Ukraine uses more natural gas per capita than any other country in the world. Half the economy is built around a seemingly endless and reliable supply of cheap gas, and a significant percentage of Ukraine's tax money goes to heavily subsidizing household gas prices.
But that cheap gas comes from Russia, which has made no secret of its willingness to use it as an economic weapon.
THE GAS WEAPON is a clear and much-needed examination of how Ukraine and, to a lesser extent, much of Europe are dependent on Russian gas—and the role gas plays in recent Ukrainian politics.
Gazprom, the giant Russian company largely owned by the government, delivers its natural gas to Europe through a network of pipelines, some of which pass through Ukraine. Gas prices per country vary according to an opaque formula—one that seems to offer better deals to the most compliant governments.
Featuring interviews with high-level government officials, journalists and industry analysts from several countries, THE GAS WEAPON argues that a generation after its break from the USSR, Ukraine is independent in name only. To bring the country to its knees, all Russia has to do to is turn off the gas, as it did briefly in the winters of 2005 and 2009.
Recent events in Ukraine and Russia have played out against the backdrop of the gas wars. The Euromaidan protests that drove pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovich from power may also have marked a new willingness on the part of Ukrainians to seek new sources of energy and assert their independence, even if it means paying higher prices.
While the political and economic implications are complex, THE GAS WEAPON offers clear and insightful analysis, making it a valuable tool to understand the impact of natural gas on current European politics.
Special Screening, 2014 Odessa International Film Festival