Russia has caused a major crisis throughout much of Europe by radically reducing gas supplies. This was ordered personally by Putin, and is not really about Ukraine’s unpaid gas bill at all. It is about Putin’s desire to force Ukraine back into the Soviet orbit. On the whole, his efforts to regain Russian control over the Former Soviet Union are remarkably succesful.
All of this was entirely predictable:
Only normal business is the last thing Gazprom is involved in. Gazprom is perhaps the most important tool in Putin’s armoury. He keeps a close eye on it. The Chairman of Gazprom is Dmitri Medvedev, First Deputy Prime Minister, close Putin ally and a possible Putin choice for his successor. The Trade, Energy and Foreign Ministers are all represented on the board at ministerial level.
Gazprom has been the instrument by which Putin has reasserted Russian hegemony over the Former Soviet Union, blackmailing European ex-Soviet countries by cutting off energy supplies in winter, and buying up the Central Asian ex-Soviet countries by taking over the heart of their economies.
More surprisingly, Gazprom is key to Putin’s harsh internal control. Mr Kuprianov often appears on the nation’s TV screens, which is easily explained. A year after taking power, Putin decided to stamp out independent media in Russia. When NTV, the only independent national TV channel, was closed down in 2001, it was Gazprom Media who took it over and turned it into a propaganda arm of the Kremlin. Gazprom went on to buy up Russia’s two large independent national newspapers. The last significant remaining one, Kommersant, was bought last November personally by the sinister Uzbek oligarch Alisher Usmanov, chairman of Gazprominvest Holdings. The Editor-in-Chief was immediately sacked while the longstanding defence correspomdent, Igor Safronov, mysteriously fell out of a window three months later
June 1, 2007
I do urge you to read that article. Murders of journalists have intensified since. Putin always uses the Gazprom weapon during periods of freezing weather; this kills people as surely as military action. It is also extremely clever. European countries are already turning against Ukraine, particularly Putin’s poodle, Angela Merkel. As Putin pulls a struggling Ukraine back into his neo-Soviet orbit, Germany is giving it a push.