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Geopolitics affects the lives of all Europeans
At the end of December 1999, as the world prepared to usher in a new Millennium, in Europe and other parts of the planet there was widespread concern that the so called "Millennium Bug" would strike, causing unforeseen disruption and havoc. Ten years on, in December of 2009, for many in Europe, the Millennium Bug was just a shade in the memory as a far more ominous concern was pressing home - the prospect of another gas crisis breaking out on the borders of the European Union.
Since the Russia-Ukraine gas dispute of January 2009, European attention has become focused on this theme and millions of European citizens live in the shadow of another such crisis breaking out. Although a gas price dispute should in essence be a corporate matter resolved by the disputing parties, the January 2009 incident has demonstrated most explicitly how geopolitical developments in the European hinterlands now impact the day-to-day livelihood of all Europeans. While geopolitics is about much more than gas price disputes between two neighbour countries of the European Union, in the post-Cold War European order, geopolitics is not only back in the limelight, it has taken on an entirely new meaning.
Geopolitical terminology is charged with "political emotion"
Thus, with reference to the above mentioned gas dispute between Russia and Ukraine, when we Europeans discuss concepts such as energy security, we tend to do so in a manner where we imply our European, or consumer side, energy security. We rarely refer to the energy security of all stakeholders in the energy value chain. In today's energy policy jargon, when we talk about diversification of energy, we implicitly imply diversification around, or away, from Russia.
Employment of terms such as "reliability" de facto questions Russian reliability as an energy supply partner. Similarly, "vulnerability" implies that we Europeans (particularly those of us towards the eastern borders of the EU) are vulnerable to Russian employment of "energy as a geopolitical tool". Such terms are charged with "political emotion" and should be employed with caution when applied to debates on energy security, which have become heavily politicized on the wider-European continent in recent years.
Looking ahead with a view to how the European geopolitical debate will evolve, and thinking of the January 2009 gas dispute in retrospect, one is tempted to borrow the logic of one of the 20th Century's greatest statesmen: "is this the beginning of the end, or the end of the beginning ?"