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Polish DM Likens Pipeline Deal To Nazi-Soviet Pact --> Section of Baltic Sea gas pipeline being laid in Vlogda region (epa) April 30, 2006 -- Polish Defense Minister Radek Sikorski today compared a German-Russian gas-pipeline deal to the 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop pact that carved up Eastern Europe into Nazi and Soviet spheres of influence.

Speaking at a conference in Brussels, Sikorski said the German-Russian plan to pipe gas under the Baltic Sea would cost $6 billion more than the overland route through Eastern Europe. He said the deal was mainly designed to enable Moscow to cut off gas supplies to Poland and Belarus.

Sikorski said Poland asked German Chancellor Angela Merkel to renounce the deal, which was negotiated by her predecessor, Gerhard Schroeder. But she refused.

Sikorski said Germany's position undermined the European Union's foreign and security policy. He called it a throwback to the "Molotov-Ribbentrop tradition."

Russian and Germany have not commented Sikorski's comments. But EU Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs also criticized Germany today for failing to consult its EU partners on the deal.

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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Moscow's New Energy Strategy

Moscow And Energy Leverage

Russia's New Imperialism

Who's Afraid Of Gazprom? Controlling Gas Pipelines