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On Joint Russian Development Projects: ‘We Are Sitting in One Boat’

Johannes Penzkofer, a vice president of the Russian engineering company, GCE Energy Consulting Group, was interviewed by 21st Century correspondent Ilko Dimov. This is an abridged transcript of the interview.

Question: Since October of last year, the Chinese and Russian governments signed a strategic agreement for collaboration in the development of the Far East, including access to raw materials, building high speed rail, and development of nuclear energy. And Russia is building a breeder reactor right now in China. What is your long-term view? What do you see as areas where you need collaboration with Canada or the United States? What are the areas where we can design joint projects to work together?

I think, as we are here at the World Energy Congress, this is a very important topic. We can collaborate with all, or let’s say, with the four countries that you have talked about: China, Russia, the U.S., and Canada. Especially on the technical and the equipment side, there is very much knowledge in Canada, and the U.S., and in Canada, especially with hydro energy and hydroelectric. This is what we really have to share, and use, to create a more efficient use of energy in the industry.

Question: One of the traditional problems in the Soviet Union, and in Russia, has been that things move slowly. You start building something, and it takes centuries to be accomplished. Now, there is a very surprising speedup: the modernization of the rail system. Prime Minister Putin said in a recent report, “We just doubled the rail system in Russia!” Wow, that’s impressive! How were you able to achieve this success?

It’s typical for Russia, that, if they make a commitment, they really do everything to fulfill this. And when the government said, “this is our strategy, our plan,” the whole country was trying to follow this, and this is how it was was achieved.

Question: One of the projects which has existed since the strategic collaboration between Czar Alexander II and Abraham Lincoln, is the development of Siberia and of Alaska. Now we have the potential of building the Bering Strait link. We are working in the United States towards this project, and we would like to make it a reality in the visible future, in 10 years. Is there the political will in the Russian government, the friendly hands, to get people on the ground to start moving in this direction?

I think, frankly speaking about Putin and [President] Medvedev, that both of them are, let’s say, practical people. So,
they are realistic people. And I think they are very open to all kinds of alliances and partnerships, which will bring us forward. So, I think this can be taken for granted that, the hand is open.

Question: With the development of fusion energy over the next 20 to 25 years, the fuel for our economies will be helium-3, the isotope of helium, which will be mined from the surface of the Moon. And without collaboration in the life sciences, this will be very difficult. Because, we know that Russia, with its long-term space exploration, has had the longest stays in space.

And with the ISS, the International Space Station.

Question: Yes, your experience is maybe 10 or 15 years ahead of us in the life sciences, and we are looking into areas where we can collaborate with this. . . .

This collaboration, I agree with you, only can be on, really a global basis. Let’s say, the big nations have to work on this together, because it’s one of the big future questions of mankind. And I agree, neither Americans, Chinese, or Russians can fulfill this question themselves, or alone. . . .

Question: I have a couple of economic questions. Since 2007, when the economic derivatives market exploded, we have had decision by the Bush Administration, and a commitment by the Obama Administration as well, to commit the U.S. government and the Federal Reserve to a bailout of the U.S. banks—already $26 trillion. And I know this is a concern of the Russian government as well, because if the dollar collapses you will lose your savings. So, the belief that you are rich because you have “money,” will disappear; you are going to discover that you don’t have anything.

It could be a real implosion!

Question: We have had serious economic crises since the Versailles treaty. . . .We had a successful solution by the Bretton Woods conference, which established a fixed-exchange rate system, capital controls, exchange controls, stable raw material prices, which, until 1974, were determined by governments. We are organizing now internationally, to reestablish a fixed exchange rate. And Russia is an essential player—

Of course.

Question: What do you think about the prospect for a conference, as we have proposed, to deal with these economic questions?

I think, it is a need, and I think that Russia will play an active role in this conference, and will collaborate in this discussion. Because, as you said before, it is in our common interest. And, it’s about keeping the world going. I mean, we are all in the same boat in that. That’s another side of globalization. You can’t divide from the rest, or say: “It’s not my ball game.” It’s the same for the Chinese, for the Russians, the Europeans, and the Americans. So, we are sitting in one boat.



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