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It's All About Gas: EU Finds Potential Energy Supplier to Replace Russia?

The US and EU are taking great pains to find a substitute for Russia's gas, Scottish researcher and writer Steven MacMillan notes, adding that Azerbaijan and Norway may potentially play a pivotal role.

Washington and Brussels have long been expressing their anxiety regarding Europe's dependence on Russia's energy; the US has recently intensified its efforts to replace Russia as Europe's main provider of natural gas, while the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) has presented a number of possible scenarios to diversify the EU's gas supplies away from Russia.

"Since relations between the West and Russia have deteriorated so rapidly following the US coup in Ukraine, Western strategists have been working relentlessly to find a replacement to Russian energy supplies to the EU. In the immediate term, this is impossible, a reality that unnerves many in Washington and Brussels," Scottish geopolitical analyst and editor of The Analyst Report Steven MacMillan underscored.

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However, neither Washington nor Brussels are ready to give up, the analyst noted, adding that the West is considering a number of countries which could in the medium to long term replace Russia's gas supplies or at least "dramatically reduce" Europe's energy dependence.

The recent report by the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) entitled "Europe's Alternatives to Russian Gas," is considering a vast range of potential energy suppliers.

For instance, among the "candidates" are such energy suppliers as Iraq and Libya. Alas, the states are so unstable — "due to Western foreign policy of course" — that they cannot be regarded as viable options, the expert underscored.

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The ECFR analysts also view Israel as the EU's potential energy supplier, but this source is again an unlikely substitute for Russian gas: 60 percent of Israel's gas reserves go to the domestic market.

Resource-rich Turkmenistan cannot solve the European dilemma either: the country has shifted its export strategy toward China.  

At the same time, the ECFR clings to the hope that Iran, a country that hosts vast oil and gas reserves, may become a possible player.

"Speculation has grown in recent months that Tehran and Brussels could strike an energy deal in the near future that would see Iran supplying gas and oil to the EU. With recent news that the negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 states have concluded successfully, and a deal has been reached which is expected to see sanctions gradually lifted, this is becoming more likely," Steven MacMillan emphasized.

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However, it seems that Brussels is doomed to disappointment:  according to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Iran is far from being able to replace Russia as a supplier, since it lags behind in gas extraction.

Furthermore, despite the agreement that has been reached between Tehran and the P5+1, Iran still views the Western countries "as perfidious partners," given the controversial history of their meddling into Iranian affairs.

"There is no question that many of the neocons in Washington will be irate at the recent deal and will still push for regime change in Tehran," MacMillan remarked.

Thus far, both Washington and Brussels should better seek more tame and subservient states than Iran to replace Russia. Remarkably, ECFR analysts claim that Azerbaijan could play this role, stressing that "Azerbaijan is the supplier best placed to respond to the EU's strategy of diversifying gas supply away from Russia."

There is a project that envisages the connection of the Trans-Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline (TANAP), that will run from Azerbaijan to Turkey, with the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) which will go through Greece and Albania to Italy. It is expected that TAP will become operational by 2020 and will have an initial capacity of 10 billion cubic meters of gas per year.

"It will be important for the West to ensure that Azerbaijan continues to play a cooperative role with Western energy corporations in the future, as some voices in Washington have asserted that 'US-Azerbaijan relations are clearly now in serious crisis'," MacMillan pointed out.

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And last but not the least is Norway that will most likely continue to play a significant role in providing the EU with natural gas. As the Norwegian Foreign Minister stated earlier this year, Norway will supply gas to Europe for "years to come."

While the West is sweating bullets about Europe's dependency on Russia's gas, Moscow is expanding its energy ties with Asian and Latin American countries. In addition to its ongoing projects Russia is considering building the Altai pipeline that will connect Western Siberia with northwestern China. Moreover, the Kremlin has already signed an energy deal with Argentina and inked an agreement with Saudi Arabia, the US' longstanding ally, on cooperation in the nuclear energy sphere.  

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