Friday, March 19, 2010

March Mailbag of Curious Incidents

A few interesting points about events at home and abroad today.


Over at The Economist's website, outstanding Euroblogger Charlemagne has an article about Greece. Now, I'll recommend it for the great insight into how Greece got this way, but there is a curious assertion there. Charlemagne asks us to not discount Greece as an infantile, irresponsible nation that simply spent all its money without regard to the future - and immediately proceeds to underscore that point by explaining that Greece needs to have a tremendously bloated public sector, without any real expectation of competence applied to public servants, because if the government doesn't keep up the appeasement of tribal leaders using money borrowed against the credibility of Germany and France, greeks will actually start killing each other. I agree that the avoidance of bloodshed is the first priority, but I cannot abide by the notion that this makes Greece a grown-up country that should be treated as such.

Europe is, first and foremost, about civilization. I don't mean to get overly imperial - this isn't about noblesse oblige, it's about self-perception, what we can contribute to humanity, and what we can be proud about in ourselves. If a European nation, moreso an EU member, and for damn sure a member of the Eurozone, is incapable of exercising common sense, seeing the big picture, and doing what is necessary, then it is most definitely a nation that ought to be treated as a spoiled, unreasonable child. Now, I'm sure Charlemagne has a far more detailed understanding of the intricacies of the Greece bailout than me, but taking his blog post at face value, we're one diplomatic misstep away from having to deploy EU troops and turn Greece into a Kosovo-style dominion.

If the prime minister of Hungary can go on public record saying "we fucked up" and his nation can learn to accept it, why should Greece be different?


I was somewhat surprised to see blog chatter about Toomas Hendrik Ilves travelling to Moscow for the WWII victory parade in May. From what I gather, THI originally didn't fancy going, and explained it away by saying that he wasn't actually invited; then Russia turned around and actually issued him a personal invitation. And most observers thought this is a great coup for Russia's foreign policy, and that Estonia's diplomatic corps had been outsmarted.

Look, that's what we have a President for: to do things that are unpopular, but necessary. For one, at this point in history the public at large does not seem to give a flying fuck about whether THI attends the parade or not. Estonia is busy with an all-encompassing national project. Successfully adopting the Euro is a far bigger step in ensuring Estonia's future security than any foreign policy troll-bait being catapulted in the Kremlin's general direction. Since we appear to have gotten under the wire on all the actual numbers, the only reason we could be kept out of the Eurozone is if the governments get together and decide they just don't want us in. There is, apparently, some measure of personal discretion involved. Yes, the big boys are currently pissed off at Greece, but we can keep emphasizing the fact that Estonia is the exact opposite of Greece in terms of fiscal responsibility, and our reps need to stay on-message in Brussels. The last thing we need is another fruitless spat with Russia about intractable old grievances.

Furthermore, that same blog chatter reminds us that it was Arnold Rüütel - the previous president, former head of the Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic and as pro-Russian a political figure as you can get without using a tube of red face paint to scrawl a hammer and sickle on Edgar Savisaar's buttcheeks - who refused to attend the last major international circle jerk in Moscow. Like I said, the president is there to do what's necessary - even at the risk of damage to his political image.

Only Nixon could have gone to China.

Speaking of Russia, there's a giggle-worthy bit of news reported by The article is in Russian; the gist of it is that an affiliate of YUKOS, the oil company that was owned by Mikhail Khodorkovsky, has successfully sued the Russian state oil exporter Rosneft for damages to be collected against any payments due in the UK and US. has a copy of a US court order, I've re-uploaded it just in case, which instructs the US Marshals to extract 419 million USD out of Rosneft in the state of New York - including any payments by third parties owed to Rosneft for purchased oil. Obviously this is a legal battle with very little clarity to be hoped for, but the experts quoted by imply that Rosneft's entire export business, worth $3.8 billion per month.

Happy Schadenfriday!


stockholm slender said...

Oh well, what can you do. This "Victory Day" business is quite bizarre anyway - quiet pride, gratefulness and deep sadness would be suitable attitudes on such memorial days, but official Russia has this primitive chest-thumping attitude to deeply tragic national history. Such a twisted, unhealthy attitude.

Giustino said...

All the other leaders go there and watch the goose-stepping parades. Do you really think that Tarja Halonen enjoys it? Like you said, that's what presidents are for.


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