>Russian oil – time to be a Green neo-con?

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An interesting article by the ever provocative Bulgarian liberal Ivan Krastev in OpenDemocracy.net (‘The energy route to Russia democracy’ (13 June 2006) http://www.opendemocracy.net/globalization-institutions_government/democracy_energy_3637.jsp)
reflecting on the geo-political consequences of a turn to sustainable carbon-neutral energy in the West (if it ever happens).

After exploring the familiar Oil and Democracy argument – natural resources are a curse that reduce the democratic leverage of the international community; dependence of the state on a broad tax base – and its need to be representative of and accommodating to social demands –weakens civil society; and provides loads of cash for well armed security forces and client networks – he then suggested that the momentum of Coloured Revolutions in the FSU has run its course. “If you want to see Russia free and democratic,” says Krastev “stop signing anti-Putin petitions and voting for hardline anti-communists This will change nothing. What you should do is to turn down the lights when you leave your apartment, sell your American car and start using public transport. The fight for democracy today is a fight against the tyrannical price of oil”.

As the Bush administration has partly grasped, reduced dependence on oil will also change the geo-politics of the Middle East, rather more effectively than the tools of the Project for a New American Century, plunging the region into strategic obscurity, although its physically centrality might still carry some weight. Unfortunately, such Greening is a long game. Hard to sell politically to Western electorates on security or moral grounds, so the short-term response – as Krastev notes – is for the West to cosy up to Putin and other semi (and not so semi-) authoritarians in the FSU on the grounds that they are an alternative, easier to do business – and more politically stable? – with than the Saudis, Iranians or whichever Iraqis come out on top of the pile when the US finally withdraws form Iraq, ultimately leaving the locals to fight things out.

Still it seems – intellectually at least – one can be a Green neo-con of sorts. And as recent reports in Time and Slate make clear real neo-cons – and, to a lesser extent, Greens – are already working on security and political strategies to make it a more tangible reality….

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