The gas war appears to be doing for Vladimir Putin what the invasion of Iraq did for George W. Bush – a boon of popularity during a difficult time. Unfortunately, the longer term outlook of freezing Ukraine, Bulgaria, and the rest of Europe is unlikely to play to Russia’s favor.
In turning off gas supplies to Ukraine and Europe, Putin showed Russians that he is in charge as a recession looms, and that the West must treat him as a key player in global energy. He also is pushing for higher long-term revenue for state-controlled OAO Gazprom, and has damaged West-leaning Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko.
“The more they criticize Putin abroad and the more they fight with Russia, the greater his political weight grows,” said Mikhail Delyagin, an economic adviser to former Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov and director of the Institute for Globalization Studies in Moscow. (…)
“Putin has again shown to the domestic Russian audience that he is a strong leader,” said Chris Weafer, chief strategist at UralSib Financial Corp. in Moscow. “His message to the people is that nobody should mess with Russia when he is around.”