IT is unusual for both sides in a dispute to paint themselves into the same corner but this is what seems to have happened in the disagreement between Russia and Ukraine over gas supplies that has left hundreds of thousands of East Europeans shivering for two weeks. Finding themselves together with nowhere else to go the Russian and Ukrainian prime ministers must have thought it would be best to talk and quickly reached a ten-year agreement that should stop any further gas wars. “I would like to thank prime minister Yulia Vladimirovna Tymoshehko for making these important decisions” said prime minister Putin; “I am very much obliged to Vladimir Vladimirovich” said the Ukraine's first minister.

Mr Putin's decision to take the negotiations into his own hands and then to order Gazprom to open the valves suggests that he may have recognised that Russia is gaining a reputation as an unreliable supplier of essential resources. He may also have noticed that Turkey's prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has been in Brussels urging a speed-up of his country's negotiations for membership of the European Union - and pointing out that Turkey would be a reliable partner for the EU by carrying Caspian natural gas in a secure pipeline through its territory. Energy security is an increasingly important subject and at the moment several western European countries are dependent on Russian supplies to a potentially dangerous extent. If Turkey can help it should be encouraged to do so.


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