In a little-noticed news item last week, Lithuania announced that it will re-open talks with its fellow Baltic states and Hitachi to open a nuclear plant outside of Visaginas.
Europe is tired of the Gazprom monopoly and isn’t going to take it any more. At least, that appears to be the message from Lithuania, which will take over the European Union’s rotating presidency in July.
If this probe is not merely a prelude to cheaper gas for Poles and Lithuanians and a return to the status quo ante thereafter, perhaps Brussels will finally understand exactly what every Ukrainian suffers to keep the hope of European membership alive.
The European Commission’s action is fraught with geopolitical implications at a time when nostalgic Russian president Vladimir Putin is seeking to reestablish Moscow’s dominance over the former Soviet Union’s once vast empire.
Anything that breaks Gazprom’s stranglehold over Europe’s natural gas supply — and alleviates Ukrainian suffering — is a positive thing for European energy security, and security in general.
The increasing cooperation between Poland, Lithuania, and wider Eastern Europe on energy could be one reason why Moscow has been seen recently as trying to drive a wedge between the Baltic neighbors.
This latest reform is more proof that Ukraine is moving beyond the Soviet model of command and control, and state monopolies and favored providers, putting Ukrainian infrastructure at the free market’s behest.
Protests and negative attention from the EU and NGO’s may be too late to protect the interests of the Belarusian people. Lukashenko may manage to keep power just long enough to leave the people of Belarus more fully dependent on Mother Russia than any of the other former republics.
Ukraine now finds itself with the Hobson’s choice of further dependence on Russia, or continued major economic restructuring to bring its industry and energy sectors more in line with Europe. Its President, Viktor Yanukovych, has explicitly stated that Ukraine’s future lies with the West, and not the dying East.