Thursday, August 02, 2007

Gazprom is at it again

They say it is because Belarus has not been keeping the payments up and that is almost certainly true up to a point. After all, you sign a contract, you stick to it. But somehow, none of this mattered as long as the country and its ineffable leader, Alexander Lukashenka, stuck to a strictly pro-Russian line. Now that he has become a little unreliable in his pronouncements, contracts become very important.

As things stand Gazprom is all set to cut supplies to Belarus by 45 per cent as of today. Of course, there is a slightly bigger problem of the pipe that runs through the country and delivers about 20 per cent of the gas to Western Europe. Will Belarus do what Ukraine did and swore that it did not, that is, skim some of those supplies for their own purpose?

Whenever this happens there are calls across Western Europe to diversify the energy supplies so we do not have to rely on Russia, which is becoming more and more unpredictable in her behaviour. (The words North Pole spring to mind.)

There is no question that the much-vaunted restored Russian economic and political power depends entirely on energy supplies. They do sell arms but there is no particular evidence that their clients, Iran for instance, are becoming reliable allies.

On the other hand, Russia’s income and the consequent power exercised by Putin and the siloviki come from gas and oil. Her political power, when not exercised over polar bears in the North Pole depends on bullying neighbouring countries, often through the use of energy supplies, and contrariness in other forums such as the UN.

Over Kosovo, it seems, Russia has overplayed her hand and will, most likely, be by-passed in the future. This will add to their feeling of having every country’s hand against them that is being skilfully cultivated by Putin and his henchmen.

By the way, if the Russians really do take charge of the North Pole, then the presently growing population of polar bears probably will disappear.

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