The claim of Austrian Foreign Minister Martin Bartenstein for Die Presse, that Russian President Vladimir Putin is a supporter of energy nationalism, and that together with Gazprom boss Miller he is using energy to conduct foreign policy, is nothing new. And although it comes on the eve of Putin's visit to Vienna and only a few days after the fiasco of the EU-Russia summit in Samara, Putin will probably be able to swallow it.
The Kremlin has failed to create a strategic partnership with the EU, due to its conflicts with the Baltic countries and Poland, so it is trying to do business bilaterally. This is why Russia is trying to grab a bigger share of Caspian gas, and why it wants to build the Blue Stream pipeline to nix Europe's planned Nabucco pipeline. That's why it is building a pipeline under the Baltic Sea to Germany, to increase the threat towards countries that oppose it of being bypassed. That's why it wants to build a gas transit centre in Austria, and to build subterranean gas storage areas, so Gazprom can one day have direct access to its customers.
However, the Kremlin cannot reach any of these goals without the agreement of the European Union's member countries. For this reason, creating a European communications strategy with Russia is a key security issue.
Putin's visit to Austria is being overshadowed not only by Samara, but also by the discovery that official Russian circles are probably behind the murder of Alexander Litvinenko. We are not yet being forced to choose between gas or polonium, but one never knows.
Sme, May 24
28. May 2007 at 0:00 | Ivan Štulajter