“Has Putin’s desire to retain Russia’s energy position moved him away from Tehran?” ask The Commentator’s Peter C. Glover and Michael J. Economides. While the world has been expected to divide into familiar camps over Iran’s nukes – the West against it, the East at least tacitly for it – it turns out there’s a new wrinkle in this plot, which could change the outcome of the biggest story of the year.
Moscow is interest in Israeli energy. Not to buy, to redirect.
Gazprom, Russia’s giant energy producer, has had an “energy stranglehold over Europe,” according to Commentator. The 20 million metric tons of eastern Mediterranean liquid natural gas (LNG) which Israel expects to export each year to Europe amounts to about a third of Russia’s gas exports.
Putin is concerned about this threat to Russia’s economy, which is based almost entirely on its ability to control European energy. And so Moscow is set on doing everything in its power to protect this ‘captive’ market against the marauding Israelis (and Cypriots).
The Jewish Press’ Rotem Sella earlier this month cited “a very senior person in the Israeli gas industry” who told him: “The Russians have been poking around here for a while. Everyone knows about the Russian interest in controlling the European energy market. Do they want to buy from us, or delay our efforts? I don’t know. But they are here.”
During Putin’s visit to Israel, he and Prime Minister Netanyahu reportedly agreed to form a Gazprom subsidiary which would “help” with Israel’s enormous gas field, the “Levyatan.”
And Ohad Marani, CEO of IDLC energy which is already drilling the Myra well, told Sella: “In the Far East we will see three times what we see in Europe. While we won’t be able to keep the whole margin, it’s surely better than any European option, which would involve an expensive pipe.”
And could involve selling in Putin’s territory. You shouldn’t do that…
Turns out that in order to convince Israel it would be much better off selling its gas to India, China, South Korea and Japan, the new czar is prepared to sacrifice Iran. Putin is even willing to lose a billion dollar deal and possibly eat a 4 billion dollar court decision against him:
Eurasia Monitor has reported that Iran is suing Russia for close $4 billion in damages in the Court of Arbitration in Geneva for canceling a contract to sell five divisions of the S-300 long-range anti-aircraft missile system worth an estimated $800 million to $1 billion.
As I said, anyone who thought the Iran conflict would divide along predictable demarcation lines – welcome to the 21st century. Russia, which helped construct Iran’s nuclear plant at Bushehr, does not appear so eager to support Iran in a war against Israel. The Kremlin has other priorities than those it used to have when it ran the USSR brand.
And that chess play could prove to be the one that got Tehran to blink first.