OK. I've been here for a couple of days involved in government meetings and World Bank project reviews. Busy - little time for blogging.
But, on Russia Today yesterday (a morning news program) there was a brief announcement concerning oil. If anyone thought Russia was solely interested in saving Abkhazia from the depredations of Tbilisi, the news that Rosneft, the Russian state-owned energy company, would soon begin drilling operations in the Black Sea off the coast of Abkhazia should now be disabused of that thought.
The Russian government has been intensifying its efforts to secure oil and gas resources. Putin and Medvedev have been on the move(Bulgaria, Kazakhstan and Mongolia for example and meetings with Turkey in Russia); many of the visits were focused on energy and other natural resources. This comes as no surprise as Europe attempts to unchain itself, and therefore its policies, from dependence on Russian energy. Russia is doing everything possible to disrupt these efforts, such as reinforcing its contracts in Central Asia and interfering with Nabucco. The dance is interesting but will likely take a backstage role as the Russian economy continues to unravel.
The Ministry of Economy down the street from my office here announced a 10.5% economic drop year-to-year April while Putin announced simultaneously that industrial production had fallen by 16.9 percent. Unemployment is over 8% and rising. What this shrinkage means for Russia's continued aggressive foreign policy moves remains to be seen.
Update: Just today, the leading business newspaper and magazine in Russia Kommersant Daily (subscription required)announced that Gazprom is seeking a role in a pipeline project that would carry Iranian natural gas to Pakistan. Russia looks favorably upon the project because it would help to reduce competition from Iran in providing gas to European energy markets.