The Russian Monopoly Checklist

monopoly_rus.jpgRussia’s state monopoly over mainstream media? Check. Party politics? Check. Utilities? Check. Natural gas? Check. All pipeline exports? Check. Oil? Check – thanks to what was stolen from Yukos, of course. Arms? Check. Space technology, positioning systems, and satellite launches? Check. Titanium? Check. Aeronautics? Check. And now …. Sturgeon? Check! The Kremlin is looking to establish an official state monopoly over the lucrative caviar trade, as black market traders, poachers, and unsavory criminal groups are driving the sturgeon population to the brink of extinction. We need no reminder of how seriously the Kremlin takes fish. Last September when the new Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov (when is the last time anybody wrote about him?) was attempting to assert his new authority, he publicly ripped into the outgoing cabinet in a Soviet-style exercise in humiliation – most harshly castigating Agriculture Minister Alexei Gordeyev: “That’s a reprimand for you! You are responsible for fish.” Perhaps then we should have seen the caviar monopoly coming – should the company making Putinka vodka be worried now?