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Старый 04.07.2008, 13:20   #336
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Russia launches Caspian Sea gas grab

By Adrian Blomfield in Moscow

Last updated: 8:36 PM BST 03/07/2008

Russia has launched a campaign to win control of the Caspian Sea's vast gas resources in an attempt to tighten the Kremlin's stranglehold over Europe's energy supplies.
Dmitry Medvedev, Russia's new president, arrived in Azerbaijan on Thursday at the beginning of a charm offensive designed to persuade Caspian basin states to surrender their gas supply routes to Moscow.

The trip is the latest salvo in a struggle for regional influence between the West, Russia and China that has been compared to the Great Game of the 19th century when the British Empire and Tsarist Russia fought for control of Central Asia.

Desperate to reduce its dependency on Russian gas after the Kremlin began to use energy to gain political leverage over its neighbours, Europe is seeking to secure supplies from the huge fields of the Caspian.

But Moscow is determined to fend off competitors in an area it sees as its exclusive sphere of influence, an ambition some fear has been bolstered by delays in a European Union project to build a gas pipeline from the Caspian that would bypass Russia.

Mr Medvedev offered a significant olive leaf to Ilham Aliyev, the Azeri president, when he hinted that Russia could support Azerbaijan in its row with Armenia over the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh for the first time.

Armenia has occupied the region, which lies in Azerbaijan but had a mainly Armenian population, since the two countries fought a brutal war in the early 1990s.

In exchange, Mr Aliyev said that he was considering a Russian request to buy all output from the vast Shah Deniz gas field, where production is expected to start in 2012.

"We are considering a new project which will be of common interest and help the maximum use of our energy resources," Mr Aliyev said.

Such a deal would represent a major blow to the European Union, which had hoped to source gas for its Nabucco pipeline from Shah Deniz. Russia is planning to build a rival pipeline from the Caspian through its territory and has already won support for the project from several European Union countries.

Russia already supplies a quarter of Europe's gas, a figure that is likely to grow in coming years.

Gazprom, Russia's state energy giant, boasted that the deal would boost its ambitions for hegemony in Europe.

"Azerbaijan will become yet another country where Gazprom can buy gas," chief executive Alexei Miller said.

Amid growing concerns over rising energy costs, Mr Miller said that the gas prices to Europe would be raised by 20 percent before the end of the year.

He predicted that oil prices would hit $250 a barrel "in the foreseeable future", a rise that could see the average European gas price more than double to $1,000 per 1,000 cubic metres.

Mr Medvedev will arrive in Turkmenistan, another energy rich country where the West is desperate to establish a foothold, in a bid to tie up Russian control over the country's exports.

Story from Telegraph News:
...у нас очень многое во внешней политике в последние годы с подачи В.В. Путина строилось по принципу русской народной пословицы, боятся – значит, уважают. ... Нет, дело в том, что эта пословица – это не есть русская народная мудрость, это есть русский народный идиотизм, потому что боятся – это не значит уважают, боятся – значит, боятся. Боятся – значит, ненавидят, боятся – значит, избегают.
А. Троицкий

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