links for 2006-01-26

by Nathan Hamm on 1/25/2006 · 8 comments

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Nathan is the founder and Principal Analyst for Registan, which he launched in 2003. He was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Uzbekistan 2000-2001 and received his MA in Central Asian Studies from the University of Washington in 2007. Since 2007, he has worked full-time as an analyst, consulting with private and government clients on Central Asian affairs, specializing in how socio-cultural and political factors shape risks and opportunities and how organizations can adjust their strategic and operational plans to account for these variables. More information on Registan's services can be found here, and Nathan can be contacted via Twitter or email.

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Sara January 26, 2006 at 9:52 am

Holy Georgia Batman!

A blackout occurred in Tbilisi, the capital, and in eastern regions of Georgia during the early morning hours of 26 January 2006 after voltage fluctuation caused a major power grid failure. Officials have stated that power will be restored partially on the night of 26 January and fully on the night of 27 January. The blackout is affecting approximately 3 million people. Vital infrastructure utilities are receiving power.

Georgia also continues to feel the effects of a natural gas shortage following the 22 January explosion of a gas pipeline in the Russian region of North Ossetia; approximately 40 percent of Tbilisi residents do not have gas for heating, while some other areas of Georgia, including the Kazbegsky region, have no supplies of natural gas at all. Heavy snowfall and icing caused by low temperatures has left many roads in the country, including in Tbilisi, impassable or dangerous to drive on. Tbilisi city officials have warned motorists to stay off city streets due to the icing. Public transportation is also limited by the weather and those services available are being affected by overcrowding.

Commentary posted at

Sara January 26, 2006 at 9:57 am

Also can’t remember if this was posted or not, haven’t seen it in the links:

According to a report issued on 25 January 2006, new changes to the Tax Code adopted in December 2005 will take affect on 1 February. Among the most notable changes to the code is a new fee of 1 ruble (US$0.03) per day of stay in Russia, which will be levied on all travelers to the country when they register with the police visa and passport service. The maximum fee will be 200 rubles (US$7.14). The new fee must be paid at Sberbank; therefore, it will be necessary for travelers staying longer than three days to visit the visa and passport office for registration, as well as the bank for payment. It is not known if those staying for periods shorter than three days will also have to pay the fee.

So basically the Russians are making another hoop for us all to jump through. I wish that they would stop hating on those of us that actually want to go there.

Kuda January 26, 2006 at 10:28 pm


Did you see the RFERL story?

In brief:

‘Saakashvili wasted little time in pointing the finger at Russia, claiming the attacks “were done so that Georgia will break apart…and fall into the hands of Russia.”‘

‘Russian Foreign Ministry said Saakashvili’s comments “cannot be seen as other than hysteria.”‘

And so on.

A question though. Many of my Russian friends are quite happy about this turn of events – seemingly oblivious to the wretchedness of spending freezing winter nights without energy. Their attitude is ‘You played the game and now it’s our turn’. Meaning that Georgia and the Ukraine chose the US & EU as allies dropping brother Russia. But, remember Russia is big and powerful and in your backyard. What is the feeling of the average Joe going about his/her business about all this? All anti-Russian sentiment I expect. Also, I don’t believe that the governments could be naive enough not to realise that this was going to occur.

Nathan January 26, 2006 at 10:44 pm

Do you mean the Ukrainian and Georgian governments? If so, I think it’s reasonable to assume that they saw this kind of thing as a possibility, but didn’t expect it would happen. And I think the reason one would not expect Russia to behave this way is that states can rarely get away with waging foreign policy this way anymore. I think it’s Russia that was being more naive. It seemed to think that it could get away with being a bully with no consequences. And while I think it’ll definitely get what it wants in the short term, it’s fairly evident that Russia has seriously tarnished its image. It’s not as if Russia is so clearly such a powerful military force that it can force its will on its neighbors anymore.

Kuda January 26, 2006 at 11:09 pm

Yes, I did mean the Ukraine and Georgian governments. Russia is not making any friends at the moment and I think that this may actually be a policy of Putin’s, i.e. to look tough. Really, this is the image that he likes to portray. Long term, yes foolish. It will encourage countries to exploit other partnerships, build other pipelines – which the US and EU will readily fund in order to break Russia’s dominance. Also in the mid-term future there are going to be a lot of rumblings as to who gets exactly what Caspian-wise – it is still far from over.

Specifically about Russia’s bullying. Well its MO was certainly aggressive, but then again the Ukrainians were pretty antagonistic and Russia was only asking for a price way below the norm – BTW Ukraine imports from Romania too at above EU prices. Why shouldn’t Russia ask for a better price? Yes, the agreement was about a phased change, but…

I think that with the integrated systems in the former-USSR we are going to see more of this. (Uzbekistan and Kygyzstan are good examples).

Nathan January 26, 2006 at 11:13 pm

I actually think it’s going to be good for Ukraine to be paying more in the long run. Subsidies like that distort budgets, and Russia’s not at all obligated to subsidize gas for other countries.

Kuda January 26, 2006 at 11:28 pm

True, subsidies are bad – look at the mess the EU is in with them. I think that Ukraine can keep its head above water for the meantime though I think that things would have turned out different if Russia had started pulling these tricks in November.

Has a discussion been held on this site regarding the Caspian’s reserves?

Nathan January 26, 2006 at 11:31 pm

Probably. Can’t remember for sure. My eyes kind of glaze over when it comes to energy politics, so there’s not as much as there could be.

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