Monday, February 27, 2006

Vladimir Putin: The lost Correleone brother?

Jackson Diehl's article in today's Washington Post should serve as a sobering reminder of who Vladimir Putin really is: the ex-KGB station chief of East Berlin. Doing his best Vito Correleone impression, he made the Ukranians an offer they couldn't refuse. Well, actually he made them two offers. The first, which Orange Revolution beneficiary Viktor Yushchenko ultimately rejected, was a mid-winter spike in natural gas prices thanks to Putin's meddling with its flow out of Russia. The second option, which Yuschenko chose, allows a cadre of Russian underworld figures operating out of Switzerland to control part of the Ukraine's energy infrastructre, but keeps prices stable for the economically depressed country. Situated at a vital crossroads of the Eurasian natural gas market, Ukraine is able to dictate how accessible natural gas is to the rest of Europe to the west. If this deal is any indication, the battle for the natural resources of Eastern Europe and Central Asia will have broad consequences in the future, and it does not appear as though Russia is prepared to stand idly by while the Americans, Chinese, and Indians fight to the death to fuel their economies.