Then We’ll Turn Off the Gas…

October 31, 2013
A Russian gas-measuring station near the Ukrainian border. Photograph: Sergey Dolzhenko/EPA

Russia’s trade wars are showing no signs of ending any time soon. In fact, despite signs that the Kremlin has fired a man who has been the face of Russia’s isolationist and exclusivist policies, a development which some said was a sign of change, Russia is now increasing its threats to Ukraine by making them pre-pay for gas products.

The following is an editorial published in the liberal Echo Moskvy- Ed.

I made a point of checking what the date was today. From all indications, any day now, New Year’s will come, although it is Indian summer outside. I looked at the calendar and the 1st is really around the corner – only November 1st, not January 1st. But that’s strange. Because usually we start turning off the gas in Ukraine right on January 1st.

It’s always the same story. We are indignant that the fraternal people do not want to pay their bill, and the debt has reached critical proportions. Or we reproach the neighboring republic for stealing fuel that we are pumping to the West. And Ukraine is outraged in reply, that it is not in arrears, but just the opposite, is overpaying! That no one buys gas at the prices they do. And that on the whole, the day is soon coming when they will renounce Russian gas altogether.

In reply, we only smirk, and say that soon we will introduce visas, and that it won’t work out for Kiev to be friends both with us and Europe — they have to choose. The gas we sell to our neighbors is a universal means of connection and pressure. And the more pressure in our relations, the lower the pressure in the gas pipeline. Take note: our bosses, right up to Dmitry Medvedev, are now saying how nice we are and how we gave all kinds of discounts and perks to Ukraine. But why did we give them? We ourselves accused Ukraine a hundred times for delays and deceptions, and denounced their billions in debts. We created the image of a cunning, dishonest partner. So why should such a partner be given discounts and perks? And why is it that suddenly, right now, we lost the desire to give them those perks and discounts?

Somehow, this quite incidentally coincided with the Ukrainians’ ponderous thoughts about how they could both get privileges from us and get into Europe. So we then decided that nothing accelerates the thought process and concentrates the mind wonderfully as a good kick in the butt. You owe us a billion – and you have for a long time! We were nice to you, but you didn’t appreciate our niceness. You wanted to be in Europe – there’s Europe for you, with visas, passports, the border, and prices on the principle of “in the morning money, in the evening chairs.” But if after our twisting of arms and kicking of butts, you suddenly decide that we are somehow closer and more akin to you, then our kindness will once again not know any borders or visas. And the magical world of discounts will once again open up before you. And once again you can pay as you go and smile nicely.

No, of course you have to pay on time for gas. And pre-payment – that’s a good idea, too. But winning friendship won’t work anyway with such methods. And Ukraine will not bow to us anyway. Here we ourselves should think: why doesn’t anyone want to be friends with us, just because, not from the threat of a stick? Not because there is no other option, but sincerely. And whose problem is this above all if not ours?