For Long-Term Security, EU Should Push Moscow to Obey Rules and Kyiv to Reform Gas Sector
By brokering a March 2 interim gas deal between Ukraine and Russia, the European Union helped avert a wintertime cutoff of gas to Ukraine and other parts of Europe. Russia had threatened to halt supplies to Ukraine in the two countries’ dispute over prices and payments for Russia’ gas. The deal, in Brussels, came as Ukraine’s parliament passed one of several difficult reform laws that could help the longer-term energy security of both the country and Europe, analysts say.
Europe is at risk of Russian gas cutoffs because almost 15 percent of its total gas needs arrive from Russia via pipelines across Ukraine. But the EU can take a simple step to reduce its dangerous dependence on Russia’s good will in delivering gas to Ukraine, write two Canadian economists. EU leaders should begin building a more flexible, stable gas market in Europe by forcing the Russian gas monopoly, Gazprom, to remove a clause in its contracts that forbid European countries from swapping around volumes of gas bought initially from Russia.
Europe Should Press Moscow to Respect EU Rules—and Kyiv to End Gas Monopoly
In recent days, Russia has once more threatened the security of Europe’s gas supplies by announcing that it will refuse to pipe gas through Ukraine and will require that a southern alternative be built through Turkey. The European gas supply system has become a vital issue over the past year given Europe’s significant reliance on Russian imports and the conflict arising from Russia’s attacks on Ukraine. Europe depends on gas imports from Russia for approximately 30 percent of its requirements, of which about 40 percent are transported through Ukrainian pipelines.
For years, Europe has allowed Gazprom, the monopolistic Russian state gas supplier, to sell in Europe on terms that are highly anticompetitive and inconsistent with market principles. This has let Russia use gas exports as a weapon of intimidation, especially in Central and Eastern Europe.
MIT Economist Says Rescue Plan Is Too Small, May Need Adjustment
An International Monetary Fund bailout for Ukraine underestimates the banking sector’s needs and is unrealistic about government expenditure on security and defense, according to Andrei Kirilenko, a Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Ukraine has secured a $40 billion bailout from the IMF and other creditors. The agreement, which spans four years and includes $17.5 billion from the Fund, “can represent a turning point for Ukraine,” said IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde.
Kirilenko, a Professor of the Practice of Finance at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, said the package is not designed to “stimulate sustainable economic growth,” but to “close a bleeding wound in the underbelly of Europe.”
Passive Responses to Putin Darken the Future for Ukraine—and for Russia
The professional killing of Boris Nemtsov February 27 confronts us with two facts that Western policymakers ignore at great cost in the Russia-Ukraine war. First, Mr. Putin’s war in Ukraine is potentially a great domestic political liability for him. Second, it is central to his campaign to crush all democratic inclinations so as to force Russia back under into the authoritarian rule it bore for centuries under tsars and Soviet commissars.
Truce Buys Ukraine Time to Get a Little Real Help From Its Friends
Ukraine and its allies hope this month’s cease-fire deal agreed with Russia and Russian-backed rebels brings relative calm to southeastern Ukraine. But the Minsk agreement is deeply flawed, and there is every chance it may yet unravel, even if it holds for the short term.
The accord’s greatest flaw is in letting Russia maintain unsupervised control of Ukraine’s border in the Donbas region until the end of the year. This will mean Russia can freely continue supplying weapons and equipment to locally controlled “people’s militias," armed formations that will now expressly be permitted under the agreement. Moreover, while the accord calls for the withdrawal of “foreign armed formations, military equipment, and mercenaries,” it creates no effective regime for enforcing a pullout of those Russian military assets from the Kremlin-engineered separatist enclave in the Donbas.
New Prosecutor Briefly Arrests an Oligarch; Anti-Corruption Bureau Seeks a Director
The Ukrainian campaign to actually begin cleaning up Europe’s most corrupt government and economy is progressing more slowly than many Ukrainians have demanded. But the past week showed some movement in two critical government agencies: the prosecutor general’s office and the nascent National Anti-Corruption Bureau.
Just days after being named Ukraine’s chief prosecutor, Viktor Shokin astonished the country’s political class and delighted its pro-reform commentators on February 14 by arresting a longtime ally of the corrupt former president, Viktor Yanukovych. Two days later, Shokin reshuffled the prosecutor general’s office, firing several deputies with past connections to Yanukovych’s team.
Kyiv Forced into New Retreat; US, Europe Must Increase Support, Atlantic Council Analysts Say
At midday February 18, three-and-a-half days beyond the designated hour for a cease-fire in eastern Ukraine, fighting was continuing in the strategic city of Debaltseve, where Russian forces continue to pound a nearly surrounded Ukrainian contingent that may still number in the thousands—and where Ukrainian forces have begun a withdrawal.
Lawmakers Vote to End Their Immunity from Prosecution
Members of Ukraine’s parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, overwhelmingly passed a bill to end their own legal immunity from prosecution, one of the main laws that for years helped Ukraine to the top of Europe’s corruption charts. Article 80 of Ukraine’s constitution protects all Rada members from prosecution for any crimes, and “opinion surveys consistently show that 90 percent of Ukrainians favor cancellation” of the law, writes the Atlantic Council’s Kyiv-based senior fellow, Brian Mefford.
If Russia Permits, the Minsk Accord Could Be a Start for Stabilizing Donbas
The ceasefire agreement signed by Russia and Ukraine on in Minsk on 12 February offers what German Chancellor Angela Merkel calls “a glimmer of hope, no more no less” for constricting, and eventually ending, the war in southeast Ukraine’s Donbas region.
Whether that hope is sustainable will now be determined by the agreement’s implementation—and most heavily on Russia’s real desire. The accord contains some timing and sequencing problems that don’t augur well—but also elements that could comprehensively resolve the crisis.
‘Minsk II’ Accord Will Let Moscow Keep Pumping Arms, Fighters into Ukraine's Donbas
With thousands of Ukrainian troops nearly surrounded in Donbas by the freshly armed, Kremlin-directed rebel militias, Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko accepted the Minsk II agreement February 12. The new accord is clearly less advantageous to Kyiv than was the Minsk I agreement, which Moscow has openly flouted since its signing last September. This diplomatic victory for Moscow reflects Russia’s advances on the battlefield, which have weakened Ukraine’s position steadily since September, but especially in the last few weeks.