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Ukraine needlessly pokes Russia

Kiev is provoking Russia in the gas crisis and other ways. It's a backfire strategy.

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As in 2006, many in Europe are again shivering through a dispute between Russia and Ukraine over natural-gas prices. But if only money were at stake, this row would be easily resolved, and gas would be flowing freely to the 18 countries downstream from the pipeline disruption.

Europe receives about 25 percent of its gas from Russia, and most of it travels via Ukraine. Kiev and Moscow will talk again this weekend, but they'll have to put aside deep political resentments if they are to reach an agreement.

The gas interruption has gone on for two weeks, but the underlying tensions stretch back further: to Russia's invasion of neighbor Georgia in August, to Ukraine's NATO aspirations, and to its "Orange Revolution" in 2004 that set it on a westward democratic course away from Russia.

The crisis tests Russia's role as a reliable energy supplier and responsible world player. Last week, the Monitor's View suggested that if Russia held up a mirror, it would see that its own policies exacerbate its economic and energy woes.

If Russia hadn't spent a gusher on renationalizing its energy sector, for instance, monolith Gazprom wouldn't be so desperate to raise cash and gas prices. If the hefty bear weren't so belligerent toward its neighbors, Ukraine might not now have its own hackles up.

Yet it's also time for self-reflection on Ukraine's part. It, too, has acted unwisely.

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