in the end, what facts are.

It's all that reinvention talk that guys like Peters make the big bucks talking about. I take it from a thinking perspective. In any event, you can't really mange uncertainty, you can only respond to it in ways that preserve your options. And Grove has a pretty good record of doing this consistently.

Why the lull

I haven't been posting here as much recently because my wife is in the hospital and dealing with that and family is much more important.

There are still things going on here that need comment. There's a poll out that says Yanukovych would be PM if the election were held today. That flies in the face of what I have said about him. So that needs to be explained a bit. And there are other things. There's still a lot to talk about here.

I'll work them in if I have the time.

EU Market Economy Status

This is good news--EU Views Ukraine as Market Economy:

"The European Union agreed Thursday to recognize Ukraine as a free market economy, a status the country sought to give it an economic and political foothold in the EU.

The prized status, which still must be formalized, presents a major victory for Ukraine's pro-western President Viktor Yushchenko, but also for Ukrainian businesses seeking to trade with Western Europe, who have been hampered by anti-dumping rules. "

This means that the EU will not be dealing with Ukraine at arms length with things like anti-dumping. It's a nice step and a bit of confirmation that things are on the right track. The cynic though might say that it is a case of the EU propping up Yuschenko. I'd take it either way.