The Year of Russiaâ€¦ and its pipelines
India and Bulgaria have both declared 2008 “The Year of Russia” (putting Russia up there with its beloved tuber). Click for the full-sized map For India, the celebration has meant little more than a Russian-themed World Book Fair. But in Sofia, Bulgarian leaders rang in the Russian year with the signing of a controversial energy ...
India and Bulgaria have both declared 2008 "The Year of Russia" (putting Russia up there with its beloved tuber).
India and Bulgaria have both declared 2008 “The Year of Russia” (putting Russia up there with its beloved tuber).
For India, the celebration has meant little more than a Russian-themed World Book Fair. But in Sofia, Bulgarian leaders rang in the Russian year with the signing of a controversial energy deal that allows Russia to build both a nuclear power plant on the shores of the Danube and a gas pipeline across Bulgaria, linking the Caspian basin to European markets.
Russia’s presence in Bulgaria’s energy market is nothing new, but it should not be overlooked. In a country already covered in Russian Lukoil gas stations, Bulgarian analyst Ognian Minchev says:
There is a danger not only of a monopolization of the energy sector, but also a potential for direct geopolitical influence over the decisions of Bulgaria’s future governments.”
Bulgaria’s current government is still controlled by the Bulgarian Socialist Party, the successor to the country’s pre-1990 Communist Party. Bulgarian voters will likely reject this Cold War relic in next year’s elections, but Russia is keen to insure that any change in government leadership don’t lead to much in the way of policy change.
If the pipeline goes through, Bulgaria’s energy deal will have repercussions outside the former Soviet satellite state. For more than a year now, European countries have been flushing out plans for the Nabucco pipeline, which would bring Middle Eastern gas to European consumers, also via Bulgaria. Its successful completion would give the EU an alternative to Russian oil, but according to The Economist the completion of the Russian pipeline would render Nabucco – a nearly $7.4 billion project – “uneconomic.”
In a sweeping New York Times Magazine essay this Sunday on the new global order, FP contributor Parag Khanna dismisses growing Western fears about an aggressive Russia, noting that “some E.U. officials say that annexing Russia is perfectly doable” and dissing the country as an “increasingly depopulated,” second-world “swing state.” That may be so, but if Russia completes this new pipeline, its swing will be a little mightier.
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