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Kremlin Shows Discipline in its Messaging

Today and tomorrow are major media days for Russia. In addition to the annual news conference (which apparently broke records – lasting 3 hours, 32 minutes, with President Vladimir Putin answering 69 questions from 1232 journalists), Russia’s Ambassador to the United States, Yuri Ushakov, also published an op/ed in the Los Angeles Times. Tomorrow in Europe many more news stories will surely follow. Initial coverage: AP, FT, Reuters, BBC, RIA Novosti, and Radio Free Europe. putinwatch.jpg It seems that everyone is on strict orders to toe the party line in regards to the energy issue – in other words, strategically deny the imperialism charge as an “unfair suspicion,” paint yourself a victim of the foreign press, then explain away the aggressive policies as merely market-oriented reforms, and reiterate the “commitment” and “obligations” to supply agreements. For good measure, add an incredulous question to your statement. Putin, as quoted by RIA and AP:

“An argument is being imposed on us that Russia allegedly uses economic levers to attain its ends in international politics. This is not true. Russia has been meeting all of its obligations in full, and will continue to do so in the future,” Putin told a Kremlin news conference. AP: “We’re not obliged to subsidize the economies of other countries,” Putin said. “Nobody does that, so why are they demanding it of us?

Ushakov in the LA Times:

Russia is frequently accused of “energy imperialism” — using its exports of oil and gas as a tool of its foreign policy. But the truth is that Russia and even, in the old days, the Soviet Union, never violated commitments to supply energy to customers who pay their bills in full. Contrary to the accusations that have been made against us, we have supplied Europeans and other consumers with every cubic foot of natural gas and every barrel of oil that we contracted to provide. In regard to Ukraine and Belarus, we are moving to market prices, ending previous practices of subsidizing their economies. What’s wrong with that? Nobody asks the United States to provide subsidies to Canada, Mexico or, for that matter, Cuba. Our goal is to create a standard business relationship with every country, which has nothing to do with “energy imperialism.”

(stay tuned for press release)