The Fruits of Obstruction

What does Russia get in return for supporting Serbia and blocking the UN from establishing independence for Kosovo? Today the Wall Street Journal has a brief report on the fruits of Russian obstruction – and once again we find energy imperialism as the core determinant of the Kremlin’s foreign policy:

“Somehow the juiciest assets end up in Russian hands,” said Jonathan Eyal, a Balkan specialist and director of international security studies at the Royal United Services Institute in London. “It is a strategy to bind Serbia again to Russia.” He warned that such a trend could damage Serbia’s efforts to join the European Union. EU officials haven’t echoed that, but they have said a failure to settle Kosovo’s status would damage Serbia’s membership prospects. … Russia’s goal, analysts say, is to build a new southern energy corridor to bring Russian oil and natural gas to market in Europe, bypassing troublesome transit neighbors Ukraine and Belarus, which lie to the north of Serbia. At the same time, large new Russian pipelines help undermine the financial viability of the EU’s Nabucco gas-pipeline project, which would bring gas from the Caspian Sea region and Iran, bypassing Russia. Lukoil owns two oil refineries and more than 1,800 gasoline stations in Europe, the majority in Eastern Europe and the Balkans, including Serbia. A spokesman for Lukoil declined to comment on the tender for NIS. But he described the region as strategically vital for the Russian oil major as it seeks the refinery and transport capacity to sell high-value refined gasoline direct to consumers in Europe. “We started with the former Soviet countries, like Ukraine and Moldova. Now we are moving to the former socialist countries,” where old ties remain and asset prices are affordable, the spokesman said.