Scarcely heard amid the guns of Ukraine, the South Stream pipeline, which the Russians want to build through southern Europe to circumvent Ukraine, is still gurgling along in the background.
The FT tries hard to hide its glee behind a facade of philosophical twaddle centered around the notion that its never getting built might be the best thing for Gazprom, as it will force them to modernize and become more competitive, blah, blah, blah.
But there was a lesson in there which was useful to me:
For the life of me, I could not figure out why Brussels would want gas to continue going through Ukraine, which is so unstable that it has threatened to cut off the entire supply to Europe. Why would Europe run such mouth-drying risk when it does not have to? Sure, they say, “with South Stream Gazprom could cut off the supply to Europe and use energy as a weapon”. Well, it could do that now, plus Ukraine, but has never once cut off gas to a paying customer in good standing, while EU pundits have yarked forevermore that Russia needs Europe more than the other way round. If that’s true, why would Russia cut off their gas?
Nope, it’s none of those things. Epiphany!! Here’s a quote from the article. “Even before Russia annexed Crimea in March, many in Brussels were beginning to worry that it would cement Gazprom’s domination of the European gas market. Others feared it would leave Ukraine dangerously exposed: once South Stream was built, Gazprom could switch off supplies to its western neighbour without inconveniencing its other European customers.“
Finally, it’s clear to me. More than a shutoff of their own supply, Europe fears that Russia will shut off the supply to Ukraine once it no longer needs it as a transit country, and that it – Europe – will have loudly proclaimed its own sponsorship of a valueless country that is on the edge of a humanitarian disaster which would bankrupt anyone trying to forestall it.
Europe loves to posture and prance that it can reverse-flow Russian gas no matter what the Russians say and continue to supply Ukraine against Russia’s will – easy as rolling off a gas pipe. But it demonstrably cannot, and Ukraine’s ridiculous leaders are already warning the people to use candles – candles!! in 2014!!! – and to prepare to chop up Granny’s piano this winter to burn it in the fireplace.
It is to this that Euromaidan has brought you, Ukraine, and don’t you ever forget it, because you wanted it and now you have it. Enjoy the party with your new friends.
Along with scheming and maneuvering to force Russia into a position whereby it has to keep on carrying Ukraine, the EU also wanted South Stream to allow other gas suppliers to use the pipeline, for free. Well, that’s not much, is it? Russia only has to put in a pipeline at its own expense, then stand by and watch while European suppliers plug into it for free while the EU cheers that it is weaning itself off of Russian gas! Nice work if you can get it. I can only imagine the reaction if the US-backed Nabucco pipeline had been built, and Russia had claimed it constituted an unfair monopoly and that Gazprom should be allowed to plug into it and sell Russian gas to Europe. My, yes, Brussels would have been enthusiastic, I’ll bet.
One final word; I cannot let pass unchallenged the ridiculous statement in the article, “Meanwhile, there are big doubts about South Stream’s commercial logic. The project was always driven more by politics than business and, with gas demand still slack in Europe – partly due to the huge surge in renewables and cheap coal from the US – Gazprom may not even need the pipeline.”
Is Europe really ready to start burning coal again? Is the nostalgia for Victorian times really so strong as that? After all the blabber generated by European chowderheads about green energy?
“Clean coal”, right? Love of Jesus. As far back as 2009 the myth of “clean coal” was debunked, when a dike at the Kingston Coal Plant in the Tennessee Valley burst and flooded the valley with a slurry of water and toxic ash high in arsenic and mercury, 100 times more waste than the Exxon Valdez accident, which rendered much of the town of Harriman uninhabitable.