Analysis: Russia's aggressive energy policy is bad news for Israel

The network of non-democratic, energy-generating states might end up stretching from Turkey to Iran.

oil derrick 298.88 (photo credit: AP)
oil derrick 298.88
(photo credit: AP)
Amid the looming Turkish failure to preserve the secular nature of its democracy, the growing Russian regional energy dominance and recent agreements to extend a natural gas pipeline from Iran to India, it seems like global diplomacy is becoming more dictated by increased demand for cheap and efficient energy. Energy setting the pace is bad news for Israel. These recent regional trends allude to the rise of Energystan. This highly coordinated network of non-democratic, energy-generating states, highly susceptible to Islamic interests, might end up stretching from Turkey to Afghanistan, through Russia, the Caucuses and Iran. Its economic clout combined with its strategic geographical spread and military might will change regional as well as global affairs at the expense of long-term Israeli interests. The keystone of Energystan is the awakening bear of Moscow and its gargantuan nationalized energy giant Gasprom. The Russian quest of coalescing this network into a coordinated economic and political bloc is evident in three major efforts.
  • Internal Effort: Diminished democracy, courtesy of Kremlin Inc. Putin's Kremlin is engaged in an ongoing policy of recentralizing the Russian regime. However, in a very clever way, the Russian leadership has managed to reinstate several Soviet abusive constructs through "legitimate" business and legal tactics. Among others, Russia has recently reinstated media censorship, ordering that from now on, any media outlet in the country is obligated to report 50% good news about the regime. Moreover, through a set of bogus IRS and legal accusations, the Kremlin effectively nationalized the country's energy industry and has since used it as a pillar of Russia's ever aggressive foreign policy. In a recent New York Times article discussing Putin's legacy, this elusive tactic was dubbed "Kremlin Inc." International energy companies, the most recent being British Petroleum, have suffered the wrath of Kremlin Inc. as their franchises suddenly ceased to exist for obscure bureaucratic reasons.
  • Reaching out: Russian tentacles in global energy markets As the EU fails to establish a coherent energy policy to confront Russia's dominance (50% of the EU Gas consumption is Russian), Russian "Energy Diplomacy" is ever more productive. In recent years we have seen Russia threaten and carry out sudden and abrupt supply halts as part of its economic haggling process with desperate Western countries. Moreover, Russia is engaged in serious talks on the establishment of the Natural Gas OPEC that will enable it to establish a cartel on the world's next dominant energy resource. These talks are conducted predominantly with Iran and Algeria, which together account for over 40% of global gas reserves. Additionally, on May 31, Russia signed a ground-breaking agreement with countries surrounding the Caspian Sea, establishing a gas pipeline around the sea. This agreement, which was awarded a footnote in the Western media, might become the watershed event leading to the establishment of Energystan - as it solidifies Russia's control over the means of transporting gas.
  • International Umbrella: Russia takes care of its Energystan partners Russia has demonstrated to its potential Energystan allies that it is willing to use its scientific, military and political power to support their policies. Recent reflections of this policy are the Russian support for Iran and the recent $7.5 billion arms deal with Algeria. Hizbullah's use of Russia's Kornett and Matisse anti-tank missiles are also part of this trend.
  • Next Stop, Energystan? The latest Russian developments must be read in the context of the Western failure to focus on essential democracy, rather than procedural one. Insisting on procedural, text-book democracy that focuses on free elections and other procedures has brought about Hamas in the PA, crushed the Lebanese structure by allowing Hizbullah's "political wing" to transform into a legitimate democratic power and is on its way to see the collapse of the moderate Turkish regime. While Lebanon and the PA might be lost causes at the moment, Turkey is still open for change. As the West has failed to accommodate the country's traditional "three demands" - Kurds, Cyprus, EU accession - Turkey's moderates and the country seem to be spiraling out of democracy into a clear process of turning east. While the only chance of relative democracy and moderation seems to be the Turkish army, the international community refuses to view a military coup as advantageous and more democratic than an Islamist regime, set to intensify the process of turning east to establish Energystan rather than towards the EU.
  • The Merits of Bounded Democracy Metaphorically speaking, while all this is in progress, a group of radicals headed by Supreme leader Ali Khaminai are sitting smug in Teheran. The West's focus on the old paradigm of procedural democracy enables them to operate their terror-network and Shi'a crescent with no serious hurdles. The international community is better off switching its insistence on procedural democracy with one that focuses on less perfect, bounded democracy. Bounded democracy will provide the international community with tools to engage the great tradition of Russia and Turkey with effective diplomatic means, rather than an "all or nothing" approach that seems to be exacerbating the tension. A sobered approach, aiming at containment rather than "victory" might succeed in preventing Energystan from coming into being. Jonathan Adiri is an analyst at the Reut Institute.