"Gazprom is a mutant"
I've spent a goodly amount of time here covering the geopolitical chess game over oil resources in Central Asia, a game in which the Russians are handing US interests a drubbing. This story about Gazprom, though, must be read. Fascinating and frightening at the same time, Gazprom, as a commercial entity, is far exceeding the bounds of that description. As the Russians call it, Gazprom is a "state within a state."
How Gazprom turned up the heat on the WestMore....
But Gazprom is not just a company providing a quarter of Europe's gas supplies. In 2005, it staged the biggest takeover in Russian history by buying the Sibneft oil firm for $13bn from Roman Abramovich, the owner of Chelsea Football Club.
It has gobbled up Russian television stations, major newspapers, a football team and Russia's third-largest bank. It owns an insurance company. It has an airline, and it builds roads. It
has Black Sea holiday resorts. It has controversial plans to build another soaring tower bang in the historic centre of St Petersburg. And, just for good measure, it runs a private army.
Its tentacles spread way beyond Russia's borders, thanks to the purchase of strategic energy assets in countries ranging from Belarus to Germany, where the Gazprom-sponsored FC Schalke football team wear blue Gazprom shirts, and is currently trying to muscle its way into the US market via Trinidad.
Last week, it emerged that a Gazprom associate, the billionaire Uzbek-born oligarch Alisher Usmanov, had bought a 14.5 per cent stake in Arsenal – fuelling speculation of a Russian-led buyout at another of Britain's top football clubs.