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Thursday, January 5. 2006
Russia and the Ukraine: It's not about gas or money - it's about rebuilding the Russian Empire
The below article is from Stratfor Geopolitical Intelligence, a subscription service at Strategic Forecasting, Inc., at www.stratfor.com (with permission):
Politically and militarily, a Russia denied Ukraine cannot easily project power into the Northern Caucasus. Nor could Moscow reliably exert control over Belarus, since that country's primary water transport route, the Dnieper, flows south to Ukraine, and it is nearly as well linked into Poland and the Baltics as it is to Russia proper. That geographic reality means that, should anything happen to the government of pro-Russian President Alexander Lukashenko, Minsk's geopolitical orientation could quite easily shift to match Ukraine's.
Russia's Thin WedgeUkraine's position in the natural gas dispute has been to take advantage of the fundamental duality in Russian foreign policy. On one hand, the Russian leadership fully realizes just how critical Ukraine is to its national interests. But on the other hand, Russia must have at least relatively warm relations with the Europeans -- if for no reason other than to keep its options open.
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Many are labeling Russia’s pressure on Ukraine to pay market prices for natural gas as “Cold War” tactics. Of course, the Ukrainian government is paying the full price for their anti-Russian rhetoric and pro-Western orientation. Russia is flexing the only muscles she has: natural resources. But, it’s not so much a message to the Ukraine as to the West. And it’s not so much “Cold War” as Realist geo-politics.
Putin quickly realized that Russia only has one card to play in today’s world of growing demand for natural resources. Domestically, this realization became clear with the takeover of the Yukos oil company. Disguised as retribution for legal transgressions, Putin removed the threat of a western-oriented Yukos
by imprisoning its managers, and paved the way for a predictable government takeover of Russia’s oil industry. Today, it is not so clear what the rules of oil investment are (i.e. no foreigner shall hold majority stock in a Russian oil company), but it is very clear who makes the rules.
Thanks for the comment. I agree that it is not a cold war issue. Just old-fashioned geopolitics.