The Russo-Ukrainian gas dispute of January 2009: a comprehensive assessment

February 23, 2009 | 00:00

The Russo-Ukrainian gas dispute of January 2009: a comprehensive assessment

This is the first major academic study of the January 2009 Russo-Ukrainian gas dispute during which 20 per cent of Europe's gas supplies were cut off for two weeks. This study, published less than a month after the dispute was settled, concludes that this dispute had no winners. Moreover, with the exception of European gas companies and some European heads of state, none of the parties involved have emerged with any great credit. There is no evidence that Russia intended to use energy as an economic or political "weapon" against European countries. The role of "oligarchs", while certainly unhelpful, was not decisive.

This crisis demonstrated that the two sides lost control of their bilateral gas relationship, and that neither the European Union nor the Energy Charter Treaty were decisive in its resolution. The consequences of the dispute go far beyond narrow judgements about legal and contractual responsibilities. The issue for the future is that since Russian gas supplies through Ukraine have been cut off once, they could be cut off again. Thus the problem for both sides is one of credibility in relation to future supplies and transit. The potential for Europe to reduce its dependence on, or diversify away from, Russian gas supplies is very limited in anything other than the long term.

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