Expert: Gazprom facing dual containment

Russian gas giant working to expand Eastern and Asian footprints.
By Daniel J. Graeber Follow @dan_graeber Contact the Author   |  July 23, 2015 at 7:10 AM
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MOSCOW, July 23 (UPI) -- Russian energy ambitions may be contained by European political and Asian diversification schemes, a strategic studies researcher said.

Russia aims to expand its pipeline networks through Europe in an effort to resolve lingering geopolitical issues in Ukraine, through which most of its westbound gas runs. With a European Union growing wary of Russia's grip, meanwhile, the Kremlin has tilted toward Asia, where economic expansion means an increased appetite for energy supplies.

For Europe, Russian energy company Gazprom is pushing for a gas pipeline through Turkey and expansions for the existing Nord Stream system through the Baltic Sea to Germany. Vladimir Blinkov, a senior researcher at the Russian Institute of Strategic Studies, told Russian news agency ITAR-Tass the political landscape was unfavorable.

"The absence of any agreements with the European Commission is the main restraining factor," he said. "If the European Commission is against this, we won't be able to build this gas pipeline because there will be no economic sense in it."

Meanwhile, Europe may draw from alternate supplies in Azerbaijan and from liquefied natural gas, which U.S. backers of more exports see as a foreign policy tool.

China, meanwhile, has worked with Gazprom to advance the so-called Power of Siberia natural gas pipeline. That aligns with the Russian pivot to Asia, though Blinkov said Chinese gas demand could decline as Beijing examines more renewable energy options.

"The issues on all of Gazprom's large-scale gas projects can be resolved only at the level of the heads of state and governments," he concluded.

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