Václav Klaus, the president of the Czech Republic, is legendary for his lack of manners. When his country assumed the rotating presidency of the European Union in 2009, Klaus—a stocky and vigorous man with close-cropped white hair and a fastidiously trimmed moustache—got into a scrap with a group of European politicians because he had refused to fly the EU flag above his office in Prague Castle. Nicolas Sarkozy pronounced the snub “hurtful,” yet Klaus was anything but contrite. Instead, he used his first address to the European Parliament to compare the EU to the Soviet Union.
It’s been a long time since foreign leaders arrived on our shores saying that America is the future—so long, in fact, that when it does happen, we don’t know what to make of it. For me this was the most interesting subtext of Russian president Dmitri Medvedev’s visit to the States last month. He and Barack Obama had a familiar discussion of shared national interests, from arms control to ethnic peace in Kyrgyzstan. Their lunch outing to an Arlington burger joint reflected the search for good visuals that we often see when a summit itself isn’t generating much real news.
The words most often used by the heads of oil companies to describe the boom are “revolution” and “game changer.” Industry historian Daniel Yergin calls it “the shale gale.” Admittedly, serious questions remain as to whether shale gas will pass the ecological test—critics say it can’t be extracted safely in proximity to groundwater, and the EPA is engaged in a two-year study of extraction techniques.
Americans are used to presidential candidates promising to get tough on China only to turn tail once they are in office. Could the same be true of German Chancellor’s promises to get tough with Russia? The Financial Times has an extraordinary report on “The New Ostpolitik,” between Germany and Russia. When German Chancellor Angela Merkel first ran four years ago, she was highly critical of former Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder’s warm relationship with the Russians. Indeed, after leaving office, Schroeder became the chairman of Nord Stream, which is owned by the Russian firm, Gazprom, and is deve
With another gas showdown between Ukraine and Russian gas behemoth Gazprom now underway, it is worth being reminded of the surreal aspect of Putin's Russia. Gazprom has decided that it will reduce deliveries of Russian gas to Ukraine; many observers believe that the dispute is actually a political one. The New York Times, in an excellent short piece, manages to capture the strangeness of Putin's rule: The announcement took the form of a conversation between Putin and the chief executive of Gazprom, Aleksei B. Miller, during an evening newscast on Russian state television.
Minutes after the polls closed on March 2 in the westernmost Russian city of Kaliningrad--certifying a blowout victory by presidential candidate Dmitri Anatolyevich Medvedev, handpicked heir to Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin--the men of the hour made an appearance at a massive concert underway in Red Square. As broadcast by NTV, a television channel owned by Gazprom (where Medvedev chairs the board of directors), the scene looked like something out of Mission: Impossible.
When historians one day dissect the long arc of humankind's use of fossil fuels, they may very well zero in on October 9, 2006, as a turning point for Big Oil. That's when it became clear that the major oil companies--the giants that had survived numerous predicted extinctions and gone on to ever-greater profit and influence--were undergoing a tectonic shift and would either reinvent themselves or die.