Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Russian control over Eurasian pipelines

The deals that the Russians have recently made will exert a powerful influence on the course of events in Eurasia. Russia, Turkmenistan, and Kazakhstan have agreed to construct a major pipeline from Turkmenistan through Kazakhstan and into Russia's network of pipelines, thence to Europe. They have also agreed to refurbish the entire Soviet-built Central Asian gas pipeline system. Moreover, the Russians and Kazakhs have agreed to expand the oil pipeline coming from Kazakhstan's Tengiz field to the Russian Black Sea port of Novorossiisk; the Kazakhs will meanwhile gain a stake in the Russian oil pipeline that runs from Bulgaria's Black Sea port of Burgas to Alexandroupolis, Greece. Russia already controls the extant gas lines out of Turkmenistan, which after Russia was the second-biggest gas producer in the former Soviet Union. And Russia controls the main Kazakh export pipeline.
Russia, the number one supplier of gas in the world, already provides a quarter of Europe’s gas. It is also Europe’s second-largest supplier of oil.
These new deals are bad news for the United States and Europeans, who wanted Central Asian oil and gas pipelines to be built under the Caspian Sea so as to connect to Europe through Azerbaijan and Turkey without going through Russia. It is also bad news for China, for these agreements mean that Russia will control most of the energy exports from Central Asia, and so, owing to its intermediate location between Europe and China and the Far East there will be plenty of opportunity to play off the two regions against each other. China, growing 9% a year or more, must have oil.
Recent attempts by some European leaders to get a pipeline from the Caspian Sea area extended through Ukraine to Poland, although important, seems picayune by comparison.
Is the old empire – Russia/Soviet Union –taking form again? Russia is regaining its dominance in Eurasia. Its strategic location and its natural wealth make it a dominant power still.

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