Russia's state-owned gas giant Gazprom is reportedly eyeing a "mindboggling" stake in Nigeria's energy reserves in a bid to trump US, Chinese and Indian interests.Actually, what they are apparently intent upon is to secure all available sources of imported natural gas for Europe, which is far more reliant upon natural gas imports than the United States (at least at this time.)
In a dispatch from Abuja and Moscow, the Financial Times quoted a senior Nigerian oil industry official as saying Gazprom was offering to invest in energy infrastructure in return for access to the country's vast gas deposits.
"What Gazprom is proposing is mind-boggling," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
"They're talking tough and saying the west has taken advantage of us in the last 50 years and they're offering a better deal... they are ready to beat the Chinese, the Indians and the Americans."
On the heels of Putin's infamous New Years gambit of 2006, where natural gas to Ukraine (and by extension, Europe) was shut off with much television drama, Europe had decided to not be quite so heavily reliant upon Russian natural gas. Their imports of Russian gas have fallen a few percentage points each year and alternative sources have been weighed and sought out, where available.
Since that time, access to and transport of central Asian gas via pipelines has initially fallen in Russia's (meaning Gazprom's) favor, with new agreements with Kazakhstan to build new pipelines across Russian territory and the Caspian Sea.
And now we are seeing a Russian gover ... I mean Gazprom strategy to secure Nigerian gas resources as well. Yes, it is hard to see where the Russian government ends and Gazprom begins, even more so with Gazprom Chairman of the Board Medvedev the likely successor to the Russian presidency.
In many ways, this Nigerian move makes sense for Gazprom/Russia's long-term energy and business strategy. Most estimate that at current high levels of production, Russian petroleum will be largely gone in 10 to 20 years. However, their natural gas resources are immense and securing all possible alternative sources of natural gas could certainly place Gazprom in a long-term position of setting the market for generations.
And that is apparently what Vladimir Putin meant by Энергетическая безопасность (energy security).
Secure all the energy you can and sell only to the highest bidder.
Post-Script: Sean Guillory hit this topic hard as well. Lionel Beehner of the Huffington Post and his recent "Why Russia Matters Less Than We Think" column now has the unfortunate distinction of providing bad analysis at the most inopportune time. Yeah, Nigeria is more important than Russia. Who could end up owning who?
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