Russia’s Strategic Shift To East Continues: Now India

December 17, 2014

The steadfast support of the people of Russia for India has been there even at difficult moments in our history. It has been a pillar of strength for India’s development, security and international relations. India, too, has always stood with Russia through its own challenges. The character of global politics and international relations is changing. However, the importance of this relationship and its unique place in India’s foreign policy will not change. In many ways, its significance to both countries will grow further in the future.”

( Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi)

Russia and India made 20 deals in 24 hours (on 11th Dec. 2014) given $100 billion-worth boost to their economies. The economic burden of Western sanctions has pushed Russia to the east in search of business opportunities. During President Vladimir Putin’s visit to India in the presence of he and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi 20 pacts were signed and the two sides ended with US$100 billion commercial contracts. (Source RT )

Rich pickings by both sides included deals worth $40 billion in nuclear energy, $50 billion in crude oil and gas and $10 billion in a host of other sectors, including defense, fertilizers, space, and diamonds. Moscow is seeking greater investment from Indian state-run companies in Russian oil and gas projects, including ones being explored in the Arctic.

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New Indo-Russian deals

Putin’s just-ended India trip constitutes a major foreign policy success for the Russian President as he has successfully teamed up with China and India, Asia’s number one and third economies respectively. Some highlights of the Indo-Russia deals:

  • india nuclearRussia would be constructing 12 new nuclear reactors for India in two decades – each will cost $3 billion apiece.

 

  • Russia holds the world’s second-biggest natural gas reserves and is among the globe’s biggest oil producers. Among the agreements today was a 10-year deal that will raise Indian imports of Russian oil almost 40-fold from current levels. The two nations plan to study the possibility of building a hydrocarbon pipeline system connecting India and Russia, according to a joint statement from Putin and Modi.
  • The $2.1 billion deal that 12 Indian companies dealing in diamonds have signed with Alrosa. Russia’s diamond reserves are more than 1 billion carats, the largest in the world, while Russia’s Alrosa accounts for more than quarter of the global diamond mining.
  • BrahMos cruise missileReviving their good old defense partnership the new Indo-Russian initiative involves Russia producing state-of-the-art multi-role helicopters in Indian factories to cut down on costs and time overruns. This deal will be worth $3 billion once formally signed. In addition India will be at liberty to export these helicopters to third countries.
  • In addition there was also the $2 billion potash deal.
  • Russia would look at participating in the Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor project.
  • Moscow is seeking greater investment from Indian state-run companies in Russian oil and gas projects, including ones being explored in the Arctic.
  • Both governments have set-up a Joint working group (JWG) to negotiate the specifications of an agreement, a final agreement would be signed between India and Eurasian Customs Union

(Sources: Al Jazeera , Bloomberg and RT )

The first major political initiative, since the collapse of the Soviet Union, between India and Russia began with the Strategic Partnership signed between the two countries in 2000. Traditionally, the Indo-Russian strategic partnership has been built on five major components: politics, defence, civil nuclear energy, anti-terrorism co-operation and space. However, in recent years a sixth component, economic, has grown in importance with both countries setting a target for US$20 billion in bilateral trade by 2015. The Indo-Russian Inter-Governmental Commission (IRIGC), which is one of the largest and comprehensive governmental mechanisms that India has had with any country internationally.

T50 stealth fighterIndia and Russia have several major joint military programmes including (Source WikiPedia ):

 

The critics

According The Hindu U.S. is upset at India-Russia deals. A day after Russian President Putin’s visit, the United States criticised India for the agreements signed between New Delhi and Moscow. Responding to a question on the 20 agreements signed, including one on the Rupee-Rouble trade, State department spokesperson Jen Psaki said, “Our view remains that it’s not time– for business as usual with Russia. But beyond that, we’d have to take a closer look at what these agreements entail.”

The U.S. and Ukraine have also expressed unhappiness that President Putin was accompanied by the Crimean Premier Sergey Aksyonov. Mr. Aksyonov is on the sanctions list of the U.S., Canada and European Union for his role in the accession of the former Ukrainian region to Russia in March this year. Mr. Aksyonov initialled a “partnership agreement” between Crimean and Indian businesses, particularly in the area of meat exports. The meeting with the Crimean Prime Minister followed Russia’s decision to allow the import of Indian buffalo meat last week. While the U.S. state department said it was “troubled” by his presence in New Delhi, Ukranian President Petro Poroshenko accused India of putting “money” ahead of “values” and “civilisation”.

Wider context

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The wider picture – besides new Indo-Russian cooperation – includes the Sino-Russian cooperation, the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa), The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), the Eurasian Economic Union EEU, the energy war and other bilateral operations. Faced with an increasingly hostile West, Russia is visibly turning East. In particular, China and Russia have become closer, signing a historic gas deal, conducting joint naval exercises, and increasing trade. Russia and China are determined to reduce U.S. and NATO presence in Central Asia to what it was before the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan. The SCO has consistently rebuffed U.S. requests for observer status, and has pressured countries in the region to end U.S. basing rights. At present, the SCO has started to counterbalance NATO’s role in Asia.

bricsThe BRICS met 2013 in Durban, South Africa, to, among other steps, create their own credit rating agency, sidelining the “biased agendas” of the Moody’s/Standard & Poor’s variety. They endorsed plans to create a joint foreign exchange reserves pool. Initially it will include US$100 billion. It’s called a self-managed contingent reserve arrangement (CRA). During the July (2014) BRICS Summit in Brazil the five members agreed to directly confront the West’s institutional economic dominance. The BRICS agreed to establish the New Development Bank (NDB) based in Shanghai , pushed especially by India and Brazil, a concrete alternative to the Western-dominated World Bank and the Bretton Woods system.

So in near future BRICS will be trading in their own currencies, including a globally convertible yuan, further away from the US dollar and the petrodollar. All these actions are strengthening financial stability of BRICS – a some kind of safety net precaution, an extra line of defense.

Less than a month after the BRICS’ declaration of independence from the current strictures of world finance, the SCO—which includes China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan—approved India, Pakistan, Iran, and Mongolia for membership in the organization. Also SCO has received applications for the status of observers from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Belarus, Nepal and Sri Lanka.

Bottom line

China and Turkey are now followed by Indo-Russian cooperation. Russia’s President Vladimir Putin held talks with India’s new prime minister Narendra Modi as sanctions-hit Moscow seeks to strengthen energy, defence and strategic ties in Asia. India opposes joining Western sanctions against Russia, and is likely to disregard a caution from Washington that now is not the right time to do business with Moscow.

Most importantly, the just-concluded 15th India-Russia annual summit has laid out a specific decadal roadmap for bringing about a complete transformation in the Indo-Russian bilateral ties and taking them to a much higher trajectory than ever before.

The latest developments in Russia’s strategic shift to East and now to India are in my opinion a strong symptom that alternative poles of power are emerging that soon may present a serious challenge to the U.S.-dominated world that emerged from the end of the Cold War. In my conclusion the era when the IMF, World Bank, and U.S. Treasury could essentially dictate international finances and intimidate or crush opponents with sanctions, pressure and threads are drawing to a close.

The great Eurasian axis between China and Russia boosted by ongoing Western sanctions due Ukraine is already in good motion. The deal done with China and the deal just done with Turkey redirect to these two countries gas that had previously been earmarked for Europe. (More in Is South Stream Pipeline Transforming Itself To “Turk Stream”? ) These deals show that Russia had made a strategic decision this year to redirect its energy flow away from Europe. The Russian response to ongoing Western sanctions has been launching a counter-strategy including the formation of a potential non-dollar trading bloc among major players such as China, Iran, Turkey, India) in the global energy markets. (More about issue in ¥uan and Waterloo of Petro$ ; see also some geostrategic background in my slideshow Some Geostrategic Aspects in Russia vs. U.S. Relationship )

indo-russia deals

 

 


Viewing Russia From the Inside

December 17, 2014

Note:”Viewing Russia From the Inside is republished with permission of Stratfor.”

Viewing Russia From the Inside by George Friedman

Last week I flew into Moscow, arriving at 4:30 p.m. on Dec. 8. It gets dark in Moscow around that time, and the sun doesn’t rise until about 10 a.m. at this time of the year — the so-called Black Days versus White Nights. For anyone used to life closer to the equator, this is unsettling. It is the first sign that you are not only in a foreign country, which I am used to, but also in a foreign environment. Yet as we drove toward downtown Moscow, well over an hour away, the traffic, the road work, were all commonplace. Moscow has three airports, and we flew into the farthest one from downtown, Domodedovo — the primary international airport. There is endless renovation going on in Moscow, and while it holds up traffic, it indicates that prosperity continues, at least in the capital.

Our host met us and we quickly went to work getting a sense of each other and talking about the events of the day. He had spent a great deal of time in the United States and was far more familiar with the nuances of American life than I was with Russian. In that he was the perfect host, translating his country to me, always with the spin of a Russian patriot, which he surely was. We talked as we drove into Moscow, managing to dive deep into the subject.

From him, and from conversations with Russian experts on most of the regions of the world — students at the Institute of International Relations — and with a handful of what I took to be ordinary citizens (not employed by government agencies engaged in managing Russia’s foreign and economic affairs), I gained a sense of Russia’s concerns. The concerns are what you might expect. The emphasis and order of those concerns were not.

Russians’ Economic Expectations

I thought the economic problems of Russia would be foremost on people’s minds. The plunge of the ruble, the decline in oil prices, a general slowdown in the economy and the effect of Western sanctions all appear in the West to be hammering the Russian economy. Yet this was not the conversation I was having. The decline in the ruble has affected foreign travel plans, but the public has only recently begun feeling the real impact of these factors, particularly through inflation.

But there was another reason given for the relative calm over the financial situation, and it came not only from government officials but also from private individuals and should be considered very seriously. The Russians pointed out that economic shambles was the norm for Russia, and prosperity the exception. There is always the expectation that prosperity will end and the normal constrictions of Russian poverty return.

The Russians suffered terribly during the 1990s under Boris Yeltsin but also under previous governments stretching back to the czars. In spite of this, several pointed out, they had won the wars they needed to win and had managed to live lives worth living. The golden age of the previous 10 years was coming to an end. That was to be expected, and it would be endured. The government officials meant this as a warning, and I do not think it was a bluff. The pivot of the conversation was about sanctions, and the intent was to show that they would not cause Russia to change its policy toward Ukraine.

Russians’ strength is that they can endure things that would break other nations. It was also pointed out that they tend to support the government regardless of competence when Russia feels threatened. Therefore, the Russians argued, no one should expect that sanctions, no matter how harsh, would cause Moscow to capitulate. Instead the Russians would respond with their own sanctions, which were not specified but which I assume would mean seizing the assets of Western companies in Russia and curtailing agricultural imports from Europe. There was no talk of cutting off natural gas supplies to Europe.

If this is so, then the Americans and Europeans are deluding themselves on the effects of sanctions. In general, I personally have little confidence in the use of sanctions. That being said, the Russians gave me another prism to look through. Sanctions reflect European and American thresholds of pain. They are designed to cause pain that the West could not withstand. Applied to others, the effects may vary.

My sense is that the Russians were serious. It would explain why the increased sanctions, plus oil price drops, economic downturns and the rest simply have not caused the erosion of confidence that would be expected. Reliable polling numbers show that President Vladimir Putin is still enormously popular. Whether he remains popular as the decline sets in, and whether the elite being hurt financially are equally sanguine, is another matter. But for me the most important lesson I might have learned in Russia — “might” being the operative term — is that Russians don’t respond to economic pressure as Westerners do, and that the idea made famous in a presidential campaign slogan, “It’s the economy, stupid,” may not apply the same way in Russia.

The Ukrainian Issue

There was much more toughness on Ukraine. There is acceptance that events in Ukraine were a reversal for Russia and resentment that the Obama administration mounted what Russians regard as a propaganda campaign to try to make it appear that Russia was the aggressor. Two points were regularly made. The first was that Crimea was historically part of Russia and that it was already dominated by the Russian military under treaty. There was no invasion but merely the assertion of reality. Second, there was heated insistence that eastern Ukraine is populated by Russians and that as in other countries, those Russians must be given a high degree of autonomy. One scholar pointed to the Canadian model and Quebec to show that the West normally has no problem with regional autonomy for ethnically different regions but is shocked that the Russians might want to practice a form of regionalism commonplace in the West.

The case of Kosovo is extremely important to the Russians both because they feel that their wishes were disregarded there and because it set a precedent. Years after the fall of the Serbian government that had threatened the Albanians in Kosovo, the West granted Kosovo independence. The Russians argued that the borders were redrawn although no danger to Kosovo existed. Russia didn’t want it to happen, but the West did it because it could. In the Russian view, having redrawn the map of Serbia, the West has no right to object to redrawing the map of Ukraine.

I try not to be drawn into matters of right and wrong, not because I don’t believe there is a difference but because history is rarely decided by moral principles. I have understood the Russians’ view of Ukraine as a necessary strategic buffer and the idea that without it they would face a significant threat, if not now, then someday. They point to Napoleon and Hitler as examples of enemies defeated by depth.

I tried to provide a strategic American perspective. The United States has spent the past century pursuing a single objective: avoiding the rise of any single hegemon that might be able to exploit Western European technology and capital and Russian resources and manpower. The United States intervened in World War I in 1917 to block German hegemony, and again in World War II. In the Cold War the goal was to prevent Russian hegemony. U.S. strategic policy has been consistent for a century.

The United States has been conditioned to be cautious of any rising hegemon. In this case the fear of a resurgent Russia is a recollection of the Cold War, but not an unreasonable one. As some pointed out to me, economic weakness has rarely meant military weakness or political disunity. I agreed with them on this and pointed out that this is precisely why the United States has a legitimate fear of Russia in Ukraine. If Russia manages to reassert its power in Ukraine, then what will come next? Russia has military and political power that could begin to impinge on Europe. Therefore, it is not irrational for the United States, and at least some European countries, to want to assert their power in Ukraine.

When I laid out this argument to a very senior official from the Russian Foreign Ministry, he basically said he had no idea what I was trying to say. While I think he fully understood the geopolitical imperatives guiding Russia in Ukraine, to him the centurylong imperatives guiding the United States are far too vast to apply to the Ukrainian issue. It is not a question of him only seeing his side of the issue. Rather, it is that for Russia, Ukraine is an immediate issue, and the picture I draw of American strategy is so abstract that it doesn’t seem to connect with the immediate reality. There is an automatic American response to what it sees as Russian assertiveness; however, the Russians feel they have been far from offensive and have been on the defense. For the official, American fears of Russian hegemony were simply too far-fetched to contemplate.

In other gatherings, with the senior staff of the Institute of International Relations, I tried a different tack, trying to explain that the Russians had embarrassed U.S. President Barack Obama in Syria. Obama had not wanted to attack when poison gas was used in Syria because it was militarily difficult and because if he toppled Syrian President Bashar al Assad, it would leave Sunni jihadists in charge of the country. The United States and Russia had identical interests, I asserted, and the Russian attempt to embarrass the president by making it appear that Putin had forced him to back down triggered the U.S. response in Ukraine. Frankly, I thought my geopolitical explanation was a lot more coherent than this argument, but I tried it out. The discussion was over lunch, but my time was spent explaining and arguing, not eating. I found that I could hold my own geopolitically but that they had mastered the intricacies of the Obama administration in ways I never will.

The Future for Russia and the West

The more important question was what will come next. The obvious question is whether the Ukrainian crisis will spread to the Baltics, Moldova or the Caucasus. I raised this with the Foreign Ministry official. He was emphatic, making the point several times that this crisis would not spread. I took that to mean that there would be no Russian riots in the Baltics, no unrest in Moldova and no military action in the Caucasus. I think he was sincere. The Russians are stretched as it is. They must deal with Ukraine, and they must cope with the existing sanctions, however much they can endure economic problems. The West has the resources to deal with multiple crises. Russia needs to contain this crisis in Ukraine.

The Russians will settle for a degree of autonomy for Russians within parts of eastern Ukraine. How much autonomy, I do not know. They need a significant gesture to protect their interests and to affirm their significance. Their point that regional autonomy exists in many countries is persuasive. But history is about power, and the West is using its power to press Russia hard. But obviously, nothing is more dangerous than wounding a bear. Killing him is better, but killing Russia has not proved easy.

I came away with two senses. One was that Putin was more secure than I thought. In the scheme of things, that does not mean much. Presidents come and go. But it is a reminder that things that would bring down a Western leader may leave a Russian leader untouched. Second, the Russians do not plan a campaign of aggression. Here I am more troubled — not because they want to invade anyone, but because nations frequently are not aware of what is about to happen, and they might react in ways that will surprise them. That is the most dangerous thing about the situation. It is not what is intended, which seems genuinely benign. What is dangerous is the action that is unanticipated, both by others and by Russia.

At the same time, my general analysis remains intact. Whatever Russia might do elsewhere, Ukraine is of fundamental strategic importance to Russia. Even if the east received a degree of autonomy, Russia would remain deeply concerned about the relationship of the rest of Ukraine to the West. As difficult as this is for Westerners to fathom, Russian history is a tale of buffers. Buffer states save Russia from Western invaders. Russia wants an arrangement that leaves Ukraine at least neutral.

For the United States, any rising power in Eurasia triggers an automatic response born of a century of history. As difficult as it is for Russians to understand, nearly half a century of a Cold War left the United States hypersensitive to the possible re-emergence of Russia. The United States spent the past century blocking the unification of Europe under a single, hostile power. What Russia intends and what America fears are very different things.

The United States and Europe have trouble understanding Russia’s fears. Russia has trouble understanding particularly American fears. The fears of both are real and legitimate. This is not a matter of misunderstanding between countries but of incompatible imperatives. All of the good will in the world — and there is precious little of that — cannot solve the problem of two major countries that are compelled to protect their interests and in doing so must make the other feel threatened. I learned much in my visit. I did not learn how to solve this problem, save that at the very least each must understand the fears of the other, even if they can’t calm them.


Is South Stream Pipeline Transforming Itself To “Turk Stream”?

December 3, 2014

We believe that in the current conditions Russia cannot continue with the realisation of this project [South Stream].” (Vladimir Putin)

russia vs euRussia’s $40 billion South Stream gas pipeline project came to reach a standstill on Monday 1st Dec 2014 when, as the WSJ reports, Russian President Vladimir Putin said: “We couldn’t get necessary permissions from Bulgaria, so we cannot continue with the project. We can’t make all the investment just to be stopped at the Bulgarian border.

The main reasons for halting the South Stream are plunging energy prices, stalling European demand, interpretation of the European Commission that all bilateral agreements (IGAs) for the construction of South Stream are all in breach of EU law and mostly the political standoff between the European Union and Moscow over the crisis in Ukraine.

The announcement on scrapping South Stream came during a visit by Russian President Vladimir Putin and Gazprom chief executive, Alexei Miller, to Turkey, during which Putin proposed building it to Turkey instead, offering its gas at a discount.

South Stream

South Stream is a Russian sponsored natural gas pipeline. As planned, the pipeline would run under the Black Sea to Bulgaria, and continue through Serbia with two branches to Bosnia and Herzegovina and to Croatia. From Serbia the pipelines crosses Hungary and Slovenia before reaching Italy. Its planned capacity is 63 billion cubic metres per year (bcm/y).

The key partner for Russia’s Gazprom in the South Stream project is Italy’s largest energy company, ENI.

Russia signed intergovernmental agreements with:

  • Bulgaria – January 18, 2008;
  • Serbia – January 25, 2008;
  • Hungary – February 28, 2008;
  • Greece – April 29, 2008;
  • Slovenia – November 14, 2009;
  • Croatia – March 2, 2010;
  • Austria – April 24, 2010.

The construction of South Stream started on December 7, 2012 is scheduled to be completed by 2015. The offshore section of the pipeline, which will run in part along the seabed and reach the maximum depth of 2,200 m, will be 931 km long. Each of the four parallel strings of the pipeline will consist of 75,000 pipes, each 12 m long, 81 cm in diameter, 39 mm thick and weighing 9 tonnes.

South Stream and partners

South Stream and partners

Last December (2013), the European Commission said that all bilateral agreements (IGAs) for the construction of South Stream are all in breach of EU law and need to be renegotiated from scratch (Source: Euractiv ).

Field status” as solution

The European Commission threatened to launch legal action on grounds that South Stream violates EU anti-monopoly laws, with Bulgaria halting construction in August 2014. There are two main requirements for the eligibility of major new gas infrastructure projects like South Stream to be developed in the EU in compliance with the European Commission Directive 2009/73/EC concerning common rules for the internal market in natural gas. The first one relates to the unbundling between the suppliers and the owners of infrastructure, while the second one relates to the granting of third party access to the transmission and distribution systems. This is a formality – the real cause to block South Stream from EU side is of course political confrontation due Ukraine.

Bulgaria and Russia have been discussing the possibility of reclassifying the Bulgarian section of the South Stream gas pipeline into a field pipe to exempt it from EU restrictions. Indeed “the field status” could solve all the problems on restrictions related to the EU third energy package.

In the case of the South Stream Russia’s Gazprom cannot be engaged in production, transportation, and sales of natural gas at the same time. But the pipes carrying gas from EU’s sea shelf fields have a special field status, which exempts them from the restrictions of the legislation.Under EU legislation, pipelines carrying gas from the sea shelf wells of EU countries, particularly Germany, France and Belgium, have a ‘field pipeline’ status that exempts them from the requirement for mandatory granting of access of third parties to the pipeline.Austria’s OMV, Gazprom’s partner in the Austrian section of South Stream, produces gas on the Bulgarian Black Sea shelf, and a pipeline built by OMV to carry gas from the shelf can be later included in the project by reassignment of rights. (Source and more at Novinite: Bulgaria, Russia Discuss Exempting South Stream from EU Restrictions )

Consequences

The main loser of possible cancellation of South Stream project will be Bulgaria. The direct budget revenues that Bulgaria would have had from [gas] transit were at least €400 million a year. The share in the country’s €40 billion GDP to come from South Stream was expected to be 1.5 percent, according to Bulgarian Economic Ministry. Direct investment was supposed to be around €3 billion creating around 2,500 new jobs. The Northern parts of the country, through which the main pipeline route would be laid, were expected to have significantly improved social infrastructure and become more attractive to investment.

Besides Bulgaria also Serbia, Austria and Italy would have made big time revenue, and employed lots of people in need of jobs, by being links in the South Stream chain. Now they will have to pay the Turk Stream toll booth to secure their energy needs.

For Serbia it [South Stream] has been the cornerstone of our industrial strategy for the next 10 years so the situation is worrying us,” Vuk Jeremic, former foreign minister of Serbia, told New Europe on the sidelines of the Athens Forum 2014 on September 15. Right now the bets are off. But I’m hopeful that there will be progress in the future. But it would have to be part of a wider development of normalisation of relations between Russia and the West which currently does not seem to be in the making,” he said. Reminding that Gazprom is one of the biggest foreign investors in Serbia, Jeremic stressed that such a project would be of immense importance for his country’s economy so there are reasons for Belgrade to be worried.”

In addition with Turk Stream a reality, Ukraine has lost its strategic energy significance. The project operator South Stream Transport estimates that European companies will lose at least 2.5 billion euros because of the abandoned project. Japanese companies who were participating in the project will lose some 320 million euros – a Japanese consortium made up of Marubeni-Itochu and Sumitomo had received a pipe supply order worth that amount. (Source: Russia Beyond the Headlines )

If Gazprom decides to choose Turkey and Greece for the South Stream route, the pipeline project would largely resemble the TANAP-TAP project to bring Azeri gas to Italy through the territories of the same countries. The Trans-Anatolian gas pipeline (TANAP) is a proposed natural gas pipeline from Azerbaijan running through Turkey. The approximately 870 km long TAP pipeline connects with TANAP, and will cross Greece and Albania before reaching Italy through an offshore section. It is to be built by a consortium led by BP, Norway’s Statoil and Azerbaijan’s SOCAR. TAP is in an advanced stage of preparation and the start of its construction is planned in 2016.

Gazprom had spent 487.5 billion rubles ($9.4 billion) in the last three years on South Stream and upgrading the Russian pipelines that would have supplied it. Some of that work can be used for a separate link to Turkey. Supply contracts and intergovernmental agreements surrounding the project remain in force. The infrastructure built in preparation for South Stream will be used for “Turk Stream”.

“Turk Stream” instead?

Related to implementation of South Stream Russia agreed on 6th August 2009 with Turkey about energy cooperation with South Stream and also development of Blue Stream pipeline between Russia and Turkey under Black Sea so South Stream has secured also an alternative route. While EU started to create obstacles to project and in case Bulgaria continues to obstruct the construction of the South Stream pipeline this cooperation made base for Gazprom’s “Plan B”. Also on 24 May 2014 Russian President Vladimir Putin already hinted at another route for South Stream, during his meeting with leaders of world media.

Ankara would allow South Stream to reach Turkey under the Black Sea instead of Bulgaria, as originally planned. Russia would prefer not to opt for a plan B, but if the Commission doesn’t stop pressuring Bulgaria to freeze the construction of the pipeline, this alternative appears to be a viable option.

While announcing about South Stream hold off the Russian leader said he will add an extra branch to his existing Blue Stream gas pipeline to Turkey and build a new storage and trading “hub” on the Turkish-Greek border. The pipeline will have an annual capacity of 63 billion cubic meters. A total of 14 bcm will be delivered to Turkey, which is Gazprom’s second biggest customer in the region after Germany. The rest can be shipped through Turkey’s pipeline network to the Balkans.

On the left, the planned South Stream route, to the right, the Blue Stream pipeline to Turkey. Image from www.gazprom.com

On the left, the planned South Stream route, to the right, the Blue Stream pipeline to Turkey. Image from http://www.gazprom.com

Russia’s energy minister Aleksandr Novak said that the new project will include a specially-constructed hub on the Turkish-Greek border for customers in southern Europe. Novak later confirmed that Vladimir Putin personally ordered for the South Stream project to be mothballed, and its existing facilities to be repurposed for the new Turkish pipeline. (Source: RT )

The clear winner of new plans is Turkey – the in-between partner and energy hub – who will take gas from Iran and Russia to Europe. In addition Russia and Turkey also noted that plans for Russian firm Rosatom to build a $20 billion nuclear power plant in Turkey are proceeding full speed ahead.

The bottom line

South Stream exposed cracks in EU strategy as Hungary, Austria, Serbia and Bulgaria among others saw it as a solution to the risk of supply disruptions via Ukraine, which have occurred three times during the last decade. Brussels, on the other hand, saw it as entrenching Moscow’s energy stranglehold on Europe. It remains to see whether Russia’s decision was final or a political ploy – a tactical step – to gain more favorable terms.

From my point of view the original South Stream is the better alternative than “Turk Stream” as it is the direct option to EU/Europe and avoid a transit risk related to Ukraine or Turkey so in my opinion the best follow-up would be attempt to solve Russia-EU differences and run pipeline directly to Europe as initially planned.

P.S:

Turkey, the country that bridges Europe with Asia is merely the latest expansion of Putin’s anti-dollar alliance as Turkey and Russia agree to use local currencies in trade. Wider perspective about this issue can be read from my article ¥uan and Waterloo of Petro$

Update 05/12/2014:

The South Stream pipeline crossing southeastern Europe could still be completed, despite the stated intention of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia to abandon the project, according to Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission.  The comments by Mr. Juncker, at a news conference here on Thursday, indicated that the bloc was intent on keeping at least the idea of the South Stream project alive — despite the European Union’s sanctions against Russia over the crisis in Ukraine, and despite the Europeans’ longstanding skepticism about a pipeline that could extend the region’s heavy reliance on Russian energy.

“South Stream can be built,” Mr. Juncker said. But, he added, “the ball is in the court of Russia.” Mr. Juncker’s comments — as surprising in some respects as Mr. Putin’s sudden decision to reroute the pipeline — were the latest twist in a project that has became a geopolitical tug of war between Brussels and Moscow. (Source: NYT )

pipelines From Russia to EU


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