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Turkmenistan Reacts to Two-Faced Scheming of Russia

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Ashgabat, 3 July 2006 (nCa) --- Turkmenistan was forced Monday to react once again to the two-faced scheming of Russia. In a statement issued to the media, the Turkmen government has laid bare the hypocrisy of Russian policymakers and the dangers such foul maneuvering poses to the energy security of the Europe.

Some analysts believe that with less than two weeks left for the G-8 summit, Russia is desperately trying to give a facelift to its image which is currently as attractive as a toad suffering from smallpox. The emaciated Russian minds think that it would be possible to repair the Russian image by throwing a lot of mud on Turkmenistan in the hope that some of it would stick.

Referring to a TV programme ‘Vesti Nedelia’ aired 2 July by RTR, the official mouthpiece of Kremlin, the Turkmen press release says, “Turkmenistan has always maintained relations with other states on the principles of equality and mutually beneficial partnership and strictly adheres to its obligations under the agreements and contracts.”

Reminding the fact that Turkmenistan continued to pump gas to its clients even when Russia brought almost the whole Europe to grinding halt in January this year by shutting down the gas flow to Ukraine, the Turkmen foreign office says that Turkmenistan has never taken the destabilizing actions like some other countries such as Russia and Ukraine.

The RTR programme, hosted by Sergey Briliyev, went out of its way to label Turkmenistan as a threat to energy security.

This amounts to media terrorism. Since the media in question is the acknowledged mouthpiece of Kremlin, one would be justified in thinking that the Kremlin has given at least tacit approval to its official media organs to pursue the foreign policy goals by practicing media terrorism.

Here are some questions. The answers to these questions would help sketch the real face of Russia under Putin:
  • Why is it so that when Russia charges US $ 250 per 1000 cubic meters from its clients, it is a right move toward market economy but when Turkmenistan asks for about 40% of that price it is a threat to someone’s energy security?
  • Why is it so that when Russia says that it will increase the price of gas for Ukraine in the next quarter, it is taken without batting an eyelash but when Turkmenistan says that it should get a fraction of the world prices, everyone seems to have a heart attack?
  • Why is it so that when Gazprom and Ukraine team up to form a phony company to transport the Turkmen gas to Ukraine and Europe, siphoning off all the profit through a multi-layered structures, neither the governments nor the people of Russia and Ukraine take any measures to expose the dirty deal?
  • Why is it so that everyone assumes that Turkmenistan should keep subsidizing the economies of Ukraine and Russia?
Speaking of subsidizing the economies of Russia and Ukraine, Turkmenistan has already donated some US $ 3.5 BILLION and by the end of September 2006 this donation would reach US $ 4.2 BILLION.

One would expect at least a word of thanks from the beneficiaries of this dole.

However, as Mark Twain pointed out, the principle difference between man and dog is that the dog doesn’t bite the hand that feeds it.

From January to June this year, about 25 billion cubic meters of gas has been pumped from Turkmenistan to Russia and another 5 billion cubic meters would be pumped by the end of September. Russia pays US $ 65 per 1000 cubic meters for Turkmen gas and charges US $ 230 or more from its European clients for the same gas. Deducting the transit fee from Turkmenistan to Europe – about US $ 25 per 1000 cubic meters – Gazprom makes a profit of US $ 140 on every 1000 cubic meters of Turkmen gas.

Taking into account the gas flow from January to September this year, Turkmenistan has lost US $ 4.2 BILLION in terms of market prices and there is no way to account for it except that it should be considered as a generous donation from Turkmenistan to Russia and Ukraine.

The Turkmen press release removes the embroidered veil from the malevolent Russian face when it points out that “deliveries of gas to Ukraine can only be made through the territories of other countries including Russia.”

The hard, cold, ugly fact is that Gazprom is the owner, operator and monopoly transit-right holder of the only pipeline network leading from Turkmenistan to Europe. Gazprom has flatly refused to put any other volumes into the pipe except its own. Because of the duplicity of Gazprom, Turkmenistan includes a standard clause in all gas contracts for the northern direction that highlights the fact that the transportation arrangements should be made between the buyer and Gazprom.

If Russia was honest in projecting itself as the reliable energy provider to Europe, now was the time to prove it. The Gazprom intake from Turkmenistan is slow for this month and the next and Gazprom could have offered to issue a transit license to Ukraine to take some of its own volumes for putting in the storage for use in the winter. But not a single word has been heard from Russia about this possibility.

Another deceitful facet of Russian dealing came to light on 1 July through a news story carried by the Financial Times.

Officials in Kiev and Moscow told journalists that the gas prices for Ukraine would not be raised during this quarter. This was clearly a move designed to pull wool over the eyes of the G-8 leaders.

Summer season is the slowest period of the year for gas consumption in Ukraine. The trickle that Gazprom is sucking from Turkmenistan is enough to keep the things going in Ukraine for this quarter and during this time Putting would have hosted the G-8 leaders.

However, all hell will break loose next quarter as mercury dives toward zero and Ukraine starts consuming massive volumes of gas. That would be the real time to remind Russia about its promises as the guarantors of energy security of Europe. The only convincing argument about the sincerity of Russia would be if the Russian policymakers agree to sell their own gas to Ukraine at US $ 65 per 1000 cubic meters. As they say, put your money where your mouth is.

Gazprom has already signed agreement with Kazakhstan for purchase of gas in the second half of 2006 at US $ 140 per 1000 cubic meters. It is difficult to understand as to why Russians should start chattering like agitated monkeys if Turkmenistan asks for about 70% of that price.