Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev warns of regional conflict if Georgia joins the NATO alliance. File Photo by Yuri Gripas/UPI | License Photo
Aug. 6 (UPI) -- The accession to NATO for Georgia, which hosts one of the world's largest oil pipelines, could lead to regional crises, the Russian prime minister said Monday.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg hosted Georgian Prime Minister Mamuka Bakhtadze in Brussels in July following a summit where all 29 members of the alliance backed Georgia's bid to join NATO.
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev was quoted by Russian news agency Tass as saying the accession of Georgia, a former Soviet republic, could trigger a "terrible conflict."
Georgia lacks any substantial domestic oil or gas reserves, but sits along the primary transit point for oil from the Caspian Sea and Central Asia to Europe through the 1,099-mile Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline.
The BTC pipeline was brought on line in 2007 to bring about 1 million barrels of oil per day from Azerbaijan's capital, Baku, through Georgia and on to Turkish ports in Ceyhan. The Georgian section of the pipeline runs within 34 miles of South Ossetia, controlled by Russia since regional conflict erupted 10 years ago.
For natural gas, the first phase of deliveries from the Shah Deniz field off the coast of Azerbaijan, heralded as BP's largest gas discovery when it was announced in 1999, moved through Georgia and Turkey in 2006. The second phase will push gas through a network of pipelines dubbed the Southern Gas Corridor deep into southern Europe.
Europe gets about a quarter of its gas needs met by Russia, though most of that runs through the Soviet-era transit network in Ukraine, where geopolitical conflicts present a risk to energy security. The broader Southern Corridor is in a race against plans by Russian energy company Gazprom to twin the Nord Stream gas pipeline through the Baltic Sea to Germany.