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The new Cold War is over energy resources – MoneyWeek

First,somebackground:Whoorwhatarethesiloviki?

Wikipediaoffersthefollowingdefinition:“Asilovikplural:siloviksorsiloviki,fromaRussianwordforforce)isaRussianpoliticianfromtheoldsecurityormilitaryservices,oftentheKGBandmilitaryofficersorothersecurityservices,whocameintopowerintheteamsofBorisYeltsinorVladimirPutin。



ThesilovikiarealternatelyviewedasshadowythugsorthetrueprotectorsofMotherRussia。

Theycouldbeoneorboth,dependingonone’sperspective。

Eitherway,theyholdthepowerandpullthestrings,withPutinactingastheirvisiblehand。

Thecriticalthingtounderstandisthis:Putinandthesilovikibelievetheirhomelandisundersiege。

Richinnaturalresources,Russiaisneverthelesspoorintermsofhumancapital,withapopulationindecline。

Awildanduntamedlandwithbordersridiculouslyfarapart,holdingRussiatogetherwasatoughjobinthebestoftimes。

Thesedaysitisalmostimpossiblyhard–buttopatriotsintheKremlin,worthanyeffortandanycost。

Sovereigntyisahardtaskmaster。

WhenRussialookstotheWest,itseestheexpansionoftheEuropeanUnion–andthepotentialexpansionofNATO–asadirectthreattoitsexistence。

WhenRussialookstotheEast,itseesapowerfuldragonhungryfornaturalresources–andremembersthat,whilefeedingadragoncanbelucrativework,onemustbecarefulnottogetconsumed。

China’smuscleandappetitemakeitanarms-lengthcomradeatbest。

Butaskepticaldetenteisbetterthanafriendlybackstabbing,andintheeyesofRussia’sinnercircle,theWestislookingmoreandmorelikeanenemy。

Theycannotsaythisoutloud,buttheyaresurelythinkingit。

Thepro-democracypoliciesoftheUnitedStatesandEurope,theWestern-sponsored,multicoloured“revolutions”intheEasternsatellitecountries,thedeliberateminimisationofRussia’sroleontheworldstage–allareseenbyPutinandthesilovikiassubversivetactics,aimedatpermanentlyweakeningthegreatRussianbear。

Intheirview,MotherRussiaisunderattackbynonmilitarymeans。

AndtheWest’sultimategoal?

Tobreakthebearintopiecesandplunderitswealth。

ThinkCarlIcahnonageopoliticalscale;thatishowPutinandfriendsviewthepowerfulcombinationofall-consumingcapitalistinterestsandall-enablingWesterngovernments。

ImagineyouaretheRussianbear,fightingforyourdignityandsurvival。

HowtorespondwhenyourWestern“friends”areactinglikeenemies?

Howtofightbackwhenyourbordersarecracking,yourempireiscrumblingandyourgeopoliticalcloutisbleedingaway?

Whattodo?

Startanewcoldwar,that’swhat。

Butkeepinmindthatnuclearweaponsarestrictlypasséthesedays–moresuitableformadtinpotdictatorsthanoncemightysuperpowers。

Whereglobalcloutandprojectionofforceisconcerned,energyisthenewblack。

BacktoGazprom:Russiaistheworld’sbiggestexporterofnaturalgasandthesecondbiggestexporterofcrudeoil。

Gazpromsitsatthecentreofthatweb,controlling20%oftheworld’snaturalgasproductionand16%oftheworld’snaturalgasreserves。

Ifthosenumbersdon’traiseyoureyebrows,considerthisfromTheEconomist:“If[Gazprom]wereacountry,itsoilandgasreservescombinedwouldrankonlybehindSaudiArabia’sandIran’s”(emphasisadded)。

Thiseye-poppingenergymonsterisabouttogetevenbigger。

OnDec。

23,2005,VladimirPutinsignedoffona“stockliberalisation”billallowingforeignownership(i。

e。

westerninvestorownership)ofupto49。

6%ofGazpromshares。

Allwellandgood,no?

Openinguptoglobalcapitalmarketsandsuch?

Notexactly。

Withmajorityownership,theKremlincanstilldoexactlywhatitpleaseswithGazprom。

ToPutinandthesiloviki,owning50。

4%isnotmuchdifferentfromowning100%,withonebeautifulexception:AheftyinfluxofforeigncapitalwillgiveGazpromthecashtogobbleupitsremainingRussiancompetitors。

Gazprommayhave16%oftheworld’snaturalgasreserves,butthatisstillamere60%ofRussia’stotalgasreserves。

Thereare40%morereservestograb,byfair(buyout)orfoul(backdoorpoliticalpressureandwhoknowswhatelse)means。

Anotherbenefitof49。

6%offoreignownershipistheblanketofpoliticalcoversuchownershipprovides。

IfWesterninvestorshavesignificantmoneyinvestedinGazprom,theywillbelesslikelytosupportharshactionif,orratherwhen,Gazpromstartschallengingacceptableboundaries。

Asyoumightexpect,thismurkygianthasacorporatestructurethatmakesEnronandFannieMaelooklikeparagonsoftransparency。

Gazprom’slogisticsprocessissocomplexandopaquethecompany’sdealingswithsubcontractorscouldmakeforaKafkashortstory。

Ontopofthis,thecompanyrecentlyboughtamajoritystakeinaRussiannewspaperandhasownedaRussiantelevisionstation(strippedfroman“oligarch”whohaslongsincefledthecountry)since2001。

Youwouldthinkanenergybehemothhaslittlebusinesswithtelevisionandnewspapers。

Unless,ofcourse,thatbehemothisadefactotooloftheKremlin,inwhichcasemajormediaoutletscomeinquitehandyforthedisseminationofpropaganda。

Ahyes,that。

WithGazpromastheagitator,Russiaclearlyhasthemotiveandthemeanstoinitiateanenergycoldwar。

Ithasalreadykickedthingsoff,asyounodoubthaveheard,withtheUkrainenaturalgasdispute。

Ahandfulofobservershavesoundedthealarm。

France’sLeMondehascalledRussia’saction“anactofwar。

”DavidWarrenoftheOttawaCitizenwrites,“ItisanoddthingwhenthesinglebiggestandmostconsequentialeventinayearhappensonJan。

1。

Theyear2006maywellproveoddlikethat。



Inthefinaldaysof2005,concernedobserversnotedtheresignationofAndreiIllarionov,Putin’seconomicadviser,shortlybeforethepipelineshutdownoccurred。

Illarionovwasseenasalonefree-marketvoiceinRussia’sinward-dominatedpowerstructure;hisresignationunderlinesthefactthatPutinandthesilovikimayhavecrossedasortofgeopoliticalRubicon。

ThoughtheUkrainedisputeisresolved(fornow),Europeansremaininamildstateofshock。

Forgoodreason,too:Theshutdown,whichtemporarilyslashedgassuppliesacrossthecontinentbyathird,highlightsjusthowdependentEuropeisonRussiangas…andthushowvulnerableEuropeistoRussianhostilities。

WhileEurope’slong-termplanis(orperhapswas)toexpanditsrelianceonRussiannaturalgasinthefuture,thedangersofsuchaplanarenowabundantlyclear。

Evenbeforethisparticularwake-upcalloccurred,Europewascastingacovetouseyeonnon-Russiannaturalgassources。

IntheUnitedStates,existingLNG(liquidnaturalgas)terminalsarerunningatonlyhalfcapacity,duetoaggressivebiddingfromEuropeandAsiaforavailableLNGsupplies。

EvenwhenRussiabehaves,theresimplyaren’tenoughLNGtankersouttheretokeepthreecontinentshappy。

MartinHouston,presidentofNorthAmericanoperationsfornaturalgaspowerhouseBGGroup(BG:LSE),seesstiffbiddingcompetitionthroughtheendofthedecade。

Gazprom,meanwhile,continuestodoitsbestimpressionofanoctopus,withpipelinesfortentaclesandtheKremlinasitsbrain。

ManyofRussia’smachinationsaredesignedtobindthesatellitesevencloser,ifpossible,orcutthemoffinpunishmentifthefirstoptionisunavailable。

Keepinmindthatthisnot-so-littledramaisonlyonecrosssectionoftheworld’senergyconcerns。

WehavenotyetdiscussedthetroublingeventsinSouthAmerica,whereHugoChavezisnationalisingassetsandfundinga“socialistrevolution”withpetrodollars(thereisareasonsomecallcrudeoil“thedevil’stears”)。

WehavenotyetlookedtoBolivia,whereasocialistleaderandCastrocommiseratorhastakenroot,ortoIran,wherePresidentAhmadinejadispushingtheworldeverclosertothebrinkofnuclearconfrontation,ortoChina,whereSinopecisconsolidatingpower(asprivateoilwellownersarestrippedoftheirassetsandthrowninprisoniftheydareprotest),ortootherflashpointstoonumeroustomentionhere。

AsRussiaandotherssoamplydemonstrate,thereismuchmoreconfrontationandconflicttocome。

ByJusticeLitleforTheDailyReckoning

JusticeLitleiseditorofOutstandingInvestments。

Hehasworkedwithsoybeanfarmers,cattleranchers,energyconsultants,currencytraders,scrapmetaldealersandeveryoneinbetween,includingmultiplehedgefunds。

MrLitlealsoactedasheadtraderforaprivateequitypartnership,andcontributedtoTrendFollowing,apopulartradingbookbyMikeCovel(FT/PrenticeHall,2004)。