Monday, December 05, 2005

The Energy Lever and Ukraine

Celeste Wallander, talking to RFE/RL about Moscow and energy leverage:
...But energy -- both oil and natural gas -- provide a different sort of support for Russia's foreign-policy ambitions as a great power -- which is, leverage in political relationships to the extent that oil and natural gas are desirable and even necessary resources for Russia's neighbors and even for partners across the globe. It's a source of potential leverage for Russia in its relationships with specific countries.

RFE/RL: And you mentioned that Russia wants to use this energy leverage to prevent change in neighboring countries, specifically, colored revolutions. In Ukraine, the colored revolution has already happened. Why is Russia suddenly using its leverage after the fact?

Wallander: Although there were free and fair elections in Ukraine last year that resulted in the election of President [Viktor] Yushchenko, who favors policies toward Western integration, toward European integration, and a closer relationship with the United States and more distance from Russia, it is certainly not the case that change can never happen in Ukraine again. Since Ukraine is now establishing itself as a democracy, the next round of elections could well result in a different leadership. For example, in the March 2006 elections, it is entirely possible that former Prime Minister [Viktor] Yanukovych's party will win a plurality, if not a majority of the vote. So, since that election will determine the composition of the new government, particularly the prime minister, it is certainly possible that if Ukrainian citizens were discontented with the results of President Yushchenko's policies and the direction that Ukraine has gone in of late that they could well support former Prime Minister Yanukovych, who has a different set of policies when it comes to dealing with Russia.

RFE/RL: So...[I think] Gazprom is an arm of the Kremlin.... Would you agree with that?

Wallander: I think that certainly since the end of the Soviet Union, Gazprom has been heavily influenced by the Russian government and now, with the Russian government taking, in effect, majority ownership of Gazprom, it is fair to say that Gazprom is an arm of the Kremlin, yes.
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