Thursday, Apr. 30, 2009

Alexander Medvedev

If Alexei Miller, Gazprom's CEO, is the company's public face and conduit to the Russian political leadership, Alexander Medvedev, head of Gazprom Export, is its link to the outside world. One-third of the gas consumed in Europe passes through Medvedev's hands, and 60% of Gazprom's total revenues come from exports.

Medvedev, 53, believes that Russia's business is predominantly business. Medvedev also believes in a bright future for natural gas and looks beyond the present crisis to the day when Gazprom's capitalization will shoot to a trillion dollars. Last summer it stood at a mere third of that amount.

Yet as the recurrent gas wars between Russia and Ukraine demonstrate, Europe's energy security is an area of high tension. After four decades of being Europe's main gas provider, Russia has seen its originally stellar reputation — it pumped away even as the Soviet Union was disintegrating — become severely damaged. Medvedev can give brilliant rejoinders to critics, but more and more people are talking about how to ensure Europe's energy security against the whims of Russia, its lead supplier.

Those thinking strategically about energy, however, need to think outside the box. Europe's security requires Russia's integration into a common compact with the countries of NATO and the European Union, as well as with newer states like Ukraine, Georgia and others. And a stable security arrangement needs to be flanked by an economic one encompassing the entire continent. After World War II, the nucleus of what later became the European Union was formed around the European Coal and Steel Community. With luck, a European Energy Community will be a similar catalyst for the E.U. and its post-Soviet neighbors, including Russia. Alexander Medvedev of Gazprom and President Dmitri Medvedev of the Kremlin have their work cut out for them.

Trenin is director of the Carnegie Moscow Center