Since the breakup of the Soviet Union, Russia has used natural gas as a weapon against Ukraine and Europe as a whole. Threatening to turn shut off the pipes as the weather turns cold is a pretty effective way to influence foreign policy.
The Great Debate
After last week’s gas agreement between Russia, Ukraine and the European Union — which made clear Russia’s energy dominance over Europe — some have asked whether the U.S. could use its gas reserves as a “geopolitical weapon” to “stand up to Russian aggression,” as U.S. Speaker of the House John Boehner said in a statement earlier this year.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has adopted a “go it alone” approach throughout the Ukraine crisis and regularly describes his country as “independent” and nonaligned. But Moscow is not as isolated as Putin makes out. The fact that he cannot see this reality — or chooses to ignore it — has produced a series of decisions that has seriously undermined Russia’s global role.
The gas dispute between Russia and Ukraine that has left hundreds of thousands of Europeans shivering in the winter cold is bound to accelerate plodding European Union efforts to build a common energy policy.