The Bulgarian government has announced it will suspend work on Russia’s South Stream pipeline amid strong opposition from the EU and the US and the looming threat of US sanctions against Russian firms working on the project as of 28 April. Bulgarian Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski said that the country would seek further consultations with the EU on South Stream before moving forward. Bulgaria will be very hard hit in the event of a cessation of Russian gas supplies. It is the most vulnerable to Russian geoeconomic warfare. Over 85% of Bulgaria’s gas needs are met through Gazprom—and that goes through a single route passing through Ukraine. Bulgaria has a single oil refinery run by Russian Lukoil, which supplies over 60% of its refined fuel, with the crude coming through a Ukrainian Black Sea port. Even Bulgaria’s nuclear fuel is shipped through Ukraine. The country has a single gas storage facility with two-months in reserves. In case of emergency, it was to use a transit pipeline to Greece for reverse flow natural gas. The ruling coalition in Bulgaria should be largely viewed as pandering to Moscow—a situation that is exacerbated by the fact that about one-third of Bulgaria’s economic output is either directly or indirectly controlled by Moscow. There are also intelligence leaks indicating that Russia is directly influencing legislation in Bulgaria, particularly that related to the South Stream gas pipeline project. Sofia is attempting to sidestep Brussels on this (with help from Gazprom’s lawyers) by redefining the Bulgarian part of the pipeline as a simple “gas grid interconnection” rather than a full-fledged pipeline. This move is designed to circumvent EU competition regulations.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has won a third term in office in an election that few are taking seriously in the middle of a civil war. What we are most concerned about at this time is the significant start of the return of jihadist fighters from the Syrian theater, where they pose a threat to Europe, Turkey and various African venues, among others.
The crisis in Ukraine and belated fears about Europe’s energy security have prompted European Union lawmakers to propose the scrapping of a mandatory requirement to label oil from tar sands as “dirty”. This could be a major coup for Canada’s tar sands producers who have been…