Chairman Mao, (remember him?) is reported to have once said “Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun” which rather contradicts the widely quoted and comforting adage about the pen being mightier than the sword. However, things might just be beginning to change. Thinking back to 1956, it was guns which the Russians used to suppress the Hungarian uprising against the Russian imposed government and it was guns again which they used to put an end to the Prague Spring of 1968. However, in 2014, in the Ukraine, few shots were fired, and those that were seem to have failed to stop the popular uprising against, again, a puppet Russian kleptocracy. But of course in this case it is not the pen which has defeated the guns, rather it is the threat of something far more powerful, economic pressure.
Regrettably, it may yet end in tears. It is fortunate that we, in Central Europe are moving into spring. It will be about 8 months before winter bites again and when it does, it could well be the gas from the end of the pipe which has the real political power. In this, Russia and the Ukraine are locked in a deadly embrace. Russia needs to sell its gas to the West. They need the money. Ukraine needs the gas to keep, not just warm, but from freezing to death. Russia can use the gas as a weapon against the Ukraine, but the pipe to the west runs though that country, so they can’t actually turn it off. It’s all rather reminiscent of the cold war and the M.A.D (mutually assured destruction) doctrine. It worked then. We are, after all, still here. Will it work for these two countries? Probably, at least until the Ukraine develops some new energy sours (fracking perhaps) or until Russia increases the throughput of gas via the new Baltic route. It’s a race against time, but which one will win?
For interests sake I include this link to the Olympic water polo match of 1956 between Hungary and and Russia. This is really worth a view if you are not aware of it. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MLoA5yLZ4l4