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G8 Finance Ministers In Moscow


http://gdb.rferl.org/f0348d29-c618-4888-846e-aaee757cc54d_w203.jpg --> http://gdb.rferl.org/f0348d29-c618-4888-846e-aaee757cc54d_mw800_mh600.jpg (RFE/RL) 11 February 2006 - Finance ministers of the Group of Eight (G8) major industrialized countries today issued a statement warning that high prices for oil and gas would be a threat to economic growth in 2006.

Despite the statement issued at the end of the meeting, the finance ministers described world economic growth as solid and said it will continue to grow in 2006.

The G-8 comprises the United States, Japan, Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, and Canada in addition to Russia.

Today's meeting in Moscow was the first ever G8 gathering hosted and led by Russia. The issue of energy security topped the agenda.

Doubts were raised last month when Moscow briefly switched off gas supplies to Ukraine and Moldova in a dispute over pricing that affected Russian deliveries to Western Europe.

As one of the world 's leading producers of oil and gas, Russia's revenues from energy were one of the reasons its economy grew by 6 percent last year.

The finance ministers also discussed debt relief for poor countries. Russia said it will write off $668 million in Third World debt in 2006.

(complied from agency reports)
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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