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Sunday, February 04, 2007

Divvying Up the Pipeline, or a TroYan Horse for Ukraine’s Last Line of Defense

Here’s another one from the Proffessor posse — a stake swap. Presumably, the stewards of our economy are itching to swap a 50 percent stake in the Ukrainian gas pipeline for a dose of exploration rights on Russian territory.

In the civilized business world, stake swaps have become a popular way of sharing risks and benefits to achieve desired results. A growing body of evidence suggests, however, that a stake swap with Russia may be different. Be careful who you swapping with.

Speaking at a press conference Thursday, GasPutin reasserted Russia’s right to demand market rates for the energy it supplies. He then complained about neighboring countries’ reciprocal efforts to make fair pricing the norm for the transit services they provide.

He did mention the swap proposal, though, calling it "revolutionary." So, using Putin as his spokesman — not an uncommon trick — Yanukovych sends a clear message to stakeholders in Ukraine: We’re out to get cheap gas at all costs; we’ll borrow, beg, or swap.

If they asked him at Davos, “How do you spell innovation?” he’d probably answer “in-NO-WAY-shen!” And he’d be damn right. So much for all that crap about modernization and energy efficiency! Donbas will stick to its guns. The only “Better living today” was yesterday. Yeeha! Here we are, a Cinderella sweatshop right in the geographic center of Europe, a proletarian preserve fresh out of “Das Kapital” and “Oliver Twist.” That we should not count on Yanukovych’s readership of these texts is as certain as his role in perpetuating the characters behind them.

Proponents of the swap are flirting with a Trojan Horse designed to neutralize our last line of defense against the Energy Empire. No pipeline, no bargaining power. It’s as simple as that. Vlad the Impaler is waiting for his chance. A thumbs-up from Russian Orthodox clergy will be forthcoming. (Or have the votaries of the Third Rome already rebranded themselves to Gazpromans, that is, members of the Order of Gazprom?)

Back to business, here’s what happened to the Sakhalin project.

Europeans, perhaps with the rare exception of Schroeder, have expressed little admiration for the Kremlin’s predatory policies. Unless Europe secretly worships Gazprom as the god of gas, it must help Ukraine resist proselytization efforts aimed at swapping the welfare of the many for the wealth of the few.

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