Will Borisov Manage to Feint on the USA for the Turkish Stream Extension
January 8th was an excrutiating day for the Bulgarian government and in particular for Prime Minister Boyko Borisov. Mainly because of the construction of the Turkish Stream branch through the territory of Bulgaria.
An American delegation from the State Department for Political Affairs arrived in Sofia that day and later Borisov travelled to Turkey where he, along with presidents Vladimir Putin and Recep Erdogan cut the band on the pipeline.
In advance, the Prime Minister warmed up with a meeting with US Ambassador H.E. Herro Mustafa. As expected, it reiterated the importance of Bulgaria-US energy cooperation which has the potential to contribute to enhancing our country's energy security and diversifying energy sources and routes, including through the import of liquefied natural gas.
For a year now, the cabinet has been luring Washington with supplies of American liquefied gas. For 2019, its amount is just over 400 million cubic meters, which is about one-seventh of the country's annual consumption.
At the same time a far more serious energy project is being developed with Russia, which Borisov recently launched as the Balkan Stream, although it is called Turkish Stream in Serbia, Russia and Turkey. The branch of the gas pipeline which will pass through Bulgaria is documented as "expansion of the gas transmission network." But it is no secret for anyone that 90% of the capacity of the pipes will be filled with Russian gas.
This is definitely not to America’s taste. And recently the US Congress imposed sanctions on companies involved in the construction of North Stream 2 and the first pipe of Turkish Stream.
To win Brussels’ favour, the construction of the so-called Balkan gas hub is envisaged. In practice, this will be the free stock exchange for blue fuel. But Gazprom reiterated that it had no intention of trading on it, as it had iron-strong supply contracts with our neighbors.
Experts believe the government has done its job. Opinions have been circulating that Turkish Stream is ending up at our Strandzha 2 gas metering station, further on we have our gas transmission system that complies with the rules of the Third Energy Package of the European Union. It is additionally said that there is no Russian involvement in the construction of the gas pipeline on our territory and the extension of our network is entirely at our expense.
Borisov is convinced in the correctness of this position. He is explicit that the United States sanction Turkish Stream, not Balkan Stream. "I went to Brussels and Washington and said that we have a geopolitical interest in staying in the gas strategic system," the Prime Minister said confidently, adding that we built at a fast pace - 150 kilometers had already been laid and the route would be ready by the end of June.
Bulgartransgaz boss Vladimir Malinov also chimes in. According to him Bulgaria and Bulgartransgaz will remain on the gas map of Europe. After the construction of Balkan Stream the revenues of the state-owned transmission operator will increase significantly, reaching about BGN 400 million annually.
All of this, of course, is wonderful but before the visit of the American delegation we cannot help recalling another visit. On June 8, 2014, after meeting with US Senators John McCain, Ron Johnson and Christopher Murphy, then-Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski ordered the suspension of all South Stream construction work.
However, David Hale, Deputy Secretary of State for Political Affairs ranking third at the US Department of State told the BNR that the United States is against the second line of the Turkish Stream gas pipeline, designed to supply gas to Southeastern Europe through Bulgaria, as it is viewed as Russia's geostrategic project.
"We are aware that energy security is very important for Europe and we understand that when our allies have secure access to energy, they are stronger, more reliable allies. The problem is that Moscow has other views. Moscow uses its energy sources as a political instrument to exert influence, to divide Europe. North Stream 2 and Turkish Stream second line are a problem because they do not provide energy diversification for Europe. They destabilize Ukraine because Russia is given the opportunity to bypass pipelines on Ukrainian territory. We believe that they are giving Russia another means of imposing itself on Europe and thus contributing to instability”, commented David Hale.
The United States will continue its support for the modernization of the Bulgarian Armed Forces, the construction of a manipulation-proof 5G communications network and the strengthening of the rule of law in our country, Hale said.
"Here in America, we are optimistic about Bulgaria's development in this regard and continue to work with you to strengthen democracy, the rule of law and to counteract corruption. We recently agreed to hold a dialogue on constitutional reform and the reporting of the judiciary. We welcome that Bulgaria has taken the lead on a number of regional issues. But Bulgaria's strength depends on the strength of its democracy,” the US diplomat said.