Europe to Russia: Ratify Kyoto or Else

Published June 1, 2004

Facing mounting evidence that Russia is prepared to strike a final deathblow to the Kyoto Protocol, European Union (EU) officials have told Russia they might approve or deny the country’s admission into the World Trade Organization based on its acceptance or rejection of the global warming treaty.

Entrance into the World Trade Organization (WTO) is expected to aid the Russian economy. Currently, with Russia outside the WTO, EU economic protectionism punishes Russia with severe tariffs and bans on a wide variety of Russian imports. Before 2003, for example, Russia exported at least 5 million tons of grain each year to Europe, but the EU has since shut the door on more than 90 percent of Russia’s grain exports.

The WTO does not forbid the EU from taking such actions against nonmember nations. Russia’s entrance into the WTO would protect it against such predatory economic practices.

“I think the relations between Russia and the European Union will be bad for many years to come [unless Russia gains WTO protection],” said Anders Eslund, a former Swedish diplomat who is an expert on Russia.

“The EU is very protectionist,” Eslund emphasized.

Regardless of Russia’s desire to enter the WTO, and regardless of the willingness of other WTO nations to admit Russia, the EU holds the trump card: WTO bylaws mandate candidate nations must meet the approval of all WTO nations before gaining admission to the economic partnership.

Kyoto an “International Auschwitz”

Russia was expected to decide by the end of May whether it will ratify the Kyoto Protocol. At the moment, most observers believe Russian officials will reject the treaty. Although EU officials assert differences with Russia on a variety of economic issues unrelated to Kyoto, they clearly see Russia’s decision on the global warming treaty as key to whether they will support the nation’s entrance into the WTO.

Nevertheless, the EU may find it difficult to influence Russia so late in its Kyoto decision-making process. With Russian President Vladimir Putin vowing to make a final decision by May 20, momentum was on the side of those urging him to reject the treaty.

As recently as April 14, Putin’s top economic advisor, Andrei Illiaronov, publicly castigated the treaty as a deathblow to the Russian economy.

“The Kyoto Protocol is a death pact, however strange it may sound, because its main aim is to strangle economic growth and economic activity in countries that accept the protocol’s requirements,” said Illiaronov. “Russia opposes it on the grounds that it will cripple urgently needed economic growth.”

Ratifying Kyoto, Illiaronov said, would mean creating international agencies to “limit growth not only on a national level, but also on a supernational level. An organ of legal interference in internal affairs of the country would be created.

“At first we wanted to call this agreement a kind of international Gosplan,” he added, referring to the agency that repeatedly created disastrous results in its efforts to run the old Soviet economy. “But then we realized that Gosplan was much more humane and so we ought to call the Kyoto Protocol an international gulag.

“In the gulag, though, you got the same ration daily and it didn’t get smaller by the day,” said Illiaronov. “In the end we had to call the Kyoto Protocol an international Auschwitz.”

Nations accounting for at least 55 percent of total global warming emissions must ratify the Kyoto Protocol before it can take effect. With several nations, including the United States, already rejecting the Protocol, the fate of the treaty rests with Russia.

Global warming alarmists, particularly in EU nations, continue to hold out hope Putin will disregard the advice of his chief economic advisor and ratify the treaty. However, Mikhail Delyagin, a former economic advisor for Putin, stated such an event was unlikely.

“The statement (by Illiaronov) confirms that Russia does not want to ratify the Kyoto Protocol,” said Delyagin. “It does not mean that it is coming directly from Putin–maybe Mr. Putin is indifferent to this problem. But Mr. Illiaronov would never make a declaration that contradicts the president.”

Konstantin Kosachev, head of the International Relations Committee of the Russian Duma (which also opposes the treaty), agreed with Illiaronov that Russia should reject Kyoto. Kosachev said that with economic powers such as the U.S., Argentina, Australia, Brazil, China, India, and South Korea either exempt from or opposed to the treaty, the Russian government believes Russian participation in Kyoto would place it at an economic disadvantage.

Russia’s leading scientists also have expressed doubt about the predictions of global warming alarmists, who cannot account for satellite data showing little or no global warming has thus far occurred, and whose computer models are so flawed as to grossly overstate current temperatures, let alone future temperatures. (See “Kyoto? Nyet!” Environment & Climate News, December 2003.)

With Putin’s decision imminent, the EU will soon learn if its WTO threat will sway Putin one way or another.

James M. Taylor is managing editor of Environment & Climate News. His email address is [email protected].