Thursday, January 12, 2006

Gas sorted at the moment, now for domestic matters...

So, the toys that have been thrown around the Eurasian nursery by the little bully Putin at goody-two-shoes-tight-wad Viktor, to the shock of all of the outer boys and girls, have been put away. After their meeting yesterday in Astana, which Putin described as, "detailed and fruitful," its business back to normal.

For Putin the gas deal may have been fruitful indeed. In an interesting piece in 'Ukr Pravda' Stanislav Belkovskyi says most Gazprom professionals anticipated that despite the bluster from both sides, the price for gas sold to Ukraine would have been settled, after negotiations, at around the $145/Tcm mark. When they heard it would would be raised to an unrealistic $230 they quietly cursed Putin under their breath. The final price achieved by the Ukrainians was fixed at $50 lower than even their 'bottom price'.

Belkovskyi praises Yushchenko and Yekhanorov for correctly assessing their opponent and 'making him an offer he couldn't refuse.' By agreeing to use the services of RosUkrEnergo, they provided a simple mechanism for persons in the highest branches of executive power in the Russian Federation to skim off billions of dollars every year into their own personal bank accounts, with little cost to the Ukrainian state. Had Naftogaz Ukrainy dealt direct with Gazprom, then the unit price fixed for gas would have been much higher.

Belkovskyi says that Yulia T. had proposed a similar plan, using 'Itera', a Delaware-registered company she had used in the past when she was arranging shady deals herself in the gas-trading business.

The speedy resolution of the crisis caught her unawares, prompting the vicious attacks that resulted it the 'ousting' of PM Yekhanurov and his Cabinet by parliament. For BYuT, her over-the-top actions in sponsoring the 'ousting' was a political blunder in my opinion, as was criticizing Yekhanurov before a deal was done in the gas negotiations . It's bad form to do this when the captain is walking up to the plate with bat in hand to deal with hostile pitching.

Putin must be delighted with the ructions in Ukrainian politics. He can say to his people, 'You see how they are arguing in Ukraine - it shows that we won, and they lost,' so diverting attention from his own 'insider-dealing' schemes. If Belkovskyi's assertions are true, then how handy it is for Ukrainians that, as London cockneys say, "Putin likes a bung" [i.e. bribe].

The gas crisis has been settled for now, proper electioneering can begin. There are three big players, Yushchenko, Yulia, and Yanukovych, two of which will gang up on the remaining one. But which two? Today Yushchenko had ripped up his 12th Sept 05 Government-Opposition Memorandum with Yanukovych, and after Yulia's recent performances, it really is not easy to see with whom he will work in the next parliament. Someone should have told Yulia a few days ago, in politics, "he who wields the dagger never wears the crown."

I totally agree with you Scott that what happened in the VR yesterday was symbolic, peevish and irresponsible, because parliament will be wound up soon anyway, before the elections. I do not believe that politically Yushchenko has been significantly weakened, but now has to attack, attack, attack. Ripping up the memorandum [rather un-Yushchenko-like] is a very good first step.

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