With another gas showdown between Ukraine and Russian gas behemoth Gazprom now underway, it is worth being reminded of the surreal aspect of Putin's Russia. Gazprom has decided that it will reduce deliveries of Russian gas to Ukraine; many observers believe that the dispute is actually a political one. The New York Times, in an excellent short piece, manages to capture the strangeness of Putin's rule:

The announcement took the form of a conversation between Putin and the chief executive of Gazprom, Aleksei B. Miller, during an evening newscast on Russian state television. As they have in the past, the men accused Ukraine of diverting gas from pipelines that send it through Ukraine to Europe, something the Ukrainian government has denied doing.

Mr. Putin asked Mr. Miller how much Ukraine had diverted. About 65.3 million cubic meters of natural gas since Jan. 1, the executive said. “What are you going to do?” Mr. Putin then asked.

Mr. Miller responded that he was considering ordering Gazprom to immediately cut exports bound for Western Europe...

Mr. Putin asked, “How about the supplies to our Western European consumers under long-term contracts?” Mr. Miller said that Europe would only lack what “Ukraine had stolen.”

Mr. Putin then said: “Good, I agree, cut it from today.”

Perhaps this is how Obama should award money to Detroit's automakers: Sit down with Bernanke or Geithner, bring in some cameras, and announce the policy. On the other hand...

--Isaac Chotiner