Russia Muscles in on East Med Gas Boom
A new deal by Russia’s Gazprom energy giant to market Israeli liquefied natural gas puts Moscow firmly in the burgeoning and contentious east Mediterranean energy sector, and shows that it’s again emerging as a player in the strategic region.
The 20-year LNG contract between Gazprom subsidiary Gazprom Marketing and Trading Switzerland and Levant LNG Marketing Corp. also provides a major boost for Russia’s drive to rebuild its Cold War influence in the Middle East that collapsed with the demise of the Soviet Union.
The deal, signed Feb. 26, is a direct consequence of a ground-breaking visit to Israel, the United States’ most valuable strategic ally in the region, by Russian President Vladimir Putin last June.
With U.S. interest in the Middle East seemingly diminishing, in part because of vast shale oil and natural gas deposits that lessen dependence on Persian Gulf oil, Putin clearly has ambitions of filling the vacuum.
“The Bill Clinton-era in the geopolitics of Caspian energy, which ran through the George W. Bush presidency, imbued with a great sense of rivalry over Russia’s status as an energy powerhouse, is giving way,” said veteran Indian analyst M.K. Bhadrakumar.
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