Like all energy producers, Russia sees an increase of its hard-currency incomes. Thanks to the rise in prices, it does not need money. It is not to make ends meet that Vladimir Putin suddenly demanded that Ukraine should accept the increase in the price of Russian gas from 50 to 230 dollars per every one thousand cubic meter. If he has decided to adjust the Ukrainian bill to the world prices; if he has set only a three-month deadline to find any solution; if he has rejected the idea of gradual increases and yesterday cut the supply after the Ukrainian denial, it was due to two main reasons:
_The first is to force Ukraine to submit. Russia wants to include this country in its orbit while last fall Kiev elected a president Viktor Yushchenko, who wants to bring his country closer to the West. Three months before parliamentary elections, which promised to be difficult for Viktor Yushchenko, whose team had divided, Vladimir Putin used the economic weapon. It is simple but Russia can not ignore that this move could, on the contrary, provoke a reaction of national support in favour of the president as an answer to this blackmail.
_Nonetheless, the game Vladimir Putin is playing did not last three months. The goal of Russia is showing the world that it has become an inevitable power thanks to its energy resources. The European Union depends on Moscow for the supply of one fourth of the gas it needs (whose pipelines run across Ukraine) and the Russian oil is indispensable for the world economy in times of an unstable situation in the Middle East. Currently, Europe and the United States have to put up with Moscow. As he cannot count on Brussels or on Washington, Viktor Yushchenko will have to sort things out with Moscow. Rather than submitting Ukraine, Russia’s goal is to show its power.

France Inter (France)

La puissance énergétique russe”, by Bernard Guetta, France Inter, January 2, 2006.