Here’s the Wall Street Journal’s take on Putin’s Gazprom provocation. An excerpt:
The Kremlin’s goals in Ukraine are transparent. Kiev’s support for Georgia in the August war, and its ambitions to join the EU and NATO, is a thorn in the bear’s paw. In Europe, Russia wants to reassert itself as the dominant power in the east, feared if not respected. Germany’s establishment is all too happy to kowtow and urge the EU to do the same, at Ukraine’s expense. The EU spokesman this week could have been reading from Gazprom talking points, saying that the block believes this is a “commercial dispute [that] has to be solved by the two parties.”
Europe and America can still turn Mr. Putin’s tactical overreach into a strategic opportunity. The “new Europeans” from the east are pushing the EU to get serious about developing new sources of energy — starting with the stalled Nabucco pipeline that would cross Turkey and the Balkans, routing Central Asian gas around Russia.
Normally, this sort of dispute might end up in arbitration and a backdated settlement. The old apolitical Gazprom treasured its customer relationships too much to disrupt shipment at any price. Atop a new Russia determined to rebuild its old empire, Mr. Putin decided to go for the jugular with Ukraine — cutting off the gas, in the middle of winter, just before the Orthodox Christmas.
For the new Obama Administration, Mr. Putin has offered yet another tutorial in its coming challenges in Eurasia. The President-elect’s German friends will urge him to be nice to Mr. Putin. But in the Senate and on the campaign trail, Mr. Obama said he wanted to let Ukraine and Georgia make their free choice to join the Western camp, starting with a roadmap for NATO membership. The best American response to the latest Russian provocations would be to restate that desire.