South Stream

Russia, Turkey pivot across Eurasia

Off the keyboard of Pepe Escobar
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THE ROVING EYE

Putin-chess

Originally published in Asia Times on December 8, 2014
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The latest, spectacular “Exit South Stream, Enter Turk Stream” Pipelinistan gambit will be sending big geopolitical shockwaves all across Eurasia for quite some time. This is what the New Great Game in Eurasia is all about.

In a nutshell, a few years ago Russia devised North Stream – fully operational – and South Stream – still a project – to bypass unreliable Ukraine as a gas transit nation. Now Russia devises a new sweet deal with Turkey to bypass the “non-constructive” (Putin’s words) approach of the European Commission (EC) concerning the European “Third Energy Package”, which prohibits one company from controlling the full cycle of extraction, transportation and sale of energy resources.

Background is essential to understand the current game. Already five years ago I was following in detail Pipelineistan’s ultimateopera – the war between rival pipelines South Stream and Nabucco. Nabucco eventually became road kill. South Stream may eventually be resurrected, but only if the EC comes to its senses (don’t bet on it.)

The 3,600 kilometer South Stream should be in place by 2016, branching out to Austria and the Balkans/Italy. Gazprom owns it with a 50% stake – along with Italy’s ENI (20%), French EDF (15%) and German Wintershall, a subsidiary of BASF (15%). As it stands, these European energy majors are not exactly beaming – to say the least. For months, Gazprom and the EC were haggling about a solution, but in the end Brussels predictably succumbed to its own mediocrity – and relentless US pressure over weak-link and European Union member Bulgaria.

Russia still gets to build a pipeline under the Black Sea, but one now redirected to Turkey and, crucially, pumping the same amount of gas South Stream would. Not to mention Russia gets to build a new LNG (liquefied natural gas) central hub in the Mediterranean. Thus Gazprom has not spent US$5 billion in vain (finance, engineering costs). The redirection makes total business sense. Turkey is Gazprom’s second-biggest customer after Germany; much bigger than Bulgaria, Hungary and Austria combined.

Russia also advances a unified gas distribution network capable of delivering natural gas from anywhere in Russia to any hub alongside Russia’s borders.

And as if it was needed, Russia gets yet another graphic proof that its real growth market in the future is Asia, especially China – not a fearful, stagnated, austerity-devastated, politically paralyzed EU. The evolving Russia-China strategic partnership implies Russia as complementary to China, excelling in major infrastructure projects from building of dams to laying out pipelines. This is trans-Eurasia business with a sharp geopolitical reach and not subjected to ideology-drenched politics.

Russian “defeat”? Really?
Turkey also made a killing. It’s not only the deal with Gazprom; Moscow will build no less than Turkey’s entire nuclear industry, and there will be increased soft power interaction (more trade and tourism). Most of all, Turkey is now increasingly on the verge of becoming a full member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO); Moscow is actively lobbying for it.

This means Turkey acceding to a privileged position as a major hub simultaneously in the Eurasian Economic Belt and of course the Chinese New Silk Road(s). The EU blocks Turkey? Turkey looks East. That’s Eurasian integration on the move.

Washington has tried very hard to create a New Berlin Wall from the Baltics to the Black Sea to “isolate” Russia. And yet Team “Don’t Do Stupid Stuff” in Washington never saw it coming – yet another Putin judo/chess/go counterpunch applied exactly across the Black Sea.

Asia Times Online has been reporting for years how Turkey’s key strategic imperative is to configure itself as the indispensable energy crossroads from East to West – transiting everything from Iraqi oil to Caspian Sea gas. Oil from Azerbaijan already transits Turkey via the Bill Clinton/Zbig Brzezinski-propelled BTC (Baku-Tblisi-Ceyhan) pipeline. Turkey would also be the crossroads if a Trans-Caspian pipeline is ever built (slim chances as it stands), pumping natural gas from Turkmenistan to Azerbaijan, then transported to Turkey and finally Europe.

So what Putin’s judo/chess/go counterpunch accomplished with a single move is to have stupid EU sanctions once again hurt the EU. The German economy is already hurting badly because of lost Russia business.

The EC brilliant “strategy” revolves around the EU’s Third Energy Package, which requires that pipelines and the natural gas flowing inside them must be owned by separate companies. The target of this package has always been Gazprom – which owns pipelines in many Central and Eastern European nations. The target within the target has always been South Stream.

Now it’s up to Bulgaria and Hungary, which have always fought the EC “strategy”, to explain the fiasco to their own populations, and to keep pressing Brussels; after all they are bound to lose a fortune, not to mention get no gas, with South Stream out of the picture. Bulgaria alone reportedly has lost more than 6,000 new jobs and over $3 billion of investment due to the loss of South Stream.

So here’s the bottom line; Russia sells even more gas – to Turkey; Turkey gets much-needed gas with a cool discount; and the EU, pressured by the Empire of Chaos, is reduced to dance, dance, dance like a bunch of headless chickens in dark Brussels corridors wondering what hit them. And while the Atlanticists are back to default mode – cooking up yet more sanctions – Russia is set to keep buying more and more gold.

Watch those spears
This is not the endgame – far from it. In the near future, many variables will intersect.

Ankara’s game may change – but that’s far from a given. President Recep Erdogan – the Sultan of Constantinople – has certainly identified a rival, Caliph Ibrahim of ISIS/ISIL/Daesh fame, trying to steal his mojo. Thus the sultan may flirt with mollifying his neo-Ottoman dreams and contemplate steering Turkey back to its previously ditched “zero problems with our neighbors” foreign policy doctrine.

Not so fast. Erdogan’s game so far was the same as that of the House of Saud and Qatar’s House of Thani; get rid of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to allow an oil pipeline from Saudi Arabia and a gas pipeline from the South Pars/North Dome mega-field in Qatar. This pipeline would be Qatar-Iraq-Syria-Turkey, rivaling the already proposed, $10 billion Iran-Iraq-Syria pipeline. Final customers: the EU, of course, desperate in its “escape from Gazprom” offensive.

So what now? Will Erdogan abandon his “Assad must go” obsession? It’s too early to tell. The Turkish Foreign Ministry is spinning to the media that Washington and Ankara are about to agree on a no-fly zone along the Turkish-Syria border – even as the White House, earlier this week, insisted the idea had been scrapped.

The House of Saud is like a camel lost in the Arctic. The House of Saud’s lethal game in Syria always boiled down to regime change so that the Saudi-sponsored oil pipeline from Syria to Turkey might be built. Now the Saudis see Russia about to supply all of Turkey’s energy needs – and still be positioned to sell more gas to the EU in the near future. And Assad still won’t go.

But it is US neo-cons who are sharpening their poisonous spears with gusto. As soon as early 2015 there may be a Ukrainian Freedom Act in the US House of Representatives. Translation: Ukraine being dubbed a “major US non-NATO ally”, which means, in practice, a virtual NATO annexation. Next step: more turbo-charged neo-con provocation of Russia.

A possible scenario is vassal/puppies such as Romania or Bulgaria, pressed by Washington, deciding to allow full access of NATO vessels into the Black Sea. Who cares that this would violate current Black Sea agreements that affect both Russia and Turkey?

And then there’s a dangerous Rumsfeldian “known unknown”: how the fragile Balkans will feel subordinated to the whims of Ankara. As much as Brussels keeps Greece, Bulgaria and Serbia in a strait jacket, in energy terms they will start depending on Turkey’s goodwill.

For the moment, let’s appreciate the magnitude of the geopolitical shockwaves after Putin’s latest judo/chess/go combo. And get ready for another chapter of Russia’s “pivoting across Eurasia”. Putin hits Delhi next weekend. Expect another geopolitical bombshell.

Pepe Escobar’s new book, just out, is Empire of Chaos. Follow him on Facebook.

 

 

 

Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge (Nimble Books, 2007), and Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

Toward a Europe Whole & Free [to loot]

Off the keyboard of Anthony Cartalucci

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Published on Land Destroyer on July 10, 2014

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July 10, 2014 (Tony Cartalucci – NEO) – When the special interests who created and direct the agenda of the European Union disagree with member states, the true nature of this supranational enterprise becomes painfully apparent – one of dictatorial special interests pursing regional policy that benefits none of its individual member states. No example of this can be clearer than the dispute that has emerged over the construction of Russia’s South Stream natural gas pipeline set to run through Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary, and Italy.

The pipeline produces a large number of benefits for each of the nations it passes through, as well as for energy markets on either end of the pipeline. For the people and governments of these nations set to benefit most from the pipeline, the deal is an attractive, long-term investment. For the special interests that have created and currently direct the EU – on the other hand – it poses as a direct threat to their designs of continued expansion and corporate-financier hegemony beyond the collective borders of today’s EU.

For the hegemon, coexistence and collaboration are not options – thus the benefits of the South Stream pipeline escape them. Instead, these hegemonic special interests seek to control their own pipeline and energy markets on either side of it, and this can be seen developing along several fronts including the Southern Corridor Project, beginning in Azerbaijan along the Caspian Sea.

Energy and foreign policy expert Sinan Ulgen of the US government and corporate-financier funded Carnegie Europe think-tank complained about the disparity between the EU Commission’s stance, and that of individual EU member states in an Anadolu Agency (AA) article titled, “Russian South Stream gas pipeline divides EU,” stating:

“…the EU’s main concern about South Stream is that the project would increase its dependence on Russian gas. Last year a third of its consumed gas was supplied by Russia.

Additionally the AA article would state:

While the European Commission opposes Russia’s South Stream gas pipeline project, certain EU countries like Austria and Italy continue to openly support the world’s most expensive pipeline project, which aims to transport Russian gas by bypassing Ukraine.

For the last two years, Russia has signed bilateral agreements with Italy, Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary, Greece, Slovenia, Austria and Croatia for the construction of the South Stream gas pipeline, which is estimated to cost nearly US$40 billion according to the Moscow Times. Gazprom recently announced however that it was abandoning construction of the Italian portion of the pipeline. 

These agreements were deemed a breach of EU anti-trust law by the European Commission in December. And, in April, following the annexation of the Crimean peninsula by Russia, the European Parliament voted for the South Stream project to be stopped.

AA would also cite another corporate-financier funded think tank, Chatham House – also complaining about EU members pursuing their own interests in contradiction to the EU Commission’s dictates. The unelected EU Commission appears to be pursing its own extraterritorial geopolitical pursuits ahead of those of the individual member states and their respective populations. That corporate-financier funded “think tanks” are focused on this “divide” and championing the EU Commission’s agenda over that of the individual EU members it allegedly represents fully exposes the EU for what it truly is, a dysfunctional supranational dictatorship.

And what is done in the name of the EU by its institutions like the EU Commission, which admittedly does not represent the best interests or desires of those it claims to represent, unfortunately and perhaps unfairly reflects on the EU as a whole. For example, and as part of the energy debate, the current EU support of the regime occupying Kiev, Ukraine, taints all of Europe, even as many EU member states attempt to move cautiously or even in opposition to the greater agenda the EU Commission and others are pursuing.

While the EU promotes itself as a bastion of freedom, stability, and prosperity, it appears increasingly more like a hegemonic bloc, dictating to, rather than acting as a representative of, the European people. The slogan “Toward a Europe Whole and Free” rings hollow when the EU Commission begins dictating policy to individual states, and curtailing progress that benefits both individual nations and their people.

The EU, in this light, appears more of an autocratic oligarchical consolidation of regional power and resources, not a democratic collaboration between nations. A slogan like “Toward a Europe Whole and Free” appears then to represent Europe, but only from the perspective of special interests seeking to loot the region collectively, rather than nation-by-nation. The dysfunction and dictatorial nature of the EU Commission and other apparatuses within the supranational bloc serve as a cautionary example for other nations seeking to construct their own alliances – from Asia’s ASEAN-AEC (Asian Economic Community), to regional alliances between Russia, China and with nations along their peripheries.

Alliances that include obligations that usurp national sovereignty are not alliances at all, they are hegemonic infiltration by special interests who would rather see a village place their valuables in a single safe for them to crack and loot, rather than take the time and trouble to rob each individual home. Europe must decide whether it will continue along a path of internal conflict with its alleged EU representatives tainting their collective populations, cultures, and histories, or reform the EU into an institution that allows collaboration and national sovereignty to exist in tandem.

Ukraine and the Battle for South Stream

Off the keyboard of Tony Cartalucci

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Published on Land Destroyer on June 27, 2014

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June 27, 2014 (Tony Cartalucci – NEO) – The ongoing conflict in Ukraine, admittedly an attempt to expand both NATO and the European Union (EU),  has escalated in terms of dominating Europe’s energy markets. Attempts to halt the ongoing construction of Russia’s South Stream natural gas pipeline appears to be a direct attempt to further penalize Russia for its role in defending Ukrainians currently under siege by aircraft, artillery, heavy armor and irregular troops.Toward a Europe “Whole and Free,” and its Energy Market Too 

“Toward a Europe Whole and Free” was literally the title of NATO’s Atlantic Council’s May 2014 event celebrating NATO’s continuous expansion since the fall of the Soviet Union and its aspirations to integrate all along Russia’s borders and even Russia itself into its geopolitical socioeconomic order. The Atlantic Council’s official program webpage for the event stated:

This two-day conference will honor the historic milestones that have forged a strong and prosperous Atlantic community and explore the most pressing challenges to the completion of a Europe whole and free. This vision, successfully implemented for two decades with a bipartisan and transatlantic strategy, has been called into question both within current NATO and EU members and by Russia’s aggressive actions. Leaders and experts will gather at the Council’s headquarters to debate the opportunities and challenges in Europe’s east and south with the aim of exploring a renewed common transatlantic approach.

What is essentially a celebration of expansionism, military aggression, and extraterritorial political subversion, the event featured many of the chief protagonists in Ukraine’s current crisis. These included US Secretary of State John Kerry and US Vice President Joseph Biden, along with NATO commanders and US corporate-financier funded policymakers who have authored America’s decades of “exceptionalism.” It also included US Senator John McCain who literally flew to Kiev during the height of the “Euromaidan” protests and took the stage with ultra-right Neo-Nazi Svoboda Party leaders.
In their own words, those attending the Atlantic Council gathering describe the battle for Ukraine being fought to “complete” their socioeconomic consolidation in Europe – this includes “integrating Russia.” Secretary John Kerry at the gathering would literally state:

Our European Allies have spent more than 20 years with us working to integrate Russia into the Euro-Atlantic community.

By “integrating” Russia, of course, Kerry means overthrowing any independent national political order that exists in Moscow and replacing it with one that answers to Wall Street, London, and now Brussels. This can be seen clearly in attempts by the West to replicate its model of “color revolution” within Russian territory itself.


But Kerry and the rest of EU-NATO, recognizing that efforts to subvert and overthrow an independent political order in Russia have failed, have resorted to a policy of encirclement, containment, and confrontation, with Ukraine being only one of many battlefields the West is fighting upon. Kerry would declare Europe’s energy market as another.

He stated (emphasis added):

“…if we want a Europe that is both whole and free, then we have to do more together immediately, with a sense of urgency, to ensure that European nations are not dependent on Russia for the majority of their energy. In this age of new energy markets, in this age of concern about global climate change and carbon overload, we ought to be able to rush to the ability to be able to make Europe less dependent. And if we do that, that will be one of the greatest single strategic differences that could be made here. We can deliver greater energy independence and help to diversify energy sources that are available to the European markets, and we can expand the energy infrastructure across Europe, and we can build up energy storage capacity throughout the continent.”

And immediately they did. After resisting pressure from the EU regarding Russia’s South Stream pipeline, Bulgaria has been forced to suspend ongoing construction, jeopardizing interests and opportunities not only for Russia, but for the nations the pipeline is to pass through.

The Battle for South Stream 

The halting of construction followed a visit by US Senators John McCain, Christopher Murphy, and Ron Johnson – with McCain in particular directly supporting the armed overthrow of the Ukrainian government earlier this year. In a Washington Post article titled, “Bulgaria halts work on South Stream gas pipeline,” it states:

Bulgaria’s prime minister has ordered on Sunday a halt to construction work on the Gazprom-led South Stream pipeline project planned to bypass Ukraine as a transit country and consolidating Russia’s energy grip in Europe.

Plamen Oresharski said after meeting U.S. Sens. John McCain, Christopher Murphy and Ron Johnson that he has ordered all work on the disputed project to continue only after consultations with Brussels.

Moscow responded by pointing out the obvious nature of what are in all intents and purposes sanctions against Russia. The Moscow Times reported in an article titled, “Russia Sees Underhanded Sanctions in Bulgaria’s Suspension of South Stream,” that:

Bulgaria’s decision to suspend construction of the Russia-led South Stream pipeline project on its territory, undermining Russia’s efforts to diversify its gas transportation infrastructure to Europe away from Ukraine, is an underhanded economic sanction thrust on Russia by the West, a top Russian diplomat and Russian industry analysts said Monday.

The article would also point out that once the South Stream pipeline is completed it will diminish Ukraine’s importance as a transit point for Russian natural gas into Western Europe. It appears that the moves against South Stream are designed to at the very least, delay this inevitable outcome for as long as possible, to maintain leverage as the West struggles to consolidate power on behalf of their teetering proxy regime in Kiev.

For Bulgaria’s part, not only have they disregarded US sanctions on Russia, choosing a Russian firm to build the pipeline, they appear eager to resolve the legal obstacles conveniently laid down amid the ongoing Ukrainian crisis, and complete the pipeline as soon as possible.

Exploiting South Stream’s Delay 

The West’s plans to use South Stream’s delay to extort concessions from Russia and those working with it on the project. Additionally the delay will help preserve the benefits of Ukraine’s current monopoly on transporting Russian natural gas to Western Europe. To ensure maximum leverage, the West is placing key personnel within Ukraine’s energy sector, in addition to propping up the regime in Kiev. Perhaps the most indicative of the overall illegitimacy and criminal nature of the current EU-NATO posture was the appointment of Hunter Biden, son of US Vice President Joseph Biden, as a member of Ukraine energy giant Barisma’s board of directors.

Biden Jr.’s nepotist appointment is not where the conflict of interest begins or ends. Biden Jr. was also a director of the US State Department’s National Endowment for Democracy (NED) subsidiary National Democratic Institute (NDI). The NED/NDI played an admitted role in building up opposition parties in Ukraine prior to the so-called “Euromaidan” protests and admittedly engineered the so-called “Orange Revolution” in Ukraine in 2004. More recently, they served as “election monitors” lending their stamp of approval of polling in Ukraine where entire provinces failed to vote in the east, opposition parties were unable to campaign in the west, and the aerial bombardment of cities across the country was underway.

In effect, Biden Jr.s NDI overthrew a government ahead of himself being appointed as a director in the targeted nation’s largest energy company – a dizzying conflict of interest. Coupled with the stated US agenda of reducing Russia’s influence in Europe’s energy market, this conflict of interest becomes a self-evident impropriety and an obvious component of the West’s agenda of encircling and containing Russia.

It remains to be seen how long the South Stream delay lasts and what other moves the EU, NATO, and Ukraine’s openly foreign-influenced regime and industries take in implementing Secretary Kerry’s stated goal of confronting Russia. For nations like Bulgaria, the cost to their sovereignty upon entering the European Union can now be acutely felt. Bulgaria is now unable to pursue their own interests because of dictates from Brussels made on behalf of special interests operating well beyond their borders and in aboslute disregard to the peace and prosperity of the Bulgarian people. It is a cautionary tale for other nations around the world seeking to enter into similar supranational “communities,” most notably Southeast Asia’s ASEAN/AEC.

NATO and the EU’s open intent to “integrate” all of Europe including Russia into their geopolitical order, clearly by force if necessary, their abuse of the EU’s legal framework to impose thinly veiled sanctions on Russia, overt nepotism, as well as obstructing the completion of projects that are demonstrably beneficial to their own member states reveals an emerging political order of immense criminality unbound by the rule of law and a clear and present danger to global stability. For those in eastern Ukraine weathering air raids, artillery barrages, and mechanized “national guard” composed of ultra-right Neo-Nazi militants, that instability is already a deadly, daily reality.

Tony Cartalucci, Bangkok-based geopolitical researcher and writer, especially for the online magazine New Eastern Outlook”.

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