Thursday, May 04, 2006

Don’t mention the war!

Polish defense minister likens Russian-German gas deal to Hitler-Stalin pact. Germans not pleased. Tanks invade Sudetenland.

Basil Fawlty once memorably warned his staff when he had a hotel full of German guests: “Don’t mention the war! I did once, but I think we got away with it.”

Last Sunday, Poland’s defense minister, the otherwise un-Fawlty-like Radek Sikorski, mentioned the war in connection with the planned gas pipeline from Russia to Germany, by-passing Poland.

But he didn’t get away with it.

Reacting to the news that a deal had been finalized to build a new gas pipeline that will supply Russian gas to western Europe, but will exclude Poland, thereby threatening the nation’s energy security, Sikorski said:

“Poland has a particular sensitivity to corridors and deals above our head. That was the Locarno tradition, that was the Molotov- Ribbentrop tradition. That was the 20th century. We don't want any repetition of that."

Ooops! The Germans and the EU – already a bit nervous about some of the weirder statements coming out of Warsaw these days – aren’t too pleased. Expactica reports:

‘Ruprecht Polenz, a senior member of Chancellor Merkel's Christian Democrats hit back telling Germany's daily Bild: "Such absurd comparisons are damaging to German-Polish relations."

In the meantime, Hans-Ulrich Klose, a leading member of the Social Democrats, which have forged a coalition with the CDU to form Germany's national government also lashed out at the remarks made by Sikorski.

Klose said Sikorski should reconsider his remarks and then withdraw them as quickly as possible.

Echoing the comments by German politicians, the European Commission's chief spokesman Johannes Laitenberger described Sikorski's comments as neither "helpful nor proportionate" adding that Brussels was seeking to address concerns about the pipeline.’

So what’s Radek Sikorski's next move to be? Maybe he can do one of Basil’s silly walks?

Cheney: Russia is blackmailing Europe, Mail and Guardian, May 4


roman said...

Slightly off topic but this story just brings to life the new Russian political weapon for the 21'st century. Their vast reserves of gas and petroleum are starting to be used in an effort to reward and punish neighboring countries in order to further their strategic goals. I am sure that Poland has made efforts to secure a steady supply of gas from their former "big brother" but obviously to no avail. Poland is being by-passed. This may be construed as just the first "shot accross the bow" in order to bring Poland back into that old familiar bearhug.
Sikorski, although citing a ridiculous comparison to make his point, nevertheless has a valid
reason to worry.

sonia said...

It's interesting that while the Germans are screaming bloody murder, the Russians are probably laughing. German overreaction proves that Radek is right. One more reason for Poland to align its foreign policy with United States even more closely. They have no other friends in the world.

Frank Partisan said...

I agree with Roman's analysis. The Russian's don't take well to the Polish populism.

michael farris said...

“Poland has a particular sensitivity to corridors and deals above our head."

I don't understand. Is Russia obliged to consult with Poland before selling it's natural resources?

If his comments were on Germany carrying on individual negotiations in violation of EU law (if it is) then stick to that point.

beatroot said...

Poles do the 'victim' thing very well, don't they? Like Ukraine.

sonia said...

Is Russia obliged to consult with Poland before selling its natural resources?

Russia or Germany are not obliged to consult with Poland before invading it again, neither...

First trade deals, then non-agression pacts, then Panzer tanks...

I wouldn't be surprised if Poland started buying uranium in Niger...

beatroot said... you remember the 'Saddam buys uranium in Niger' fantasy?

Did you see Rumsfeld today when he had to deal with fat lady hecklers and that ex guy from the CIA? Poor Donald. They kept on saying thst he lied about Iraq!

Eugene Markow said...

Radek Sikorski had valid historical reasons to state what he did. Isn't it strange that Russia and Germany don't mind incurring higher costs (was it 6 million Euros?)in bypassing Poland and the Baltic countries? That is a significant sum. What about the issue of disturbing toxic weapons on the sea floor allegedly dumped by Russia into the Baltic Sea after WWII?

michael farris said...

"Isn't it strange that Russia and Germany don't mind incurring higher costs (was it 6 million Euros?)in bypassing Poland and the Baltic countries?"

Their choice. If Germany was acting within EU guidelines in its negotiations then the gas line is maybe not the optimum result for Poland but nothing it has any right to complain about (not that that ever stops anybody). If Germany was violating EU procedures then let's stick to that point.

beatroot said...

You are right, let's stick to the point.

Poland and Ukraine are both currently billed by the Russians at below the market rate for their gas supplies, because they allow Russian exports to cross their territories. Poland pays a higher rate than Ukraine but it is still subsidised by the Russians.

But whenever Russia tries to make a nation pay the full market rate - as they did at the begining of the year in Ukraine - the winging about energy security starts.

Western Europe needs Russian gas...about a quatre of their needs are met from there and they pay the full rate. So Russia is making sure that its best custimers get the best method of distribution.

When Poland pays the full rate (which is simply can't at the moment) then it will be in a much stronger position to start telling Russia and Germany off about signing pacts that exclude them.

More and more, fossil fuel is a political issue.

Time to go nuclear!

Eugene Markow said...

Michael Farris said...
"If Germany was violating EU procedures then let's stick to that point."
beatroot said...
"You are right, let's stick to the point."
Micheal and Beatroot, I 'am' sticking to the point. Beatroot's original posting exclusively dealt with political implications, and not EU policy and prodecures or cost savings. He eluded to a comparison by Sikorski referencing Germany and Russia's Molotov- Ribbentrop pact in WWII. His article focused on the primary reasons Russia would like to bypass Poland and the Baltic countries, with political motivation being the reason. My inclusion of the higher cost for a pipeline via the Baltic only proves Russia's political motiviations.
Almost every politician in the West agrees....the reasons are purely political. A recent editorial in the Washington post states: "The only possible reason [for choosing the sea route] was political." Cheney also is in agreement. That was the issue I was stressing, and Beatroot's original posting never mentioned economic savings nor EU law. So, who is missing the point? Not me.
beatroot said...
"Poland and Ukraine are both currently billed by the Russians at below the market rate for their gas supplies, because they allow Russian exports to cross their territories. Poland pays a higher rate than Ukraine but it is still subsidised by the Russians."
Beatroot, please provide exact figures and your source. It has been very clear according to sources that Poland was paying full market rate. From my research, I found only that Belarus and Ukraine were paying below market value prices. Where do you get Poland in this picture? If Poland is indeed getting reduced costs for gas due to transit fees, it is most likely minimal. Here is what I gathered, and my source:
from BBC News, January 4, 2006 ( "How much does Russia charge Ukraine's neighbours?
"Recent contracts with Belarus - one of Russia's closest allies - specify a price of $47, and deals with Armenia and Georgia are for around $110.
The Baltic states are also paying $110, but have agreed to a price rise in the future.
The average charge in the EU is $240.
In November 2005 Gazprom proposed charging Ukraine $160 per thousand cubic metres. The following month it abruptly raised the price to $220-230."
From the above, Poland (in the EU) was paying on the average $240 per TCM (the same as other EU countries with exception in Baltic states at $110 per TCM), Belarus $47 per TCM, Ukraine $160 per TCM.

Eugene Markow said...

Beatroot, agreed, your comment has been supported in the following article by Interfax on Feb. 14, 2006:

"But Medvedev said that Gazprom's request to renegotiate gas prices was based strictly on economics, as Poland is paying less for Russian gas than the rest of Europe and fast-rising price of oil globally has changed Gazprom's economic conditions.

"The price of Russian gas supplied to Poland lagged not only behind oil prices on the European market, but behind gas prices for gas supplied by Gazprom to other European countries," he said. "As a result, the price of gas exported to Poland was among the lowest."

beatroot said...

Cheers! And thanks for some informative and stimulating comments recently, Eugene.

sonia said...

The ironic thing about Radek's outburst is that back in the 1980's, when the first gas pipeline was build also bypassing Poland (through Czechoslovakia), most Poles saw it as a very POSITIVE sign, meaning that the Soviets were anticipating that Poland might soon leave the Warsaw Pact. Different times...

beatroot said...

Different times, indeed.

Maybe Chaney and Sikorski should sit down in a quiet place and ponder this changed world. Russia is now an energy superpower. China is an economic superpower. Let's get used to it, trade wth them, open them up to new influences that way.

Just insulting them is not a good idea.

The same goes for Iran...

michael farris said...

Is Lithuania prevented from buying gas from some other source?

Understand, I don't like a lot of Russian politics either, but Russia is a natural resources superpower and the wise tread lightly around superpowers. That's Realpolitik 101.

michael farris said...

"So we should all sit quiet and pretend we do not notice the attempt to reestablish the Russian Empire?"

No, but making a big principled stand when you have no leverage or negotiating power isn't going to help at all and will usually make things worse.
As Mr. Rogers said, "know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em."

beatroot said...

Russia is looking very confident at the moment becuase of oil prices. but Putin's state of the union speech yesterday (10th) sounded terrified. Demographic mealtdown (Russia is loosing 750,000 of its population every year).

A Russian empire is a bit of a fantasy. But it will be a main player in the energy politics of the future.

Anonymous said...

"The problem with Russians is that they use their energy sources as a political weapon."

If this is true Roman, why is Russia now raising prices for Belarus? The short answer is that Russia delivers (and charges for) gas and oil on a commercial basis, not a political one.

In other words, you're wrong.

"Lithuania criticized Russia-Germany pipeline? It will pay Gazprom 1/3 more for the gas! Isn't that scary?"

No, that's Capitalism. You've heard of it I presume?

However, the efforts of Poles, Balts, Ukrainian Nationalists, and other Russophobes to politicise this issue may yet convince the Russian government that building pipelines and shifting energy exports to China, who pays the global market price and does not vituperate Russia, is a smart policy for the future.

beatroot said...

When Russia does try and charge the commercial rate the Ukrainians (for example) throw a screaming fit and say it is exploitative.

If Poles etc don't (can't?) pay the full rate then they are just going to have to put uo with Russian patronage of their energy supply.

There is lots of talk at the moment in Poladn getting involved in another Euro gas pipeline (with Norway etc) so there maybe alternatives.

I still think we should get on with building more nuclear power stations, but that upsets the greenies.

beatroot said...

Did you notice that Marcinkiewicz this week appeared to support Poland's involvment in the baltic pipeline and then, all of a sudden, came out against it again.

But I believe Gazeta...he has been gagged by Kaczynski.

Marcinkiewicz has turned out to be the best person in this government...but I don't think he will be in it for long.