So the long-running Russia-Ukraine gas crisis is finally over. It was only the day before yesterday that it got going wasn’t it? The Ukraine will pay Russia an agreed price of $230 per 1,000 cubic metres. More interesting is what is in the fine print:
“after including supplies from Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan, Kiev would actually pay $95 per 1,000 cubic metres at its border.The two sides also agreed that Ukraine would receive increased transit fees for the 80 per cent of Russian gas that is pumped to European consumers via the Kiev pipeline.”
So effectively, and after all the fuss, very little will have changed.
Two more details do however stand out:
“on Tuesday there was a growing sense that Russia had overplayed its hand. The International Energy Agency, the consuming nationsâ€™ watchdog, said Russia had damaged its reputation as a reliable supplier. â€œTheyâ€™ve basically shot themselves in the foot,â€ said a consultant who asked not to be identified because he has Russian clients. â€
“Delegates from Naftogaz met their counterparts from Gazprom after Javier Solana, the European Union’s foreign policy representative, on Tuesday urged the countries to resume talks.”
So, in the first place, and as we saw during the Orange Revolution Crisis, when Solana moves the Russians go to work (in the positive sense), ie the EU does have a lot of leverage over Russia, it should be used.
Secondly, the big loser here is Russia. This is even more inexplicable since they evidently knew that Ukraine would siphon gas to make up for any shortfall.
So, as I suggested yesterday, now we know who the losers are, mightn’t it be interesting to ask who the winners are. In part, of course, it is the Ukraine. Viktor Yushchenko has played a trump card and won a battle which lasted all of two days. But who else was the winner, and what drove Putin to adopt such a foot-shooting strategy. These are the questions which we should have in the back of our minds as we quietly turn the page of the great war that wasn’t.