What is hidden behind the Ukraine crisis?

The rise in gas and electricity prices would have surprised Europe with gas reserves at historic lows (60%) and would have staged the resounding failure of the energy policies of a European Union unable to achieve utopian energy self-sufficiency. One of the factors that most affects a country’s energy dependence is the amount of oil and gas that must be imported for industry and transport, with the European average being 52% and Russia being the main supplier of gas, oil and coal. of the EU (with 40%, 30% and 25% respectively), it follows that the EU would be an energy island and would suffer from severe Russian energy dependence, of which the recent escalation in gas prices and the electricity in Europe.

Russia and the geopolitics of gas

Algeria exports its gas through three gas pipelines: two Algeria-Spain (one of them passing through Morocco) that are not connected to the European network and a third Algeria-Tunisia-Italy. After the crisis in Ukraine, the EU leaders reportedly established as a priority the need to improve the gas connection with the Iberian Peninsula by means of a gas pipeline connecting Spain with France through Catalonia (Midcat gas pipeline) through which Spain would the European energy network the gas from Algeria, (equivalent to half of what comes from Russia through Ukraine), a project that would have remained in limbo due to the myopia of the European regulators and that would have made it impossible for Algerian gas to be the European alternative to Russian energy dependency.

The gas pipeline project known as Nabucco West projected by the US to transport Azeri gas to Europe through Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary and thus avoid Russia’s energy dependency on the EU failed as Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan favored the Russian project of the South Stream gas pipeline and after Azerbaijan finally withdrew from the project in June 2013, choosing the alternative route of the Trans Adriatic Pipeline, (TAP, Trans Adriatic Pipeline), through which Azerbaijan will export its gas to Europe through Greece, Albania and Italy but that it can only transport a third of the Nabucco project, so it does not pose any threat to Russia’s interests.

On the Russian side, in 2007 it presented the South Stream gas pipeline project, a 39,000 million dollar gas pipeline that would run through Russia, Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary, Slovenia and Italy and which was to begin construction in June 2014, guaranteeing the supply of Russian gas. to the EU by avoiding passage through unstable Ukraine. Thus, after the gas crisis in the winter of 2006 and the supply cuts produced in countless EU countries (80% of the total gas that the EU imports from Russia passes through Ukraine and supplies more than 70% to countries such as the Baltic countries, Finland, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Greece, Austria, Hungary and the Czech Republic), but this project will sleep in the limbo of dreams after Bulgaria’s refusal to participate in it due to pressure from the US . In 2020, the 900-kilometer Turk Stream gas pipeline was conceived that will transport natural gas from Russia to Turkey that will benefit countries such as Hungary, Serbia and Bulgaria to include them in the Russian orbit, turning Ukraine into an energy island in the process.

The coalition of Russian-German interests devised the Nord Stream project that connects Russia with Germany through the Baltic Sea, with a maximum transport capacity of 55,000 million cubic meters (bcm) of gas per year and valid for 50 years. This route is considered vital for Germany and the Nordic countries, which is why it was declared of “European interest” by the European Parliament and crucial for the Russian energy geostrategy. Thus, with these routes the Russian energy clamp would be closed by ruling out Poland and Ukraine as transit territory and Russia will thus achieve its dual geostrategic objective of ensuring an uninterrupted flow of gas to Europe through two alternative routes, turning them into “energy islands”. ” to Poland and Ukraine.

USA and the shale

The unequivocal objective of the US would be to replace the Russian dependence on European energy (30% of the gas imported by the EU comes from Russia) with fracking dependence, flooding the European market with LNG (natural gas fracked in the US and transported by gas carriers) to sink the Russian gas prices. Another objective was to promote the use of the fracking technique in all the countries of Eastern Europe, the so-called “European fracking arc” that would extend from the Baltic States to the European Ukraine, passing through Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria and that it would depend on the technology of US companies such as Chevron or Shell.

Thus, Poland aspired to become, with its two terminals, the main distribution center for imported liquefied natural gas (LNG) in European territory and after denouncing that “this gas pipeline could strengthen the EU’s dependence on Russian gas and consolidate the dominant position of Gazprom in the European market”. would have managed to paralyze the construction of the aforementioned gas pipeline with the unequivocal objective of slowing down the construction of Nord Stream 2 to a paroxysm. This gas pipeline has a total length of 1,200 km with an estimated cost of about $11,000 million, it will transport the gas directly through the Baltic Russia to Germany and when it was already 80% built and in a desperate attempt to prevent its completion, the US Senate approved on December 17 the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act signed by Donald Trump that included economic sanctions against companies participating in the construction of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline.

This represented a missile in the waterline of the energy policy designed by Germany when Angela Merkel declared that it was “a declaration of war by the US against Germany”, a belated reaffirmation of German sovereignty that got the US to stop boycotting the works and bless the culmination of the gas project which, however, remains inactive due to the lack of granting by Germany of the necessary permits to start its journey. However, the current gas price crisis will be used by Putin to, through a bold movement of his towers in the geopolitical chess game that would be taking place on Ukrainian territory, reissue the Russian-Ukrainian Gas War of 2006 with the unequivocal objective of condemning the Ukrainian pro-European sector to economic suffocation and energy starvation, not ruling out a belated reaffirmation of European sovereignty by France and Germany, which will result in the suspension of sanctions and a subsequent rapprochement with Russia, leaving the countries of the “European fracking arc” (Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary, Ukraine, Romania and Bulgaria) under the US orbit and exposed to new gas wars.

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Germán Gorráiz López

Germán Gorráiz López is a political analyst writing on economic and geopolitical issues. His articles appear in a number of publications in Europe and the United States.

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