EU’s big choice – Nabucco or South Stream?

May 15, 2009

Despite the efforts to save energy a strong scenario for near future is that the quantity of gas needed in EU region will remain same as today if not bigger.  sources of gas are widely known the essential question is how the gas is arriving to European markets.  Environmental and technical aspects can be handled as well economical ones; the real battlefield is (geo) political and it’s much more effective than energy issue itself.

In today’s Europe the core of energy war is the struggle between South Stream and Nabucco pipe lines, which also is one of the most divisive issue inside EU.  The Brussels bureaucracy favour the Nabucco project, a transit route bypassing both Russia and Ukraine, while a part of EU member states, EU energy giants and gas producers are favouring Russia’s South Stream.

Latest developments


EU, Russia as well companies interested about gas business have all activated when decisions are needed to define the final route of gas to European markets.

a) EU


The common factor with both pipelines is that they are eliminating Ukraine’s transit monopoly.  Publicly EU has probably due political motives planned update Ukraine’s gas pipeline network like during The International Investment Conference on March 23rd 2009 in Brussels. Russia has not been invited to discuss the terms of gas supplies to Europe via Ukraine’s gas pipeline network for three years but Ukraine is hoping part of requested $5.5 bn modernization costs from EU in name of EU energy security. Gas buyers and transit operators may have their views, but the question still remains what they can buy and on which terms.  EU bureaucrats are making a fatal miscalculation if they are building energy infrastructure without source of energy itself.

The EU Commission has included the Nabucco pipeline in its list of priority projects,  despite pressure from Germany and Italy. But the EU cut its budget funding of the project by 20% getting some 200 million euros for first stage of the project.Nabucco is likely to rely heavily on subsidies from the EU. Several member countries questioned the economics of the project.

The European Union and Turkey gave fresh political impetus on 8thMay 2009 in Prague to the Nabucco pipeline project, although key Central Asian gas suppliers held off on pledging their support. But it also needs gas, which may be a problem as Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan refused to sign the final declaration in Prague, unlike two other suppliers — Azerbaijan and Egypt — and two key transit nations — Turkey and Georgia. But Mr Gul also made clear he expected some progress on Turkey’s stalled EU membership talks.  Earlier Turkey’s premier, in a rare visit to Brussels on January 19, tested Europe’s reaction, saying that he will review his support for Nabucco if the Energy Chapter of its EU accession talks is blocked. “If we are faced with a situation where the energy chapter is blocked, we would of course review our position,” he said. (Neweurope 26 January 2009) The Declaration of Southern Corridor Summit here .


b) Russia


Russia has floated plans for a new global treaty on trade in fossil and nuclear fuel in an attempt to consign to history an earlier pact, the 1991 Energy Charter Treaty. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev unveiled the project during his state visit in Finland on 20th April 209. “Our task today is to maintain, or rather ensure for the future, the balance of producers of energy resources, transit states and consumers of energy resources,” he said. The new pact is to cover oil, gas, nuclear fuel, coal and electricity and to include the US, China and India as well as European countries.

On 15th May 2009 four agreements shall be signed in Sochi: the national companies of Serbia, , Bulgaria and Italy shall sign agreement with the Russian ‘Gazprom.  One of them is agreement between Serbia’s Srbijagas and Russia’s Gazprom on route of Southern Stream pipeline through Serbia with length about 450 kilometers.  There shall be also a fifth agreement – bilateral agreement between Russia and Italy, which shall be signed by the Prime Ministers of the two countries, Vladimir Putin and Silvio Berlusconi. (Blic 13.5.2009)

c) Companies

The consortium behind the Nabucco now comprises six national energy companies: Botas (Turkey), Bulgargaz (Bulgaria), Transgaz (Romania), MOL (Hungary), OMV (Austria), and RWE (Germany). However on Jan. 25, 2008 OMV sealed a deal for a joint venture with Gazprom for extending Baumgarten’s storage and distribution capacity. Accordingly, Gazprom holds a 50 percent stake there.  Moreover, OMV has been buying into Hungary’s MOL. Considering Russia’s significant share in OMV, any amount of OMV ownership of MOL again translates into stakes for Russia’s energy giant. Even further challenging the Nabucco project is the fact that OMV and MOL, together with yet a third consortium member, Bulgargaz, have already signed up to Gazprom’s South Stream project.

Nabucco


The pipeline that the EU hopes will bring gas from the Caspian Sea to Austria takes its name from Giuseppe Verdi’s 1842 opera, Nabucco. The work tells the story of the oppression and exile of Hebrew slaves by Nabucco, a Babylonian king, better known to the English world as Nebuchadnezzar. The opera deals with the eternal quest for freedom, but the choice of name may yet prove fateful for a project that is facing so many obstacles to its completion.
The pipeline is supposed to transport around 30 billion cubic meters of gas annually. In terms of gas suppliers the project’s backers have named Iran, Iraq, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan.

However Turkmenistan’s gas output is contracted to Russia up until 2028. Azerbaitzan also does not have the amounts required so as for the project to be profitable in the long run. The possibility of Iranian gas is far from realistic due to its nuclear program and the adamant denial by Israel and the opponent Sunni Arab states.  Nabucco is still counting on gas supplies from Azerbaijan despite a memorandum of understanding signed between Russia’s Gazprom and the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan SOCAR signed on March 30th 2009 clearly shows the growing interest of Azerbaijan in cooperation with Russia.

32 European countries are clients of Russia’s Gazprom.  Despite EU declarations and investment plans the US-backed Nabucco natural gas pipeline is dying a slow death. Even its strongest supporters have a hard time demonstrating its commercial viability. The risk for Nabucco is that if the supply and funding issues are not sorted out, the EU’s dream of energy freedom will remain an aspiration rather than a reality.

South Stream


Its planned route would run from the Russian Black Sea coast across the seabed to Bulgaria, then bifurcate into a southern branch to Greece and southern Italy and a northern branch into Serbia, Hungary, and Austria, with a potential detour to Slovenia and northern Italy.

Bulgaria and Hungary have both signed government agreements on joining South Stream. Austria is also in talks and has already agreed to sell Gazprom 50 percent of the shares in Baumgarten, the gas hub where Nabucco is supposed to end, while Turkey already operates a direct sub-marine pipeline linking it to Russia – Blue Stream.  Also Romania is open to investing in the Gazprom pipeline South Stream, not just the EU Nabucco project.

On December 2008, Russia and Serbia signed an umbrella agreement providing political guarantees that Serbia will receive a stretch of the South Stream gas pipeline and that the underground gas storage facility in Banatski Dvor will be finalized.  At the same time a 51 % stake of Serbian Oil Industry (NIS) was sold to Gazprom.Slovenia backed South Stream gas pipeline in the midst of a European gas crisis Jan. 2009 while Gazprom tried to secure pledges on the South Stream gas pipeline to Italy.  The Slovenian delegation said during the meeting the implementation of the South Stream project would both diversify the European energy sector and allow Russia to transit its gas without obstacles.  A portion of the pipeline would travel through Serbia and Hungary with options to include a leg through Slovenia to northern Italy.

In September 2008, Uzbekistan and Russia agreed to build a new pipeline with a capacity of 26 to 30 billion cubic meters (bcm) annually to pump Uzbek and Turkmen gas to Europe. Such a pipeline will again undermine the US efforts to pump trans-Caspian energy routes bypassing Russia.

The technical and economic assessment of the land where the pipeline will lie is planned to be completed by the end of 2009, while the assessment of facility’s underground stretches should be finished in early 2010.  Russia’s Gazprom plans to start gas deliveries to Europe through the future South Stream pipeline no later than 2015.

Iran

However, the whole situation is good for Iran. Some experts believe that without Iran the “Nabucco” project will remain unimplemented, while its participation could give an impulse to the process.  Iran has the  largest gas reserves in the world after Russia  and Turkmenistan (27,5 trillion cubic meters, or 18% of the world’s gas reserves and 33% of that of the OPEC).

But is there gas coming from Iran?  Iran uses the lion’s share of produced gas (360 million cubic meters daily) for civil purposes. By the year 2014 Tehran plans to provide gas to 93% of the population of 630 cities and to 18% of the rural population in more than 4,000 villages. Iran’s factories and electric power plants also need much gas. Another share of the produced gas Iran has to inject into its reserves to keep oil production at a high level (experts say this help Iran increase output by more than 30%). Iran has long been enjoying infrastructure for oil exports but yet has not such for exporting gas.

On February 21st 2009 the Iranian and Turkmeni governments signed an agreement that will give Iran the rights to develop the Yolotan gas field in Turkmenistan. The deal will help Iran resolve gas supply problems in its north-eastern provinces. Turkmenistan will sell Iran an additional 350 billion cubic feet of gas annually, more than doubling current supplies of almost 300 bcf a year, according to the agreement first disclosed by Iran’s official media and later confirmed by Turkmenistan.

Iran also recently offered to invest $1.7 billion for a 10 percent stake in the second phase of Azerbaijan’s huge Shah-Deniz gas field which will come on line by 2014. Iran already has a 10 percent share in the first phase and it wants to import large volumes of gas from the Azeri field. For Iran, the deals couldn’t be better suited to its objectives. It’s economically unviable currently to supply gas to its isolated, north-eastern third of the country. Getting gas from Turkmenistan would therefore make more Iranian gas available for export to Turkey. Also, connecting both Caspian countries to Iran via pipeline would allow Tehran to accomplish its long-held objective of transiting any gas production increases from its neighbours to customers in Europe, the Persian Gulf, or Asia.

Turkmenistan


Preliminary indications are the gas reserves in Turkmenistan is around 38.4 TCM – far more than Iran and just 20% lower than Russia. The biggest gas field discovery was in October 2008 – called the Yoloten Osman deposits. It is located near the Afghan – Turkmenistan border. Turkmenistan has contracts to supply Russia with 50 bcm annually, China with 40 bcm and Iran with 8 bcm annually. The Russian energy giant Gazprom requires this Turkmen gas to meet its export obligations in the European market, which accounts for 70% of the its total revenue. Gazprom sells 2/3 of Russia’s 550 bcm annual gas production in the rapidly growing domestic market. This compels it to secure Turkmen supplies to meet contracted European demands.

Nabucco vs. South Stream

Gazprom has received an invitation to join the Nabucco pipeline project to pump gas from Central Asia to Europe, but will not take up the offer, a deputy head of Russia’s energy giant said. In an interview with Vesti TV on Monday, Alexander Medvedev said Gazprom would stick with its South Stream project and stay out of Nabucco. “Unlike in the case of Nabucco, we have everything we need for this project [South Stream] to materialize,” he said. “We have gas, the market, experience in implementing complex projects, and corporate management.”

The Nabucco route does circumvent Ukraine, but it is from Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan, goes under Caspian Sea, passes across Azerbaijan, Turkey, and Georgia. So many countries in pipeline are creating multiple political risk compared to South Stream which goes from Russia under Black Sea directly to EU zone.  Besides, Nabucco is going to lack the resource base adequate to its transit capacities unless the project is joined, for example, by Iran, but this is politically problematic.
The shareholders of the Nabucco consortium are: Botas (Turkey), Bulgargaz (Bulgaria), MOL (Hungary), OMV(Austria), RWE(Germany) and Transgaz (Romania).  OMV, MOL and Bulgargaz have also signed up to South Stream pipeline, which bypasses Turkey. It is unrealistic to think that both South Stream and Nabucco will happen, but companies  want to make sure at least one of them happens and be part of that.

The current timeframe, assuming that the outstanding issues are resolved, is that Nabucco  would come on-stream in 2013, two years after Nord Stream, the planned Baltic pipeline, which has already secured both supplies and finance for the construction work.

Some geopolitical aspects

The EU’s new “southern corridor” has been dubbed a version of U.S. “Silk Road Strategy” aimed to block Russia from gas fields around Caspian Sea and its connection to Iran (More in my article “Is GUUAM dead?).   The South Pars natural gas field brings a new element to change original U.S. plan as it is a sign of a long-term energy alliance between Moscow and Tehran and with active participation of the EU. Turkey and Armenia may be join the project as transit countries. Naturally, this leaves Washington very few chances to lobby its energy projects in the region aimed at using Azerbaijan and Georgia as the so-called ‘Caucasus communication corridor’.

In addition Russia, Iran and Qatar have taken the decision to form a “big gas troika”.  The idea is that three countries – with 60 % of global gas reserves – will work on joint projects accross the entire gas chain from geological exploration and production to distributionand marketing gas. Alexey Miller – Head of Gazprom – stated at the end the meeting that “we are united by the world’s largest gas reserves, common strategic interests and, which is very important, high potential for cooperation within tripartite projects.

There is also a question about Turkey.  The South Stream pipeline will run from Russia directly to Bulgaria across the Black Sea. Russia is diversifying its gas supply routes so as not to depend on one transport hub. It might perhaps be cheaper to build the new pipeline along existing route of the Blue Stream, which crosses the Black Sea from Russia to Turkey, than to lay a new route on the seabed. This, however, would increase the aggregate capacity of the two streams to about 48 billion cubic meters, giving the Turks a great deal of influence on Russian supplies.Russia and the EU countries do not want this to happen.  On the other side Greece, which is taking part in the construction of an oil pipeline from Burgas in Bulgaria to Alexandroupolis, has announced its readiness to join the South Stream project. This makes sense, as apart from bringing economic dividends it will make Greece an international energy hub on a par with Turkey.

Bottom line

In conclusion EC is pushing imaginary project of Nabucco pipes with support of drowning USA who’s last straw of Silk Road blocking strategy Nabucco is.  EU countries as well non-member states are pushing national interests;  Iran, Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan are looking the best deal, Russia tries keep domination of gas markets and secure the resources, EU companies are playing with two cards to secure being with winners side and EP of course is bystander.

More my articles one may find from my BalkanBlog!


Is GUUAM dead?

November 4, 2008

After “Cold War” US has all the while expanded its influence post-Soviet territory with aim to guide those region’s natural resources under US companies.  As stakes have been control over the oil and gas  of the Caspian Sea/Black Sea/Caucasus basin, and the control of multiple key energy pipelines criss-crossing the region.  Economical interests have been linked to political game e.g. Nato enlargement.  While EU has been more bystander Russia has during last couple of years weight down the scale in favour of its own interests by series of successful operations.

GUUAM & SRS

GUUAM (Georgia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan and Moldova) Group was founded 1999 with help of US to foster favourable conditions conducive to economic growth through development of an Europe-Caucasus-Asia transport corridor.  GUUAM was dominated by Anglo-American oil interests, ultimately purports to exclude Russia from oil and gas deposits in the Caspian area, as well as isolating Moscow politically.

From its part GUUAM was designed to support sc. Silk Road Strategy Act – adopted by US Cogress March 1999 –  which defined America’s broad economic and strategic interests in a region extending from the Mediterranean to Central Asia. The Silk Road Strategy (SRS) outlines a framework for the development of America’s business empire through development of an Europe-Caucasus-Asia transport corridor.  (More about this in my previous article “War on Pipes” Sep. 2008, in my Archive:Blog )

Cracks

Now GUUAM is coming to end of its short road.  Already earlier Uzbekistan withdraw from it leaving behind a stump GUAM.  Then Georgia started its aggressions with false idea of western support leading today’s situation and possibility to escalate to “small intensity war” between present Georgian leadership and separatist regions Abkhazia and South-Ossetia.

Moldova was aiming towards Nato and EU but after conflict in Georgia it started to look other alternatives.  Russia has offered its help to solve Moldova’s long term problem with Transdnistria and if a federation model will be accepted by local stakeholders it probably neutralizes Moldova’s position between US/EU and Russia.

Last weekend was also highlight of tendency where political attitudes of Azerbaijan and Russia have approached each other.  Russia again took the initiative acting as a mediator between Armenia and Azerbaijan to solve long term conflict of Nagorno-Karabakh and a common memorandum signed 2nd November 2008 is first step of solution.

The last piece of GUUAM is Ukraine, which is deeply divided pro-Russian East and pro-Nato/EU West.  When political struggle now has made cracks also inside western orientated part also this last fortress has degenerated to stagnation.

KO

Parallel with Russia’s able foreign policy the US actions have been short-sighted, weak and fruitless.  Waiting for elections and financial turmoil have took their part but in energy sector also some states in South-America have now more independent and selfish position than before.  Same time Iraq occupation is coming to end when also Alaska can keep its energy reserves when new US President takes his office the perspectives of US energy giants are more foggy than for a long time.

If one would like to see a bright side with this depression – or even knock out –  of US foreign/energy policy it could be the need to reduce pollutions and to support alternative energy solutions which at global scale could help to deal with clima change.


Powerplay behind the new Cold War

October 21, 2008

Georgia 08/08/08 is the date when headlines in Western mainstream media started to tell how big, bad aggressive Russia attacked to tiny, democratic, good Georgia. After that the West continued accusations about occupation a free sovereign state started rethink enforcing its frontlines around Russian border in new cold war era. Al this despite the fact, that day earlier 7th August 2008 Georgia had started the moths before planned war against its separatist province (look my article “OSCE report fault Georgia – one trivial statement more from EU summit” 4th Sept.2008 from my archives right). All this despite he fact, that USA had already showed the way how to break international law e.g. by bombing Kosovo and orchestrating the quasi-independence of that separatist province.

While speaking about new confrontation between East and West the (mostly western) political commentators have used first nice, warm words like freedom, democracy, sovereignty, humanitarian catastrophe to justify their planned harder actions to response Russia’s aggression. However if we scrub the soft spoke for dummies – sorry for public – we can find the hard reality and bigger game behind recent headlines of Caucasus or Balkan events. I try next to highlight few aspects with this power play.

Pipes

First element I would like to mention is energy. Georgia is part of a NATO military alliance (GUAM) signed in April 1999 at the very outset of the war on Yugoslavia. It also has a bilateral military cooperation agreement with the US. These underlying military agreements have served to protect Anglo-American oil interests in the Caspian Sea basin as well as pipeline routes. (The alliance was initially entitled GUUAM, Uzbekistan subsequently withdrew and the name was changed to GUAM: Georgia, Azerbaijan, Ukraine, and Moldova). More you may find from my article 9th Sep.2008 “War on Pipes: Transport corridors as core of US-Russia confrontation” where I write about GUUAM and SRS (Silk Road Strategy Act). Article one may find from my Archives right.

To reduce reliance on Persian Gulf oil, the Bush Administration has sought to strengthen relations with other non-OPEC, oil-rich countries. For example when (then) Defense Secretary Rumsfeld visited Kazakhstan, his main agenda was to promise security assistance for Kazakhstan’s oil pipelines and facilities on the Caspian Sea, where an estimated 7-9 billion barrels of oil were recently discovered (the largest oil discovery anywhere in 30 years). Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Turkey recently signed a U.S.-backed deal to build an oil pipeline to bring that oil to ports on the Mediterranean. The U.S. has military ties with each. U.S. oil demand is huge and increasing.

Today, the U.S. has less than 5 percent of the world’s population, yet it consumes more than 25 percent of global oil production-about 20 million barrels per day (mbd). Oil is the dominant fuel in the U.S. energy market, meeting almost 40 percent of total U.S. energy needs. Most of this is consumed by the transportation sector. If current U.S. oil demand trends continue, by 2025, the US. will be consuming over 29 mbd. More larger and heavier cars and trucks- with bigger engines, driven more miles each year- will account for most of this growth. All tolled, today, the world is consuming a little over 80 mbd (30 billion barrels per year). By 2030, global demand is expected to grow by 50 percent to 120 mbd (45 billion barrels per year).

After August events in Georgia everything did not happen according US plan. Russia could warm its relationship with Azerbaijan which was clearly to seen when Dick Cheney made his travel around Caucasia and came back empty hands. Also the situation in Ukraine developed away from US hopes.

Paul Goble concludes in his “Window on Eurasia” Sep. 5th 2008 following: “With Iran’s declaration that it opposes the construction of any undersea pipelines in the Caspian on “ecological grounds” and thus will block any delimitation of the seabed that allows for them and Baku’s decision not to back the West’s push NABUCCO project, Moscow can claim its first major political victory from its invasion of Georgia.” (Source)

These actions mean that the Russian government will now have full and uncontested control over pipelines between the Caspian basin and the West which pass through Russian territory and will be able either directly or through its clients like the PKK to disrupt the only routes such as Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan that bypass the Russian Federation.

Military-industrial complex

Second let me mention “military-industrial complex”. When Russia’s invading forces choked roads into Georgia with columns of armoured vehicles and struck targets from the air, it instantly bolstered the case being made by some that the Defence Department isn’t taking the threat from Russia and China seriously enough. It was said that “Christmas Comes Early For the Military Industrial Complex”.

The Military-industrial Complex has been one of the biggest players in US foreign policy since President Eisenhower. Details about Iraq killing Iranians with US-supplied chemical and biological weapons significantly deepens our understanding of the current hypocrisy. It began with “Iraq-gate” — when US policy makers, financiers, arms-suppliers and makers, made massive profits from sales to Iraq of myriad chemical, biological, conventional weapons, and the equipment to make nuclear weapons. Reporter Russ Baker noted, for example, that, “on July 3, 1991, the Financial Times reported that a Florida company run by an Iraqi national had produced cyanide — some of which went to Iraq for use in chemical weapons — and had shipped it via a CIA contractor.” This was just the tip of a mountain of scandals.

A PBS Frontline episode, “The Arming of Iraq” (1990) detailed much of the conventional and so-called “dual-use” weapons sold to Iraq. The public learned from other sources that at least since mid-1980s the US was selling chemical and biological material for weapons to Iraq and orchestrating private sales. These sales began soon after current Secretary of State, Donald Rumsfeld travelled to Baghdad in 1985 and met with Saddam Hussein as a private businessman on behalf of the Reagan administration. In the last major battle of the Iran-Iraq war, some 65,000 Iranians were killed, many by gas.Coming back to present days one could easily find out how the US government borrows heavily to cover its off-the-charts defence spending—$587 billion this year. Spending in Iraq and Afghanistan is from 2.9 – 5.0 bn$ per week or 280.000 – 500.000 $ per minute.

The five largest American Defence contractors are Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon and General Dynamics. They are being followed by Honeywell, Halliburton, BAE Systems and thousands of smaller defence companies and subcontractors. Some, like Lockheed Martin in Bethesda (Maryland) and Raytheon in Waltham (Massachusetts) draw close to 100 percent of their business from defence contracts. Some others, like Honeywell in Morristown (New Jersey), have important consumer goods divisions. All, however, stand to profit when expenditures on weapons procurements increase. In fact, U.S. defence contractors have been enjoying big Pentagon budgets since March 2003, i.e. since the onset of the Iraq war. As a result, they have posted sizable increases in total shareholder returns, ranging from 68 percent (Northrop Grumman) to 164 percent (General Dynamics), from March ’03 to September ’06.

For war profiteers, soldiers returning maimed or in caskets, and an over $500 billion Pentagon budget paid for by the taxes of ordinary citizens, are externalities — costs and consequences borne by others.

NATO became even more threatening to Russia because, at the same time, the alliance shifted its mission from defending the soil of member countries to offensive missions outside the treaty area – for example, bombing Bosnia, Kosovo, and Serbia.

The trend toward autocracy in Russia is maybe horrible for some Russian interest groups, but it is little threat to the United States. Even autocracies have legitimate security concerns, and Russia has been invaded several times through Eastern Europe, which is why the Russians are worried about a hostile alliance on its borders. Empirical evidence shows that authoritarian regimes aren’t necessarily externally aggressive – for example, the dictators in Burma – and that democracies are no less belligerent than autocracies in their foreign policies. In fact, data show that the most aggressive nation on the planet after World War II has been the United States – not the Soviet Union – with more than 100 military or covert interventions in other countries.

If we make contrast to today’s’ financial turmoil one should remember following. Wall Street analysts concur that “war is good for business” particularly during a period of “economic slowdown”. The top five U.S. defence contractors generated almost $129 billion in revenues and $8 billion in profits in 2006, double the revenue and profits in 2000 when George Bush became President. I bet that they want this to continue.

Lobbyists

Third there are lobbyists. Their business turnover is minimal compared two above mentioned elements but they are important glue between business and public affairs. Lobbyists can channel business money as donations or bribes to political figures or parties who then can facilitate the needs of donors.

In Georgia case most famous is Randy Scheuneman. Top McCain foreign policy advisor, Randy Scheuneman, was paid $200,000 recently by Georgia for consulting services, about one day before McCain issued a policy statement backing and emboldening the Republic of Georgia in its grab for disputed regions. And it now appears that McCain may have signalled that the US would essentially have Georgia’s back if it tried to assert possession of the territories. Since 2004 Scheuneman got $900.000 from Georgia. Recently US promised over 1 bn$ taxpayers money to Georgia – god investment I must say, for Georgians.

In the mid-1990s at the stint of the Clinton administration the United States launched the process of involving “former Soviet satellite nations” into both the European Union and NATO with an eye at securing a more efficient control over their political activities. The rapid expansion of the North Atlantic alliance was a part of the strategy of a “new American age” worked out by R.Cheney and his team. In 1996, Bruce Jackson, one of Cheney’s close friends and a top manager of the military-industrial corporation “Lockheed–Martin” took the reins of the influential lobbyist organisation “American Committee on NATO Expansion”. Bruce Jackson was appointed as head of the US Committee on NATO by President Clinton and put in charge of integrating the Eastern European countries into NATO in spite of assurances that had been given to Soviet leader Mikhael Gorbachev that this would not be done. This integration involved selling US weapons systems to these countries so that they would be compatible with ours.

Lobbying can have also win-win effect to players. E.g. Bruce Jackson founded the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq in 2002, a few months after retiring from Lockheed Martin. One can image, as the war in Iraq grinds on at a cost of some $250-400 million per day, and another contractor-heavy organization, the Iran Policy Committee, calls for a pre-emptive strike against Iran, how US Foreign politics is guided.

The New Defence Agenda (NDA) is part of Brussels growing military-industrial complex. Set up in 2003, it is funded by arms producers Lockheed Martin and BAE Systems in order to promote higher European military spending. Others arms industry lobby groups include the European Association of Aerospace Industries (AECMA) and the European Defence Industries Group (EDIG). The arms industry is also using the Lisbon Agenda and competitiveness to argue their case for increasing the EU?s current defence spending of about 3 percent of GDP to the US level of 6 percent.

New and Old Europe

Discussing about transatlantic relationship with Russia I can see a triangle drama with “western” camp. US has found stalwart allies from “New Europe” Polish-Lithuanian tandem as its spearhead, who are serving as America’s watchmen on Europe’s periphery as well cannon fodder in demanding theatres. The tandem with some wingmen (Estonia, Latvia) have their role in expanding Western military ties to East Europe and checking Russia’s energy grip on Europe.

We have “Old Europe” like Germany, Italy some cases Spain and France also, who are more interesting about strategic political and business partnership with Russia. Old Europe countries are also developing bilateral cooperation with Russia when they see its advantages.

While some “New Europe” countries still have some post-Soviet trauma, US is tied to her self-caused conflicts and “Old Europe” is wondering how the Union will look in future, it is demanding task to find a common approach to relationship with Russia. While Russia also considers its options I can only hope that some neutral forum for dialogue could be found.

Yes I hope that one or more forums can accommodate different dialogs. Europe schizophrenia will be cured either in some common forum or with two rail development where new and old Europe maybe are going with different speeds and maybe also different directions – the trauma symptoms maybe are similar in new and old Europe countries but the cause/motivations differ. Post-Soviet new ones maybe have more emotional cause for their actions, US maybe have more economical priorities as well some old EU states.



War on Pipes: Transport corridors as core of US-Russia confrontation

September 9, 2008

GUUAM

When speaking about interests of West I would like to make a difference between US – or Anglo-American -interests and EU interests. After “Cold War” US has all the while expanded its influence post-Soviet territory with aim to guide those region’s natural resources under US companies. GUUAM (Georgia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan and Moldova) Group was founded 1999 with help of US to foster favorable conditions conducive to economic growth through development of an Europe-Caucasus-Asia transport corridor.

As pointed out by Michel Chossudovsky in his book America’s ‘War on Terrorism,’ (presentation of Anglo-American war policy from the 1990s Balkans to the present), GUUAM has been “dominated by Anglo-American oil interests, ultimately purports to exclude Russia from oil and gas deposits in the Caspian area, as well as isolating Moscow politically.”

More specifically, the US-led military invasion – in close liaison with Britain-responds to the interests of the Anglo – American oil giants, in alliance with weapons producers, private security organizations and service providers (like Halliburton). One could say that the “Anglo-American axis” in defense, foreign policy and especially corporate capital is the driving force behind the military operations in Balkans, Central Asia and Middle East.

SRS

Just five days before the bombing of Yugoslavia (19 March 1999), the US Congress adopted the Silk Road Strategy Act, which defined America’s broad economic and strategic interests in a region extending from the Mediterranean to Central Asia. The Silk Road Strategy (SRS) outlines a framework for the development of America’s business empire through development of an Europe-Caucasus-Asia transport corridor.

The stakes involved with the current conflict are identical to those of the previous war: control over the oil of the Caspian Sea/Black Sea/Caucasus basin, and the control of multiple key oil pipelines criss-crossing the region. The most critical pipeline, the infamous Baku-Ceyhan pipeline supported by the US government and a consortium of US-allied transnational oil interests (including Royal Dutch Shell, Unocal, and BP) takes oil from the Caspian Sea across Azerbaijan (another US-supported regime), whereby it crosses Georgia (bypassing Iran and Russia), then on to the Black Sea, where the oil is carried to Western Europe, and the rest of the world.

The Baku-Ceyhan pipeline has been viewed by the Bush/Cheney administration as one of its brightest geostrategic successes. All of the Anglo-American empire’s pipelines and oil facilities, including Baku-Ceyhan, are threatened, if the conflict escalates. Same time the successful implementation of the SRS requires the concurrent “militarization” of the Eurasian corridor as a means to securing control over extensive oil and gas reserves, as well as “protecting” the pipeline routes on behalf of the Anglo-American oil companies.

Power play and EU

The effect of Nato enlargement is to swing the Iron Curtain to the east. Russia”s opposition to NATO expansion has only increased in recent years. On economical field Russia’s “South Stream” looks more successful so far than Nabucco while the leverage of the United States government over Russian foreign policy has decreased dramatically during last years. US policy is turning into a zero-sum competition with Russia for influence in the post-Soviet regions.

For EU the situation brings few questions such as

  • Is there a difference between EU and Anglo-American interests related to SRS?
  • How to balance aims of energy and security (military) strategies?
  • Is there a difference between EU’s energy policy and interests of corporate capital?

I am not sure if EU would like to answer to these questions, however my point is that this background may have some influence – more than official concern about human rights, rule & law etc. – to EU policy in Balkans and Caucasus.


 caucasus

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