How Ukraine can defend itself: Cut Gazprom’s gas & move the revolution to Russia
Ukraine has amazing leverage to press Russia to reverse its invasion, and to give the Europeans some backbone.
That lever consists of two parts: (1) the colossal network of Gazprom pipelines that pump Russian gas into Europe, and European hard currency into Russia; and (2) the example of the Ukrainian revolution, which should spread to Russia to overthrow Vladimir Putin.
If I were in the Ukrainian leadership, I would make it known that Ukraine cannot guarantee the security of those pipelines as long as Russian military and KGB personnel are illegally occupying its territory.
Look at the map: Ukraine has both Russia and the EU by the tender spot, if it merely chooses to squeeze the pipelines.
Here’s what Ukraine should do:
1. Send loyalist forces and pipeline engineers to occupy all Gazprom pipeline compressor stations, valve stations, and regulator stations.
2. Close the valves of one or more major pipelines, to demonstrate capability.
3. Issue orders to shut down entire pipelines by closing the valves and disabling them if necessary.
4. Plant demolition charges along the pipelines in remote areas, to detonate in the event of further Russian aggression.
The results will be catastrophic for both Europe and Russia.
For Russia, it would show that Ukraine effectively controls the single largest source of Russia’s hard currency inflows.
When Putin sent forces into Ukraine, he caused Gazprom’s market value to tank $15 billion in just one day.
Think, then, of how powerful the mere suggestion of a Ukrainian cutoff of gas would be on Gazprom, the Russian state, and the oligarchs who own the most shares of the company.
The results would also cause Europe to pay Ukraine some of the respect that was lost when Kyiv surrendered its nuclear weapons back to Moscow more than two decades ago. Ukraine could finally show that it isn’t just Moscow that controls Europe’s natural gas supply.
Ukraine can safeguard what’s left of its natural integrity – and even force Putin to remove Russian forces from the country completely – by building the easy capability to destroy the pipelines completely, should Putin remain the aggressor. Meanwhile, Ukraine can show its restraint as a responsible actor in the midst of a severe national crisis, earning more serious attention to the increasingly finlandized Europe. (Keep in mind that senior political figures, such as former German socialist chancellor Gerhard Schröder, are on the Gazprom payroll.)
By showing that it can – and will – shut down or wreck Gazprom’s gas lines crisscrossing its territory, Ukraine will be defeating the enemy without fighting him at all.
Now: There’s significant unease inside Russia against Putin’s Ukraine gambit.
Given that so many ethnic Russians and other Russian-speaking Ukrainians are opposed to the Russian invasion, and that there’s so little domestic support inside Russia for the move, this just might be the time for the leaders of the Ukrainian revolution to move eastward.
They should start organizing similar protests against the Putin regime across Russia.
The multi-ethnic, multi-national, multi-religious, politically diverse revolutionary leadership in Ukraine has a natural support base inside Russia. This is why Kremlin propagandists and their western apologists are so fixated on demonizing the Ukrainians as ultranationalist Nazis. Reality is quite different – and everybody seems to know it.
So to preserve its own national integrity and democratic gains, as a defensive measure alone, Ukraine should move the revolution eastward into Russia. Ukrainians should work with their Russian neighbors to start the long and tough campaign to overthrow the Putin government.
The timing is perfect.
Ukraine simply has to build the capability and demonstrate that it has a credible deterrent. It does not have to execute that capability, which, like nuclear weapons, should only be a last resort. It only has to have the capacity – and the will to proceed.