With the conflict in Ukraine escalating, it is only a matter of time before Russia begins its energetic blackmail. This time not only Ukraine or Poland will be held hostage, but even Germany might have the gas taps turned off. Gas is after all Russia’s main weapon when it comes to European politics.
It is however even more paramount that Poland works with Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Ukraine to jointly develop their shale gas resources, which are believed to be amongst the most sizeable in Europe. I have written about this prospective partnership over the last two years, proposing to call it Respublica Nova, or Rzeczpospolita Nowa in Polish, as it builds on the historic Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth .
The predicament that Europe finds itself in today is largely due to Putin’s “divide and conquer” politics, whereby the particular EU members’ greed and fears are being exploited.
In particular, the EU is paralysed at its heart with Germany kept inactive due to its fright for the future of its gas supplies. The trouble is that with such divided Europe Putin holds all the cards and can switch off particular countries’ gas supplies as he pleases. He even charges widely divergent prices to different importers of his gas in a blatantly discriminatory fashion, with Poland paying more than the countries further West.
Respublica Nova would not only mean that the Baltics, Poland and Ukraine lend each other support in exploration and development of their gas resources, hence weaning them off the dependence on Russian gas and possibly supplying Western and Southern Europe.
Crucially, this alliance would stretch from the Baltic to the Black Sea and hence control all of the Russian gas flow into Europe, with the Baltic seabed Nord Stream pipeline being the only exception. Suddenly it could be Poland, Ukraine or Lithuania telling Russia the gas may get turned off.
This would clearly help the balance of power on our continent, however it is obvious that Putin will pull all the tricks so as not to allow for that to happen.
What is however remarkable is that Respublica Nova could benefit the current European Union as much as be a viable alternative to the EU for the Central and Eastern Europe, especially if it were combined with a closer military cooperation of the said countries within NATO and a free trade agreement.
Przemek Skwirczynski is the Chairman of the Friends of Poland in UKIP group