It's Been A Gas

KIEV, Ukraine -- As traumatic and as pointless as the three-week gas war seemed to be, Ukraine actually gained a lot from this open conflict. True, the nation’s reputation and its ambitions to integrate more closely with the West took a severe beating.

Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko

Many worldwide got the unfortunate impression that Ukraine is ruled by corrupt, incompetent leaders who don’t pay their bills, who steal gas and who don’t play by market rules.

Russia picked this fight for self-serving reasons and its reputation slid much further than Ukraine’s.

But the difference is that Russian leaders don’t care much about their international reputation or, particularly, about integrating with Western institutions. Ukraine does.

Still, the agreement brokered by prime ministers Yulia Tymoshenko and Vladimir Putin – at least as we, Brussels and Washington understand it – will be a big help for two reasons: market prices and transparency.

If Ukraine is finally forced to buy gas at market prices, then perhaps the nation will be less wasteful and more resourceful about its vast energy needs, as well as less subservient to manipulation from Moscow.

Also, if the deal eliminates RosUkrEnergo and other shady intermediaries once and for all, then the notoriously corrupt gas trade stands a chance of being cleaned up.

Tymoshenko came out of the tawdry affair looking better than President Victor Yushchenko.

Yushchenko emerged from the deal looking like an incompetent, corrupt bumbler who got caught trying to prop up the shady RosUkrEnergo for reasons of personal gain.

When Putin, who rules as a Mafia don, can justifiably call you on the carpet for corruption, you are finished politically.

In the end, Yushchenko was left lamely complaining about the price Tymoshenko negotiated.

Still, no true leadership has emerged yet in Ukraine.

Real statesmanship would find ways to improve Ukraine’s reliability, as well as improve its vast but neglected state-owned pipeline network.

Such domestic improvements would let the air out of the arguments for building costly alternative routes – such as North Stream, South Stream and Nabucco – that bypass Ukraine.

Without gas to transport, Ukraine will find itself with hundreds of kilometers of useless pipes.

Source: Kyiv Post