Our own Kris Kotarski in the Calgary Herald:
On natural gas, the Russians get it and the Europeans don't. Gazprom (read: Putin) has found an area where Russia has leverage on the European Union (especially in the winter), and by signing individual contracts with states such as Germany and Italy, the Russians have driven a wedge into European politics and European unity. The reason?Russia wants its traditional buffer areas to stay friendly, and not to turn toward NATO and the EU.
Europe is too rich and too necessary to Russian industry to be treated like this, yet despite the obvious solution visible to all, on matters of energy security, the European Union is still not mature enough to present a common front.Until it does, Russia is wise to stoke up antagonism between those who have and who have-not, pitting Poland against Germany, or Romania and Slovakia against Ukraine. Just as it looks as if the Europeans will finally get smart and get together on a common negotiating position, the summer comes, the prices drop, and Gazprom smiles a wide and reassuring smile. The sense of urgency dissipates, Gazprom offers favourable deals to some but not others, and slowly but surely, the buffer states are isolated, one by one, as the sun shines down on the old continent.