Friday 24 October 2014

Conspiracy Corner: the French in Russia

A ghastly but typical Russian tragedy - the death of Total's CEO in a 'drunken snowplough' incident, straight out of a Robert Harris novel.  But what was he doing there in the first place?

Total is a pretty good company in my experience - far superior to unlamented, scandal-ridden Elf-Aquitaine which it gobbled up in 2000.  (One of the dodgiest business meetings I ever attended was in the horrible Elf office in La Défense:  made my excuses and left, as they say.)  But like most big French concerns, part of its identity is that of an arm of the French state, much as BAe (or in former times BP) is of HMG.  Its operations in Algeria, for example, have never really skipped a beat through decades of turmoil in that country.

Here's a basic account of Total's activities in Russia, which also cites M. de Margerie as being outspokenly opposed to sanctions over Crimea / Ukraine.  No surprises there: Total has long been a go-to company whenever Russia needed some fancy oil & gas technology, and its Russian interests are significant.  So he'd every reason to be doing the rounds in Moscow.

But here's Ambrose EP telling us that Russia is being squeezed to a devastating degree by sanctions, not least of which he reckons relate to oil & gas technology.  We seem to be playing the game, in a passive sort of way.  It is to be imagined the Americans are.

We know, however, that German industry really hates this lark, having big capital interests as well as very large export flows in Russia.  We also know that sanctions never really stopped South Africa getting oil, or Iran plodding on with its quietly expansionist plans - it just costs more, that's all.  Several of the big commodity trading houses ensure the wheels of global trade keep turning...

This is quite a significant dividing line.  USA, UK and the eastern EU countries against France and Germany ?  Note that Barroso's rebuke to Cameron was couched in terms of 'losing friends in Eastern Europe'.

EU politics are always complex: is there any hope that Hammond is equal to the task ?  Have a nice weekend !



hovis said...

Like any good covert act or conspiracy (in its true sense or the more modern bone-headed close down debate usage), it's possible but also explainable.

The more showy covert murders are of course still murder, but do have a certain elan think poison tipped umbrella's and radioactive sushi.

btw Iran expansionary? A regional power surrounded by US bases - all down to perspective,

tolkein said...

The first reaction of colleagues in the City was that he'd been murdered. If he wasn't murdered then Russia is even more incompetent and drunk and corrupt than we thought. Either way it's a bad place to do business.

Anonymous said...

@ Tolkein: The first reaction of colleagues in the City was that he'd been murdered

The death is a massive story in both France and Russia. If anything 'official' has gone down here Putin won't be getting his warships.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of conspiracies, the EU leaking of the added money the UK owes smacks of one.

Why, it is almost as if someone did a bit of political calculating and figured this would be a boost to UKIP and hasten the likelihood of Labour, or at least a Labour-led coalition (A Traffic Light one?), after the next GE, e.g. a government not wishing to hold a referendum.

I imagine the brainiacs at the government were figuring out the best way to bury the news when the EU saved them that particular hassle in exchange for a lot more troubles.

BrianSJ said...

Off-topic but
Presumably this sort of dispute will be coming our way in time.

Electro-Kevin said...

Ah. Total Oil.

Brings back happy memories of a relationship I had, when I were a young copper, with a female TE exec.

Posh as anything with a bit of horsey-ness about her which I LOVED. She obviously fancied a bit of down-town which was why she was with me.

I'd never heard her swear until I'd asked her - mid session - if she'd mind if I talked dirty to her. She replied in cut glass English

"You can say anything while you're fucking me."

I shot my bolt there and then. Not my fault I PJ'd --- it was a conspiracy !!!

I still knock 'em out over that memory. THANK YOU TOTAL OIL !

Nick Drew said...

well I suppose I did wish you a nice weekend

Jer said...

French pilot (presumably) + Russian driver.

No need to assume conspiracy, certainly in the absence of a motive.

Can anyone explain to me what possible motive the UK has in sanctioning Russia? It keeps us tied into our abusive relationship with the US of course, anything positive?

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