Reform Is No Substitute for Russian Expansionism, says Tymoshenko

Today Yulia Tymoshenko writes an energy-focused column on Germany, Europe, and Russia. tymoshenko.jpg “Encouraging economic and political reform are important objectives, but they can never serve as a substitute for a serious effort to contain Russia’s deep-seated expansionism.”

With high prices for crude oil and natural gas bloating its coffers, Russia is once again aggressively confronting the small and still relatively weak states that fled the eroding Soviet empire 15 years ago. Given the residual economic and institutional ties born of the Soviet era, Russia’s external influence in this region remains enormous. But Russia is also now extending its grasp of energy markets beyond those of its immediate neighbors. … Europe can help by insisting that Russia participate in the European Energy Charter, which calls for Gazprom to grant its production competitors access to Russian pipelines, and for all disputes to be settled by international arbitration. European competition policy, which successfully brought giant companies like Microsoft into line to promote competition, could help to turn Gazprom into a normal competitor, too. Europe’s leaders should engage in frank discussions about where European and Russian interests converge or differ, and these discussions should include regional neighbors that are both producer and transit nations, like my own country, Ukraine. Moscow will understand a policy based on mutual respect for each other’s interests better than simple appeals to goodwill and friendship. Russia should be welcome in institutions and agreements that foster cooperation, with reciprocal rights and responsibilities. Russian reform will be impeded, not nurtured, by turning a blind eye to political and economic aggression. The hard-fought independence of the former Soviet republics must not be tacitly traded away in acquiescence to Russia’s desire for regional hegemony. Russia’s leaders are entitled to the world’s understanding as they struggle to overcome generations of Soviet misrule. But they are not entitled to the sphere of influence that Russian tsars and commissars coveted for 300 years. If Russia is to be a serious partner for Europe, it must be ready to accept the obligations of stability along with the benefits. If Europe is to ensure its prosperity and energy security, it must demand nothing less.