Four sides chess, a new game
Being the largest country in the world and a major energy supplier to many neighbours brings along a heavy responsibility. Nowadays Russia simultaneously is playing on four chessboards.
The chessboards are represented by the four cardinal points. In the east China and Japan are promising markets. But the necessary pipelines and plants demand huge investments and tough negotiations. Rudolf ten Hoedt argues that the development of facilities for delivering LNG to Japan seems to be stagnating. Read his 'Dispatch from Tokyo'. Together they show a slow moving game with a possible stalemate.
In the north the Yamal and Stokhman areas, west of the Ural belong to the toughest regions to explore and exploit. However, the Russians steadily make progress, accustomed as they are to work under these rigid conditions. Certainly in the somewhat longer term the volumes to be won in this vast region are needed in addition to existing fields, of which some approach the depletion phase. Here also the investments are immense. Shifting markets darken the clouds and the weather forecast shows a cold wind, as Koranyi and Vatansever explained in last week's main feature.
Russia is already very much westbound, so to speak. Central and Western Europe form the core of its export. The rapid rise of unconventional energy sources are in favour of the buyers and will inflict market prices. Especially in view of the investments needed to strengthen and extend the Russian position in the east and north the whole of the European market is becoming even more important than it nowadays already is.
That brings us to the south borders of the Russian giant. On this flank the upcoming of oil and natural gas exporting countries in the last decade represents a fourth chessboard, on which the opening moves have taken place. Soon European Energy Review brings an article about Kurdistan as a rather new player to this respect.
We know Russians like to play chess, but a simultaneous game can be exhausting. The next two or three years in an other sense are cardinal.