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Game of thrones, the battle for South Stream. Ukraine to be rendered irrelevant? Bulgaria and Serbia to be targeted?

The battle for control of the energy market in Europe is well underway. In what is becoming a very dynamic and fluid situation, the South Stream pipeline project, connecting Russia to Europe and bypassing Ukraine altogether, looks to be a major area of contention between EU member nations, Russia and the U.S.

Alex Christoforou

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At this point it is fair to say that much of the Ukraine crisis is rooted in oil and gas distribution. More specifically, controlling the European gas market and its transit routes.

Aside from the benefits of having NATO positioned right under Russia’s southwest borders, Ukraine was and remains a big geo-political win for Washington in terms of energy control. Having ownership of Ukraine’s transit gas pipelines means controlling and restricting Russian gas flow to west Europe.  This has the potential of opening the European market to more U.S. ‘friendly’ suppliers and solutions. For Europe, having a stake in Ukraine means lessening the energy power levers that Russia now exerts on its western partners as well as appeasing Washington’s geo-political global agenda.

The one fly in the ointment of this high stakes game of energy control, has and remains the South Stream pipeline. Last week Austria and Russia sealed a deal that makes South Stream a reality. Austria (an EU ‘insider’ nation), in defiance of Washington and Brussels will fully commit to building out its end of the pipeline that will then send gas to the greater European continent. The cooperation is a slap in the face for Washington and Brussels, and goes against their current efforts to shelve the South Stream project and keep the focus on Ukraine transit routes, which the west has invested heavily on through internal destabilisation and IMF economic loan packages.

South Stream and Ukraine

The map below explains how South Stream can and will render the entire Ukraine power grab (in terms of energy) null and void. With South Stream, Ukraine is effectively bypassed as a west Europe gas transit conduit, greatly diminishing the country’s geo-political value.

i2890c46e006a0865b663c2914fa60c2a_south_stream

The South Stream pipeline is an alternative pathway for Russian gas, bypassing Ukraine entirely as it crosses the Black Sea and enters Bulgaria before passing Serbia and Hungary on the way to its hub located in Baumgarten, Austria. As Itar-Tass reports, citing Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller,

“Russia’s gas giant Gazprom does not rule out gas transit via Ukraine may be stopped completely. What happened once is a tendency, nothing happens incidentally. In 2009, gas supplies were stopped completely — so, we know precedents.”

Miller noted that Gazprom is not interested in participation in Ukraine’s gas transportation system (GTS). The Gazprom CEO said, “The train has already departed. It seems it departed yesterday. It belongs to no one. The GTS has no owner. The GTS of Ukraine does not belong to Naftogaz but to the Ukrainian government. Before discussing things with someone regarding modernization and cooperation, it should appear on the balance sheet of this or that economic entity.”

“Property and legal issues should be resolved first,” Miller said.

‘The train has departed’…this is not encouraging news for Ukraine’s fragile economic and geo political future.

Zerohedge explains…

In fact, the civil war torn country may soon lose all leverage it had with both Europe and Russia as a transit hub for natural gas, which also means that it is quite likely that Ukraine is about to be abandoned by its western allies who will no longer have any practical use for it.

The Gazprom CEO confirmed what little leverage Ukraine had with Moscow is now effectively zero…

“As for the continuation of negotiations with Ukraine, today there is no subject for talks. First, they must repay their debts. The gas price for Ukraine is fair – this price is fixed in the contract.”

“A dozen Ukrainian laws need to be changed to be able to do something with the GTS.”

And just like that Putin has altered the game. By cutting off Russian energy transit through Ukraine’s pipelines, the country will lose all strategic importance to Russia and eventually Europe, which will have to then focus its attention towards South Stream and its transit route.

Bulgaria, Serbia and South Stream

This brings us to Bulgaria and Serbia. One is an EU member nation (but not in the monetary union), and the latter is mulling over joining the EU. Recent banking and economic difficulties in both Eastern European countries cannot be simple coincidence, as Brussels mounts an aggressive campaign to stop the South Stream pipeline from being built in these countries.

Last week Bulgaria suddenly suffered a bank meltdown, while Serbia’s new Prime Minister warned his country could go bankrupt within a year and end up “in the position of Greece” unless he passes a deeply unpopular package of fiscal consolidation and economic reforms in the next few months. Not passing such economic measures would effectively dash Serbia’s hopes of entering the EU. When Serbia eventually calls for monetary assistance from the EU and IMF, we are sure Serbia’s close relations with Russia and the South Stream project will come up.

For his part Russian Ambassador in Belgrade, Alexander Chepurin told the Itar-Tass news agency that…

“Now Belgrade is holding talks and hopes to join the EU in 2020, Simultaneously, Belgrade stresses its willingness to preserve and develop good relations with its historical friend – the brotherly country of Russia.”

“Today the message ‘never against Russia’ is very popular among the Serbian public. Unlike its neighbors, Serbia said it would not impose any sanctions against Russia. Serbian President Tomislav Nicolic and Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic confirmed it. Serbia demonstrates itself as Russia’s real friend. And it refuses to come against its economic interests.”

Zerohedge also echoes the belief that Bulgaria and Serbia will undergo an economic punishment of sorts, in order to halt their South Stream ambitions:

…the main reason why none other than the poorest EU member country, Bulgaria, just suffered its worst bank run in 17 years, and one which has paved the way to early elections, is precisely that: to provide Europe with a government which will be more focused on Brussels’ interests, instead of the current socialist regime, whose allegiance to the Kremlin is said to take precedence.

After all, now that Ukraine is yesterday’s news, pay close attention to how Europe treats all the South Stream countries, starting with Bulgaria, and going through Serbia, Hungary and of course, Austria.

Austria and South Stream

Austria has clearly opted to side with Russia, putting its own national self interest and economic prosperity ahead of Brussels and Washington. Closer cooperation with Gazporm and Austria is also in the cards, with a good chance that the already prosperous Austria, will soon become a major energy hub in the center of Europe.

Finally, and perhaps most notably, is last week’s announcement by Gazprom CEO Miller that Gazprom has good chance, and is interested in discussing buying a stake in the [Austrian] Baumgarten gas hub.

In other words, as Europe and the US remains still focused on Ukraine, the one place which now matters most for Europe’s energy future is Austria: a country where Gazprom, and Putin of course, are quietly sowing the seeds of Russia’s energy dominance tomorrow. As for the feeder countries, especially Bulgaria, pay close attention as the US “foreign service” does all it can to destabilize the local government and financial system as a last ditch attempt to wrest Russia’s trump card out of its hand. Something tells us Putin will hardly let it go easily.

Italy, the EU Presidency and South Stream

With Italy set to take over the six-month rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union on July 1, the fissures in European-Russian relations and energy policy are starting to really show.

Itar-Tass reports that Italy’s state secretary for European affairs, Sandro Gozi said…

Italy has always regarded the South Stream project plans to pipe Russian gas across the floor of the Black Sea to Bulgaria and then ashore for onward transit to Greece, Italy and Austria as a strategic project for Europe and will facilitate its implementation during its presidency of the European Union.

“The South Stream project has always been and remains most important for Italy, and we have a strong interest in implementing it, first of all, as it is one of those projects aimed to diversify transit routes. We assume that in order to strengthen a single European energy market, it is absolutely necessary to diversify infrastructure connecting it with various suppliers…and we believe that the same approach should be applied to everyone.”

And with regard to Ukraine, Russia, and the growing threat of sanctions being pushed by Brussels and Washington…

Italy supports further expansion of the European Union and consolidation of Europe, but it considers it possible only while developing partnership between Russia and the EU, said Gozi.

“As Italy takes over the European Union presidency, we give absolute priority to establishing political and economic integration with Kiev while resuming strategic partnership between the EU and Russia. Relations with Moscow can be neither broken off nor suspended. On the contrary, we are convinced of the need to strengthen them further.”

So much for isolating Russia. It comes as no surprise that Ukraine has decided to end the cease-fire and resume attacks in East Ukraine.  It is becoming clear that one of the last cards left to play before the complete Ukraine adventure becomes a waste of time, energy, and money is to bait Russia into a military quagmire, which could then halt South Stream construction and destabilise Russia’s efforts and standing with its European energy partners.

References:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/economics/10933132/Serbia-could-go-bankrupt-says-PM.html

http://www.euractiv.com/sections/elections/bulgarian-bank-run-paves-way-early-election-303148

http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2014-06-30/russia-reveals-plan-b-gazprom-says-gas-transit-ukraine-may-be-stopped-completely

http://en.itar-tass.com/economy/738370

http://en.itar-tass.com/economy/738060

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EU leaders dictate Brexit terms to Theresa May (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 115.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss how EU leaders have agreed on a plan to delay the the Article 50 process which effectively postpones Brexit beyond the 29 March deadline.

The UK will now be offered a delay until the 22nd of May, only if MPs approve Theresa May’s withdrawal deal next week. If MPs do not approve May’s negotiated deal, then the EU will support a short delay until the 12th of April, allowing the UK extra time to get the deal passed or to “indicate a way forward”.

UK PM Theresa May said there was now a “clear choice” facing MPs, who could vote for a third time on her deal next week.

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Theresa May outlines four Brexit options, via Politico

In a letter to MPs, U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May set out the four options she believes the country has in light of Thursday’s decision by EU leaders to extend the Brexit deadline beyond next Friday.

The U.K. is faced with a four-way choice, May wrote late Friday.

The government could revoke Article 50 — which May called a betrayal of the Brexit vote; leave without a deal on April 12; pass her deal in a vote next week; or, “if it appears that there is not sufficient support” for a vote on her deal in parliament next week or if it is rejected for a third time, she could ask for an extension beyond April 12.

But this would require for the U.K. taking part in European elections in May, which the prime minister said “would be wrong.”

May wrote that she’s hoping for the deal to pass, allowing the U.K. to leave the EU “in an orderly way,” adding “I still believe there is a majority in the House for that course of action.”

“I hope we can all agree that we are now at the moment of decision,” she wrote.

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US media suffers panic attack after Mueller fails to deliver on much-anticipated Trump indictment

Internet mogul Kim Dotcom said it all: “Mueller – The name that ended all mainstream media credibility.”

RT

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Important pundits and news networks have served up an impressive display of denials, evasions and on-air strokes after learning that Robert Mueller has ended his probe without issuing a single collusion-related indictment.

The Special Counsel delivered his final report to Attorney General William Barr for review on Friday, with the Justice Department confirming that there will be no further indictments related to the probe. The news dealt a devastating blow to the sensational prophesies of journalists, analysts and entire news networks, who for nearly two years reported ad nauseam that President Donald Trump and his inner circle were just days away from being carted off to prison for conspiring with the Kremlin to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.

Showing true integrity, journalists and television anchors took to Twitter and the airwaves on Friday night to acknowledge that the media severely misreported Donald Trump’s alleged ties to Russia, as well as what Mueller’s probe was likely to find. They are, after all, true professionals.

“How could they let Trump off the hook?” an inconsolable Chris Matthews asked NBC reporter Ken Dilanian during a segment on CNN’s ‘Hardball’.

Dilanian tried to comfort the CNN host with some of his signature NBC punditry.

“My only conclusion is that the president transmitted to Mueller that he would take the Fifth. He would never talk to him and therefore, Mueller decided it wasn’t worth the subpoena fight,” he expertly mused.

Actually, there were several Serious Journalists who used their unsurpassed analytical abilities to conjure up a reason why Mueller didn’t throw the book at Trump, even though the president is clearly a Putin puppet.

“It’s certainly possible that Trump may emerge from this better than many anticipated. However! Consensus has been that Mueller would follow DOJ rules and not indict a sitting president. I.e. it’s also possible his report could be very bad for Trump, despite ‘no more indictments,'” concluded Mark Follman, national affairs editor at Mother Jones, who presumably, and very sadly, was not being facetious.

Revered news organs were quick to artfully modify their expectations regarding Mueller’s findings.

“What is collusion and why is Robert Mueller unlikely to mention it in his report on Trump and Russia?” a Newsweek headline asked following Friday’s tragic announcement.

Three months earlier, Newsweek had meticulously documented all the terrible “collusion” committed by Donald Trump and his inner circle.

But perhaps the most sobering reactions to the no-indictment news came from those who seemed completely unfazed by the fact that Mueller’s investigation, aimed at uncovering a criminal conspiracy between Trump and the Kremlin, ended without digging up a single case of “collusion.”

The denials, evasions and bizarre hot takes are made even more poignant by the fact that just days ago, there was still serious talk about Trump’s entire family being hauled off to prison.

“You can’t blame MSNBC viewers for being confused. They largely kept dissenters from their Trump/Russia spy tale off the air for 2 years. As recently as 2 weeks ago, they had @JohnBrennan strongly suggesting Mueller would indict Trump family members on collusion as his last act,” journalist Glenn Greenwald tweeted.

While the Mueller report has yet to be released to the public, the lack of indictments makes it clear that whatever was found, nothing came close to the vast criminal conspiracy alleged by virtually the entire American media establishment.

“You have been lied to for 2 years by the MSM. No Russian collusion by Trump or anyone else. Who lied? Head of the CIA, NSA,FBI,DOJ, every pundit every anchor. All lies,” wrote conservative activist Chuck Woolery.

Internet mogul Kim Dotcom was more blunt, but said it all: “Mueller – The name that ended all mainstream media credibility.”

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Canadian Lawmaker Accuses Trudeau Of Being A “Fake Feminist” (Video)

Rempel segued to Trudeau’s push to quash an investigation into allegations that he once groped a young journalist early in his political career

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Canada’s feminist-in-chief Justin Trudeau wants to support and empower women…but his support stops at the point where said women start creating problems for his political agenda.

That was the criticism levied against the prime minister on Friday by a conservative lawmaker, who took the PM to task for “muzzling strong, principled women” during a debate in the House of Commons.

“He asked for strong women, and this is what they look like!” said conservative MP Michelle Rempel, referring to the former justice minister and attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould, who has accused Trudeau and his cronies of pushing her out of the cabinet after she refused to grant a deferred prosecution agreement to a Quebec-based engineering firm.

She then accused Trudeau of being a “fake feminist”.

“That’s not what a feminist looks like…Every day that he refuses to allow the attorney general to testify and tell her story is another day he’s a fake feminist!”

Trudeau was so taken aback by Rempel’s tirade, that he apparently forgot which language he should respond in.

But Rempel wasn’t finished. She then segued to Trudeau’s push to quash an investigation into allegations that he once groped a young journalist early in his political career. This from a man who once objected to the continued use of the word “mankind” (suggesting we use “peoplekind” instead).

The conservative opposition then tried to summon Wilson-Raybould to appear before the Commons for another hearing (during her last appearance, she shared her account of how the PM and employees in the PM’s office and privy council barraged her with demands that she quash the government’s pursuit of SNC-Lavalin over charges that the firm bribed Libyan government officials). Wilson-Raybould left the Trudeau cabinet after she was abruptly moved to a different ministerial post – a move that was widely seen as a demotion.

Trudeau has acknowledged that he put in a good word on the firm’s behalf with Wilson-Raybould, but insists that he always maintained the final decision on the case was hers and hers alone.

Fortunately for Canadians who agree with Rempel, it’s very possible that Trudeau – who has so far resisted calls to resign – won’t be in power much longer, as the scandal has cost Trudeau’s liberals the lead in the polls for the October election.

 

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