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Independent: Beware of the Russian Bear

From the Independent:

Michael Harrison’s Outlook: ‘Beware the Russian bear’ is the motto Europe must adopt as it reviews its energy future Today sees the publication of the European Commission’s review of energy – a subject which has climbed remorselessly up the political agenda in recent years to the point where it has now assumed the same kind of importance to world well-being and security as international terrorism or global warming. The focus of Brussels’ deliberations, however, is likely to be inward-looking, concentrating on the steps the European Union needs to take to reshape its own markets and, in particular, to unbundle those national monopolies on the Continent which have served to stymie competition and the free flow of energy. If that is the case, it will be a lost opportunity because the biggest threat to the energy security of the EU is external and it can be summed up in one word – Russia. That the launch of the review by the EU’s Competition Commissioner, Neelie Kroes, should take place against the backdrop of another piece of economic imperialism on the part of Moscow – the closure of its gas pipeline to Europe through Belarus – merely serves to underscore the point. … Robert Amsterdam, the Kremlin critic and defence counsel to the jailed oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky, has some trenchant views on the danger the EU runs if this unequal relationship with its near neighbour is not addressed. He catalogues how the state-owned Russian gas monopoly Gazprom, which harbours ambitions of swallowing up our own Centrica, uses its market power to divide and rule, cultivating certain countries such as Germany along with their political leaders, banks and utility companies and penalising others by withholding supplies – as it did with Lithuania as punishment for selling an oil refinery to Poland.