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Thesis & Antithesis

A critical perspective on energy, international politics & current affairs

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Location: Washington, D.C.

greekdefaultwatch@gmail.com Natural gas consultant by day, blogger on the Greek economy by night. Trained as an economist and political scientist. I believe in common sense and in data, and my aim is to offer insight written in language that is clear and convincing.

20 February 2006

Realism and European energy security

Italy’s Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi accused Ukraine of causing a gas shortage in Italy: Mr. Berlusconi said that Ukraine was taking up to 70 billion cubic feet of natural gas a day from the pipeline that runs through Ukraine and feeds Italy (link). I am not reading too much into this story, but I think that there is something interesting developing in the geopolitics of energy in Europe: a gradual squeezing of Eastern Europe.

Germany and Italy are two countries in Western Europe who are called to reassess their attitudes towards Eastern Europe; whether they are sympathetic to Russian aspirations in this “traditional” sphere of influence will make a big difference on the reliability of their energy supplies. I wrote last week (“Energy cold war,” 13 Feb 06) about the Polish efforts to safeguard their overall defense against Russia (and the small impact those efforts have produced till now). Germany, at least under Chancellor Schroeder, was quite sympathetic to Russian interests; whether Italy becomes so as well will be shown over time.

But there is a definite realignment in Europe: those countries which rely heavily on Russia for their supplies and which have a certain political clout seem to be getting closer to Russia; those states which rely on Russia but which are less able to stand up on their own are asking for help but not seem to be getting much of it; and then there is the rest of Europe which may or may not be powerful but which is less dependent on Russia, which has yet to commit to any side. This is a fluid environment and is worth paying attention to.

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