The ongoing row between Russia and Ukraine over natural gas supplies to Europe appears to be deepening. This comes just days after the European Union announced what was supposed to be a breakthrough agreement to get gas flowing again to at least 15 European countries, leaving millions in the cold.
EurActiv.com reports that the ongoing crisis between Moscow and Kiev appears to be a strategy of “delusion, reminiscent of the Cold War.”
Along those lines, an official at the Russian state gas monopoly Gazprom went so far as to accuse the U.S. of meddling in what has become a serious political crisis, going so far as to say “It looks like [the Ukrainians] are dancing [to] music that is not orchestrated in Ukraine.”
The EurActiv.com story also notes that there could now be added political as well as economic fallout for both countries:
“The standoff is now turning into a deep political crisis in Ukraine, after Moscow and Kiev exchanged accusations that shattered the credibility of Russia as an energy supplier and of Ukraine as a reliable partner to the West.”
In a recent interview with Mike Schneider of Bloomberg TV, outgoing Secretary of State Rice seconded the notion that Russia’ credibility as an energy supplier has been severely tarnished in the feud, “Europe cannot continue to be dependent on Russian oil and gas or they’re going to get into these problems from time to time.”
The Wall Street Journal reports today that the Bulgarian and Slovakian prime ministers are to meet with their counterparts in Moscow and Kiev, in a trip apparently uncoordinated by the European Union.
The WSJ also points out just how high the stakes are for states heavily dependent on Russia for energy supplies:
“Bulgaria, which depends on Russia for virtually all its gas, has barely two days of reserves. Slovakia has vowed, despite EU objections, that it was ready to restart an aging Soviet nuclear power plant if gas supplies aren’t restored quickly.”
Regardless of whether gas is flowing by Inauguration Day in the U.S., this is sure to be an early test for American foreign policy under the Obama Administration, as well as an ongoing challenge for the new Czech EU presidency.
Mr. Bell is a U.S. Fulbright Fellow to Austria, and MPA student at Seattle University.