Absence of annual stand-off between Moscow and Kiev is no reason to relax
It looks as though Moscow and Kiev will avoid a replay of the new year clash of recent years, when Russia threatens to turn off the gas pipes to Ukraine — and sometimes does. That is some relief to Europe, which gets a fifth of its gas from Russia via Ukraine, but the absence of the annual standoff is no reason to relax about the tension between the two.
Everyone who cares about Ukraine’s independence should look suspiciously at the deal that Vladimir Putin, the Russian Prime Minister, has struck with Yuliya Tymoshenko, his Ukrainian counterpart. It may well win her the January 17 presidential election, but the danger is that Russia will exploit Ukraine’s looming inability to pay for its gas in 2010 by extending its influence over Ukrainian industry. It may even be able to extract a longer stay for its Black Sea Fleet in Sebastopol, that always grating dispute, where Russia’s lease runs out in 2017.
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