Tag Archives: Crimea

gas! gas! gas! a note on gas

2014 is the year of WW1 and what else comes to mind when I think about the events at the beginning of  twentieth century? Gas.

you cannot see very well in a gas mask

Gas was used for the first time. Much to some people’s disappointment it is still in use. But then war is immoral and it is a tough, brutal world out there.

The take over of Crimea changed the prospects of modern world gas warfare. The South Stream pipeline that is due for completion in 2018 was first initiated by Russia in 2008, to provide gas for southern Europe and further establish itself as a major european gas supplier. The construction started two years ago with Gasprom chasing for 50% and Italians, French and Swiss jumping on board as well. Number of countries (Bulgaria, Greece, Serbia) signed a deal with Putin and then Medvedev… and then Putin.

However, there was (as not is) a problem – Ukraine. The building of Nord Stream and South Stream would cut off Ukraine form venturing on transit of the blue gold to Central and Western Europe. In case of the South Stream the pipeline was supposed to go through Ukraine’s shelf/territorial waters.

There is always an option. The plan B is to just draw a line through Turkey’s waters, but Turkey is also planning on a thing of its own – the Nabucco Project – transiting gas form Azerbaijan and Central Asia to Europe. But as in any other business – who needs an extra agent in the chain? Who would put all the pipelines in one basket?

For now the South Stream project is in the air. So is Nabucco. Both projects’ future is at mercy of Russia’s european partners. Looking at sanctions taken agains Europe’s leading gas supplier South Stream has some prospects.

The biggest problem with using gas is wind change.

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Some say…

Ukraine has become the ground for imaginative counterfactualist’s battles. It is such an attractive exercise, a chance given to as by history that the number of possible scenarios appearing in the press is fascinating me and demand to have a go as well. 

All sorts of pundits, diplomats, ex-diplomats, theoreticians, journalists, ex and serving officers, experts felt like they have a duty to inform the public on how, when and why Russia will invade Ukraine, and what the outcome will be. But the thing is, all these people are having it half way. There’s so may ifs and buts in the equation that it makes their stories lacking the plot, the detail and most importantly the horrors of war. Scenarios are lacking fiction, drama and realism. 

In order to fulfil the crave for predicting the future I’m going to draw attention to a book written by Gleb Bobrov – a well known russian journalist, writer, editor. Gleb was born and still lives in Ukraine. In 2007 he’s written a book called “Epoch of stillborn“. Back then he got it much better than many of contemporary ‘experts’. 

Here’s what the book is about:

After the revolution and followed breakup of the country, Ukraine is divided into Republic of Galicia (western Ukraine), Central Ukrainian Republic (Ukraine proper), Republic of Crimea and Eastern Confederation.

Obviously there’s a war going on were the Central Ukraine tries to retake the eastern territories. 

In the book the baddies are central Ukrainians backed by the NATO (with polish troops and equipment on the ground) and volunteers form Galicia. The Eastern Confederation is backed by the Russians – the goodies. Although Russians limit themselves only to providing air-defence, hence the Eastern Confederation can actually do some fighting and not being thrashed in the first few days of the war. 

The main hero is an ex-government official from the Eastern Confederation. After the coup that overthrew the local oligarchy/mafia bosses (hello Yanukovitch) the hero sends his family to Russia and takes on fighting. He’s commanding a platoon of confederate forces and goes through a few successful battles until being captured. 

The book actually starts  with hero’s interrogation before deportation to Nuremberg tribunal for war criminals. The book ends indecisively with the fighting still going on. Probably the author’s point is: solution resolving to violence is not a solution.

So here’s a scenario that is actually not too far away from what some pundits see coming with the current situation in Ukraine. However, what they are not talking about (and the book does) is horrors of war: lies, death, marauding, rape, lies, plunder, torture, lies, lost hopes and lies…

…the hero was actually captured by the russians. Nothing personal, just politics.

Phenix

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So the list of people who have been sanctioned was announced.

A question raises about the relevance of sanctioning officers of the Russian Black Fleet, who just carried out their orders.

Or, what was the point of sanctioning the traitors: Berezovsky (ex-comander of Ukranian Fleet), Medvedchyuk (Chief of Staff) who should be trailed?… poor souls

However, among the people on the list we have shady characters who are quite well known – Surkov (minister of truth) and Rogozin (deputy-prime minister for anti-NATO patriotism) – there is now person standing out.

Please welcome Nikolay Ivanovich Ryzkov. A soviet monster, a supermen who suffered a hart attack when kicked out by Gorbachev form the post of prime minister, an apparatchik form Donetsk. For considerable amount of time Ryzhkov worked in Urals heavy industry. If one reads his numerous biographies on the internet he can get enough mind boggling material to write a novel where the main character shakes hands with Andropov, drinks with Gorbachev, fights gangs in russian old city of Tver, gets into banking business (the bank, by the way, is still around, which is fantastic!) ships raw material abroad and makes millions out of it, stands for presidential elections, forms political parties, becomes a PM in a small Russian southern city,  advises Putin on national and CIS politics, becomes a member of Federal Council and gets on the list of people banned from travelling and assets freeze by the EU.

A man of many interests. A well rounded individual. By the way in the Russian upper house Nikolay Ivanovich heads a commission on local governance and the Russian North.

One can spot parallels between Ryzhkov and Aksyonov, both were involved in organised crime in early 90’s. But the thing is that Aksyonov biography doesn’t stretch beyond Crimea. Ryzhkov lived several life. I’m beginning to think what might be his real name.

The point is that the real lives and real past of russian politicians (i.e. one KGB colonel) is a curved mirror image of russian politics. With no knowledge of who the people are, what their motives are, the situation make look absurd and so does the list, which many have called a joke.

Unfortunately, there are way too many speculative suggestions on reasoning of actors and people involved in the current conflict in Crimea that the picture of reality becomes bleak with more pastel colourings and shadows. I think that Mr. Ryzhkov and Mr. Putin tried hard for it to be so.

Putin’s free spirit

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Russian president keeps his silence as more troops arrive in Ukraine’s southern Republic of Crimea.

The pretext for the enlargement of russian military personnel in the region is explained by the unrest in Ukraine’s capital Kyiv, although some reinterpret the actions as russian takeover of Crimea (that became Ukraine in 1954). 

There is a lot of speculation of what russia’s intentions are and what steps it is prepared to take and consequences to face.

Dr Galeotti in his blog argues that there is an important caveat to Putin’s decision making  – rationality of his actions.

However, the situation among the two countries is essentially one of war. You can call it an intervention, peacekeeping operation or else. But, the military blockade of garrisons and Yatsenyuk’s acknowledgement of the state of war speak for themselves. There are military men on the peninsular confronting each other’s actions and intensions.

And in war calculus is not paramount. Action is.

It appears that Putin, as CinC, is acting with support of his generals and no consultation with his diplomats, as Ъ investigation of decision-making process on Ukraine suggests.

The pendulum is still in motion and the only thing we can do is observe and record.