Archived Jul 15 2009
European pipeline politics - July 15
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After months of haggling, four European Union nations and Turkey will today sign an agreement to build a massive 3,300-kilometre gas pipeline that will vastly reduce Europe’s dependence on Russia for its gas supplies. The Nabucco pipeline, due to open in 2015, will bring gas from as many as six Middle East and Central Asian suppliers to Austria, providing a vital alternative to the Russian-controlled pipelines through Ukraine that Moscow has twice turned off in the depths of winter in disputes with Kiev.
The mindset in the Kremlin has long been one of zero-sum advantage. Whether under communism or under the authoritarian rule of Vladimir Putin, Russian strategists have assumed that what is of advantage to neighbours or rivals must be of disadvantage to the Kremlin. In all negotiations over nuclear weapons, or arms treaties or, more recently, energy supplies, the Russians find it hard to envisage an equilibrium that is of mutual advantage. This is why Europe's present dealing with Moscow over energy imports are so vexed. Moscow sees its vast gas reserves as a strategic advantage that will ensure its voice is heard, its interests respected. And as long as Europe is heavily dependent on imports from Russia, the Kremlin sees any search for alternatives as a threat to its monopoly and influence. ..
(13 July 2009)
A Mideast Pipe Dream
Lionel Laurent, Forbes
The story goes that the Nabucco pipeline project got its unusual name from Giuseppe Verdi's opera, which the founding members of the project all trooped to see after their first meeting in Vienna. The six energy companies from Turkey, Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Austria and Germany evidently saw a parallel between the opera Nabucco--which tells of the Hebrews' suffering and exile at the hand of the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar--and their own dreams of escaping the yoke of European dependence on Russian gas supplies.
The Nabucco partners may even see modern-day Babylon, in Iraq, as a potential key supplier for the pipeline, which will run from Turkey to Austria. Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has reportedly offered 15 billion cubic meters of gas annually to supply Nabucco once it is completed in 2015, which would already represent half the pipeline's capacity. The goodwill may even stretch to neighbor Iran, which has been singled out as "fundamental to Nabucco" by European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana, and as a desired partner by Turkish Prime Minister Reccep Tayyip Erdogan--when conditions allow...
(14 July 2009)
Media ponder 'energy chess game'
Turkish writers were pleased about the Nabucco gas pipeline deal signed by Turkey, Austria, Hungary, Bulgaria and Romania on Monday in Ankara. They saw it as placing their country in an excellent position strategically, particularly with regard to Europe.
But a commentator in one Turkish paper, as well as writers in several Romanian dailies, wanted to know from where the gas for the pipeline would come. This point was also not lost on Iran's hard-line daily Hezbollah, which believes Europe will have to approach Iran.
Further east, commentators wondered whether Russia's rival pipeline project, South Stream, would now be scrapped...
Excerpts from BBC monitoring
(15 July 2009)