Batton down your hatches, boys and girls. Russia asked for it, so here comes Cold War II, the one Russia won’t surivive. As the Washington Post reports:
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice warned Greece and Turkey Tuesday against allowing Russia to obtain a monopoly over Europe’s supply of natural gas, implicitly bolstering a planned pipeline from Azerbaijan that would weaken Russia’s tight grip over European energy supply.
“It’s quite clear that one of the concerns is that there could be a monopoly of supply from one source only, from Russia,” Rice told reporters in Athens after meeting with Greek Foreign Minister Theodora Bakoyannis.
Rice waded into the fierce battle over the increasing dominance of Russia’s state-owned energy giant Gazprom–which recently sought a stake in a Greek-Turkish pipeline — even as she sought to build support in Greece and Turkey for sanctions against Iran. S
The high-stakes battle over European energy has been largely hidden from public view but it has emerged as a significant policy issue for top U.S. and European officials since Russia earlier this year briefly shut off Ukraine’s supply of natural gas in a pricing dispute.
Russia’s gambit — which only seemed to embolden the Russian government after Ukraine acquiesced to higher prices — alarmed European governments and set off a scramble, backed by Washington, to seek new sources of gas. Russian officials, in turn, have privately complained about the aggressive tactics of American diplomats to sell the Azerbaijan route.
“There is going to be a very strong emphasis for all of us on energy security,” Rice said. “It’s quite obvious that when you have the kind of demand growing around the world with big economic powers growing — developing powers in places like China and India, that it is going to be critical to have energy security.”
Russia is the world’s largest gas supplier and dominates many European markets. It supplies 100 percent of the gas to countries such as Finland, Slovakia and other Eastern European countries, 44 percent to Germany and one-quarter of the gas to Italy and France, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Gazprom has sought an interest in the Greek-Turkish pipeline, either as a shareholder or a supplier. While the United States has promoted the Greek-Turkish project as an way to reduce tensions between two long-term antagonists, U.S. officials now want the project to hook up to the Azerbaijan route, which is due to begin supplying gas in 2007.
Gazprom Deputy Chairman Alexander Medvedev warned Tuesday that Gazprom may direct future gas supplies to China and emerging Asian economies should European leaders turn to competing suppliers. “There is no real alternative to Russian gas,” he told Bloomberg News. “If there is a political decision made to cut dependence on Russian gas, we won’t sit and wait while the mood changes.”