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 on: December 12, 2014, 10:23:09 AM 
Started by Crafty_Dog - Last post by DougMacG

 on: December 12, 2014, 09:43:29 AM 
Started by Crafty_Dog - Last post by DougMacG
I'm saying that your quote of her is in reference to Yemen and other countries.

SOMEONE got the idea that this meme could be blended into the Benghazi cover up, but this quote, as best as I can tell, proves nothing with regard to whom that may have been.

Fair enough.  Same thing here, HRC speaking at the Benghazi killings memorial: of the memorial service
Clinton comments occur from 16:25-17:45:
“This has been a difficult week for the State Department and for our country. We’ve seen the heavy assault on our post in Benghazi that took the lives of those brave men. We’ve seen rage and violence directed at American embassies over an awful internet video that we had nothing do to with."

Crafty, her separation of these events is technically valid, but her effort to merge them is pathological IMHO.  It took me multiple readings of this to see that separation as she stood over the caskets from Benghazi.

She reportedly told the victims families, we will get the people responsible for this video. No separation there.

If this isn't smoking gun material, it is at least a peak into a character flaw you wouldn't want (again) in a President.  Unlike Susan Rice, she can't say they gave me the talking points.

 on: December 11, 2014, 08:12:29 PM 
Started by Crafty_Dog - Last post by Crafty_Dog
I'm saying that your quote of her is in reference to Yemen and other countries.

SOMEONE got the idea that this meme could be blended into the Benghazi cover up, but this quote, as best as I can tell, proves nothing with regard to whom that may have been.

 on: December 11, 2014, 07:50:26 PM 
Started by Crafty_Dog - Last post by DougMacG
Ummm , , , wouldn't this be legit with regard to events in countries other than Libya?

Interesting point.  Are you saying that makes it legit, or that it gives her cover?

The topic of the day, on that day, IMHO was Benghazi.
Pres Obama made an address with HRC at his side on Sept 12.
No mention of a video.  No mention of Yemen. etc.

By Sat. am with HRC speaking, we were back to the video.

Sunday, I watched Susan Rice to find out what happened in Benghazi, not various other protests.  Same with the questioners on the various shows.

Here is wikipedia on the "video" protests:
It was a big deal across many nations, however...  In Cairo, the leader/organizer didn't know the name of the video.  Egypt's prime minister Hesham Kandil said "a number" of protesters later confessed to getting paid to participate.  None had seen the video; organizers were trying to show protesters the trailer.  Yemen was a copycat and most of the others followed that..  Benghazi was an organized terror attack.  My point is that this video did NOT cause these protests.  The video trailer was a pretense to protest.

Back to Hillary.  My point is that she and/or her people likely wrote the 'blame the video' script.  But let's take it the other way around; take her at her word.  The video IS to blame.  This is the prequel to empathy for the terrorists.  It is something WE are doing that makes them want to kill us.  In the Sept 13 remarks and when she met the deceased families, she vowed to get the video maker, not the terrorists.  That view is not a political winner.  Take down free speech; leave terrorists in place.  Seems to me these views or her sloppy expressions leave her politically culpable.

 on: December 11, 2014, 07:42:36 PM 
Started by Crafty_Dog - Last post by Crafty_Dog

See today's entry in the Ukraine thread for closely related analysis

On Dec. 11, the U.S. Senate passed the Ukraine Freedom Support Act, which provides defensive weapons to Ukraine and expand sanctions against Russian defense firms, RFE/RL reported. The bill also authorizes $350 million to provide Ukraine with defensive weaponry but not defensive lethal aid, grants Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia major non-NATO ally status and authorizes $50 million in short-term energy assistance to Ukraine. It is unclear whether the U.S. House of Representatives will have time to bring the bill up for a vote before lawmakers leave for the year.

Read more: U.S.: Senate Passes Bill Providing Weapons, Aid To Ukraine | Stratfor
Follow us: @stratfor on Twitter | Stratfor on Facebook

With the sharp decline in oil prices, this could be a propitious moment for this move.  Wonder what Obama-Kerry will say?

 on: December 11, 2014, 07:39:07 PM 
Started by Crafty_Dog - Last post by Crafty_Dog
Note date

Analytic Guidance: Why Russia Would Intervene in Ukraine
August 6, 2014 | 22:04 GMT Print Text Size
Analytic Guidance: Why Russia Would Intervene in Ukraine
Ukrainian soldiers patrol Debaltseve, a city in the eastern region of Donetsk, on Aug. 3. (ANATOLII STEPANOV/AFP/Getty Images)

Editor's Note: The following is an internal Stratfor document produced to provide high-level guidance regarding the conflict in Ukraine. This document is not a forecast but rather a series of guidelines for understanding and evaluating events, as well as suggestions for areas of focus.

With 20,000 troops positioned on its border with Ukraine, Russia has all the pieces in place to launch a direct, limited ground intervention in eastern Ukraine without having to make any additional preparations. Of course, that kind of military invasion would cost Moscow a lot of political capital, but Russian policymakers may believe the high price of intervention is justified in certain scenarios. Those scenarios are as follows:
The Humanitarian Crisis Worsens

On Aug. 5, Russia officially requested to lead a humanitarian mission in cooperation with the International Committee of the Red Cross to provide aid for civilians in eastern Ukraine. Parts of Donetsk and Luhansk are experiencing food, water and electricity shortages, but so far Kiev has rejected Russia's offers of assistance, arguing there is no humanitarian crisis to end. The civilian death toll has increased steadily as fighting moved from the countryside into the cities. If more civilians die, Russia may decide to intervene.
The Ukrainian Military Threatens Rebel Strongholds

Over the past few weeks, the Ukrainian military has tallied several notable victories in its fight against the rebels, one of many factors that guided Russia's decision to amass troops along the border. However, Ukrainian forces have not been able to move into the urban areas surrounding the cities of Luhansk and Donetsk; in addition to general difficulties associated with urban warfare, some rebels have already started a counteroffensive. If the Ukrainian military seriously threatens to take these important rebel strongholds, Russia may intervene.
Analytic Guidance: Why Russia Would Intervene In Ukraine
Click to Enlarge
NATO Deploys More Assets

After Russia's annexation of Crimea, NATO initiated new rotational exercises in Poland and the Baltics; however, no additional measures have been taken since then to increase the security of the alliance's members in the region. Any serious push to build up combat power in areas adjacent to Ukraine — including Poland, Romania, the Baltics and Turkey — may indicate that NATO and the United States believe a Russian intervention is imminent. (Meanwhile, Russia could see the congregation of NATO and U.S. forces as a sign that the West plans to intervene.) U.S. naval movement in the Mediterranean or Black seas is also important to watch.
The United States Arms the Ukrainian Military

U.S. aid to Ukraine has been limited to nonlethal equipment and rations, but many in Russia attribute the Ukrainian military's recent gains to advising from the U.S. military. If Washington supplies the Ukrainian military with weapons or trains or assists soldiers more overtly, Russia may respond by intervening.
More Sanctions Are Imposed

The Kremlin has reacted to the latest round of Western sanctions by restricting some food and agricultural imports from the United States and the European Union. But the application of additional, more severe sanctions, especially those targeting Russia's financial and energy sectors, could provoke Russia to invade Ukraine, especially if Moscow believes it has nothing else to lose.
Russian Public Opinion Changes

The majority of Russians oppose direct military intervention into Ukraine. The factions within the Kremlin, including the typically hawkish security circle, are divided on the issue, too. This opposition has constrained the actions of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who wants to maintain his popularity levels among his constituents and retain the loyalty of his supporters within the government. If Putin can disguise the intervention as a peacekeeping or humanitarian mission, he may be able to sell it to the Russian public more effectively, giving him more freedom to act.
The Ukrainian Government Collapses

The Kremlin's goal is for Ukraine, an important buffer state, to become at least a neutral territory between Russia and the West. After the ouster of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich and Ukraine's decision to sign the EU association and free trade agreements, the Kremlin hoped that the new government in Kiev would be unable to remain stable and united and fail to implement the International Monetary Fund-mandated austerity and reform measures. So far, internal divisions have not affected the government's ability to implement reforms and make military decisions. But the emergence of more significant internal divisions over policy, especially security policy, is key to watch. If the government in Kiev fails on its own, Russia will have no need to intervene. 

Read more: Analytic Guidance: Why Russia Would Intervene in Ukraine | Stratfor
Follow us: @stratfor on Twitter | Stratfor on Facebook

 on: December 11, 2014, 07:37:04 PM 
Started by Crafty_Dog - Last post by Crafty_Dog
Second post.  Note date.

Russia Uses Competition Over Resources to Increase Leverage in Central Asia
August 4, 2014 | 09:12 GMT Print Text Size
Russia Uses Competition Over Resources to Increase Leverage in Central Asia

The borders of modern-day Central Asian states were drawn by Soviet policymakers under the direction of Josef Stalin in the 1920s and 1930s. Soviet officials sought to prevent each republic from becoming too independent or powerful within the region. As a result, today's Central Asian states depend highly on one another for key natural resources such as water and natural gas.

While Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan enjoy significant energy wealth, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan rely on imports for most of their oil and natural gas. Conversely, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan are located at the headwaters of two of the region's major rivers, giving them access to ample water resources as well as the ability to reduce water flows to Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan, which are situated downstream. The strong interdependencies among Central Asian states have contributed to a rise in tensions since the countries became independent in 1991. The population of Central Asia has nearly doubled since that time, further straining the supply of natural resources. As it did during the Soviet era, the Kremlin is now using the divisions among Central Asian states to prevent a single nation or group of states from dominating the others, something that could threaten Russia's position as the regional power.

Since mid-April, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan have been embroiled in yet another dispute over natural gas supplies. Tensions between the two countries have also run high over Kyrgyzstan's plans for constructing new hydroelectric dams, which could periodically reduce water flows to Uzbekistan throughout the year. Russia is quietly using the two conflicts to enhance its own position while gaining leverage over Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. At a time when Kyrgyzstan is hesitantly beginning to pursue Customs Union membership and Uzbekistan is in the midst of an internal power struggle over President Islam Karimov's succession plans, the Kremlin is trying to put Russia in a better position to shape the political evolutions of both countries.
Kyrgyzstan's Natural Gas Woes

Northern Kyrgyzstan, home to its capital, Bishkek, is connected to major natural gas pipelines linking the region to Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. Southern Kyrgyzstan, including its cities Osh and Jalal-Abad, are connected to pipelines running east to west from Uzbekistan. But Kyrgyzstan does not have a pipeline connecting its north to its south, meaning that although northern Kyrgyzstan has been able to diversify its imports, southern Kyrgyzstan has remained highly dependent on natural gas flowing from Uzbekistan. On April 14, four days after Russian state energy company Gazprom officially took over Kyrgyz energy firm KyrgyzGaz, Uzbekistan cut off natural gas deliveries to Kyrgyzstan. The company argued that its contract needs to be renegotiated with Gazprom. As a result, southern Kyrgyzstan, including the city of Osh, has lost its access to natural gas supplies. 
Russia Uses Competition Over Resources To Increase Leverage In Central Asia
Click to Enlarge

Russia is taking advantage of the situation by brokering a solution that enhances its leverage over Kyrgyzstan's leaders. As the new owner of KyrgyzGaz, Gazprom is responsible for negotiating with Uzbekistan. But so far it has not used its influence to compel Uzbekistan to resume natural gas supplies to Kyrgyzstan. The Kremlin means to keep Kyrgyz loyalty and eventually absorb it into its Customs Union. However, Kyrgyzstan's accession has stalled as the country's leaders ask Russia for more financial aid and exemptions from Customs Union rules. Moreover, Kyrgyz Deputy Prime Minister Taiyrbek Sarpashev said July 24 that the country may attain full membership only after several transitional phases, a process that could take five years, starting in 2015.

The natural gas shortage in southern Kyrgyzstan will only put more pressure on Bishkek throughout its accession talks, particularly as natural gas demand increases ahead of the cold winter months. In May, protesters blocked a highway in Osh. Small protests have taken place in Bishkek, and Stratfor sources say southerners are traveling north to protest. If shortages continue into the fall and winter, protests will likely become larger and more disruptive. In the past, mass protests have toppled Kyrgyz governments. To forestall such an outcome, the government will likely make more concessions to Russia in its Customs Union negotiations. And if Bishkek does in fact cater to Moscow's wishes, Russia will probably encourage Uzbekistan to start exporting natural gas to Kyrgyzstan again.
Kyrgyzstan's Electricity Ambitions

In addition to using its influence over natural gas flows, Russia is also trying to use the region's water issues to its advantage. For several decades, Kyrgyz leaders have pushed for the construction of large hydroelectric dam projects, which would enable Kyrgyzstan to become a major exporter of electricity, rather than a country suffering from chronic electricity shortages. The Kyrgyz government is currently working on a feasibility study for exporting electricity to China's Xinjiang province, and it also has aspirations for exporting electricity to Pakistan and Afghanistan.

There are currently at least five major proposed hydroelectric dam projects for the Naryn River. With a gross domestic product of just $7.2 billion, Kyrgyzstan cannot afford to construct the new hydroelectric plants without significant financial assistance from foreign investors. So far, Russia has been the only country to offer large-scale financial assistance and political support for the projects, meaning that they hinge completely on Moscow. As a result, progress has stalled as Russia has failed to deliver much of its pledged funding.
Click to Enlarge

The largest of the projects is the 1,900-megawatt Kambarata-1 hydroelectric dam project, but it has remained in the planning stage since the Soviet era. A feasibility study conducted by Canadian firm SNC-Lavalin International Inc. found that the estimated cost of the project is $3 billion, a sum Kyrgyzstan cannot afford on its own. Though Moscow pledged $2 billion for the project in 2009 and came to an official agreement regarding the dam during Russian President Vladimir Putin's visit to Kyrgyzstan in 2012, major funding from Russia has yet to materialize. Moreover, once the dam is constructed, Kyrgyzstan will likely need Russian financial and technical support for the dam's maintenance. Another project, the 350-megawatt Kambarata-2, has seen limited progress. It opened its first section in 2010 with the help of a small Russian loan and currently generates 50 to 70 megawatts hours.

Russia says it will continue to commit money to the Kyrgyz projects. But it has deliberately neglected to honor those commitments because the outstanding water issues give Moscow power over Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, so long as they remain unresolved.
Leverage Over Uzbekistan

Just as the Kremlin wants to pressure Kyrgyzstan to join the Customs Union, it also wants to gain leverage in Uzbekistan. Unlike Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan is the most independent country in Central Asia; it seeks to become a leader in the region after leaving Russia's sphere of influence. In 2012, Uzbekistan suspended its membership in the Russia-led Collective Security Treaty Organization, demonstrating Uzbekistan's willingness to chart its own course away from Russia-sponsored regional integration projects. Therefore, the Kremlin has prioritized establishing the kind of influence in Uzbekistan that it has in other post-Soviet states

To that end, supporting Kyrgyzstan's hydroelectric projects benefits Russia. Agriculture makes up about 28 percent of the Uzbek economy. Cotton exports remain vital, accounting for roughly 17 percent of export revenue. If Kyrgyzstan completes work on its large hydroelectric projects, its reservoirs will need to be filled completely in order to feed the dams. The timeline for completing this process, which could range from months to years, will determine the impact on the downstream countries. Once the reservoirs are filled, Kyrgyzstan will also be able to have some control over the flow of the river, allowing more water through when more electricity is needed and less when the demand is lower.

However, Kyrgyzstan's decisions regarding water levels may not necessarily line up with agricultural demands in downstream countries such as Uzbekistan. The construction of the projects would therefore give Kyrgyzstan significant leverage over Uzbekistan; Kyrgyz officials would have the power to reduce water flows at will.

Unsurprisingly, Uzbekistan strongly opposes Kyrgyzstan's hydroelectric projects. Russia's repeated public commitment to help Kyrgyzstan finance the construction of new hydroelectric plants thus gives the Kremlin additional influence and leverage in Bishkek and Tashkent. For Kyrgyzstan, Russia's pledge to finance large-scale hydroelectric plants offers hope for solving the country's electricity problems. It also offers hope for helping the country harness its only abundant natural resource — water — to become a profitable electricity exporter. For Uzbekistan, Russia's promises to fund or withhold funding from Kyrgyz projects are a reminder that Russia has can still undermine country's water security significantly.

Kyrgyzstan has long been a largely pro-Russia state. While the country's leaders have decided to apply for Customs Union membership, social tensions and the unpopularity of some Customs Union regulations are presenting a challenge for the Kyrgyz government. Uzbekistan, on the other hand, has been one of the more independent-minded post-Soviet states. Nevertheless, the Kremlin may see the country's ongoing power struggle as an opportunity for gaining future influence. Russia will continue using those tensions so long as it benefits it to do so.

Read more: Russia Uses Competition Over Resources to Increase Leverage in Central Asia | Stratfor
Follow us: @stratfor on Twitter | Stratfor on Facebook

 on: December 11, 2014, 07:31:26 PM 
Started by Crafty_Dog - Last post by Crafty_Dog
 Russia-NATO Competition Mounts in Georgia
December 8, 2014 | 10:02 GMT Print Text Size
Georgian troops parade at a ceremony to mark independence day in Tbilisi on May 26. (VANO SHLAMOV/AFP/Getty Images)

In the ongoing competition between Russia and the West over the former Soviet periphery, the Caucasus nation of Georgia has long been a significant site of tension. With the crisis in Ukraine grinding on, Georgia is pushing to more closely integrate with both NATO and the European Union. For its part, Moscow is working to establish a bigger footprint in the pro-Russia breakaway territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. These integrations increase the risk of escalation on the security front. A return to full-scale conflict, however, is unlikely. Instead, tensions in the trilateral relationship between Georgia, Russia and NATO will mount and continue to play a key role in influencing the broader standoff between Moscow and the West.

In the decades since the fall of the Soviet Union, Georgia has played a pivotal role in the competition for influence between Russia and the West over what was once Soviet territory. In 2003, Georgia underwent a Western-supported transition, known as the Rose Revolution, which brought the pro-European Union and pro-NATO government of Mikhail Saakashvili. In 2008, Russia responded by initiating the Russo-Georgia War. With this, Moscow intended to both counter Georgia's Western orientation and make plain NATO's unwillingness to come to Tbilisi's defense. This strategy worked. The Saakashvili government had failed in its bid to seriously integrate Georgia into NATO and provoked Russia's ire. This failure led, in 2012, to the emergence of Bidzina Ivanishvili's more pragmatic Georgian Dream government, which favored maintaining a cooperative approach toward Moscow.
Collective Defense Blocs USE ME
Click to Enlarge

This past year has seen yet another swing in the competition over Georgia. The crisis in Ukraine has pulled a number of countries closer to the West — Georgia among them. Along with Ukraine and Moldova, Georgia has signed the key Association and Free Trade Agreement with the European Union. Tbilisi has also continued to pursue NATO membership. At the beginning of the 2000s, NATO was divided and Russia was resurgent. This is no longer the case. Today, the military alliance is more interested in directly engaging with Georgia.

The Dec. 4 visit of NATO Secretary General's Special Representative for the Caucasus and Central Asia James Appathurai to Georgia made these changes apparent. Appathurai met with Georgian leaders, including Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili and Defense Minister Mindia Janelidze, and said that significant progress had been made in implementing the cooperation package, which Georgia endorsed at the most recent NATO summit in September. This package includes plans to engage in joint exercises, embed trainers to assist in building Georgia's defense capacity and to establish a NATO training center. Although Appathurai said training center details are still under discussion, plans could be finalized by the next NATO ministerial meeting in February 2015.

Russia has long viewed Georgia's receiving membership in NATO to be a red line. At the moment, Georgia's moves still fall far short of actual membership; NATO would first have to grant a membership action plan, something that it has not been willing to do. Regardless, the recent developments are a concern for Moscow, particularly when placed the context of the Ukraine crisis.
Georgia and Kyrgyzstan: Similar States, Worlds Apart
Click to Enlarge

Russia has responded by building its ties to the regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which declared independence from Georgia after the 2008 war. Moscow has increased the scope and frequency of military exercises in both territories. It even launched large-scale drills in South Ossetia on Dec. 2 just as Georgian officials were meeting with NATO representatives in Brussels. Russia has also signed a new integration treaty with Abkhazia that expands Moscow's military and security influence in the territory. A similar treaty with South Ossetia is likely to follow in the near future.

These developments have led to increased friction between Moscow and Tbilisi. They have also contributed to Russia's broader standoff with the West — a standoff that shows no signs of abating. Fresh memories of open conflict between Russia and Georgia have given rise to concerns that this might once again come to pass. Russian military forces are stationed less than 50 kilometers (31 miles) from Tbilisi and, with both countries more active when it comes to training and exercises, the risk of escalation does seem quite real.

This perception is deceptive. A number of factors stand in the way of a return to full-scale war. Unlike in Ukraine, Russia already holds a strong position in Georgia's breakaway territories. Moving forces deeper into Georgia would take Russia out of the politically supportive environment of Abkhazia and South Ossetia and risk a bloody and costly war of attrition. A renewed military conflict would only galvanize Western and NATO support for Georgia, compounding the situation for Russia. Although troubling for Moscow, Tbilisi's cooperation with the security bloc has been relatively limited. Many NATO members are still opposed to incorporating the small and distant country. An aggressive Russian military action could potentially change that equation. And, at the moment, Russia does not need to intervene to prevent NATO integrations. Furthermore, Georgia's current government is internally divided, as seen in recent dismissals and resignations of high-ranking Cabinet members. This division could stop the country's NATO integration plans — something that Appathurai noted on his visit.

Still, Tbilisi has continued in its efforts to get closer to the security bloc. In the context of the Ukrainian crisis, NATO appears to be taking these ties more seriously. A number of factors still stand in the way of full integration. Regardless of the outcome, Georgia's ambitions will undoubtedly play a significant role in shaping Russia's planning of its future relationships around the region.

Read more: Russia-NATO Competition Mounts in Georgia | Stratfor
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 on: December 11, 2014, 07:19:32 PM 
Started by Quijote - Last post by Crafty_Dog
I have drawn attention to this matter of Russia, natural gas, and Europe many times:

 Russia's South Stream Decision Changes Regional Dynamics
December 4, 2014 | 10:30 GMT Print Text Size
Russia's South Stream Decision Changes Regional Dynamics
A construction worker stands in front of two giant pipes arranged to be welded together near the Serbian village of Sajkas on Nov. 24, 2013. (ANDREJ ISAKOVIC/AFP/Getty Images)

The fallout from Russia's decision to abandon its ambitious South Stream pipeline deal continued Dec. 3, as Italian energy services firm Saipem announced that it would lose almost $2 billion because of Moscow's move. On Dec. 2, Bulgarian President Rosen Plevneliev called for the South Stream project's European partners to have a say in its future. The head of Serbia's Gas Association, Vojislav Vuletic, said his country is still interested in South Stream, while Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said his country will have to look for alternative natural gas sources to replace South Stream supplies.

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the decision to abandon the pipeline deal on Dec. 1, while visiting Turkey. Putin publicly blamed the European Commission's opposition to the planned pipeline, though the project faced other growing constraints (mainly financing). At the same time, Putin announced that Russia would instead build a pipeline similar to South Stream but ending in Turkey, which could then become a hub for Russia's natural gas exports. The decision changes not only the dynamics of energy in the region, but also many relationships in Europe, Turkey and Russia.

South Stream was a large pipeline project by Russian natural gas behemoth Gazprom to export Russian natural gas from the Russian mainland, under the Black Sea, to Southern and Central Europe — Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary, Greece, Slovenia, Croatia and Austria. The primary purpose of the pipeline was to connect Europe to Russia directly without transiting Ukraine, which previously transported 80 percent of Russian natural gas to Europe. Gazprom held 50 percent of the project, Italy's ENI held 20 percent, Germany's Wintershall held 15 percent and France's EDF held 15 percent. The initial plan was for the South Stream pipeline to reach a capacity of 63 billion cubic meters (bcm) by 2018, which would accommodate approximately 40 percent of Russia's natural gas exports to Europe if run near capacity.

The project became increasingly important to Moscow over the past year as the crisis in Ukraine threatened the reliability — both politically and technically — of Russian natural gas exports to Europe through Ukraine. However, the project has encountered a string of obstacles since its conception in 2007.
Russian-European Natural Gas Networks
Click to Enlarge

First, the European Union has contested the pipeline, saying it violates the Third Energy Package, European legislation that splits energy production and transmission. The European Commission has used the legislation to pressure all of the EU states that had signed agreements with Russia for the construction of the pipeline. As a result, Bulgaria halted the construction of its section of the pipeline in June.

The second constraint was the rising cost of the pipeline. Gazprom projected a $10 billion price tag in 2007, but projected costs grew to $30 billion in 2014 and likely would have risen further. In mid-November, ENI CEO Claudio Descalzi warned that ENI would leave the project if prices continued to rise. Gazprom is relatively healthy financially, unlike its oil company sister, Rosneft. However, with many large and costly projects lined up for the next few years, including the Yamal natural gas project and the Power of Siberia pipeline to China, Gazprom most likely would not be able to foot most of the bill for South Stream without financial assistance from the Kremlin. And with Russia in a sharp economic decline and oil prices falling, the Kremlin has refrained from handing out large sums of money like it has in the past.

Gazprom has already spent $4.5 billion on South Stream, mostly on 300,000 tons of underwater trunk pipelines that have been delivered to the Black Sea coastline. However, these pipes could still be of use in the construction of Russia's new proposed pipeline to Turkey. According to Gazprom chief Alexei Miller, the alternative pipeline could have a capacity of 63 bcm, of which Turkey could purchase 14 bcm of natural gas and transit the rest to southeastern Europe to the same countries that would have received natural gas from South Stream. In short, the change in the pipeline projects is merely one of route; the outcome would be nearly the same. However, the way that natural gas would be transported is in question, since any new pipeline infrastructure reaching into Europe would be subject to the same EU regulations that haunted South Stream.
The Political Aftermath

By scrapping South Stream and proposing a Russo-Turkish pipeline, Russia has shifted the political and energy dynamics of the region. First, Russia had been using South Stream as leverage over Ukraine and several southeastern European countries. Russia offered Bulgaria, Serbia and Hungary investment sweeteners — promises of energy security, construction jobs and transit revenues — for their support of the South Stream project. For example, Bulgaria was set to receive an estimated $500 million annually for transiting natural gas from South Stream. Moscow also used the potential for natural gas transit alternatives in its energy negotiations with Kiev. With South Stream abandoned, Russia's leverage has diminished.

Russia's decision to abandon South Stream also damages Moscow's political ties with some of its European partners in the project. Countries such as Hungary and Serbia spent a great deal of political capital in defying the European Union to support the pipeline's construction. Now some of these same countries are saying they will have to look to the European Union to help secure energy supplies.
Changing Energy Relationships

Should the proposed Russo-Turkish pipeline be constructed, Russia will add capacity to directly supply Turkey, its largest natural gas customer, much like Russia's Nord Stream pipeline connects Russia to Germany, its second-largest customer. Moreover, Turkey is likely to receive a 6 percent discount on its current natural gas supplies as part of the construction deal. With Turkey connected directly to Russia, natural gas supplies will not rely on politically prickly transit states such as Ukraine. Turkey currently receives approximately half of its natural gas supplies from routes going to Europe.

However, the Russo-Turkish pipeline would introduce yet another transit state into Russia's export routes to Europe. The point of South Stream was to directly supply southeastern Europe with Russian natural gas, bypassing Ukraine. Under the new plan, energy supplies would still bypass Ukraine, but would now be contingent on Turkey transiting the supplies. Russia does not hold the influence over Turkey that it has held in Ukraine, meaning that Moscow will be less able to politicize natural gas supplies going to the Continent.

Yet adding a natural gas supply route through Turkey would give Moscow more flexibility in supplying Europe. Russia already has pipelines running to Europe through Belarus, Ukraine and Germany. Adding another major route through Turkey would give Russia a greater ability to shift supplies from one route to another, targeting specific European countries for cutoffs depending on how Moscow wants to shape the political climate.

The proposed Turkish energy connection also adds complexity to other energy projects involving Turkey. The Trans-Anatolian Pipeline has been proposed to move Turkmen natural gas across the Caucasus to Turkey and Europe. Turkey is already moving forward with a similar connection, the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline, which will carry Azerbaijani natural gas. Discussions have gone on for a long time about the possibility of natural gas giant Turkmenistan supplying these routes via the proposed Trans-Caspian Pipeline. Just as the South Stream project competed with these plans, so will the proposed pipeline to Turkey. Ankara will continue to try to balance Moscow with alternative suppliers such as Azerbaijan. However, with natural gas coming straight from Russia, the incentive to continue wooing Turkmenistan for supplies could be reduced.

All of this said, Russia's announcement that it is abandoning South Stream was contingent on the current political tension between Moscow and the European Union. Russia could revisit its plans for South Stream should this relationship change. For now, the abandonment of South Stream looks like a major setback for Russia's energy strategy in Europe, but Russia could simply be playing the similar projects off each other to shape its overall energy and political discussions in the region.

Read more: Russia's South Stream Decision Changes Regional Dynamics | Stratfor
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 on: December 11, 2014, 07:13:53 PM 
Started by Crafty_Dog - Last post by Crafty_Dog
 Russia Refocuses on the Middle East
Geopolitical Diary
December 11, 2014 | 02:49 GMT Text Size Print

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov has maintained an active travel schedule in the Middle East recently. Bogdanov, a career Russian diplomat with decades of experience in the Middle East, coordinates closely with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and is considered a serious behind-the-scenes player in terms of Russia's diplomatic efforts in the region. (Putin named him as his special envoy to the Middle East on Nov. 1.) This is why we took note of Wednesday's announcement by the Russians that they are ready to host a meeting between the United States and Syrian President Bashar al Assad's government in Moscow if both sides request it, although serious impediments to such a scenario remain.

The announcement comes on the heels of high-level Russian moves in Turkey and Iran. Moscow's announced plans to abandon the South Stream natural gas project in favor of a pipeline running directly though Turkey, along with Russia's involvement in the P-5+1 nuclear talks with Tehran in recent weeks, reflect a resurgence of Russian diplomatic activity in the Middle East.

What is a Geopolitical Diary? George Friedman Explains.

Russia's complicated relationship with Iran limits the role Moscow can play in Iranian diplomatic efforts — a reality reinforced by Tehran's announcement on Wednesday that it would not be entering an oil bartering deal with Moscow, despite a recent flurry of Russian media reports claiming that such a deal is imminent.

Moscow understands the limits of reaching a lasting strategic accord with Iran, but Russia's primary goals in its Middle East strategy are not necessarily better bilateral relations with individual states such as Iran, Egypt or Syria. Rather, Russian activities in the Middle East are meant to augment its global strategies, especially with regard to directing U.S. attention away from areas that the Kremlin considers threatened by Washington's actions, such as Ukraine. Russia has been successful in its Middle East activities, most notably in negotiating a chemical weapons destruction plan that deterred direct U.S. military strikes against Syria in 2013.

Russia also aims to limit U.S. opportunities for building more stable relationships in the Middle East. Moscow has been successful in this regard, as illustrated most recently by Turkey and Russia's plans to transit natural gas to Europe, circumventing Ukraine, and in a more limited sense with Moscow's relationship with Tehran. A meeting between the United States and al Assad also risks alienating the United States from regional allies Turkey and Saudi Arabia, which strongly oppose any policy that could result in the al Assad government staying in place as part of a negotiated settlement.

Over the past month traveling across the Middle East, Bogdanov has hosted representatives from Syria in Moscow and met with the Qataris in Bahrain. Amid mounting domestic economic difficulties and ongoing tensions with the West over Ukraine, Moscow is reverting to what has become a familiar and successful tactic in recent years.

Russia's intentions in the Middle East are hardly altruistic. If Russia wants to mediate for the motley crew of combatants and foreign nations playing supporting roles in the Syrian conflict, the primary goal is unlikely to be peace. However, by refusing to be sidelined in global discussions and by continuing to draw U.S. attention and effort into the traditional quagmire of Middle Eastern conflict, Russia hopes to better secure its own interests in its strategic periphery. Moscow has faced a strong challenge to its position in Ukraine, and its energy-dependent economy will struggle to adjust to the current downtown in global oil prices. Russia is far from down for the count, however, and recent diplomatic moves in the Middle East show that Moscow is still a formidable geopolitical player.

Read more: Russia Refocuses on the Middle East | Stratfor
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