The interplay between Ukraine and Russia when it comes to gas geopolitics goes far beyond economic negotiations and development. It lies at the heart of what has been fairly inaccurate or uninformed media reporting in the West. This aspect of the conflict has been so poorly documented in the West, while being exhaustively reported in Russia, that it is time to provide some English language background to this underappreciated aspect still powering the conflict in negotiations between Ukraine and Russia today.
Earlier this week the head of Russia’s Gazprom, Aleksei Miller, commented that the three-sided gas negotiations (Ukraine-EU-Russia) had broken down largely because Kievan authorities had staked out positions that were ‘absurd and not constructive, basically devolving into ultimatums.’ On the heels of this declaration the gas debt owed by Ukraine to Russia ballooned from 2 billion dollars up to nearly 4.5 billion. Kiev of course claims it is simply not wanting to acquiesce to Russia’s position, but the consequence of these negotiations breaking down could be the interruption and unstable provision of Russian gas through Ukrainian territory westward to the European Union. To understand how we arrived at this barrier means we must go back to 2009, far before the Maidan revolution was even a twinkle in Kiev’s eyes.