Pavel K. Baev, on Vladimir Putin’s mishandling of the latest gas conflict. Excerpt:
Putin never admits mistakes and will certainly insist that the tough line taken against Ukraine’s cheating and bluffing has given Russia a “victory.” Public opinion, however, would hardly be much impressed with this seasonal brawl, particularly as the end of the long holidays marks the start of layoffs and bankruptcies (Ezhednevny zhurnal, January 11). Nor would Europe relax about its energy supplies, as Gazprom has further built on its reputation as an irresponsible bully whose favorite business methods are arm-twisting and hostage-taking. Waging a “gas war” against the background of a deepening crisis, Russia has pushed itself further into international isolation and has fooled itself, maybe for the last time, that it can make the neighbors respect it. Putin has delivered unsteady and blundering leadership, Medvedev was demonstratively irrelevant in conducting this war, and the notion of “stability-of-prosperity” that remains the core value of their regime has evaporated.