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Page added on August 30, 2008

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Beware the bear trap

Britain, like most of Europe, is at risk of being the target of Russia’s energy export weaponry

Yesterday, a “highly placed source” in Moscow was reported as saying the Kremlin intends to turn off the oil export pipeline to the EU on Monday, so great is Russian ire about the rhetoric in Brussels and warships in the Black Sea. If this is true, we are entering a whole new ball game in what has come to be called “energy security”. Even if the report proves false, the west should be on red alert about energy export weaponry.

Barely noticed in the runup to the crisis in Georgia, Russia signed a deal that gives its energy giant Gazprom control over gas supply from neighbouring Turkmenistan – one of three former Soviet satellite states around the Caspian sea on which Europe is pinning its hopes for a future gas supply. This Turkmen coup deepens Britain’s possible energy dependence on Russia as North Sea production falls away.

Coyly worded press releases on Gazprom’s website shine a faint light on its Kremlin-driven machinations but stop short of illuminating the whole story. Gazprom is on its way to achieving dominion over Caspian gas, and the Kremlin is making overtures to the other states in the region, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan. They in turn must be watching events in Georgia and wondering how they can refuse those advances.

At the same time, Moscow is cosying up to Beijing on energy and security: Russia and China signed an energy collaboration treaty before the G8 summit, and their armed forces have conducted joint exercises. Caspian gas may yet end up heading eastward, not westward. Gazprom has already threatened to withhold gas exports from Europe should Brussels try to stop it buying up European gas firms. Ten EU states are already largely dependent on Russian gas.


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