Skip to comments.Russia's pipeline to Empire
Posted on 12/15/2005 8:36:20 PM PST by Tailgunner Joe
Gerhard Schroeder, who less than a month ago was Germany's chancellor, has agreed to become chairman of the company that is building a gas pipeline from Russia, across the Baltic Sea to Germany, and on through Western Europe. In many countries, Schroeder would now be charged with the crime of conflict of interest. His apparent ethical lapse is magnified by the fact that, at this very moment, Russia is threatening to cut off Ukraine's gas supplies if that country does not give in to the pricing demands of the Kremlin's state-owned gas behemoth, Gazprom.
Russia's strategic task is obvious: cutting off Ukraine's gas currently means cutting off much of Europe's gas as well, because some of its biggest gas pipelines pass through Ukraine. By circumventing Ukraine, Poland and, of course, the Baltic countries, the new pipeline promises greater leverage to the Kremlin as it seeks to reassert itself regionally. Russian President Vladimir Putin and his administration of ex-KGB clones will no longer have to worry about Western Europe when deciding how hard to squeeze Russia's postcommunist neighbors.
Should Europe really be providing Putin with this new imperial weapon? Worse, might Russia turn this weapon on an energy-addicted EU? That a German ex-chancellor is going to lead the company that could provide Russia with a means to manipulate the EU economy is testimony to Europe's dangerous complacency in the face of Putin's neo-imperialist ambitions.
Certainly Russia's media are aware of Europe's growing dependence on Russian energy. Indeed, they revel in it: after we integrate and increase our common gas business, Russian editorialists write, Europe will keep silent about human rights. Putin expresses this stance in a more oblique way with his commitment to pursuing what he calls an "independent policy." What he means by that is that Russia is to be "independent" of the moral and human rights concerns of the Western democracies.
Perhaps some European leaders really do believe that maintaining the EU's cozy prosperity justifies silencing ourselves on human rights and other issues that annoy the Kremlin. Of course, we may speak up, briefly, about "commercial" matters like the expropriation of Yukos, but if the Kremlin puts a price on our values or criticism of Russian wrongdoing -- as in, say, bloodstained Chechnya -- Europeans seem willing to shut up rather than face the possibility of higher energy prices, or even a blockade like that now facing Ukraine.
As Putin shuffles his court, subordinating the Duma to his will, the EU's hopes for a growing "Europeanization" of Russia should be abandoned. The Russia that Putin is building has mutated from the post-Soviet hopes of freedom into an oil and gas bulwark for his new model ex-KGB elite. Indeed, Matthias Warnig, the chief executive of the pipeline consortium that Schroeder will chair, is a longtime Putin friend. The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this year that Warnig, who heads Dresdner Bank's Russian arm, was an officer in the Stasi, the East German secret police, and met Putin in the late 1980's when the Russian president was based in East Germany as a KGB spy.
That Russians tolerate a government of ex-KGB men, for whom lack of compassion and intolerance of dissent are the norm, reflects their exhaustion from the tumult of the last 20 years. Now the Kremlin seems to think that what is good for ordinary Russians is good for independent nations as well: small and weak countries will be shown no mercy once Russia is given the tools to intimidate, isolate, and threaten them with the prospect of an energy blockade. As a former Head of State of newly independent Lithuania, I frequently endured such threats.
The EU has signed numerous agreements with Russia including one for a "common space" for freedom and justice. The Kremlin is very good at feigning such idealism. Its control of Eastern Europe was always enforced on the basis of "friendship treaties," and the Soviet invasions of Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968 were "fraternal" missions.
But look how Putin abuses that "common" space: barbaric treatment of Chechens, the businessman Mikhail Khodorkovsky jailed, foreign NGO's hounded, a co-leader of last year's Orange Revolution, Yuliya Tymoshenko, indicted by Russian military prosecutors on trumped-up charges. If Europeans are serious about human rights and freedoms, they must recognize that those values are not shared by Putin's Kremlin.
The same is true of viewing Russia as an ally in the fight against terrorism. Is it really conceivable that the homeland of the "Red Terror" with countless unpunished crimes from the Soviet era, and which bears traces of blood from Lithuania to the Caucasus, will provide reliable help in stopping Iran and North Korea from threatening the world? It seems more likely that the Kremlin's cold minds will merely exploit each crisis as an opportunity to increase their destructive power and influence.
For decades, my region of Europe was left to the mercy of evil. So I cannot sit back in silence as Europe stumbles blindly into a new appeasement. We, the new democracies of Eastern Europe, have been taught by our legacy that behind Russia's every diplomatic act lurks imperial ambition.
Western Europeans, who have been spared this legacy, should heed our warnings. Dependence on Russia -- even if its face is now that of the allegedly "charismatic" Gerhard Schroeder -- will only lead to an abyss.
Would you buy a used car from these men?
GS is welcomed home. Not surprising in the least. The FRkomrades will be responding soon, and that will be very interesting, to say the least. Good thread post, Tailgunner Joe!
I'm not sure the RussiaFirst gang really wants to address the subject of Herr Schroder and M'seur Poutine's love affair.
lol...nor their own- with both!
another hypocritical limousine liberal.
Let's see, the Ukraine is objecting to paying the price increase from $50 to $160 per 1,000 cubic meters for gas. The Russians are going to be collecting $255 from the other European countries in 2006. It appears to me Russia is being more than fair to the Ukraine.
I fully expect a 200% increase in gas price would elict some protest, by any reasonable measure of sanity. What you fail to mention, is, was there an similar increase in the EURO rate?
I fully realize the jump from $50 to $160 is a shock, but the Ukranians need to adjust to market prices. The gas rates for the Ukraine was subsidized by Russia for many years. The Russians are also paying the Ukranians for transit fees for the gas shipped across their country to Europe, and the latter have been guilty of siphoning off a large percentage of the gas and reselling it. I did mention that the European rate was going to $255.
Yes, Gary, you did mention the the Euro rate being $255 in 2006. Now, you say it is "going" to $255. So, I ask again- what is the percentage increase for the Euro gas market?
Katch ya later...
So, GS will help bring the market to the line? Remember, we are talking about a gov't contrived market, and it was set up to offer certain political benefit in country.
I ask you- if what you say is true- then is the mark-up to the Ukraine comparable to Gary's suggested Euro 2006 projection? I know, Gary stated it as fact, I am being polite to him and you, for the moment.
I would buy oil from Putin. I personally think it's short-sighted for our government to be acting as though Russia is still our enemy.
He who has the last barrell of oil, controls the world.
Bush has gone out of his way to say that Putin is his bosom buddy. And things went well during the Afghan War, when Putin let us use air bases to the south of Russia in former soviet republics.
Putin continued to back Saddam to the last, and probably helped truck the MSMs out the back door, but that could be excused, since it was a long-term relationship.
Helping Iran build nuclear weapons and providing them with missiles is not so helpful. Nor was the poisoning of the prospective head of state in Ukraine. Nor was the probable assassination in Georgia. Nor is the presence of Russian troops stirring up trouble in Georgia and near Rumania.
This is Russia's back yard, and they have a reasonable right to keep potential threats out of it. But Putin seems bent on reconstructing the USSR, and that is not healthy for anyone, including Russia.
I have no complaint against Russia adjusting its sales prices of natural gas to the market, but I fear that they may also use it as leverage to expand their political power southward and westward.
Yes, I would buy Russian natural gas at market prices, but no, I would not want to become too reliant on it.
Lately Putin, due to our rebuff, has switched by claiming Russia is Islams best friend. Not good news.
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