Weapons: Passing Gas



April 29,
2008: Since the end of the Cold War in 1991, Russia has interrupted natural gas
supplies 55 times in order to apply political pressure on its neighbors. It was
three decades ago that Russia began building huge gas pipelines towards Western
Europe, with the intention of exporting the gas for hard cash. Western Europe
was assured that Russia would never interrupt the supply for political reasons.
Russia has natural gas reserves of 47 trillion cubic meters, currently worth
about $6 billion (and rising). Each year, it exports 160 billion cubic meters
of that to Western Europe. Gas and oil exports account for 90 percent of
Russian exports. It would be economic suicide to cut off those lucrative
shipments to Western Europe, just to apply some political pressure. But, hey, that's
what makes politics work. European nations are seeking to find more politically
reliable sources of natural gas, and are not having much success. Thus natural
gas is becoming one of the more potent weapons in the Russian arsenal.