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Southeast Europe Still Clinging to South Stream Pipe Dream

Bulgaria and other South Stream countries stubbornly refuse to give up on Russia's pipeline project. Hope dies last

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When Russian President Vladimir Putin announced during a visit to Turkey at the beginning of last month that Russia had decided to drop the South Stream pipeline project, hardly anybody was surprised given the fact that Washington and Brussels have been doing everything in their power to stop the construction of the pipeline.

South Stream was meant to supply gas to southern Europe without crossing Ukraine, which has always been an unreliable transit country. Many European Union member states supported the project in the hope of replicating the success of Nord Stream but they reckoned without the determination of the United States and its lackeys in Brussels to reduce Europe’s dependence on Russian gas.

Infamous U.S. Senator John McCain was sent to Bulgaria last June to warn the Bulgarian government and everyone else interested in Russia’s pipeline project that Washington and Brussels won’t flinch from toppling governments to accomplish this. McCain’s visit to the Bulgarian capital signaled both the end of South Stream and the end of European sovereignty, if there ever was any.

Over the last year, the Russians have experienced time and time again that South Stream’s supporters in Europe are either unable or unwilling to defend their interests. Realizing that it makes no sense to pursue the pipeline project any longer, President Putin declared in December that “if Europe does not want to carry it out, then it will not be carried out.”

Bulgaria and other South Stream countries initially didn’t believe Putin’s words to be true but when they realized that Russia is serious about dropping the project, they began to freak out. Several EU member states - including Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Italy, Romania and Slovenia - appealed to EU Energy Commissioner Maros Sefcovic to reach out to Russia and try to convince the Kremlin of rethinking its decision. Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov just met with Sefcovic to discuss the issue again before the latter sets out for Moscow. According to Bloomberg, Sefcovic will

seek clarification from Russia this week on the South Stream natural-gas project, which Russian President Vladimir Putin declared cancelled last month.

Sefcovic, the European Commission’s vice president for energy union, is scheduled to meet Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak, Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich and OAO Gazprom Chief Executive Officer Alexey Miller in Moscow on Jan. 14. The scrapping of the proposed $45 billion Black Sea pipeline, declared by Putin in Ankara on Dec. 1, sparked concerns in south-eastern EU member countries because it could leave much of the region dependent on Russian gas transiting crisis-torn Ukraine.

Sefcovic said that Russian Energy Minster Novak had already confirmed Russia’s abandonment of the project during a phone conversation but given the fact that the U.S. prohibits Europe from importing Iranian gas and that alternatives to South Stream, such as the Trans Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline (TANAP) and the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP), which are being championed by Washington and the EU Commission, lack sufficient capacity and are fraught with problems, it is not difficult to understand why south-eastern Europe refuses to give up on the South Stream pipeline.

Russia would be well advised to let the Europeans suffer the consequences of the “European Union's diplomatic victory” and wait until the folks in Brussels are ready to stand up for Europe’s interests. Otherwise the Russians might as well talk directly to Washington the next time they want to build a pipeline in Europe.

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