Russia, Turkey pivot across Eurasia

As was stated here before ahead of the trend, the West is punishing Russia by shooting itself in the foot while the Soviets are laughing all the way to the banks in Turkey and China.

 

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.

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. Continue reading

Vladimir Putin seeing gold: Is Russia readying itself for economic war?

Is Russia boosting its gold stockpiles in anticipation of a possible economic war with the West?

Russia accounted for 59 per cent of net gold purchases by central banks in the third quarter of 2014, according to data from the World Gold Council.

Russia, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan have all taken advantage of a subdued gold market, for which demand eased by 2 per cent in the quarter. The WGC has attributed this to an increasing effort to diversify away from the US dollar. Continue reading

South Stream ‘Plan B’ opts for route through Greece and Turkey

A Russian newspaper has published an article suggesting that the Kremlin-favoured South Stream gas pipeline could drop Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary, and Slovenia for its route, and instead reach its final destinations, Italy and Austria, through Turkey and Greece.

On Monday (18 August), Russian business newspaper Vzglyad published an article by journalist Oleg Makarenko, claiming that Gazprom has a “plan B” in case Bulgaria continues to obstruct the construction of the South Stream pipeline.

A caretaker government in Sofia, which took office on 6 August, has frozen the construction of South Stream, following clear indications from Brussels that the EU executive would impose infringements on Bulgaria, unless the country re-negotiates its bilateral agreement with Russia for the construction of the pipeline, which is in breach of EU law.

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The Galloping Militarization of Eurasia

Russia’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula and the deployment of up to 40,000 troops on Ukraine’s border to support the actions of pro-Russian separatist forces have been widely identified as a turning point in the “post-Cold War” European security system. But Russia’s militarized policy toward Ukraine should not be seen as a spontaneous response to the crisis. It has only been possible thanks to a long-term program by Moscow to build up its military capabilities.

A 21ST CENTURY RUSSIAN MILITARY

To be a “great power” – which is the status that Moscow’s political elite claim for Russia – is to have both an international reach and regional spheres of influence. To achieve this, Moscow understands that it must be able to project military force, so the modernization of Russia’s armed forces has become a key element of its “great power” ambitions. For this reason, seven years ago, a politically painful and expensive military modernization program was launched to provide Russia with new capabilities. One of the key aims of this modernization has been to move the Russian military away from a mass mobilization army designed to fight a large-scale war (presumably against NATO) to the creation of smaller and more mobile combat-ready forces designed for local and regional conflicts. Continue reading

EU wants ‘Mediterranean hub’ for Azeri gas

Key policy ties in with the Maltese government’s prospective energy shift to gas, supplied by Azeri state corporation SOCAR

The European Union is looking southwards to develop a “southern gas corridor” for natural gas from Azerbaijan to fuel the European mainland.

The European Commission released an EU energy security strategy earlier this week, in response to the political crisis in Ukraine which is threatening gas supplies from Russia, after Russian President Vladimir Putin warned that Russia could cut off supplies to Ukraine unless the latter starts to pay off its gas debt, which Russia’s Gazprom says stands at €2.5 billion. Continue reading

EU ‘to Extend’ Southern Gas Corridor from Azerbaijan

The EU would extend the route for supplies through the Southern Gas Corridor and its pipes will make their way further into Europe’s mainland, according to reports.

Russia’s Vedomosti, which cites sources from the European Commission, suggests that pipes could lead into France and Spain and this could increase the amount of Azerbaijani gas received from the Union.

According to the same EC representative, the prospects of importing from Turkmenistan and Iran are also on the agenda. Continue reading

Caspian sea closed for US military

Within this region, this is likely the final nail in the coffin as far as access for the US is concerned. Russia will now have the area 100% secured and sealed off both economically and militarily, yet more so economically as US military units would likely be sitting ducks in an isolated and hostile region. The Caspian Sea was also one of the main reasons for the pre-planned Russian invasion of Georgia in 2008, as a gas pipeline was being brought from the sea into Georgia and on to Europe to help it diversify away from Russia.

A convention on the legal status of the Caspian Sea will keep the sea free from any military facilities except of either Kazakhstan, Russia, Turkmenistan, Iran or Azerbaijan, according to nur.kz citing Kazakhstan’s KTK Channel.

The accord was reached between foreign ministers of the five Caspian states at talks held in Moscow.

Although the countries have been in dispute over delimitation of the sea bed for the last two decades, the diplomats came up with unanimous decision on alien military presence. Continue reading

Turkey, Azerbaijan lead revival of modern Silk Road

Hundreds of high-level political figures, CEOs and international experts from around the world explored the economic, political and strategic potential of the region at the third Caspian Forum in Istanbul. Experts and politicians discussed the latest about the Caspian region, particularly efforts to transport its energy resources to an eager European market. Experts described the Caspian as the centre of trade relations between East and West and as the new centre of energy for the world.

Participants at the December 5th forum also discussed the latest on transportation projects designed to establish a modern Silk Road trade route that would link Asia and Europe. Turkey and Azerbaijan have been at the centre of those efforts. Continue reading

Oops: Azerbaijan released election results before voting had even started

One has to at least appreciate Russia for keeping a lid on who was chosen before elected until the right time.

Azerbaijan’s big presidential election, held on Wednesday, was anticipated to be neither free nor fair. President Ilham Aliyev, who took over from his father 10 years ago, has stepped up intimidation of activists and journalists. Rights groups are complaining about free speech restrictions and one-sided state media coverage. The BBC’s headline for its story on the election reads “The Pre-Determined President.” So expectations were pretty low.

Even still, one expects a certain ritual in these sorts of authoritarian elections, a fealty to at least the appearance of democracy, if not democracy itself. So it was a bit awkward when Azerbaijan’s election authorities released vote results – a full day before voting had even started. Continue reading

Moscow blocks the path to the EU

Russia has applied more and more pressure on its former satellites to join its proposed Eurasian Union. Lithuania, which is keen to forge new ties with the EU, is also coming under increasing powerful pressure.

Russian customs-bullying of Lithuania is part of a bigger power struggle. The Kremlin is geared itself towards obstructing the European Union’s Eastern Partnership policy and forcing Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia to forsake any attempt to get close to Europe, instead seeking to push these countries back under Moscow’s rule via the so-called Eurasian (customs) Union. Continue reading

Armed Caspian becomes dangerous

At the end of September – early October, Russia and Iran will carry out joint military drills in the Caspian Sea to train maritime security-enforcement operations. Iranian military attaché to Moscow Col. Suleiman Adeli said: “Iran and Russia want Caspian states to maintain maritime security without interference of foreign states. They consider presence of foreigners a source of tensions and conflict.”

When they mention “foreign interference”, they usually keep the US in mind. Although, it is not only the US that has political, military-strategic and economic interests in the region. The EU and China have own palates. The reason why Caspian states arm themselves is terrorism, extremism, separatism and expansionism of the West. These are the new threats of the Caspian Sea. The US strategy in the Middle East remains a sensitive issue for the Caspian Sea, but the steps made in the Middle East to disrupt the balance of power by pressing on Syria may cause problems for all Caspian and Trans-Caucasus states. Continue reading

Europe fails to tap Caspian Sea’s surging gas supplies

European countries are losing out to China in their quest to source natural gas from the Central Asian states.

Moving away from dependence on Russia and Middle East hydrocarbons was a key energy objective of European countries in the 1990s, and the oil and natural gas resources along the Caspian Sea was seen as a vital alternative.

Instead, European oil dependence on Russia and the Middle East has grown from 75% in 2000 to 84% by 2010. In addition, EU reliance on gas imports has also risen from 49% to 62% during the period. Continue reading

Trans Adriatic Pipeline to bring Azeri gas to Europe

In a long-awaited decision to bring Azeri gas resources to Europe, the Shah Deniz II consortium opted for a pipeline running through Greece and Albania instead of a rival northwestern route, Nabucco West, running from Bulgaria to Austria.

The Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) will stretch 870 kilometres from the Greek-Turkish border. Moving west, TAP is designed to extend across the breadth of northern Greece before veering northwest to Albania. From Fier, Albania, plans envision the pipeline crossing under the Adriatic to emerge in southern Italy. Continue reading

Of strategic missiles and easy money: Russia’s positioning in the South Caucasus

In recent weeks, important information regarding the military balance of power in the South Caucasus has come to light. On June 3rd it was revealed that Russia has stationed an undisclosed number of Iskander-M ballistic missiles in Armenia. While on June 18th media outlets reported that Russia has begun the delivery of nearly $1 billion worth of weaponry, which include tanks, multiple rocket launchers and artillery cannons, to Azerbaijan. Continue reading

New geopolitical rivalry between Europe and Russia

In November 2013 Vilnius will host the summit of Eastern Partnership, the EU program on closer cooperation with the post-Soviet countries which is operating since May 2009. The participants of the program are Moldova, Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Armenia. In recent times Belarus has showed active interest to Eastern Partnership. Despite political contradictions, the leadership of the country expects invitation to Vilnius from the EU.  Continue reading