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Russia and Kyoto

Posted by Helen Sunday, September 26, 2004

It seems that President Putin has finally instructed his ministers to agree that the Kyoto agreement is a good thing for Russia. Well, perhaps, he has not gone that far, but he has told them to stop putting up obstacles against Russia signing it. How he squared his economic adviser, Andrei Illarionov, the moving spirit behind Russia’s relative economic success in the last few years, is not clear.

The Natural Resources Ministry has approved the documents, with the Industry and Energy Ministry, the Justice Ministry, the Finance Ministry, and the Economic Development and Trade Ministry to come. The documents have been prepared by the Foreign Ministry. Apparently the Economic Development and Trade Ministry sees nothing wrong “conceptually” with the Kyoto agreement. This does not tell us very much of what they think of the practical side of it.

Once the ministries have approved, the documents will go to the Duma, which is completely under the President’s control. No problems about the ratification can be foreseen there.

Some experts have said that Russia should negotiate special deals because of its extensive forest areas. Others have suggested that Russia might use this protocol to ease her entry into the WTO and then abandon it all in 2012.

It is, of course, the WTO that is foremost in Putin’s mind. In his negotiations with the EU he was told that Russia’s application will be supported if she signs up to Kyoto. As more and more scientists and economists come out against the agreement, the EU shows itself to be more and more desperate to blackmail or bludgeon as much of the world as possible into it.

The documents’ journey through the ministries, the Duma and finally in and out of Putin’s cabinet will take several weeks, if nothing startling happens in the meantime (never a safe assumption in Russia). Then, presumably, the various special deals will have to be negotiated. It is clear from comments by ministry officials and experts that the Russians are reluctant to commit themselves, clearly still believing that Kyoto is economically unhelpful and scientifically flawed. But they will go through the motions in order to get into the WTO.

The real problem will arise if, having reluctantly signed on the dotted line, Russia will still be kept out of the WTO. As for keeping to the agreement … well, has anyone yet?