Now, its Russia’s Turn for the Chills
Last winter, Russia sent chills down the spines of Europe’s huddled masses by turning off the spigots for the region’s heating gas, using a conflict with Ukraine as pretext. Though Russia may have felt powerful in the short term, in the long term this may have been the single most costly of Vladimir Putin’s innumerable policy errors.
That’s because the result was the announcement last week of a deal between a group of major European nations, signed in Turkey, to build a brand new gas pipleline called Nabucco (after an opera by Verdi) which will circumvent Russia and allow Europe to draw on the stocks of Central Asia. In a final cruel cut, the Nabucco line will begin pumping gas in 2014, the same year Russia expects to host the winter Olympic games in Sochi.
And that wasn’t the end of Russia’s nightmare.
A few days later, Turkmenistan announced that it was hitching its wagon to the Nabucco train as well, giving the cartel a direct like to the most powerful Central Asian producer, a country Russia has relentlessly tried to monopolize. Whereas a short time ago many Russophiles were talking about Russian power in Central Asia, now it appears Russia’s influence in the region has collapsed. First Kyrgyztan repudiated Russia’s efforts to drive out the Amerrican militar base it hosts, and now Turkmenistan’s crucial gas fields are being moved into European hands. Azerbaijan also came on board, making it seem as if the entire region was toppling like dominos.
Just months ago, the Nabucco project was literally a pipe dream. Now, it is reality. Did Russia realize this would happen when it tried to bomb Georgian children into oblivion and attempted to freeze Ukrainian children in their beds? Are Russia’s frenzied imperial desires regarding these two small countries really worth having its energy market in Europe shut down, the entire continent polarized against Russia for all time?
No rational person could think so. Russia’s entire domestic economy, already brutalized by a massive and unprecedented crisis and facing double-digit unemploment and inflation, depends utterly on sales of gas and oil. The Kremlin’s crazed behavior has created a situation which can only reduce the price customers are willing to pay for Russian gas, the exact opposite of the policy Russia should be pursuing. The Kremlin’s ham-handed, shortsighted mismanagment of Russia’s foreign policy has left the country standing on the brink of absolute disaster.