The efforts which the Czech Presidency has made to handle the gas crisis are commendable and necessary. But just mediating one crisis after another is not the solution. EU cannot remain in the role of baby-sitter for an enfant terrible. Clearly the EU's long term interests differ from those of the Russian ruling elite.
One conclusion is obvious: counting on a mutually beneficial strategic alliance with Russia as a reliable provider of gas and oil is a strategic miscalculation. Russia has shown itself as an unreliable partner who is focussed first and foremost on its own political interests at the expense of its partners and neighbours.
The root cause of the current crisis is not Ukraine but the crisis within Gazprom – which has been politically misused as a foreign policy bulldozer of the Russian state and which has failed to live up to its own commitments.
For eight consecutive years the gas production of Gazprom has been stagnating on the same level – the typical result of political state control over production. Not being able simultaneously to deliver gas to Russian customers and also to meet commitments abroad is probably the reason Mr. Putin has initiated a political crisis and is trying to make Ukraine the scapegoat. Such irresponsible improvisations by Kremlin make even more clear the unreliability of current Russian leadership as strategic partners.
The International Herald Tribune (January 12, 2009) quotes Ludmil Lazaroc, the Bulgarian managing: "Russia claims that it has a quarrel with Ukraine. But they have punished all the Europe." He concludes: "We can no longer look at Russia as our ally."
It is imperative for the EU to make maximum efforts to find alternative energy resources and suppliers.
Strasbourg, January 13, 2009
On the Russia - Ukraine gas crisis