Thursday, September 17, 2009

Missile Shield Call-Off in Exchange for Biz Deals?

President Obama "dismayed America's allies in Europe and angered his political opponents at home today when he formally ditched plans to set up a missile defence shield in Poland and the Czech Republic." (Dismay in Europe as Obama ditches missile defence, 9/17/09 Times Online UK)

The administration's move is clearly designed to placate Russia, whose cooperation is sought by the administration "on everything from nuclear weapons cuts to efforts to curb Iranian and North Korean weapons programmes" (9/17/09 Reuters).

What did Messrs Putin and Medvedev give to President Obama in exchange? Agreed to further sanctions on Iran and North Korea? Agreed to stay out of any potential armed conflict? I have a feeling Russia could care less on those.

Whatever the real "quid pro quo" was, what appeared in the news was that Putin will meet U.S. businessmen on Friday (9/17/09 Reuters).

"MOSCOW, Sept 17 (Reuters) - Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin will meet several top U.S. executives on Friday, including General Electric Co and Morgan Stanley, the Russian government said on Thursday.

"Putin's meetings with top Western executives are usually a precursor of major business deals."

Halting the missile shield to give U.S. businesses good deals in Russia? Reuter's article hints as much:

"Talks with the U.S. firms follow a U.S. government decision to halt the deployment of a missile shield defence system in Europe, a move received positively by the Russian government."

Mr. Putin will meet:

  • David Bonderman, founding partner of one of the world's largest private equity firms, TPG
  • Jeff Immelt, CEO of General Electric
  • John Mack, CEO of Morgan Stanley who is stepping down in 2010
Washington Examiner is more sarcastic than Reuters:

"General Electric may be the company with the closest ties to the Obama administration (if not, GE is second only to Goldman Sachs), and here we see the company benefiting from an abrupt foreign policy change made by President Obama."

As Examiner's article points out, Immelt is President Obama's economic advisor. GE owns CNBC (the stock market cheerleader/greenshooter) and MSNBC, which Washington Examiner says is "the network famously friendly to Obama".

A free-market version of capitalism is just about dead, but another version of capitalism seems alive and well, as it always has been: crony capitalism.

(Has the House banned the word yet?)


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