The Knucklehead of the Day award
Today's winner is Russian President Vladimir Putin. Putin gets today's award for his role in the current power politics struggle between Russia and the Ukraine. It threatens to effect not just those two countries but much of Europe besides.
What's the dispute over? Natural Gas and how much the Ukraine pays a Russian firm named Gazprom. Currently the Ukraine pays $50 per 1,000 cubic metres but now Gazprom a state controlled gas monopoly wants to raise the price to over $200 per 1,000 cubic metres. This in violation of a contract signed between Gazprom and Ukraine in 2004 agreeing to this price for five years. The Ukraine refuses to pay the new price and made a counter offer of a 60% increase. This was rejected and Gazprom has since cut off the Ukraine's supply of natural gas. There is just one problem with that move- Gazprom sells large quantities of natural gas to Western Europe, and most of this supply is shipped through a pipeline running through the Ukraine.
Russian President Vladimir Putin is behind this price increase. Its probable cause is his unhappiness with the new Ukranian leader, Viktor Yuschenko. Yuschenko is no fan of Putin, and is western-leaning rather than a Russian ally. This flareup is all about politics and Russia's perennial desire to control the countries bordering it.
But Putin seems to either underestimate the Ukranians or not care about the consequences of his actions. For the Ukranians obviously won't sit by while Natural gas is shipped through its country to Western Europe. Cutting off the Ukranians supply threatens to do the same to Europe. With winter already here, this will certainly bring about a gas shortage and people will certainly die because they can't heat their homes.
Putin also seems oblivious to the fact that the Ukraine allows Russia to port its Black sea fleet in the Ukranian city of Sebastapol. Lower Natural Gas prices would seem a fair trade off for allowing the pipeline in the Ukraine and Russian use of this port. Putin seems to think otherwise.
Lives are at stake and Putin is playing politics. He's truly a madman. For being an out of control Russian leader in the mold of the tsars or Josef Stalin with little or no regard for human life, Vladimir Putin is today's Knucklehead of the day.
Note- Captain Ed has several excellent posts. Click here, here and here. Ultima Thule a Ukranian-American by the way of Australia has also written on this topic, here and here.
Russia is also now accusing the Ukraine of diverting 25 million dollars worth of Natural Gas.
Open Post- Third World County, Bloggin Outloud, Committees of Correspondence, Jo's Cafe, Bright & Early, Basil's Blog,
MOSCOW - Russia's state-controlled natural gas monopoly on Monday accused Ukraine of diverting about $25 million worth of Russian gas intended for other customers, a day after Moscow halted deliveries to Kiev in a price dispute whose effects were spreading across Europe.
Ukraine in turn accused Russia of trying to undermine its economy, calling for a resumption of gas price negotiations, this time including international experts.
Russia's OAO Gazprom halted gas deliveries to Ukraine on Sunday after Kiev balked at paying quadruple the amount it previously paid for Russian gas, which accounts for about a third of the consumption in the country of 48 million people.
Gas supplies to much of Europe fell sharply Monday in the fallout of the pricing dispute, and several nations urged energy-hungry industries to switch to oil. Gazprom said Monday in a telegram to the Ukrainian gas distributor Naftogaz that it would increase the amount of gas being shipped to European customers.
The telegram, a copy of which was made available to The Associated Press, said the increase of 95 million cubic meters a day was necessary to compensate for gas it accused Ukraine of diverting.
Ukraine acts as a transit country for most of Russia's gas consignment to Europe. Hardest-hit Serbia saw gas deliveries cut in half, and planned to start reducing supplies Wednesday to water heating plants supplying nonessential users such as factories.