Happy New Year 2017, dear readers!
One advantage of 2017 is that it is easy to remember its factorization into primes. Like 2003 and 2011 – and no other year in this century so far – 2017 is a prime. Note that the probability that a number of this approximate magnitude is a prime is around \(1/\ln(2017)\) i.e. about 13%. Let's hope that it won't be the only sense in which 2017 will be a prime year. In three weeks, many things in the world should start to improve from the viewpoint of most of us. Among other things, a well-known German economic institute, ZEW, has praised Trump's plan to reduce the U.S. corporate taxes – at 36.5%, those were just way too high.
Some people will keep on promoting the old world, the world of high taxes, intrusive governments, politically correct bullies, and mindless and primitive anti-Russian racism, among other annoying things. Sadly, two days ago, the New York Times "pleased" us with a propaganda piece titled
Nazi propaganda against the Jews. Like the Jews, the Russians are painted as some evil forces behind the scenes that are the puppet masters of all other evil people and who cause all evil in the world.
This primitive anti-Russian racism is the overt side of disgusting pieces like Neil MacFarquhar's hit piece above. In reality, if you look closely, Russia isn't the only target. Texts like that are mainly hit pieces against those who are – usually nonsensically – painted as the Russian puppets, like all politically decent and conservative people in the West (and in this case, Czech politicians who refuse to become puppets of George Soros). What is the actual story?
The actual message of the NYT diatribe is that Russians are buying politicians all over the world, especially in Czechia where the president must be a product that Russia has bought. And a "proof" is that a debt that a liquidated company Lukoil Aviation Czechia – co-owned by a friend and private economical aide of the Czech president – towards the Czech state was finally paid by Lukoil Russia, the "parent" company.
Can't you see how utterly insane it is to promote this unspectacular, innocent event to the "main foundation" of a far-reaching hit piece blaming all evil in the world on Russia or even Putin?
First, the aide Martin Nejedlý is clearly an important personal friend of Zeman's. Zeman trusts this guy and his knowledge about business. Nejedlý – who rarely appears in the public – is probably no genius, he couldn't save Lukoil Aviation Czechia from bankruptcy. Things like that sometimes occur. It's plausible that foreign daughters of Russian companies are a bit less resilient but I don't have any hard data to support even this innocent proposition.
When companies get liquidated, there are always some debts that need to be straightened. Every company is responsible only for some debt. I don't know the exact laws and the exact status of Lukoil Aviation Czechia but it seems likely to me that if Nejedlý didn't pay a penny, it would simply be determined that Lukoil Aviation Czechia is incapable of repaying the debt, the debt wouldn't be repaid, and the government wouldn't be able to get the money from co-owners like Nejedlý.
Well, this outcome could be legally OK but suspicious. In effect, one could argue that Nejedlý has robbed the Czech government. Zeman said that he would break his links with Nejedlý if the debt weren't repaid – he indicated that it seems like a problem to him when this Lukoil daughter's debt isn't repaid. One could say that this attitude of Zeman was a sign of his courageous anti-Russian defiance. Needless to say, the New York Times didn't notice that obvious point.
What happened was that the debt was finally repaid by Lukoil Russia, the parent company. Nejedlý didn't have to pay and he also remained Zeman's friend and aide. Is it shocking? I don't think so. It's really fair for the Lukoil parent company to repay such debts because they were probably responsible for the debt and business problems of the daughter company, at least to some extent. You won't find too many situations in which co-owners of bankrupt companies – like Mr Nejedlý – would pay some big bucks that they are not forced to pay. And it's a good idea for an ambitious company like Lukoil not to antagonize whole countries.
So nothing "shocking" has really taken place. A company went bust and its natural "parent" has repaid some debt. How does it imply that the Russians are puppet masters behind all evil in the world? The New York Times tells us that Prague is full of Russian spies, Nejedlý is softly labeled a Russian agent as well, and so on. Why? When similar people have completely analogous relationships to U.S. companies, everything is fine. But when the same thing happens with Russian players, the New York Times has to choose the murky language about evil puppet masters and corruption, right?
The very idea that Zeman is a Russian agent of any sort is ludicrous, of course. He has certain opinions that are held by hundreds of millions of people in the West (in most cases, majorities of the Westerners) and many politicians in many Western countries (although among politicians, these opinions are underrepresented – but this situation is hopefully changing). One could argue that Zeman's opinions about international matters are close to those of the Trump administration that will take over the U.S. in just three weeks. Similar opinions are held by folks in almost all other Western countries. They are legitimate Western opinions – and not some signs of a criminal cooperation with an "evil land of Russia" – whether dirty demagogues in the New York Times like it or not.
Zeman has had various ties to various Russians but e.g. Rex Tillerson, the boss of ExxonMobil and the replacement for John Kerry, has arguably had closer ties with Russia and its companies. Some people simply do some business with Russia or have other ties with Russia. Some 5% of Czech exports and 5% of Czech imports involve Russia. So it's not shocking when you find some people doing business with Russia. For most purposes, it's a nation or business partner just like any other.
Imagine for a while that Martin Nejedlý's story revolving around Lukoil Aviation Czechia is suspicious or that he was helped in some illegitimate way by Lukoil (which I don't really believe). Does it help to back the New York Times' narrative that "Putin is masterminding the evil in the world"? Well, I don't think so – if it does, at most infinitesimally so.
First, Martin Nejedlý's influence over the Czech politics and economy is tiny. He's just one of friends or advisers of Miloš Zeman, the president, and even the president himself holds a largely ceremonial chair only. He just doesn't really decide about the evolution of the Czech economy and political institutions that affect the real-world life of the country. So Nejedlý really cannot be identified with the "fate of Czechia". The connection is extremely weak, almost non-existent. Almost no one cares about Nejedlý, I don't actively remember his name or his face, and he's not being discussed almost anywhere.
That would be enough to invalidate the narrative in the title, "Russians pay to play in other countries", but there's another lethal problem with this narrative. It doesn't work on the other side, either. The company that has paid the debt of Lukoil Aviation Czechia isn't Putin's company. Kindly notice that it's Lukoil Russia. It's not hard to find the owners of Lukoil Russia. Over one-half of the company is owned by its managers and 20% is owned by ConocoPhillips based in Houston, Texas. When divided according to financial bureaucrats, 68% (directly) or 83% (indirectly) of the company is controlled by Chauhan Investment which has headquarters in India but also Canada and other places outside Russia. The remaining stocks are publicly traded.
Lukoil Russia clearly is a predominantly private company and a highly global company, too. After all, it's a similar company – when it comes to the industry type, size, and globalization – as ExxonMobil. How could a sensible person identify the will of Lukoil with the will of Putin – or other Russians who are being demonized? It just makes no sense whatsoever. It is exactly as meaningless as to identify ExxonMobil with Barack Obama. They're just two completely different things, stupid!
The New York Times inkspiller sort of realizes this fact. So he also has a sentence to appease those readers who dare to realize that this "narrative" is just a pile of utterly idiotic feces. He admits that Lukoil isn't directly controlled by Putin but it is trying to please Putin. What does it even mean? Putin is the Russian president and Lukoil has headquarters in Moscow. So of course, Lukoil has to please Putin to some extent – it has to please the Russian law. In exactly the same way, Tesla Motors is trying to please Barack Obama. How much companies "have to" please the president depends on the laws and the balance of power in a given country. Those are not infinitely different in America and Russia. Some companies may have more friendly ties towards a leader, some companies may have poorer ties, but those aren't really the main issues. Companies exist mainly to do their business.
Is there a reason why the people who are trying to please Obama or are ever found to be "on the same frequency" as Obama are just OK, while all the people who have any links with Russia or its politicians are painted as evil puppets and puppet masters by these murky The New York Times colors? Yes, there is a reason. As I said, the emotional reason is the anti-Russian racism of jerks like Mr Neil MacFarquhar which basically mimics the anti-Semitism of the Nazis. But the ultimate goal of these nasty people is probably a domestic one. They want to hurt their compatriots whom they find politically inconvenient by drowning them in this bloody bath of racism that was previously prepared for the Russians.
There are surely many of us who are disgusted by this kind of racism, unfair hit pieces, and warmongering that is almost entirely spread by the outgoing (in the U.S.) PC establishment. Let's hope that in three weeks, the likes of Mr Neil MacFarquhar will be dissolved in the cesspool of the human history and will largely stop contaminating the discourse in the Western societies where they don't belong. Well, ironically enough, Mr Neil MacFarquhar doesn't live in the West. He's the boss of the NYT Moscow bureau. The very fact that a fanatically anti-Russian megajerk like this is still allowed to live in Moscow – and be alive at the same moment – shows that things aren't so bad with the Western values in Russia.