Southern Corridor Considered as Alternative to Russia

The preponderance of Russian oil and gas in European markets has complicated and severely reduced the impact of European and American threats of retaliation for Russian aggression within Ukraine. Several European countries currently depend wholly on Russia for its supplies of gas, and some have even cautioned the European Union that rash decision making could imperil their country’s ability to fuel their own cities. Vladimir Putin has already threatened to cut off European-bound pipelines, and has hinted at severely reducing gas supplies or enforcing strict pay-in-advance policies on gas bound for Ukraine.

The possibility of such an action has led some to speculate that a southern gas and oil corridor would be opened in order to connect oil-rich states such as Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. Kazakhstan’s oil and gas minister Uzaqbai Qarabalin has already spoken before the Kazakh parliament in Astana and affirmed the need to explore “other possibilities,” with respect to the country’s gas and oil exports. Kazakh efforts to bulk up its fleet of tankers have been matched by Turkmenistan, and the Uzbek government has recently allotted significant funding to increase its own energy infrastructure. Agreements like that struck by Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan have become more common on a regional level, signaling a joint desire to benefit from a region that has only recently begun to discover its own energy potential.

Further agreements, nevertheless, have been described as inevitable, if Europe is to reduce its dependent on Moscow. The development of new energy networks would be favorable to European markets desperate to reduce the 280bcm of gas currently imported from Russia, a figure that constitutes between 70 and 80 percent of Russia’s total oil and gas exports.

News Briefs: 

  • Russia has come to terms with the Iranian government officials on a new oil-for-food agreement that will see Moscow acquire up to 500 million barrels of oil per day. The agreement flies in the face of existing pacts between the P5+1 and Tehran that fix limits on Iranian oil exports, and threatens to derail a heretofore successful set of negotiations that would, in theory, put an end to any threat posed by Iran’s nuclear program. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister, Sergey Ryabkov, has affirmed that the deal is merely a “natural process that doesn’t involve elements of political or economic challenge.” The immediate consequences of the deal include the breaking down of negotiations and a renewal of hardened, unfriendly relations between the West and Iran.
  • Iranian officials met with their Tajik counterparts to discuss possible cooperation in the transport sector. Iranian Minister of Transportation and Uranism, Abbas Ahundi, released a joint statement with Tajikistan’s Minister of Transport, Kharullo Asoevich, in which they expressed optimism over a renewed Iran compromise to allow for Tajik cargo to traverse Iranian territory en route to Dushanbe and other parts of Tajikistan. Over five thousand trucks already make the journey, but an enjoining railway system is a new prospect, and, in addition to increasing trade, will “decrease transit fees and simplify the process of passenger and freight transport.”
  • Reuters highlights the pleasantly surprising turnout of Afghan voters, while painting it as a success for the Afghan security apparatus, which has faced more than its share of criticism and has been frequently disparaged. The fact that Afghan security forces not only did not collapse, but also “effectively secured the vote” could stand to support those who have stated that Afghan forces are more than sufficient to protect the country once international coalition forces withdraw.
  • The annual Social Progress Index was released, ranking Central Asian nations near the bottom of progress rankings per year. The report was predicated on three principal indicators: basic human needs, wellbeing and opportunity, and while some minor improvements were seen, Tajikistan ranked 95th out of 132, Uzbekistan 92nd, Kazakhstan 86th and Kyrgyzstan 93rd.
  • Tajik security services report that a large-scale terrorist attack on the country’s largest aluminum plant was recently prevented. While details are scarce, security officials have stated that members of an illicit group were detained with explosions in their possession.
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