Wednesday, 5 March 2008

“They’re stealing the gas, Nancy, they’re *stealing the gas*”

Gazprom is spending a shed-load on some well-connected PRs right now. Friend-of-Dmitry-Peskov, the US PR firm, Ketchum, runs a global program. Now Ketchum is a well-known consumer PR firm in the USA, but something of an also-ran (IMHO) in the rest of the world (and has, BTW, the most irritating *cutesy* web-vid intro on its website, the "greeters", ugh, which appears to assume the readers, the potential clients, are morons). It was lucky to get this, because this is a big, complicated mandate for a largely consumer PR firm, but its long-standing, Russian partner, Michael Maslov, has solid Kremlin connections.

...and breathes in... But through its Omnicom parent, Ketchum has some partners with clout, like the respected Gavin Anderson, the financial spin doctors. The point is, while I like and admire Michael (we alternate to buy each other dinner), what are all these *global* people doing for their fees?

Get the job done guys and, if you can’t get it done (perhaps because – and I know the score and how this works in Russia – the client was obliged to hire you, on instructions, but now ignores you), then quit the mandate. Big fees or no big fees, in the long run you suffer, or your reputation does, if all you do is bank the cash and merely spectate as a client’s global reputation collapses. But what do I know, maybe they’re actually slaving away and a client fight-back is about to materialize. If so, news cycle, guys, news cycle: are you acquainted with them?

What I do know is that I have worked for a company once described as “the most hated company ever to launch an IPO”, and we did stuff. It worked.

Anyway, my 'outburst' comes as the liberal, anti-Russian media in the UK delivers an astonishingly one-sided reportage of the Gazprom-Ukraine dispute (examples here and here).

The western media isn’t telling you that, quite aside from a payment track-record that makes a sub-prime mortgage holder a good bet, Ukraine is *stealing the gas*, siphoning it off, as it transits Ukraine into Western Europe. Where does Naftogaz Ukrainy let it go to? Well let’s just say that the corporate profits of some Ukrainian oligarchs' heavy-industrial businesses are looking surprisingly robust in the face of fuel cost rises over the last two years…

But the key thing is this, the ‘free press’ of the West just doesn’t like the idea that ‘democratic’ Ukraine (“they won Eurovision, they had a revolution, they can do no wrong”) could be anything other than on the side of the angels. The western, liberal media is so bound up in its hate (and I don't think that word is too strong) and suspicion of Russia, it will (and does) self-edit to bring you the story that always puts Russia in a bad light.

- Ukraine stealing gas? Ignore – our readers/viewers need only know that Ukraine is ‘free’ and is ‘pro-western’
- Russia reacts by reducing the flow by the amount it steals? Boo Russia!

This email conversation, yesterday, with a new political friend in the UK sets this in context (I hope):

From: New political friend in the UK
To: Red Exile

…[…]… Also, I saw that the new President of Russia has cut off gas supplies to the Ukraine. What is life like out there when these sorts of things happen?

From Red Exile
To: New political friend in the UK

“Re: Ukraine – LOL. GAZP didn’t cut them off; just reduced the supply by the amount that Ukraine is illegally skimming it off and siphoning to some dodgy industrial clients on the side. Really, the UKR gas company uses the fact that it transits most of Europe’s gas to hide what Naftogaz Ukrainy, the gaz monopoly, steals. This brokers’ note [it is an extract from one issued yesterday by Renaissance Capital – Exile] explains more:

“Event: Ukraine's dispute with Russia over gas supplies took a turn for the worse on Monday (3 Mar) as Gazprom cut supplies 25%, or around 30 mcm/day, in response to non payment by Ukrainian counterparties. NAK Naftogaz Ukrainy later claimed the actual reduction was 35% (46 mcm/day) though Gazprom has not confirmed this. To put the cut in perspective, Interfax reported that Ukrainian consumption was running at around 150-156 mcm/day last week.

“The Financial Times's Web site reported NAK as claiming it has enough gas in storage after a mild winter to withstand such constraints for a month. Even if this claim is exaggerated, it appears that yesterday's developments are a measured increase in pressure by Gazprom, rather than an outright attempt to force the issue to a crisis. The haggling over gas imports and the division of the spoils from the Ukrainian supply market could go on for some time still. Although we continue to believe that Gazprom chairman Dmitry Medvedev will not want his moment of victory in the presidential elections spoiled by this dispute, it is clear that Gazprom has no intention of surrendering out of deference to the political calendar.

“We are concerned by NAK's claim of a larger supply cut than Gazprom has admitted to. Only one figure can be correct, and NAK's record exposes it to the suspicion that it is preparing to resume illicit siphoning, which would seriously damage the aspirations toward integration with Europe that the government is voicing more and more loudly.

From: New political friend in the UK
To: Red Exile

… […]…It's really bad news if the UK press is reporting this in such an anti-Russian way. I was also surprised by Gordon Brown's response that the new Russian President will be 'judged by his actions' - hardly warm words for an incoming world leader (who happens to be pretty friendly with Iran!)...

Well, yes, indeed.

The title of this post was inspired by this, wonderful West Wing moment:

PS: Just loving the news that Hilary did so well in yesterday’s Primaries: you go girl!

Declaration: the more I see of Obama, the more I think he is too proud, too-pretty-speech-no-substance and just not the person the rest of the world needs to have in the White House right now.

Viewpoint: McCain beats Obama; but only Clinton can beat McCain


CharlieM said...

Wrong on one point dear Stephen.

Obama beats McCain
McCain beats Clinton

its a simple "change versus more of the same" and Hils will always be "more of the same"

the polls aren't wrong on this one

Red Exile / Красная Ссылка said...


We disagree. We think by NOV McCain can beat Obama which, as we said, is our 'viewpoint'; the polls are just the snapshot of 'today's thinking.



They both lose in Nov. Obama will be destroyed by McCain and the media will they start scrutinizing his record. He is all air and no substance. Obama can say "I am change" and "I can work across party lines", but when you look at his record in Illinois and the US Senate, he was just like any other partisan hack. If you think all the young voters will turn out for Obama in NOV. you are wrong. Historically that demographic has never showed up when it really matters.

Clinton is so divisive that her nomination will single handly unite the Republican base so reluctant to support McCain. Her negative numbers are close to the half way point and the claim of change is laughable.

You must also look at the Democrat Nomination process making it almost impossible for Hillary to be elected by the people because committed delegates are proportional to voting percentage. Reports have stated she only has a 3% margin for error to gain delegates meaning she needs to pick up 97% of the remaining committed delegates. If she is nominated it will all come down to the secret negotiations of the super delegates anointing her that is a done deal. Why else do you think after her win she is talking about a joint ticket. If that happens it will cause a tremendous amount of dissatisfaction amongst the core Democrats they will sit out the election. They cannot bring out the boogey man, Bush, his time as President is done.

Red Exile / Красная Ссылка said...

I am so glad you commented, DC, I knew you would have a robust view about the Republican triumph in NOV. I agree to the extent that the decision to chose Obama means another Republican in the White House; albeit a House of Representatives and a Senate easily controlled by the Dems.

Actually, with McCain as a moderate(ish) I think he and they will cohabit just fine.