Russian Offer On Tapi Comes With Too Many Restrictions

Russian Offer On Tapi Comes With Too Many Restrictions

By Martin Sieff

Despite a near reversal by Russia on its opposition to the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline, Turkmenistan has decided not to cut them in on the project.

Russia has traditionally been opposed, or at very least skeptical, about the TAPI project.

But India, Russia’s closest ally in Asia, desperately needs the natural gas that TAPI would provide and Gazprom, Russia’s giant natural gas corporation sees a profitable role for itself in helping to construct TAPI.

Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov is also enthusiastic about completing the project.

As a result, the Kremlin recognizes that the battle has been lost. And they appear, with relatively good grace, to be cutting their losses and adjusting to make profits under the new circumstances.

In that regard, Russia proposed Gazprom produce the plans for the TAPI pipeline and then direct the farming out of the construction projects involved in it. Russia also said Gazprom would then have access to developing gas-fields on land in Turkmenistan and be cut into its sale programs in the other three TAPI participating nations.

”Apparently on Gazprom's behalf, (Russian Deputy Prime Minister Igor) Sechin proposed four possible versions of the Russian state monopoly's participation in TAPI,” Jamestown Foundation analyst Vladimir Socor noted in a November 2 article in Asia Times Online.

Socor noted that Russia's Deputy Energy Minister, Anatoly Yanovsky, confirmed the Kremlin had formally presented this offer to the Turkmen government.

Turkmenistan’s response thus far, however, has been to issue a statement “dismissing the possibility of an agreement with Gazprom on the proposed TAPI pipeline,” Socor wrote.

The dismissal may be in part due to Turkmen anger at the strict rules for Turkmen gas exports Russia attempted to impose during an October visit to Ashgabat.

During that visit, Sechin told the Turkmens that Russia did not object to them exporting as much of their natural gas as they liked to China, Russia’s powerful ally to the east.

But they drew the line at Turkmenistan’s efforts to export its natural gas to Europe and the West. Russia continued to insist that those exports can only flow through Russian territory or that of Russian allies. And that Russia remains implacably opposed to Turkmenistan’s efforts to pump additional gas to the West along new pipelines -- especially the proposed Nabucco through Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey that Russia would not control.

Sechin, in fact, has insisted that the European Union-backed Nabucco pipeline has "no future" claiming there is not enough natural gas around to justify it.

(This argument appears hard to substantiate as Turkmenistan sits on the fourth largest reserves of natural gas in the world.)

Yet Sechin has given the green light to increased Turkmen natural gas exports to China, which he said, offered an "almost infinite market" that could absorb both Turkmen and Russian gas.

“Russia's message to Ashgabat gas cannot be made more explicit: Export your gas anywhere except Europe and Gazprom will help you in this regard,” Socor concluded.

But the Turkmens haven’t given in to Russian pressure. On October 28, Turkmenistan’s foreign ministry praised European companies for "proving themselves to be reliable, predictable, acting in good faith and on economic-commercial logic. Accordingly, Turkmenistan will continue to develop the European direction for its gas exports."

Clearly, President Berdimuhamedov has decided to defy Moscow and push ahead with TAPI and support for Nabucco, without cutting Gazprom into TAPI.

The Russian offer on TAPI amounted to a compromise with Turkmenistan. The Turkmens have rejected it. The Russians are unlikely to take that response lying down.
Central Asia Newswire

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