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Putin Pledges Stable Energy Supplies For Europe

EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, Russian President Putin, Austrian Chancellor Schuessel, and European Commission President Barroso (left to right) in Sochi (epa) May 25, 2006 -- Russia's President Vladimir Putin today opened a summit meeting with the European Union by pledging to ensure stable energy supplies to Europe.

Speaking in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Putin told European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, and other EU officials that the construction of the North European Gas Pipeline and other steps taken by Russia are intended "to strengthen the energy security of the continent,...solving the tasks of global and regional development, and at achieving the main goal -- improving the quality of life of Europeans."

The North European Gas Pipeline has caused controversy because rather than passing through Poland, it will link Russia and Germany directly, passing through the Baltic Sea.

The current president of the EU, Austria's Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel, said Russia and the EU wanted to continue what he described as more than 40 years of "constructive partnership."


Russia's Gas Strategy

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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