Friday, February 03, 2006

"...by other means"

Karl von Clausewitz' book "On War" provided the German High Command in the 19th century with a strategic maxim: "War is nothing more than the continuation of politics by other means". Thus the German high command prosecuted brief and rapid wars: with Denmark, then Austria and finally culminating in the humiliation of France in 1870. Eventually the willingness of the High Command to risk war led to the catastrophic miscalculation of 1914.

Post Imperial Russia seems to have new maxim: Business is the continuation of Politics by other means. This has led to a new, more twisted form of Russian Imperialism: Energy-Imperialism. Quietly the Russian state-owned gas giant, Gazprom, has patiently been building up an international network of reserves of both gas and oil, pipelines, oil refining interests, electrical generation and distribution. This has been coupled by a growing willingness of the Putin regime to put the diplomatic squeeze on former satellites. Putin publicly laments the fall of the Evil Empire- he would he was a loyal servant of that vile tyranny.

The possibility that Russian state interests could buy monopoly control over British gas supplies should horrify. The pressure put on Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia and even EU members such as Hungary through withholding gas supplies shows that the Russians would be utterly ruthless in putting forward their political interests in Britain. The potential bid for Centrica, owner of British Gas, and the possibility of Russian entry into ownership of North Sea gas fields must be resisted fiercely. A state owned monopoly is not a fit and proper entity to compete in Western markets- they can kill competition and hold the gas market completely under their thumb in order to project Russian political interests. Since foreigners are not allowed to control Gazprom, the British gas market in turn should not be sold to the Russian state.

Bribery is a part of Russian foreign policy: the decision makers in London and Brussels must be watched carefully. The interests of freedom are under threat: not this time from Russian missiles, but from Russian money. Given the KGB taint in Russian government, we should be totally alert: "just because they say you are paranoid does not mean that they are not out to get you"

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