Those Russian supplies, well, how reliable are these…
Europe and Russia Fail to Agree on Gas Deal
By CLIFFORD J. LEVY
MOSCOW — Russia and the European Union failed Friday to reach an agreement that would prevent future disruptions of energy supplies to Europe, and the two sides appeared unable to draw closer on a range of other matters.
Russia’s president, Dmitri A. Medvedev, and his counterparts from the European Union sought to play down their differences at the end of their summit meeting by saying that the discussions had been useful.
The Czech president, Vaclav Klaus, whose country holds the rotating presidency of the 27-member European Union, said the meetings had enhanced “mutual trust.”
Still, the very location that the Kremlin chose for the get-together — the city of Khabarovsk, in Russia’s Far East, near the Chinese border and the Sea of Japan — seemed intended to highlight its unease at the state of relations.
By making European officials fly 10 or more hours, the Kremlin appeared to be underscoring the fact that Russia was not just a European nation and had many opportunities to its east as well.
European Union officials were eager to discuss an arrangement to guarantee energy supplies, less than five months after Russia, for the second time in three years, shut off natural gas to Europe in a pricing dispute with Ukraine.
Russia and Ukraine, which maintains pipelines that deliver Russian gas to Europe, have quarreled repeatedly over pricing and supplies in recent years, raising questions in Europe about whether Russia is a reliable source.
Mr. Medvedev brushed aside European concerns on Friday, saying that Russia had no need to give promises and suggesting that Ukraine was solely to blame.
“The Russian Federation has not given, and will not give, any such assurances,” Mr. Medvedev said at a news conference. “What on earth for? From our side, there are no problems; everything is in order with gas and with fulfilling our obligations. Let those who are required to pay for the gas give the assurances.”
Mr. Medvedev added that he doubted whether Ukraine, which has been severely affected by the financial crisis, would be able to continue to pay for Russian gas for its own use. He indicated that both Russia and the European Union might need to step in to send assistance.
The president of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, emphasized that even in the absence of a formal arrangement, Russia and Ukraine had to settle their problems without threatening gas supplies and leaving Europeans freezing during the winter.
“Disruption in the transit and export of gas must not be allowed to occur again,” he said.
Last winter’s supply disruptions and subsequent strong-arm tactics from the Kremlin shook up both European consumers and Central Asian suppliers, helping revive long-stalled plans to build a pipeline to provide an alternative to Russian gas. But the so-called Nabucco pipeline has never managed to put together the elusive formula of plentiful supplies, customers and financing.