Squaring the Culture




"...and I will make justice the plumb line, and righteousness the level;
then hail will sweep away the refuge of lies,
and the waters will overflow the secret place."
Isaiah 28:17

01/07/2009 (11:40 am)

Eye on Ukraine

Remember when Republican presidential candidate John McCain, during debates with foreign policy neophyte Barack Obama, kept saying “Keep your eye on Ukraine?” I kept wanting to reply, “Ok, my eye’s on them, what am I looking for?” Turns out the old guy knew what he was talking about. So did Dick Cheney and a number of world leaders, who rushed to Kiev after Russia invaded South Ossetia and Abkhazia in Georgia last summer.

Suddenly this week, Russia is having disputes with Ukraine over shipments of natural gas to Europe in the dead of winter. As you can see from the map to the right (borrowed from BBC News,) all the major pipelines from Russian gas fields to central and western Europe pass through Ukraine.

First, Russia threatened to triple the price of natural gas to Ukraine, allegedly a response to Ukraine discussing becoming a member of NATO and/or the European Union (it seems that the Ukraine has been paying subsidized prices for natural gas, apparently a hold-over from the days when both Ukraine and Russia were members of the Soviet Union. More on this below.) Next, Russia accused Ukraine of siphoning gas from the lines without paying; Ukraine says they’re simply buffering gas to smooth transshipments into Western Europe. Today, Russia claims Ukraine simply stopped all gas from reaching Europe, with Ukrainian engineers counter-charging that Russia shut off the gas. Russia and the Ukraine are holding talks, but appear to be at a standoff.

From page 2 of yesterday’s Washington Post article:

Gazprom [the Russian gas monopoly] said Ukraine shut down three export pipelines without warning Tuesday, forcing Russia to cut deliveries to one-seventh their normal levels. Naftogaz, Ukraine’s state energy firm, denied the accusation, saying it was Russia that halted deliveries through the pipelines.

“We did not turn anything off. There is simply no gas there,” said Naftogaz spokesman Valentyn Zemlyansky.

The reductions came a day after Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin accused Ukraine of stealing fuel meant for other countries and ordered Gazprom to cut deliveries using Ukrainian pipelines in retaliation.

Meanwhile, European nations are freezing. Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Macedonia, Romania, Serbia and Turkey said gas from Russia coming through Ukraine stopped altogether Tuesday, and 12 other countries reported major reductions, according to today’s Washington Post story. Some Bulgarian cities are completely without heat. The European Union is proving its value by calling the situation “completely unacceptable.”

Mind you, no money ever changed hands between Ukraine and Russia for gas; Russia sends their gas without charge, and receives in return use of Ukraine’s transshipment pipelines into Europe and use of Ukraine’s ports on the Black Sea for their naval vessels. The two countries have been attempting to negotiate a natural gas consortium since 2000, to replace the current agreement for use of the gas lines that is set to expire in 2013. Ukraine has been relying on cheap natural gas since the breakup of the Soviet Union, but has done nothing to wean itself away from it since then. Their economy is addicted to subsidized gas, and might not survive a sudden shift to market pricing.

Sounds to me as though Comrade Putin is picking a fight. NPR suggests Putin is attempting to affect Ukrainian elections that are scheduled to take place in March, but I suspect there is more afoot. Putin appears to have his own idea of how the borders for the nations in the Caucasus should look. So far, the Bush administration has said “No, we’re not going to let you simply redraw the map.” Soon it will be Obama’s turn. How long do you suppose it will be before Russian troops step over the border into Ukraine and annex some part of it?

11/05/2008 (4:20 pm)

Respect Around the World

Russia did not waste any time; Soviet President Medvedev announced today that he intends to deploy short-range missiles in the Baltic to counter the proposed US missile defense shield in Eastern Europe.

Reality gives fantasy no time to relax. Democrats pretended for the last 8 years that President Bush had ruined our reputation overseas. This was never true; the only support for it was the opposition by France, Germany, and Russia to our UN initiatives toward Iraq before the invasion in 2003, which turned out to be positions greased by Saddam Hussein’s graft money in the Oil-For-Food scandal. European socialists always scream bloody murder when there’s a Republican President in the White House, because Republicans are effective in opposing the aims of World Socialism.

Not so Democrats. Today we discover that the Russians truly respected George W. Bush, despite the lies of America’s internal enemies. They did not propose offensive missiles in the Baltic until Bush’s policies had been repudiated by the electorate. They proposed them immediately as soon as they knew they were dealing with a Democrat and a novice. They will not negotiate with President Bush; they’ll wait until he steps down.

What foreign governments don’t respect is Democrats. They talk nicely about them because they want more of them; they know them to be weak and ineffective.

The world has just become a more dangerous place.