As the FT reports:
European governments are attempting to revive a stalled effort to beat Russia’s effort to bring central Asia’s vast natural gas reserves to Europe.A move to give Brussels the power to negotiate a pipeline deal with Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan is expected to be agreed…The unprecedented ceding of power is the latest sign of how concerned the EU has become over its reliance on Russia, which supplies about a quarter of its gas.
The dynamics of the European energy landscape are changing. A newly-opened pipeline from Russia to Germany bypasses Ukraine, with whom Russia has long-running arguments over energy distribution. Transit countries like Ukraine and Georgia will see their positions slip as the transportation of oil and gas increasingly goes around them or through more agreeable and stable countries.But this pipeline proposal that would link Europe with Central Asia would be a real game-changer. Europe receives 25 percent of its gas from Russia. Access to the rich gas fields of Turkmenistan and elsewhere in Central Asia would significantly alter the playing field. Moreover, if the EU were able to act together in its quest for Central Asian gas, as the current negotiations are set to do, it would seriously cut into the volume of Russian gas coming to Europe.The Russians brought this on themselves; heavy handed attempts to use their control over Europe’s gas supply made even pro-Russian governments ready to reduce the Kremlin’s ability to blackmail the EU. A smarter Russia would have never even hinted at playing the hydrocarbon card and offered bargain rates until Europe was well and truly hooked.Americans (and perhaps especially pundits) often go into frenzies of anguish and despair over our incompetence in foreign affairs. It’s important to remember that this is a very difficult game, and others are often even worse at it than we are.