Vladimir Putin had dinner with the foreign press and academics Friday night:

The Russian prime minister chose an exclusive restaurant at an equestrian club outside Moscow for his annual dinner with the so-called Valdai Discussion Club. In an elegant dining room, complete with leather-bound books and a bottle of 1880 Armagnac, he answered questions over smoked trout, duck liver, a venison solyanka, veal cheeks and pear soup.

Participants saw a typically bravura display of the Russian premier’s ability to hold forth on almost any subject, mixing acid humour with flashes of anger.

I know a lot of people are paranoid about Russia, but I wasn't one of them back in the USSR, and I'm far less worried now. In fact Russia often says something far more intelligent than we see in the  FT or the WSJ, although it's disconcerting to have old fashioned Marxist common sense spouted by billionaire oligarchs.  I say this because I would have loved to be there sipping a 1980 Armagnac let alone an 1880 version, and I agree with more than a few parts of what Putin reportedly said. But on shale gas, we have to agree to disagree:

Asked if development of shale gas resources threatened Russia’s dominance of Europe’s energy market, Mr Putin grabbed a notepad to draw diagrams of how “fracking” – the method used to extract such gas – could damage the environment. He also denounced moves by Brussels that would force Russia’s Gazprom energy group to divest pipelines it owns in the EU.

And according to the WSJ:

 He also made an elaborate criticism of shale gas—extracted using novel technologies that he said were environmentally disastrous. Shale gas in the U.S. and elsewhere threatens the markets for Russia's traditional gas.

NHA learns, according to reliable sources present that Putin described big threats to the environment, huge quantities of water, fracking chemicals and how when you fly over the US you can see thousands of holes. He also said, allegedly, since I wasn't there and the Armagnac would have gotten to me by that point anyway:

"In the U.S. where the shale gas is extracted you will be sick because there is a real threat to the environment. That's why in France, shale gas extraction is prohibited. The French have understood what this will lead to".

In short, everything except a recommendation to watch Gasland. His minions do that for him I guess. Prime Minister Putin could be so smart for Russia if they stop avoiding reality on shale. Everyone knows the oil gas link is dead but Russia needs their own Nixon in China moment on accepting shale's long term benefits instead of fighting the inevitable for short term gains.


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  • It looks like China's shale reserves have ended the Russia pipeline deal, while Poland, Ukraine etc could all start producing their own gas in the next few years. I think we could be about to see a real reduction in Russia's global influence. I think Putin's worried.

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