Thursday, January 15, 2009

Light at the End of the (Gas) Tunnel?

Ukrainian Radio is reporting that prime ministers Tymoshenko and Putin may have come to the beginnings of a settlement that would get gas flowing to Europe. Tymoshenko dispatched a telegram (telegrams still get used these days?) to Moscow in which "she guaranteed that the total volume of natural gas that Russia will give to the Ukrainian gas transportation system will be delivered to the European Union countries, except for eight percent of gas which is used for work of gas pumping aggregates of the transportation system. ... the Ukrainian Government gives the Russian Government guarantees of payment for natural gas that will be used for technical needs immediately after setting a price of Russian natural gas for Ukraine." The report concludes that "Yuliya Tymoshenko believes that finding of a compromise is possible."

Tymoshenko seems to be rising in Western estimations in contrast to President Yushchenko. The Economist notes, President Viktor Yushchenko has undermined the efforts of his prime minister, Yulia Tymoshenko, to do a deal. He has tried to shore up his own flagging support by fulminating against Russia.

So if Tymoshenko and Putin get a firm deal when they meet this weekend, her stock goes up not just in Ukraine but in Europe. So it will be interesting to see what happens.

Yes, about time for this farce to end.
The commentary on this dispute varies in a way which leads me to conclude that a good deal remains unknown of the pertinent variables. Compounded with this point are some of the biases out there.

Here're two views offering different ideas on the matter of how Yushchenko, Tymoshenko and Yanukovych relate to each other:

The Gas Crisis Has Positively Influenced Ukraine's Politics

The Pipe is Blocked in Kiev

While acknowledging that a good deal remains unclear, the second referred to article suggests that there might be a nominal Yushchenko/Yanukovych alliance of sorts against Tymoshenko in this dispute.

The first article states the view that the dispute has drawn Tymoshenko and Yushchenko closer. In addition, it believes Yanukovych to have acted against his best interests.

Of the two, I lean towards the Russia Profile piece.

I find some of the other commentary elsewhere to be a bit off the mark. During the last Russo-Ukrainian gas crisis when Ukraine froze, Yushchenko's stance didn't significantly help his popularity. There's no reason to believe that confronting Russia increases his popularity in Ukraine. If anything, such a situation leads a good many in Ukraine to believe that he isn't the best option as a Ukrainian head of state.

This thought seems to be downplayed by a good number of neocons and neolibs, who like how Yushchenko seeks for a Ukraine that's more distant from Russia and closer to NATO. The "will of the people" can be selectively applied. I'm reminded of the Cold War period, when Warsaw Pact leaders appeared more interested in pleasing the Soviet political hierarchy over their respective populations.
The former Soviet territory always had two troubles: roads and fools. But life goes on, and the list of troubles gets certain national colour. It seems, that in Ukraine now it is necessary to be afraid not only of "fools" and "roads", but “ crisis struggle” and “Euro 2012 preparation”.
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