Public opinion in energy politics may be entirely moot. Here in the U.S., high gas prices prompted plenty of outcry, but it was demand destruction and the tailspin of speculative money out of oil markets that brought pump prices down.
In Russia, where last week I highlighted the official view put out by RIA Novosti, the public isn’t even given a chance to say whether Ukraine may be in the right regarding natural gas supplies.
Here are the choices RIA put in a readers’ poll Monday:
Really? Ukraine will either disintegrate in the near future, or the EU will take the long-term strategy of bypassing Russia? These are the choices?
Leave alone the nonsense of the EU trying to bypass Russian gas export problems by building pipelines around the country… Where would the gas then originate? Caspian Sea oil and gas are already on their way to western markets through a BP-backed project that originates in Azerbaijan. Russia would still remain the world’s top reserve holder, so EU end-runs would only block out a major supplier.
These options indicate not only a complete sense of moral, political, and economic virtue on Russia’s part, but also a contempt for the country of Ukraine as it currently exists.
The eastern part of Ukraine is indeed Russian-speaking, and the Orange Revolution a few years back focused on wresting control from Moscow loyalists in that region, back to ethnic Ukrainians who had been boxed out of Kiev power circles for nearly a century.
Whether or not it’s in quotation marks as above, this is a gas war.
And from Russian attitudes, it seems destined to be a war of attrition with little more than temporary truces as intermediate measures.
Tuesday morning, Gazprom and Russian national officials opened the valves, nearly a week after shutting off Russian gas throughput to Ukraine. Hours later, Moscow accused Kiev of stealing that very gas, citing that no gas had gotten to the easternmost EU states of Slovakia and Bulgaria.
"Ukraine has not tapped a single cubic meter of gas either in 2009 or 2008," Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko returned on Tuesday, as the rhetorical madness continues and Europe is threatened with frozen pipes for another day, or week.
Check out my Green Chip Review article from January 8, where I lay out the case for a renewable energy response to the Russia-Ukraine gas war: New EU Targets Move Towards Energy Security.