As NATO Draws Closer, Putin and the KGB Turn Up the Heat

Victor Yushchenko’s fingernails are probably a bit shorter this evening.  True, he had the usual support in Western capitols during the brief crisis over gas deliveries from Russia (the “Orange Revolution” which brought him to power was, after all, a nomenclature designed and financed by Washington, London and Brussels).  And the stock of the beleagured Ukrainian president has doubtlessly risen a notch or two in the pages of the capitalist press.   But, Yuschchenko knows such currencies are short-lived.   Tomorrow, when details of the agreement are more closely scrutinized, it will be Putin who has the last laugh.  Already there is opposition to the deal among Ukraine’s opposition, left and right, and Yushchenko’s fractious government may find itself more isolated than ever.

So, what, exactly, happened?  Ukraine now will pay $230 per 1,000 meters of natual gas piped in from Russia (though it will be less than $95 once cheaper gas from Central Asia is mixed in), roughly double what it is paying now.   But, that is merely a detail.  The agreement’s real significance lies in who will be running Ukraine’s (and much of the rest of Europe’s) energy show.

I think that Putin got exactly what he wanted; namely, the direct assumption by Russia’s security services for the transferance of Russian energy resources to the West.  Virtually everything that has to do with the flow of energy westward into Europe will now be through the good offices of something called RosUkrEnergo.  Of Swiss registry and managed by an Austrian (Wolfgang Putschek, of the Raiffeisen Zentralbank), RosUkrEnergo is actually owned by Gazprom, the Russian energy giant, and Centragas, a front for Russians and Ukranians with links to the old Soviet KGB.   By raising the stakes with his threat to cut off the pipeline, Russia effectively put paid to growing efforts by Ukraine to put RosUkrEnergo out of the energy business.   Ukraine’s access to Russian energy will now be under the auspices of Russia’s security services.   And, with the deal signed yesterday, RosUkrEnergo stands to become the third largest energy dealer in Europe. 

It is clear to Putin that, with an ever more aggressive NATO determined to subordinate the former Soviet Union (including and especially Russia), a line has to be drawn somewhere.   A fully “independent” Ukraine (that is, one obliged to Washington and Brussels) is seen in both camps as the first and necessary step in the subjugation process.  It is not likely to be tolerated let alone welcomed by the Kremlin.  Certainly, Putin knows that Russia’s energy fortunes (one of her few trump cards at the moment) cannot be left to the mercies of Washington or its surrogates in Kiev or Warsaw.  This was doubtless behind his announcement yesterday that China would henceforth be given preference in Russian energy sales.  Putin is serving notice; Russia’s enormous energy reserves will not easily fall prey to western arsenals.   And the same goes for western subsidiaries on Russia’s border, like Ukraine.  

Maintaining “credibility” as a supplier of raw materials for Western consumption has costs.   And its limits.                



1 Comment

  1. Tovya

    January 12, 2006 @ 8:18 pm


    You and I seldom agree, but I actually think that Putin is doing the smart thing. I would have cut it off if I were him too.

Log in