Tuesday 3 January 2006

Setting democracy ablaze with gas

Terror – an evil pre-occupation
Hardly 48 hours have past into the year 2006 and a number of uncomfortable developments are now taking place which threaten a lot more of our freedoms and liberties than the inordinate if not evil pre-occupation with the war on terror.
As usual our leaders are caught napping as their firm gaze on one issue distracts them from a bigger global picture that could creep upon us like a rolling cloud of mustard gas and envelop us like a nuclear mushroom canopy from which we have no escape.
Impossible expectations
The more obvious one is gas; this is a little battle of wills and integrity between Russia and Ukraine where hardly a week ago Ukraine was threatened with the loss of gas supplies which heretofore had been subsidised or discounted and now is to be hiked fourfold in price.
That deadline passed on New Years Day as pressure was then reduced in the gas pipelines in order to starve Ukraine of gas.
The paradox is that Russia’s gas supply network feeds most of Europe but for now passes through Ukraine where Ukraine is supposed to ethically and honestly allow gas to pass through their land to Europe even when they might be subject to privations in economy and well-being.
To expect to hold Ukraine up to a standard of international rectitude that one would hardly find examples of anywhere on earth is not only unconscionable but really laughable because Ukraine can as well close off the complete gas network and somebody somewhere will be left wanting in reputation, reliability and credibility.
Meanwhile a new pipeline is being built to bypass Ukraine into Europe through Germany where the ex-chancellor has been tapped for chairmanship of the organisation providing that service - nepotism does not become Europe just as Mr Shroeder is Mr Putin's good friend.
This is not a little local flare
This little squabble between these ex-Soviet partners is however affecting a lot more than Ukraine and Russia; countries west of this fracas are already suffering a degradation of supplies, noting that their reserves might not be sufficient enough to see through an extended gas famine.
Industries first and then probably households would be affected, and then some organisations could be asked to switch to oil which is greater pollutant than gas with its environmental consequences.
Economies would be on the wobble as gas futures reckoning for shortage could exert inflationary pressures on the European economy as a whole, whilst logistics are put in place to research for alternative gas supplies and transportation systems.
Democracy a hostage
Democracies can be put under undue pressure leading to social unrest and an unmanageable polity such that governments might not just collapse but the countries are in danger of becoming failed states from the exertion of this kind of energy starvation muscle. Classic how to create disorder.
It can be said that Ukraine is being punished for exercising their democratic right to choose who they want rather than who has been imposed from afar.
We have had strongly worded commentary from the United States State Department; however, Russia as the prospective chairman of the G-8 group of advanced economies is being appeased rather than upbraided.
The force of democratic dissent to such abuse of power reminiscent of either the Stalin times or the US 1970’s foreign policy pertaining to Central America is more a whimper and a wail than a wallop with a resounding wham!
Winning the wrong war
Here we are, winning the war on terror by preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, arresting acts money laundering and trampling on civil liberties amidst the hysteria of saving lives and promoting patriotism as a more benign enemy is destabilising the life-blood of our industries, economies, comforts and democracies.
Amusingly, only little Netherlands has self-sufficient gas supplies in the whole of Europe and what is left over does not compensate for the possibility of a catastrophic weather breakdown from this Siberian ill-wind.
This is just gas, but by the time China decides to call in the loans that underpin the United States bloated budget deficit, would the death of democracy herald another world order?
The possible unexpected
You might shake your heads and say this will not happen, however, I can just see how this can be diplomatically achieved just as we have made so much progress in North Korea, Iran, Zimbabwe, Sudan (Darfur), Russia and Ukraine.
For now, our freedoms, principles and liberties are threatened more by the realities of what Russia, China and Oil-producing countries can wield than the ideologies that emanate from Al-Qaeda adherents. It is however unlikely that this would excite the attention of our ever so astute leaders.

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