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Washington dictates EU energy policy

Europe finds itself torn between opposing ideologies

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The Nord Stream 2 pipeline project is clearly showing itself to be one of the most polarizing issues in European political circles, and demonstrates in a very clear manner how foreign policy is perceived by European states. Some are able to forego certain aspects of their political hostility towards Russia in areas where insisting upon it would result in considerable damage to their own economic outlook, where others persist in their political russophobia regardless of the consequences. A former Turkish diplomat and finance and energy geopolitical expert discusses this subject with Sputnik, as well as the influence being exerted by Washington on the issue.

Sputnik reports:

Denmark has claimed that it can legally stop the Nord Stream 2 project if it chooses to. Mehmet Ogutcu, a former Turkish diplomat and expert in finance, energy and geopolitics and who now chairs the investment advisory group Global Resources Partnership, as well as the Bosphorus Energy Club, has given his take on the prospects of the project.

Mehmet Ogutcu: This project is one of the most polarizing projects that the EU has ever discussed. I have no doubt that whatever the EU is doing right now, especially some factions within the EU, is politically motivated.

Mostly inspired by Washington, because the US is clearly against Nord Stream 2, for a couple of reasons; one being that they want to sell their over-priced LNG [Liquefied Natural Gas] across the Atlantic, which is not in the interests of the European Union; and the second one, it is often heard, that this project is going to increase the EU’s dependence on Russia, which is around 30 percent overall, as for Germany it’s about 40 percent.

These concerns are leading to confusion within the European Union, and I don’t think it is only the legal arguments that the European Commission is putting forward. And it’s really motivated by political imperatives, especially the US threat with sanctions on European companies, as it does also not only in the case of Russia, but Iran, starting from November 4.

There is a very clear push for banning Iranian crude exports. It’s part of a concerted effort from Washington to penalize countries which are not in line with US interests.

Sputnik: Denmark has recently withheld from granting permission for the implementation of the project. Several European politicians have stated that Europe no longer has hard legal leverage to halt the project. What’s your feeling regarding that matter?

Mehmet Ogutcu: Denmark is the last string among all other countries, so it has already passed through Finland, Sweden, so Denmark is the last one. I think again here, the US probably has used its influence to block this project, which has already left it almost 5 billion euros, almost half of the whole investment foreseen for the project.

I believe that the pressure is real, coming from Washington, and also the concern among Central European countries, some of them at least, is very real; with increasing dependence on Russia and the fear that Russia might be using the pipeline as leverage in its relationships with these countries.

And the fate of the existing Ukrainian gas transit route arrangement, which will expire in 2019, as you know, at the end of the year, when also Nord Stream 2 is expected to come on stream – that’s another serious concern, because when you look at it from outside, objective thinking requires that a route that is stable and direct without any transit country, should be preferable to Ukraine, where we know what difficulties are, in terms of transparency, in terms of political difficulties and additional costs. However, in this project, Nord Stream 2, we cannot look at it only from the commercial, rational [perspective].

There are very strong geopolitical imperatives that we have to bear in mind. Also, you have to think of Nord Stream 2, not in isolation from the TurkStream Project, which is going ahead full speed in the Black Sea coming to Turkey.

I think everything is on schedule for bringing Russian gas to the Turkish Thrace, there are two strings there as well; altogether we have about 31 bcm [billion cubic meters] of gas coming. Part of it will stay in Turkey and part, especially from the second pipeline, will go to South and South Eastern Europe.

Again, when you discuss Nord Stream 2, you have to see it in the broader context of other Russian projects coming also through Turkey. We have to understand different dimensions in this project.

As it stands, I don’t think we can say that Danish concerns or Eastern and Central European concerns can easily be done away. The US, through the trade wars that we saw the Trump administration start, through sanctions towards Iran, China, Russia are real, I don’t think they’re going to go away. But this might lead to some modifications of the dates and approach of Nord Stream 2, as well as Turkish Stream I think; although the first stream has been completed, there is concern whether US sanctions will also be felt there.

Following America’s withdrawal from the nuclear nonproliferation agreement with Iran (JCPOA), reactions from European leaders were like that of a pendulum swinging back from its prior orientation. French President Emmanuel Macron was quoted as saying “If we accept that other major powers, including allies… put themselves in a situation to decide our diplomacy, security for us, and sometimes even make us run the worst risks, then we are not more sovereign and we cannot be more credible to public opinion.”  However, the Nord Stream 2 project demonstrates that this sentiment is not universal across Europe.

The pipeline would bring Russian gas to Europe, but is perceived as an ‘energy weapon’ wielded by Russia in order to exert its control by Eastern European nations Lithuania, Moldova, Ukraine, and Georgia. The perception from the political perspective of these countries is that there is a growing ‘Russian threat‘ that must be contained, and in terms of the Nord Stream 2 project, this means that it must be countered. For this reason, political leaders from these four countries have travelled to Washington, in hopes that they can lobby American politicians to exert their influence to help stop the Russian energy project:

InsideSources reports:

Russian revanchism is a repeated concern for the governments of many of the Central and Eastern European states. For these countries, membership in western organizations including the European Union and NATO offers economic benefits, but comes with the risk that moving too far away from alliance with Russia will provoke some sort of aggressive response from the government of Vladimir Putin. On Wednesday, leaders from Lithuania, Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova spoke to reporters and lawmakers at an event hosted by the American Foreign Policy Council, emphasizing the role that European energy security plays in global security and reiterating the need to both stop the Nord Stream 2 project and to promote the use of American energy and technology.

“Putin’s action is not limited to his aggression or use of military force. Russia’s sophisticated use of information warfare including cyberattacks is well know. Vladimir Putin also uses Russia’s energy supplies as a weapon against neighboring states. Nord Stream 2 is a political project that will increase Europe’s reliance on Russia,” said American Foreign Policy Council President Herman Pirchner.

The Nord Stream 2 pipeline is a proposed project that would bring natural gas from Russia through the EU to Germany. For the countries whose leaders spoke on Wednesday, the pipeline is far more than an infrastructure project. Construction of the pipeline would provide Russia with additional leverage over European countries, they warned.

“Nord Stream 2 is one of the elements of energy weapons used by Russia against the world,” said Ukrainian parliamentary chairman Andriy Parubiy, who spoke through an interpreter.

The importance of energy security is not lost on Ukraine, where Russia has used its control over the energy markets to enact political concessions. On two occasions in recent memory, Russia halted gas shipments to Ukraine in the middle of a winter cold snap until the government there agreed to price increases and political concessions.

“Ukraine knows for sure that gas supplies, for Russia, are not about the economy. For Russia natural gas, first of all, is a mechanism for political influence,” Parubiy continued.

While some analysts have questioned America’s involvement in the region, saying that it has provoked Russian revanchism, the leaders repeatedly expressed their desire to work with both the U.S. government and American businesses to expand their sources of energy. Allowing Russia to have a monopoly over energy supplies gives the Russian government a worrying amount of control over neighboring countries, the leaders emphasized.

“Nord Stream 2 is a political, not an economic, project,” said Lithuanian Speaker of the Seimas Viktoras Pranckietis.

For Lithuania, constructing a gas terminal which allows it to recieve gas shipments from overseas was an important step in reducing its dependence on Gazprom and Russian energy. After completion of the terminal, natural gas prices fell by 30 percent. Last year, Lithuania received shipments of American natural gas for the first time, a sign that its dependence on Russian energy was further weakening.

When possible, Lithuania, Moldova, Ukraine, and Georgia are looking for ways to become energy secure through the development of domestic energy sources or through trade with neighboring countries. This offers an opportunity for American businesses, many of which have the technical expertise these countries need.

“It is very important that U.S. business comes to this part of the world,” said Pranckietis.

The Moldovan government agreed.

“In order to have independence, we look for solutions and we found a solution. Now we are starting the process of building a gas pipeline between Romania and Moldova, because Romania in three years will have enough gas to cover their needs and our needs,” said Andrian Candu, chairman of the Moldovan parliament.

The countries see energy security as a vital part of their independence and warn that construction of Nord Stream 2 provides Russia with additional money to fund expansionist actions abroad, while spreading corruption in Europe. The pipeline still awaits approval in Europe and the speakers urged the American government to throw its influence against the project.

“Mark my words, Nord Stream 2 will be stopped,” said Parubiy with confidence.

Washington already has incentive to stop the project, both to secure a market for American shale gas, which is significantly more expensive for the Europeans than the Russian gas, as well as to counteract a major Russian energy programme, thereby countering Russian influence in Europe as well as to nix a plan that might be beneficial for the Russian economy as well as for European-Russian relations. Hence, while some European powers are looking to partner with Russia on some key issues, such as the JCPOA and the Nord Stream 2, others are looking for ways to participate in Washington’s plan of Russian containment.

Of course, the excuses being promoted are not quite as sensical in the present political environment, objectively speaking, as Europe finds itself under economic threat not from the Russians, but from the Americans, who are attempting to dictate to them their foreign policy, security, trade, and energy interests under threat of sanctions and a budding trade war. This rift in energy policy in some ways mirrors the division on Europe’s migration policy, with some nations agreeing to take in migrants while others outright refuse, with some EU member states investing in Russian energy programs while others intend to buck it, with all the help from Washington that they can muster. It would appear, then, that all of this talk about ‘an economy of trust‘ and Macron’s words about European sovereignty are falling on deaf ears among some European partners.

 

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Red Pilled ThoughtCrimes
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Red Pilled ThoughtCrimes

US wants EU to buy qatar LNG

John Mason
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John Mason

Don’t understand why Russia even bothers with the Europeans, let them have US oil and gas at exorbitant prices, genetically modified foods, herbicides and pesticides destroying the environment and unfair trade deals. What Russia should be doing is sanctioning the EU if everything and ordering NATO to retreat to pre- Warsaw Pact or Russia will start by annihilating the US.

my2Cents
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my2Cents

This is not between Russia and the EU. It is between Washington and the EU. Russia is fully aware of that.

Nord Stream 2 will not be stopped.

John Burns
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Baltic governments licking the fingers of America in the hope of gaining favours from the dying empire. When did Russia attempt to exert power in Europe via its gas “lever?” I seem to recollect Ukraine holding back payment for gas received on at least two occasions and getting discounts to carry them through.

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Foreign Banks Are Embracing Russia’s Alternative To SWIFT, Moscow Says

Given its status as a major energy exporter, Russia has leverage that could help attract partners to its new SWIFT alternative.

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Via Zerohedge


On Friday, one day after Russia and China pledged to reduce their reliance on the dollar by increasing the amount of bilateral trade conducted in rubles and yuan (a goal toward which much progress has already been made over the past three years), Russia’s Central Bank provided the latest update on Moscow’s alternative to US-dominated international payments network SWIFT.

Moscow started working on the project back in 2014, when international sanctions over Russia’s annexation of Crimea inspired fears that the country’s largest banks would soon be cut off from SWIFT which, though it’s based in Belgium and claims to be politically neutral, is effectively controlled by the US Treasury.

Today, the Russian alternative, known as the System for Transfer of Financial Messages, has attracted a modest amount of support within the Russian business community, with 416 Russian companies having joined as of September, including the Russian Federal Treasury and large state corporations likeGazprom Neft and Rosneft.

And now, eight months after a senior Russian official advised that “our banks are ready to turn off SWIFT,” it appears the system has reached another milestone in its development: It’s ready to take on international partners in the quest to de-dollarize and end the US’s leverage over the international financial system. A Russian official advised that non-residents will begin joining the system “this year,” according to RT.

“Non-residents will start connecting to us this year. People are already turning to us,”said First Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Russia Olga Skorobogatova. Earlier, the official said that by using the alternative payment system foreign firms would be able to do business with sanctioned Russian companies.

Turkey, China, India and others are among the countries that might be interested in a SWIFT alternative, as Russian President Vladimir Putin pointed out in a speech earlier this month, the US’s willingness to blithely sanction countries from Iran to Venezuela and beyond will eventually rebound on the US economy by undermining the dollar’s status as the world’s reserve currency.

To be sure, the Russians aren’t the only ones building a SWIFT alternative to help avoid US sanctions. Russia and China, along with the European Union are launching an interbank payments network known as the Special Purpose Vehicle to help companies pursue “legitimate business with Iran” in defiance of US sanctions.

Given its status as a major energy exporter, Russia has leverage that could help attract partners to its new SWIFT alternative. For one, much of Europe is dependent on Russian natural gas and oil.

And as Russian trade with other US rivals increases, Moscow’s payments network will look increasingly attractive,particularly if buyers of Russian crude have no other alternatives to pay for their goods.

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US leaving INF will put nuclear non-proliferation at risk & may lead to ‘complete chaos’

The US is pulling out of a nuclear missile pact with Russia. The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty requires both countries to eliminate their short and medium-range atomic missiles.

The Duran

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Via RT


If the US ditches the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), it could collapse the entire nuclear non-proliferation system, and bring nuclear war even closer, Russian officials warn.

By ending the INF, Washington risks creating a domino effect which could endanger other landmark deals like the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) and collapse the existing non-proliferation mechanism as we know it, senior lawmaker Konstantin Kosachev said on Sunday.

The current iteration of the START treaty, which limits the deployment of all types of nuclear weapons, is due to expire in 2021. Kosachev, who chairs the Parliament’s Upper House Foreign Affairs Committee, warned that such an outcome pits mankind against “complete chaos in terms of nuclear weapons.”

“Now the US Western allies face a choice: either embarking on the same path, possibly leading to new war, or siding with common sense, at least for the sake of their self-preservation instinct.”

His remarks came after US President Donald Trump announced his intentions to “terminate” the INF, citing alleged violations of the deal by Russia.

Moscow has repeatedly denied undermining the treaty, pointing out that Trump has failed to produce any evidence of violations. Moreover, Russian officials insist that the deployment of US-made Mk 41 ground-based universal launching systems in Europe actually violates the agreement since the launchers are capable of firing mid-range cruise missiles.

Leonid Slutsky, who leads the Foreign Affairs Committee in parliament’s lower chamber, argued that Trump’s words are akin to placing “a huge mine under the whole disarmament process on the planet.”

The INF Treaty was signed in 1987 by then-President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. The deal effectively bans the parties from having and developing short- and mid-range missiles of all types. According to the provisions, the US was obliged to destroy Pershing I and II launcher systems and BGM-109G Gryphon ground-launched cruise missiles. Moscow, meanwhile, pledged to remove the SS-20 and several other types of missiles from its nuclear arsenal.

Pershing missiles stationed in the US Army arsenal. © Hulton Archive / Getty Images ©

By scrapping the historic accord, Washington is trying to fulfill its “dream of a unipolar world,” a source within the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

“This decision fits into the US policy of ditching the international agreements which impose equal obligations on it and its partners, and render the ‘exceptionalism’ concept vulnerable.”

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov denounced Trump’s threats as “blackmail” and said that Washington wants to dismantle the INF because it views the deal as a “problem” on its course for “total domination” in the military sphere.

The issue of nuclear arms treaties is too vital for national and global security to rush into hastily-made “emotional” decisions, the official explained. Russia is expecting to hear more on the US’ plans from Trump’s top security adviser, John Bolton, who is set to hold talks in Moscow tomorrow.

President Trump has been open about unilaterally pulling the US out of various international agreements if he deems them to be damaging to national interests. Earlier this year, Washington withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on the Iranian nuclear program. All other signatories to the landmark agreement, including Russia, China, and the EU, decided to stick to the deal, while blasting Trump for leaving.

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Converting Khashoggi into Cash

After two weeks of denying any connection to Khashoggi’s disappearance, Riyadh has admitted that he was killed by Saudi operatives but it wasn’t really on purpose.

Jim Jatras

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Authored by James George Jatras via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


The hazard of writing about the Saudis’ absurd gyrations as they seek to avoid blame for the murder of the late, not notably great journalist and Muslim Brotherhood activist Jamal Khashoggi is that by the time a sentence is finished, the landscape may have changed again.

As though right on cue, the narrative has just taken another sharp turn.

After two weeks of denying any connection to Khashoggi’s disappearance, Riyadh has ‘fessed up (sorta) and admitted that he was killed by Saudi operatives but it wasn’t really on purpose:

Y’see, it was kinda’f an ‘accident.’

Oops…

Y’see the guys were arguing, and … uh … a fistfight broke out.

Yeah, that’s it … a ‘fistfight.’

And before you know it poor Jamal had gone all to pieces.

Y’see?

Must’ve been a helluva fistfight.

The figurative digital ink wasn’t even dry on that whopper before American politicos in both parties were calling it out:

  • “To say that I am skeptical of the new Saudi narrative about Mr. Khashoggi is an understatement,” tweeted Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. “First we were told Mr. Khashoggi supposedly left the consulate and there was blanket denial of any Saudi involvement. Now, a fight breaks out and he’s killed in the consulate, all without knowledge of Crown Prince. It’s hard to find this latest ‘explanation‘ as credible.”
  • California Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said in a statement that the new Saudi explanation is “not credible.” “If Khashoggi was fighting inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, he was fighting for his life with people sent to capture or kill him,” Schiff said. “The kingdom and all involved in this brutal murder must be held accountable, and if the Trump administration will not take the lead, Congress must.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan must think he’s already died and gone to his eternal recreation in the amorous embraces of the dark-eyed houris. The acid test for the viability of Riyadh’s newest transparent lie is whether the Turks actually have, as they claim, live recordings of Khashoggi’s interrogation, torture, murder, and dismemberment (not necessarily in that order) – and if they do, when Erdogan decides it’s the right time to release them.

Erdogan has got the Saudis over a barrel and he’ll squeeze everything he can out of them.

From the beginning, the Khashoggi story wasn’t really about the fate of one man. The Saudis have been getting away with bloody murder, literally, for years. They’re daily slaughtering the civilian population of Yemen with American and British help, with barely a ho-hum from the sensitive consciences always ready to invoke the so-called “responsibility to protect” Muslims in Bosnia, Kosovo, Libya, Syria, Xinjiang, Rakhine, and so forth.

Where’s the responsibility not to help a crazed bunch of Wahhabist head-choppers kill people?

But now, just one guy meets a grisly end and suddenly it’s the most important homicide since the Lindbergh baby.

What gives?

Is it because Khashoggi was part of the MSM aristocracy, on account of his relationship with the Washington Post?

Was it because of his other, darker, connections? As related by Moon of Alabama: “Khashoggi was a rather shady guy. A ‘journalist’ who was also an operator for Saudi and U.S. intelligence services. He was an early recruit of the Muslim Brotherhood.” This relationship, writes MoA, touches on the interests of pretty much everyone in the region:

“The Ottoman empire ruled over much of the Arab world. The neo-Ottoman wannabe-Sultan Recep Tayyip Erdogan would like to regain that historic position for Turkey. His main competition in this are the al-Sauds. They have much more money and are strategically aligned with Israel and the United States, while Turkey under Erdogan is more or less isolated. The religious-political element of the competition is represented on one side by the Muslim Brotherhood, ‘democratic’ Islamists to which Erdogan belongs, and the Wahhabi absolutists on the other side.”

With the noose tightening around Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (MbS), the risible fistfight cock-and-bull story is likely to be the best they can come up with. US President Donald Trump’s having offered his “rogue killers” opening suggests he’s willing to play along. Nobody will really be fooled, but MbS will hope he can persuade important people to pretend they are fooled.

That will mean spreading around a lot of cash. The new alchemy of converting Khashoggi dead into financial gain for the living is just one part of an obvious scheme to pull off what Libya’s Muammar Kaddafi managed after the 1988 Lockerbie bombing: offer up some underlings as the fall guys and let the top man evade responsibility. (KARMA ALERT: That didn’t do Kaddafi any good in the long run.)

In the Saudi case the Lockerbie dodge will be harder, as there are already pictures of men at the Istanbul Consulate General identified as close associates of MbS. But they’ll give it the old madrasa try anyway since it’s all they’ve got.Firings and arrests have started and one suspect has already died in a suspicious automobile “accident.” Heads will roll!

Saving MbS’s skin and his succession to the throne of his doddering father may depend on how many of the usual recipients of Saudi – let’s be honest – bribery and influence peddling will find sufficient pecuniary reason to go along. Saudi Arabia’s unofficial motto with respect to the US establishment might as well be: “The green poultice heals all wounds.”

Anyway, that’s been their experience up to now, but it also in part reflects the same arrogance that made MbS think he could continue to get away with anything. (It’s not shooting someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue, but it’s close.) Whether spreading cash around will continue to have the same salubrious effect it always has had in the past remains to be seen.

To be sure, Trump may succeed in shaking the Saudi date palm for additional billions for arms sales. That won’t necessarily turn around an image problem that may not have a remedy. But still, count on more cash going to high-price lobbying and image-control shops eager to make obscene money working for their obscene client. Some big American names are dropping are dropping Riyadh in a sudden fit of fastidiousness, but you can bet others will be eager to step into their Guccis, both in the US and in the United Kingdom. (It should never be forgotten how closely linked the US and UK establishments are in the Middle East, and to the Saudis in particular.)

It still might not work though. No matter how much expensive PR lipstick the spinmeisters put on this pig, that won’t make it kissable. It’s still a pig.

Others benefitting from hanging Khashoggi’s death around MbS’s neck are:

  • Qatar (after last year’s invasion scare, there’s no doubt a bit of Schadenfreude and (figurative) champagne corks popping in Doha over MbS’s discomfiture. As one source close to the ruling al-Thani family relates, “The Qataris are stunned speechless at Saudi incompetence!” You just can’t get good help these days).

Among the losers one must count Israel and especially Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu. MbS, with his contrived image as the reformer, was the Sunni “beard” he needed to get the US to assemble an “Arab NATO” (as though one NATO weren’t bad enough!) and eliminate Iran for him. It remains to be seen how far that agenda has been set back.

Whether or not MbS survives or is removed – perhaps with extreme prejudice – there’s no doubt Saudi Arabia is the big loser. Question are being asked that should have been asked years ago. As Srdja Trifkovic comments in Chronicles magazine:

“The crown prince’s recklessness in ordering the murder of Khashoggi has demonstrated that he is just a standard despot, a Mafia don with oil presiding over an extended cleptocracy of inbred parasites. The KSA will not be reformed because it is structurally not capable of reform. The regime in Riyadh which stops being a playground of great wealth, protected by a large investment in theocratic excess, would not be ‘Saudi’ any longer. Saudia delenda est.”

The first Saudi state, the Emirate of Diriyah, went belly up in 1818, with the death of head of the house of al-Saud, Abdullah bin Saud – actually, literally with his head hung on a gate in Constantinople by Erdogan’s Ottoman predecessor, Sultan Mahmud II.

The second Saudi state, Emirate of Nejd, likewise folded in 1891.

It’s long past time this third and current abomination joined its antecedents on the ash heap of history.

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