As it was predicted in the previous article, the US has been doing everything it possibly can to complicate the construction of the South Stream pipeline. It’s a well-known fact that Gazprom is creating this project in order to diversify gas supplies to Europe and to reduce its dependence on transit countries, especially on Ukraine. A company that was established for the successful execution of the project – South Stream Transport BV is an international joint venture, organized for the planning, construction and the subsequent exploitation of the offshore pipeline, which will run across the Black Sea. Gazprom’s share in this joint venture is 50%, the Italian company Eni has 20%, both the French energy company EDF and the German company Wintershall Holding GmbH share 15% each. The offshore section of the pipeline will cross the Black Sea, stretching from a compressor station in Russian to the Bulgarian coast. The estimated capacity of this project will amount to 63 billion cubic meters.
On 2 June a worrying development manifested itself in a statement issued by the European Commission that requested all the parties involved to suspend works on the implementation of the “South Stream” project. Sabine Berger, spokesperson of Guenther Oettinger, European Commissioner for Energy provided the public with two “legal grounds” that would lead to such a decision. According to her, the “South Stream” is allegedly not complying with the regulations of the “Third Energy Package” of the EU. Moreover, Brussels suspects that Bulgaria is “violating European rules of tenders on the construction of infrastructure projects” and that these country has somehow provided Russian and Bulgarian companies with “preferential possibilities for Russian and Bulgarian companies”.
And since Kiev has been evading the payment of its debt to Russia all through the month of May for the gas that had been delivered earlier by Gazprom, and was at the same time claiming to be a “reliable transit partner, it would be only logical to assume that the US and the EU under the pressure of its American allies are trying to bury the “South Stream”, leaving Ukraine the only option for transit of Russian gas to the EU. Ukraine then has become an important tool of applying of pressure on Moscow. What is even more important this scenario forces Russia into subsidizing the collapsing Ukrainian economy by selling its gas at a lower price to the Ukrainian side. The West does seem to be willing to pay the costs for the “democratization” of the country, preferring to leave this burden on the Russian shoulders. In addition, it has been reported that Americans and Europeans are equally willing to buy some gas transportation infrastructure in Ukraine: Kiev is currently holding talks with ExxonMobil, Shell and Chevron. Should the South Stream project succeed there will be no commercial sense in acquiring any of it, since the Ukrainian pipelines will run dry.
That’s why the West has started to apply pressure on any country that has allowed to build the pipeline on its soil. First on June 7 the US ambassador to Bulgaria has made a statement that Sofia should abandon its support of the “South Stream” project. Then on the next day the Bulgarian Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski has ordered the suspension of all works on the South Stream project. It’s curious that an ardent Russophobe Republican Senator John McCain, that was meeting with Plamen Oresharski on the same day, stated that Russian should be forced out of this project. According to McCain “Bulgaria should be addressing all of the South Stream challenges together with its European colleagues”. Bulgaria Prime Minister mimicked his American guest by saying that it will put all construction works on halt till all disputes with the European Commission are not resolved. Only further consultations with Brussels will determine the course of further cooperation said Plamen Oresharski.
On June 9 Belgrade, despite the fact that Serbia has not joined the EU just yet, announced that it would be suspending the construction of the South Stream because because of the decision made by the Bulgaria authorities, said Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Zorana Mihajlovic. “Bulgaria is the center. Until Bulgaria finishes negotiations with Brussels and the European Union and Russia, the project is suspended. Either way, the first and second scenarios mean there will be a delay in the construction in our country,” – she added.
The EU authorities seem to understand the need for an alternative pipeline that would allow bypassing Ukraine, which has seen little stability over last decades and it’s unlikely that it would see any in the nearest future, in case it will not cease to exist as a unity. When the EU started to tear the project apart, it started acting in its worst interests. This once again confirms that is a puppeteer behind all this – the United States. It no coincidence that Bulgaria has said it would put the South Stream project on a halt after John McCain’s visit to Sofia. If we recall that the US was one of the main sponsors and masterminds behind the coup in Ukraine, there will be a single conclusion to be made — the US strives to create a constant zone of turbulence between Russia and the EU.
Of course, one can only be amazed by the way Sofia and Belgrade treated the whole situation. After all, should Ukraine decide to stop the transit of gas they will be the first to suffer, since they have no alternative supply routes. The ruling parties in these countries are clearly acting against the interests of their people since they are too heavily dependent on the American support. And this despite the fact that the bilateral agreements on the “South Stream” were signed long before the adoption of the Third Energy Package. In addition, the rules of the package doesn’t specifically states that a company that owns gas, produces and sells it, has no right to own pipelines. It has no right to control it, transfer those rights to a third party. So no one can legally bind Gazprom to leave the project, but they would try by absolutely brazen and illegal political pressure and blackmail the US has been practicing for a while with little to no regard to the most powerful EU members or candidates for a membership ticket.
Petr Lvov, PhD in Political Sciences, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.