Which means that it must be time for another Russia-Ukraine gas row.
After months of happy talk in which both sides repeatedly claimed that there was no prospect of a repeat of the 2005-06 and 2008-09 imbroglios, a few days ago Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller raised the alarm:
However, despite the expected rise in cold weather demand, Russian gas export monopoly Gazprom (GAZP.MM) said on Friday Ukraine had cut gas purchases in recent days.
“We assess the situation with payments for Russian natural gas deliveries in December as very alarming,” Gazprom’s chief executive Alexei Miller told state television.
“In the middle of December, there was a trend of a reduction of gas off-take which confirms that Ukraine is facing serious difficulties with (future) gas payments,” Miller said.
A new wrinkle this year is Russia cutting off oil shipments through Ukraine for export:
Traders said on Friday Russia’s pipeline monopoly Transneft told oil firms to scrap oil export plans via Ukraine’s Black Sea port of Yuzhny and gave no reason for the move.
“All volumes have been taken away. There will be no supplies in January (from Yuzhny),” said one trader, who asked not to be named because he is not allowed to comment on the issue.
This cutoff is probably a combination of signal (we can do it with oil, need we remind you we can do it with gas?) and economic pressure (reducing Ukrainian transshipment revenues). Maybe the signal will get through, and Ukraine will come up with the scratch. But with the elections impending, and the usual chaos of Ukrainian politics, it very well may not.
So, in the midst of another brutal winter (AGW=anthropomorphic global what?), Europe could be facing yet another gas crisis. How often does that have to happen for the Europeans to get their act together?