WHO is to blame for the fact that millions of East Europeans are shivering in low temperatures for the lack of the gas they need to warm their homes?
Either it is Russia for refusing to supply the gas or it is Ukraine which acts as a kind of junction in the gas pipelines that pass through it to the east and west. Politically Ukraine is a deeply divided country and the decisions its government makes are more often related to local advantage than to international responsibility. Certainly, Ukraine owes money to Russia for gas supplied in the past three years and has no right to bargain, as it is doing, for supplies at less than the market price. Ultimately, however, it is difficult to see Russia's tactics in refusing to open the gas supply valves as anything other than an attempt to use gas as a political weapon. In this view, Ukraine is being punished for its tendency to look to the West for political and economic affiliation instead of maintaining the close links to the East that existed until the Soviet Union collapsed; and by extension this warning is sent also to the other former Soviet satellites now members of the European Union. Although Western Europe is not yet dependent on Russian gas to the extent of its neighbours to the east, it will have noticed how far Russia's energy tentacles are spreading and realised that alternative sources of supply need to be developed urgently.


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