In the 1930s Russia robbed Ukraine of its food supplies. The Kremlin deliberately created a food shortage. Ukrainian grain was collected and stored in grain elevators that were guarded by the Soviet army and secret police units (the NKVD, the predecessor of the KGB) while Ukrainians were starving in the immediate area. The result of the man-made famine of 1932-33 was the death of 7 million people. The famine was instigated by the Russians to break the spirit of the Ukrainians and force them into collectivisation and submission to Moscow. “Let us do it again,” Vladimir Putin, a former officer of the KGB, the Soviet Gestapo, and a worthy successor to Josef Stalin, said today.
The criminals who ruled Russia under the Soviet regime, and who bankrupted not only their own country but the whole of Eastern Europe, are still in charge in Moscow. Today, Russia’s state-run gas company Gazprom has cut gas supplies to Ukraine. The cut is the result of Russia’s unilateral decision to raise the gas price for Ukraine from 50$ to 230$ per 1,000 cubic metres of gas. Ukraine, still recovering from 70 years of Soviet occupation, is unable to pay this price and proposed a compromise of 110$, but Moscow wants to punish Ukraine because its politicians are not submissive enough to the Kremlin. Gazprom charges the Moscow-friendly dictatorship in Belarus (another country run by a former KGB agent) only 47$ per 1,000 cubic metres of gas. Armenia and Georgia are charged 110$, Romania 280$ and the EU on average 240$. According to the Kremlin, nations that want to be free have to pay the price of the free nations.
Last week Andrei Illarionov resigned as Mr Putin’s economic advisor. Mr Illarionov, who never collaborated with the former Communist regime, is an honest man. He accused the Kremlin of using gas as “a weapon.” Last week Ukraine, which depends heavily on Russian gas, tried to find a new gas supplier and approached Turkmenistan. Unfortunately, Turkmenistan is also run by former KGB criminals. Gazprom thwarted the Ukrainian plan by buying Turkmen gas stocks itself, at a price of... 65$ per 1,000 cubic metres.
Ukraine is dependent on Russia for 30% of its gas supplies. Western Europe, however, is dependent for the gas that it buys in Russia on pipelines running through Ukraine. Consequently Gazprom cannot simply cut all supplies to Ukraine. It has reduced the supplies to the pipeline by 15%, which is the percentage of the total volume that is used by Ukraine. If it wants to do so Kiev can tap into the Russian supplies to the West in order to secure its own gas supplies. The Russians have warned the Ukrainians that if they do so, they will be considered to be thieves. Western Europe is concerned, too.
Some EU countries rely heavily on Russian gas. Germany, for example, gets about 30% of its gas supplies from Russia, which makes it as dependent on Russian gas as Ukraine. If Kiev uses the gas for its own needs, to prevent Ukrainians freezing to death through Putin’s actions as they starved to death through the actions of his predecessor Stalin eight decades ago, it is Germany that will be left in the cold. On Wednesday EU gas industry experts will meet in Brussels to discuss the crisis.
It is easy to see what would have happened today if the gas pipeline that the Russians and Germans are planning to build on the Baltic seabed had already been completed. This pipeline, which is to be ready by 2010, will enable the Russians to deliver gas directly to Germany, bypassing all countries in between. It will allow Mr Putin to reassert Russian dominance over the whole of Eastern and Central Europe. It is time that the West sees Putin for what he really is: the new Stalin. If the Baltic pipeline gets built it will mean the end of freedom and democracy in Eastern Europe. Again the West, as it did earlier in Yalta, will have sold out the East to the Russian bear.
Today, January 1, 2006, Russia also takes over the chairmanship of the G8 group of industrial nations for the first time in history. This provides Mr Putin, the executioner of Ukraine, with an opportunity to emphasise Russia’s role in international affairs. Though the Russian economy is peanuts compared to those of the US, Canada, Japan, Germany, France, Britain and Italy, it has been admitted into the club of developed democracies because Russia has enough oil and gas to keep Western Europe supplied for years to come. Some US Senators have argued that Russia should not have been allowed in as a member. What is happening today shows that they are right.
2006: Russia Returns to Dictatorship, 28 December 2005
Prominent Estonians Call for Move Against German-Russian Gas Pact, 28 December 2005
Berlin-Moscow Gas Pact Easy to Thwart... if Balts Have Guts, 21 December 2005
Schröder Exchanges Berlin for Kremlin, 14 December 2005