(Global Post) MOSCOW, Russia — It may have taken a long time, but it appears the European Union may finally be standing up to Gazprom. The European Commission, the EU’s executive body, last week launched an antitrust investigation into the Russian state gas behemoth’s European trading operations. That prompted a fiery reaction from the Kremlin that threatens a major confrontation over an issue at the heart of Moscow’s economic and political relations with European countries.
“Not only because of fines,” said Pavel Baev of the Peace Research Institute Oslo. “Fines are fines, a small bother. This probe hits at the very heart of Gazprom’s export philosophy.” Baev says the Kremlin’s hard-line political stance would probably not work against a challenge by an independent commission that would be better fended off by a team of lawyers. “Putin is used to having a symbiosis between Gazprom and the Kremlin that gives him additional levers,” he said. “Now it’s clearly a liability. He has to spend political capital defending it not very skillfully and exposing himself.”