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Putin's energy Putin's energy
by Thanos Kalamidas
2006-10-23 09:57:04
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What has already been predicted from the '50s, mainly from mad scientists and science fiction films, is the energy crisis, which is a reality here and now. In another of today's article, Christopher Wilkinson is also wondering "What is the death toll per barrel today? "

Everybody can see that there is a limit in oil and the end is not lost in time, but is calculated so well that the American administration is ready to pay the cost with human lives and total environmental destruction like the one planned for Alaska. The Europeans, from their side, stand in the middle, literally in the middle. For a long time they have tried to talk about alternative energy resources, but somehow they don't feel confident with them, mainly because the use of alternative energy resources demands another series of environmentally friendly moves, plus control and reduction of production - something that none of the European governments are ready to accept and do.

So what's left is OPEC and Russia. OPEC is a very weird club, including wealthy countries like Saudi Arabia and poverty-stricken countries like Nigeria; in both cases, an already mythically rich minority controls prices and lives. Furthermore, this minority can judge timing for increasing or decreasing prices that have decently moved sky-high the last two decades breaking price records every two months.

This year the war in Iraq and its continuing civil war have pushed the oil prices to impossible heights for the poor with the result being that many European governments, while expecting the winter, have started thinking of ways to help the poor with coupons or subsidies.

But these moves will only temporarily cover the problem and next year it will appear even bigger, so it reliance moves closer to Putin's Russia. Obviously, over the last twenty years from Yeltsin's Russia to Putin's, many things have changed and many things have remained the same. One of the things that remained the same is Russia's thirst to become the superpower that it used to be, by controlling countries and its situation.

One of the things that have changed is the rules of the game and even the game itself. It used to be force, but it has now become energy and politics, with the master preacher of that being President Putin, who somehow represents what the average Russian wants and hopes. At this moment, he has the perfect product to sell: natural gas.

Gas is environmentally friendly to reassure the powerful European environmentalists and definitely cheaper. There is only one catch: the need to construct a series of pipelines to distribute the gas and the Europeans are willing to do so to a certain degree.

President Putin is very aware how wonderful his product is and how much the Europeans want it, so he adds some more extra things that he always wants. For example, Russia is very interested in the European missile defence system, something like the American Star Wars programme but in its European edition. Russia would never like to be in the middle of two defence systems like that, so what's better than joining one of them and since the Americans are out of question, let's try the Europeans.

The Europeans see this very same president strangling Georgia for the very same product. This has led the two countries into a series of acts that are not far from a declaration of war. They look suspiciously at him while he's leading the closure of the NGOs working inside the federation and trying to put a further control upon the others, while the killings of reporters who were vocally against him make the west a bit touchy. Added to that, President Putin refuses to sign the European Charta for Human Rights. You may ask, how can we talk with Saudi Arabia, one of the most disgusting dictatorships, and we cannot talk with Russia, which has proved in many ways a democratic attitude? I think what makes the difference is the unpredictable behaviour of President Putin.

Nobody was expecting that he would push things so far with Georgia and everybody is wondering what will happen if Russia becomes the main energy provider of Europe one day - who wants to be an easy victim to Putin's blackmails, the man who has the key to the tap? President Putin has more issues to negotiate with Europe if Europe wants natural gas. Ukraine, keep your hands away from Ukraine, that's another message.

The European partners don't feel very comfortable now, especially with President Putin. For example, just a few months before the end of his term former chancellor Gerhard Schroeder signed a contract with the major Russian state oil company. After his resignation from the SDP, he becomes the chairman of the board of the north European gas company, a cooperation between Europeans and Russians mainly under Russian control, which is something that doesn't make Angela Merkel feel very comfortable.

In the south, there are more issues. There is already a decision to build a pipeline that will go from Bulgaria, across Greece to Italy, but then the south European 'partners' found out that they had to pay for the construction with too little help from Russia. All they have are promises to help in future plans from the equal good of all the countries and that they have to use EU funds if they want to be ready on time.

This is something that brought obvious reaction from the other partners, especially from France and the UK. On top of that, they found out that the pipelines will belong to Russia and nobody else will have any right to them for at least a hundred years. Austria and most of the east European countries lived very closely to the blackmail of Georgia over gas prices, never forgetting the old issues some of them have with the Russian bear.

As an EU official said the other day to reporters, the Finnish president couldn't have chosen a worse timing to invite Putin, who will come preaching about the environment, selling Gazprom's gas plans and trying to get the most in exchange. Oddly, with the very personal style president Putin has adopted in the last few years, he will be perfect as a villain in an old science fiction film with energy as the central theme.

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eva2006-10-22 14:48:25
Well written.
I needed that ;)

Thanos2006-10-22 20:45:10
I said thank you for the chance!!! :)

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