A long-running dispute over natural gas supplies will be on the agenda when Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian leader Petro Poroshenko hold talks in Italy later this week, Reuters reports:
Their forthcoming meeting in Milan is an encouraging sign for Moscow, Kiev and the West, who are balancing on the brink of a new gas rift following Russia’s decision to cut supplies to Ukraine because of mounting debt. Ukraine faces possible energy shortages this winter if no deal is reached, which in turn risks causing disruptions to Europe’s gas supplies — as happened in 2006 and 2009. Europe receives a third of its gas needs from Russia, around half of which is pumped via Ukraine…..Russian natural gas producer Gazprom cut supplies to Ukraine in June after Kiev failed to pay gas debts which Russia says have now reached more than $5 billion.
“I think that the meeting in Milan will bring a breakthrough in the gas sphere,” said Mikhail Pogrebinsky, a Kiev-based political analyst. “Russia will eventually sell gas to Ukraine, after Ukraine pays a symbolic part of its debt, this will allow Ukraine not to freeze in winter.”
Though Ukraine’s not-quite cease-fire is far preferable to the summer’s heavier fighting, it is far from clear that it will lead to a sustainable settlement between Kiev and eastern Ukrainian separatists, Moscow and Kyiv, or the United States and Russia, analyst Paul J. Saunders writes for the National Interest:
A recent presentation at the Center for the National Interest by Andranik Migranyan, a well-informed analyst and writer who runs the Kremlin-connected Institute for Democracy and cooperation in New York, provides useful insight into Moscow’s view of what would be required to get there—and illustrates the wide gap between prevailing Western and Russian outlooks and expectations. His assessment—based on a recent trip to Russia during which he discussed the crisis with a number of senior officials—offers little basis for optimism. (See his 15-minute presentation, plus about an hour of discussion, on the Center’s YouTube page here.)