EastMed - Turkish Stream Killer
The US is ready to defend Israel, Cyprus and Greece from Turkey and wants to turn the EastMed project into an alternative to Russian gas. The interests of Moscow and Ankara coincided again
Officially, Russia has partnerships with Israel, but the interests of the two countries are increasingly diverging. Tel Aviv is stopping Moscow in Syria. In pursuit of Iranian militias, Israeli F-16s endangered Russian aircraft. Israeli influence on the administration of Donald trump provokes exacerbations in the Strait of Hormuz. Tel Aviv has already announced that they want to patrol the Iranian coast together with the United States and Britain. Thirdly, Israel’s irreconcilable position on Palestine contradicts the Kremlin’s two-state conflict resolution strategy.
Economic differences are added to political differences. On August 7, a conference was held in Athens with the participation of the energy ministers of Israel, Greece and Cyprus. This format is also called the "triangle." Ministers discussed EastMed, a gas pipeline connecting the reserves of the Eastern Mediterranean with Europe. A 2,000 km long pipe will begin in Israel and in transit through Cyprus and Crete will go to Greece, and from there to Italy. The capacity of the pipeline is estimated at 15-20 billion cubic meters of gas per year.
The idea to continue the gas pipeline arose in 2009, when the American company Noble Energy found the giant Leviathan field, containing 3.5 trillion cubic meters of gas, off the coast of Israel. But given the high demand for "blue fuel" of Israel itself and its neighbors Egypt and Jordan, the decision on EastMed was made ten years later. In November 2018, Israel, Greece, Cyprus and Italy signed an agreement to build EastMed.
Recent finds on the shelf of Egypt and Cyprus have made the project even more real. On February 28, the US company Exxon Mobil discovered the world's third reserves at the Glaucus-1 Cyprus field. In mid-March, the Italian corporation ENI announced the discovery of large deposits 50 km from the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula. Two discoveries occurred on time. Because on March 20, the sixth summit of Israel, Cyprus and Greece took place. In the presence of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, their leaders signed an intergovernmental agreement on EastMed.
Turkish threat and US assistance
Connecting US officials to the Triangle meetings has become the norm. So, at the August Ministerial Conference in Athens was attended by US Assistant Secretary of State for the Use of Energy Resources Francis Fannon.
The participation of the Americans suits all parties. From the US, three countries need a security guarantee. Washington sees EastMed as a political project.
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Cypriot President Nikos Anastasiadis have called the United States "a bastion of stability in the Eastern Mediterranean" and an advocate of energy projects and shipping.
If protection is needed, then there is someone to defend against. The threat of Athens and Nicosia is seen in the actions of Ankara. The latter is outraged by the fact that the Cypriot authorities are conducting exploration of deposits and signing EastMed agreements bypassing the Turkish minority. And Turkey is responding to these attacks. Last year, its Navy obstructed ENI rigs, and this year Turkey sent two of its own drilling vessels to the shores of Cyprus.
As for the interests of the United States, they are no longer concerned with the military activity of the Turks, but with Russia.
Charles Ellinas, Executive Director of the Natural Hydrocarbons Company CEO of Cyprus, believes that the presence of Pompeo is a signal for Turkey and Russia, and he says that the United States is ready to defend Israel, Greece and Cyprus.
How much does the pipeline threaten Russia's position in Europe?
If we evaluate in terms of total volumes of Russian supplies (200 billion cubic meters), then EastMed with its 20 billion cubic meters. m - "a drop in the sea." Two strings of Nord Stream 2 (55 billion cubic meters each) double future Israeli deliveries.
At the same time, we must remember that the second thread of the Turkish Stream, intended for Europe, is nearing completion. And its capacity is 16 billion cubic meters. m is comparable to the volume of EastMed. Americans understand that Angela Merkel is behind Nord Stream 2, but they can still stop the extension of Turkish Stream to the EU.
Greece, Cyprus, Israel and Egypt, ready to participate in the project, will never allow Turkey to EastMed. Each of them has friction with Ankara. Athens argues with it over islands in the Aegean Sea, Tel Aviv over Palestine. Nicosia considers the Turks “occupiers”, and the Egyptian authorities cannot forgive Recep Erdogan for supporting the Muslim Brotherhood (a banned terrorist organization in Russia).
Erdogan will do everything to disrupt the project. Whether he succeeds or not, but in this dispute, Russia's sympathies should be on the side of Turkey. EastMed is not a threat, but a challenge to the Russian Turkish Stream. In the long run, the reserves of the Eastern Mediterranean can compete with Russian gas in the Old World.