A New Gas Transit Deal Won't Keep Ukraine and Russia Together for Long

Dec 30, 2019 | 10:00 GMT

A natural gas line runs outside Donetsk, Ukraine, on March 11, 2015.

A natural gas line runs outside Donetsk, Ukraine, on March 11, 2015. In the future, gas transit deals between Ukraine and Russia could have less ability to keep the countries' tensions in check.

(ANDREW BURTON/Getty Images)


  • As part of a new, five-year gas transit agreement, Russia will gradually reduce its use of Ukrainian pipeline infrastructure over the next five years as it expands its access to the European natural gas market through the Nord Stream 2 and TurkStream pipelines.
  • Ukraine will use the next five years to continue its efforts to reduce its dependence on natural gas that comes directly from Russia by ramping up domestic gas production and searching for alternative routes for imports.
  • The transit relationship has, in general, kept a lid on tensions in eastern Ukraine, but now that the importance of natural gas is waning in the Russian-Ukrainian relationship, bilateral tensions could rise once more.

For the short term at least, Ukrainians and Europeans won't have to worry about shelling out more to heat their homes this winter. An eleventh-hour extension to an energy transit agreement will guarantee the continued flow of natural gas from Russia to Europe through Ukraine over the next five years, but there is little indication that the current deal will presage longer-term cooperation between Moscow and Kyiv. Indeed, lingering distrust between the two capitals will lead Ukraine down the path of producing its own natural gas to achieve self-sufficiency in the longer term, while Russia will strive to shift shipments to pipelines in the Baltic and Black seas that don't present as much of a political nuisance. Ultimately, the emergence of other transit routes will reduce the calming effect that natural gas transit deals have had on the two countries' larger political disputes over hot-button issues like Crimea, eastern Ukraine...

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