The Wall Street Journal
November 28, 2014
By Dr. Ariel Cohen
Michael Apted’s 1999 film “The World Is Not Enough” portrays the iconic James Bond and his fight against an international conspiracy involving a Caspian oil pipeline, a mysterious oil heiress, and an anarchic nemesis bent on chaos. Themes that haunt the energy industry appear frequently: oil terrorism, catastrophic damage during energy transport, and environmental protests.
The characters also discuss the King pipeline, a fictitious pipeline following the same route as the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline from the Caspian to the Mediterranean, and a focal point for Russian antagonism. This addresses a very relevant subject for energy experts: the need for diversification of Europe’s pipelines and kicking its dependence on Russian oil.
Europe, especially Central and Eastern Europe, has been dependent on Russian gas for decades. Gazprom GAZP.RS +1.67% enjoys a de facto monopoly on gas supplies to the Baltic States, Slovakia, Moldova and Bulgaria, to name just a few countries.
Moscow has repeatedly proven itself to be a gas supplier that doesn’t hesitate to use its exclusive position to put pressure on its Eastern European customers and use it as a leverage to discourage them from pursuing “anti-Russian” policies. Blocking the Caspian/Central Asian supplies from routes bypassing Russia allows Gazprom to charge the Europeans higher prices than if gas in the continent enjoyed free competition.
Strengthening Gazprom’s position in the European markets not only reconfirms Russia’s energy-superpower status, it also increases Russia’s political clout in the European Union.
The antagonism alluded to in “The World Is Not Enough” is a real issue, and one that continues to drive energy politics in the region, including the European opposition to the construction of the massive South Stream gas-pipeline project, and the future construction of the Trans-Caspian gas pipeline, and the current plans for the Trans-Anatolian and Trans-Adriatic Gas pipelines.
Ariel Cohen is director of the Center for Energy Natural Resources and Geopolitics at the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security and principal at International Market Analysis, a political risk advisory firm in Washington, D.C.