Thursday, January 08, 2009

Scripting European Civil War?

Washington Post | Is this really the way to resolve what has been a byzantine bilateral argument over prices and transit fees? Of course not -- but that's not Mr. Putin's objective. The real aim is to advance Russia's aggressive strategy of using its energy exports to divide Europe and undermine those states it still considers its rightful subjects, beginning with Ukraine. Listen to Mr. Putin's ambassador to NATO, Dmitry Rogozin: "It's clear that if Europe wants to have guaranteed natural gas supplies, as well as oil in its pipelines, then it cannot fully rely on its wonderful ally, Mr. Yushchenko." Viktor Yushchenko was democratically elected Ukraine's president in 2004 after a Moscow-backed vote-rigging operation backfired. Like Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, the Ukrainian leader strongly favors the entry of his country into NATO. Mr. Putin responded to Mr. Saakashvili with an invasion last August; now he has launched an offensive against Mr. Yushchenko.

Some in Europe will no doubt buy Mr. Rogozin's argument, just as they blame Mr. Saakashvili for the Russian troops still entrenched on Georgian territory. Like its Georgian counterpart, Ukraine's government has many weaknesses, which Mr. Putin has ruthlessly exploited. But the real message of this cold week is the same that European governments have repeatedly received -- and largely ignored -- in recent years. Mr. Putin's regime plainly intends to use Europe's dependence on Russian energy to advance an imperialist and anti-Western geopolitical agenda. The only rational response is a dramatic acceleration of the European Union's search for alternative sources of energy -- and greater support for those countries that Russia seeks to subjugate.