Nabucodonosor and Europe's Gasification - January, 2009

Turkey has played a crucial role in the Nabucco pipeline project, a Western project that was primarily meant to exploit Central Asian/Caspian Sea region energy by circumventing Russia. However, the Nabucco project was dealt a death blow last year when Moscow managed to strike several longterm deals with Central Asian energy producers and announced the building of a new "South Stream" pipeline that will bring Russian energy directly to the southeastern European market, by-passing Turkey. The final dealt blow to the Nabucco project came when Russia reasserted itself into the Caucasus by repulsing the Western inspired Georgian invasion of South Ossetia during the summer of 2008. The following is recent RIA Novosti article about Nabucco.



Nabucodonosor and Europe's Gasification

January, 2009

Mr. Reinhard Mitschek, managing director of the Nabucco Gas Pipeline International GmbH, must be Giuseppe Verdi's most ardent admirer in today's cold Europe. The name of his company comes from Nabucodonosor, or Nabucco for short, a Verdi opera of an Italian libretto based on the biblical story. It follows the plight of the Jews as they are released from Babylonian captivity and portrays Nabucodonosor's temporary insight into the gist of the events. This could be taken as a clue hinting at Europe's desire to rid itself of Russia's gas captivity. From the 21st floor of a skyscraper near the Danube River in Vienna, Mr. Mitschek can already see Europe's bright gas future, free of Russian gas dependence and Russian-Ukrainian gas squabbles. He is convinced that now everyone in Europe is aware of the urgent need to build the Nabucco gas pipeline, which is supposed to bring Caspian gas right to the heart of Central Europe.

Most European politicians are optimistic about the Nabucco pipeline, but gas experts do not share this attitude. They believe the Nabucco project exemplifies politicization of the gas market rather than a realistic analysis of its potentialities. Nabucco seems to exist only in political minds. Its construction was supposed to be launched last year, then this year, and now in 2010. In recent estimates, its construction costs have reached eight billion Euros. The main problem is that few believe it will pay for itself. The Nabucco pipeline has to transport no less than 30 billion cubic meters of gas per year to find a profit. But there simply may not be such volumes of available gas in the near future. Azerbaijan intends to launch the extraction of its Shakh Deniz-2 gas deposit only in 2013, estimated to produce a mere eight billion cubic meters of gas annually. Experts are warning that Russia is already fighting for these cubic meters, and it is still unclear to whom Azerbaijan will sell its gas. Nabucco's main transit country, Turkey, insists on getting 15% of its gas at a discount. Ankara is very unhappy about Brussels' refusal to admit it to the European Union (EU), and is not likely to make any concessions. This Turkish demand makes Nabucco unprofitable before it has even been launched.

Few European experts have been too excited over the recent reports by the respectable British energy company, Gaffney, Cline & Associates (GCA), which reaffirmed that gas reserves in Turkmenistan are many times bigger than was previously believed: from the low estimate (proven deposits) of four trillion cubic meters to the high estimate (potential reserves) of 14 trillion tons. However, Turkmenistan does not have the potential to quickly enhance its gas production. It is barely coping with its gas commitments to Russia and other countries. Today, it is producing about 80 billion cubic meters of gas per year, and will have to double the production to at least 150 billion-155 billion cubic meters to fulfill its contractual commitments. European experts believe that Turkmenistan will not be able to increase its gas production to meet European needs for at least another 20 years. The same is true of Iraq and Iran. In the near future, there will be no alternative to Russia as a gas supplier.


In related news:

The Black Sea: A Net Assessment


The Black Sea, long an arena for geopolitical conflict, has recently seen a flurry of naval activity. This activity underscores the region’s central military and economic role for the surrounding nations. It also highlights the Black Sea’s and critical importance to Russia, which makes it likely that the body of water would be a major point of conflict in any Russian-Western flare-up.


The American destroyer USS McFaul pulled into the Georgian harbor of Batumi on Aug. 24 to begin distributing humanitarian supplies. The McFaul and the Polish frigate Gen. Kazimierz Pulaski passed through the Dardanelles late Aug. 22, one day after the Spanish frigate Adm. Don Juan de Bourbon and the German frigate FGS Luebeck exited the Bosporus into the Black Sea. The Pulaski and the other two NATO vessels are headed to the Romanian seaport of Constanta, where they will conduct a preplanned, routine visit to the Black Sea region, according to an official NATO announcement. The McFaul, by contrast, is part of a planned three-U.S. vessel humanitarian mission to Georgia that within days will include the frigate USS Taylor, which passed through the Dardanelles on Aug. 25. And finally, the Russian flagship cruiser Moskva left the Ukrainian port of Sevastopol and re-entered the Black Sea again Aug. 25 for weapons and communications systems testing, while the USS Mount Whitney and the US Coast Guard cutter Dallas reportedly were headed to the Black Sea.

With all of this activity, the Black Sea, long an arena for geopolitical conflict, is getting crowded. In ancient times, the Greeks termed the body of water an “inhospitable” or “hospitable” sea depending on the level of Greek control over its shores. The last significant military campaign conducted in the Black Sea took place in 1916. One must go even further back for the last time the West and Russia squared off across the shores of the Black Sea, to the Crimean War (1854-1856), when the combined forces of France, the United Kingdom and the Ottoman Empire invaded Russia. Moscow’s dramatic defeat forced it to undergo its greatest reform ever under Czar Alexander II. Though the Black Sea has now experienced almost a century of calm, it might be becoming inhospitable once again.

Recent events in Georgia have brought into sharp focus the strategic value of the Black Sea, a vital body of water in the middle of a resource-rich area. This region is particularly strategic from the Russian perspective, meaning any fight flaring up between the West and Russia would likely see the Black Sea as a major point of conflict. A review of the strategic importance of the Black Sea for the various interested powers is therefore in order. The Black Sea forms roughly the southern and the eastern boundaries of Europe with the Middle East and Asia respectively, and it is the major body of water between the Caspian Sea and the Mediterranean. It is connected to the Mediterranean via the Bosporus and the Dardanelles, two straits that form a maritime bottleneck separating Europe from Asia. The Turkish coast forms the southern coastline of the Black Sea, while the northern coast of the sea is split almost equally between Russia and Ukraine. The Russian-populated, but Ukrainian-owned, Crimean Peninsula juts into the middle of the sea, affording whoever controls it crucial access to the Russian and Ukrainian plains. To the sea’s east are the Georgian coast and the Caucasus, while in the west lie the Balkan states of Bulgaria, Romania and landlocked Moldova.

The Black Sea is essential to any attempt at force projection in the region because the Carpathian Mountains in Romania and the Caucasus Mountains constrain any land-based moves against Russia from the south. The Black Sea is therefore the only path through which a potential enemy could threaten Russia’s core without, of course, driving across Poland and the North European plain straight to Moscow — a path Napoleon and Hitler found was not so direct after all. Because the Black Sea is close to the Caucasus and directly below Russia’s oil-producing regions of Tatarstan and Bashkorostan, it also affords any Russian enemy a direct line toward the energy lifeline of the Russian military. For Europe, the Black Sea has never been a major military route of invasion and has often in fact acted as a buffer against land-based armies. But many invaders have managed to go around the Black Sea. These included the Ottomans, who found it easier to march across the Balkans to Vienna then to take the Black Sea route to Ukraine. The Ottomans did hold the Crimean Peninsula from 1441 to 1783, but only nominally, affording the local Crimean Tatars considerable autonomy — more than was customary even for the Ottoman Empire — until the Russian Empire usurped Turkish overlordship.

As a trade route, by contrast, the Black Sea is vital for the Europeans. During the Cold War, Black Sea shipping was minimal, as the lower Danube River fell into the Soviet sphere. But with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the cessation of hostilities in former Yugoslavia, the Danube has returned as a key transportation route, particularly for Germany. Now, Central European manufacturing exports can be floated down the river to the Black Sea, which is much cheaper than transporting them to the Baltic Sea by land. Any renewed closure of this transportation route would certainly be a big problem for Europe. For Ukraine, the Black Sea is both economically and militarily vital. Ukraine is perhaps the only former Soviet Union state with useful rivers, the Dniepr and the Dniester. Both are navigable and drain in the Black Sea, which does not freeze in the winter, unlike the seas Russia’s rivers drain into. It is no wonder that the first powerful Russian/Ukrainian state, the Kievan Rus, emerged in this economically viable and fertile region in the 9th century.

But the blessing of having rivers that drain into the Black Sea is also a curse for Ukraine. This is in large part because the Crimean Peninsula, populated and controlled by Russians, sits where the rivers enter the sea. The Crimea is essentially a giant, immovable military fortress at the mouth of some of the most vital transportation routes for Ukraine. Whoever controls this “fort” controls Ukraine. Russia can interdict the Ukrainian links to the Black Sea easily from its Black Sea naval headquarters in Sevastopol, and its control over the peninsula is secure because the population of Crimea is heavily ethnically Russian and pro-Russian. The Black Sea is similarly vital for Georgia, whose only access to Europe is via the sea, due to the rugged terrain of the Caucasus and through Russian hostility.

For Russia, the key strategic value of the Black Sea lies in controlling the energy resources in the Caucasus and around the Caspian Sea. Russia’s population in the region is concentrated on the coasts of the Black Sea, both on the Russian side of the coast and in Ukrainian-controlled Crimea. There is very little population along the shore of the Caspian Sea, which is the eastern portion of the land bridge between the two seas. Therefore, if a naval operation were to project power from the Black Sea toward the Don River corridor between Rostov-on-Don and Volgograd (better known by its former name, Stalingrad), Moscow would be cut off from the Russian Caucasus and the region’s immense energy resources. French and British expeditionary forces tried to do just that during the Crimean War, first invading Crimea and taking Sevastopol and then trying to get to Rostov-on-Don through the Sea of Azov. In the nuclear age, a similar land invasion of Russia would of course be out of the question, but the trajectory of possible power projections still stands: through the Black Sea to Crimea and into the Rostov-on-Don/Volgograd Don River corridor. By attacking Moscow’s control over the Don River corridor, an enemy essentially would cut off the Caucasus from the Kremlin, setting the stage for further force projection inland.

For Turkey, the Black Sea is really all about the Dardanelles. Turkey’s population is sparse on its Black Sea coast due to the rugged Pontic Mountains, so trade links are not as vital as those that flow into the Mediterranean. Control of maritime access to the Black Sea gives Turkey leverage over countries that need to use the Black Sea to access the rest of the world, namely the Central Europeans (although they have costlier alternate routes) and Russia. Militarily, the Black Sea was always a much simpler theater of operations for the Ottomans than the Mediterranean, because the forces arrayed against them in the Black Sea (Russians, Ukrainians, the Balkan nations) were much weaker than those in the Mediterranean (Italians, French, British, Venetians, Genoese, etc.). Ottoman control over the northern coast of the Black Sea, particularly Crimea, simply never was vital to the core of the empire as was control of the Balkans, from where the Ottomans tried to advance on Europe.

The struggle for control over these straits has been the root cause of many previous military campaigns, including the Crimean and the Russo-Turkish Wars in the 19th century and the Allied Dardanelles campaign of World War I. Throughout its history, Russia has never been able to exit the Black Sea through the straits at will. In part, this is because Turkey was either strong enough to resist Russia or propped up by a Western power hoping to keep Russia out of the Mediterranean. Contemporary politico-military arrangements in Europe dictate that the Black Sea is essentially a NATO-controlled lake. The bottleneck of the Dardanelles/Bosporus is, for all intents and purposes (nuances of current international treaties such as the Montreux Convention aside), fully under the control of NATO member Turkey. Just south of the crucial straits lies the Aegean Sea — also NATO-controlled — a confining body of water that further entrenches NATO’s power in the region. Even if Russia were to miraculously break through the Dardanelles, the maze that is the Aegean would prove impossible to escape. Also, the entire Mediterranean is a NATO lake, given the predominance of its navies there along with the fact that the entire sea is in range of land-based airpower.

The extent of Russian naval and military power today lies in its ability to conduct precisely the sort of power projection witnessed in Georgia. Russia can play on its side of the Black Sea, particularly in Georgia and Ukraine; the strategic Crimean Peninsula and the naval base of Sevastopol act as a cockpit from which Russia controls the northern shores of the sea. Combined with air superiority on its side, Russia can certainly dominate the Caucasus and Ukraine. Russia also dominates these regions by virtue of its land power and contiguous territory. Doctrinally, Russia rolls in on the ground, maintaining direct land links to its home territory.

But this cuts both ways, and the Black Sea is the perfect platform through which to project military power into the very heart of Russia. Oceans and seas, in general, are the modern highways of war that a powerful state can use to project its power to any point on the planet. Without the Black Sea, the closest anyone could get to the Russian underbelly would entail marching through the North European Plain or the Balkans, prospects with a historically very low rate of success — and brutally high human and military costs. Alternatively, a modern navy, such as those possessed by the United States and some of its NATO allies, could easily park its fleet in the Black Sea thanks to Turkish control of the Dardanelles. This would put the fleet within easy striking distance of Moscow’s energy-rich Caucasus region, all without the need to invade Russia proper as during the Crimean War. This option has only appeared with the advent of modern guided missiles and carrier-launched aircraft, which perhaps accounts for the increased importance of the Black Sea Fleet, nominally the Kremlin’s least-favored fleet.

At present, the West also has overall superior military power in the Black Sea. By controlling the Dardanelles, the formidable U.S. and Turkish navies control the sea’s entrance as well as its waters. Turkish and U.S. air forces also have presence in the region. The U.S. air force has a hub in the southern Turkish air base at Incirlik, and airfields in Greece, Bulgaria and Romania could easily host decisive airpower from any number of NATO member countries, which could be used to establish air superiority over the entire sea and devastate the Russian naval presence. Turkey’s air force is also well-drilled and well-equipped. Modern weapons systems such as submarine- and ship-launched cruise missiles and carrier-launched jets would be able to target the very heart of Russia once the supremacy of the Black Sea was assured.

(It should be pointed out, however, that when it comes to U.S. ship-, submarine-, and air-launched cruise missiles, the Black Sea presents an additional vector of attack but is not decisive for attacking Russia’s European core given U.S. access to the Barents, Baltic, Mediterranean and Aegean seas.)

The Black Sea could become an advantage for Russia only if Moscow somehow managed to neutralize Turkey and its control of the straits. Thus far, Russia has never been able to do this, either militarily or diplomatically. Moscow’s geography has always hindered its naval development, and despite trying on and off for more than a century, it has never been able to secure the Black Sea, instead living with it as a buffer, just as it uses Ukraine as a buffer. Today, more than ever, Turkey holds decisive military control over the only sea access to the Black Sea, and as such is the absolute arbiter of outside naval intervention. Turkish alliance with the West is therefore the key to NATO’s — and thus the West’s — continued denial of the Black Sea to Russia as anything more than a buffer, a reality that has not changed much throughout the centuries.


Opening up the Arctic Region and Russia's Submarine Fleet

Author: Golosov, Rear Admiral (retired)

Does Russia need the Arctic region? The question might seem odd and irrelevant now that Russia finds itself in a difficult economic and military-political situation following diverse reforms since the early 1990s. But the answer is not all that simple. Attitude to the Russian North and the Arctic reflects one of the aspects of Russia's development strategy. But how the problem of the country's strategic national interests is treated and should be treated by all agencies of public administration is another matter.

The world's northern region occupies over 20 million square kilometers. In the early 1990s the largest northlands--Russia, Canada and the United States--accounted for 11 million square kilometers and a population of 9 million, 7 million square kilometers and a population of 0.6 million, 1.5 million square kilometers and a population of 0.6 million, respectively.* Now that the Soviet Union has broken up, the northern region accounts for 65% of Russia's territory (the corresponding figure at the time of the Soviet Union was 49%). These little-developed Russian territories are the world's largest treasure house of natural resources. According to a UN estimate, Russia has 28 trillion dollars' worth of natural reserves, with the country's north accounting for 70 to 80 percent. Nearly 100% of the explored reserves of nickel, cobalt, tin and rare earth elements are in the North. Incidentally, the resources of the United State are estimated at 8 trillion dollars. Expert estimates put Russian offshore deposits in the Arctic at scores of billions of tons of oil and scores of trillions of natural gas. The oil and gas content of the Barents Sea and the Kara Sea alone is estimated at 50-60 billion tons of standard fuel (Russia's annual production of oil and gas equals no more than one billion tons of standard fuel). By way of comparison, the widely publicized reserves of the Caspian Sea amount to 10-12 billion tons of standard fuel.

However, access to the North's wealth depends on enormous long-term efforts by the state with due account of an entire spectrum of problems ranging from financial and economic problems to social and life conditions. From its very inception the Soviet Union made a lot of efforts to develop the North by providing adequate funding, and they did pay off. For instance, from the 60s to the 80s of last century its export of West-Siberian oil alone fetched 400-500 billion dollars. The Magadan Region ensured the country's might in terms of international reserves by supplying nearly one third of the world's gold production during 1932-1994. Today the North accounts for 50-60 percent of Russia's foreign trade turnover and supplies foreign currency to pay for the enormous imports of commodities needed by the country's industry and agriculture.

But the North is not just a treasure of natural resources. The shortest line of communications between the Atlantic ports of northern Europe and the ports of Japan, China and other Asian countries is the Northern Maritime Route (NMR), which runs along the Russian coast of the Arctic Ocean. Ships sailing from St. Petersburg to Vladivostok via the NMR save 9,000 kilometers as distinct from those going via the Suez Canal. Besides, the NMR makes it possible for the Russian Navy to maneuver between the Atlantic and Pacific Theaters of Military Operations, a factor of crucial strategic importance. (1) The shortest air routes link America to Europe and Asia via the North Pole. Foreign ships piloted by Russian icebreakers and other infrastructure systems along the NMR and support for air traffic in Russia's air space may significantly replenish the country's treasury.

Russia stands to benefit from the northern region in other ways too. The region's importance should grow as a result of continuous scientific surveys there, which is the principal prerequisite for the region's effective development today, let alone the future. Such surveys are unlikely to be resumed soon although they were the hallmark of Soviet oceanography and the Soviet research fleet. Meanwhile, some problems are already clamoring for recognition. For example, Russia has a real chance to establish an external boundary of the continental shelf in the eastern part of its polar domain all the way to the North Pole. This would shore up Russia's sovereign right to prospect for and develop natural resources on a 1.5 million square km. shelf and increase its oil and gas potential by 15-20 billion tons of standard fuel. For that to happen, it is necessary to compete the surveys conducted in the early 1990s and submit documentation substantiating Russia's rights to a UN commission. In accordance with the UN Convention on Maritime Law the documentation should be submitted within ten years of Russia's ratification of the Convention in 1997. Should a foreign oil and gas company start production before Russia gains a foothold in regions of its interests, further haste might prove useless, especially considering that Canada, Norway, Denmark and especially the United States are already laying claim to the Arctic shelf.

Other pressing problems include the need to delineate a disputed area between Russia and Norway at the site of the very rich Fedynsk oil and gas field in the central part of the Barents Sea. Russo-Norwegian relations over Spitsbergen are quite tense. Every effort is being made to oust Russia from there.

The future of the NMR is not cloudless either. As has been said before, it has been a Russian national strategic line of communications since it was launched. As soon as it was opened to foreign ships in 1991 there were calls for the NMR to be given the status of an international shipping lane. An international symposium to that effect was held in Tokyo in 1995. The United States, Germany, Norway and China are actively engaged in the study of physical and geographic conditions on the route. It is obvious that preparations are being made to set up an international consortium with predominantly foreign capital for the operation of the NMR. In the near future Russia might even have to pay for the right of Russian ship to use the route instead of benefiting from it commercially.

Areas in the Bering Sea have not been delineated with the United States yet. An agreement signed by Soviet Foreign Minister Shevardnadze and his U.S. counterpart Baker in 1990 deprived Russia of a considerable part of the Bering Sea bottom rich in oil and gas and also a water area convenient for productive fishing. The agreement was due to come into force after its ratification. Being aware of the fact that it served its interests, the U.S. Congress ratified it without delay. Regrettably, the Bering Sea was not among Russia's priorities at the time. When at long last the State Duma got down to considering the agreement in 1996, it refused to ratify it after it saw its illegitimate and defective character. In February 1999 the State Duma again refused to ratify it and passed a resolution intended to restore Russia's rights. Today the Americans are making active efforts to assimilate the illegitimate acquisition. The main legal argument is that ships of the U.S. Coast Guard seize Russian trawlers trying to fish in the area in question. This serves as another reminder of the fact that in the modern world he who is strong is right rather than he who pins hopes on universal "values."

Generally speaking, some quarters are out to take advantage of Russia's temporary economic and military weakness in a clear effort to curtail Russia's presence in the Arctic region. Our "friends" are pursuing two strategic goals: first, undermine Russia's economy still further and, second, open up the Arctic Ocean as a potential springboard for strikes at Russian territory involving nuclear-powered submarines carrying cruise and ballistic missiles in the event of a military conflict. It should also be borne in mind that under the terms of the START-2 Treaty ratified by Russia, this country has the right to deploy 50% of its strategic nuclear potential aboard nuclear-powered submarine missile-carriers. Most of them are incorporated into the Northern Fleet, and the zone of their operations is the Arctic region. Destroying them in the event of a war as a matter of priority is one of the main tasks of the U.S. Navy and NATO.

The United States is engaged in the most vigorous exploration and development of the Arctic region. It accounts for 90% of the funds spent by foreign countries on the exploration of the Arctic Ocean. The U.S. Arctic program pursued in 1996-2001 is a component part of the Federal program for the exploration and development of the World Ocean. Arctic surveys involve twelve Federal government departments and other agencies and some thirty universities and other research institutions. In 1995-1999 the United States implemented Skysacks, a broad program to study the Arctic region with the help of nuclear-powered submarines carrying scientific equipment. During that period four submarines visited the Arctic region on five occasions to spend a total of about six months there. The U.S. Navy Secretary visited one of the submarines in 1999 when it was operating in the Chuckchee Sea, and in 1993 U.S. Vice President Gore took part in a cruise to the Arctic. Top-ranking officials participating in Arctic cruises by nuclear-powered submarines highlight the importance of the work being conducted in the area.2 Today nuclear-powered submarines are the most effective instrument of research in the Arctic basin.

The Soviet Navy accumulated a rich experience transferring diesel submarines and other vessels along the Northern Maritime Route. With the development of nuclear-powered submarines, they began operating under the ice of the central Arctic on an increasing scale in fulfillment of various missions. The experience gained during all those cruises is a substantial contribution to Arctic exploration and development.

The first attempt to transfer three medium diesel submarines from the Northern Fleet to the Pacific Fleet in the post-war period was undertaken in 1949. They failed to cover the route within the space of one navigation because of a difficult ice situation and inadequate experience. The submarines spent the winter in Tiksi Bay and reached Vladivostok the following year. Another group consisting of three similar Northern Fleet submarines left base in the town of Polyarny in early July 1950. The group skirted Novaya Zemlya from the north without icebreaker support and spent several days at the port of Dixon (I myself took part in the cruise as a young lieutenant serving as navigator aboard one of the submarines). The group was then piloted by a linear icebreaker until it reached clear water in the Chuckchi Sea. On the whole the cruise under ice came off without a hitch although tragedy could have struck in the Vilkitsky Strait where the icebreaker came to a halt to raise stream in the boilers after making its way through heavy ice. The submarines following in its wake came to a halt too. All of a sudden the ice began shifting, and the submarines found themselves in an ice trap. It took only a minute for the submarines' hulls to sink under the ice while their light bridges were still visible. Another thrust from the ice, even a weak one, would have crushed the bridges, and the submarines with their topmost hatches open (it was impossible to close them because of the ice) would have found themselves under the ice. I hate to imagine what might have happened after that. What saved the situation was that at that moment the ice stopped shifting. In that emergency they quickly raised steam on the icebreaker, and it went alongside the submarines to avert a possible new attack by the ice. Emergency measures succeeded in returning the ice-covered subs to normalcy. On September 30 the submarines moored at Vladivostok where they were welcomed by the crews of submarines which had arrived there a week earlier after starting from the North a year before. That useful experience helped a lot in organizing subsequent cruises along the Northern Maritime Route by large numbers of surface ships and submarines.

My second experience in a similar cruise took place in the summer of 1957 when I was in command of an oceangoing diesel submarine of Design 611, one of the most advanced submarines of the time. The special-purpose expedition was designed to transfer ships to the Far East that same year and consisted of five squadrons. Two of them constituted a submarine force: 17 medium diesel subs of Design 613, two oceangoing subs of Design 611 and two depot ships. Piloting such an armada was a difficult task because of a very harsh ice situation. At one point executives of the Northern Maritime route even suggested that the convoy spend the winter in an uninhabited bay on Taimyr. The situation was even more complicated in view of the fact that there was no going back because of nuclear tests on Novaya Zemlya. However, everything worked out in the end, but passions had been running high indeed. We reached Kamchatka on October 7. On that occasion pilotage and all types of support were much better organized than in 1950--the experience gained then had not been in vain.

Germany and Russia Benefit While EU Loses in East-West Gas War

The East-West energy crisis has benefited a German-Russian scheme to cut out Eastern Europe to secure gas supplies. The European Union will be all the weaker. Both Moscow and Berlin are using the Urkraine dispute to promote Nord Stream, a controversial gas pipeline that could weaken already shaky European unity on energy. How well can Europe stand up to Russia using energy resources to pressure and bully European Union members states, particularly its former Eastern satellites, if Germany has cut a cosy side deal? Nord Stream will funnel gas directly from Russia to Germany bypassing Poland and the Baltic states and German Europe Minister Guenter Gloser has been singing the project's praises. "There must continue to be energy supplies from Russia but that on the other hand, other regions are needed to ensure security of energy supplies," he said. "The Nord Stream project must be an important part of that diversification of energy sources." As the heating went off or rationing came in for Eastern and Central Europeans, the familiar face of Gerhard Schroeder, the former German Chancellor, popped up in Moscow.

Herr Schroeder was in Moscow on Wednesday, the same day Gazprom cut off the Ukraine, oozing oily cynicism and snuggling up to Vladimir Putin, Russia's leader whatever the job title of the day. "Nord Stream is an extremely important project to strengthen the energy security not only of Germany but of all of Europe," he said. Mr Putin, direct as ever, is quite open that one of Russia's strategic interests in stoking the energy crisis is to discredit the Ukraine and to promote Nord Stream. "The current situation only makes even more relevant our main task, our plans for the construction of a gas pipeline system along the bottom of the Baltic Sea." "I think that our European partners have now finally realised that this project is necessary and has to be carried out promptly,"," he said as the Gazprom gas taps were switched off.

The 750-mile pipeline would entirely avoid transit through Ukraine and the latest convenient energy crisis comes as key a Nord Stream deadline approaches. Baltic states, some of which fear the pipeline will make their big Western German neighbour too cosy with their big Eastern Russian neighbour, will in the coming weeks decide on environmental permits Nord Stream needs to lay pipe on the Baltic Sea bed. The energy crisis applies some considerable moral pressure. Mr Putin, again, made the agenda clear: "If we had already built this pipeline, if no-one had hampered us, it would already be operating through the Baltic Sea." Poland and other East European countries fear that with Nord Stream bypassing their territories to benefit Germany it will become much more difficult to rally the EU to stand up to Russia using energy as a political weapon. It may well be that, whatever the deal on the latest Ukraine crisis, Russia has won by dividing Europe to rule via Germany and Nord Stream.


Sarkisian Praises Energy Cooperation With Russia

President Serzh Sarkisian praised Armenia’s close energy ties with Russia at the weekend after attending a meeting in Moscow of representatives of countries buying Russian natural gas. The meeting discussed Russia’s bitter gas dispute with Ukraine and the resulting disruption in Russian gas supplies to Europe. Sarkisian held talks with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev later on Saturday. In his opening remarks released by the Kremlin, Medvedev noted with satisfaction that Russian-Armenian relations is a “more comfortable” subject for Moscow than its gas dealings with Ukraine. He described Armenia as a “reliable strategic partner of Russia.” “I think Armenia’s example is a really good example,” replied Sarkisian. “I said today and will repeat now that despite the fact that the price of gas [for Armenia] has been raised in the last two or three years, our gas consumption has increased twofold. We have no problems, and God willing, this will remain the case.” Armenia currently pays $110 per thousand cubic meters of Russian gas it imports via neighboring Georgia. Under an agreement signed by the Armenian government with Russia’s Gazprom monopoly in September, the price will rise to $154 per thousand cubic from next April and on to $200 a year later. That tariff will still be well below the prices which are paid by European Union countries and which the Russians want to set for Ukraine. Gazprom charged Armenia only $55 until an April 2006 agreement with Yerevan that left it in control of more Armenian energy assets. The controversial swap deal allowed the Armenian government to keep the gas price for local households and corporate consumers. Use of natural has grown dramatically in Armenia over the past decade parallel to the reconstruction of the country’s gas distribution infrastructure, which had fallen into disrepair following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Gazprom has a controlling share in the company that owns that infrastructure.


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Dear reader,

Arevordi will be taking a sabbatical to tend to personal matters. New blog commentaries will henceforth be posted on an irregular basis. The comments board however will continue to be moderated on a regular basis.

The last 20 years or so has also helped me see Russia as the last front against scourges of Westernization, Globalism, American expansionism, Zionism, Islamic extremism and pan-Turkism. I have also come to see Russia as the last hope humanity has for the preservation of classical western civilization, Apostolic Christianity and the traditional nation-state. This realization compelled me to create this blog in 2010. Immediately, this blog became one of the very few voices in the vastness of cyberia that dared to preach about the dangers of Globalism and the Anglo-American-Jewish alliance, and the only voice preaching the strategic importance of Armenia remaining within Russia's orbit. From about 2010 to 2015 I did monthly, at times weekly, commentaries about Russian-Armenian relations and Eurasian geopolitics in general. It was very difficult as I had no assistance in this endeavor. The time I put into this blog therefore came at the expense of work and family. But a powerful feeling inside me urged me to keep going; and I did.

When Armenia finally joined the EEU and integrated its armed forces into Russia's military structures a couple of years ago, I finally felt a deep sense of satisfaction and relaxation, as if a very heavy burden was lifted off my shoulders. I finally felt that my personal mission was accomplished. I therefore felt I could take a step back, as I really needed the rest. Simply put: I have lived to see the institutionalization of Russian-Armenian alliance. Also, I feel more confident now that Armenians are collectively recognizing the strategic importance of Armenia's ties with Russia. Moreover, I feel satisfied knowing that, at least on a subatomic level, I had a hand in the outcome. As a result, I feel a strong sense of mission accomplished. I therefore no longer have the urge to continue as in the past. In other words, the motivational force that had propelled me in previous years has been gradually dissipating because I feel that this blog has lived to see the realization of its stated goal. Going forward, I do not want to write merely for the sake of writing. Also, I do not want to say something if I have nothing important to say. I feel like I have said everything I needed to say. Henceforth, I will post seasonal commentaries about topics I find important. I will however continue moderating the blog's comments section on a regular basis; ultimately because I'm interested in what my readers have to say and also because it's through readers here that I am at times made aware of interesting developments.

To limit clutter in the comments section, I kindly ask all participants of this blog to please keep comments coherent and strictly relevant to the featured topic of discussion. Moreover, please realize that when there are several anonymous visitors posting comments simultaneously, it becomes very confusing (not to mention extremely annoying) trying to figure out who is who and who said what.Therefore, if you are here to engage in conversation, make an observation, express an idea or simply attack me, I ask you to at least use a moniker to identify yourself. Moreover, please appreciate the fact that I have put an enormous amount of information into this blog. In my opinion, most of my blog commentaries and articles, some going back ten-plus years, are in varying degrees relevant to this day and will remain so for a long time to come. Articles in this blog can therefore be revisited by longtime readers and new comers alike. I therefore ask the reader to treat this blog as a depository of important information relating to Eurasian geopolitics, Russian-Armenian relations and humanity's historic fight against the evils of Globalism and Westernization.

Thank you as always for reading.