January 16, 2007

Yuliya Tymoshenko on Russia's Place in Europe

Yuliya Tymoshenko has been a controversial figure within Ukrainian politics, one of the architects of the Orange Revolution in the Ukraine she later fell out with the present President Viktor Yushchenko. Today though she has written a this article about Russia's place in the new European security world based upon both NATO and EU enlargement.

Much of the article is incredibly general- we are asked to back Russian independence, the independence of the former Soviet states like the Ukraine and the normalisation of Russian relations with other countries. The difficulty is getting there and Tymoshenko seems to me to answer all the easy questions and leave the difficult ones- how to do things, how to balance Russian against minority nationalisms and how to deal with the Russian minorities inside the former Soviet states like the Ukraine and Estonia? All questions she leaves floating in the air.

Where she is more interesting to a western reader is in the rebukes that she administers to Gazprom. Not only does she attack the idea that Gazprom functions as a normal company and calls for European intervention (how?) to make it function like a normal company- a fairly conventional standpoint- but she also points to another issue. Tymoshenko argues that Gazprom has not invested in its own infrastructure and consequently will be unable to meet both domestic and European demand in the future. She argues that Russia may not be a reliable partner in supplying Europe with gas, not merely because of political interference like that recently seen in the Ukraine, but because of incapacity to continue supplies. It may be that she has her own interests in putting this line- political or even commercial given her own interests in Ukrainian energy companies in the 1990s.

I'd welcome more information on that last point- if true it is very worrying both for Europe and for Russia and the way that our relations develop into the future.


james higham said...

...She argues that Russia may not be a reliable partner in supplying Europe with gas...

You can't read anything into Timoshenko's comments as she is representing one side in the argument. The comment about infrastructure is fair though and Russia relies too much on the 'here and now', the reality of oil money and Russia's amazing international clout in Europe.

Witness Germany coming cap in hand. But this bravado is not investing in infrastructure and Russia must learn this lesson on corporate practice.

Ellee said...

What an interesting story and an interesting woman. I certainly hope we never have to rely on Russia for our oil supply.

Gracchi said...

James I have to say I agree with you about Tymoshenko I was very conscious writing this that she does have an axe to grind but the infrastructure issue for me is an interesting one. Thanks Ellee I would rather not depend on Putin either but who knows what the future holds.

Anonymous said...

It's sort of scary how stacked the discourse around Gazprom tends to be. It's worth digging around for some of Jerome a Paris writing on the issue at www.eurotrib.com if you want more perspective.

Basically, issues to note:

1) Gazprom's infrastructure investment is (just like Exxon's) tied to the long term supply contracts that they negotiate.

2) There's an enormous movement in the FT and other places at this moment to "liberalize the European energy market" with a particular focus on ending long term supply contracts between German/French/Italian energy companies and Gazprom because they don't sell on to Centrica when we in the UK are short on gas. (Thay being the way long term contracts work.)

3) The Ukrainians, including Tymoshenko all want us to pressure Gazprom to give Ukraine a better deal. It's really important that we think carefully about whether or not it is in our interest to do so.

Gracchi said...

Thanks anonymous for supplying some context I have to say this is an area I'm ignorant in I'll have a look at those articles you reccomend

james higham said...

Where did you get the smashing pic from? I have some of my own but yours is - well, did you go over and take it?