While BushCo is just back from his quiet weekend vacation allegedly spent contemplating the ruins of his public agenda, his soulmate seems to know what he's got planned for 2006. Step One: Go all Dr. No on the ungrateful former Soviet republic, Ukraine:
Russia cut the flow of natural gas to Ukraine today as talks over pricing and transit terms unraveled into a bald political conflict that carried consequences for Ukraine's recovering economy and possibly gas supplies to Western Europe.
Effects were starting to be felt in Europe tonight. The Hungarian natural gas wholesaler MOL said that deliveries from the affected pipeline were down more than 25 percent, according to Reuters. The news agency added that in Poland, supplies dwindled 14 percent.
Russia wants to more than quadruple the cost of natural gas to Ukraine. Ukraine, trying to maintain a fragile economy would prefer that they did not. But in case you think that an Econ 101 graph explains this:
The dispute involves complex commercial arguments of Gazprom -- the company says it is charging Ukraine a price based on a basket of competing fuels on international exchanges, like diesel and bunker oil. But not far below that lies the embarrassing loss of a Kremlin-backed candidate in last winter's Orange Revolution.
Jonathon Steele had a story in the Guardian last year around the time of the big, U.S.-supported Orange Revolution about Putin's interest in Ukraine:
Ukraine has been turned into a geostrategic matter not by Moscow but by the US, which refuses to abandon its cold war policy of encircling Russia and seeking to pull every former Soviet republic to its side. The EU should have none of this. Many Ukrainians certainly want a more democratic system. Putin is not inherently against this, however authoritarian he is in his own country. What concerns him is instability, the threat of anti-Russian regimes on his borders, and American mischief.
All this is happening with Putin set to assume leadership of the G-8 this year. During his turn at the helm he wants to make energy security his premiere issue, instead of, you know, gay marriage. Okay, that was a cheap shot. I'm just jealous that Russia's crazy leader is so much smarter than ours.
In related news, did you make note of this paragraph from the increasingly famous Speigel story, US Determined to Attack in Iran:
Sources in German security circles told the DDP reporter that Goss had ensured Ankara that the Turkish government would be informed of any possible air strikes against Iran a few hours before they happened. The Turkish government has also been given the "green light" to strike camps of the separatist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) in Iran on the day in question.
That's horrifying for about a million reasons but especially interesting in the context of this post because of something Mr. Energy Security told Blair last year when the two were haggling over global warming and ending poverty in Africa in advance of the G-8 summit:
Mr Putin said he wanted to bring to the world's attention the plight of states such as Kurdistan and Moldova, which were not officially recognised as heavily indebted poor countries.
Correct me if I'm wrong, Sandy, but Kurdistan isn't officially recognized as anything more than a hornets nest that we helped hit with a big ol' stick or, in the best of worlds, a tar baby that will end up getting everyone who touches it stuck for a while, at least long enough for us to get a real president and Congress in place - one that knows how to handle Pooty Poot without starting WWIII.
Related: I would love to know where that Speigel story came from. It's nothing but bad news for BushCo as he struggles to keep Iraq from flying apart. The Kurds are making noise about civil war and now someone is talking about giving Turkey the okay to bomb them in Iran? If I were reading this in a spy novel, I'd be loving it. It's not so great in reality.