Monday, 18 August 2014

The fall of Iraq and the end of history?


[First posted on our WordPress blog, where we are focusing on international security and Adverse Private Forces]


(. ...) For different reasons, many find it easy to hate the former British Prime Minister Tony Blair–and George W. Bush off course. This is not an apology on their behalf, as they remain to answer for many of the decisions they took and lead to the invasion of Iraq. Nonetheless, Tony Blair at least had the guts to say what ideally any current world leader should have said back in June 2014, when in a matter of days ISIS took control of large trenches of Iraq: “It is vitally important that we realise what is at stake here and act. We are going to have to engage with it or the consequences will come back on us as we see in Syria today. “



Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Israel and Palestine, pain and battle


[Posted on our WordPress blog, where we intend to focus on international security and Adverse Private Forces]

Israel and Palestine, amidst all the pain and the relentless battle

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Russian Sanctions, the British style: raw evidence


We will write a proper post about this issue. Meanwhile, we believe it is important for you to have access to key documents regarding arms transfers to Russia form the United Kingdom in light of 1) the conflict in Ukraine, and 2) the downing of Flight MH17 of Malaysian Airlines by Russian-backed rebels.

Please bear in mind our previous post ‘This is how the economic sanctions on Russia imposed by the Westcurrently work.‘ (or @WordPress) In particular, let’s draw attention to the colloquial distinctions we made about who the good and the bad Russians are.

After the recent wise words by British PM David Cameron that some European countries are not doing enough to restrict arms and defense transfers to Russia (he likely had France in mind), it seems that he was oblivion to the fact that the U.K. was as active as the France transferring military components to Russia in spite of the alleged strengthening of sanction on Russia after the shooting down of Flight MH17. We will offer key quotes on a subsequent post.

The House of Commons Committees on Arms Export Controls recently released a key report:
Volume I: Scrutiny of arms Exports and Arms Control (2014): Scrutiny of the Government's UK Strategic Export Controls Annual Report 2012 published in July 2013, the Government's Quarterly Reports from October 2012 to September 2013, and the Government's policies on arms exports and international arms control issues.      First Joint Report of the Business, Innovation and  Skills, Defence, Foreign Affairs and International  Development Committees of Session 2014–15:

  • Volume I: Report, together with formal minutes: PDF
  • Volume II: Memorandum from the Chair of the Committees: PDF


If you examine Volume II,  per pages 498-510 of ‘Annex 9: Extant arms export licences to Countries of concern’, you will find plenty about Russia. Whoops the daisies! Off course it is about how you integrate some of those items together. In the end, you do not want the wrong mix finishing in the wrong hands, e.g. Russian-backed rebels shooting down civilian planes. However, 10 Downing Street spin doctors were selling the idea that the U.K was a sanctions example as opposed to other European Countries – not exactly then!

Regarding Annex 9, ‘The Chairman of the Committees on Arms Export Controls wrote to the BIS Secretary of State, Vince Cable, on 10 April 2014 requesting details of extant UK strategic export licences to each of the 27 countries listed as the FCO’s Countries of human rights concern.’ (page 498).

Hence, in light of PM Cameron answered questions on the Commons this week, please read the letter of July 23, 2014, written by The Chairman of the Committees on Arms Export Controls, Sir John Stanley, to the PM: PDF

The Chairman of the Committees on Arms Export Controls basically asks for 'clarification on what is now the Government's policy of arms to Russia'!


Indeed, this is food for thought, which  brings back to the forefront our previous post on Russian sanctions.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

How the economic sanctions on Russia imposed by the West currently work

Good Russian oligarchs: they invest their billions on real estate in Europe and North America and/or keep their billions in Western banks, which helps keeping those financial institutions afloat (in other words, generating the spiraling profits needed to continue paying mega bonuses to their executives until the next crash and taxpayer bailout). Spending a great deal of time on their European villas or North American mansions also helps.  Hence, Stephen Moss from The Guardian ponders ‘Why are rich Russians so obsessed with buying up London property?’ (read the story) while Andrey Goncharenko snaps up Britain's most expensive house for £120m (read the story)

Bad Russian oligarchs: they keep their billions at home and/or financial heavens not controlled by Western financial institutions. They do not tend to own American or European-made mega yachts and do not sky in Aspen or Gstaad –Vladimir Putin and Western leaders are outraged by this uncool behavior!

Western economic sanctions apply to bad Russian oligarchs. To good Russian oligarchs, it is and will continue to be business as usual.

If a bad Russian oligarch cannot become a good Russian oligarch overnight, he should be sent to Siberia and his billions spread among the good Russian crowd.  But it is advisable that a tiny fraction of that money goes to Putin enterprises. This should help, for example, with the arming of the Ukranian separatist rebels who just shot down today July 17, 2014, Flight MH17 of Malaysian Airlines from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, killing the 280 passengers onboard. 

Why not destabilize oil-rich Kazakhstan next?  Surely, some rebellion of some sort can be engineered there too.

It is thus good to know that Western economic sanctions on Russia are working and that good Russian oligarchs vastly outnumber the bad and uncool type. However, a few good oligarchs will need to become bad ones in order to fund the Kazakhstan campaign.  That’s a shame.


Stop the press. The US president and the UK Prime Minister just tweeted in unison their outrage about the terrorist attack on Flight MH17 and promised more economic sanctions on bad Russian oligarchs.  Igor Strelkov, a leader of the pro-Russian rebels Donetsky People’s Army who claimed responsibility for this terrorist attack, just read the tweets and surely will be losing his sleep tonight!

Thursday, 3 July 2014

30,000 boat refugees reach Europe in a day



What would European governments do if in a single day 20,000 or 30,000 migrants cross the Mediterranean Sea and reach European shores? As things stand, this is likely to happen sooner than later and European governments will be able to do little about it.



The following day, there will be emergency meetings everywhere. Navies and coastguards will start taking a more active role tackling the seemingly unexpected development. Yet, soon they will realise that due to budget cuts there are not enough vessels and seamen to patrol the Mediterranean Sea.  And if a Navy vessel reaches any of the dinghies or ‘fishing’ boats peppering the Mediterranean Sea, what can be done about it?  Repatriate the migrants? But to which country, as the people crowding the boats come from a multitude of nationalities and most likely they disposed of their identity documents upon jumping on-board. There is also the issue that EU countries are signatories of the UN refugee conventions and protocols and UNHCR data shows that over 80% of the people attempting to reach Europe 'are fleeing violence or persecusion in their homelands.' 

An emergency EU committee will be established -its recommendations to follow a few months later. The recommendations will be heavily debated and an agreement on an action plan will not be immediately forthcoming.  The debate could also degenerate into a far-right versus far-left circus igniting passions, but little else. Meanwhile, the multi-million business of the illegal transport of migrants to Europe will continue flourishing.  Inevitably, some fundamentalist terrorists will take advantage of the trend and perhaps indoctrinate a few people whilst waiting for processing at a refugee camp –a random jihadi blog post we recently examined curiously discussed a conflict between Europe and Islam at the same time as migration to Europe by boat!

Some might say that 20,000 or 30,000 migrants reaching European shores in a single day is an alarmist thought, but not really. Like flash mobs, this can be orchestrated via cellular phones and social media, particularly when there are profits to be made by any of the adverse private forces involved in human trafficking and smuggling. There is already the precedent of the over 800 migrants storming the Morocco-Spanish border back in March 2014 and attempting to climb the fence separating Africa from the Spanish enclave of Melilla (see video).



This is approximately the same number of people currently camping in Calais, France, and hoping to reach the United Kingdom one day. Indeed, once inside continental Europe the migrants arriving by boat from North Africa can easily move across the countries signatories of Schengen Agreement. The UK is not a signatory of the Agreement.

Over three years ago, we published the post ‘The fear of mass migration from Libya (and North Africa) into Europe.’ It is a this point in 2011 when we thought that this was a problem getting out of hand and something needed to be done by the EU promptly. Fast forward to 2013, during the first six months UNHCR estimated that some 8,400 migrants and asylum seekers landed on the coasts of Italy and Malta alone; the figure is substantially higher for 2014. Accelerating the trend, the exodus of thousands of Syrians continues unabated; a refugee crisis compounded by the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS). There is also the new wave of people escaping Ukraine and ‘democratic’ Egypt, Iraq, and Libya, and so on. 

The coverage of the issue by the news media has been uneven, as stories have largely focused on the humanitarian dimension of the problem. Hundreds of people drowning yearly while attempting to reach Europe is indeed a humanitarian catastrophe. UNHCR estimates that, as of May 13,at least 170 have died in 2014. Besides the humanitarian debate, however, we need to pay greater attention to the real problem:  a migration crisis that needs to be carefully managed and monitored and for which we need novel resources and solutions.

In the absence of any breakthrough since we first highlighted the problem in 2011, we adventure to propose that one solution involves the EU outsourcing the patrolling of the Mediterranean Sea in the search for migrants to the maritime security industry. We first proposed this idea in 2012, when we pondered ‘how much will change in the near future now that Syria is next on the list and Egypt’s Spring is heading to an ambiguous Autumn’ (read the post please), Yes, the same type of private military and security personnel providing maritime security in piracy hotspots. However, an operation of this size can only be done by a consortium of Private Military and/or Security Companies and via an umbrella contract of LOGCAP’s magnitude.  But then again, we need to wait for the crisis to explode on our face before we can move to brainstorm properly real-world solutions. So we will wait for the time when 30,000 or so migrants reach European shores in a single day and the death roll escalates commensurably before continuing this discussion.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Iraq crisis and the rise of ISIL: the cost of failing to intervene in Syria


Along the endless stream of amateur footage showing systematic human rights violations in Syria at the hands of state forces, throughout 2011 we heard one Western leader after another saying that the Syrian President Bashar Assad should go. Yet, a plan to force him out never materialized. The exodus of Syrians into neighboring countries intensified, eventually becoming a protracted refugee crisis.

In August 2013, it became clear that the regime of Bashar Assad have made use of chemical weapons against its own people. A United Nations team of experts concluded that the Syrian chemical attack used sarin and was worst in 25 years. Harsh words were used to describe Bashar Assad ‘s regime, but nothing else was done. Western leaders also failed to arm the moderate Syrian rebels -a force now too fragmented to make a difference. Western leaders also cowed by allowing Putin to call the shots during this crucial stage of the Syrian crisis. A destabilizing front eventually opened in Ukraine.

The widespread impression in large segments of Africa, the Middle East, and central Asia is that the unwillingness of the United States and its NATO allies to intervene in conflicts is simply a demonstration of their diminished role in the 21st century world order.  A succession of unwise political decisions some say; however, this poor decision-making has fast unraveled highly volatile geopolitics. To put it simply, inaction means that from central Africa to Iraq, fundamentalist factions are winning the day.  The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS; or the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant or ISIL) is perfectly aware of the West’s current stance towards conflict intervention. This bunch of brutal fighters feel naturally empowered and free to unleash carnage.

Let’s forget for one moment what a gigantic intelligence failure paved the way for ISIS to rise and gain control of large segments of Iraq in a matter of days. In the last 50 years, we have never been this close to a regional or world war as of right now. Western leaders please stop watching the World Cup or thinking about your summer holidays. This is one of the big ones and will not simply go away, as there are dangerous 'social movement' and religious threads in the fabric of this conflict.  If the U.S. and NATO fail to put their act together and act NOW, we will be fast heading to, at least, a violent low-intensity conflict spanning from the Middle East to Africa!

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

List of Russians sanctioned by USDT OFAC

[Worth reproducing the whole document. However, these names are only the tips of the icebergs. Will the U.S. go as far as targeting the icebergs themselves or this is just a media campaign?]

Treasury Sanctions Russian Officials, Members Of The Russian Leadership’s Inner Circle, And An Entity For Involvement In The Situation In Ukraine

3/20/2014 

Sanctions Target Russian Government Officials, the Inner Circle that Supports Them,
and Bank Rossiya, the Personal Bank for Officials of the Russian Federation

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) today designated sixteen Russian government officials, members of the Russian leadership’s inner circle, including a Russian bank pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13661, which was signed by President Obama on March 16, 2014.  E.O. 13661 authorizes sanctions on, among others, officials of the Russian Government and any individual or entity that is owned or controlled by, that has acted for or on behalf of, or that has provided material or other support to, a senior Russian government official.

The sixteen individuals being sanctioned as Russian government officials are:  Viktor Ozerov, Vladimir Dzhabarov, Evgeni Bushmin, Nikolai Ryzhkov, Sergei Zheleznyak, Sergei Mironov, Aleksandr Totoonov, Oleg Panteleev, Sergey Naryshkin, Victor Ivanov, Igor Sergun, Sergei Ivanov, Alexei Gromov, Andrei Fursenko, Vladimir Yakunin, and Vladimir Kozhin

Those being designated for acting for or on behalf of or materially assisting, sponsoring, or providing financial, material, or technological support for, or goods or services to or in support of, a senior official of the Government of the Russian Federation are: Gennady Timchenko, Arkady Rotenberg, Boris Rotenberg, Yuri Kovalchuk and Bank Rossiya.  In addition to being designated for providing material support to Russian government officials, Bank Rossiya is also being designated for being controlled by designated inner circle member Kovalchuk.

“With its currency near an all-time low, its stock market down twenty percent this year and a marked rise in interest rates, Russia has already started to bear the economic costs of its unlawful effort to undermine Ukraine’s security, stability, and sovereignty,” said Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David S. Cohen.  “As President Obama has made clear, we will continue to impose costs in direct response to Russia’s provocative acts, even as we have made clear there is a path to de-escalate the situation in Ukraine that respects Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and takes account of Russia’s legitimate interests.”

Russian Government Officials and Members of the Inner Circle:

Government Officials

The following sixteen individuals are being designated because they are officials of the Russian government.  Although not the basis for the designation, several are also very close advisors to senior Russian government officials.

Viktor Ozerov is the Chairman of the Security and Defense Committee of the Federation Council of the Russian Federation.  On March 1, 2014, Ozerov supported Russian President Vladimir Putin’s appeal regarding the use of the Russian Armed Forces in Ukraine.

Vladimir Dzhabarov is the First Deputy Chairman of the International Affairs Committee of the Federation Council of the Russian Federation.  On March 1, 2014, Dzhabarov supported the Putin’s appeal regarding the use of the Russian Armed Forces in Ukraine.

Evgeni Bushmin is the Deputy Speaker of the Federation Council of the Russian Federation.  On March 1, 2014, Bushmin publicly supported the deployment of Russian forces in Ukraine.

Nikolai Ryzhkov is a Senator in the Russian Upper House of Parliament (Federation Council).  Ryzhkov publicly supported the deployment of Russian forces in Ukraine.

Sergei Zheleznyak is the Deputy Speaker of the State Duma of the Russian Federation.

Sergei Mironov is a Member of the Council of the State Duma, a Member of the State Duma Committee on Housing Policy and Housing and Communal Services, and Leader of the Fair Russia Faction in the Duma of the Russian Federation. 

Aleksandr Totoonov is a Member of the Committee on Culture, Science, and Information, Federation Council of the Russian Federation.  On March 1, 2014, Totoonov publicly supported the deployment of Russian forces in Ukraine.

Oleg Panteleev is the First Deputy Chairman of the Committee on Parliamentary Issues.  On March 1, 2014, Panteleev publicly supported the deployment of Russian forces in Ukraine.

Sergey Naryshkin has been the Chairman of the Government Duma of the Federal Gathering of the Russian Federation since December, 2011. Additionally, he is a member of the National Security Council of the Russian Federation and of the United Russia party.

Victor Ivanov has been director of the Federal Drug Control Service (FSKN) of the Russian Federation since May 15, 2008; he was appointed as a member of the Security Council of the Russian Federation on May 25, 2008.  Ivanov has served in a number of other government positions prior to that; he was Assistant to the President of the Russian Federation from 2004 - 2008; and Deputy Chief of the Administration of the Russian Federation from 2000 - 2004. Ivanov joined the KGB in 1977 and eventually rose to become the Deputy Director of the Federal Security Service.  Ivanov is a close ally of Putin and served alongside Putin as the chief of staff of the St. Petersburg Mayor’s office in 1994 when Putin was first deputy head of the city’s administration.

Igor Sergun is the head of Russia’s military intelligence service (GRU) and is Deputy Chief of the General Staff.
Sergei Ivanov is the Chief of Staff of the Presidential Executive Office.

Alexei Gromov is the First Deputy Chief of Staff of the Presidential Executive Office.

Andrei Fursenko is an aide to the President of the Russian Federation and has been in that position since May 21, 2012.  Fursenko has held a number of positions in the Government of the Russian Federation since 2001, including Minister of Education and Science from 2004 - 2012.  Although not being designated for being a member of the Russian leadership’s inner circle, Fursenko first met Putin in 1993 and they remain closely associated.

Vladimir Yakunin was appointed as chairman of the board of the Russian state-owned company Russian Railways on June 15, 2005; he has remained as head of the company ever since.  Yakunin is being designated because of his official position in the Russian government, but he is also a close confidant of Putin.  Yakunin regularly consults with Putin on issues regarding the Russian Railways company.  In addition, Yakunin accompanies Putin on many domestic and international visits.  Yakunin met Putin while both were working in St. Petersburg.  Yakunin decided to create a business center in the city and contacted Putin for his support.  In addition, Yakunin became a member of the board of the Baltic Maritime Steamship Company on Putin’s instructions.  Yakunin and Putin were also neighbors in the elite dacha community on the shore of Lake Komsomolsk and they served as cofounders of the Ozero Dacha Cooperative in November 1996.  

Vladimir Kozhin was appointed the Head of Administration under the President of the Russian Federation by Putin on January 21, 2000.  He has served continuously in that position until the present time.  Kohzin is responsible for overseeing a staff of 60,000, over a hundred enterprises and institutions including the Kremlin and several other government buildings, and over four thousand vehicles.  Kohzin’s positions have been variously referred to as Head of Administration, Head of the Presidential Affairs Office, Head of the Presidential Business Management Directorate of the Russian Federation, and head of the Presidential Property Management Directorate.

Members of the Inner Circle:

The following individuals are being designated because each is controlled by, has acted for or on behalf of, or has provided material or other support to, a senior Russian government official.

Gennady Timchenko is one of the founders of Gunvor, one of the world’s largest independent commodity trading companies involved in the oil and energy markets.  Timchenko’s activities in the energy sector have been directly linked to Putin.  Putin has investments in Gunvor and may have access to Gunvor funds.

Arkady Rotenberg and Boris Rotenberg have provided support to Putin’s pet projects by receiving and executing high price contracts for the Sochi Olympic Games and state-controlled Gazprom.  They have made billions of dollars in contracts for Gazprom and the Sochi Winter Olympics awarded to them by Putin.  Both brothers have amassed enormous amounts of wealth during the years of Putin’s rule in Russia.  The Rotenberg brothers received approximately $7 billion in contracts for the Sochi Olympic Games and their personal wealth has increased by $2.5 billion in the last two years alone.  

Yuri Kovalchuk is the largest single shareholder of Bank Rossiya and is also the personal banker for senior officials of the Russian Federation including Putin.  Kovalchuk is a close advisor to President Putin and has been referred to as one of his “cashiers.”     

The following entity is being designated because it is controlled by, has acted for or on behalf of, or has provided material or other support to, senior Russian government officials.

Bank Rossiya (ОАО АБ РОССИЯ) is the personal bank for senior officials of the Russian Federation.  Bank Rossiya’s shareholders include members of Putin’s inner circle associated with the Ozero Dacha Cooperative, a housing community in which they live.  Bank Rossiya is also controlled by Kovalchuk, designated today.  Bank Rossiya is ranked as the 17th largest bank in Russia with assets of approximately $10 billion, and it maintains numerous correspondent relationships with banks in the United States, Europe, and elsewhere.  The bank reports providing a wide range of retail and corporate services, many of which relate to the oil, gas, and energy sectors. 
As a result of Treasury’s action, any assets of the persons designated today that are within U.S. jurisdiction must be frozen.  Additionally, transactions by U.S. persons or within the United States involving the individuals and entity designated today are generally prohibited.

Identifying Information
Name:  Viktor Alekseevich Ozerov
DOB:  January 5, 1958
POB:   Abakan, Khakassia, Russia
Title:    Chairman of the Security and Defense Committee of the Federation Council of the Russian Federation

Name:  Vladimir Michailovich Dzhabarov 
AKA: Vladimir Dzhabarov
DOB: September 29, 1952
Title:    First Deputy Chairman of the International Affairs Committee of the Federation Council of the Russian Federation

Name:  Evgeni Viktorovich Bushmin 
AKA: Evgeny Bushmin 
AKA: Yevgeny Bushmin 
DOB:  October 10, 1958
POB:   Lopatino, Sergachiisky Region, Russia
Title:    Deputy Speaker of the Federation Council of the Russian Federation

Name:  Nikolai Ivanovich Ryzhkov
AKA: Nikolai Ryzhkov
DOB:  September 28, 1929 
POB:   Duleevka, Donetsk Region, Ukraine
Title:    Member of the Committee for Federal Issues, Regional Politics and the North of the Federation Council of the Russian Federation
Title:    Senator in the Russian Upper House of Parliament

Name:  Sergei Vladimirovich Zheleznyak
AKA: Sergei Zheleznyak
AKA: Sergey Zheleznyak
DOB:  July 30, 1970
POB:   Saint Petersburg, Russia
Title:    Deputy Speaker of the State Duma of the Russian Federation

Name:  Sergei Mikhailovich Mironov
AKA: Sergei Mironov
DOB:  February 14, 1953
POB:   Pushkin, Saint Petersburg, Russia
Title:    Member of the Council of the State Duma, Member of the State Duma Committee on Housing Policy and Housing and Communal Services, and Leader of the Fair Russia Faction in the Duma of the Russian Federation

Name:  Aleksandr Borisovich Totoonov
AKA: Alexander B. Totoonov
AKA: Alexander Totoonov
DOB: March 3, 1957
POB:   Ordzhonikidze, North Ossetia, Russia
POB:   Vladikavkaz, North Ossetia, Russia
Title:    Member of the Committee on Culture, Science, and Information, Federation Council of the Russian Federation 

Name:  Oleg Evgenevich Panteleev
AKA: Oleg Panteleev
DOB: July 21, 1952
POB:   Zhitnikovskoe, Kurgan Region, Russia
Title:    First Deputy Chairman of the Committee on Parliamentary Issues

Name: Sergey Yevgenyevich Naryshkin
AKA:   Sergei Naryshkin
DOB:   October 27, 1954
POB:   Saint Petersburg, Russia

Name: Victor Petrovich Ivanov
AKA: Viktor Ivanov
DOB: May 12, 1950
alt. DOB: 1952
POB:   Novgorod, Russia

Name:  Igor Dmitrievich Sergun
DOB:   March 28, 1957
Title:    Lieutenant General; Chief of the Main Directorate of the General Staff (GRU), Deputy
Chief of the General Staff

Name:  Sergei Ivanov
AKA:              Sergey Ivanov
DOB:   January 31, 1953
POB:    Saint Petersburg, Russia
Title:    Chief of Staff of the Presidential Executive Office

Name:  Alexei Gromov
DOB: 1960
POB:   Zagorsk (Sergiev, Posad), Moscow Region, Russia
Title:   First Deputy Chief of Staff of the Presidential Executive Office
Title:   Presidential Administration Deputy Chief of Staff
Title:   First Deputy Presidential Chief of Staff

Name: Andrei Alexandrovich Fursenko
AKA: Andrei Fursenko        
AKA: Andrey Fursenko
DOB: July 17, 1949
POB:   Saint Petersburg, Russia
Title:    Aide to the President of the Russian Federation

Name: Vladimir Ivanovich Yakunin
DOB: June 30, 1948
POB:   Zakharovo Village, Gus-Khrustalnyy Rayon, Vladimir Oblast, Russia
alt. POB: Melenki, Vladimir Oblast, Russia

Name:  Vladimir Igorevich Kozhin
DOB:  February 28, 1959
POB:   Troitsk, Chelyabinsk Oblast, Russia

Name: Gennady Timchenko
AKA: Gennadiy Nikolayevich Timchenko
AKA: Gennady Nikolayevich Timchenko
AKA: Guennadi Timtchenko
Address: Geneva, Switzerland
DOB: November 9, 1952
POB:   Leninakan, Armenia
alt. POB: Gyumri, Armenia
Nationality: Finland, Russia, Armenia

Name:  Arkady Rotenberg
DOB:   December 15, 1951
POB:    Saint Petersburg, Russia
Name:  Boris Rotenberg
DOB:   January 3, 1957
POB:   Saint Petersburg Russia

Name:  Yuri Valentinovich Kovalchuk
AKA:   Yury Valentinovich Kovalchuk
DOB:   July 25, 1951
POB:    Saint Petersburg, Russia

Name:  Bank Rossiya
FKA:   Aktsionerny BANK Russian Federation
Address: 2 Liter A Pl. Rastrelli, Saint Petersbrug, 191124, Russia
E-mail: bank@abr.ru
Web Site: www.abr.ru
SWIFT/BIC: ROSY RU 2P

Thursday, 7 November 2013

High Energy Prices and Private Security

Dinner table conversation about rising energy prices and the arguably higher costs incurred by energy corporations on private security. Upstream and downstream, private security is intertwined with the exploration, production and transport of hydrocarbons, and your energy bills.

This is an annual ritual. Every year, as the winter approaches in the northern hemisphere, energy prices go up. Be that gas or electricity and whichever is your energy company, the timing of the announcement always ads insult to injury. Indeed, as soon as the first chilly spell is in the horizon, the announcement that prices are going up by X percentage soon follows. The catalog of justifications for higher prices includes many reasons, with an old favorite being that wholesale prices over the last few months have gone up been somehow higher than expected. Well, that is sometimes hard to comprehend given that energy companies often hedge purchases to protect themselves from market volatility. Current favorites include anything related to greening technologies and environmental protection. One wishes that was true. Nevertheless, even if technological upgrade is mandatory, why consumers and not shareholders need to bear the lion's share of the costs, as it should be the case? Hence, shareholders' record profits will continue breaking records, so too your energy bills. This is a recipe for future economic and social disaster.

Yes, around the dinner table all these issues were discussed, but then someone asked what about the alleged higher prices of private security. And so, the discussion shifted to some other matters little discussed by the mainstream media and ordinary people:

  • Exploration and production in dangerous places. As hydrocarbon demand increases, energy companies are forced to source supplies from ever more dangerous places. This is both true and a myth. Oil and gas exploration do takes place in ever more remote spots. However, downstream, this has always being the case. It is just a matter of finding the next promising oil field and comparatively speaking, at the beginning of the production cycle, the location is likely to be remote and perhaps dangerous spot.
  • More private security is needed because production takes place in hot-spots. Private security wages have gone down over the last decade and increasingly local workers -at local prices- comprise the bulk of the security forces protecting operations, however imperfect these forces might be. The 1990s image of a bunch of very expensive ‘mercenaries' being hired to secure operations is long gone. You would be surprised to hear how many highly-skilled security contractors are actually struggling to find a half-decent job.
  • The growing problem  maritime piracy poses is making the transport of hydrocarbons hugely expensive. The problem has generated the need to hire maritime security experts,  but never on the scale entertained by many. This is particularly the case when the issue is blown out of proportion and offered as a justification for higher extraction and production prices. In addition, governments are now deeply involved in maritime security operations off Somalia 's coast and other affected regions. Governments do not bill energy corporations for the enhanced security of international waters! Are we indirectly paying for the enhanced maritime security provided by state navies via our energy bills? 


We also discussed the myths of green technologies being deployed to remote spots by energy giants to protect the local habitat. The security contractors protecting operations in remote spots can provide first-hand accounts on the issue. But that belongs to a future post.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

India Mars mission vs UK aircraft carriers

21st century contrasts on an otherwise ordinary November 5, 2013

At the Satish Dhawan Space Center on India's southeastern coast, India’s first mission to Mars successfully launched. A rocket lofted a satellite into Earth orbit on the first stage of a voyage that, if everything goes according to plan, will reach Mars orbit in 2014. Cheers erupted against the background of India moving up the technological and power ladder. Even if something goes wrong over the voyage’s next 300 days or so, India has achieved a milestone.



In the UK, there are reasons to celebrate too. Firework displays are to be watched everywhere, as November 5 marks the annual Guy Fawkes bonfire night. After the fireworks extinguish, however, it will be difficult to ignore the drama that building two new aircraft carriers has become. About six years ago, when the contract with the Aircraft Carrier Alliance was eventually approved, the costs of building them were estimated at about £3.65 billion. Leaving aside design failures and delays, the usual post-tender drama associated with any infrastructure project in the UK, the costs are now estimated at about £6.2 billion. Off course a multi-million enquiry on the issue will follow and its conclusions will be, “lessons have been learnt.” Please expect further delays and the totals costs for the two carriers, the HMS Queen Elizabeth and the HMS Prince of Wales, to be even higher, and a few more lessons to be learnt as a consequence. Add to the music other cheerful news announced this same day. For example, BAE Systems is likely to cut hundreds of jobs, around 1,000 mentioned, at its UK shipyards in Glasgow and Portsmouth. Indeed, economic stagnation has a heavy price attached.

Riches and poverty, technological might versus technological aspiration, vociferous rhetoric versus unassuming pragmatism, success and failure; these are some of the qualities setting the two stories apart. Yet, on this otherwise ordinary November 5, these qualities are no longer easy to associate in the manner accustomed over the previous century. Good luck to India, as a successful mission to Mars is something that all nations, emerging and declining, should cherish.

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Private Military Dogs

The British media reported this week some interesting statistics about military serving dogs and incidentally touched a little researched subject: private military dogs. The UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) disclosed that about 11,000 dogs work across all sectors of the armed forces. Since 2009, about 350-370 of them have been put down. Back in 2012, the media reported a figure of over 800 military dogs put down over the previous decade. Some reasons given by MOD for putting down dogs are dangerous temperament, cancer-related problems, and injuries. Truth is, exact statistics about dog deaths are not likely to be kept, as the life and death of a military service dog is possibly not a top priority for MOD and something we have not been paying attention to. Nevertheless, it seems relevant to remember that dogs in (public and private) military service have saved countless of lives and undertake that would be lethal for humans –though their handlers are evidently exposed to constant risks. Notably, these services include the detection of improvised explosive devices (IED) and mines in Afghanistan, Iraq, the wider Middle East and many other locations worldwide, including the UK. Our K9 serving  friends play a remarkable role that should not be underestimated.

Now, have in mind the figure of 11,000 public service dogs just in the UK and try to extrapolate that figure to the private sector, globally! Just between the leading suppliers of private military and security personnel (the U.S., the UK, South Africa, and Israel) there must be at least 20,000 private military serving dogs. Here, please remember that private mine clearance and IED detection are two areas that took off during the first Gulf War and have exploded over the last decade. How many private military service dogs are currently on service? What is the life expectancy of a deployed dog? How many dogs die in service and how many are put down? Are dogs put down sometimes due to economic reasons? What are the minimum welfare standards for both public and private military serving dogs? Quite simply we do not have answers for questions like these, but it is perhaps time we start researching and debating the topic systematically.