Ukraine-Russia: gas, ban and recession

in Policy by

Relations between Ukraine and Russia have returned hot. Especially from diplomatically viewpoint. The gas issue, in which Kiev has the upper hand. The trade and food embargo and food against Ukraine by Moscow. The Kremlin, gripped by recession, in search of a rapprochement with Europe.

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This diplomatic war is putting Minsk II at risk. Moreover, winter has allowed gas supplies to come back a geopolitical topic. Indeed, as reported by Bloomberg, situation has turned around, with Russia ready to lower the price to Ukraine (the agreement is in force until 2019), rather than lose Kiev as strategic point for distribution in Europe.

But the reduced dependence from Moscow, with the increase in supplies from Norway and Algeria, make Putin less decisive on the energy front. While Poroshenko is not in a hurry to find a compromise on gas supplies and to grant autonomy to Donbass. Even the statements of Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on the opportunity to exploit the South Stream project, bypassing Ukraine because of its instability, is not worrying Kiev and is not persuading Brussels.

Another issue is food embargo and new custom tax for Ukraine, as already provided for all those EU countries that have introduced sanctions against Russia. A measure which have casted Kiev out CSI galaxy.

At last, the Russian economy which is in recession. GDP dropped by 3.7%, just as the ruble, forced the Prime Minister Dimitri Medvedev to announce a plan within the next week. Two causes that have contributed to this crash, also visible in the relations of exchange with the EU area:oil price drop and, secondary, economic sanctions imposed by West.

The Ukrainian stiffening and Russian difficulties are leading to a change in the attitude of the European countries and the United States against Kiev and Moscow. During the meeting in Russia with Lavrov, the French Foreign Minister Emmanuel Macron said that “”The objective we all share is to provide the lifting of sanctions by the summer, as far as the [peace] process [in southeastern Ukraine] is respected.” While Secretary of State John Kerry though that “I believe that with effort and with bona fide, legitimate intent to solve the problem on both sides, it is possible in these next months to get to a place where sanctions can be appropriately removed.”

Words which are clearly a warning to Kiev, invited to recede from his extremism, given the temporary ceasefire in Donbass. Also because of Syrian context, relations with Russia are back warme. France, which is also engaged in Syria against the Islamic State, as well as West, have every interest to close Ukrainian crisis, to focus on the Middle East and Libya, the other theater of a probable military intervention.
Giacomo Pratali

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