14. GAS – CHESS BOARD

It’s like a game of chess: any price paid for the king defense can’t
be too high, since after the mate to the main piece the game is over.

GUEST ANALYST: Dr. Andriy Starodub, Scientist
Institute for Archeography and Cource Studies
National Academy of Science of Ukraine
UKRAINIAN MONITOR, #51/2005
Centre for Peace, Conversion and Foreign Policy of Ukraine
Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, December 27, 2005

The analysis of the Kremlin actions in Russian-Ukrainian “gas-information”
war presents problems to many political scientists. Really, not sufficient
seem explanations, such as Putin’s administration, pressing Ukraine,
acts only in the interests of the relatively “Russian” forces or “revenge
forces”, aiming at bringing them to power after March, 2006.

Moreover, the intervening pressing result is the rate increase of
the presidential “Nasha Ukraina”, but not Akhmetov and Yanukovych
“Regions Party”. It would be naive as well to think that the Kremlin didn’t
plan possible counteractions of the Ukrainian authorities in response to
the gas blackmail: from the consideration of the lease payment
conditions for the Black Sea Fleet basing in the Crimea to the
cancellation of lending radar stations at Sevastopol and Mukachevo.

And these Ukrainian steps, no matter how ironically the chances of
their usage are presented by Russian mass media, are a real threat
to the national security of the Russian Federation.

The threat being more real than newly created Democratic Choice
Community or “NATO forwarding to the East”. Besides, it was clear
that this conflict will overstep the limits of bilateral relations
long before the claims of Ukrainian high-ranking officials,
announced last week (concerning the appeal to the Stockholm
Arbitration Court and to the countries that in 1994 guaranteed not
to use the mechanisms of political and economic pressure onto
Ukraine in exchange for the refusal of nuclear power possession).

And all this scandals will hardly improve the international image of
Putin’s Russia and its gas monster – “Gasprom” company, and profits
from the price increase for several countries won’t cover possible losses.

So, the Ukrainian patriots can continue to satisfy themselves with
the fact that Russian Federation has aroused the present conflict
only to return “refractory” Ukraine under its influence, but certain
reasons exist to think that for real the gas price for Ukraine,
“revenge forces” support and even the desire to occupy the transit
gas-transport system couldn’t be a motivation to rush to the “gas”
attack. What problem is solving the Kremlin actually, playing rather
a dangerous game?

There is a Polish proverb: “When the matter is unclear, the matter
concerns money”. At first sight, “Gasprom” is constantly talking about
money – 160 dollars for a thousand gas cubes, 230, and at the end of the
last week Medvedev, the deputy chief of the managing board of the
company, didn’t exclude the price of 500-700 dollars. President
Putin even counted how many additional milliards of dollars will
bring to the Russian treasury the price increase for Ukraine and how
they may be spent for the welfare of the Russian people.

But a more interesting question is that of money which are not
announced nor by the President, neither by “Gasprom” – namely
profits from the gas monopolist share sale – how they will be spent
(and to whom they will belong). Last week Putin has signed the law
removing restrictions on “Gasprom” shares’ purchase by foreigners.

That means that “Gasprom” de-jure turns into a fully commercial
structure, being moreover one of the most powerful in the world, and
its shares will be purchased freely and sold at the stock exchanges.

The scandals, like the present one, could essentially influence the stock
price, which creates ideal conditions for speculative earnings on prices
fluctuation and for transfer process manipulation of the Gasprom
shares from one owners to others. In the context of the “Peter
chekist” problem – power reservation after 2008 – it is very
important whose hands the above-mentioned shares will fall into.

So, “the question price” is much higher than additional 3-4 milliards
dollars got from Ukraine. Perhaps, that was exactly what the Russian
political strategist Stanislav Belkovsky meant, when proposing to consider
Putin and his team rather businessmen, but not people ready to sacrifice
everything to the Russian Empire restoration?

Taking everything into consideration, this aspect of the problem is
known to the Ukrainian authorities, since the prime minister Yuriy
Yekhanurov in the recent interview to the “Dzerkalo tyzhnia”
(December,24) hinted as the possible development of events, when a
London suburbian citizen, the owner of several Gasprom shares, would
bring an action against the company management, that it makes
decisions on political motives risking his (shareholders) investments.
By the way, a couple of interesting persons live in London watching
closely the Moscow events and looking forward to the year 2008:

The “Gasprom” leadership, having no desire to go into this problem,
was also made to claim about the possibility of such development of
events in case :if gas would be sold to Ukraine at the price, lower
than to the west-european consumers.

According to “Gasprom” statement, minor owners will bring actions against
Miller and Medvedev, accusing them for a profit deficiency from price
preferences granted to Ukraine. The things, “Gasprom” doesn’t want to
comment on, are reasons, because of which foreign stock owners are
not offended today by the gas price for Byelorussia amounting only15-
20% from the European one.

TO SUM UP, the Ukrainian-Russian gas conflict and its influence on
the bilateral relations and political situation in Ukraine during the period
of parliamentary elections is only the “top of the iceberg” of this
complicated game, the bet being a really giant sum of money and
power preservation in the Kremlin.

It’s like a game of chess: any price paid for the king defense can’t
be too high, since after the mate to the main piece the game is over.

Ukrainian Monitor is an information-analytical project of the Center
for Peace, Conversion and Foreign Policy of Ukraine (CPCFPU).
Nataliya Parkhomenko, E-mail:
office@cpcfpu.org.ua
http://www.cpcfpu.org.ua

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