Reuters blog archive
from The Great Debate:
The last time I saw Maria Baronova on Nikolskaya Street in Moscow, she was taking part in a silent anti-government demonstration before being bundled into a police bus with a half dozen other protesters. Now, almost three years later, we meet for a beer in an English pub on that same ancient street near the Kremlin. So much has changed. The Moscow protest movement fizzled out after Vladimir Putin’s return to the presidency; activists like Baronova were prosecuted, and a blanket of repression is muffling the last voices of dissent.
When I first met Baronova in December 2011, I took an instant liking to her because she was unpretentious and smart, with a zany sense of humor. She embodied the contradictions of Russians who love their country, warts and all, and seek to reconcile it with the rest of the world. Today she sounds resigned, using the psychological term “learned helplessness” to describe Muscovites’ acceptance of the status quo – including, perhaps, her own.
Charges against Baronova of inciting a riot at a May 2012 rally were dropped in a pre-Olympic amnesty in December, which also freed Mikhail Khodorkovsky and members of Pussy Riot from prison. But while the former oil tycoon and punk-rock performance artists tour the world as celebrities, Baronova can’t even get a European Union visa because her name appears in a Russian police database as a result of her legal case. She fought for “Western values,” Baronova says, and now the West is punishing her for it. Without any irony, Baronova, 30, posits that it may be better to accept Putin as a leader for another 15 years than to squander the rest of her youth in the turmoil that would likely follow his departure.
Moscow is always a surprising kind of place. As a journalist who worked in the Russian capital for more than eight years, I expected Putin’s us-against-them nationalism to be more strident than ever. But flying in from Ukraine, which I have been covering for most of this year, I find the city uncharacteristically subdued and anxious about the future.
British GDP data are forecast to show healthy growth of 0.7 percent in the third quarter.
Britain’s economy is growing at a strong annual clip of around three percent, a pace most euro zone countries could only dream of. But the government is worried that the currency area’s new malaise could take the shine off things in the run-up to May’s general election.
from Anatole Kaletsky:
Europe is at a make or break moment. Two very different events on Sunday, occurring at opposite ends of Europe, will largely determine the entire continent’s direction for years ahead: the parliamentary election in Ukraine and the bank “stress tests” and Asset Quality Review conducted by the European Central Bank. Before explaining the significance of these two events, and their unexpected linkage, I need to mention a third announcement, due next Wednesday: the European Commission’s verdict on the budget for 2015 submitted last week by the French government.
The Commission will next week have to come up with a Solomonic judgment that somehow reconciles the French government’s determination to stimulate its economy by cutting taxes with the German-imposed “fiscal compact” that former-President Nicolas Sarkozy rashly accepted in a moment of desperation in the 2012 euro crisis and which requires France to raise taxes or drastically cut spending in order to reduce its budget deficit to 3 percent of GDP. The fiscal compact rules, if applied literally, would make economic recovery in France a mathematical impossibility. Yet bending these rules will provoke a German public backlash, and perhaps even a constitutional court challenge, that could even force Angela Merkel to renege on her commitment to support the rest of the euro-zone.
A two-day summit of EU leaders is supposed to focus on climate and energy policy including efforts to enhance energy security following the threat of interruptions to gas supplies from Russia.
That is no small issue. Russia and Ukraine have failed so far to reach an accord on gas supplies for the coming winter but agreed to meet again in Brussels in a week in the hope of ironing out problems over Kiev's ability to pay.
Russian and Ukrainian energy ministers are due to meet European Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger in Brussels after presidents Petro Poroshenko and Vladimir Putin said they had agreed on the "basic parameters" of a deal to get gas flowing to Ukraine again this winter.
Russia cut off gas supply to Ukraine in mid-June following more than two years of dispute on the price and said Kiev had to pay off large debts for previously-supplied gas before it would resume supply.
The big question of the week is whether financial market gyrations continue, worsen or calm. European stocks are being called higher at the open.
Greece has been effectively shut out of the bond market. If it and others on the euro zone’s southern flank come under persistent market pressure, in a way that hasn’t happened for two years, the onus on the European Central Bank to act will grow and grow.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Poroshenko are due to meet on the sidelines of the EU/Asia summit in Milan today to try to find a way out of the Ukraine crisis.
Germany’s Angela Merkel and French President Hollande will also meet the pair as part of a four-way contact group. The Kremlin has just said Putin and Merkel have "serious differences".
A two-day summit of EU and Asian leaders, which was going to be most notable for a meeting between the heads of Russia and Ukraine, risks being overtaken by financial market tremors which have spread worldwide.
There’s a good case that markets, primed with a glut of new central bank money, had climbed to levels which the state of the economies that underpin them did not justify. With the Federal Reserve about to turn its money taps off, investors seem to have woken up to poor growth prospects in much of the world.
France will submit its 2015 budget to the European Commission today and, after a respectable period of consideration, it is likely to be thrown right back.
Paris has confirmed it will yet again miss the EU’s debt limits, failing to achieve a budget deficit of three percent of GDP until 2017 four years after it should have done.
from The Great Debate:
How dangerous is Vladimir Putin?
Reuters Editor-at-Large Sir Harold Evans moderated a panel of experts searching for answers to that question at a Newsmaker event hosted at the company's Times Square offices in New York on Oct. 14. The panel was comprised of New Yorker Editor David Remnick, author of the award winning Lenin's Tomb, former chess champion and Russian opposition leader Garry Kasparov, Russian-American journalist Masha Gessen and Roger Altman, who served in the Treasury Department under presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, and is currently chairman of investment advisory firm Evercore.
The conversation ranged over topics including Putin's personal psychology, what threat Russia now poses to the world economy, and whether his regime might be toppled from within.