The colder it gets the more power they have.
Who? Those that control the flow of natural gas used to heat homes, schools and other buildings in the European Union. Currently the two key players in the gas pipeline network that supplies Europe are in a disagreement over pricing, access and many other things. Russia has the natural gas, but the Ukraine is the gas transport gatekeeper on the steps of Europe. Details of the economic tug-of-war are in several places, including one of my favorite blogs.
The golden rule of networks is the same as the golden rule of Real Estate -- location, location, location. Find a good location, and you may have some power over the network. End up in a bad location in the network and you may get very cold while you helplessly watch others maneuver.
Golden rule of networks is the same as golden rule of Real Estate -- location, location, location.
Below is a network map of the gas flow from Russia, and it's surrounding countries, to Europe. Countries are the green squares in the network, major gas fields are the blue circles. The major players in this battle are Russia, the red node, Ukraine, the yellow node, and Germany, the black node. These important nodes in the network were found using a metric from social network analysis called betweenness. Naturally, Russia is the most central player in the network, Ukraine is close behind, and Germany is locally central within Europe, and a distant third.
Russia is well aware of its dependence on Ukraine for the transport of gas to Europe. Russia would rather avoid that dependency. They have a plan. With Germany, the key node in Europe, Russia plans to build a pipeline that will route around Ukraine, and Belarus [in case they begin to exploit their location], and go straight to Germany. This Baltic Bypass [a.k.a. Nord Stream] will go under the Baltic Sea. This new pipeline is indicated by the red link in the map below -- though it will not be a straight line in the real world. The proposed pipeline will leave Russia between Estonia and Finland and run down the Baltic Sea past Latvia and Lithuania to the German coast.
Applying our centrality metrics again, this time we see a dramatic change. Russia, is still the most central player, but now Germany is second and Kazakhstan is third, leaving the Ukraine a distant fourth -- in a much weaker position. One new link changes the competitive landscape. In the connected world we will see more jostling for better location in the network -- with counter-measures coming quickly. The networked chess board?
Do you know your network landscape and who is adding links or taking them away? A white paper on how power changes in a network when link patterns are altered is available at orgnet.com.