Thursday, December 29, 2005

Gas, Geopolitics and Ukraine

I don't know why the surprise over the Russo-Ukrainian dispute over gas prices. In 2004, a very senior Russian government official told a Western delegation meeting with him in Moscow point blank that if the West wanted Ukraine in "its" sphere of influence, the West would have to be prepared to pay the bills.

With share liberalization, GAZPROM is set to receive a huge influx of foreign capital--and demand for natural gas from customers prepared to pay world market prices is skyrocketing. Why sell gas to Ukraine at $50 per 1000 cm if you can get $220 for it?

The gauntlet laid down to Ukraine, I think, is set to work on several levels.

First, the Russians hope to discredit Yushchenko and his "Orange Revolution" once and for all. Ukrainian economic growth spluttered in 2005 and the economy is set to stagnate in 2006. Add higher energy prices--and the seeds of discontent are well-watered. Demonstrate no "white horse" riding in from the West--and trap Yushchenko between the frying pan of Yanukovych (I could have done a better job) and Tymoshenko who will stoke up nationalist resentment at any sign the president is about to sell out to the Moskals. All adds up for serious political instability in the wake of next year's parliamentary elections. Discredited Orange Revolution in Ukraine in advance of elections in Belarus and ultimately the 2007-08 set of elections in Russia itself, alongside the example of the Kazakh elections.

Second, discredit Ukraine in the eyes of Germany--still the banker and linchpin of the EU. THe last thing the Germans want to h hear from Kyiv is how Ukraine will help itself to a percentage of gas shipped in its pipeline network heading for German markets. This crisis is "redeeming" Schroeder's Baltic Pipeline project; in addition, the EU budget debacle and the CIA secret prison story has again raised doubts in the Eurozone core about Poland--and may help to discredit Poland's advocacy for Ukraine in European capitals.

Third, the Turkish gambit. Moscow is wooing Ankara--why not suggest that over time more gas can be sent across the Black Sea to Turkey and turn Turkey into an energy hub for Europe.

Energy covers a multitude of sins--this is the lesson Moscow has learned from Saudi Arabia.

Consider this comment from Deutsche Welle:

"Rainer Seele, head of Wingas told the Rheinische Post that the gas dispute underlined the importance of an additional route such as the planned North European Gas Pipeline that will link the massive Russian gas fields with Germany under the Baltic Sea. With it, Germany and Europe would achieve "independence from political instability," Seele said."

Russia may compromise at the last minute--offering a lower rate. Or look for pro-Russian Ukrainian politicians to negotiate with Russia and gain the credit.

Where was the U.S. action plan on Ukraine? It should have been apparent that Yushchenko would only have a limited window to act. Special funds, loans, visa regimes? Didn't any suspect that when the Gazprom contracts ran out on 12/31 that the Russians might act?
Yushchenko and Saakashvili proclaim their "Democratic Commonwealth" and export of colored revolutions and then expect Russia to provide cheap energy to subsidize their governments? What sort of "realism" is this?
The Hegelian dialect and intrinsic maleficence of the Bush governments bold vision of democracy mangles, morphs, retards, perverts, and insidiously redefines or de-defines the core idea, principles, and constructs of democracy.

In a democracy, the people have actionable representation, certain inalienable rights, protections, priviledges, and freedoms; - there is a vibrant, independent, and unfettered press examining and vetting important news and events and informing the masses; - and leadership is accountable and obligated to serve, advance, promote, and defend the peoples best interests.

Unless and until wise women and men endeavor to question, examine, and define what exactly constitutes this thing called democracy, and then compel leadership to abide by those principles - there is in effect no such thing as democracy.

We can all snipe at this government or that, or slime one leadership, or exalt another, but with no solid ground or definition of democracy to stand on and defend, - all the arguments and lofty banter amount to substantless breath and hollow sounds and meaningless furies, signifying nothing.

We hear the word "democracy" farted out and parroted often, and leadership and the disinformation warriors in the socalled MSM fabricate allusions to, or retadations of the shapeshifting concept of democracy incessantly, - but the practical application, the actionable real world prosecution and/or conveyance, or the actual practicing of this unknown unknown thing called democracy, - if it exist at all, - is a rare and endangered species of government.

The natural born, relatively peaceful "Orange" Revolution" in the Ukraine was a peoples victory and a resounding opportunity to stand up a real democracy.

Yuchenko's administration may dishearten Ukrainians and other interested parties over time, for many myriad unknown unknown reasons and causes, but the spontaneous combustion and parthanogenic eruption of the potential for democracy in the Urkraine, of a government of, by, and for the people, - if only for a flickering ephemeral moment - was an eternal triumph for Ukranians and a shining inspiriation for all freedom loving people.

This unique form of government, a real democracy - a government of, by, and for the peoples is therefore in direct conflict with, and a direct threat to the ambitions and design of keptocratic oligarchies as in Russia under Putin, and facsist totalitarian dictatorships as in America, under the warmongers and profiteers in the Bushg government.

Tragically, the newborn Ukranian democracy did not fair well in the all important developmental stages.

The world, and particularly the warmongers and profiteers in the Bush government, being rather distracted and focused on the horroshow and deluge of blood, treasure, profiteering, and imperialism in the land of the two rivers, - neglected and/or abandoned Yuchenko, and the people of the Ukraine.

"Yuchenko and his Orange Revolution" recieve tellingly little support or acknowledgement from the Bush government. I wonder why?

Russia and Putin will obviously seek to weaken or curb the struggling Ukraine democracy to insure dominance in the region and of the regions vital resources.

Yuchenko's rarely mentioned, never fully investigated, and hideously creepy bug attack proves very powerful forces were and probably are now working to defeat and abort Yuchenko and his Orange Revolution".

The Ukranian military command sided with Uchenko and the peoples, and Orange Revolution was indelibly imbedded into the fabric is history, - but there was and is now little hope for this nebulous thing called "democracy" ever devoloping in the Ukraine, or anywhere else in the wild and violent world of man, - because not one of us knows what this unknown unknown thing called democracy is, or where it can be found. It's is no longer active or functioning in America. Iraq is no democracy. Where or where is this thing called democracy?
Jim Hentz (Associated Press) backs up the point that the Kremlin may want to undermine Yushchenko's links to Europe in his reporting:

"If Ukraine's refusal to pay the new higher price results in a diminished gas flow to Europe, that could undermine Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko's assiduous efforts to court the West. That, presumably would be just fine by the Kremlin, which has been cold to Yushchenko since he overcame a Moscow-backed candidate to become president this year."
Another news item, from ISN Security Watch:

"Georgian Energy Minister Nika Gelaury said on Wednesday that the Georgian government was ready to hand over control of its major gas pipeline that runs from Russia to Armenia in exchange for guarantees from Gazprom that the price would not be further increased for 25 years, Prime-TASS news agency reported.

"However, the assumption that Ukraine is being discriminated against in terms of the gas price for purely political reasons is somewhat discredited when one considers that Armenia and Azerbaijan now also pay US$110 per 1,000 cubic meters of gas, even though Yerevan is one of Moscow’s most loyal allies, while Tbilisi is second to none among former Soviet republics when it comes to antagonizing the Kremlin. ...

"Weafer estimated that Russia has been incurring a US$3 billion net loss per year due to discounts in gas exports to Ukraine."
Peter Lavelle (RIA-Novosti and UPI) thinks there will be a last minute deal:

As the clock ticks away, Russia and Ukraine remain at loggerheads. Gazprom has repeatedly stated it will turn off the taps at 10 a.m. Jan. 1 if there is no new agreement. This could happen, but for only a day or so as a way for both sides to prove a point. However, an agreement is inevitable and everyone involved know this. What is most likely to happen is an initial three-month agreement to conclude negotiations. This will calm passions in two ways. The conflict will be removed from the center of Ukraine's parliamentary campaign and allow a more business-like atmosphere to dominate the talks. All parties in the gas war have made their point, now consumers expect a deal.
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