There are several reasons for Russia to intensify tension in Ukraine. The gas issue is among them. War in Crimea can provide Russia with an advantage for a more efficient and responsive lobbying for South Stream in Brussels. According to Kremlin strategists’ plans, the situation in Ukraine can convince EU to exclude the project from the Third Energy Package. It is obvious that destabilized situation in Crimea can be a good argument in South Stream negotiations with Brussels.
This tendency is forced because of the fact, that during “last 3 hot months” in Ukraine there were no interruptions with oil and gas transition from Russia to Europe. All this time pipeline systems were working in a normal mode. However, in spite of this fact, the thesis of Ukraine transit unreliability is prolonging to be supplemented by new arguments such as:
Nowadays Ukraine is considered as uncertain partner. It is good that there are no transit interruptions. But what is going to happen next?
Plunged into the chaos Ukraine present an enormous risk for transit;
The pipeline becomes the base of Ukrainian tension to Russia – “No reductions – no transit”.
Gazprom’s position concerning this rhetoric is rather evident - “Today the necessity of the “South Stream” is obvious. Moreover, the “Yamal-Europe-2” pipeline via Belarus with the adjusted route is needed: it should stretch to the South Poland, because of the “hole” South Poland-Slovakia-Baumgartenan der March Hub in Austria. Then the Ukrainian topic will be closed by the volumes and routes”.
Nowadays Russian scenario of Crimea destabilization is on a full scale. It is not made just because of “phantom pains” on “lost Crimea”, but rather because of some problems of the “South Stream” realization. Implementation costs of all parts are enormous: 56 bn. €, only 16,5 bn. € for the construction of the maritime and terrestrial sections (in Europe). The question of investment optimization is especially acute. It is unlikely that the total amount will be cut. Costs redistribution between foreign and Russian route sections is more expected, of course in favor of Russian “Southern Gas Corridor”. At the same time, attention is attracted to the Crimea scenario as a version of the “South Stream” maritime part optimization.
The construction of the sea part of gas pipeline is to be started in autumn 2014. It will be constructed in the deepest Black Sea area, where the depth is 1900-2200 m. At the same time, in case of Crimea annexation the combined rout will pass through the offshore zone, which is less deep, but not through the deep sea.
Crimea separation with its next annexation will solve a number of strategic problems for Russia in frames of “PaxPutiniana”:
Gas connection of Russia and Crimea which is now depended on Ukrainian infrastructure and resources;
Neutralization or taking under Russian control of perspective Black Sea gas research and development projects that were initiated by Ukraine and involved the leading European and American companies;
Depriving Ukraine of access to the essential part of developing gas resources and perspective hydrocarbon supplies in the Black Sea;
Displacement of the leading American and European oil companies from the north of the Black Sea;
Depriving “Crimealess Ukraine” of essential part of unique Black Sea economic area.
In addition, “Crimea in exchange for gas” question may be raised. Exactly one year ago,pro-Russian forces of Crimea used this thesis actively after the official claiming of “Gazprom” 7 bn. demands to “Naftogaz”. It’s absolutely clear that such thesis wasn’t a home task, prepared by “Sevastopol-Crimea-Russia” frontseparatists but carrying out of directives from Moscow. Now, after Yanukovych’sfailure the Kremlin is modifying quickly Ukraine Anschluss scenario and is preparing Crimean one.