The Russian Energy Strategy in 21st Century, competing orders, the significance of pipeline politics and emergence of new Russian pipelines as an obstacle to US backed LNG Order
The emergence of 21st century brings some great technological advancements, one of the technological push was to extract the natural resources and direct them towards the prosperity of the nation. But as we know that in international relations there is a constant struggle for influence among the great powers. The United States became the sole superpower after the disintegration of the USSR, but doesn’t guarantee its everlasting influence on the affairs of the other major powers both new and old. This paper discusses the Russian pipeline politics which is not just challenging the US dominance but attracting its die hard allies towards Russia because of its natural gas resources. In the later part the US shale gas boom will be discussed, which is enabling US to erode the greater Russian pipeline geography. Various pipelines will be discussed being built by Russia to maintain its energy relevance in the world, and will link it with US anxiety which is planning to convert the world energy needs to LNG to emerge as a viable counterweight to Russia in the energy realm.
Russian energy policy in the 21st century
Russia which is a successor to the USSR has gone through a great transformation under its long serving duo leadership of Vladimir Putin and Medvedev, especially in the energy realm. Both leaders transformed the energy picture with their development of a formidable network to maintain energy stranglehold on the European continent and forward their energy footprints on Asia, which marks the beginning of a new era of a retired superpower. Though these steps mean business but with these steps they cannot just maintain a sufficient bandwidth on that country but can also extend their presence throughout the regions making it hard for other energy competitors to offset their influence. The emergence and revival of pipelines seem to be a great strategy, as the Russian gas giant Gazprom revolutionized the pipeline politics not just in its own backyard but also extended it far beyond its borders, making the world dependent on its energy resources. European Union’s recent clash with Russia over Ukraine dispute attracted United States to amend the energy picture in Europe, but fails because of geographical constraints as well as to run the robust economies of Europe the uninterrupted supply is must, which US is currently lacking because there is no short term or long term solution in sight. This Energy vulnerability of Europe makes things easy for Russia, but also complex because European economies have the potential to erect an alternative energy infrastructure with any short or long term goals. But to keep check Russia always has to keep a strong check on the regional energy infrastructure development, as well as keep in mind the expansion of Panama Canal, through which the US is ready to flood the world with their LNG. All of these developments are necessary precursors to the Russian energy offensive, directed now at Asia, because Russia will maintain its presence in all the energy routes whether it is on land or at sea, to keep an energy edge over other competitors planning to get a foothold in their traditional energy sphere of influence. For this Russia revived and erected new energy pipelines, which cannot be seen in separate ways from each other as all of these projects suffice each other and form a network to slow down or eliminate any prospect of being in an awkward situation where Russia is seen as a hostage while being the energy hub of the world. Keeping in view the Iranian example as being the natural gas hub, but for decades was kept hostage by the western alliance to eliminate any prospect for Iran to emerge as an energy hub for Asia by keeping these countries dependent on the Arab oil. Russia being a far stronger country, enjoying a table with other major powers, and apart from weaknesses the strengths it inherited from its predecessor, one of them was an unprecedented energy infrastructure in the world. The 21st century, and the resurgent mind-set of Russian leaders to pit the Russian federation as the sole energy superpower in the world, helped Russia to regain and maintain its energy relevance through a gigantic natural gas delivery project.
Nord Stream 2: Checkmate to Any US plans to influence or amend European Energy landscape
The special Russia-Germany relations under the Chancellor Gerhard Schroder laid a foundation for the viable partnership between Germany and Russia. The partnership grows in the backdrop of other developments like NATO’s eastward expansion and the erection of Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) systems, but nevertheless both sides focused on viable energy partnership and maintained the highest level of trust and entered many agreements to bolster each other’s economies. The Russian energy is seen as a viable fuel for the robust industries of Germany, which helped it become the 4th largest economy in the world. But things have gone downwards since Russia annexed Crimea and being the most powerful country within Europe, Germany condemned and criticised Russia for its aggressive overtures and the relations detracted, followed by the repeated sanctions on the Russians. The United States capitalized on these deteriorated relations between the two and focused on erecting an LNG infrastructure throughout Europe. Baltics being the first and Lithuania gets the first LNG terminal to escape its dependence on Russian gas. Baltics are home to three small countries which can maintain their energy independence because of its small energy needs, but Germany being the largest economy cannot wait for US supplies, as still there is no infrastructure for the uninterrupted supplies, and the winter factor is of vital importance where no European country can remain without these vital energy supplies. This gap in supply, demand and lack of infrastructure helped Russian leaders to maintain a softer tone on the Germans to convince them for the Nord Stream 2. Though Germany was also of the view that in short or even in long term they can no longer reduce and abandon their dependence on the Russian gas. The Baltic move by United States is of vital importance as Baltic region is the viable link through which Russian’s can redirect its Ukrainian gas supplies to Germany. The Baltic disconnection will kill any prospect of Russian gas supplies to Germany. But the Germans and the Europeans keeping in view their energy demands allowed Russia to use this pipeline, after a decade of negotiation. The Nord stream 2 is greatly criticized by the United States, Ukraine, and other European countries with no benefits of hosting a piece of Russian gas supplies through their territories, because being a transit country it a direct beneficiary of the gas supplies, with no headache of being cut from supplies. The Baltics under this new supply agreement between Germany and Russia will be able to escape a US imposed narrative of being ruled by Russia because Baltics have no alternative to Russian gas, thus any halt in supply to Baltic will close supply to Europe and Germany. But this perception is not entirely groundless, as Russians were aggressive in the Baltic, the Estonian cyber-attacks, and the Russian information policy in Latvia and Lithuania were sufficient steps to terrify these very tiny neighbours, which was ultimately utilized by the US.
Power of Siberia: China Russia Energy Relations in the 21st century.
China is on the cusp of becoming the largest economy in the world, being rapidly industrialized and a home to the largest population on earth. The Chinese energy needs are immense and are growing at an alarming speed. Uninterrupted, fast and reliable energy supply is the main ingredient to keep afloat the idea of China as the next superpower. The post Crimean annexation situation helped West isolate Russia and threaten it to abandon its energy supplies, though it was unrealistic but the Russians were quick to signal a change of heart too, by opening to Asia, in terms of its gas supplies. The abandoned Russia explored a new partner in Asia, for its immense gas reserves, and China too found it suitable to gain a huge share of these gas reserves to bolster its industries. This gas partnership soon transformed into military and a diplomatic partnership, and soon became a visible antidote to the US supremacy. The partnership started from the gas deal is now entering every realm. But the energy dimension is also very important, as Russia enters the Chinese market, it has marked a debut in the Asian continent and has sufficient positive prospect to expand far beyond Chinese territory making things worse for the United States. The world saw a clash of two ideologies in the 20th century, the capitalism and the communism, the communism lost. But the 21st century, is a clash of two alternative energy orders, being offered by the same cold war foes, which clashed because of the two ideologies. But as the world is hungry for energy the things may not end the same way as the world saw in the clash of ideologies battle. In these new competing energy orders, the US backed LNG energy order is also directed at Asia, because of its unprecedented economic boom, the Russian pipelines are ready to supply gas and also LNG to its buyers. The US backed world LNG fleet is not sufficient to simultaneously feed Asia and Europe and rest of the world. While the Russians enjoy a robust network to Europe, and is nearing completion its gas network to Asia is seen as formidable competitor in this energy war, as some western experts term it.
Turkish Stream: The fall of Crimea is the Rise of Black Sea energy corridor
Ever since the fall of Crimea to Russians the Turkish were wary of the development, being a major NATO country, in for accession into EU, and its troubled past and present with the Russian Federation, turkey was not ready to embrace the fact that Russians are back to the black sea. This development led to a series of harsh developments between the two countries, and the situation got worse when the Russians decided to take on opposition forces in Syria, these opposition forces were sufficiently added and supported by Turkey. The shooting down of a Russian plane brought both countries on war footings, and the agreed pipeline project was scrapped by Russians, which was touted as being the energy future for Turkey. Turkish stream will allow turkey to become a hub of natural gas to Europe rather than the end of the Russian supply through Ukraine. The Russian president accepted the apology of Turkish president and promised to keep up the gas initiative in their next meet, this development was not seen as a welcome development, as it will diversify the Russian options to regulate its energy supplies to Europe, giving it a sufficient bandwidth, to manoeuvre in and out of Europe, and compete and offset against any European move to reduce its dependence on Russian gas. The erection of Southern gas corridor which originates from Azerbaijan Shah Deniz gas field of the Caspian Sea, and go through various countries and reach western Europe, Russia could have killed this nascent project but It issued various statements praising its viability as a great pipeline move, the components of southern gas corridor also, clarify its position of being not a competitor to Russian gas plans. But Russians saw opportunity in keeping this pipeline’s relevance alive to Europe and various regions where it can connect in case of deletion from the source of that particular country, and also reducing the viability of US backed LNG energy order for the world.
The emergence of these particular energy pipelines is in fact entirely different development but their goal is one to keep check on the US LNG plans for its natural gas strongholds, and offset and compete any such developments in its nascent stage, to eliminate any chances of being trapped in a situation where Russian energy edge can be neutralized. These pipelines also add to the relevance of pipelines in the contemporary energy environment, where the delivery of Energy through LNG carriers is labelled as unrealistic for the major economies of the world. The LNG supply demand and infrastructure is an extra burden and a question mark, while a pipeline is a sign of uninterrupted supply. Though Russia also has a robust infrastructure of LNG production and delivery as well, which will be employed to pressure the US baked LNG suppliers in Asia.
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