Sunday, April 24, 2011

Camping for a new Cold War

I live near a nuclear power plant. It is only 30 kilometers away and I would be in the "Fukushima no-go zone" if a nuclear tsunami ever happened with my "nukie".

From my balcony I can see the headquarter of the company running the plant. It is a grandiose, historical building with a big garden in front. Usually, at this time of the year, tulips are blooming. They still are this year, but in between the tulips small tents have been set up, thirty, maybe forty. There is a makeshift kitchen, some tables and benches and two mobile toilets like you see them on construction sites.

What is going on in the garden in the spring of 2011? The camp described above is a protest of anti-nuclear activists and they vow to keep camping here until the nuclear plant is shut down, for good. Till now, the protest has been peaceful and the police hasn't intervened. For the politicians elected to be responsible for my city, it is obvious that after Fukushima people need an outlet, a cooling valve so to speak, for letting off steam that has been built up inside of many when watching the images from a devastated Japan.

But not for everybody in my town this is obvious. The other day, standing at the bus station next to the camp, I overheard an elderly "lady" passing by saying: "now look at this. these damned bastards." Well, walk on old crow, I thought, we are not in Syria here.

bursting coffers, boosting energy: Russia

Or in Libya for that matter. Every geopolitical crisis situation, as in Japan, as in Libya, has its geopolitical winners and losers. The winner of the 2011 geopolitical contest clearly is Russia. Unrest in the Arab world causing an increased oil price? Russia is the world's second largest oil producer and the Kremlin's coffers are almost bursting by now. Libya not able to deliver oil and gas to European markets because of its civil war? Russia is ready to jump in and fill the void. Europe fearing a migration exodus from North Africa following the revolutions there? Your problem Europe; Russia is too far and too cold to be a viable alternative for migrants. Nuclear power seen as "no-future energy" in Europe -  even France is starting to have second thoughts about the time bomb they have learned to love - after Fukushima? Russia has the gas, has the oil and has the pipelines to prevent Europe from falling into the age of darkness. The United States endlessly distracted in the Middle East: Iraq, Bahrain, Libya, Syria, and soon Saudi Arabia? Russia is happy to make her moves unchecked - a big political deal here, a bit of military pressure there - slowly restoring the good old sphere of influence the Soviet Union enjoyed during the Cold War.

Russia lives the good life then and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin - the past and future president of Russia - has big plans for this period of tranquility. Russia is doomed by demographic problems, seeing its population dramatically decline in the near future if the current trend is not stopped. Putin announced a $53 bn program this week to boost birth rate in Russia by 25% to 30% compared to 2006. Russia is not about to disappear from the geopolitical landscape anytime soon.

How will Putin motivate Russians to come together and have more babies? I don't know his charm, but I am sure, camping and a cozy camp fire would be a great start. Maybe the reversal of demographic fortune takes off right in front of my eyes, in the garden below my balcony. With or without Putin, I wonder how long the anti-nuclear camp will go on. It has been a marvelous April here that made camping easy. But there will be many rainfalls and snowstorms until the nuclear plant will close its reactors. If everybody would live like the campers, the plant could go offline tomorrow. Electricity in the camp is produced with solar panels and people riding a bike turning a generator. There was a concert last night, but at 1030pm the sound went off and the lights went out. Closing time. Russia's time.