The South Stream gas pipeline agreement between Russia and Greece will be signed in mid-May following a telephone conversation between Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and Greek Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis which apparently sealed the deal. Almost simultaneously, the Russian-Bulgarian South Stream gas pipeline agreement will be signed. There were rumours the Karamanlis-Putin and Stanisev-Putin agreements would be abandoned following persistently strong American pressure. The Americans are strongly in favour of the proposed Nabucco gas pipeline which would pass through Turkey - leaving Greece out of the equation. Unfortunately, there are significant elements within the Greek and Bulgarian political establishments which take heed of American pressure. However, Dimitri Konstantakopoulos states in a recent article published in the Greek newspaper, Investor’s World (and which can be found on his blog here) that:
“there remains a long time before the gas flows and we should certainly not expect that Washington will wait passively for the completion of a project towards which it has never hidden its hostility”
The pipeline is expected to carry 30 billion cubic metres of gas annually from Russia to Bulgaria via the Black Sea. From there, 20 billion cubic metres will be channelled north and 10 billion cubic metres will be channelled south through Greece and then southern Italy. Russian company, Gazprom believes the pipeline can probably carry over 50% more.
On its strategic importance, Konstantakopoulos writes:
“the pipelines is of great strategic importance for securing energy supplies for Greece and the rest of Europe, and for Russian interests, because it bypasses Ukraine and Turkey, the two other "gates" of Russian gas exports towards southern and central Europe. Ukraine is immersed in increasingly explosive internal problems, to the extent that Washington wants to create a wedge between Europe and Russia, wholly within the context of Rumsfeld’s "New Europe". Regarding Turkey, it is simply absurd to export Russian gas through an Asiatic country. This is even more absurd for Greece considering Turkey's continued threats over the Aegean island of Agathonissi and Cyprus"
Increasingly more frequent communication between Putin and Karamanlis has been driven by alarm in Moscow at the variety of forces that have been mobilised to torpedo the South Stream project. They have also been puzzled by the contradictory signals received from various sectors of the Greek government which has raised questions in Moscow about who ultimately makes the decisions in Athens.