Gallup Poll: A Majority Of Americans Turn Negative Toward Russia

The new sunflower plant in the Volgograd region will process up to 640,000 tons of sunflower seeds per year and is expected to be operational in time for the 2015 harvest. The plant in the heart of Russias sunflower growing region will produce edible oil as well as sunflower meal for animal feed. This investment is in line with our strategy to focus on the growth and development of our offering to farmers in Russia, Andreas Rickmers, head of Cargills grain and oilseeds business in Europe, said in a statement. Minnetonka -based Cargill is one of the largest foreign investors in Russias agribusiness sector, with around $1 billion sunk into the country, where it employs about 2,700. Cargill, one of the worlds largest privately held companies, established a beachhead in Russia in the early 1990s, soon after the fall of the Soviet Union. It made one of its earliest investments there in 1994 in a sweeteners plant in Efremov, 200 miles south of Moscow. Over the years, Cargill has turned Efremov into a vast complex for several products, from vegetable oils to malt to animal feed. Earlier in 2013, Cargill opened a $40 million chicken processing plant in Efremov, its first such operation in Russia. The plant primarily supplies McDonalds restaurants in Russia with Chicken McNuggets. Cargill also has an office in Moscow and a grain handling operation in Russias Krasnodar region near the Black Sea. Cargill is a global force in everything from meat processing to cocoa to commodities trading.

Russia’s Empire Strikes Back

(Mikhail Klimentyev / RIA Novosti / September 18, 2013) Also By Carol J. Williams September 18, 2013, 5:21 p.m. More Americans have negative views of Russian President Vladimir Putin than at any time since he came to power in 2000, and a majority now see Russia as no friend of the United States, a Gallup poll released Wednesday indicated. The survey conducted this week reflected a sharp downturn in U.S.-Russia relations over the last few months, as most respondents in a poll three months ago still held a favorable impression of the former superpower and its leader. Putin’s granting of political asylum to former NSA contractor Edward Snowden in August, and his government’s targeting of gays and lesbians with fines and imprisonment for homosexual “propaganda,” were cited by poll analysts as likely contributors to the changed attitudes toward Moscow. “Since 1999, Americans have considered Russia more of an ally or a friendly nation than an unfriendly nation or an enemy,” the Gallup Politics report states. “As recently as June of this year, 52% of Americans considered Russia an ally or friendly; yet three months later, that number has dropped to 44%, with 50% believing Russia is now unfriendly or an enemy of American interests.” Americans’ opinions of Putin are declining as well, the report notes. Only 19% of the 1,010 adults surveyed rated Putin favorably, while 54% said they don’t like what they see. The survey reported a plus-or-minus 4% margin for error. Respondents were questioned Sunday and Monday, the report said, shortly after Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State John F. Kerry drafted a plan to secure Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles under international control for eventual destruction. Despite the general decline in Americans’ esteem for Russia and Putin suggested by the survey, a strong majority supported the U.S.-Russian collaboration on the Syrian chemical weapons disposal plan, with 72% approving and 18% opposed. The plan drawn up by Lavrov and Kerry has at least temporarily put the brakes on threatened U.S.

Russia calls Greenpeace Arctic protest aggressive, dangerous

Russian coast guards in the Barents Sea fired warning shots on Wednesday and arrested two Greenpeace activists from the Amsterdam-registered ‘Arctic Sunrise’ ship who scaled the side of the Gazprom-owned Prirazlomnaya platform. Prirazlomnaya is Russia’s first Arctic offshore oil rig and a sensitive project in a country that has made tapping the region’s resources a priority to drive its economy. Greenpeace activists had boarded the platform previously in August. The Russian Foreign Ministry said the action had threatened the site’s security and it had summoned the Dutch ambassador on Wednesday, asking him to ensure it was not repeated. “The intruders’ actions were of aggressive and provocative character and had the outward signs of extremist activity that can lead to people’s death and other grave consequences,” the ministry said in a statement. Two activists – one with Swiss citizenship, the other from Finland – were still being held by Russian coast guards after the protest, Greenpeace said, in a statement that dismissed Russia’s criticism of the protest. “Let’s be absolutely clear about this: the real threat to the Arctic comes not from Greenpeace but from oil companies like Gazprom that are determined… to drill in remote, frozen seas,” said Ben Ayliffe, the green group’s Arctic oil campaign head. The Arctic is estimated to hold 13 percent of the world’s undiscovered oil reserves and 30 percent of its undiscovered natural gas. But environmental campaigners say the rush for the Arctic’s natural resources threatens to destroy its fragile ecosystems and says there is insufficient emergency planning in case of an oil spill in its extreme conditions. Global majors including ExxonMobil, Eni and Statoil have agreed to enter Russia’s Arctic waters and Norway is pushing ahead with its own drilling plans. But technical difficulties, high costs and mishaps as well as determined campaigns against the Arctic drilling have now brought greater hesitation among some players.

Obama gets cold shoulder from Putin, but will seek backing elsewhere

We all know what he meant: In this age of soft power, great countries can win friends not through the use of brute force but through their books and movies, their sophisticated economies, their technological innovations, and, above all, through their attractive and inspiring national ideals. Maybe that’s true, some of the time. But for those who find soft power difficult to wield, hard power is still available. Indeed, in the very same week that the American president made his Rose Garden speech, events on the other side of the globe were proving that might certainly can make right. Even while the world’s attention was fixed on Russian-American diplomacy in Syria, back home Russian President Vladimir Putin was pulling off a much quieter but potentially more significant diplomatic coup. After three years of intensive negotiations, Armenia, Russia’s neighbor, had been on the brink of signing an association agreement, including a comprehensive trade agreement, with the European Union.But on Sept. 3right in the middle of the Syria crisisthe Armenian government abruptly declared that it would drop the whole project. Rather than aligning itself with the world’s largest free-trade zone and some of the world’s most sophisticated democracies, Armenia decided to stick with Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan, and to join the Eurasian Customs Union instead. No one pretends that Armenia was attracted by Russia’s soft power. By way of explanation, President Serzh Sargsyan explained that Armenia depends on Russia for it security, and that Armenia has a large diaspora living in Russia . This sounds odd: Most security alliances, NATO included, dont require their members to join a customs union, and the presence of immigrants in one country doesn’t usually affect trade policy in another. But Armenia has been made anxious in recent weeks by Russian diplomatic overtures toward Azerbaijan, Armenia’s main rival, as well as by anti-immigrant rhetoric from Russian officials . The Armenians took the hint: If they signed the trade deal with Europe, Russia might sell more arms to their rival and expel the Armenians who live in Russia. The Armenians were no doubt watching Russian moves elsewhere in their immediate neighborhood, where a distinct pattern is emerging. On Sept. 11, Russia banned the import of Moldovan wine, on the grounds that it is a “health hazard.” Ukrainian chocolates have suffered the same fate.