Nabucco officials: Now is the time to build pipeline


UNDER NEW SECURITY AGREEMENT, US COULD GAIN CONTROL OF UKRAINIAN PIPELINE NETWORK

Nabucco officials: Now is the time to build pipeline

The recent standoff between Russia and Ukraine, which resulted in suspension of the delivery of natural gas to Europe, has once again highlighted the need to diversify the continent’s natural gas supplies in the minds of many policy-makers in the EU. The proposed 7.9 billion euro Nabucco pipeline, which will carry Central Asian, Middle Eastern and Egyptian natural gas to European markets, has been hailed by many as a possibly significant contribution to the diversification of Europe’s energy supplies. However, significant challenges remain in store for the project, including perceived resistance from Russia as well as finding significant gas sources to supply the pipeline to justify the enormous costs associated with its construction.

Recent figures put EU gas consumption at about 500 billion cubic meters per year, of which only 200 billion cubic meters is produced in continental Europe. The rest is imported from Russia, the North Sea and Africa.

At a breakfast meeting yesterday in İstanbul, officials from Nabucco, including Nabucco Pipeline International Managing Director Reinhard Mitschek and participating companies, such as OMV international spokesperson Christian Dolezal, explained the project’s vision as well as a number of the benefits that will be seen by participating countries.

Gas consumption in Europe is expected to rise significantly in coming years while, at the same time, domestic sources are expected to diminish. Although Russia is said to be the biggest source country, the Middle East and Central Asia are believed to be the largest source regions.

The Nabucco pipeline is touted by many as able to benefit both importers, by reducing dependency on source countries, and also exporting countries, by providing alternative markets. Diversification and competition are also said to work toward promoting efficiency.

“It’s a win-win situation,” Mitschek declared yesterday, outlining the many benefits that will flow to participating countries.

According to the proposed agreements, the six countries involved in the construction of the pipeline — Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, Germany and Austria — will all share the benefits and risks of the project equally, each owning a 16.6 percent stake in the project. “Profits, costs and risks will all be shared” Mitschek said.

Officials from Nabucco have long discussed the benefits that will flow to countries participating in the project. This is especially the case for Turkey, whose land mass will occupy approximately 2,000 kilometers of the project’s 3,300-kilometer length.

In addition to benefiting from the lion’s share of the 7.9 billion euros in planned construction costs — which will involve upwards of 2.2 million tons in steel purchases and engineering and construction contracts — Turkey will see an increase in badly needed gas storage facilitates in Turkey (which are now considerably underdeveloped) and will be able to extract considerable transit levies (as will all participating countries).

With respect to sources, Mitschek noted that there would be many to draw on. Unlike other pipelines, Nabucco will be able to receive sources from an eclectic mix of countries, including Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Iraq, Egypt, Iran and Russia. “We don’t want to exclude any gas source. We’re open to all,” he stated.

Construction has been slotted for between 2010 and 2013. But, the pipeline’s planned construction has been pushed back a number of times over the years. The greatest drawback to the plan, however, revolves around the enormous expenses associated with the construction of the line, as well as guaranteeing supplies.

The challenge of providing the pipeline with sufficient supplies to justify the enormous cost has been a source of much debate. Studies that Nabucco has conducted polling over 60 leading gas market suppliers suggest that the sources supplying the pipeline with gas will be able to supply upwards of 25 billion cubic meters of gas per annum initially and, within several years of the line becoming fully operational, will be able to expand this amount to more than 70 billion cubic meters. Nevertheless, many are not convinced by conclusions drawn from this.

At present there are a great number of uncertainties associated with gas sources. Iran as a source has been met with great resistance from both the EU and the US for a number of reasons, not least of which concerns the country’s alleged ambitions for creating nuclear weapons.

Turkmenistan, on the other hand has been courted quite heavily (some say “coerced”) by the Russians, to supply gas through Russian pipelines through the Caspian.

Northern Iraq is promising, as is the development of the Shah Deniz gas fields in Azerbaijan. However, the massive expenses associated with developing the Shah Deniz pipelines have led some to question the feasibility of the project and Russia has also been promising to buy Azeri gas at very favorable costs.

Now is the time to move, according to representatives from Nabucco and participating companies. Not only did the standoff with Russia that left some countries shivering in the cold create the political will to go ahead, but banks in this period of financial turbulence are much more ready to lend to long-term financially “responsible” borrowers than less reputable borrowers. Although the cost of financing the pipeline may have increased in recent months, the dramatic drop in the price of steel and other construction materials has more than offset this.

When asked about Russian reservations about the project, Mitschek responded that “Putin recently said he had no objections to the project.” What Mitschek didn’t mention, however, was that in the same breath Putin added, “If they can find the sources to fill the pipeline.”

14 January 2009, Wednesday

DAVID NEYLAN

Does the US-Georgia Charter on Strategic Partnership Challenge Russia?

Does the US-Georgia Charter on Strategic

Partnership Challenge Russia?

ZAAL ANJAPARIDZE,
Independent expert, Tbilisi

The Charter on Strategic Partnership between Georgia and the United States, signed during the last days of the Bush Administration, has aroused various reactions, from enthusiastic to cautious optimism in the Georgian political establishment. In the situation, when Russia and Georgia actually found themselves in the “Cold War” conflict, there is no political force in Georgia, which doubts the political significance of the document. Only Georgia’s Labor Party, keeping a bit aloof from the others, has stated that the Charter is the first step to the U.S. military presence in Georgia, the issue which is allegedly being negotiated behind-the-scenes. But the Georgian authorities zealously deny that kind of supposition.

Indeed, such kind of document could not include the direct indication for the deployment of the U.S. military bases in Georgia.

However, the part of the Charter, which covers the issues of military cooperation between Georgia and U.S.A., contains the items, which make the document different from that one, recently signed between Washington and Kyiv. The United States-Georgia Charterpays much more attention to the military aspect of cooperation. The Charter makes it clear, that the U.S.-Georgia cooperation in military and security spheres will grow stronger, increasing Georgia’s chances for integration into NATO. The point in the Charter which urges Russia to follow the Ceasefire Agreement, dated August 12, 2008, and non-use of force is actually a warning to the Kremlin.

Another point of the Charter covers the development of the existing programs on bilateral cooperation in military and security spheres in order to “eliminate threats to peace and stability”. Under certain conditions, if the sides consider such threats to become real, that point can come into being by reinforcing U.S. military presence in Georgia to a varying extent.

Despite the fact, that the Charter doesn’t provide the United States with the commitment to offer military support to Georgia in case of escalation of an armed conflict against it, it will no doubt be a kind of a red rag for the Kremlin. As according to the Charter, which was successfully negotiated with the new U.S. Administration, Americans will tend to enhance their influence over the Caucasian region. It is proved by the item devoted to “the development of the new Southern Corridor” (in circumvention of Russia)in order to diversify the exports of energy supplies destined for Georgia and EU member states. The project would seriously break down Russia’s economic and geopolitical interests in the region.

The article of the Charter, calling on the measures for the reconciliation between Georgians, Abkhazians and Ossetians can also alert Russia. The locals of Abkhazia and South Ossetia – Georgia’s separatist regions, recognized by Moscow, express growing discontent with Russia’s intrusion into their lands, including the deployment of the Russian military bases and behavior of the Russian militaries.

It is difficult to forecast how diligently the Administration of President Barack Obama will follow the above-mentioned articles of the Charter. But there is a high probability (taking into consideration the increased tension in the Russia-U.S. relations) that Russia would consider the Charter as a challenge to its interests in South Caucasus. In this light, the Charter appears to lead to the further complications in the volatile Russia-Georgia relations. It will probably bolster the Kremlin to destructive actions against Georgia, once more turning the country into the arena of confrontation between the big international players.

Under such conditions the Georgian officials should act very carefully in order not to draw themselves and the country into a new armed conflict with Russia. However, the bitter experience of the August war is a vivid example of impossibility to avoid hostilities when it is already “pre-programmed.”

Gas as a political weapon

19:38 | 14/ 01/ 2009

MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti political commentator Pyotr Romanov) – The more the gas scandal develops, the more political it becomes. To begin with, there is turmoil in Ukraine where parliament is demanding the president’s impeachment and cabinet resignation.

While the second option is unlikely, the first is quite possible, and here Viktor Yanukovich, the Ukrainian Communists and the Yulia Tymoshenko bloc see eye to eye. But even if the impeachment idea fails to get through, the gas scandal is putting an end, finally and utterly, to Yushchenko’s political career. No one knows what poison was administered to the Ukrainian president before, but now he has had a hefty dose of a really lethal gas.

Russia, too, is suffering politically after sustaining economic damage. It is only looking from Moscow and only at first sight that it seems that Russian energy giant Gazprom and the Russian government are winning European sympathies. Actually, freezing European consumers find both Russia and Ukraine unlikeable suppliers. Their irritation is understandable: the European housewife wants to have gas in her kitchen and does not care who is to blame, Moscow or Kiev. As for European politicians, they, too, put the blame on Russia even if they understand the situation better. They are inclined to shut their eyes to many tricks performed by Yushchenko, because Ukraine, not Moscow, is their potential partner in the European Union and NATO.

Finally, it would be a matter of big politics and a devastating headache for Russia if Ukraine refuses to transport Russian gas to Europe for good. Not for a week or two, but forever. True, Ukraine needs Russian gas, but if the anti-Russian policy prevails, our neighbor may well risk that step. Its own gas and coal, plus fuel oil bought in Europe, could help Ukraine get through these troubles. Such a tightening of the energy belt would, of course, slow down Ukraine’s economic development, but anti-Russian feelings have driven quite a few countries to such lengths in the past. Ukrainian nationalists seem to be unafraid of shooting themselves in the foot.

Given such a prospect, both Ukraine and Russia would be losers, especially Russia which at a time of the worst global crisis would lose the European gas market, a dependable source of currency earnings for the country. The Nord Stream pipeline will go into operation at best in the fall of 2011, but by that time (if Ukrainian transit to Europe is blocked all the while) our European consumers would have opted for other energy sources and other suppliers.

Of course, Europe would be the third suffering party. To give up Russian gas all of a sudden is a great loss for the European economy and a disaster for some countries.

Who is winning in this squabble is perhaps made clear by a document signed by Ukraine and the United States and just published in Izvestia. In December, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Volodymyr Ohryzko and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice signed a Charter of Strategic Partnership. It says that Washington will now help upgrade Ukraine’s badly worn-out gas pipelines. Of course, it is for Kiev to decide who will be repairing its gas system. But it is clear that charters are not signed for repairs alone. Such texts are usually only the tip of an iceberg. The most important issues are discussed without protocol.

This suggests a very likely scenario, one described by Gazprom’s deputy CEO Alexander Medvedev. He says there is the impression that “all this jazz in Ukraine is orchestrated from another country.” There seems to be a simple explanation for Ukraine’s apparent illogical and irrational behavior: Kiev is implementing plans agreed on with the Bush administration.

The logic of this game plan may have many aspects. It is not only a way of tying Ukraine to the U.S. more tightly, but also a policy of holding Russia back. Also, it might be an anti-European move. Too many things in EU policy appear to irritate the U.S. – a competitive European economy unacceptable to the Bush administration, a French president showing activity during the events in the Caucasus last year, a call by some European leaders to the U.S. to heed the Russian president’s proposals to reform the European security system, etc.

Whether or not the Obama administration will join these anti-Russian and anti-European games is anybody’s guess. Some indirect signs show that it will not.

But, whatever is said or done, it is clear that gas banned as a weapon has found a new niche – in politics. With the global crisis in full swing, using it is particularly risky and unwise. However, the departing American administration has never shown much wisdom.

Kyrgyzstan might ask the Americans to vacate their air base outside Bishkek. T

Kyrgyzstan will have to stop maneuvering between Moscow and Washington

Kyrgyzstan might ask the Americans to vacate their air base outside Bishkek. The announcement is expected to be made ahead of a visit by President Kurmanbek Bakiyev to Moscow. It is only in exchange for a quarrel with the United States that Russia will allocate Kyrgyzstan the promised $2 billion loan, said a source in Bishkek.
But any and all talk of an early closure of the U.S. base at Bishkek’s Manas airport has been so far unofficial. According to sources, the Kyrgyz president was scheduled to arrive on January 16, but the date has been pushed back and could now be January 20.
In Moscow, the two countries are to sign an agreement granting Kyrgyzstan a $2 billion easy-term loan. Part of the loan, which Kyrgyz Prime Minister Igor Chudinov negotiated in December in Moscow and that amounts to $1.7 billion, will be used to construct the Kambaratinsky hydro power plants, and $300 million will go into supporting Kyrgyzstan’s state budget. In addition, Bishkek expects a sizeable write-off of its external debt to Russia, which exceeds $180 million.
It is for the sake of this loan that Bakiyev has decided to sacrifice the favor of the U.S. and several tens of millions of dollars paid for the lease of the base.
The U.S. base was opened in 2001 to support NATO’s operation in Afghanistan. It employs 1,500 Americans and provides basing facilities for military transport and refueling aircraft. With a similar base closed in Uzbekistan in 2005, Manas is now the key to the continued operation in Afghanistan. Russia’s Kant air base is located not far from the American one, and this has always unnerved Moscow.
“The situation in the country has reached boiling point. To avoid a repeat of the tulip revolution, the main reliance must be put on the chief donor, Russia,” says Alexei Vlasov, general director of Moscow State University Center for Study of Social and Political Processes in the CIS.
According to Vladimir Yevseyev, senior research assistant at the Institute of World Economy and International Relations, Bishkek has repeatedly bargained for increased rent payments for the base, and now it could be a matter of money, too: “The Americans would find it more convenient to increase the rent. It is not ruled out that Bakiyev might be using this as a bargaining chip.”

United States-Ukraine Charter on Strategic Partnership

United States-Ukraine Charter on Strategic Partnership

Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs
Washington, DC
December 19, 2008

Preamble
The United States of America and Ukraine:

  1. Affirm the importance of our relationship as friends and strategic partners. We intend to deepen our partnership to the benefit of both nations and expand our cooperation across a broad spectrum of mutual priorities.
  2. Emphasize that this cooperation between our two democracies is based on shared values and interests. These include expanding democracy and economic freedom, protecting security and territorial integrity, strengthening the rule of law, and supporting innovation and technological advances.
  3. Stress our mutual desire to strengthen our relationship across the economic, political, diplomatic, cultural, and security fields.
  4. Confirm the importance of the security assurances described in the Trilateral Statement by the Presidents of the U.S., Russian Federation and Ukraine of January 14, 1994, and the Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances in connection with Ukraine’s accession to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons of December 5, 1994.
  5. Affirm the Priorities for U.S.-Ukraine Cooperation (Road Map) signed on March 31, 2008 and the commitments to a strategic partnership made by Presidents Bush and Yushchenko on April 4, 2005.

Section I: Principles of Cooperation
This Charter is based on core principles and beliefs shared by both sides:

  1. Support for each other’s sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity and inviolability of borders constitutes the foundation of our bilateral relations.
  2. Our friendship comes from mutual understanding and appreciation for the shared belief that democracy is the chief guarantor of security, prosperity and freedom.
  3. Cooperation between democracies on defense and security is essential to respond effectively to threats to peace and security.
  4. A strong, independent and democratic Ukraine, capable of responsible self-defense, contributes to the security and prosperity not only of all the people of Ukraine, but of a Europe whole, free and at peace.

Section II: Defense and Security Cooperation
The United States and Ukraine share a vital interest in a strong, independent, and democratic Ukraine. Deepening Ukraine’s integration into Euro-Atlantic institutions is a mutual priority. We plan to undertake a program of enhanced security cooperation intended to increase Ukrainian capabilities and to strengthen Ukraine’s candidacy for NATO membership.

  1. Guided by the April 3, 2008 Bucharest Summit Declaration of the NATO North Atlantic Council and the April 4, 2008 Joint Statement of the NATO-Ukraine Commission, which affirmed that Ukraine will become a member of NATO.
  2. Recognizing the persistence of threats to global peace and stability, the United States and Ukraine intend to expand the scope of their ongoing programs of cooperation and assistance on defense and security issues to defeat these threats and to promote peace and stability. A defense and security cooperation partnership between the United States and Ukraine is of benefit to both nations and the region.
  3. Working within the framework of the NATO-Ukraine Commission, our goal is to gain agreement on a structured plan to increase interoperability and coordination of capabilities between NATO and Ukraine, including via enhanced training and equipment for Ukrainian armed forces.
  4. Acknowledging the growing threat posed by the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, the United States and Ukraine pledge to combat such proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and dangerous technologies through adherence to international nonproliferation standards and effective enforcement and strengthening of export controls.

Section III: Economic, Trade and Energy Cooperation
The United States and Ukraine intend to expand cooperation to enhance job creation and economic growth, support economic reform and liberalization, develop a business climate supportive of trade and investment and improve market access for goods and services. Recognizing that trade is essential for global economic growth, development, freedom and prosperity, the United States and Ukraine support the following initiatives:

  1. Welcoming Ukraine’s accession to the World Trade Organization on May 16, 2008, the parties held the first U.S.-Ukraine Trade and Investment Council meeting on October 2, 2008 in Kyiv. As discussed at the meeting, the United States continues to support Ukraine’s efforts to implement its WTO commitments. Other areas in which we plan to accelerate our efforts include expanding market access, resolving outstanding disputes and promoting intellectual property rights. Acknowledging the importance of increased investment to economic growth and development, the United States supports Ukraine’s efforts to enhance investor protections.
  2. Recognizing the importance of a well functioning energy sector, the parties intend to work closely together on rehabilitating and modernizing the capacity of Ukraine’s gas transit infrastructure and diversify and secure Ukraine’s sources of nuclear fuel making Ukraine less dependent on foreign sources of nuclear fuel and nuclear fuel storage.
  3. Following the Roadmap of Priorities for U.S.-Ukraine Cooperation, the United States and Ukraine intend to launch the work of the Bilateral Energy Security Working Group. Consistent with the U.S.-EU Summit Declaration of June 10, 2008, the United States and Ukraine intend to enhance a trilateral dialogue with the European Union on enhanced energy security.
  4. Actively developing cooperation with Ukraine’s regions, including Crimea, the United States supports Ukraine’s plan to promote security, democracy and prosperity through expanded economic development, energy conservation, food security, and good governance initiatives. The United States and Ukraine also intend to cooperate in the area of public-private partnerships in regions of Ukraine aimed at supporting small and medium enterprises.

Section IV: Strengthening Democracy
Strengthening the rule of law, promoting reform of the legal system and of law enforcement structures and combating corruption are all of key importance to the well being of Ukraine. We intend to work together to support reform, democracy, tolerance and respect for all communities.

  1. The United States and Ukraine will enhance their cooperation on efforts to strengthen the judiciary, increasing professionalism, transparency and independence as well as improving legal education and improved access to justice for all Ukrainians.
  2. Through enhanced law enforcement and judicial branch relationships, the United States and Ukraine plan to address common transnational criminal threats such as terrorism, organized crime, trafficking in persons and narcotics, money laundering, and cyber crime.
  3. Recognizing the importance of combating corruption, the United States and Ukraine intend to increase cooperation that will expand media and public monitoring of anti-corruption efforts; enforce ethical standards by establishing internal investigation units; and streamline the government regulatory process.
  4. The United States and Ukraine plan to work together to promote reform in Ukraine’s legislative processes through increased transparency, heightened accountability through citizen and media access, and expanded public information about the work of Ukraine’s parliament.
  5. Recognizing the importance of harmonizing Ukraine’s criminal justice system with European and other international standards, we plan to work together more intensely on issues of key importance, including the adoption of a Criminal Procedure Code compliant with Council of Europe standards.
  6. The United States plans to provide Ukraine with further technical assistance to support Ukraine’s efforts through government and judicial authorities to combat human trafficking, including strengthening witness protection.
  7. The United States supports increased assistance to strengthen democracy building and good governance in order to build upon Ukraine’s political progress and commitment to democratic development.

Section V: Increasing People-to-People and Cultural Exchanges
The United States and Ukraine share a desire to increase our people-to-people contacts and enhance our cultural, educational and professional exchange programs that promote democracy and democratic values and increase mutual understanding.

  1. Recognizing the vital importance of increased contact between the people of the United States and Ukraine, both sides intend to promote further cultural and social exchanges and activities through initiatives such as the Fulbright program, Future Leaders Exchange Program (FLEX), Undergraduate Exchange (UGRAD), Legislative Education and Practice (LEAP), the International Visitor Leadership Program, the English Language Teaching and Learning Program and the Open World Program.
  2. Stressing the necessity of innovation and dynamism to the future of our two countries, the United States and Ukraine intend to promote increased cooperation in higher education and scientific research. The United States will facilitate these exchanges consistent with U.S. laws and procedures so that qualified individuals in cultural, educational and scientific activities are given the opportunity to participate.
  3. Our two countries will continue to cooperate closely to promote remembrance and increased public awareness of the 1932-33 Great Famine (Holodomor) in Ukraine.
  4. Ukraine welcomes the United States’ intention to establish an American diplomatic presence (American Presence Post) in Simferopol.

Signed at Washington, D.C. on December 19, 2008.

For the United States of America: For Ukraine:

Condoleezza Rice
Secretary of State

Volodymyr Ogryzko
Minister of Foreign Affairs

UNDER NEW SECURITY AGREEMENT, US COULD GAIN CONTROL OF UKRAINIAN PIPELINE NETWORK

THE CAT IS OUT OF THE BAG!

under a cooperation agreement Kiev and Washington signed in December, the U.S. would modernize Ukraine’s crumbling transit pipelines and could receive control of the vast network.

“Recognizing the importance of a well functioning energy sector, the parties intend to work closely together on rehabilitating and modernizing the capacity of Ukraine’s gas transit infrastructure” United States-Ukraine Charter on Strategic Partnership

Gazprom: Kiev refuses to accept Russian gas intended for Europe

14. January 2009. | 15:11

Source: EMportal, Ria Novosti

For a second day Ukraine’s national energy company Naftogaz refused to accept Russian gas due to be transited to Europe, Russia’s gas monopoly Gazprom said on Wednesday.Gazprom’s deputy CEO, Alexander Medvedev, has called Ukraine’s behavior in the dispute “unbelievable” and suggested the United States could be behind the row.The Czech EU Presidency and the European Commission strongly urge Russia and Ukraine to immediately resume full gas supplies to the European Union.

For a second day Ukraine’s national energy company Naftogaz refused to accept Russian gas due to be transited to Europe, Russia’s gas monopoly Gazprom said on Wednesday.

Gazprom said it submitted another application with Naftogaz on Wednesday for the transit of 98.8 million cubic meters of gas, including 13.9 million intended for Moldova, 62.7 billion for the Balkan states, and 22.2 million for Slovakia.

Russia, which has accused Ukraine of tapping gas bound for Europe, resumed shipments after a weeklong cutoff on Tuesday after a team led by EU monitors was deployed at gas metering stations in Ukraine. However, Gazprom later said that Kiev was blocking the gas shipments.

The monopoly said on Wednesday it had requested that gas be transited via the Sudzha entry point on the Russian border, an export pipeline with direct access to the nations affected by the dispute, including Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey.

Gazprom also said that Naftogaz was demanding that the gas be sent via other transit stations, used mainly for gas intended for Ukraine’s domestic use, and that they receive 140 million cu m in order to be able to resume supplies.

Ukraine has claimed that Russia has not provided enough “technical gas” necessary to maintain pipeline pressure and pump the required volumes to Europe. Kiev also said that Moscow had demanded a complicated transit route be used that would force Ukraine to cut its domestic supplies.

“Naftogaz’s repeated refusals demonstrate that Ukraine is unable to replenish the gas reserves it has siphoned off and resume transits. Gazprom is prepared to restart supplies for European consumers at any moment,” the Russian energy giant said.

The Naftogaz chief rejected on Wednesday Russia’s claims that Ukraine had illegally siphoned off its gas, saying the company had transited 1.2 billion cubic meters of gas to Moldova.

Oleh Dubyna also said gas transits were “technically” not possible at the moment.

“We cannot reactivate the [transit] network for such insignificant amounts [of gas] and for an indefinite time,” Dubyna said, urging a provisional agreement with Russia that stipulated transit volumes and routes.

Ukraine’s energy minister, Yury Prodan, urged EU officials on Wednesday to pressure Moscow over the delays in transits.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso was reported to have called the crisis “unacceptable and incredible” and warned the EU could advise energy firms to sue Russian and Ukrainian energy companies unless gas supplies were restored quickly.

The crisis has hit about 20 EU countries in the height of winter, forcing them to close schools, factories and leaving householders without heating.

The prime ministers of Slovakia, which has said it could reactivate its aging nuclear power plant to make up for the shortfalls in energy supplies, Bulgaria and Moldova are due to meet with their Russian counterpart in Moscow on Wednesday to discuss the situation.

Russia cut off gas supplies to Ukraine on January 1 after talks on debt and a gas price for 2009 broke down. On January 7, Moscow cut off shipments to Europe, accusing Ukraine of siphoning off gas in transit for European consumers.

U.S. role

Gazprom’s deputy CEO, Alexander Medvedev, has called Ukraine’s behavior in the dispute “unbelievable” and suggested the United States could be behind the row.

“It looks like the entire musical show underway in Ukraine is being orchestrated from outside the country,” he said.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack rejected the claim as “totally without foundation”.

A popular Russian daily said on Wednesday that under a cooperation agreement Kiev and Washington signed in December, the U.S. would modernize Ukraine’s crumbling transit pipelines and could receive control of the vast network.

“This may explain Kiev’s ‘bravery,'” in the dispute, Izvestia said.

The paper also said “America could well use the current tensions in Ukraine as a pretext for one of its campaigns ‘to protect democracy.'”

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko has in turn accused Russia of using the dispute to try to seize control of Ukraine’s pipelines.

EU Presidency and Commission urge resumption of gas supplies
The Czech EU Presidency and the European Commission strongly urge Russia and Ukraine to immediately resume full gas supplies to the European Union.

In a joint letter, Martin Říman, the Minister of Industry and Trade of the Czech Republic, and Andris Piebalgs, European Commissioner for Energy, said that EU monitors were at all relevant sites and that natural gas flows should be supplied in full volume.

In a joint letter, sent on 13 January addressed to Sergey I. Shmatko, Minister of Energy of the Russian Federation, and Yuriy Prodan, Minister of Fuel and Energy of Ukraine, the Presidency and the Commission also warned that the credibility of Ukraine and Russia as reliable partners would be irrevocably damaged should gas supply to European consumers not be immediately resumed.

Israel…An Abnormal State

Israel…An Abnormal State

Readers Number : 451

13/01/2009 An Abnormal State
By Aluf Benn
Haaretz

Who complained to the United Nations Security Council about the firing of Qassam rockets by the Hamas government in Gaza? The government of Israel.

And when the Security Council met to discuss the threat from Gaza, who refused to send its foreign minister to UN Headquarters so as “not to legitimize the Security Council’s discussion of the operation against Hamas”? And who left the most important international arena to its UN ambassador, while the Palestinians and Arab countries flooded the building with high-level delegations? The government of Israel.

Who demanded in every diplomatic encounter that the Security Council impose sanctions on Iran because of its nuclear program and punish Syria for smuggling weapons to Hezbollah, and then accused Iran and Syria of ignoring U.N. resolutions?

And when, over Israel’s objections, that very council passed Resolution 1860 calling for a cease-fire in Gaza, who proclaimed that it would not accept it and intended to continue fighting? The government of Israel, of course.

It would be funny if it were not a matter of national importance: Israel complains to the UN about the Hamas government, and the next day claims that Hamas is not worthy of recognition and that the Security Council should not be discussing the conflict. Someone in Jerusalem is confused. Or not: Israel wants the international community, represented by the Security Council, to protect it from Hamas, Syria and Iran, but not to hamper the Israel Defense Forces operating with all its strength in Gaza. The problem is that the international community rejects this arrangement and wants to intervene even when it hampers Israel.

As usual with us, political rivalries affect foreign-policy discourse. Ehud Olmert and Ehud Barak pass responsibility to Tzipi Livni and the Foreign Ministry for the diplomatic downfall in the UN. Livni defends herself with the argument that she warned them of the expected resolution, and that the prime minister was the one who forbade her from taking part in the deliberations. Olmert hoped that his personal friendship with George W. Bush and Nicolas Sarkozy would allow him to torpedo a Security Council resolution, but his friends disappointed him and preferred to back up their foreign ministers. Sarkozy did not postpone the discussion and Bush did not veto the resolution.

Israel’s problematic conduct in the UN is doubtless affected by disagreements among its leaders, but it reflects a deeper problem. Israel has not yet decided whether to be a normal member of the international community and pay the price of normalcy, or to remain isolated on the outside. This dilemma began almost with the establishment of the state, and has persisted since. The natural tendency of Israeli diplomats is to see the UN and its institutions as insignificant, as a famous statement by David Ben-Gurion once intimated. It was a kind of hostile organization, controlled by a majority opposed to Israel, which is saved only by an American veto in the Security Council.

In recent years, Israel has tried to soften its attitude and normalize its relationships with the international organization. The Foreign Ministry is proud of the involvement of Israelis in UN institutions and the resolutions Israel has initiated in the General Assembly. The Security Council has been perceived as an asset in dealing with Iran and Hezbollah, and even in negotiations with the Palestinians. Only four weeks ago, Livni praised Resolution 1850, which supported the Annapolis process, and called for a continuation of talks on a final agreement. In the days before the war in Gaza, the Security Council resolution was seen as a tool to strengthen Kadima as the party of negotiations and peace against the rejectionism of Benjamin Netanyahu and Likud.

But then came the crisis, and Israel returned to her old rejectionist stance. Once again it had to beg America to save it, and came out humiliated. In retrospect, Jerusalem tried to soften the embarrassment, and claimed that the resolution was not so bad. If that’s the case, why did Israel demean itself in a failed attempt to prevent it? Would it not have been preferable to send the foreign minister to New York to demonstrate involvement and concern, and also to talk about the resolution in a positive way after it was passed?

In eight days, a new president will move into the White House, one obligated to strengthening the influence of international institutions. Barack Obama will not be in a hurry to cast a veto for Israel’s sake. Israel should become involved in this process and not be seen as the disturbed child of the international community.