Wednesday, December 22, 2004

The New Cold War

Why does all this political turmoil and national decline matter, if you're not swayed by Russophile altruism? The answer is that, according to a new report by the European Commission that I've just read, Europe is increasingly going to rely on Russia for its energy needs, not only for oil, but also for gas, which reliles on an existant pipeline network and increasingly, if oil starts running short, on coal as well. Converting to cleaner and less carbon-intensive natural gas to reduce pollution and greenhouse gas emissions would exacerbate this.

Without the military power that the US can wield to reshape the Persian Gulf, the report authors conclude that Europe needs to build a global regime of markets supported by multilateral institutions to enable commercial investment and international trade to meet the continent's growing hunger for energy. This news from Russia makes this liberal and logical relationship less likely.

However, even if Russia can moderninse enough to provide reliable supplies, geographical facts could mean that the rest of the EU will, like the former Warsaw Pact countries already are, be dependent on Russia for most of their needs, leaving them open to coercive "gas diplomacy", with the Kremlin using the increasingly powerful Gazprom as its sword of Damocles.

This time, the Cold War may literally be cold.