Oil pipeline reversed to reduce Russia's influence
In a move designed to lessen both country's reliance on Russia for their energy needs, Ukraine and Georgia today agreed to reverse an oil pipeline which had previously carried Russian oil into the Ukrainian port city of Odessa.
In addition, the two leaders discussed resuming bilateral ties and an old alliance called the GUUAM, which includes Georgia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan and Moldova. It was established in 1997 in a bid to seek cooperation between the countries outside the influence of Moscow.
Both of these moves are significant in sending a strong signal that these former Soviet Bloc countries will not be intimidated or influenced unduly by their former ties to Russia. I see in the future the possibility that the former Soviet countries, like Poland, the Baltic countries, the Czech Republic, the Slovak Republic, along with Ukraine and Georgia may become another power bloc in Europe, perhaps a useful counter to the "Old Europe" of ossified France, Germany and Belgium.
Of these I could see Poland, Ukraine, the Czech Republic and Lithuania taking the lead. The East Europeans might lead Europe out of the wilderness yet, or they might find that, united, they may have enough economic and political clout and not need to sign onto the virtual death grip and suicidal pact that is the EU.
Interesting things are happening in that part of the world. We may still have an Iron Curtain -- only it will have moved further east -- further isolating Putin and Byelorus, if they can hold it together.
Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and Georgian Prime Minister Zurab Nogaideli said that the Odessa-Brody pipeline would be used for oil shipments from Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan through Georgia to Western European markets, in contrast to the former government's decision to pump Russian crude through the pipeline to the Black Sea port of Odessa, said Vitaly Chepinoga, a spokesman for Tymoshenko. Russia is Ukraine's largest trade partner and energy supplier. Key Russian pipelines and other infrastructure links with Europe run through Ukraine.
Nogaideli traveled to Ukraine on Sunday for a three-day trip and was scheduled to meet top Ukrainian officials including President Viktor Yushchenko.
It was Nogaideli's first trip abroad since filling the post left empty by the sudden death of Zurab Zhvania, who apparently suffered carbon monoxide poisoning.
Last summer, Ukraine's Cabinet agreed to open the long-idle Odessa-Brody pipeline for shipments of Russian oil to Odessa. But the United States has opposed that, saying it will increase Ukraine's energy dependence on Russia and raise chances of an oil spill as more tankers would travel through Turkey's clogged Bosporus strait.
Georgia stands to benefit from the new deal because it will earn transit fees. And Georgia, like Ukraine, is interested in expanding its self-reliance vis-a-vis the regional energy power, Russia.