Commentary: Russia shouldn't be Europe's energy source

This editorial appeared in The Kansas City Star.

In the 1980s President Reagan warned Europe against relying too much on Russian energy supplies. The Kremlin, he said, would find it too tempting to turn energy into a blunt-force foreign-policy tool.

Time has validated that warning. Last week a wide swath of Europe found itself without natural gas supplies in the midst of freezing winter temperatures. Gazprom — the Russian gas giant — has further sullied its reputation for reliability and reignited the European debate about alternative supplies.

The problem resulted from a dispute over rates and transit fees for natural gas transported in pipelines running through Ukraine. Those lines carry about a quarter of Europe's supplies.

Russia accused Ukraine of closing down the pipelines, but Ukraine said Russia stopped delivering gas. Russian President Vladimir Putin said he had personally ordered a gas-flow reduction on the grounds that Ukraine was using pipeline gas without paying for it.

Beneath the squabbling over transit fees and rates, Russia's agenda was clear. Ukraine has angered the Kremlin with its bid to join NATO. Moscow saw an opportunity to divide Europe and weaken those countries it still considers within its sphere of influence.

To read the complete editorial, visit The Kansas City Star.

Related stories from McClatchy DC