Friday, May 04, 2007

Russia Tests Its “Oil Weapon”

While Moscow has continued to insist that it has no intention of using energy resources as a political weapon, the European Union has been increasingly concerned about its energy dependence on Russia. Events over the last several days have confirmed European fears and should put to rest any remaining skepticism about Russia’s determination to use every resource at its disposal to cow its neighbors into submission.

The Estonian parliament recently passed an act authorizing the relocation of a monument to Soviet soldiers from central Tallinn, the capital, to a location outside the city. Violent protests ensued in the wake of the decision, and government websites and computer systems were subjected to well-coordinated cyber attacks. There is evidence of the involvement of the Russian embassy in the former and the Russian security services in the latter. More ominously, however, Russian oil companies announced an interruption in oil deliveries to Estonian transit ports, ostensibly to permit maintenance and repair operations.

All of this comes on the heels of Vladimir Putin’s announcement in his annual speech before the Federal Assembly that Russia would place a moratorium on its observance of the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty until all NATO members have signed the agreement. The treaty, which places strict limitations on the deployment of military forces and requires notification of major movements of troops and equipment, has become the backbone of security in Europe. Several new NATO member states have refused to ratify the treaty until Russia removes its troops from Georgia and Moldova.

There is no longer any question that Russia’s increasingly aggressive behavior is aimed at dominating Europe, separating the US from its NATO allies, and placing Moscow in a position as a global power able to veto a weakened US (shorn of its European allies). Russia’s intransigence in Iran is part of this strategy. Only a determined Western response will dissuade Moscow from the opportunistic course upon which it has embarked. Estonia would be a good place to begin.

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