Good news for Ukraine and its Western neighbors this morning: The European Union has worked some magic to secure a gas deal with Russian giant Gazprom, despite the ongoing tensions between Moscow and Kiev over contested Donbass territories.
“There is now no reason for people in Europe to stay cold this winter,” said European Commission President José Manuel Barroso, because it is 2014.
And that’s true, except for the fact that Moscow was, shall we say, concerned about Ukraine’s ability to pay for the gas it intended to use. (A not entirely unreasonable fear, as Russia had to cut Ukraine off in June because of political tensions and unpaid debts. Then again, one might say that Russia’s annexation of Crimea should cover all those debts … but who are we to decide?)
In any case, the new deal requires Ukraine to pay Russia $2.2 billion in pre-payments and old debt before the gas starts flowing. Then Gazprom will turn the spigots within two days.
Ukraine gets about half of its gas from Russia, and it also flows through the country to neighboring European states. Winter in Ukraine also gets pretty damn cold, and leaving the country without heat was not exactly an option. So this is good news, at least for now — Putin’s ambitious South Stream pipeline, now in early phases of construction, will pass through the Black Sea and into Bulgaria, avoiding Ukraine entirely.