Global Europe’s Russian Winter What happens when the heat is off By Patrick Stedman
fter trudging along Locust Walk in the snow, it’s easy to take for granted that welcome relief of hot %,2# &(+-# +-8+2,-*# %# @),:$,-*=# # C02# 30'8# Americans, heating is something we can expect in the winter months. But for many Europeans, a warm house relies on warm relations between Ukraine and Russia. And these days, diplomacy in the former Soviet Bloc has been frostier than the weather. Though gas became a contentious issue immediately after Ukraine and Russia parted ways in the early 1990s, a successful agreement was worked out in 2001 to monitor the volume of gas Ukraine was transporting. It wasn’t until Ukraine’s “Orange Revolution” with the ousting of proRussian Leonid Kravkuch and succes sor Viktor Yanukovych that the problems began. Ukraine’s new stated policy of NATO and EU membership led to a break down of trust, and pitted the two countries against each other. Disagreements over gas prices and transportation arose, affect ,-*#*%'#.0P#%::#07#_)20;+=## But while nasty rhetoric and debate can be tolerated, the fact that gas was cut off completely for over a week this winter shows just how tense relations between the /0)-82,+'#(%1+#@+/03+=##C02#"+%2'4#\)'',%# has allowed Ukraine to pay well below market value for gas. But Ukraine’s out spoken determination to join with Europe, coupled with its bold threats to block the Russian navy from using Crimean ports during the Georgian War, has provoked Russia. Of course, in order to resist Rus ',%-# ,-.)+-/+# ,-# 8(+# :0-*# 8+234# ?62%,-+# needs stalwart allies in the US and espe cially Europe. The current gas crisis has severely limited their prospects of acquiring dependable EU support. Europe relies on Russian gas to heat homes and businesses. Despite the fact that such gas disruptions turn public opinion against Russia, they also direct anger at Ukraine. After all, Ukraine’s stubbornness on the issue is just as responsible as Russia’s for the absence of
The Soapbox, March 2009
gas. All this crisis does is show Europe how tense relations between Ukraine and Russia are, and that saving Ukraine is going to be more trouble than it’s worth. Indeed, Russia has too much control over Ukraine for it to be a reliable member of 8(+# )-,0-4# %-$# C2%-/+# %-$# D+23%-"# (%1+# gone so far as to say that they don’t want Ukraine in NATO any time soon. And the United States, militarily overstretched and politically spent, is unlikely to risk its stra
because the south and east of Ukraine are predominantly ethnically Russian. In the event of a major Ukrainian shift towards Europe there is a chance the country could split due to Russianinspired uprisings. Ukraine is between a rock and a hard place. Russia has too much control over Ukraine’s economy and population for it to @+#%@:+#80#@2+%6#077#7203#\)'',%-#,-.)+-/+# without help, and its chances of acquiring outside help are becoming increasingly slim. With the US overstretched and the _?# )-&,::,-*# 80# 523:"# @%/6# ?62%,-+# 702# economic and political reasons, Ukraine’s prospects for getting out from under Rus sia’s thumb are decreasing. Ukraine’s only hope in the short term is that the loss of Russia’s international credibility for con trolling Ukraine outweighs its value as a satellite. But with Russia poised to start drilling in the arctic and constructing a new pipeline bypassing Ukraine, Russia appears to have more tools left to purchase allies. And unfortunately, money tends to talk louder than morals. Spring may be just around the corner, but it looks like this winter’s just beginning.
“Russia controls 90% of Ukraine’s economy and will not be afraid to use its sway to hurt Ukraine if it enacts any unfavorable policies.” tegic goals in Iran and elsewhere by anger ing Russia further. Ukraine seems to be left without any international backers. Not to mention, a lot has changed in the past year. Russia’s moves in Georgia over the summer indicate a more aggres sive strategy, and while the chances of an invasion are slim to none consider ing Ukraine’s size, Russia controls 90% of Ukraine’s economy and will not be afraid to use its sway to hurt Ukraine if it enacts any unfavorable policies. Russia also has an advan t a g e