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Claude Salhani

Claude Salhani

Claude Salhani is the senior editor with Trend News Agency and is a journalist, author and political analyst based in Baku, specializing in the Middle…

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Showdown in Ukraine: Putin’s Quest for Ports, Oil, Pipelines and Gas

Yes, Russia is guilty of meddling in Ukraine, but then again so are the United States and the European Union. The major difference is that far less was said and much less reported by the international media over the Americans’ and Europeans’ interference than of Russia’s actions and the reactions it caused.

Where Russia is involved many in the West believe that one only needs to scratch the surface to see traces of the old Soviet Union begin to resurface. After all, Russian President Vladimir Putin is a former KGB officer. The truth is much more complicated than that: or perhaps somewhat simpler.

The Cold War that divided the East and West maybe over but the old rivalry still lingers. The rivalry between the West and Russia is no longer one over diverging political philosophies, but purely over resources – and the capitalistic gains they produce from mainly oil, gas and pipelines.

The West and in particular the United States seems to be suffering from collective memory disorder and have forgotten all the mud they slapped onto Putin’s face during the past 15 or so years. Or at least they expected him to forget and forgive.

Related Article: Ukraine - Full Circle to the EU Integration Issue

But then again Russian troops did move in to grab control of Crimea, taking over the territory from the Ukrainians. You can counter that argument by pointing to the US and NATO, who not only interfered, but swallowed former Soviet domains bringing them into the North Atlantic alliance, pushing NATO closer to Russia’s borders.

Yes, Russia needs access to warm water ports for its Black Sea fleet and many analysts also believe that this is a major issue of concern for Moscow, which it is. But the plot, as they say, thickens.

There is also another reason for Putin’s intervention in Ukraine and that has to do with Russia elbowing for dominance of the very lucrative and strategically important “energy corridors.”
That is very likely to be the major reason why Putin is willing to risk going to war with the West over Crimea, the pipelines that traverses the Caucasus and the oil and natural gas these pipelines carry westwards to Europe.

Given the geography of the region there are only so many lanes where the pipelines can be laid; and most of them transit through Ukraine. Others travel across Azerbaijan and Turkey. Most of Western Europe’s gas and much of Eastern Europe’s gas travels through Ukraine.

If Russia has vested interest in “recolonizing” Ukraine, the United States on the other hand has its own interests in Ukraine and other former Soviet areas.

What is going on today is nothing short of a race for control of what’s going to dominate the energy markets over the next two or three decades: the energy corridors from Central Asia, the Caucuses and through Russia and Ukraine.

As stated in a report published by the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, “the proclamation of independence, the adoption of state symbols and a national anthem, the establishment of armed forces and even the presence on Ukrainian territory of nuclear missiles—all important elements of independent statehood—amount little if another power, Russia, controls access to fuel without which Ukraine cannot survive economically.

Related Article: This Week in Energy: How Would LNG Get to Ukraine?

That same report denotes that "Ukraine's strategic location between the main energy producers (Russia and the Caspian Sea area) and consumers in the Eurasian region, its large transit network, and its available underground gas storage capacities," make the country "a potentially crucial player in European energy transit" - a position that will "grow as Western European demands for Russian and Caspian gas and oil continue to increase."

Ukraine's dependence on Russian energy imports has had "negative implications for US strategy in the region."

As long as Russia controls the flow of oil and gas it has the upper hand. Russia's Gazprom currently controls almost a fifth of the world's gas reserves.

More than half of Ukraine’s and nearly 30% of Europe's gas comes from Russia.  Moscow wants to try and keep things going its way; Washington and Brussels find it in their interests to try and alter that by creating multiple channels for central Asian and Caspian oil to flow westwards.
Ukraine today finds itself in the center of the new East-West dispute.

Ironically, the very assets that make Ukraine an important player in the new geopolitical game being played out between Washington and Moscow is also its greatest disadvantage.

By Claude Salhani of Oilprice.com

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  • lesmcfalls on March 25 2014 said:
    So NATO "swallowed" the former Soviet domains? And here I thought that they requested to join NATO. Silly me.
  • estonian on March 26 2014 said:
    I am living in a former soviet rapublic, which was an independent republic before it became soviet republic.
    It is not NATO or US that have pushed closer to Russian borders. It was our (estonian citizens) free decision to seek for for security against Russian erratic behaviour and agression, like it has happened in Ossetia and Ukraine already. Thats why we voted for NATO. It is not US that somehow decided to push closer to Russian borders.
    And the reason why we voted for NATO lies in the very bad memory of soviet republic years. Only yesturday we commemorated forced deportations by soviets that happened 55 years ago. We do not want no more deportations, opressions nor russification. We want to live in a free world.
  • qjanes on March 26 2014 said:
    ya leave it to the Americans to cry a foul when their adversaries try to create energy corridors..I can only imagine what the Russian news said when America entered the two wildly illegal wars in Iraq (pts 1 and 2) and the Afganistan fiasco. Both wars were easily as unfair, unfounded and self-serving as Russia in Crimea. But oh wait the americans cost 1000's of live Billions in economic damages all the while saying it was for the good of the people. GJ Putin at least you have the stones to tell those Hippocrates to shove it.
  • Olaf Lukk on March 26 2014 said:
    The most common false analogy perpetrated by apologists for Putin annexing Crimea is that the West somehow provoked this by "expanding NATO to Russia's borders". The opposition to Russian occupation and puppet governments in Eastern Europe started immediately after WW2, and met failure in 1953 (Berlin), 1956 (Hungary), and 1968 (Czechoslavakia), due to Western timidity. The communist experiment collapsed under its own internal contradictions in 1991. The previously subjugated nations of Eastern Europe actively sought NATO membership to insure that the Russians did not return. The embrace of NATO by Eastern Europe was a free choice, unlike the Cold War occupation of Eastern Europe by the Soviets. The only apt analogy is that Putin did to Ukraine (Crimea is Ukraine) what Stalin did to the Baltics in 1940. Small wonder that the Baltics embraced NATO. That choice was properly theirs, and should not be cavalierly dismissed because it mught offend the sensibilities of a Russian oligarch masquerading as the "president" of a "free" country.
  • Claude Salhani on March 26 2014 said:
    Thanks you for your comments. allow me to reply to all the above comments with this single email.

    The aim of this article was to offer a perspective as seen from the Russian side. In no way was it intended to insinuate that Russia was correct in acting the way it did. Correct, no one forced any of of the former Warsaw Pacy countries to join NATO, and Mr, Lukk is correct in explaining that joining NATO was a guarantee that Russia would not return. But Russia did see the NATO borders creeping closer to it as a threat.
  • Susan L. on March 26 2014 said:
    You all seem so caught up with your negative recollections of life under Soviet rule that you are not weighing the particulars of the situation in Crimea. What is territorial integrity? Is it land ownership? Is it political jurisdiction? Or might it involve the fate of real people?

    The people of Crimea are mainly Russian. The coup installed interim government in Kyiv exhibited tangible signs of hostility to Russia and pro-Russian Ukrainians almost immediately. If you were Russian, would you opt to remain in this situation if you were given a choice? I think not. This so-called aggressive takeover was virtually bloodless and met by people waving Russian flags. Many of the Ukrainian military chose to remain and serve in the Russian Federation.

    Your memory is long but very selective. After Ukraine established its independence from Russia, it went through roughly a decade of pro-Western leadership in which people like Yulia Tymoshenko and the interim prime minister "Yats" main priorities were to get rich and strive for political influence (just like they do here). These people love the US/EU model where capital dictates to politics (incidentally, Putin does not). Consequently, there has been little progress thus far in terms of building a strong and independent Ukraine.

    When the majority of people in Ukraine were fed up with this bunch, they democratically elected a pro-Russian president. This is not so different from the pattern we have been engaging in for quite some time here in the US. The idea is that when you are displeased with the direction your elected officials are taking the country, you vote the other way next time around. What you don't do is camp out on the White House lawn, storm government buildings, burn tires and throw Molotov cocktails. The US has a nasty little habit of promoting activity in politically unstable regions that they would NEVER tolerate here. There is ample proof that the US openly encouraged this coup and meddled behind the scenes. And now the interim government is trying to figure out what to do with the "Tyanybok piece" and how to suppress the eastern half of the country who have played by the rules and are now pretty much out in the cold. They are bewildered as their lives are changing in ways they do not agree with.

    What is happening in the east right now is not at all fair. They have strong ties with their Russian neighbors, do not want enmity with Russia and have demanded referendums of their own to decide their destiny. Kyiv will never allow this because they know what the result would be. They have instead insisted upon dragging the eastern half in a direction they don't want to go. They are arresting leaders of referendum movements, replacing their public officials with ones of their own choosing, downplaying their rallies in the media and so forth, in essence denying them the right to assert themselves in the same way the protestors did in Maidan. It is presumed that the eastern Ukrainians don't have the same moral right to pursue an agenda that is different from tries. It's ok to suppress them because after all, they are only the puppets of Moscow. Could anything be more hypocritical? It's like saying, "You have no right to do what we just did. The tables have turned and you will do what we want whether you like it or not!" Hypocritical and vindictive. And if you want to know the real reason why the west will never let the east go their way, check out where all the economic resources are located. All the booty is in the east.

    I'm glad you feel so safe with NATO. People like you play right into their hands because you live in a world with a very limited mindset. I personally do not feel safer with NATO, an alliance led by a country that breaks international law by bombing countries that cannot defend themselves. That was not the case with Crimea but it certainly was with Iraq. We bombed it, occupied it, plundered it without regard for any meaningful definition of "territorial integrity." If you come to my house, destroy whatever you please, take what you want etc. is it really my house just because you never changed the name on the deed? And who sanctioned us for that? Who tried to crush our economy for that unforgivable breach of territorial integrity? No one. That's because when you are top dog, you can do whatever outrageous thing you want, call it whatever suits you and everyone who wants a piece of the action goes along with it. Then anytime a lesser power does something top dog deems is not in THEIR best interests, if it foils top dog's plans for unrivaled supremacy in any way, top dog can demonize and discipline them. This global cabal has made me sick these past few months, they are like some exclusive clique in high school with an overly high opinion of themselves. Each of these countries are affluent today because they conquered, exploited, exterminated, subjugated and plundered all over the world.
  • Huge Bullbone on April 18 2014 said:
    Read "Project For A New American Century" or ask former US VP Dick Cheney what the roles of NATO and the US truly are in the current Ukraine situationand what it's really all about. "Oil, gas, and pipelines" will be his answer. Make no mistake about that. Not to mention the fact that Russia has already claimed most ot the natural resouces that are becoming more and more accessible due to global warming. This is the stuff of Armageddon.
  • Dalton R on August 26 2014 said:
    Correction Susan L. .. the majority of people in Crimea may be Russian citizens, but not Ukrainian citizens. Most of the Russians in Crimea were in fact residents of Crimea but did not and should not have had the right to vote for the future of the region anymore than Mexicans living in Houston should have the right to vote for it to become a new Mexican state.
  • Alex K on November 18 2014 said:
    Excellent post, Suzan L! Well reasoned and based in fact. Thank you.

    Your excellent analysis chimes with a world community increasingly disaffected with the pseudo-democratic west, its lies and propaganda.

    http://kingworldnews.com/kingworldnews/KWN_DailyWeb/Entries/2014/5/13_PCR_-_Washington_Is_Driving_The_World_To_The_Final_War.html

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