Russia uses financial crisis to strengthen its global standing/ New Israel government to offer Russia strategic cooperation/ Gazprom pushing Turkmenistan out of Iran/ President Medvedev reminds companies of their social responsibility
Vedomosti, Gazeta.ru, Kommersant
Russia uses financial crisis to strengthen its global standing
The Russian authorities yesterday published their proposals for the G20 summit, to be held in London on April 2, on the kremlin.ru website. The Kremlin apparently wants to lead the emerging nations in discussions on a future global economy.
The authors include in the document the resentment and hopes felt by emerging countries. They again condemned the industrialized nations and international financial organizations for the current economic problems, and proposed replacing the monopolar financial system with a new structure based on interaction between several large regional centers.
Roman Paplinov, an analyst at the Aton company, said: "The proposed measures are clearly aimed at facilitating Russia's integration into the global financial community."
He said they also implied a reduction in volatility on the currency and commodities markets, which would benefit all exporting countries.
Mark Rubinstein, senior analyst at the Metropol investment financial company, said Russia's proposal of creating several global financial centers was impracticable. "Financial centers are derivatives of financial activity," he said, adding that putting up the sign is not enough to create a financial center.
The proposals published on the Kremlin site will be incorporated in President Dmitry Medvedev's speech at the G20 summit, although the Russian authorities do not expect their proposals to be welcomed by everyone.
Sources with close ties to the Presidential Executive Office said yesterday that the idea of convening an international conference on the new global financial order after the London summit implies holding it in Moscow. However, Russia's proposals needed the backing of several other countries at least for such a meeting to be successful.
Yevgeny Fyodorov, head of the State Duma Committee on Economic Policy, described the new Russian initiatives as a package of measures to fight "the U.S. financial monopoly," which should be contained now.
The idea was predominantly advocated in 2004-2009 by Iran and Venezuela, which are not included in the Group of 20 countries or the Financial Stability Forum (FSF).
The FSF, first convened in April 1999 in Washington, brings together senior representatives from national financial authorities (e.g. central banks, supervisory authorities and treasury departments), international financial institutions, international regulatory and supervisory groupings, committees of central bank experts and the European Central Bank.
New Israel government to offer Russia strategic cooperation
Last night, the leaders of Israel's right-of-center party Likud and Avigdor Lieberman's Israel Beytenu ("Israel is Our Home," a party representing the Russian speaking population of Israel), signed a coalition deal.
The agreement contains a clause on relations with Russia, Ze'ev Elkin, member of the Knesset for Likud, told Vedomosti, a Russian business daily, that Israel is planning to put forth an initiative to establish a joint commission for strategic dialogue with Russia.
Currently, Israel only practices this cooperation format with the United States. The two countries' ministers discuss geopolitical and strategic security issues, which is a sign of a special partnership. The commission is usually headed by one of the foreign ministers, or a minister having extensive military experience, because military cooperation is one of the areas which the commission focuses on.
"Israel has quite a few things to offer Russia in this sector - from electronic jamming for fighter jets to drones," Lieberman said.
A source in Russia's Defense Ministry said they were discussing the purchase of two Israeli Searcher unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), worth $10-$15 million, for use by the Russian army.
Nikolai Chistyakov, chief engineer at the Novik-XXI Century design center, said these aircraft could be used for police operations in the North Caucasus, while the army needs different vehicles. He added that Russian companies could produce such UAVs, but they are too cheap, and therefore are unprofitable to sell because commission fees are low.
On the other hand, Denis Fedutdinov, editor of the Uav.ru web portal on unpiloted aircraft, doubts that Israel would sell its most cutting edge UAVs to Russia, because the United States is opposed to the idea.
Gazprom pushing Turkmenistan out of Iran
Gazprom may become a major supplier of Turkmen gas not only to Europe but also to Iran. Analysts say the Russian energy giant will strengthen its standing in the Gulf countries but is unlikely to change parity in its relations with Turkmenistan.
Last Sunday Russian Energy Minister Sergei Shmatko and Iranian Oil Minister Gholam Hossein Nozari signed a memorandum of understanding in the oil and gas sector, which outlines the possibility of a swap deal. As part of it, Turkmen gas is to be supplied to northern Iran, while Iranian hydrocarbons are to be delivered to Gulf countries.
Alexander Shtok, head of due diligence at 2K Audit Business Consulting, said it is too early to consider the advantages of the deal.
"Gazprom has found new markets for its gas now that consumption is on the decline in Europe," he said. "On the other hand, it will not receive any cash for its supplies, because Iran will pay with oil and gas which the Russian company will have to sell. Conversion to non-cash deals in the current situation will certainly benefit Iran. In addition, Russian deliveries will allow Tehran to supply natural gas to its northern provinces, which have experienced energy supply problems."
If Turkmenistan considers the Russian-Iranian agreement as damaging, it might use any one of the numerous pressure instruments at its disposal.
"Moscow should not quarrel with Turkmenistan, especially in the light of problems with the Caspian pipeline project, which needs Turkmen gas," Shtok said. "In case of an open conflict with Moscow, Turkmenistan may go back on its gas supply agreements, especially because it has more than enough potential buyers for its gas."
Olga Lazareva, deputy head of law firm Yakovlev and Partners, said that Gazprom apparently has the trump cards up its sleeve. In particular, Turkmenistan is only capable of delivering gas to Europe via Russia. In addition the Russian gas monopoly purchases Turkmen gas at a very good price, and so Turkmenistan is unlikely to terminate its agreements with Gazprom in the near future.
President Medvedev reminds companies of their social responsibility
Dmitry Medvedev does not believe that a lender should force a debtor to stop production especially when the debtor is a large company. Recently, however, RusAl foreign lenders requested the Kremlin's help to decide a similar dispute with the Alfa Group.
The president did not name the company, but a member of his administration said Medvedev meant Alfa Bank's claims against the UC RusAl aluminum holding.
On March 7, RusAl agreed with more than 70 banks to extend payments by two months on the main body of its loans totaling about $14 billion. Alfa Bank was the only bank that refused to agree to the deal, although the aluminum maker only owed it $100 million. The bank also announced that it would pursue all its debtors, including those in Oleg Deripaska's BasEl Group.
Medvedev recalled that the state had given money to the banks and said it "was not a time for corporate selfishness," because otherwise the state "will look at this issue from a different point of view."
Last Friday, a representative from RusAl's foreign lenders (BNP Paribas, Societe Generale, ING Bank, Calyon, Unicredit Group and others, which together are owed $7.4 billion) asked presidential aide Arkady Dvorkovich to make a note of Alfa Bank's aggressive stance toward RusAl, one of the bankers said, whose story was supported by another lender.
Because of Alfa's position, he said, the loan deferment agreement with RusAl was hanging by a thread, but the bankers accepted the risks and gave RusAl a grace period. But on March 10, Alfa Bank filed legal action with the Moscow court of arbitration against RusAl's two Siberian subsidiaries, demanding the repayment of $11 million. This action, for a sum meager even by RusAl standards, is, however, sufficient grounds for breaking the agreement. On the other hand, RusAl cannot pay this debt either, because it would set a precedent for others to pull out of the agreement, said another banker.
The foreign lenders are not going to break the agreement with RusAl, but they want RusAl to settle its differences with Alfa Bank within a month, sources said.
The Kremlin has not yet decided what to do in this situation: it has not made up its mind whether to intervene so far, a source close to the Kremlin said.
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