Russia seems to be toughening its position on energy sales to Europe. An adviser to President Putin said Moscow had no intention of observing guidelines in the EU’s energy charter that would allow non-Russian companies access to the country’s vast pipeline network.

“We will not ratify the energy charter”, the adviser, Sergei Yastrzhembsky, Putin’s special envoy to the European Union, has said: “It would be damaging for Russia if we ratified it”. Energy analysts said Putin was determined to prevent any kind of third- party access to the pipelines because it would lead to competition.

“A few years ago, Russia was about to ratify the energy charter, but then came the big jump in energy prices,” said Iwona Wisniewska, an expert on Russian energy at the Center for Eastern Studies in Warsaw. “Today, the transit protocol is very problematic for Russia. It would mean competition for Russia’s state-owned energy monopolies. The monopolies would shrink.”

Russia’s insistence that it will not ratify a set of common rules giving European and other foreign companies access to the pipelines could pose the first challenge for Chancellor Angela Merkel when Germany takes over the EU’s rotating presidency on Jan. 1. Russia, energy security, global warming and the Middle East will dominate her foreign policy agenda.

And what is the common thread that links all three issues? oil.