One piece of news that went largely unnoticed in all the hoopla surrounding the EU accession talks last week was the one about Russia having approved a USD 500 million loan to Iceland.
As some of you may recall, talk of a Russian loan first surfaced last year, just as our financial system was beginning to melt down. That whole episode was a bit of a farce and has been held up as yet more proof of Davíd Oddsson’s incompetence – that he went ahead and announced the Russian loan as a done deal when … errrm … it wasn’t.
At the time, a new cold war seemed to be brewing [what with Putin getting all psychotic on us and old Georgie Bush still installed in the White House, I’llsaynomore] and the speculation was that Russia’s ulterior motive was to gain hold of Iceland as a strategic base – just as the US had used Iceland as a strategic base for decades, or until 2006 when they unilaterally hauled ass out of here. At any rate, it seemed very strange that suddenly Russia wanted to be our new best friend – particularly as the US was perceived to have turned its back on Iceland a few months earlier when this country was left out of an important currency swap agreement [which, in hindsight, may have been perfectly reasonable in light of all the shit and corruption that has surfaced here over the last few months]. The words of old Geir Haarde, then-PM of Iceland, were certainly ominous enough:
In such circumstances, one has to look for new friends.
So in the wake of the whole premature-announcement thing, talk of the Russian loan seemed to fade into the distance, like an echo of something vague. Until last week, that is, when the aforementioned news item appeared on the Russian website barentsobserver.com. This paragraph was kinda interesting:
Russia has only minor economic relations with Iceland. The North Atlantic state remains however a geo-strategically highly interesting partner for Russia. In addition, it is believed that Russian corporate interests have invested heavily in parts of the Icelandic economy.
Er … YEAH. Now, this part:
The North Atlantic state remains however a geo-strategically highly interesting partner for Russia.
Is a no-brainer. The Arctic ice is melting and a new shipping route is opening up that would allow for much more efficient transport for the Russians than before. This in itself could have dramatic implications for this country, what with huge tankers potentially passing through our waters and even stopping off up north for refueling and a spot of maintenance and boozing and whatever else it is that sailors do when they stop in ports [ahem].
This part, however, has our YT particularly intrigued:
In addition, it is believed that Russian corporate interests have invested heavily in parts of the Icelandic economy.
OK – hold up. Russian corporate interests have invested heavily in parts of the Icelandic economy? Um … what Russian corporate interests?? Personally I’m not aware of ANY Russian corporate interests in this country. It’s not like we have a LADA spare parts factory on the West Fjords, or a caviar processing plant on Snæfellsnes. UNLESS … they’re referring to the persistent rumours of money-laundering services allegedly provided by Landsbanki back in the days when it was still owned by the two Björgólfurs. Could THOSE be the corporate interests they’re referring to?
At any rate, they seem to know a lot more than we do, because according to barentsobserver.com:
… analysts have also speculated about a possible new role of Russia on the island.
And on that note, I’ll leave you with the only Russian word I know.
WEATHER SO NICE THAT WE JUST CAN’T BE BOTHERED
To think about anything heavy or messy or remotely Slavic. It has been so beautiful here these last few days – warm and sunny and positively tropical [well, if the tropics were located in the Arctic]. I can totally relate to the mañana mentality these days. I could happily flop around by the pool for days on end and do nothing else. Apparently, though, there was thunder and lightning at Þingvellir yesterday – while 50 km away, here in Reykjavík, EPI and I were lying on sun loungers dozing off with iPods attached to our ears. Currently a sweltering 17°C [63F] – and it’s almost midnight! The sun came up at 3.52, will go down in a few minutes at 11.13.
*Yes yes, I know it’s a NAME. But it means “ballet”. Also, “defecting to the United States”.