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Extortion on a Geopolitical Scale

Discussion in 'Sports and News' started by Armchair_QB, Nov 2, 2007.

  1. Armchair_QB

    Armchair_QB Well-Known Member

    I heard about this on BBC radio a little while ago. Smells like extortion to me.


    Russia 'Blackmails' Lufthansa over Cargo Hubs

    Russia this week temporarily banned Germany's Lufthansa Cargo from overflights of its airspace. Many are calling the move economic blackmail, but some observers also heap a large dollop of the blame on German politicians.

    The Kremlin on Friday may have temporarily lifted its ban on Lufthansa Cargo on overflights (more...) of Russian territory, but the crisis remains unresolved and Moscow's motives for restricting the firm's flights remain as unclear as ever.
    Some commentators believe Sunday's move by the Russians is merely an effort to extract higher overflight fees from European airlines, while others see it as direct pressure aimed at forcing Lufthansa Cargo to establish a Russian hub for its global logistics business.

    The ban on overflights in Russia forced Lufthansa to temporarily reroute 49 connections -- an expensive and time-consuming task for a company whose business model is predicated on the fastest possible global deliveries. Previously, the company's flights to Japan, China, South Korea and Singapore had flown via the company's hubs in Astana, Kazakhstan and Tashkent, Uzbekistan.

    Recently, though, Moscow has been lobbying hard for Lufthansa to create a new hub on Russian territory. Last week, the Russian government official asked Lufthansa to establish a Siberian hub. Timor Chikamatov, a spokesman for the Russian Transport Ministry, told Germany's Financial Times Deutschland: "We sent our German colleagues a letter on Oct. 22 in which we proposed that the company use Krasnoyarsk or Novosibirsk as a hub in the future."

    But Lufthansa officials are also critical of the Krasnoyarsk airport, with a spokesman calling Russia's demand absurd and adding that the facility doesn't have the infrastructure a busy hub requires.

    This week's developments have heightened tensions between Russia and Germany, despite the fact that the government in Berlin has tried to play the issue down, with a spokesman saying that the negotiations with the Kremlin were "on the right path." Fewer conciliatory tones could be heard on the Russian side, where a Transport Ministry spokesman accused Germany of starting a "media campaign accusing us of extortion."

    However, the Russian Transport Ministry issued a statement Friday saying that it had extended permission for Lufthansa to fly through Russian airspace to its Astana hub until Nov. 15. But a Lufthansa spokesman told the Associated Press that the company had not received any formal notification from the Russian ministry, and reiterated that Lufthansa had no plans to use Krasnoyarsk as a hub.

    On the op-ed pages on Friday, German commentators see Moscow's latest flexing of its muscles, which follows energy shutoffs in Eastern Europe and threats of a "new Cold War," as ominous.

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