Russia is playing dangerous geopolitics with it's European rival states by cutting off all gas supplies to Europe just when many customers throughout Europe struggle in the global economic crisis. A major Ukrainian company, Naftogaz, reported on Wednesday that Russia's main gas supplier, Gazprom, immediately cut off all service.
While Russia's Gazprom has claimed that a price dispute is at issue, the real issue is that the Ukraine has been supplying gas to nations such as the Austria, Slovenia, Romania, and the Czech Republic, and the government in Moscow is having some serious political disputes with many of these nations over their interest in NATO membership or in participation with United States defense projects, missiles or military bases. About 25% of all gas used in the European Union and 40% of the gas used in these former Eastern Bloc nations comes from Russia. Unless this situation is quickly resolved, it could be viewed as a serious effort by Russia to bring Europe to it's knees and destroy their economies and governments. This could very well present a very political or even military serious crisis if this situation continues.
In 2006, Moscow sent a cold chill over Europe when there was a less serious price dispute between Moscow and Kiev. However, in this case it may appear that geopolitics rather than a true price dispute might really be the central issue. If Russia can effectively use a vital supply such as gas to gain major influence over the politics of Europe and the former Eastern Bloc nations, prying them off from the U.S. military alliances, or weakening NATO, then Russia becomes a much more powerful player in determining European politics.
But it is indeed a very dangerous game for a nation like Russia to use a vital supply such as gas to wield political power over Europe. Right before the military attack at Pearl Harbor by Japan that started the U.S. entry into WWII, there was a major dispute with Japan over steel supplies. The Roosevelt Administration cut off all steel exports to Japan as a result of their continued agression in China and elsewhere in the Pacific. And Japan continued to negotiate with the U.S. to resume these steel exports, but when the U.S. refused to resume these steel exports, then Japan planned the military attack at Pearl Harbor, and even had military plans to eventually launch a land invasion of the American West Coast as well in the course of the war. However, with the survival of the American aircraft carriers, as well the U.S. rebuilding it's badly damaged Navy, the U.S. was able to thwart Japan's Navy in critical battles such Midway, ending their sea dominance in the Pacific.
The fact of the matter is that economic disputes can sometimes become real military wars. And this is a real danger. Russia, Ukraine, Europe and the former Eastern Bloc must resolve any political differences aside from using a vital supply such as gas supplies to determine the discussion. Moscow is playing a very dangerous game here.
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