Jan 17, 2009

[World Affairs] Russia on the Rise

President Vladimir Putin of Russia. Photograph...Image via WikipediaThis has been an interesting news week - at least I certainly think so. One of the bigger items that's been going for some time is the on-going dispute between Russia and Ukraine over the price of gas. Long story short, Ukraine's contract for gas comes up and they don't agree to pay Russia's higher rates, so Russia cuts them off. Russia then suspects Ukraine is stealing gas from the pipes running through the country in order to supply the rest of Europe and so they ultimately kill that supply too. Thus the rest of Europe begins to freeze due to insufficient heating and cooking gas while Russia and Ukraine continue in their pissing contest.

And where's the EU in all this? Well, they're pretty much as useless as always and are unable to force Russia into anything, They are rather angry though and are trying their best to make sure their citizens know just how angry they are.

Oh the joys of international politics.

Russia has a long history of hard bargaining. Let's face it - we've seen a return to older ways under the reign of Putin, which is essentially uninterrupted with him now performing as the country's Prime Minister. The current disagreement with Ukraine may seem to be just a simple dispute between a merchant raising rates and a customer who refuses to pay the new rates but cannot survive without the commodity, but of course it's not just that. This is the country that came up with the KGB and made international espionage an art form more than Ian Flemming ever did.

Take for example the Ukraine's decision to side with the state of Georgia when Russia was stepping up aggression with the former member state. Throw in their intent to join NATO and naturally you have for one angry bear deciding to do something about it. And you have to admit, the move sends a very strong message that terrorists need high explosives to replicate. The measure may not impact Ukraine directly in the short term given their sizeable gas reserves, but it drastically affects the rest of Europe and those same nations who will determine if the Ukraine can join their military organization.

Sure, Russia has always played the role of the bully and nations at one point or another will end up crying foul and hoping something is done. But seriously, when has anyone been able to push back Russia once it sets out on an agenda in recent years? While the Soviet Union is a fast fading part of our history, recent events continue to reinforce the fact that they're not a nation to be written off just yet. The threat of nuclear conflict has been replaced with more subtle weapons like the economic warfare on-going right now.

And who knows what Russia will manage to achieve in the future - Putin remains in power after all, in one way or another.


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