Ukraine gas dispute exposes political fault lines
In its failed head-to-head showdown with Russia over a natural gas payment dispute and subsequent failures to secure concessions over pipelines, Ukraine has emerged as a weaker negotiating partner vis-a-vis Russia. Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko and Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko remain deeply divided over the proper foreign policy with respect to Russia and work at odds to one another. The Washington Post (1/19)
Gazprom Resumes Gas Flows to Europe Through Ukraine (Update3)
Jan. 13 (Bloomberg) — OAO Gazprom, the Russian supplier of a quarter of Europe’s natural gas, began pumping fuel into pipes through Ukraine, the first step toward ending a six-day supply halt that disrupted shipments to at least 20 European.
Gazprom resumed deliveries after observers from the European Union began monitoring transit at metering stations in Russia and Ukraine under an accord signed yesterday. The order to pump about 76 million cubic meters of fuel today toward the Balkans, Turkey and Moldova was broadcast on state television.
The Russian Gas Trap
(Stratfor) At the time of this writing, the natural gas crisis in Europe is entering its 13th day.
While the topic has only penetrated the Western mind as an issue in recent years, Russia and Ukraine have been spatting about the details of natural gas deliveries, volumes, prices and transit terms since the Soviet breakup in 1992. In the end, a deal is always struck, because Russia needs the hard currency that exports to Europe (via Ukraine) bring, and Ukraine needs natural gas to fuel its economy. But in recent years, two things have changed.
First, Ukraine’s Orange Revolution of 2004 brought to power a government hostile to Russian goals. Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko would like to see his country integrated into the European Union and NATO; for Russia, such an evolution would be the kiss of death. Ukraine is home to most of the infrastructure that links Russia to Europe, including everything from pipelines to roads and railways to power lines. The Ukrainian and Russian heartlands are deeply intertwined; the two states’ industrial and agricultural belts fold into each other almost seamlessly.
The second change in recent years is that Russia now has an economic buffer, meaning it can tolerate a temporary loss in natural gas income. More including Germany’s role in a possible resolution
Putin plunders Ukraine and EU
(National Post) Bully-boy Russia and its dictator, Vlad Putin, are still up to their old tricks as this winter’s “cold” war with Ukraine has dragged on without justification. Moscow inflates gas prices, and diverts billions of dollars, from Ukrainian natural gas payments to an intermediary of unknown ownership without justification.
Kiev pay more for gas than it should and when it balks is cut off, levied, bad-mouthed and forced to trim the flow to European Union customers.
2 September 2008
The Medvedev Doctrine and American Strategy
(Stratfor) The fifth point is the critical one: “As is the case of other countries, there are regions in which Russia has privileged interests.” In other words, the Russians have special interests in the former Soviet Union and in friendly relations with these states. Intrusions by others into these regions that undermine pro-Russian regimes will be regarded as a threat to Russia’s “special interests.”
Thus, the Georgian conflict was not an isolated event — rather, Medvedev is saying that Russia is engaged in a general redefinition of the regional and global system. Locally, it would not be correct to say that Russia is trying to resurrect the Soviet Union or the Russian empire. It would be correct to say that Russia is creating a new structure of relations in the geography of its predecessors, with a new institutional structure with Moscow at its center. Globally, the Russians want to use this new regional power — and substantial Russian nuclear assets — to be part of a global system in which the United States loses its primacy.
These are ambitious goals, to say the least. But the Russians believe that the United States is off balance in the Islamic world and that there is an opportunity here, if they move quickly, to create a new reality before the United States is ready to respond. Europe has neither the military weight nor the will to actively resist Russia. Moreover, the Europeans are heavily dependent on Russian natural gas supplies over the coming years, and Russia can survive without selling it to them far better than the Europeans can survive without buying it. The Europeans are not a substantial factor in the equation, nor are they likely to become substantial.
Europe’s leaders try to unite against Russia
(Economist) IF IN doubt, turn to a cliché for help. The French government declared on Monday September 1st that the European Union considers its relations with Russia to be at a “crossroads”, because of the crisis in Georgia. That warning —sounding bold, but largely empty of substance—captured the mood as 27 leaders arrived in Brussels for an emergency one-day summit devoted to the recent fighting in the Caucasus.
Such summits are rare: the last one was called in 2003 to debate the Iraq war. Some optimistic diplomats have suggested that the very sight of so many leaders assembling to debate relations with Russia amounted to a strong signal.
Russia anounces ‘spheres of interest’
By Charles Clover in Moscow
Russia’s president Dmitry Medvedev on Sunday announced Moscow’s intention to preserve geographical spheres “of privileged interest” on or near its borders as part of a five point foreign policy statement in a television interview.
The announcement, in the wake of the recent conflict in Georgia, is likely to raise the political temperature in neighbouring states, especially those with significant Russian minorities, as they try to gauge Russia’s appetite for future conflicts in the region.
Opinion: Russia enters the food wars: The old collectives could be big business
Russians starved through the 90s, but the big money was busy gobbling up the old state assets. Now the food shortage and the good prices are attracting altruists from hedge funds and Moscow’s idealistic Ministry of Agriculture.
Russia has a very large amount of land that can be turned into cash crops. Russia has nearly six times as much land as Britain lying fallow growing weeds, abandoned. That’s 35 million hectares.
Another part of this revival of interest in food is that it could well be a major next step in the return of Russia as a global power, this time an agricultural superpower.
Russia’s Collective Farms: Hot Capitalist Property
NATO and the invasion of Georgia
… The wider aims with which Russia is presumed to have entered Georgia have not yet been achieved, however. They include toppling its pro-American president, Mikheil Saakashvili, and using intimidation to stop Georgia and Ukraine from following the Poles, Czechs, Balts and other former dominions of the Soviet Union into the orbit of the West and thence into NATO. If it pursues sound policies, the West still stands a fair chance, despite its divisions, of thwarting these aims.
There is no quick fix, but an over-confident Russia is weaker than it looks