Monday, January 02, 2006

No gas...sort of

So the gas has been turned off. We know this because of the pictures of someone turning a valve near the Ukrainian border broadcast on TV yesterday in Russia. Of course, gas still flows through the pipeline, but it has been reported to be at a lower pressure. So gas flows but Ukraine’s portion is being withheld.

Before we knew for certain Russia had “turned off” the gas yesterday, I could have sworn it was colder in the apartment, which to me was a sure sign they had. So we went around checking the radiators to see if they were cold. They weren’t. And they aren’t today. The government says there is enough gas for a while so domestic consumers won’t feel it, at least for the next little while. After that, who knows.

This creates a lot of uncertainty but you have to admit that it makes things more interesting.

One of the things this could do is to spur reforms across the board. The country needs an energy policy quick and the only way to have an effective energy policy is with reform. Maybe this will be a kick in the rear to get reform moving again. Maybe we hope too much.

Yanukovych has been seen on TV recently with the airing of his best wishes for the country in the new year. He speaks Ukrainian and manages a smile that doesn’t come off as a smirk. Must have been practicing for this moment. Maybe he has a Russian language version for the east. If not, you gotta wonder how it all plays there.

He hasn’t been known much for having good advisors. As a matter of, they have been spectacularly abysmal even the Russian versions he had in the last election. But I think he thinks he just has to hang around and stay out of jail to win the PMship in March. And the polls say he is right—for now. That he still is around and still viable says nothing for his strategy and a lot for the fact that the government and the others don’t have one. Yanukovych is still the butt of jokes, but even a fool can win if the opposition is in disarray. And that is what it looks like now—on both counts.

Yuschenko’s speech on New Years Eve was a nice one all told. He walked out of Marinsky Palace, out the gate and across the plaza to a podium flanked by female singers singing the Carol of the Bells. (“Ring Christmas bells, merrily ring, tell all the world, Jesus is king…”) It looked like Bush or Reagan walking down the corridor to the East room for a speech or press conference. It looked pretty impressive. Kuchma was usually sitting at his desk in real party boss style trying to be nice but not quite doing it. This looked more meaningful.

The speech started as a laundry list of accomplishments which I wish he would have chucked. The second half was better. His speech at the Maidan celebration suffered from the same problems. It would have been better in both cases to have given the last half first and then moved on to tout the accomplishments. That might sound weird to an ear attuned to US presidential speeches, which do the same things, but here he’s got to get the people’s ears before he can tell them what he’s done. And he hasn’t gotten their ears yet. He has to speak to them, soul to soul like he did before, in the olden times. That might mean he may have to get rid of some Western trained advisors but that is what he ought to do. Cleverness won’t cut it right now.

Anyway, in light of developments, new fur fashions to wear indoors might be a good business idea.


No comments: