David Calling

Totalitarians of the World Unite

Russia has built into its armory the new weapon of natural gas. This may not have the immediate clear-your-mind impact of the former SS-20 inter-ballistic missiles, but it will do to be going on with. The Russians have only to cut off the supplies to their customers, and watch them come begging to heel. And that is what Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has done. He staged a little scene for the television cameras at which he was seen triumphantly ordering the CEO of Gazprom to shut down the pipe-line running through Ukraine. The intention is to punish Ukraine for its independence, its application to join NATO, its parting of the ways with Mother Russia, the rightful overlord of that country in the view of people like Putin.
The best of it for the Kremlin is that customers further down the line are sufferers, for instance Bulgaria, Poland, Romania, and Hungary, vassals from the Cold War for which Putin and his advisors feel Soviet-style contempt. Don’t forget Germany, which depends on Russia for about a third of its gas. Of its own free will, Germany has made itself dependent on Russia honouring gas contracts — and this when Russia is a country without the rule of law, and the whole point is for the strong to acquire power and use it against the weak as they are in the process of doing.
The former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has played a leading part in making sure that his country is subject to Russian gas policy, more likely to become an enduring colony than the late lamented German Democratic Republic. Leaving office, he became a hired hand of Gazprom. This is absolutely typical of Europe today. European politicians appear to be running around in search of someone, Arab, Iranian, Russian, Chinese, anyone, even each other, to whom they can consign their independence. When the Russians cut off the gas, the Europeans said that they insisted forthwith on sending monitors to talks between Russia and Ukraine. Now that’s an ultimatum! We may shiver from cold, they’ll shiver from fear. Quite as effective as ferrying teams of politicians round the Middle East to make sure that Hamas remains strong enough to work whatever mischief it can. Totalitarians of the world unite; you cannot lose to headless chickens. 

David Pryce-Jones is a British author and commentator and a senior editor of National Review.

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