Only strong dismay may explain the flow of negative information and consciously provocative statements of separate representatives of the Russian establishment in terms of Ukraine voiced recently. Not one information attack at Ukraine on the side of Russian mass media has been as massive as this one throughout all the history of Russian-Ukrainian relations. This could possibly be explained by geopolitical ambitions, but, chances are, money is the main factor here.
Just five short years ago the future of Russian Gazprom seemed unshadowed. Gas prices for foreign purchasers were raised to unheard-of levels. Gas supplies were growing, and it seemed the “golden rain” of gas-dollars would be everlasting. However, as it often happens in such cases, monopoly-like high prices played an evil trick with Gazprom. While gas prices were low, nobody was thinking of saving energy or seeking an alternative to replace natural gas. And once prices became unreasonably overcharged, the idea of giving up on expensive gas became the main goal for everyone buying Russian gas. Thus, European purchasers of Russian gas reoriented towards gas from Norway, North Africa countries, and seriously started to explore and trigger the commercial production of shale gas which appeared to be a worthy alternative to natural gas from Russia.
Consequently, if taken in 2007, the Russian Gazprom company was rated 4th according to the capitalization level in the list of 100 largest companies of the world, as of year-end 2012 it got only the 58th place. Over the last five years the capitalization of Gazprom has fallen twice and continues to decline. And while gas purchases by foreign companies are decreasing, we can witness a situation when Gazprom will have to freeze gas production, and money invested in the development of new gas fields will be simply lost altogether. And what’s meant is almost hundreds of billions of dollars. This can’t but frighten Russia, and therefore the desire to chain Ukraine to itself and leave it to be the main consumer of its gas is an idée fixe for Russia. This is where such fear of the future among Russian businessmen and politicians comes from.
And at the same time, the start of drilling work by the American Shell company in the Kharkiv region aimed at shale gas production has scared Russia even more. As a matter of fact, in three-five years Ukraine will be able to withdraw from import gas at large and even turn into gas exporter in place of an importer. Even the most pessimistic forecasts say the prime cost of shale gas production will be below 200 dollars per thousand cubic meters. Which will allow to easily provide both population and industry with relatively cheap gas. And Russia will have to fundamentally think over its future which actually has no prospects without gas.
The growth of Russia’s economy since 2000 is actually the growth of oil and gas production and sale. Without oil and gas a real growth of Russia’s economy is nowhere in evidence, and this is well known by representatives of the Russian establishment. Thus, maybe, the time has come for them not to frighten Ukraine with default any more, but to think how Russia will go through default itself with its castaway gas.