Russian Roulette

Russian Roulette

Horner Op-Ed in Tech Central Station
September 02, 2002

Russia played the first Kyoto card at this "World Summit on Sustainable Development," and it just might be an Ace. A member of the Russian delegation alarmed the greens and our economic competitors in the European Union (EU) by slyly leaking that, though Russian ratification will make or break Kyoto, there still may not be enough booty in the Kyoto Protocol to justify ratification. This though Moscow has no emission reduction commitments under Kyoto, and struck an extraordinary deal affording substantial profits if they play ball. According to CNN.com, Russian Deputy Minister Mukhamed Tsikanov "warned there was a possibility [Kyoto] may yet be rejected: 'There is a risk, there is a risk, without a doubt…Because... we don't have the economic stimulus, the economic interest in the Kyoto Protocol.'" One must admire the candor of a state complaining it might not get rich enough from a treaty that even the Clinton Energy Department estimated would cost the U.S. up to $400 billion annually. Their express reasoning - confidently establishing future blame on the U.S. - is that without the United States buying tons of Russian "hot air", or carbon dioxide credits, their profits will be far less than anticipated. Also revel in a state effectively acknowledging what the U.S. should, but doesn't, have the gumption to say: Kyoto is simply about economic advantage. The sole individual to previously come clean on that count is Kyoto's biggest fan, EU Environment Commissioner Margot Wallstrom who, in the face of collapsing "global warming" science" admitted last year, "This is about international relations, this is about economy about trying to create a level playing field for big businesses throughout the world." Presently, clever Bush Administration rhetoric and sloppy reporting leave most Americans believing that Kyoto's fate is essentially inconsequential for the "withdrawn" U.S. This is unfortunate, and untrue. There is a longstanding, recognized withdrawal procedure for non-ratifying treaty signatories. Rhetoric notwithstanding, the U.S. has never executed that step. This is meaningful, whatever its bizarre or even sneaky motivation, because "customary" law and the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties both make clear: a non-ratifying signatory, while not held to the document's specific terms, is nonetheless prohibited from any act which would defeat the object and purpose of the treaty. Consider the Rome Treaty, establishing the International Criminal Court and from which the U.S. actually did recently withdraw. Absent formal rejection, the U.S. could, for example, still be barred from resisting extradition (or Pinochet-style abduction) of an indicted U.S. serviceman. That is why the Bush Administration explained the need to withdraw from the ICC as follows: "Even without ratification, the president's signature conveys standing and a U.S. obligation to support and not undermine the Treaty" (Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld), and "Since we have no intention of ratifying it, it is appropriate for us, because we have such serious problems with the ICC, to notify the...Secretary-General [of the UN] that we do not intend to ratify it and therefore we are no longer bound in any was to its purpose and objective" (Secretary of State Colin Powell). Absent formal withdrawal from Kyoto, the U.S. would likely be barred from challenging or otherwise countering the EU's threatened trade sanctions against certain countries (read: U.S.) not meeting a Kyoto-style greenhouse gas profile. Therefore, whether Kyoto goes into effect is important to the U.S. Kyoto's particular language, and given that several countries are following Washington's lead, Kyoto's fate now simply rests solely upon one of two nations ratifying the treaty: the U.S. or Russia. The Bush Administration is being neither responsible nor straightforward with its ambiguous Kyoto position. Thank goodness for Russia - maybe. If the Russian Duma votes, as expected, on Kyoto in the coming weeks and fails to ratify it, it is true that the spotlight will shine on the U.S.'s ambivalent non-rejection. Also, however, at that point the EU will likely finally accept a more realistic process to address what remains a questionable theory to the vast majority of scientists on record (approximately 20,000 "skeptics", to 2,000 "warmers"). That will be a tremendous improvement from the current circumstance where energy suppression at 1980 levels threatens the U.S., and therefore the world, economy. A formal Russian "nyet" means Kyoto will in all likelihood die. If, however, this turns out to be merely another Russian ploy for sweetening their already lucrative deal under Kyoto, they will likely get what they want and the treaty will go into effect. At that point the U.S. remains exposed by the Bush waffle, as the EU has made clear it is not going to commit to Kyoto's unwise agenda without making us also pay dearly. They are adamant that we take the even more severe hit that Kyoto has in store for us, and will push sanctions to achieve it one way or another. Here's to hoping that by the next world gathering on Kyoto, next month in India, we can smile and proclaim, To Russia, with Love.