Ransom Is As Ransom Does

When Lunghu heard last week that VTB Bank executives were coming to Manhattan for a meeting with prospective investors hosted by Citibank, his second thought was: “Well, it looks like the ransom negotiations for Viktor Bout are finally underway in earnest!”  [In case you were wondering, Lunghu’s first thought was: “What imperialist-capitalist in his right mind would invest in VTB?”  After all, its shares are currently worth about 7 kopecks each, and its core business seems to consist of laundering assets for Comrade Bear and his kleptocrat cronies.]

This week, there have been further signs that Putin, Sechin, et al. are ready to open up the treasure chest in order to repatriate their faithful(?) retainer, Comrade Bout.  What does Russia have that the US wants?  The usual.  Oil.

There will be no export duties for new hydrocarbon development projects on the Russian continental shelf, President-elect Vladimir Putin said on Thursday.  “There should be a special stimulating taxation system for shelf projects scheduled for implementation. We have made a decision to fully lift the export duty for new shelf projects,” Putin said at a government meeting.
“We also suggest lifting property tax and value-added tax on unique imported equipment which Russia does not manufacture, for all new [energy development] projects regardless of the complexity level,” the prime minister added.

 

“We expect the world’s largest corporations will partner with our Russian companies on the shelf,” said Putin without naming any specific Western firms.  All private companies — both Russian and foreign — currently have to team up with either Rosneft or Gazprom and allow the state firms to control at least 50 percent of any offshore deal.  Rosneft last year signed a deal to develop three Kara Sea oil fields with the US supermajor ExxonMobil, [which] has since lobbied for cuts in export duties that could help justify the enormous expense of developing the fields.

When Exxon talks, presidents listen.

Oh. While you’re at it, just one other thing …

Russia supports the US pick to lead the World Bank, Jim Yong Kim, Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said Friday.  “Taking into account professional qualities, experience and the competencies of Mr Kim, Russia will support the candidacy of Jim Yong Kim in the vote of the World Bank’s board,” Siluanov was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency after meeting the US candidate.

 

And … since things are going so well, how about a quiet, private chat next month?

The United States wants to hold a separate summit with Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the Group of Eight meeting at Camp David in May, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Friday.
“The Americans want a separate, independent Russian-American summit,” Lavrov was quoted by the RIA Novosti news agency as saying after returning from a G8 foreign minister meeting in Washington.
Putin will receive an official briefing on the US proposal after he is inaugurated on May 7 for a third term as Russian president.     “We will report to the president when he assumes his powers,” Lavrov said.
“We are disposed to have continuity in relations, to continue to seek further spheres of shared interests — of which there are many —  and where interests coincide, to agree on moving forward,” he said.

By all means, where interests coincide, agree on moving forward.  Progress always comes at a price.

 

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