Demise of Nabucco
25 July, 2013
Demise of Nabucco

Eugene Kogen: I don’t see Georgia as a EU member for another 25 years to come…

”Nabucco was a victim of clash of interests in Brussels” – says South Caucasus security expert Eugene Kogen. In an exclusive interview, he talked about the demise of much-talked project of Nabucco pipeline and his own, skeptical view of Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic future.

We all remember times when the former government was loudly announcing every other day, that after the completion of pipeline “Nabucco”, the
country would flourish and overcome all its troubles. Even more, we were told that nothing stood against its completion. So, now “Nabuccos” “drama” and struggles are finally over: once grand project was eventually reduced to “Nabucco West” – and even that could not save it - Azerbaijan’s Shah-Deniz consortium opted Trans-Adriatic Pipeline over “Nabucco”. With this decision, “Nabucco” was practically dead and its “death” was the first thing we asked Dr. Kogen about.

– What happened to the “Nabucco” project, which was cherished by the EU for so long; how came it gave in to the modest TAP?
– “Nabucco” was built on great hopes, but there are two main reasons why this project was doomed: first – the project was a venture of eight players, who could not agree among themselves. Second, these arguing sides failed to find funding for a project of this scale. So it is not surprising that Shah–Deniz consortium preferred real and credible TAP over ephemeral “Nabucco”.
– The expectation of public was truly extraordinary, even more so with the previous government declaring it as alms for every trouble the country was facing. To what extent were our expectations exaggerated and in fact, what did we lose with “Nabucco,” which was left unimplemented?
– The whole deal was exaggerated by the people and first of all, by the Government. It was “sold” to people as an idea, which - a) would be implemented, and b) it would have great strategic importance for Georgia. I do not deny that this project would financially benefit you and also boost your strategic value; but its benefits would have been far from that of the Baku - Tbilisi - Ceyhan project. However, TAP-’s victory diminishes Georgia’s strategic importance even more – as its beneficiaries will be not Georgia’s strategic partners - Romania, Bulgaria, but Greece, Albania, Macedonia and Italy. Romania, Bulgaria and other South-Eastern European countries will be covered by Russian “South Stream”.
– How big was the role of Russia in “Nabucco”-s demise?
– Even the idea of this project was unacceptable for Russia, because it saw Nabucco as a potential opponent for the “South Stream”. Nabucco’s original, grandiose version would be a strategic nightmare for the Kremlin; so, it wanted to undermine efforts for this project at all costs. Moscow has always followed this principle: “Let’s not allow Azeris to sell their gas, and if we cannot stop them, let’s buy it ourselves and then sell at for a three times higher price.” So Moscow constantly pressured Aliyev to shelve “Nabucco”. And on the other hand, The EU didn’t really do anything to prevent that, because its main driving force - Germany was unwilling to make any steps contrary to the energy partnership and cheap gas prices provided to them by “Gazprom”. Therefore, “Nabucco” eventually was the victim of the clash of interests in Brussels.
– In light of this, what do you think of Georgia’s chances of becoming a member of the European Union? If all is as you say, then the perspectives are rather vague, while our previous and current governments insist on the contrary ...
– When we talk about the European Union, there are two things to remember: The European Union has stopped being a firm Power long ago and now it is a soft Power mechanism, based on economy and democratic principles. Democratic principles, apart of their moral value, are very useful for driving away unwanted guests and partners. So, even if the EU is to take natural gas from Azerbaijan, this does not exclude the possibility, that it will still scold both Azerbaijan and Georgia for not adhering democratic principles. The EU does not want to act, but it is always willing to talk. Talking is a favorite weapon of the European Union- it doesn’t lead to the solution, but neither it is considered as an inactivity.
If you ask me, when I expect Georgia becoming European Union member, my answer may annoy you: I don’t see it happening for another 25-30 years, which is quite a distant future. It may happen, when the world order is changed and power is redistributed; at the time when Europe’s super-dependence on Russian natural gas ends. Croatia was the last country that became a member of the EU. If someone is there to join the list after it, it’s the Balkan countries, but I doubt it as well. What is absolutely unthinkable though, is that the EU leapfrogs over all the Balkans, Turkey, and takes Georgia under its wings. And don’t forget the economic factor – surely, you agree, that your chances of appearing a more desirable and important partner than Russia, is close to 0.
– This is a pure Real politik...
– Yes, it can be quite painful to hear, but this is what happens in real life; beyond useless conversations the game is played by the Realpolitik rules. However, I can comfort you with the fact that delay in joining the European Union could be good for you - no one knows how long EU will survive in the present form.
– By this logic, we are foolish to hope for NATO membership either...
– NATO is a different story. Over the past five years, NATO has consistently pushed the bar higher and higher to keep Georgia out of Alliance and at the same time didn’t spoil the relations. It always says - Look, Georgia, it’s great you succeeded, but it’s not enough, now you should pass the next test. Georgia is like an acrobat walking on a rope, and after every step there is another to make. And guess who’s holding the rope? It’s NATO, making it longer or shorter as it pleases it. Concerning Georgia, NATO is facing a historic decision, which it is ever-hesitant to take.
There are three things that NATO should do to ensure that your membership can become a reality - to undertake political-diplomatic, military and economic responsibility. These three things mean that if bad goes to worse, NATO will give you full military, financial and political-diplomatic support. In this case, Russia will have to back away, and if the slightest weakness will be manifested by NATO, you are going to be in a big trouble, because Putin has a brilliant “smell”, he will see it right away. He’ll guess, ‘They are united just for a show’ and he won’t hesitate to act. That’s why NATO always postpones this moment - the moment of taking full responsibility.


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