12 May 2009

Finally Some European Energy Independence

You can sleep with your enemy though don't depend on him in case of pregnancy. As Europe snuggles with the Kremlin I can only look on in disgust: In the face of Russian misogyny Europe is becoming more intimate.

Russia, between invading sovereign nations and leveraging its energy portfolio for strategic ends, is challenging the international order. In response to this bellicosity, Europe must limit Russian power. One obvious geopolitical lever in this game is Russian gas supplies to Europe. Russia naturally seeks to increase European dependency. The addict, Europe, attempts to ween itself. Unfortunately, Europes priority is growth today rather than preparation for tomorrow.The Future: Within the next ten years, Russia and Europe will face conflict a magnitude greater than that seen in the breakaway region of South Ossetia. This tussle will test the limits of NATO and the alliances of continental Europe. Althoug the stage for this conflict has been set, the players still have time to manoeuvre for position.

Germany, a growth today player, is already hooked. We have seen this in Germany's unwillingness to challenge Russia's "privileged" sphere of influence in the Caucasuses. This impotency will only grow, especially if the proposed Nord Stream pipeline (see map above) running directly from Russia to Germany via the Baltic Sea is constructed. By bypassing the Baltic countries and Poland, Russia will have increased both gas dependency and its ability to cut gas to a more selective group of nations. During the Ukraine dispute, downstream countries were also affected, making the Ukraine issue one of regional importance.

For strategic reasons, it was great news that the Nabucco, a southern corridor pipeline bypassing Russia, will be constructed. Such a direct incursion on Russian natural gas hegemony is a much needed move. It is not every day that a geopolitcal coup of this size is scored. Although the media analysis of this event has been lacking, the continued coverage of European gas pipeline news, is tacit acknowledgment that this issue is of international importance. After all, we don't read about US natural gas pipelines do we?Now if only European leadership could adopt a ten-year outlook and begin taking additional steps to mitigate the coming crisis. The post-Cold War hibernation is over and the Russian Bear is hungry.

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