Thursday, September 01, 2016

Awkward dates

There's a lot to digest in the New York Times analysis of potential overlaps in interests and activities between Julian Assange/ Wikileaks and the Kremlin. But one weak point in the analysis is the presumption that any conclusion can be drawn from the fact that Wikileaks and Putin have a shared economic interest around Brexit, scuppering trans-atlantic and trans-pacific trade deals (lots of people don't like those deals), and the oil price. On that last one --

The Saudi documents, for instance, which highlighted efforts to manipulate world opinion about the kingdom, were published months after Mr. Putin accused the Saudis of holding down oil prices to harm the economies of Russia and its allies Iran and Venezuela.

The world oil price started its downward plunge in June 2014, so any date after that could be described as reflecting a grudge against the Saudis about oil prices. Specifically, Wikileaks published those documents on 19 June 2015. Around those days, Vladimir Putin was hosting an economic conference in Saint Petersburg, attendees at which included Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS). The two met, as shown in the photo above, the day before the leak. If Putin was masterminding the timing of leaks, would he have chosen that day to do it? And if the Saudis felt they were being manipulated, would Prince MBS have met Putin again at the Sochi Formula 1 Grand Prix a few months later?

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