Did the EU just sign off on Ukraine’s last winter?

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October 27, 2016 – Fort Russ – 

Ruslan Ostashko, PolitRussia – translated by J. Arnoldski – 

When the economy is going to hell, utilities are unaffordable, more than 50% of the population lives below the poverty line, and a cold winter is coming, who will warm the hearts of the “self-reliant” Maidan lovers who have already begun to doubt Ukraine’s bright future?

This question is asked everyday by Ukrainian propagandists, and every time they end up with the same unsophisticated answer: firstly, Russia will fall apart any moment, which will bring happiness to Ukraine and, secondly, it must be repeated day after day that the whole world is for Ukraine and against Russia.

I would understand this if the whole world sent Ukraine cookies and Senator McCain agreed to live on a Ukrainian salary. But it’s not so clear on what this argument is based. Sure, this argument still works as long as the issue of global support for the Kiev regime is so significant for Ukrainian experts and journalists.

But if we recognize that this global support has evaporated, then it turns out that Ukraine is alone with its problems. It is this terrifying thought in the heads of Ukrainians themselves that could give rise to the dangerous realization that the Maidan has brought the country elsewhere than hoped.

Amidst blissful conversations about the country’s European future and its strategic role as a transit power, a betrayal has taken place that is worthy of Shakespeare’s pen. Quietly and secretly, without making any official statements, the European Commission has allowed Gazprom to use the OPAL pipeline to full capacity, which means the continuation of Nord Stream, through which Russian gas will be supplied to Europe.

Now I’ll explain why this is important and why this is betrayal.

This is important because earlier the European Commission did not allow Russia to use the OPAL at full capacity, but at merely 50% capacity with the justification that the pipeline and Gazprom’s use of it violate the so-called third EU energy packet. 

An important consequence of this was that Gazprom was compelled to actively use the transit potential of the Ukrainian gas transport system, which not only provided additional income for Kiev, but also the possibility for gas blackmail.

And now, as the sources of The Wall Street Journal report, the Eurocommission has allowed the pipeline to be switched on to full capacity, which leaves Kiev without part of the transit and dramatically reduces the likelihood of threats to cut off Russian gas exports to the EU.

Not all Russian gas can bypass Ukraine for now, but if another misunderstanding between Gazprom and Naftogaz suddenly occurs, then it is Romania and Bulgaria that will freeze, not Germany. This is fine for Brussels.

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For Kiev, the decision on the OPAL gas pipeline is a very bad sign. First of all, this decision shows that the EU leadership does not always respond to the wishes of the Americans, who, of course, opposed allowed a significant volume of gas to bypass Ukraine.

Secondly, there is only one logical explanation as to why the EU decided to change its position. The explanation is simple: they are really afraid that Kiev will start to steal gas intended for European consumers. Europeans have already given up hope on Kiev’s honesty, and have just decided to deprive Ukraine of the temptation by allowing gas to bypass its transit system.

But the most interesting is that Europeans might like this idea. After all, it’s nice not to depend on Poroshenko or Avakov for the EU’s energy security. And the thought to endorse Nord Stream-2 is right next door. 

It’s also important that this is all happening amidst the start of the construction of Turkish Stream, which will also ensure that Russian gas bypasses Ukraine. I’ve already said that Ukraine’s gas transit system is the backbone of the Ukrainian state. This backbone is rusted and creaking but still holds together part of this geopolitical Frankenstein.

Depriving the Ukrainian gas transit system of its strategic importance is equivalent to tearing out the spine of post-Maidan statehood. If now Ukraine is a secondary theatre of war for Western geopolitical players, then after Ukraine loses its gas transit role, no one will be interested in it.

Except us, of course. And on our terms.

Official Kiev’s media and experts have been rejoicing over sanctions against Russia and hoping that they won’t be lifted, even though Joe Biden explained that there are 5 countries in the EU that are waiting for the first opportunity to abandon the sanctions and forget about Ukraine like a bad dream. In fact, even Western media, namely Bloomberg, already recognizes that the possibility of pressuring Russia with sanctions is almost exhausted.

“There’s no one left in Moscow to impose sanctions on except cleaners,” one frustrated American journalist writes. And it’s even a little funny to look at surprised Western experts who still don’t understand why sanctions didn’t bring us to our knees.

The past winters have been abnormally warm, and this greatly facilitated the lives of our neighbors. But this winter might be harsher. If temperatures will drop really low, then the Kiev regime will be faced with a problem that has no good solution. They’ll either have to steal gas from the pipe and thereby further encourage Europeans to approve Nord Stream-2, or they’ll have to greatly reduce the temperature in their homes, which could lead to serious social problems. 

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Out of humanitarian considerations, I really hope that Poroshenko will not intentionally freeze his fellow citizens, but for some reason I’m not keen to believe in the humanity of Poroshenko.

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