Beyond Imagination: Uranium One

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by Anne Williamson, Lew Rockwell:

The multilayered story surrounding Uranium One—the former South African, then Canadian, and now Russian company, of which both Bill and Hillary Clinton and their family foundation are the enriched beneficiaries—has all the usual elements of a typical Clinton scandal.

A talented con man, Bill Clinton perfected his game in Arkansas. Through his control over state contracts, regulatory agencies, and judicial appointments, the creation of public credit and of agencies like the Arkansas Development and Finance Authority and their misuse, then-Governor Clinton was able to reward his allies, punish his enemies, and insert his political machine into nearly every endeavor, public and private, statewide. Clinton nailed down the couple’s franchise by continually getting himself re- elected governor of Arkansas, while his spouse handled the paperwork at the Rose Law Firm.

When Bill and Hillary made the move from Little Rock to Washington, the territory under their influence was enlarged, and the public cash pots at their disposal grew significantly, but their modus operandi remained the same. The only thing that changed when Hillary began her adventures in the U.S. Senate, and then at the State Department, was that she was now the one with political power, and Bill became the ornamental figure.

Uranium One’s predecessor is a Canadian company, UrAsia Energy Ltd., founded in 2005 by Canadian mining financier Frank Giustra. By mysterious means Giustra was able to fill what was no more than a shell company with the rights to three uranium mines located in Kazakhstan, a former Soviet republic that is fantastically rich in just about everything, including uranium. Bill Clinton appears to have played a significant role in smoothing the rough edges of Giustra’s good fortune by supporting Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s appointment to a U.N. agency dedicated to validating elections, a p.r. coup for Nazarbayev.

Thereafter, Bill got the use of Giustra’s luxurious private jet, and the two began jetting about the globe together to Third World countries that enjoy attractive endowments of natural resources.  Bill made his speeches, and Frank made his deals.

In 2007, UrAsia purchased a South African uranium firm, Uranium One, and moved the company to Canada while retaining the firm’s South African name. Bill and Frank then set up their own philanthropic entity, the Clinton Giustra Sustainable Growth Initiative, to promote “progressive environmental and labor practices in the natural resources industry.” Giustra pledged $100 million and dragged in $16 million more in pledges at a 2008 star-studded gala in Toronto.

In 2008, things got more interesting. The Russian atomic-energy agency Rosatom, short of uranium for its own needs, entered into negotiations for a 17-percent stake in Uranium One. But in 2009, Kazakhstan questioned Uranium One’s claim of having obtained government approvals for UrAsia’s first mine purchases. The Kazakh government’s public doubts coincided with the arrest of Mukhtar Dzhakishev, the head of Kazatomprom (the country’s national importer and exporter of nuclear-fuel components), on charges of illegally selling uranium deposits to foreign companies.

Uranium One’s shareholders and principals were beside themselves. Would the company lose the Kazakh mines? Already, Uranium One’s stock value had collapsed by 40 percent. The Moscow investment bank Renaissance Capital was similarly alarmed since it had been heavily promoting Uranium One shares to its investors. Could some dastardly Russian scheme for control of Kazakh uranium assets be afoot?  And was it possible that Vladimir Putin, who enjoys excellent relations with his Kazakh neighbor, and with President Nazarbayev personally, was the kingpin of the operation?

Now why would anyone think that?

The office of the presidency of the Russian Federation is relatively new, having come into existence a mere quarter century ago. Vladimir Putin’s interpretation of the office is shaping and defining it.  He is the nation’s khozyain, a unique figure whose origins are in Russia’s misty past when the Slavic tribes roaming the great Eurasian steppe were among the freest people on earth. Unlike Western Europe, the tribal lord wasn’t an hereditary office, but one elected by the veche (popular assembly) in which each mature male householder of the votchina (estate) had a vote.  When one khozyain’s leadership delivered poor results, the votchina’s electorate did not hesitate to replace him.  And since each householder considered himself a rightful claimant to some part of the votchina’s earnings, the criterion for political support was the shared prosperity and security of all claimants.

Vladimir Putin’s principal aim has been the restoration of the Russian state and economy, and for that the state must be protected from both invaders and usurpers. This requires an army, which, in turn, requires the state to have income—preferably income that is not derived from crushing both healthy competition and the population generally, as was true under the tsars and the commissars.

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