As the dispute between Russia and Ukraine over natural gas pricing and delivery heads into its second week
, it has grown into a larger political standoff between the two countries. The Council on Foreign Relations’ Jeffrey Mankoff
explains that the “background is a long-running dispute between Russia and Ukraine in terms of gas relationships over two things: One is over the price that Ukraine pays, and the second is over debt that Ukraine owes Russia for gas shipments in the past that it hasn’t paid for. There’s also a political subtext because Ukraine, since 2004, has had a government that is interested in pursuing integration with Euro-Atlantic institutions, including NATO.”
Europe receives one-fifth of its natural gas from Russia; Bulgaria, Slovakia, and other countries in Eastern and Southeast Europe
have been particularly hard-hit by the shutdown. Russia and Ukraine agreed to resume natural-gas deliveries to Europe on Monday, but that EU-brokered agreement has fragmented, and the two countries continue to argue over which pipelines to use and how much gas to deliver. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and Ukranian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko are scheduled to meet at an EU-sponsored summit on Saturday.
Natural resources are frequently involved when Russia makes international headlines. For instance, in August 2008, Russia and Georgia went to war over resource-rich, geopolitically strategic South Ossetia. In addition, in January 2006, Russia and Ukraine got into a similar dispute over natural gas—although that one did not last as long as the present one. It remains to be seen which side—if either—will benefit from the manipulation of natural resources in the current situation.