Nabucco guarantees stability in the South Caucasus

Nabucco PipelineThe completion of the Nabucco will contribute to stability in the South Caucasus, the primary transit region hosting this $11 billion European Union-backed gas pipeline. The project is expected to assist in the long-sought stabilization of the region.

Andrew C. Kuchins, the director of the Russia and Eurasia Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, D.C., told Sunday’s Zaman, “Building Nabucco [gas pipeline] will increase partner countries’ stability in the South Caucasus.” At the same time, the expert points out that although the recent agreement on Nabucco signed in Ankara is an important step forward, the project still has a long way to go before it becomes a commercial reality.

After starting in 2002, the Nabucco gas pipeline was intended to be built by 2014. The project, beginning at the Caspian Sea and designed to run through the Caspian Basin, carrying Iran and Iraq’s gas resources through Turkey to EU countries, is supposed to have a capacity of 31 billion cubic meters per year. The euphoria over the project of the Nabucco gas pipeline, which was meant to ease the dependence of the EU on Russian resources, continued after the international agreement was signed on July 13 in Ankara between Turkey, Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary and Austria. This accord, carrying with it hopes of breaking the Russian monopoly on natural gas transit routes, brought together mostly positive concepts. The Nabucco gas pipeline — an alternative to Russian natural gas pipelines — gives European countries access to non-Russian gas suppliers and indicates the interest of EU members in the preservation and maintenance of stability in the South Caucasus.

On the contrary, Rövşen İbrahimov, head of the department of international relations at Baku’s Qafqaz University, speaking to Sunday’s Zaman, stated that the Nabucco project may not increase the attention of the EU to the region in general. Evaluating the project, he stated, “Some [EU] member states still are not paying attention to this project.” İbrahimov notes that the EU, in its official documents even before the possible realization of Nabucco, underlined their support of stability in the region. “However,” he points out, “it [EU] did not provide any instrument for its implementation.” Relying again on the EU’s official documents, he states that the EU supported all kinds of mediation initiatives by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s (OSCE) Minsk Group and the UN directed at solving problems in the South Caucasus region. “But actually, the EU has no instruments in its own common foreign policy which can be used to help implement a solution to the conflicts in the South Caucasus.”

Moreover, experts say, the intense US efforts to draw a bold line between South Caucasian countries and Russia for quite a long time became a regular attempt to balance Russian power.

By bypassing Russia, the Nabucco project, an alternative gas supply to Russian gas pipelines, caused Western and Russian interests to clash in the South Caucasus. After strong pressure by the US, it was successful in spurring the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan and Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum projects, which run Caspian hydrocarbon resources through the South Caucasus and Turkey to Europe. In fact, however, these projects neglected to deter or balance Russia. Sedat Laçiner, head of the International Strategic and Research Organization (USAK), told Sunday’s Zaman that the US was successful in initiating these projects. It is only the US and the EU, not Turkey, that can help balance Russian influence in the South Caucasus. The EU’s new Nabucco pipeline project is also a huge step toward containing Russia in the region and will help to stabilize the situation in the South Caucasus.

Expressing his opinion on the issue, İbrahimov states that since independence, Russia has never seen the South Caucasus region as part of its own territory. “However,” he says, “it [South Caucasus] is seen as a sphere of Russia’s political influence.” Mentioning the “near abroad doctrine” declared in 1992, the expert thinks that economically the West is already well entrenched in the region, citing the progress of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan and Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum pipelines as explicit examples of that. He underlines that “Russia agrees with the economic influence of the West in the region, but is against the political one.” He says that Nabucco cannot be a reason for a new confrontation. “But there might be problems in its development, if neither the US nor the EU expresses their full support of the project. Otherwise, Russia may impede the completion of this project by influencing Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan not to export their gas via Nabucco.”

Todays Zaman
02 August 2009, Sunday

More information on this subject:
Web site of Nabucco

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