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Germany, Russia Clinch Key Energy Deal --> German Chancellor Merkel (left) and Russian President Putin in Tomsk (epa) April 27, 2006 – A high-profile summit between Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel ended today with the two countries signing a major gas deal.

The agreement gives Germany's BASF the right to take part in the development of a large gas field in Western Siberia with Russia's Gazprom.

The Yuzhno-Russkoye gas field will feed a new gas pipeline that will deliver Russian gas to Germany under the Baltic Sea.

Energy was high on the agenda of Putin's talks with Merkel in the Siberian city of Tomsk on April 26-27.

Earlier on April 27, Putin called Europe "a natural and the most convenient partner" for Russia.

However, Putin said that Russia is beginning to look for new partners because it is hearing "the same thing every day," about Europe's "excessive dependence on Russia" and the need to restrict "Russia's delivery of energy resources to European markets."

Putin stressed that this search does not mean Russia will limit supplies to Europe.

(compiled 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.


Listen to the complete panel discussion (about 90 minutes):
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