Wednesday, January 11, 2012

U.S. Senior Diplomat on Defense Cooperation with Georgia

Civil Georgia reports on comments on U.S.-Georgian relations by U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, Philip H. Gordon at a Washington, D.C., press conference Jan. 9, 2012.

Said Gordon: "We have a security relationship with Georgia that has significantly been focused on education and training, and on Georgia's hugely important commitment to Afghanistan."

According to Gordon, "Georgia, on a per capita basis, is one of the most, either first or second, biggest contributors to Afghanistan."

"They have, even in recent days, taken casualties. And it underscores the risks that they are taking on our common behalf, protecting common security, and we will continue to work with Georgia on that basis," Gordon said.

Georgia reportedly has been pushing for U.S. anti-armor and anti-aircraft systems, concerned Russia might renew hostilities. Gordon indicated that Georgian arms purchases will continue to be reviewed on a case-by-case basis, with no change in the nature of U.S.-Georgian military ties regarding arms deals. 

Read More:, Civil Georgia, Jan. 10, 2012

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Ruble Sweats Amid Russian Turmoil

The Wall Street Journal reports on political risk in Russia impacting trading in rubles. The currency has declined 3% since the biggest political protests over election fraud.

Previously in 2011 the ruble generally had performed well, apparently due to Russia being a commodity-producer (the world's second-largest crude oil exporter) as well as an emerging market.

However, Russia also had $80 billion in capital flight in 2011, more than double 2010, according to the Russian government, a situation aggravated by political uncertainty.

While Vladimir Putin is expected to win the March presidential election, concerns over political stability remain, and investors recall Russian currency devaluations in 1992 and 1996.

Said one portfolio manager, "It's never good when you have people in the streets ... That could lead to more capital flight."

Beyond the ruble, Russian financial markets are down, and the Central Bank is not offering much support for the ruble itself.

However, high oil price forecasts could help the ruble, and progress on eurozone problems could make investors less risk-averse.

Financial analysts differ on the impact of the March presidential election.

Among concerns voiced by one fund co-manager: "'one quite clearly is the political noise which is around us and quite clearly will remain elevated ... We worry about the fact that we've seen how these protests have grown in the Middle East and even in other areas.'"

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Monday, January 9, 2012

Another Russian revolution? Not so fast; Ordinary people in Russia haven't been this politically active since 1991 but they're hoping for evolution rather than revolution

Natalia Antonova writes for The Guardian that Russian society has made a tremendous shift with mass opposition rallies on Dec. 10 and 24, rallies she argues are fueled by general discontent as well as election fraud.

While the Kremlin reassigned Vladislav Surkov, there are no plans to hold a re-vote of the Duma elections.

The opposition vows to fight on, even as Russia heads towards a March presidential election that Vladimir Putin is expected to win. The next rally is tentatively scheduled for Feb. 4.

The article predicts that Russia will not head down the path of revolution ...


Internet Activism Increases in Russia: Moscow Rallies Underscore New Ability of Opposition to Raise Funds Widely for Anti-Kremlin Causes

Wall Street Journal Europe reports that social media have facilitated attendance and fundraising for Moscow opposition rallies.

In one instance, organizers raised four million rubles, about $129,000, through a Russian online-payment system after an appeal on facebook and other social media.

The funds were used to support a Dec. 24 event that became the country's largest antigovernment demonstration in two decades, leaving a surplus of a million rubles for a planned march in Moscow on Feb. 4.

Tens of thousands turned out to protest Putin rule and widespread election fraud in December Duma elections.

While Putin has rejected a revote, Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill has called for dialogue. Former finance minister Kudrin has called for the March presidential election to be under a new electoral law, and for election commission chairman Vladimir Churov to step down.

Wall Street Journal Europe: "Putin is expected to win the presidency, but some of his supporters fear the election will look illegitimate, even if it is run fairly, unless drastic action is taken to restore confidence."


Putin allies urge him to talk to opponents

The Washington Post reports that Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill has called Putin to engage in dialogue with opposition protesters, while former finance minister Alexei Kudrin has called for the head of Russia's election commission to resign before the March 2012 presidential election.

Kirill said in a televised interview that "If demonstrations ahead of the 1917 revolution had ended in the expression of peaceful protests and had not led to a bloody revolution and a fratricidal war, Russia would have had a more than 300 million population and would have challenged or maybe even surpassed the United States from the point of view of economic development. ... Back then, we failed to preserve the balance and wisdom. We destroyed our country. Why did it happen? Because people’s protests, often fair, are very skillfully exploited by power-seeking political forces."

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