Let’s Get Realistic about Telenor

Good ‘ole Norway.  You’d never hear a peep from them about human rights or democracy shortcomings over in Russia, and in exchange they are gifted with some large contracts for the state energy company.  Nobody ever said it was a good strategy to keep their assets safe.  While perhaps Gazprom and the environmental and tax gestapo is held at bay, it doesn’t account for other private groups using the Kremlin to their business advantage … hence the court-ordered sale of Telenor’s stake in Vimpelcom over to Mikhail Friedman of Alfa Bank.

There are a lot of arguments that one could make about what this transaction means for foreign business in Russia, but we should stop calling it “a test” of Russia’s investment climate.  There is no test and there is no investment environment – we’re in the middle of the second absurdist trial of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, countless companies have been expropriated and partially expropriated, and the threat of government intervention is omnipresent and increasing.  Let’s start being realistic, and stop pretending anyone is surprised that Norway has been thrown into the maw of lawlessness just like everyone else.