Saturday, January 07, 2006

The Quiet Americans

Perhaps predictably, the official U.S. response to the Ukraine-Russia gas scandal has been rather muted. Apart from Sean McCormack's New Year's Day press statement from the State Department, there hasn't been much comment from Washington. On Thursday, however, the Secretary of State stepped in (RFE/RL "Newsline", January 6):
U.S. CRITICIZES RUSSIA OVER GAS DISPUTE WITH UKRAINE... U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in Washington on 5 January that Russia was wrong to launch its recent "politically motivated" natural-gas dispute with Ukraine and warned Moscow to stick to international rules, Reuters reported. "The game just can't be played [by making arbitrary changes]," she said, adding that "when you say you want to be a part of the international economy and you want to be a responsible actor in the international economy, then you play by its rules." Rice feels that international attention will be paid to the "distance between Russia's behavior on something like this and what would be expected by a leader of the G-8," whose rotating chair Russia now holds (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 January 2006). She pointed out that Moscow launched the gas dispute "with an obvious political motive" and noted that "it was ironic and not good that they [cut back supplies on 1 January], the day they became G-8 chairman." PM
This drew the inevitable response from the Russian side:
A Russian Foreign Ministry statement called Rice's comments "baseless" and said her remarks were "met with surprise" in Moscow.
With few exceptions, The U.S. blogosphere has also remained noticeably quiet about the gas war. It's possible to speculate on reasons for this, and they include the usual lingering reluctance of many centre-right and right-wing U.S. political commentators to criticize the Federal Russian "ally", who is still supposed to be of value in the global fight against terror. There is also the traditional conservative respect for the "free market", and the suspicion held by some U.S. conservatives that Ukraine was trying to get out of paying its gas bill. All the pointers in the world that there's little sign of a free market in Putin's bullying tactics, and every sign of a return to Soviet-style pressure politics, will not be enough to convince those observers in the United States who still sincerely believe that their country "won the Cold War".

Of those U.S. blogs that have covered the crisis in some depth - though after the event - Publius Pundit has perhaps the most interesting and in-depth analysis.
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