There are, of course, two sides to every story, no matter how compelling one side of that story may be. The story of annual energy disputes between Russia and the Ukraine, Belarus and the EU seems simple enough. On the surface in the West it’s portrayed as big, bad Russia bullying the rest of Europe into acquiescing to its demands and using energy as a "political weapon," as Vice President Dick Cheney puts it.
But here in Davos, on Thursday, I got the chance to hear from the other side when the deputy chairman of Kremlin-controlled Gazprom gave me an audience.
Alexander Medvedev looked me in the eye and answered in forthright fashion every question posed to him. No, he said, Russia wasn’t threatening further energy disputes. Yes, Russia is a reliable supplier of gas to not only Western Europe but also to former satellites in the East. He also dismissed as ‘fantastical’ reports in the press this week that an OPEC type cartel with fellow suppliers Norway and Algeria was on the cards, pointing out that it was only natural that suppliers would want to talk.
Some remain to be convinced about Russia’s intention, but in the meantime it’s clear that Europe needs a common voice on energy security. Until then, while we have internal disputes on how to react, Alexander Medvedev and his colleagues will hold most of the cards in this high-stakes game of poker.
This, of course, is the other side of the coin to the ongoing Davos mantra that reduction of emissions and greener fuels are needed to save the world from impending doom. I was heartened over the last three days by the real actions being taken by the top CEOs I interviewed. not just on a corporate level, but also on a personal level.
"Sir Stelios" of Easy Group and I joked about the scourge of the "Chelsea Tractor" (an SUV to non-West London types), and others queued up to prove how much they were "greenifying" their companies.
I was especially pleased to hear that interviewee Peter Bakker, the head of logistics group TNT, had not only made great strides to cut down his company’s carbon emissions, but had also sold his Porsche and bought a hybrid alternative. For me that might have been a sacrifice too many. Good on yer, Peter!