November 1, 2010
German readers should have a look at Karl-Olaf Lang’s study on Baltic Sea energy issues, that you can find on the following site: SWP, Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik. I would not sum up this accurate and particularly interesting study.
Nevertheless, I will try to highlight a few points, either mentioned by the author or implied by his conclusions:
-The recent history of Poland, Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania and in a lower extend Finland, has lead those countries to depend largely on Russian gas and oil, thus creating a situation of dependence, that has already been used by Moscow to make pressure on those countries. At several occasions Russia decided to shut down the oil and gas pipelines.
-The small size and minor economic power of Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia does not provide them with enough autonomy to invest in major energy projects, in order to lower their dependence, e.g nuclear plants. Therefore, they will rely for a while on Russian supply or importation, for instance Finnish electricity.
-All the supply networks go from the East to the West. Only huge investments, that they cannot afford, could reverse the situation and help decrease the Russian share on their energy importation. However this would need at least a deep cooperation between the Baltic countries, which is not that simple, as everybody wants to get his share of the profits if a major project, like the construction of a nuclear plant, were to be decided. Poland owns more freedom of action, because of its larger economic power and its geographic situation at German border.
-Larger Baltic countries like Germany are playing their own game with Russia and have raised the concern of smaller ones: while Germany is building up its relations with Russia on cooperation, most of the other Eastern Baltic countries always consider security as their first concern.
-Moscow does not assess Belarus and Ukraine as reliable enough to leave the situation as it is today, with the main pipelines run to the West through both countries. Therefore Russia, through Gasprom, is strongly involved in the construction of Nord Stream gas pipeline which will bypass both, but in the same way, create a direct energy relationship between Germany and Russia, thus raising again the concern of other Baltic countries which will are neither big nor ‘Russian-friendly’ enough to lead Gasprom to invest in pipelines for their supply.
Then the Baltic countries, belonging to the EU, have a strong security concern linked with their energy supply. However, this is a global issue that the EU cannot address, as the EU -commission already involved in EU-Russia cooperation process cannot include security, all the more that Baltic countries exclusively rely on NATO for their security, because of its credibility provided by the USA.
Regrettably the current situation of European Defence will not allow the EU to address those concerns.
You will find some more details on Baltic Sea under following link: http://europeandefence.blogactiv.eu/2010/09/29/different-perspectives-on-baltic-sea-geopolitics/Author : f.