“Gaz War”: Caucasus as a Battlefield

Last events in gas industry sphere can acutely intensify political tension around Azerbaijan. Moscow meeting of gas exporters evoked serious anxiety within Western states.

Let’s recall the events: on the 23rd of December Ministers of Energy of 14 states, possessing 73% of world gas reserves and providing 42% of world “blue fuel” production in Moscow “President-Hotel” discussed and adopted charter of the Gas Exporting Countries Forum. Russian mass media gladly quoted the speech of Russian Federation Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who, considering the fall of oil and gas costs, stated, that the time of cheap energy had past, that importing states should obtain firm guarantees of gas supply; exporting states should obtain guarantees of their “exporting sovereignty”. Referring to transiting states, i.e. still “hostile” Ukraine, Prime Minister only listed the obligations of gas transition without any problems.

Founded in 2001 and reformed today GECF still has not transformed into complete cartel. Nevertheless western analysts already observe the signs of cartel confederacy in Russian reforms of the organization, that includes Iran, Algeria, Brunei, Bolivia, Indonesia, Libya, Malaysia, Russia, Nigeria, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Egypt, Trinidad and Tobago, Venezuela, and now also Equatorial Guinea (Norway and Kazakhstan possess the status of observers).

Azerbaijan didn’t participate in the Moscow meeting, however experts are sure that main events within new stage of “gas war” will be directly around this country. Because Azerbaijan is not only a gas exporting state, but it is a unique physical gate to European market for the “blue fuel” of Central Asian states: Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan that possess firm gas potential. And this kind of alternative will be urgent for Europe in the near future.

Here Moscow Forum evokes anxiety. The British Financial Times reports ironically: “Natural gas exporting countries have given a long expected Christmas present to the West: on the 23rd of December during the meeting in Moscow Ministers of these countries transformed this gas reading room into official body with permanent Secretariat”. According to most analysts, still new organization has not yet become a cartel like OPEC, but the Minister of Energy of Venezuela Rafael Ramirez stated, that he considers this Forum as an “opportunity to create a strong organization, grounding on the same guiding principles as of OPEC”.  “This organization may not become a cartel, nevertheless it without any doubts intend to respond on decrease of gas costs, correlating with oil costs”, - notes French Le Figaro.

In addition, Moscow Forum of gas exporting states coincided with expansive growth of aggression in Russian policy in all directions. Worth mentioning, that Moscow has already used its “gas weapon” against Ukraine and Georgia. And there is no guarantee that Old Europe states won’t be the next in line. Europe still remembers the experience of oil embargo of Arab countries, introduced in 70-s. And the fact that the main mass in new gas cartel are radical states, from Iran to Venezuela, evokes doubts about Russia as well. All these facts force European Union to strengthen its positions in key regions, especially in Azerbaijan, referring to energy security issue. The creation of Eastern Partnership in this respect gives food for thought: obviously, EU starts strengthening its positions in the region deliberately. The kind of initiatives, naturally, can’t be prepared in short time, but the talks on “Gas OPEC” are not that new as well.

The question is how Russia will react on new reality of EU policy. Until recently Moscow has accepted EU programs relatively favorably, while any political activity of the USA within the post-soviet area has been nervously rejected. But today many things are changing. Old Europe states didn’t supported the idea of acceptance Georgia and Ukraine into NATO, but at the same time there is no former anti-Americanism within the continent. In addition after the war in Georgia the number of European supporters of hard attitude to Russia increases. It’s worth to remind that the USA also has its own program of energy security assurance. Considering this fact, it becomes obvious, that referring to non-participation of Azerbaijan in Moscow Forum Vladimir Putin stated that many states interpret “Energy security” concept incorrectly according to their own interests.

Translated from Baku’s View (Energy Security)