In another display of his mastery of the Ukraine situation Russian President Vladimir Putin has now cornered the West into paying Ukraine’s overdue bill to the Russians for natural gas delivered to Ukraine, a bill that amounts to about $3 billion.

Putin has stated that Russia cannot continue to supply Ukraine with gas unless the past due bill is paid.  That is bad for Ukraine but also for other European countries who receive Russian gas through pipelines that run through Ukraine.  The Russians will send no gas through these pipelines until the debt is cleared since it is impossible to separate gas destined for Ukraine from that destined for other countries.

Even more interesting, it is clear that, if the West pays this bill, it will not be able to recover the money from the Ukrainians who have no way to pay the bill.  So now Putin has suckered the West into paying Ukraine’s past due gas bill to Russia, after having forced the West into proposing a $15 billion loan to Ukraine to keep its staggering economy afloat , thus obviating the need for  Russia to provide this financial support.

Putin continues to stick  the US and the EU for the Ukraine bill while keeping them in a frenzy to meet his challenge there.  A real magician.