The question of the extent to which the current unprecedented crisis in relations between Moscow and Kiev is a consequence of the desire of the top leadership of the United States to bring under its control the Ukrainian gas transmission and gas distribution system, is controversial. It is quite possible that these intentions themselves, evidently manifested after the integration of the son of Vice President Joseph Biden into the leadership of the Ukrainian fuel and energy complex, is a consequence of the successful operation to overthrow President Viktor Yanukovych. That is, to respond to what is primary in this case, it is possible with about the same probability as finding out what came to light first: the chicken or the egg.
There is no doubt that the simple fact that the basis of efforts to reduce Europe’s dependence on Gazprom’s supplies, which has been discussed throughout the post-Soviet period, is the desire to weaken Russia. To the level that Ukraine currently demonstrates, or some other, no less sad, is not so important. It is important that at the moment this, among other things, led to a war of pipelines.
Conflict without mysticism
Attention of experts is attracted, as a rule, by the departure of the Crimea from Kiev’s power and its accession to Russia, the escalation of confrontation on other Ukrainian territory to the level of civil war, anti-Russian sanctions of the West, rapprochement of Moscow with Beijing and other important aspects of the restructuring of the Euro-Asian balance of forces. It is from these positions that the relations between the main regional players and external centers of power, including the US, EU, Russia, Turkey, China, Iran, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, India and Pakistan, as well as NATO and the SCO, are considered.
The author had and has to comment on media attempts to identify the similarities and differences between the presidential elections in Ukraine and in Algeria, Egypt, Syria, and Israel, as well as the parliamentary elections in Iraq. There is a feeling that by itself the process of electing the country's leadership, no matter which one, has acquired a mystical, sacral significance. At least judging by the attention that experts pay him. Which is far from the real significance of these choices for the fate of the world. Although for the future of a particular state and its relations with the external environment it is really important who exactly is in power in this or that capital.
Meanwhile, the real economic, geopolitical and military-strategic interests of the great powers, their satellites and allies, as it always has been, are important for them, and democracy, including in Ukraine, is nothing more than a tool to promote their interests. What the current president of the United States is absolutely open and honest about. Fortunately, the desire for populist rhetoric and the ambitions of Barack Hussein Obama make him dot the “i” where his predecessors would most likely prefer to express themselves in disguise.
From all that has been said recently by representatives and the owner of the White House, it can be concluded that its sole purpose is to preserve the hegemony of the United States by any means and at any cost. The main states that, in his opinion, are currently hindering this, are Russia and China. More precisely, until very recently, Washington’s main focus was on Beijing and the problem of its containment as a potential superpower. Russia was not completely written off, but clearly was on the periphery of the American strategy.
This, in particular, is indicated by the choice of candidates for the ambassadors of the United States in Moscow - descendingly, from top-class professional William Burns to indistinct, it is completely incomprehensible what Michael McFaul, who left the post for the resolution of family affairs before the most acute crisis in the US-Russian relations since the cold war. The situation in Syria has shown that Russia must be reckoned with, and clearly caused irritation in Washington about it, expressed, among other things, in a sharply negative attitude towards the Olympic Games in Sochi.
The author is inclined to believe that the aggravation of the campaign against Yanukovych, which ended with his removal from power, was initiated during the Olympics 2014 in the same scenario, under which the August aggression of Saakashvili in South Ossetia in 2008 was timed to coincide with the summer Games in Beijing. This is reminiscent of the extremely poor arsenal of methods of the modern American leadership.
It is safe to say that no one in this guide could assume all that followed. Neither the US, nor the EU, nor NATO, of course, is going to be drawn into the new “Yugoslavia”, which Ukraine promises to be. Russia is also not eager to succumb to provocations, going to a new "Afghanistan" or "Vietnam." Although a number of Western veteran politicians lost by the United States in the Vietnam War, the most prominent representative of which is Senator John McCain, this would certainly be welcomed.
The militant attack on the Russian embassy in Kiev, the statement by the head of the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry about the possibility of breaking diplomatic relations with Moscow, lobbying Kiev in the West for imposing tough sanctions against certain sectors of the Russian economy and an adventure with building fortifications along the border, voiced by oligarch-governor Igor Kolomoisky, are designed to drag in our country in direct armed conflict with a neighboring state. This is reminiscent of the worst provocations of the Cold War, despite the dialogue supported by diplomats and politicians in Russia and the West on the Ukrainian crisis.
At the same time, the military clash between Russia and NATO or even the United States alone due to the development of the situation in Ukraine, whatever it may be, is completely excluded. Washington’s response to the sharpest crisis in Iraq, where troops of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, still operating exclusively in Syria, suddenly captured Mosul, Tikrit and a number of smaller, but strategically important cities in the provinces of Anbar and Ninawa, with the threat of an offensive on Baghdad and Kirkuk, testifies to this.
Despite the threat of Iraq’s disintegration in the very short term and the transformation of this country's Sunni areas into a radical Islamist quasi-state, far more dangerous for the entire BSV region than the Taliban’s Afghanistan, America’s support of at least relative stability or its visibility in the explosive territory of Baghdad have to. He can rely on Tehran rather than Washington.
The states virtually abandoned Nuri al-Maliki, who, despite the ambiguity for Obama of his relationship with Iran and the refusal to support attempts to overthrow President Bashar Al-Assad in Syria, was and remains a product of the implementation of the American strategy of democracy promotion in Iraq. It can be guaranteed that for Petro Poroshenko, Arseniy Yatsenyuk and Oleksandr Turchynov the United States will do even less.
Undermining the "South Stream"
It is absolutely clear that the main current task of Washington and Brussels is forcing Russia to preserve the gas transit route to Europe through Ukraine. This means the continuation of direct and indirect financing of its economy at the expense of Moscow, while from a politico-military point of view it will be exclusively in the orbit of Washington and Brussels. Moreover, if the “Nord Stream”, built with considerable difficulties, acts and the transit through it is unrealistic, then the “South Stream” project is torpedoed by the European Commission and the State Department by all possible methods.
This significantly strengthens the role of potential transit countries in the political and economic market: Bulgaria, Serbia and Turkey, as well as the countries from which, according to the EU and the United States, can push gas from Russia from the European market: Azerbaijan and post-Soviet The republics of Central Asia - primarily Turkmenistan. Western pressure on Ashgabat and Baku to implement the Trans-Caspian Gas Pipeline (TCG) project as part of the Southern Gas Corridor in May-June of this year can produce results in the near future.
Resuscitation of European plans to attract natural gas to the EU’s potential supply system to bypass Russia from Iraqi Kurdistan and Iran is also on the agenda, especially given Iran’s outlined dialogue with the United States. It is these plans, and not any concessions to Tehran, that underlie the declared "rapprochement of the parties' positions" at the Six negotiations on the Iranian nuclear program.
Simply speaking, the West is de facto ready to put up with nuclear Iran, as it once reconciled with India and Pakistan, in exchange for attracting the hydrocarbon resources of this country during the development of the economic war of the West with Russia. With an absolute guarantee Iran will go for this rapprochement. Fortunately, the weakening of economic sanctions, the restoration of exports of oil and petrochemical products, as well as the organization of deliveries of natural gas to the world market are the main tasks of President Hassan Rouhani.
But this direction of diversification of suppliers for Europe, unlike the TCG, can be developed maximum in the medium term. Moreover, in any course of events, Ankara will remain the winner, which greatly enhances the actions of the ruling Justice and Development Party, as well as its leaders, Prime Minister Recep Erdogan and President Abdullah Gul, on the Turkish domestic policy scene.
Turkey’s role as one of the main transit hubs of the modern global hydrocarbon trade will remain with it, regardless of where the oil and gas will be transported to Europe through its territory. Whether hydrocarbons from Iran or the countries of the Persian Gulf, Northern Iraq or the Caspian Sea, Central Asia or Russia - if the South Stream is to be led to the EU not through the Balkans, but through Turkey, suppliers will not be able to refuse its services. The only alternatives to the Turkish plans are the supply of Russian resources to Europe directly bypassing Ukraine, including through the Crimea, and the Caspian ones - to the east, whether it is China or the Afghan-Pak-Indian direction.
In this regard, it is curious to trace the development of events around Turkmenistan, from which gas (80 billion cubic meters) is currently supplied almost exclusively to China (52%), Russia (24%) and Iran (22%). The development of Turkmen gas exports to China is currently the most likely. On May 31, the Central Asia-China gas pipeline with a length of 1830 kilometers, a design capacity of 25 billion cubic meters of gas per year (10 billion from Turkmenistan, 10 billion from Uzbekistan and 5 billion from Kazakhstan) was commissioned, which began construction in 2012 m Line A and B were commissioned in 2009 and 2010. According to them, 30 billions of cubic meters of natural gas is supplied annually from China to China.
For a long time, Qatar lobbied for the construction of the Trans-Afghan Turkmenistan-Pakistan pipeline (with the prospect of extension to India), guaranteeing its security in Afghan territory, as well as lending to the TAPI project. At the same time, Ankara, which, if this idea is implemented, loses the chance to cooperate with Ashgabat on gas transit to the EU, is actively working to complicate the project. Through the Turkish contingent of ISAF and the “recovery team”, it spreads pan-Turkism among Afghan Turkmen and Uzbeks, and increases its influence “on the ground”.
At the same time, Saudi Arabia deals with the disruption of the Qatari project, proceeding not so much from economic, but from political considerations: the confrontation between Doha and Riyadh has reached the level of direct hostilities that the Islamist groups they support lead by proxy. In Libya, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and other BSV countries, the "Wahhabi tandem" is a mutual struggle for destruction. ISIS and the Muslim Brotherhood in this case - the creature of Qatar, the Syrian Jabhat al-Nusra and other groups close to Al-Qaeda are supported by Saudi Arabia.
In this regard, special attention should be paid to the Wahhabisation of the north of Afghanistan, which the Saudi emissaries lead from Herat to Mazar-i-Sharif and pointwise in other parts of this zone. From there along the routes of road freight (standard Saudi practice) for several years went and goes the infiltration of the Wahhabi cells in the Turkmen Caspian Sea.
Until very recently, the border between Turkmenistan and Afghanistan was peaceful: Ashkhabad sends food, medicine and school supplies to Afghan Turkmen, Turkmen doctors work in the region, and electricity is supplied there almost free of charge. At the same time, in the spring of 2014, Turkmen border guards were attacked for no reason from Afghan territory, from the provinces of Bagdis and Faryab (possible TAPI construction zones) by representatives of the Salafi jamaats of local Turkmen and suffered personnel losses.
At least two incidents are known. The first attack was made on the night of February 27 by a group of militants of the Taliban movement from the village of Tor Sheikh of the province of Badghis, led by Abdullah Movlavi. The second is 24 in May, a group under the command of Ghulam Destegir Topan from the territory of the province of Faryab. At the same time, the Foreign Ministry of Turkmenistan ignored the first attack, and recognized the second, expressing protest to Kabul. The only explanation for what is happening is the “hint” to Ashgabat of the need to abandon TAPI in favor of the TAG.
It should be noted that the implementation of this project is complicated by both the harshly negative position of Moscow and Tehran, objecting to the construction of a gas pipeline that runs under the Caspian Sea without the consent of all coastal countries, and the complex personal relationships of Presidents Ilham Aliyev and Gurbanguly Berdymuhamedov.
In part, this problem has an objective basis: the conflicts of Baku and Ashgabat over the Kapaz (Serdar), Chirag (Osman) and Azeri (Khazar) deposits have not been completed. In the southern waters of the Caspian Sea, Iran and Azerbaijan dispute the ownership of the Araz oil producing structure - Alov - Sharg.
For a number of years, Turkmenistan has actually sabotaged cooperation with Azerbaijan in the framework of the TAG. However, this spring, the situation changed dramatically under pressure from Turkey, the United States and the EU. The preparation of the agreement on the construction of the TKG itself was carried out with 2011. At the end of 2013, it was transferred to the governments of Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan.
The agreement of details on the announcement of the political part of the agreement on the TAG was held by the top leadership of Turkmenistan, Turkey and Azerbaijan in Turkish Bodrum, at the summit of the Turkic-speaking countries (CCTS). The President of Turkmenistan, who is not a member of this organization, was an honorary guest there.
Discussion of the project will continue at the Central Asian Gas Forum 25 – 26 of June in Almaty. If a political decision is made, the construction contract should be signed on June 29 at the residence of Turkmen President Berdymukhamedov in the Caspian resort of Avaz on his birthday.
EU project TCG is necessary - it is promoted personally by the head of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso. Fatema Sumar, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, is currently acting on behalf of the United States in Turkmenistan. The infrastructure for the transfer of gas from the south of Turkmenistan to the coast of the Caspian Sea (the East-West pipeline) will be ready in 2016. The pipe will run from the Galkynysh field in the east to the Belek station in the west of the country.
On the route Tengiz (Kazakhstan) - Turkmenbashi (Turkmenistan) - Baku (Azerbaijan) - Tbilisi (Georgia) - Erzurum (Turkey), it is planned to transport 20 – 30 billion cubic meters of gas annually to EU countries. The Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum gas pipeline is already functioning.
A specific feature of the current moment is lobbying, designed to convince Turkmenistan to abandon gas exports to the PRC in favor of the western direction, by analogy with its refusal to transport gas to Russia through the Caspian gas pipeline running through Kazakhstan. In particular, the Turkish leadership claims that after the conclusion of an agreement on gas supplies between Russia and China to Beijing, Turkmen gas will no longer be needed.
This is extremely far from the truth. Competition in the PRC threatens the Turkmen producer only in the field of pricing even in the case of the construction of the Altai gas pipeline from Western Siberia, which is ambiguously attributed to the leadership of the Russian Federation. Risks associated with the implementation of the Altai project are taken into account by Gazprom and the Russian Ministry of Energy. According to the General Scheme for the development of the gas industry of the Russian Federation, the final decision on it will be made after the feasibility study of the construction.
By 2020, gas consumption in the PRC could exceed 200 billion cubic meters with its own production of 120 billion. That is, China will import about 80 billion cubic meters of gas per year. As a result, gas suppliers from Russia and Central Asia will begin to compete in the Chinese market not with each other, but with LNG producers imported by China from Australia, Indonesia and Qatar.
Be that as it may, the TAG is intended to complicate or torpedo the construction of the Russian South Stream pipeline. The reasons for this are not related to the economy - they lie in a purely political plane. Moreover, lobbying for the TCG project and its preparation began long before the Ukrainian crisis and are in no way connected with it. Rather, this project illustrates the real attitude to cooperation with the Russian Federation on the part of the West, which, using it of necessity, does not miss the opportunity to complicate the situation in both Russia and China.
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