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Georgia Urges Europe To Seek New Energy Supplies


http://gdb.rferl.org/573aa63b-5194-4d6b-8e7f-ab3f91e2c470_w203.jpg --> http://gdb.rferl.org/573aa63b-5194-4d6b-8e7f-ab3f91e2c470_mw800_mh600.jpg Georgian President Saakashvili (file photo) (RFE/RL) MUNICH, 3 February 2006 (RFE/RL) -- Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili today urged Western Europe to diversify its energy supplies by investing in the Black Sea and Caucasus region.


In an indirect reference to Russia's decision in early January to cut gas supplies to Ukraine, a move that affected supplies in a number of countries, Saakashvili said Western Europe "does not want to find its schools, factories and citizens as vulnerable as Georgia and Ukraine were last month."


Saakashvili did not mention Russia by name.


He said recent events amounted to a "wake-up call" for Ukraine and Georgia and had taught Georgia that it could no longer rely on a single source for its energy needs.


He also emphasized the importance of two pipeline projects that now cross Georgia, and said Western Europe could benefit from these and other resources.


Saakashvili was speaking at the opening session of an international security conference in Munich.

Russia's Gas Strategy



RUNNING HOT AND COLD The crisis over Russian supplies of natural gas to Ukraine that erupted on New Year's Day has implications that spread well beyond these two countries and will impact both economic and political policymaking throughout Europe. On January 19, RFE/RL's Washington, D.C., office hosted a briefing the examined the ramifications of the natural-gas conflict.

CLIFFORD GADDY, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, outlined Russia's "grand energy strategy," in which Ukraine is perceived as merely an obstacle frustrating Russia's energy ambitions in Western Europe and therefore a nonentity in Russia's broader strategic planning. According to Gaddy, Russia's strategic goal regarding energy is to maximize the role of its own energy resources in the world energy markets, so as to increase its geopolitical influence. To do this, it must reduce competition and maximize dependency on its own energy resources, as well as ensure a stable supply.

TARAS KUZIO, a visiting assistant professor at George Washington University, rebutted Gaddy's argument, claiming that Russia's actions evidenced a complete lack of geopolitical strategy and resulted in strong denunciations by Western countries and a loss of political allies in Ukraine. According to Kuzio, Russian President Vladimir Putin's desire to have a deal signed by the January 4 European Union energy summit outweighed his hope of reinforcing opposition to Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko during the run-up to Ukraine's March 26 parliamentary elections.

RFE/RL Coordinator of Corruption Studies ROMAN KUPCHINSKY did not fully agree with Kuzio's assessments of Yushchenko or Ukraine. He outlined three major problems that are feeding the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. The biggest, he argues, is that the state-controlled Russian gas giant Gazprom holds a monopoly on natural-gas sales outside the CIS. Kupchinsky also decried Ukraine's consumption of natural gas, terming it "out of control." Corruption is also a major factor in the conflict, Kupchinsky said, although the extent to which it taints the deal struck between Russia and Ukraine remains unknown.


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