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A woman speaks on the phone near a board with currency exchange rates in Kiev, February 26, 2014.
A woman speaks on the phone near a board with currency exchange rates in Kiev, February 26, 2014.
(Konstantin Chernichkin/Reuters)

Putin’s energy play in Ukraine: follow the money

If there is hope that Ukraine will not collapse into chaos and civil war, it is because both Russia and Europe have too great an interest in preventing such an outcome. The Russian interest is not, as you might think, the military swagger of the Black Sea fleet. The Russian naval base at Sevastopol has become the focus of political attention as ethnic Russians seize control of the Crimean Parliament building, but the underlying Kremlin concern is more prosaic. If Russian President Vladimir Putin’s language is acquiring a Cold War tinge, it is because something more vital is at stake than the battleship hulks rusting in the Black Sea. His real anxiety – and the concern of every government west of Moscow – is over the pipelines that traverse Ukraine, bringing Russian natural gas into Europe.