The Tao of Putin*
So the Shrubbery looked into Vladimir's soul and saw a mirror image, another power-mad megalomaniac.
Upset that the Ukrainians failed to follow his instructions in the recent elections, Vlodya decided to up the price of natural gas from $50/unit to $250/unit. The justification was that it was about time they paid the market rate, instead the special former Soviet Socialist Republic rate, with the implication being that if the Ukrainians want to be part of Western Europe they can, by Marx and Lenin, pay Western European prices.
The gas was shut off for a while and a lot of posturing went on about who said what, and who did what, and who was a criminal. The Russians claim that the EU should back them because this is about the free market economic system replacing the old Communist paternalism...blah, blah, blah.
Not to start anything, but Russia sends the bulk of its natural gas to Western Europe through a pipeline across the Ukraine. Now if the Russians what to go all "free market", how long before the Ukrainians start taking about a increase in the fee charged for the passage of the pipeline? How are the Russians going to respond if the Ukrainians decide that the passage to Western markets is worth $300/unit? This is something that can get out of hand rather quickly.
For the sake of those heating with natural gas in Europe, I hope that reality sets in and the problem is resolved in a reasonable fashion, because the Ukraine needs the gas at the moment, and the Russians need the pipeline.
[* - a bad multilingual pun]