New Greek-Turkish gas pipeline is part of US-Russian antagonism concerning energy supplies to the West

The inauguration of a gas pipeline by Greece and Turkey on the border of the two countries on Sunday provided ample evidence that Athens’s energy planning is the object of a tug of war between Russian and US interests. The presence at the ceremony of US Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman left no doubt regarding Washington’s position with respect to the energy plans not only of Greece but of Europe in general. On Monday, Bodman pressed the message further in meetings with top ministers in Athens. Russian reflexes proved quick, shown by its ambassador’s visit to Development Minister Christos Folias as soon as Bodman had left his office. Bodman gave a clear idea of the content of his contacts both in his speech at the inauguration ceremony and at an informal and unscheduled meeting with Greek reporters afterward. «Azerbaijan and the other countries of Central Asia should become the main energy suppliers of Europe,» Bodman said in his speech at the inauguration, in apparent contrast with European plans. «Europe’s energy security demands competitive energy markets,» he added, describing Greece, Turkey, the US and Azerbaijan, which were all represented at the event, as an alliance of partners for the development of Central Asian nations, including Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan, into Europe’s main suppliers – indirectly but clearly referring to Russia by omission. Bodman said the US was not opposed to Russian gas flowing through the pipeline. «Washington is interested in securing supplies for European consumers, for whom dependence on just one source is not to their benefit,» he said. Greek government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos said the US energy secretary had been invited and was welcome. «In its international economic relations, the country cooperates to its benefit with whomever it deems necessary,» he added. But it was clear that Bodman’s presence at the inauguration of the gas pipeline – a project planned to be extended to Italy and financed by the EU – irked Brussels, which decided not to be represented. Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs said his wife was ill, while the Italian energy minister also cited similar reasons for not attending. Italy’s energy giant ENI has signed an agreement with Gazprom for the construction of the South Stream pipeline that will carry Russian gas west. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan seized on the occasion to highlight his country’s energy infrastructure and plans which will upgrade its geopolitical significance, including the Baku-Ceyhan and Samsun-Ceyhan oil pipelines. Azeri President Ilham Aliyev noted that the deposits in his country’s Shah Deniz gas field were estimated at 1.2 trillion cubic meters and he was looking forward to expanding cooperation with Europe.