The New York Times is reporting on tension arising between Russia and members of the former Soviet Bloc from Russia’s construction of a natural gas pipeline under the Baltic Sea. The pipeline would provide natural gas directly to Western Europe, replacing (or enhancing) distribution networks that currently go through Eastern Europe.
The concern is that the new pipeline will allow Russia to limit supplies to Eastern Europe without impacting deliveries to Western Europe, causing fears that Russia will attempt to re-establish dominance among its neighbors by using the threat of withholding energy supplies as a weapon without risk to their economic ties with Western Europe.
Gazprom, the Russian energy company building the pipeline, claims the endeavor is commercial, not strategic, and that’s almost certainly true, but we should keep in mind the century we live in and remember that distinctions like that, though useful for analysis and conversation, no longer exist in policy-making deliberations.
To cite a single example, in 2006 a deal to contract some services of U.S. ports to a Dubai company came under intense scrutiny and bellicose discussion over security, that is to say, strategic, issues, although the deal was uncontroversial from a commercial standpoint. And we’re the good guys.
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