Putin’s Planned Pipeline With Turkey – Just Smoke & Mirrors

Russia’s Prime Minister Vladimir Putin s

Much speculation has been made since Russian President, Vladimir Putin, announced the cancellation of the planned South Stream project last December. Seen by some as a rebuke by the Kremlin towards the EU’s sanctions against Russia, many analysts speculated various theories.

One theory doing the rounds was that the cancellation of the project sounded the death knell for Europe’s poorer countries who are both reliant on Russian supplied gas to power their business and warm their homes and who would have benefited economically from jobs created in the construction of the pipeline, and of course the transiting of the gas once the pipeline was up and running.

Another theory doing the rounds is that it makes political sense to further destabilise Europe, and NATO. Russia would prefer to bring Turkey under its sphere of influence, a country similarly modelled on a narcissistic dictator who has no real respect for democracy, human rights or a free press, all of which are values that Europe holds dear. Thus cancelling South Stream would do two things. It would create economic uncertainty for the poorer east European countries, thus creating a discord between their governments and Brussels, and it would also put the cat among the pigeons with NATO leaders as the only NATO member state ruled by a dictator has built enormous political capital at home and potentially gains more influence, and thus immunity from criticism, with Brussels.

But I think this is all bullshit, and here’s why.

Recently, Gazprom’s mafioso CEO, Alexei Miller, announced a veiled threat to Europe, in the form of a “Godfather” styled “offer they can’t refuse”. You know the kind I’m talking about, how you have “such a nice family and it would be a shame if something happened to it.”

Miller announced yesterday that it would be in Europe’s best interests to support Gazprom’s initiative to circumvent Ukraine as a transit country, by way of building a connector between Greece and Turkey, enabling them to press on with their plan to use Turkey as a transit country into Europe, now that South Stream was cancelled.

“the Turkish Stream is the only route along which 63 billion cubic metres of Russian gas can be supplied, which at present transit Ukraine. There are no other options,” he said.

“Our European partners have been informed of this and now their task is to create the necessary gas transport infrastructure from the Greek and Turkish border,” said Miller, according to a Gazprom statement.

“They have a couple of years at most to do this. It’s a very, very tight deadline. In order to meet the deadline, the work on building new trunk gas pipelines in European Union countries must start immediately today,” Miller warned.

Or else what, Alexei?:

“Otherwise, these volumes of gas could end up in other markets.”

Please, don’t make me laugh. And I also like the way Russians still overuse the word “partner” when referring to any dealings they have with Europe. Any real “partner” wouldn’t have shut off gas supplies, as they have 2006, 2009 and again in 2015. With “partners” like these, who needs enemies?

And where, pray-tell are these gas supplies likely to be sent, if they are redirected away from Europe? China? Not bloody likely. The Chinese gas infrastructure is worse than a leaking sieve. There is already one major pipeline, from KAZAKHSTAN, supplying their main network. And unlike Europe’s infrastructure, China’s is highly centralised, in the form of hub-and-spoke. In fact they have such a hard time actually getting gas to where it’s needed that they’re too busy fixing their own internal pipelines to cover the immediate demand. So where Alexei? Tell me!

What hardman Miller is basically trying to say is that if gas can’t move to Europe via Turkey, Gazprom won’t ship it via Ukraine. But push come to shove, if Europe is still deemed the most valuable destination for Russian gas, Gazprom will continue to sell it there, and ship it via Ukrainian pipes. It simply cannot afford not to.

It’s a bluff, plain and simple. Even the most doveish Eurocrat can see it for what it is. To top it all, gas supply is expected to increase later this year as the Gladstone and Gorgon LNG sites in Australia and Sabine Pass in the US come online. And this glut in supply will further exacerbate the drop in gas prices, meaning that gas imports in Asia will centre on cheaper (and more politically stable) suppliers from Australia, further excluding pass-through business Gazprom could only hope to gain with their deal with the Chinese.

As for Europe, with another mild Winter almost gone, the consequent bumper reserve stores and a focus during these past two years on retrofitting gas terminals in Grangemouth (Scotland), Ferrol, Valencia & Cartagena (Spain) and Hammerfest (Norway) to enable them to handle LNG from the US, it further diminishes Gazprom’s grip on gas supplies into Europe. This alternate path to supply undercuts Russian leverage, not just in Europe, but in China too. And given the noise regarding unresolved prices coming from Mandarin’s in China about the gas deal with Russia announced last year, you just KNOW that the Chinese will squeeze Putin’s balls like a hungry python.

On top of this, the whole thing with Turkey looks like a set-up to me. Since late 2013, right up until very late 2014, the Bulgarians had been courting the Kremlin and Gazprom. Along with demented Hungarian President, Victor Orban, Russia has few other allies in Brussels. The Bulgarian Parliament had tried to pass a law circumventing EU rules forbidding Gazprom from owning AND controlling the pipelines they operated in the EU. They even went so far as to have Gazprom actually WRITE the law! But with Brussels threatening to cut off much needed cash from the EU development funds, the Bulgarians quickly fell into line and they rejected South Stream.

So…..a connector between Greece and Turkey, eh? Why wouldn’t it work? Ignoring the centuries of hatred, a stale war in Cyprus and a complete mistrust between the two? Well, for starters, ignoring the politics for a moment, the current Turkish infrastructure can’t even handle the current pass-through commitments from other deals the Turks inked.

Turkey has the domestic infrastructure to get the gas from the Black Sea shore to the Aegean. From an Oxford Institute for Energy Studies report:

The BOTS [Turkish national gas company] transport system’s throughput capacity is not sufficiently developed to accept and ship all the contracted gas volume from the eastern suppliers due to the limited installed capacity of the existing compressor stations. BOTAS is able to take some 90% of the gas from the Trans-Balkan Gas Pipeline (the Western Line) and the Blue Stream pipeline from Russia, but has struggled to cope with volumes contracted from Azerbaijan and Iran. Therefore, the company has had to pay billions of dollars for ‘untaken’ gas.

This is the picture today. It will take a significant level of investment in Turkey to upgrade their infrastructure that will allow it to handle large additional gas flows via the new pipeline.

So who is going to pay for all of this? It’s not like Gazprom is flush with cash. On the contrary, like all Russian corporations, Gazprom is in dire straits financially. Although it’s not subject to sanctions right now, it IS affected by it’s inability to tap foreign money markets through it’s banking concern. It owes billions of USD denominated debt, which falls due during the course of 2015. Ordinarily they’d pay this off by simply borrowing more and rolling that debt over. But since the money markets have been shut off, they’ve had to resort to government funds and other unlikely sources, such as China (remember those guys?)

Whilst Gazprom is not directly sanctioned now – just the Gazprombank arm – all that could change with the very fluid situation right now in Ukraine. One wrong move by the Kremlin in eastern Ukraine could vastly change the playing field. In addition, Gazprom’s hard currency revenue picture is dismal. Gazprom’s shipments to Europe were down more than 9% last year, and no gas is yet flowing to China. And the best part of it is that Gazprom prices – at its own insistence! – are tied to lagged oil prices. What’s that mean?Well, since the price of oil has plummeted 60%, so too will the price of gas Gazprom sells. It’s revenues from Europe will decline by the same order of magnitude as oil prices have, to the tune of 60%. A far cry from their predictions of $250(!!) back in 2008. Great work Alexei. I can see why you were picked to be CEO.

Schadenfreude doesn’t even come close to describing my feelings at contemplating Gazprom getting what it insisted on – an oil price link. It insisted on this link almost as a matter of principle, and came up with one ludicrous argument after another to justify it.

And while we’re talking about revenue, let’s talk about prices in general. One of the biggest flies in the ointment about the Turkey deal, and which everyone seems to fail mentioning, is the fact that the Russians still haven’t finalised a deal with Turkey on the gas prices for THIS YEAR! So somehow, whilst they’re still bickering about a price deal for this year, they are somehow going to magically reach an agreement and lock in a long-term price for the pipeline business? Keep dreaming Alexei.

Whilst we’re still on the topic of price, let’s cast our minds back to all the other large pipeline projects Putin and his cronies announced this past decade, and ask yourself how many of them ACTUALLY followed through and went live. There were deals announced with China going as far back as 2006, but they never materialised because neither the Chinese, nor the Russians, come come to an agreement on price. The same thing happened with two other lines with the Kazakhs and Azerbaijan. The two latter parties ultimately choosing to cast off the shackles of Gazprom and opting to go it alone.

This current deal, signed when Putin was under the gun has not fully resolved price issues. This “deal” has every prospect of having the same issues as all the others that have come before it, especially since the Turks realise Russia’s holding a weak hand. Not to mention, the Chinese can smell blood from miles off, and they’ve been circling Gazprom like a famished school of sharks.

So sizing up all of the above, the veiled threat from Putin’s favourite Herald, Alexei Miller, is nothing more than that. It’s a ploy, designed by the Kremlin to further destabilise an already unbalanced European economy. It’s made all the more poignant by the fact that one of the country’s that, on the face of it, stands to gain a great deal economically, i.e. Greece, but will in reality not gain much at all. Already lumbered with a massive bailout program which they are failing to manage, putting extra pressure on the Eurozone as as whole. In fact, the way Miller has positioned it, he’s expecting an already bankrupt economy to foot the bill. And remember, that all this is going on whilst the Mandarins in across the EU member states foreign offices are all deciding what to do vis-a-vis the sanctions with Russia. Do they tighten the screws, loosen the screws or just sit on their hands. I’m just curious who will end up with a horse’s head in their bed.

Russian Pipeline

Did The World Get A Little Absurd in 2014?

Scales Tipped So much of the news this year has been hopeless, depressing and, above all, confusing. Take for example the main topics which have been repeatedly covered by mainstream media over the past twelve months – Ebola, ISIS, Austerity, Ukraine, Russia, Syria, Phone Hacking, Child Abuse, Foreign Exchange Rigging, Beheading, Groping Disc Jockey’s, Kim Kardashian’s Arse, Eat Vegetables or DIE.

To which is the only response is “Oh Dear”.

This defeatist response has become the central part of a new system of political control. To understand how this is happening you have to look at Russia, to a man called Vladislav Surkov.

Surkov is one of President Putin’s advisors and has helped him maintain his power for 15 years. But he has done it in a very new way. He came originally from the avant-garde art world, and those who have studied his career say that what Surkov has done is to import ideas from conceptual art into the very heart of politics.

His aim is to undermine people’s perception of the world so they never know what is really happening. Surkov turned Russian politics into a bewildering, constantly changing piece of theatre. He sponsored all kinds of groups from Neo-Nazi skinheads to liberal human rights groups. He even backed parties that were opposed to President Putin. But the key thing was that Surkov then let it be known that this was what he was doing. Which meant that no one was sure what was real and what was fake.

As one journalist put it, “It’s a strategy of power that keeps any opposition constantly confused. A ceaseless shapeshifting that is unstoppable because it’s indefinable”. Which is exactly what Surkov is alleged to have done in Ukraine this year.

In typical fashion, as the war began, Surkov published a short story about something he called “non-linear war”. A war where you’re never really sure what the enemy are really up to, or even who they really are. The underlying aim, Surkov says, is not to win the war, but to use the conflict to create a constant state of destabilised perception in order to manage and control.

Maybe we have something similar emerging here in the West. Everything we’re told by journalists and politicians is confusing and contradictory. Of course, there is no Mr.  Surkov or his equivalent in charge, but it’s an odd non-linear world that plays into the hands of those in power.

NATO troops have come home from Afghanistan, but nobody seems to know whether it was a victory or whether it was a defeat. Aging disc-jockeys are prosecuted for crimes they committed decades ago, yet practically no one in the City of London is prosecuted for the endless financial crimes that are being revealed month after month. In Syria, we are told that President Assad is the evil enemy, but then his enemies, ISIS, turn out to be even more evil than him. So we bomb them, and by doing that we help keep Assad in power.

But the real epicentre of this non-linear world is the economy. And the closest we have to our own post-modern shape shifting politicians are George Osborne and Mario Draghi. They tell us proudly that the economy is growing but at the same time wages are going down. Osborne says he is cutting the deficit, but then it’s revealed that the deficit is actually going up. Draghi waxes lyrical about how low interest rates are a good thing for consumers and home owners, yet anguishes in the same breath that the inflation rate is TOO LOW! But the dark heart of this shape shifting world is Quantitative Easing.

Governments across Europe have insisted on taking billions out of the economy through their austerity programs. Yet at the very same time the UK is pumping billions of pounds INTO the economy through Quantitative Easing. The equivalent of £24,000 for every family in Britain. I’ve written before that the only way an economy can get itself out of a recession is to spend its way out. But make sure you spend the money on public infrastructure and projects that will benefit the economy on a long term basis, such as schools, nurseries, roads, bridges, hospitals, hell, even the military adds money to local economies where bases and troops are stationed.

Whilst the US and Britain has jumped on the QE band-wagon with great gusto, the European Central Bank have yet to decide on whether they want to continue to weathering the economic storm in the Eurozone without any major fundamental economic policy shifts, or if they want to introduce their version of QE. With the Germans so vehemently opposed to increasing public spending and their continued championing of austerity as a solution, it’s unlikely that the ECB will announce anything soon. In fact the continued decline of the EUR/USD F/X rate is a clear indication that QE will most likely not be  on the cards for the Eurozone any time soon.

But it gets even more confusing, because the Bank of England has admitted that those billions of pounds have not gone where they were supposed to. A vast amount of the money has actually found its way into the hands of the wealthiest 5% in Britain. It has been described as the biggest transfer of wealth to the rich in recent documented history.

It could be a huge scandal comparable to the greedy oligarchs in Russia. A ruthless elite, syphoning off billions of public money. But nobody seems to know. It sums up the strange mood of our time, where nothing really makes any coherent sense. We live with a constant vaudeville of contradictory stories that makes it impossible for any real opposition to emerge, because they can’t counter it with a coherent narrative of their own. And it means that we as individuals become ever more powerless. Unable to challenge anything because we live in a state of confusion and uncertainty, to which the response is “Oh Dear”.

But that’s what they want you to say.

Welcome to 2015!

New Year 2015 formed from sparking digits over black background

Science Saturday – Fracking Explained

Fracking. It’s all over the news lately, and almost everyone I speak to about it hasn’t the faintest idea about what it is and why it’s so controversial. And many of them naively think that it’s the holy grail to cheaper energy and saving themselves a few bob in the long run. The reality is very different.

And so to help you understand firstly what fracking actually is, and secondly why it’s so dangerous, the guys at Kurzgesagt put together a great no-nonsense video which explains everything.

The two things that scare the living daylights out of me about fracking are these.

1. Essentially, oil and gas companies, who only care about profiteering, and have historically a dismal record when it comes to even bothering to think about the environment, have been given unfettered access to pollute the ground we grow crops on and the water we drink. They care not a jot if someone accidentally fucks-up, and given the recent disasters that happened (Gulf Coast oil spill being the biggest of late) nobody went to jail and it boiled down to a question of monetary compensation, but no real changes were ever made either to the engineering used, the safety reviews to be conducted or even if it made sense to continue drilling in such deep wells, given the hazards and safety issues.

2. We are already over populated as a planet, straining to feed the population with our resources. And the next precious resource that will be the cause of wars across the globe will be WATER. So what happens if countries, such as those in the EU or in North America, who today have no issues or worries about their water needs suddenly find themselves without clean safe drinking water, because they let some oil and gas numpty fracking the shit out of the soil below and it’s now all irrevocably polluted? Will we be going to war just to get enough clean water so we can still enjoy a nice cup of tea?

Do yourself a favour, and inform yourself, petition against and fight to get rid of fracking. It’s a short-sighted energy bubble which will have VERY long term detrimental affects for the environment and everyone living in it.

 

Fracking Glass Half Clean

Imagine The Most Graphic Horror Movie You’ve Ever Seen….

PETA - Reptile Cruelty

…..This Is Worse. And It’s Real.

WARNING – EXTREMELY GRAPHIC. MAY CAUSE SOME READERS DISTRESS.

If you thought the dirtiest place your handbag has ever been is the floor of a public toilet, then you haven’t seen anything yet! This is NSFW and is extremely graphic, but it’s an important truth that we need to face and spread to others.

It’s high time that the fashion industry, and those who support it, either as consumers, advertisers or designers, looked for alternatives to the cruel and inhumane slaughter of animals, which is all done in the vain attempt to “look good”. Please take the time to watch the video to understand exactly WHY this truly barbaric practice needs to STOP!

The Greatest Speech Ever Made

Chaplin The Great Dictator

This amazing video, of Charlie Chaplin’s final speech in the film “The Great Dictator“, mixed with a splash of modern imagery and the ethereal song “Window” by The Album Leaf probably really does deserve the accolade of “The Greatest Speech Ever Made”

Chaplin’s prophetic speech was as true then in the early 1940’s as it is today. Maybe even more so today. In a world gone mad, where celebrity, materiality and greed take precedence over education, common decency and compassion towards our fellow man, his words instill a passion that seems to have been lost on most everyone across this spinning blue and green piece of celestial rock we call home….we call Earth.

Hell bent on killing each other just as quickly and callously today as we did in the previous two world wars, our continued intolerance of one another has fanned the flames of hatred and instilled an ideological mistrust of one another over religion as great as the same mistrust that was once fueled between the West and East during the Cold War.

We say to ourselves that we have achieved greatness. Our intellect is unmatched amongst the animal kingdom, that we dominate the world we live in. And yes, we might be clever and make the most use of having opposable thumbs. But what use is that intellect if we don’t do anything good for humanity and for the generations to come. We continue to pollute the planet, rape it of its resources, all the while killing off species after species, over-fishing, over-farming and never ensuring that we can continue to inhabit this planet for years to come or ensuring that the food and wealth and education are fairly distributed among the entire world’s population. And we are the ONLY animal on the planet actively engaged in self destruction of the world in which we live.

I’m no eco-warrior, nor am I a multi-billionaire philanthropist. I am but one man. And though I might not be able to make a huge impact individually, I will endeavour to do so nonetheless. Because I want to ensure that I set an example for my children, my nieces and nephews, to ensure that they see someone whom they love and respect living by the same set of values he preaches to them about. And maybe along the way I will be able to meet other like minded people who are inspired to do the right thing and live as harmoniously with the planet AND their fellow man to make this world a better place than that which we ourselves inherited.

Sure, I’ll still drive my car, and fly on holiday. But, I can choose to eat the food grown locally, turn off the lights when I’m not using them, recycle as much as I can and cycle short distances instead of driving my car.

Sure, I’ll still get pissed off with bureaucrats, or obtuse, single minded individuals who can only see the world in black and white, rather than in the rich technicolour in which it’s painted. But I’ll teach my kids to understand the differences that make each person who they are. To accept those differences, to try and understand them and to cherish them, because variety REALLY IS the spice of life.

We as individuals CAN, in a small way, make this world that bit better. The more of us that try, means the quicker we can collectively achieve a world of harmony, peace and understanding.

Never Trust A Politician – Bertie Ahern

Bertie Ahern advert

Yesterday’s Irish Independent reported that the former Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, a man who swindled, cheated and lied to the nation and the various tribunals this country’s taxpayers hard earned money was wasted on, has reneged on his promise of paying back part of his pension.

Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has been taking his full €150,000 a year pension since he left the Dail, after reversing his decision to give part of it back to the State.
The revelation comes as new figures released under Freedom of Information legislation show that only seven out of 116 former ministers gave up part of their pensions last year, despite the introduction of a simple system to allow them to do so.
None of the Fianna Fail ministers who presided over the economic crash gave up any part of their pensions.

Now let’s just think about that for a second and let it sink in while you’re drinking your cuppa…..and watch the video below to remind yourselves of the “cribbing and moaning” he referred to back in 2007.

Teflon Taoiseach Bertie is pocketing €12,500 a month, which is around €3,000 a WEEK…..IF he was working…..which he’s NOT.

Ask yourselves this. Do you think, if you lied, cheated, swindled and embezzled the funds of the company you work for, or own, and then got caught doing it, that you’d still be entitled to walk the streets as a free man and still receive entitlements for the rest of your days on this Earth?

No, I didn’t think so. Yet, this is what the Irish people have accepted. This is what the Irish government, even the government who was in opposition at the time, have accepted, and nobody seems inclined to do a damn thing about it.

Remember that the Irish people elect government officials. The officials are not there to dictate terms to the Irish citizenry, rather it’s the other way around….or at least, that was the concept of a democratically elected government when I went to school. Were the last 700 years all in vain?

Cotton On – Uzbekistan’s White Gold Make Regime Rich On Slave Labour

If I asked many of you to point Uzbekistan out on a map, you’d probably ask me “Where?” before having to search for it in an atlas. It doesn’t get many columns written about it in the Western press, especially when we’re so caught up in stories about hostages in Algeria and cheating cyclists who lied for a decade about their doping regimen.

But Uzbekistan is home to one of the last bastions of dictatorship kleptocracies in the world, an ex-Soviet republic whose dictator and his family hold key government positions, earning millions on the backs of their citizens whom they treat as nothing more than slaves whose sole purpose in life is to enrich the kleptomaniacal “first family” and keep them in a style of living they’ve grown accustomed to.

Islam Karimov, is the incumbent President of Uzbekistan, a position he has maintained since the fall of the Soviet empire through the usual methodology of regular human rights violations, election rigging and blocking of opposition parties (tactics practiced across the ex-Soviet states such as Russia, Belarus, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Ukraine) along with some other choice methods such as the regular detention (without trial), torture and disappearance of ordinary Uzbeks, who often vanish into thin air, never to be heard of again. His favoured method of dispatching dissidents is to have them boiled alive. And his security police have shot dead hundreds of unarmed protesters in 2005. The lucky ones may return, their mutilated bodies are sometimes recovered when the secret police have no more use of them and the lucky families can find closure and bury their long missing loved ones.

But we here in the West also play a part in the continuance of this brutal regime. It might never cross your mind, but the next time you find yourself pushing a young mother out of the way so you can get a deal on the last cotton skirt on sale in H&M, think twice about where it’s come from! Because the Uzbek regimes largest source of wealth comes from what the Russians once called “White Gold”.

“White Gold”, coined by the Soviets, Cotton is Uzbekistan’s largest source of foreign currency, and Uzbekistan is one of the largest exporters of cotton worldwide. The cotton farms, cotton exporters and cotton harvesters are ALL state-owned. Which means 99% of the cash goes straight into the back pockets and Swiss bank accounts of the Karimov family, with the remaining 1% shared between the farms and the Uzbek people toiling in the fields picking the cotton.

And the people picking the cotton are ordinary folk, ranging from 7 and 8 year old children, all the way to well trained doctors, nurses, teachers and engineers. The crop is so huge that they force Uzbeks to pick the cotton giving strict daily quota’s, all so that the Karimov family can maximise the amount of cash they’ll get when they export it, just so Karimov’s wife or his camera shy daughter (NOT!), Gulnara Karimova, can splash out on a new villa in the Mediterranean coast, or attend Fashion Week in New York, or whatever else the well-heeled Oligarchy get up to these days with their stolen riches.

The next time you’re out shopping, look at the label or search online and find out WHERE your cotton came from. Do not simply shop with an absent mind. You, as a single individual CAN have an impact on geopolitical affairs and can help stamp out human rights violations, even thought you’re a world away! Don’t be a sheep and follow the herd, think for yourself and shop conscientiously and politically…..because your fellow human beings are depending on you!