Cultural Revolutions

Spring Trip

Spencer Abraham’s August trip to Moscow may have solved one of the chief puzzles of Russian politics as well as underscored Washington’s intent to cultivate Moscow as a possible alternative to OPEC as an energy supplier.  Energy Secretary Abraham promised his Russian counterpart, Igor Yusufov, that the United States would help fund Russian geological research in East Siberia and the Arctic Shelf and offered Moscow technical assistance in creating a strategic oil reserve, both of which have a direct bearing on the fortunes of Russia’s current “Oligarch Number One,” Roman Abramovich.

Abramovich, the super-rich (and young—he’s in his mid-30’s) boss of one of Russia’s largest oil companies, Sibneft (“Siberian Oil”), and a partner with fellow oligarch Oleg Deripaska in “Russian Aluminum,” the second-largest producer of aluminum products in the world (after Alcoa), was elected governor of what is arguably Russia’s most remote and benighted region, Chukotka, in December 2000.  Abramovich immediately sought to cultivate ties to Alaska, Chukotka’s neighbor across the Bering Strait.

At the time, Russian media reports were filled with puzzled speculation on why the oligarch, already one of the richest and most politically influential men in Russia, would want to become governor of an Arctic wasteland that has lost half its population...

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