One of the most regular charges levelled against Vladimir Putin is that under his leadership, Russia is using gas as a political weapon. Last year's spat between Gazprom, the Russian state gas company, and the new, pro-western government in Ukraine over increased prices, was put forward as evidence to back up the thesis. But I wonder what those who make the claim say now that Gazprom is involved in another pricing dispute, this time with the government of Belarus, hitherto a loyal friend of Moscow. Gazprom has threated to turn off the gas to Belarus unless the government there signs up to a deal which would involve Belarus surrendering 50% of the ownership of its pipelines.
If Russia really was pursuing its strategic interests via gas supplies, it would not be seeking to alienate its strongest ally in Europe. The truth of the matter is that Gazprom is not pursuing long-term Russian strategic interests, but is interested in only one thing: making as much money as it possibly can. It's ironic, that this giant state-owned company is criticised in the west for acting exactly like a privatised, western utility company would.