A Collective Yawn

In recent posts, inspired by a New York Times article and helped along by our well-informed friend Jess Kaplan, we’ve looked at Putin’s tightening grip on Russia. His power-grab has hardly confined itself to increasing restrictions on democracy, but has also, and arguably more dangerously for global stability and security, involved ruthless appropriation of major private industries, and use of this command of the energy sector as a bludgeon against his neighbors. This is mighty important stuff, but nobody seems to pay much attention. Why?

For me at least, part of the problem is that one has to have a taste, or at least an aptitude, for both finance and law to follow this story’s arcane involutions. It is a gruesomely complex tangle of characters and corporations, with a labyrinthine backstory of shifting government regulations and shadowy financial skulduggery. That it is of major global importance is beyond question — this consolidation of Russian economic and political power under Putin is arguably at least as significant a matter as the war in Iraq — but it certainly taxes me to get it all loaded into RAM at the same time, as it were, and I expect it has the same effect on others.

People are far more likely, in general, to get worked up over a hot war, or our own muddle-headed leadership, than something like this, which is the sort of thing that makes most people’s eyes glaze over. After all, “BUSH LIED!!!” or “NO BLOOD FOR OIL!!!!” is a lot easier to get your head round than “To The Wall Street Journal, however, Firtash conceded that Mogilevich’s wife had once held a stake in a company he controlled, the Cyprus-based Highrock Holdings Ltd. He told the WSJ he took over the stake once he learnt of the connection to Mogilevich and stressed Highrock had no connection to RosUkrEnergo or to its predecessor, Eural Trans Gas.”. But it is surely worth the effort; this is important stuff here.

Comments, anyone?

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  1. bob koepp says

    Malcolm – I know I should stay up to date on what’s happening in Russia. It’s clearly one of the most important nations in the world, what with its natural resources, technical capabilities, and sordid political traditions. But like you, the level of intricate detail one must master to follow Putin’s moves and appreciate their context is simply more than I can manage while still having a life.

    Posted February 26, 2008 at 4:24 pm | Permalink
  2. Malcolm says

    Exactly. Yet we are perfectly happy spending hours wrangling over the recondite complexities of dualism, causation, etc.

    I do think it simply requires a sort of aptitude that I rather lack.

    Posted February 26, 2008 at 4:30 pm | Permalink
  3. Charles says

    I’m not going to lie… I am politically retarded. I have read the past few posts with as much interest as I can muster, as it is obviously an important subject, but don’t think I’ve come anywhere near grasping it all.

    Posted February 26, 2008 at 8:21 pm | Permalink
  4. Malcolm says

    This is what I’m talking about. I feel rather retarded in the same way. I have a feeling that there is something about the way my mind works that makes me less interested in contingent, specific whodunits of this sort than in general, overarching principles and truths, even when the explication of those generalities get just as complicated as the stories presented here.

    Perhaps I really don’t care all that much about particular people and the particular things they do. Not a very nice thing to own up to.

    Posted February 26, 2008 at 9:38 pm | Permalink
  5. I’m seeing a corresponding relationship between political power and oil power worldwide…Nothing new there of course…

    It may be a recognition that the old oil-based economy has a limited life span and many wish it shorter rather than longer…A new (cleaner less corrupted power-source is yet to show up in any meaningful way)…Why is that? It may be a lack of political/monitary- as in put yr $$ where yr mouth is … or even a lacking in our “collective” will perhaps…

    It is a real thing to me that the convolutions of power are usually meant to obfuscate -not clarify…

    Posted March 1, 2008 at 11:59 am | Permalink