01
Nov
09

Putin sets Russian opinion for a new gas conflict with Ukraine

Prime Minister, and yet Russia’s real boss for many, has been quite agressive these dayss toward Ukraine and its pro-West president Viktor Yushchenko.

Putin said journalists last week that he was anticipating new tensions with Kiev on the gas issue because President Yushchenko was unwilling to pay gas payments and was blocking due payments.

Vladimir Putin who is trying very hard these days to appear as a humble Prime Minister, said journalists he contacted Ukrainian PM Yulia Tymoshenko to discuss the issue and that Ms Tymoshenko informed him that Yushchenko was blocking the payments.

It’s twice clever from Putin to have acted that way. It first makes a (little) more credible the fiction that he is not president anymore and that he respects Russian etiquette. That’s for PR and to please US diplomats… But the most clever of all is to push the button which hurts Ukraine. Not only gas (it’s been known for a while), but less and less silent dissensions between Yushchenko and Tymoshenko.

Political situation in Ukraine is indeed quite tense and it is not a secret anymore that the president and his PM, who once were the closest allies (they were the two natural leaders of the Orange revolution) would love to get rid of each other.

Yushchenko would love to have a new, a more flexible and less ambitious PM… Tymoshenko would love to see her boss getting retired and become the next president.

Putin perfectly knows these facts and apparently and tactically chose his side. He was kind enough to let the world know that despite his talks with Tymoshenko, Yushchenko was blocking the whole process.

As a result of this irresponsible move, Ukraine might not get any gas this winter. Putin’s bet is that Ukrainian won’t be very happy with this situation… He’ll then let Tymoshenko do her job!

The situation is not as critical and probably will never be. But this is definitely the game Putin is playing these days. Will Tymoshenko accept to play the same game, If she gets too power will she be mor flexible?

I’m actually not sure about that and that’s were Putin’s strategy appears a bit hazardous. Throughout her career and lifetime Tymoshenko has always appeared as the most agressive Ukrainian politicans toward Russia. If I were Putin I’d rather try too do business with Yushhchenko who is more of a pragmatic leader.

But maybe Putin knows facts that I don’t. Maybe we’ll witness in the coming months of years to come, secret deals…

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