Cheat-Seeking Missles

Monday, February 27, 2006

Criminals, Despots And Democracy

Jackson Diehl's WaPo column today unravels the complexities of the Russia-Ukraine gas crisis.

Remember that story? Vague, complicated, "over there," we generally missed the 400% increase Putin wanted to charge for natural gas, Europe's feverish reaction, and a detente created by a new deal.

But that's not the story. The story, as Diehl lays it out, is one of Putin's continuing efforts to keep the Ukraine in the Russian orbit. A Euro-allied Ukraine with Democratic priniciples is such a threat to Putin's increasingly authoritarian state that he crafted a devil's deal:
Ukraine's president, Viktor Yushchenko, and Prime Minister Yuriy Yekhanurov had agreed to purchase Ukraine's gas through a Swiss trading company whose owners and beneficiaries are publicly unknown -- but are rumored to include senior officials and organized crime figures in both Russia and Ukraine. They granted this same shadowy company a 50 percent share in the business of delivering gas to Ukrainian consumers. They accepted a price deal on gas delivered to Ukraine lasting only a few months but guaranteed that rock-bottom rates charged by Ukraine for the storage and transit of Russian gas to the West would be frozen for 25 years.
It's such a nasty deal that it threatens to turn the Orange Revolution Red. Read the whole piece.

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