With its energy dispute with Ukraine yet to be resolved Russian gas giant Gazprom has reduced pressure in pipes transiting Russia's near neighbour. The Ukrainians owe $2 billion of unpaid bills, part of which they claim had been remitted through a Swiss intermediary last year. In addition Ukraine’s negotiators refuse to agree the country should pay even half the rate which western European nations are paying for Russian gas.
Predictably the Telegraph has decided to harangue Vladimir Putin for invoking ‘commercial considerations to cover a nakedly political act’ (no matter that Putin is no longer even responsible for foreign policy). Has there been penned a more telling distillation of the Russophobic hypocrisy flourishing in both British and American media?
It is expected, not only that Russia should express no interests whatsoever in its own immediate backyard, but that it should simultaneously grant preferential rates to its neighbours! Furthermore, this bizarre logic should hold whether such countries aspire to join a military alliance nakedly hostile towards Russia or not! If the Kremlin does otherwise it is guilty of ‘bullying’ parts of the former Soviet Union.
Russia is entitled to a fair price for its resources and it is also entitled to payment for gas which it does supply. Equally commercial levers are a perfectly legitimate means of exerting influence, as long as no diminution of sovereignty or direct interference is implied. No other country would be expected to grant preferential terms to a neighbour which was increasingly hostile to its interests.