Sunday, January 01, 2006

More than Gas in current row 

In a globalised world we need to keep track of many things. So lets see… there is a lot more in the current Gas Row between Russia and Ukraine than meets the eye.

GAZPROM, the Russian gas supply giant is today (Jan 1st 2006) cutting of the supplies to Ukraine as Ukraine cannot or will not pay a 400 percent price hike. Since Russia’s supplies to western Europe run through pipelines routed through Ukraine, and GAZPROM does not want Ukraine tapping transit supplies, this may lead to gas shortages in countries like Germany (not yet directly to Britain but we may get an impact as Germany and others look to alternative supplies).

Now GAZPROM has close ties with the Russian Government and this could, let us say, also be a way of putting Russian political pressure on Ukraine on other matters. However this pressure is restricted by the need to keep long term supplies to the West, as we will see in the current arguments.

But Russia is about to build – with EU funding – a pipeline along the Baltic seabed which will supply Germany and Sweden and points south and west (including the UK) but which of course avoids transit across Ukraine – and which will have no branches to Poland. Estonia, Latvia or Lithuania. When the new pipeline is built Poland and the Baltics, to say nothing of Ukraine, will find their direct Russian gas feeds very vulnerable to cut-offs. And Russia could cut these supplies without future commercial complications from the rest of Europe. What’s more Poland and the Baltics could not build a pipeline to Norway for alternative supplies because Maritime Law forbids two pipelines to cross under the sea…

Poland and the Baltics increasingly feel that the rest of the EU is simply ignoring the special interest of these countries and ignoring the continuing Russian campaign to destabilise and them and isolate them from their EU (and European NATO) allies. They note that the pipeline treaty was negotiated under the strong leadership of Schroeder when he was Chancellor of Germany and that after relinquishing the Chancellorship Schroeder has been appointed to the board of the GAZPROM subsidiary that will build the pipeline. They ask questions.

So these countries are especially vulnerable to the parallel split-the-EU campaign being covertly run by the USA (and especially by various Neocon activist groups). These aim to build up bilateral relations with European countries bypassing Brussels. There is a strong political feel in those countries that only the USA is taking a public interest in their welfare. One consequence of this is the recent rightwing and pro-USA drift in Poland and the decision by the incoming Polish government to keep its contingent of Troops in Iraq.

Busy, busy, busy

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