Ukraine-Russia gas spat: some background and context

As we enter yet another episode of worried or sanctimonious articles about the gas conflict between Russia and Ukraine, it's worth remembering a few simple facts:

1) The conflict started in 1992, not in 2006;

2) Russia cannot win a gas war against Ukraine and knows it;

3) the real underlying stakes are not about Russia or Ukraine.

1) The conflict started in 1992, not in 2006

A given in most of the coverage of this episode is that these things have been happening over the past few years only. Everybody remembers the 2006 episode 3 years ago, which brought the issue to global awareness, and most coverage seems to think that this is when it all started. It's not. Russia and Ukraine started squabbling about gas as soon as the Soviet Union broke up, ie from 1992. There were cuts to gas deliveries to Western Europe in 1992 and 1993, which led the major importers - the GDFs, Ruhrgas and SNAMs - to set up offices in Kiev to try to understand what was going on and to bring pressure on the then new country of Ukraine to not interrupt gas deliveries.

I spent half a year in GDF's Kiev office in 1994, where I painstakingly collated local sources to prepare a report on the Ukrainian gas industry, and picked up most of the content for my PhD dissertation on the independence of Ukraine and its relationship with Russia, both of which were defined largely by gas. I've never been able to ascertain that Ukraine actually ever paid anything for gas to Russia then or since.

The reality is that the Soviet gas industry was born in Ukraine in the 1930s, and the infrastructure was built from there and Ukraine is still a central part of the gas pipeline network even as the focus of activity moved to Western Siberia. Splitting the Soviet Union along Republic borders made for an often unworkable allocation of physical assets, and nowhere was this more true than for gas. The consequence is that vital assets for Gazprom are located in Ukraine and thus no longer under its direct control.

The ties between the industry in the two countries are thus massive, impossible to unwind, and highly constraining. Effectively, as soon as there is a conflict between the two countries, the temptation to use the "gas weapon" (ie to hurt the other by, in the case of Russia, withholding gas or, in the case of Ukraine, withholding export infrastructure) is large - and it has happened repeatedly, until, each time, cooler heads prevail.

So you could go back and look into Ukrainian and Russian papers from any date over the past 17 years and find that they have articles about unpaid Ukrainian debts for gas (which, since 1992, have for some reason always been in the $1.5-2 billion range) and bilateral brinkmanship. Yet somehow the gas continues to flow every year.

So why do we think that the conflict started in 2006? Well, it's just that we started to care that year, for some easy-to-identify reasons:

  • The 2004 orange revolution put Ukraine on the map, as a new, spunky member of the "democratic world" against the axis of evil and other assorted dictatorships, a group that Russia was beginning to join in the White House view. Never mind that Yuschenko was initially more pro-Russian than Yanukovich, hardliners in both the US and the Kremlin were happy to play this as a West vs Russia fight and it de facto became one. Suddenly, the arcane gas disputes that only a few buyers cared about became the battlefront between two large blocs, and one that the WestTM cared about.
  • The run up in oil prices since 2003 has had an impact on gas prices (Russia's gas is sold to Europe at prices indexed, with a lag, to oil prices) and more generally on how much attention we give to energy-related issues. For Russia, the urge to get more money out of the gas delivered to Ukraine was growing; for the West, the attention paid to energy supplies similarly got more priority.
  • More importantly, 2006 is the year when the UK became, it seems unexpectedly for its political leadership, a gas importer rather than a gas exporter. Suddenly, for the first time ever, security of gas supply became an issue for English-language experts. Somehow, this turned into Europe's dependency on Russian gas and Ukrainian transit being a big deal - never mind that Western Europe has been importing Russian gas for 40 years and that companies like GDF and Ruhrgas have been aware of the delicate situation of Ukrainian transit for 15 years.
  • Almost at the same time, 10 Central and Eastern European countries joined the EU. As the majority were former Soviet satellites (or even Soviet Republics), they are very wary of Russia and most of them are highly dependent on Russian gas, because their supply infrastructure was built in the context of the COMECON. While they are not all in the same situation (in particular, transit countries have a lot more leverage), they have certainly encouraged the EU to focus on Russian gas supplies a lot more closely, and a lot more adversarially.

While these recent factors can explain why it's not unreasonable to care more today than in the past about the underlying conflict, there is no excuse not to provide the relevant context, ie that this is a long, simmering dispute that has no good guys and no bad guys and which has very little to do with us.

2) Russia cannot win a gas war against Ukraine and knows it

The most important bit of information that would need to be provided is why this conflict happens in the first place, and how it's been resolved in the past.

The reality of Soviet legacies is that Ukraine has a lot of vital Soviet-times gas infrastructure (the pipelines are an obvious item, but, just as significantly, Ukraine controls most of the storage capacity of the Russian export system, something rather important when you know that winter gas demand is 2-3 times summer demand and pipelines can be made smaller if you can ship gas all year long and store it close to markets for winter use). It is also a heavy-industry country, with very high gas demand. It has also mostly depleted its gas reserves, making it heavily dependent on gas from Siberia.

So there is a strong co-dependency, with Russia needing Ukrainian infrastructure to honor its export contracts to Europe, and Ukraine needing Russian gas. In the early years, there were additional constraints, such as the only Soviet manufacturer of large pipes used by Gazprom being in Ukraine, the only manufacturer of medium sized pipes (needed by the Ukrainians) being in Russia, and gas going to Southern Russia needing to flow through Ukrainian territory. I have written in detail about this co-dependency in this article: Ukraine vs Russia: Tales of pipelines and dependence (Dec. 30, 2005).

Ukraine used to get its gas allocation from Soviet planners, and continued to expect the same after independence. When Russia first tried to get payment fors its deliveries in the early 90s, it failed; when it first cut off gas to Ukraine to enforce payments, Ukraine simply tapped the gas sent for export purposes in Ukrainian-controlled pipelines; when European buyers howled, Russia relented and restored gas supplies without having managed to be paid by Ukraine. This happened repeatedly in 1992-1994 until both sides learnt not to make their disputes as public (ED: "not" added in last sentence).

The exact same thing happened over the years, but more discreetly. 2006 marked a change in that the dispute was thrust into the limelight once again, but fundamentally the same thing as before happened. The proof of this in January 2006, Russia restored deliveries before an agreement was announced. This was mostly overlooked in Western coverage of the crisis, as was the fact that the announced agreement was absurd on its face - everybody should have realised it was a sham (the price Russia claimed to be getting and the price Ukraine agreed to "pay" were not compatible, even with the inclusion of ultra cheap gas from Turkmenistan - and nobody asked why Turmenistan would agree to such a low price).

The hard fact is that Russia cannot cut off Ukraine for any period of time, because that endangers its exports (Kiev has always retaliated by siphoning exports), and Gazprom knows it perfectly well. The other hard fact is that, in practice, giving roughly 20% of its gas shipments to Ukraine as payment for transit (over an average of more than 1,000km) is an acceptable transaction for both sides. Of course, when prices for gas go up, as in recent years, the temptation to change the balance of the trade is tempting, but Russia simply has no practical way to do so.

If that is the case, why on earth does Russia play this charade every year - especially now that critical Western eyes are firmly locked on the issue?

I have a simple theory: it's all a distraction from what's really at stake.

3) The real underlying stakes are not about Russia or Ukraine

The leadership of Gazprom has long ago understood that it could not get any money out of official deliveries to Ukraine. It "solved" that problem in a completely different way, by privatising a portion of the gas trade to Ukraine - the portion going to customers able to pay for their gas. These customers used to pay the central Ukrainian gas company, which did not pass on that money to Gazprom. What was put into place was a mechanism whereby these customers would pay less for their gas, but would pay another supplier directly, formally unrelated to either Ukrainian gas authorities or Gazprom.

Of course, only gas coming from Russia could be delivered, and it still needed to use Ukraine's gas infrastructure, so the active cooperation of Gazprom, Russian and Ukrainian senior people was required to put that Trade in place (you can't move 30 billion cubic meters of gas per year without the approval of senior management, and cover from senior politicians) - but the very real money generated did not need to go either to Kiev or to Moscow. Thus the top people that enable that Trade are able to personally benefit massively from it - and effectively cut out both Kiev and Gazprom. (I have described this Trade in a long article for French think tank IFRI here: Gazprom as a Predictable Partner. Another Reading of the Russian-Ukrainian and Russian-Belarusian Energy Crises )

Now, such a juicy business attracts others keen to get in on the action. In Ukraine, political infighting can largely be understood, in my view, by the fight over who will be the Ukrainian counterparty to that Trade. (It's no coincidence that Yulia Timoschenko made her fortune in gas trading in the 90s, and that Yanukovich represents some of the largest gas-users from heavy-industry in Eastern Ukraine). In Russia, similarly, one has to go beyond the image of a monolithic Kremlin with its faithful Gazprom arm - both are rife with infighting and coalitions within both centers of power that come and go (as an example, just look how the 50% of Gazprom formally owned by the Russian State is split between at least two public bodies controlled by different senior Kremlin insiders).

So while the world is focused on the predictable public brinkmanship between Ukraine and Russia (Russia threatens, Ukraine appears to cave in at the last minute, but really doesn't, Russia cuts gas, Ukraine siphons gas, Russian is indignant, both sides make their case to Europe, Russia restores gas supplies, another meaningless agreement is announced), the real fight over the loot is taking place more discreetly between a few oligarchs in Moscow and Kiev. But nobody is talking about that. Which is the whole purpose of the theater show we are "offered."

Worries about Russia or Gazprom using the "gas weapon" against Europe are misplaced. In their official capacity, both are keenly aware of their absolute dependency on exports to Europe for a huge chunk of the country's income, and on the need for stable, reliable long term relationships to finance the investments needed in gas infrastructure (and they know their clients share that need). They are happy to play power politics with the West's worries as this goes down well with their own domestic audiences, but fundamentally they will not rock the gas boat.

Now, what is a lot more worrisome is that governments in Ukraine and Russia can tolerate--and indeed encourage--such blatant breaches of their authority and such large scale theft of what are effectively public resources. That the highest levels of government in both countries, and major bits of their infrastructure can be instrumentalised in what are disputes between unknown oligarchs only shows how little rule of law and accountability there is in these countries, and how powerless Putin really is when dealing with competing power factions.

Jerome, nice clarifications thx.
I’ve been puzzled with this annual gas-hustling taking place during the last few new year shifts …
If I was Czar Putin I would have cut a long hustle short.

1- Install a gas-metering station on the Russian side of the Rus- Ukrainian border.
2- Send some e-mails to the gas customers of Europe (EU) & Ukraine, where you note that Russia only will sell to one buyer (eg a consortium)
3- This means that EU and Ukraine will have to join hands to solve the issues with payments and distribution from that very meter-station onwards …
4- Any contractual troubles will result in the closing of the spigot at the Russian border.
5- Case closed. Ehhh and yeah, please pay the running tariff, thx

Indeed. But doing this would eliminate the possibility of the Trade. Someone is working hard to avoid that outcome...

Why would this eliminate the possibility of the Trade?

IMO it would simplify the trade, seen from Russia’s point of view - talk and negotiate with only ONE counterpart.
EU will have to "guarantee/subsidize" Ukraine every once in a while to ensure their access to nat.gas, but that comes with the concept- no ?
After all the nat.gas trunk pipes is sitting on Ukrainian soil – and that is something of real value IMO

It would be hard to do this under the watch of EU officials. According to the article parts of the Russian elite also benefit from this Trade, why would they want to ruin it?

I am always amazed though by the idea that such corruption is only possible in the East. I believe the same level of corruption is present in most places, but it is much better hidden in the West. And in some cases it is blatantly obvious even in the West. Think Haliburton.

The main difference between the West and East lies in the depth of corruption. In the East you can easily bribe an official or a policeman as an average citizen. In the West corruption is mostly limited to the top of the power pyramid.

Ok, thx Bl4ckVo1d for illuminating that Trade-issue of mine. I did not read Jerome's external "Trade" link.

That's absolutely true!

Very clear and concise analysis. Thank you for sharing your time and expertise.

Russia is building pipes to china (far Ural ) and Germany (under baltic sea)
Those pipes will go directly to those countries without going throughout any third country
As soon as they finish it they will be able to change current situation

The pipelines to China won't happen until China accepts to pay market prices for natural gas over the long term, and when they will, they will use completely different gas sources (East Siberia) than the European exports (Western Siberia).

The Baltic pipeline is more a way to get around Poland which is a much more difficult partner than Ukraine, however hard that may be to believe.

Jerome, do you not think completion of the Baltic pipeline will mark a new era in gas supplies to Europe? Will Germany's role as a transit country change? Will prices change as there are less transit countries? Will Poland (and perhaps other countries such as Belarus and the Baltic states) face natural gas shortages either because they cannot afford to pay or because of their political problems with Russia?

I think I read that China was going to front the money to build the pipeline, and then be paid back in gas (I don't recall if it said at what price rate).

But I guess that's the short term deal, not the long term you're talking about.


Spaseeba bolshoi. Your analysis and insight confirms what I suspected were the true nature of the conflict: greed and power (same as America, really) with a surface drama to conceal the real struggle.

Who are the players? Can you name them or point me in the right direction to find them?

Kevin Walsh
Chicago Peak Oil

PS I lived in Tomsk for 2 years teaching English. Menya zhena eta Ruskaya y ya ponemayo pa ruski nemnogah, no gavyroo choot-chhot. Y ochee plohah. Ponymahati, da?

I suspect the real situation is way more complicated than what Jerome describes. The Trade he describes fits well with 'the Russian way of doing things', and I have little doubts it is happening. However I find it hard to believe Ukraine has never paid Gazprom anything - that would be too blatant even for Russia. There must be conflicting forces at play... I dont think we'll ever learn what actually is going on behind the stage.

PS. Your Russian is quite terrible, but definitely understandable ;)

Spaseeba, goldmanns.

So you could go back and look into Ukrainian and Russian papers from any date over the past 17 years and find that they have articles about unpaid Ukrainian debts for gas (which, since 1992, have for some reason always been in the $1.5-2 billion range) and bilateral brinkmanship. Yet somehow the gas continues to flow every year.

Ukraine imports ~30 billion cu. m per year from Russia and it buys about 36 billion cu. m per year from Turkmenistan.
The old price was $179/1000 cu. m. Gazprom's new 'European' price is $400/1000 cu. m( evidently a Russian gift for Ukrainian EU membership); $400-$170 per 1000 cu m. x 30 billion cu. m = $6.9 billion dollars a year>>$1.5-2 billion 'owed'. If the 'compromise' price is $250/1000 cu. m
then $250-$170 per 1000 cu m. x 30 bcm= $2.7 billion/yr still quite a bit larger than $1.5-2 billion dollars to settle the books.

It still looks like Kremlin-style punishment.

Russia could propose a fair, impartial arbitration but energy-mad Czar Putin will never submit to that!

The imports from Turkmenistan are a fiction: that gas has to go through Russia and that can only happen with the consent of top Gazprom officials and top Russian political executives.

Don't forget that you never know, of all the figures that circulate, which ones are gross and which ones are net of transit fees. Note that this matters for Gazprom's own tax bill within Russia and it is not necessarily in their interest to inflate the number. Also, it's not clear which part if the official deliveries to Naftogaz and which bit goes directly via intermediaries.

majorian said:
> Russia could propose a fair, impartial arbitration but energy-mad Czar Putin will never submit to
> that! Nyet!

I thought that the free market was the "fair and impartial arbiter". You know, in the west someone who sells something gets to set the price and people can either accept that price or shop elsewhere. Or do you walk into Walmart, look at the prices, and demand "fair and impartial" arbitration if you don't like the posted prices?

For goodness sakes, the market price is $400, Russia is offering to sell it to the Ukrainians for $250, and the western media - which not so long ago was calling on Russia to ditch socialism and embrace capitalism - is crying about how unfair Russia is being.

Good thing we are genuinely committed to the principles we espouse. Just kidding.

400 USD works out to about 28 EUR/MWh (EUR/USD x 400 / 10.4 kwh/cm)

current market prices for cal09 and 10 for western europe is 22-23 eur/mwh

400 would seem to me to be well above market.

One piece of this puzzle is the Russian pipeline that is being planned across the Baltic sea.

This pipeline would bypass the former soviet block countries altogether. Thus removing some of the leverage that Ukraine has.

Finland has been stalling the planned pipeline because of concerns of the impact on the nature of Gulf of Finland and the Baltic sea in general.

Just another reason I'm thankful that Sweden had the forethought to not use any natural gas(look it up, it's 1.1% and a good chunk of that is biogas).

forethought ...or maybe luck, since most of sweden's electricity comes from hydropower (the only naturally flexible power source.) landlocked countries need gas fired capacity for peaking demand.

Jerome, this is excellent. I learned alot.

As a connoisseur of how the media functions, I was struck by how this, a long-irritating issue that hasn't really gotten any worse than it's been, suddenly became a potential crisis point according to the American media (where I am) only when it started affecting fellow english-speaking Britain.

It's also good to get an up-to-date Kremlinology tutorial, how fragmented power can still be there.

I have to think Putin doesn't want it this way, and this is the kind of thing he's been trying to clean up for so long. I guess he still has alot more work to do before he becomes the dictator the american media makes him out to be.

Hello Jerome,

Thxs for the info--I expect events to eventually degrade similar to the very violent Mexican drug pipeline from South America to North. It will be just like a Tom Clancy novel, with frozen corpses atop bloody snow, once the postPeak natgas corruption really gets rolling among these competing oligarchs.

Do you have any recent stats on Ukraine natgas to H-B ammonia production? It would seem the best way for the Russians oligarchs to really hammer the Ukraine economy [and their oligarchs], would be to somehow limit Ulrainian [N]itrogen production of natgas-to-ammonia & urea, as this could severely restrict their exports of I-NPK and subsequent internal grain harvest, thus their foreign exchange currency reserves would plummet.

The common Ukrainian would quickly rise up against the Ukrainian oligarchs once bread shortages are common and the Ukrainian currency is worthless. Recall that the Ukraine is already nearly divided between Russian ethnic groups and native groups--it wouldn't take much to tip this into another event like Georgia/Ossetia.

Of course, instead of a violent choice, I would much prefer that both Russia & Ukraine go to full-on Peak Outreach understanding and cooperation for Optimal Overshoot Decline. Thxs for any reply.

Bob Shaw in Phx,Az Are Humans Smarter than Yeast?

Hi and thx to Jerome for a great review of this conflict.

I've been following the Ukraine economic crisis more closely in last two months or so - it's a severe and obscure crisis, with little or no relevant information coming out to the public.

How do you see the Ukraine-Russia gas war developing in this context in 2009?

As mutual dependencies between the two countries go far beyond the gas dispute - what are the alternatives for Ukrainians here? Will they be forced to even strengthen the bonds with Russia?

Everyone has his own pet theory about Ukrainian gas transit. This one is no worse than any other.

The worst review ever. The problem is that not that it's badly written or anything like that. It's completely misleading. I hope most people see it as well.

1. Author states "everybody should have realised it was a sham" about 2006 gas agreement. This is the most ridiculous statement one could EVER make. I presume that author is not trying to mislead, but is simply have no clue about this dispute at all (what puzzles me is why is he writing about it then?). For others I'll explain: From Russian point of view pre-2006 agreements had several serious flaws and these flaws were rectified after that gas dispute. First of all contract for gas transit through Ukraine was combined with gas supply contract. So when Ukraine refused new price for gas (and as we all know generally speaking energy costs more and more each year) it had no obligation to transport any gas to Europe as well. Secondly payment for gas transport were made via barter (Russia paid with gas for transport). Now compare this to current situation:
a.) There is a valid contract that obliges Ukraine to transport gas regardless of whether Ukraine is buying any gas at all.
b.) This contract is paid by Russia in currency (not gas).
Finally (but also very important) gas imports and transit through Ukraine is not done through Gazprom directly, but through EU registered company and this is why that company immediately sued Ukrainian gas company (the other party to all these contracts) on basis that it violated these contracts by refusing to pay for consumed gas and by refusing to transport gas to Europe in full amount. Previously Russia hired western flow monitors to have a prove that Ukraine is stealing gas, but it had relatively little recourse for such actions. Right now the field of legal options is much wider.

2. This conflict is mostly between Ukraine and EU, not Ukraine and Russia. There are two possible outcomes: gas exports will be closed off by Ukraine and then EU will suffer. For Russia effects of a closed off gas exports will probably be nil and if any they will only be monetary (not physical shortages that are much harder to deal with). EU would have to increase oil imports to run power generators and so on and oil price will go up. The other possible outcome is that Ukraine will raise transit fee (some other year as Gazprom was smart enough to negotiate price for transit for this year before hand) and that increase will have to be paid by the EU customers. It's interesting to note that EU has been completely unable to defend it's interest in any meaningful way (either before or now) and had to rely on Russia to fight for uninterrupted gas supplies to EU.

I do not want to go on and keep wiring, but there are many other factual errors in this article making any conclusions completely baseless.

French or German contracts with Gazprom are for delivery of gas at the German border, so transit through Ukraine is an issue for (and the responsibility of) Gazprom even if it is also a worry for the buyers.

Your comments on the contracts may be legally correct but have little bearing to the reality on the ground, which is that Ukraine can siphon Russian gas unless someone actually invades them, and that the EU blames Russia for that problem, even if the responsibility is in Kiev to a large extent.

French or German contracts are for delivery at German border. But the issue for EU countries is that Gazprom is meeting all it's obligations (it's both pumping gas and launched a number of lawsuits in EU to force Ukraine to let the gas pass to EU). If transit is obstructed by any party it will have to invoke "force majeure". EU countries would certainly not have to pay for gas not delivered, but they can't complain or sue Gazprom since it's doing everything it can reasonably do, to deliver gas to European customers. EU can blame anything for anybody. It's not about putting blame. It's about an impact the gas shortages could have on some countries. Gazprom never promised to invade any country to insure European gas supplies, so this is something that Europe would have to do on it's own.

On the other hand, Ukraine maintains it has no shut valves on its side to cut the supplies. And I see little reason to believe only in what Russians are saying. The clearing company, the RosUkrEnergo, is not an EU one at all; it's a dummy set up by some Gasprom guys and Ukrainian smarts at par. I couldn't but laugh at comments when Ukraine claimed it had paid 1.5 bln to the RUE already while Gasprom blankly stated it did not receive anything - a strong point in favour of Jerome a Paris's version, in my view.

The media also had it that Byelorusian leader did make it to trade his official support of South Ossetia and Abhasia for $100 price tag on gas. That obviously failed to provoke any heart attack symptoms in anyone in either the Kremlin or Gasprom board - or in Europe.

The addiction of some EU states to existing gas arrangements helps developing some sort of political blindness so as not to see what really happens in Russia where the Kremlin gets increasingly stronger in its art of manupilations. Without extoling Ukraine, I do think it will be, at least, cheaper to try finding the root of it inside that country than in some head in Moscow.

On the other hand, it prompts uneasy thoughts about what will be on the Old Continent when Russia runs out of its natural reserves. It will be real hard then to leave it to a 'commercial dispute' level

Naftohaz Ukrainy said in the evening on December 30 that it had transferred USD 1.5228 billion of its gas indebtedness, which was thus repaid.

RosUkrEnergo confirmed that it had received this payment yet saying that Naftohaz Ukrainy still owes USD 600 million in fines.

Russia–Ukraine gas disputes on Wikipedia

Ukrain never paid Russia this money, your sourse is wrong

Ukraine already paid part of money for сonsumed in 2008 gas ($1.5 billions). But not paid fines ($0.6 billion - unsettled debt fines) and not concluded the new 2009 contract. With no 2009 contract Ukraine siphoned gas that destined for European Union.

To add, the article ends with a reference to Putin's inability in managing oligarchs; what exactly separates Putin from 'oligarchs'? Or 'government' from institutionalised organized crime?

Good questions, boroselo. Misha Glenny, in his 2008 book McMafia, discusses the relationships between Russia, Ukraine, Gazprom and a number of curious characters. His views chime with your article, Jerome, and go into the business in more depth.

The book that really impressed me was Godfather of the Kremlin by Paul Klebnikov, which also discusses the relationship between the oligarchs and the government (though during an earlier time period). I've visited Russia five times over the last 12 years, I have good friends who live in Russia, and Klebnikov's book is (I think) the most credible investigation of these issues that I have yet come across.


A few points for you based on your previous comments about building gas pipelines etc:

* Are the proposed Nord and South Stream pipelines commercially and politically viable as routes to Europe that bypass Ukraine? Do they meet the criteria required?

* How much of the current gas shortfall to Europe can be made up by other current routes such as the Blue Stream pipe?

* Is your summary of the Russian/Ukraine tit for tat war one that the Russians cannot win still true or have circumstances altered?

I have learned a lot from your articles so many thanks.

Is it not also true that Russia perfectly well knows that Ukraine needs gas as much as the EU, and by screwing around with the Ukraine contracts they can mess with the EU by proxy and still maintain plausible deniability? Russia could work with the EU company and Ukraine to come up with an agreement that would keep people from freezing. And they could have done so before the middle of winter.

Whether you admit it or not, Russia is playing chess here, and they have the resources that EU needs, and they want to make sure the EU knows it.


To play chess two players are required. It seems to me that as long as Ukraine is a chess player then it's a stale mate. That's why I would like to know more about passant moves that bypass Ukraine.

I think it's Russia vs NATO, and Ukraine, at most a knight, has just been pinned, and several other pieces threatened. For Russia, it's not so much what will Ukraine do (they can keep changing the offer to be sure Ukraine can't respond meaningfully), but what move the EU will make. If they work hard to bypass Ukraine long-term, and make them rollover short-term, Russia wins. If the EU just buys everybody off, Russia wins. If the EU freezes and blames Ukraine, Russia wins.

What can the EU do other than concede the piece and start looking for a new gambit?

and who is Cedric "O-NPK" Brown ripping off nowadays.....?