Although the on-going conflict in Eastern Ukraine has been a constant in today’s news coverage, the specificity of strategic gains for Russia’s involvement has not been emphasized enough.
The facts are: Crimea is a region rich not only in agricultural resources but also natural resources such oil found off of its coast in the Black Sea.
Pipeline politics = Power politics
This is a question of larger geopolitical implications.
Russia not only needs extensive warm water access for maritime activities, but it needs to secure its foot on the central European continent. Having a Ukraine that is distant from Russia’s grip is a complete “no no” for Mr Putin.
Since Europe itself is in need of Russian gas however, acquiring Crimea gives Russia an even bigger monopoly on gas distribution. And so, to a certain extent, maintains the European dependency on Gazprom.
What is happening in Crimea can thus be linked to “pipeline politics” although for obvious reasons this is not the entire story behind the annexation.
There are however, attempts by Europe to reduce reliance on Russian gas:
Plans have been developed to build the Trans Adriatic Pipeline that will bring natural gas from the Caspian into Europe – bypassing Russia entirely.
This has implications for hostility between ex-Soviet states such as Azerbaijan, as she facilitates European energy independence from Russia, thus poking the “beast” but hoping that he won’t wake up too angry.
Moving Europe away from dependency on Russian gas calls for care to be taken by Caspian states. Countries like Azerbaijan are thus playing a double game of facilitating Europe’s energy independence, while at the same time trying to maintain stable relations with Russia.
Energy politics in this region of the world thus spill over into international political tensions.
Author, Ketevan Papashvili, LSE