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The Energy Implications of Russia’s Crimea Annexations

19 May

You think Russia’s recent annexation of Crimea was all about reclaiming “rightful territory”? Think again. And to help your thinking along read this insight New York Times article, “In Taking Crimea, Putin Gains a Sea of Fuel Reserves.” Spoiler alert: Here’s what I think are the article’s three key points: 1) annexing Crimea extends Russia’s claims on Black Sea fossil fuel reserves; 2) this expansion of Russian offshore territory deprives Ukraine of using offshore fossil fuel to bolster its struggling economy; and 3) Russia’s new maritime territory will make it easier and cheaper for Russia to build a natural gas pipeline to Eastern and Central Europe. Here’s some choice lines from the NY Times article:

“When Russia seized Crimea in March, it acquired not just the Crimean landmass but also a maritime zone more than three times its size with the rights to underwater resources potentially worth trillions of dollars. Russia portrayed the takeover as reclamation of its rightful territory, drawing no attention to the oil and gas rush that had recently been heating up in the Black Sea. But the move also extended Russia’s maritime boundaries, quietly giving Russia dominion over vast oil and gas reserves while dealing a crippling blow to Ukraine’s hopes for energy independence. Russia did so under an international accord that gives nations sovereignty over areas up to 230 miles from their shorelines. It had tried, unsuccessfully, to gain access to energy resources in the same territory in a pact with Ukraine less than two years earlier. …

“Most immediately, analysts say, Russia’s seizing may alter the route along which the South Stream pipeline would be built, saving Russia money, time and engineering challenges. The planned pipeline, meant to run through the deepest parts of the Black Sea, is to pump Russian gas to Europe.Originally, to avoid Ukraine’s maritime zone, Russia drew the route for the costly pipeline in a circuitous jog southward through Turkey’s waters. But now it can take a far more direct path through its newly acquired Black Sea territory, if the project moves forward. The Ukraine crisis has thrown its future into doubt.

These two maps from the NY Times show how Russia's maritime territory expanded through the annexation of Crimea

These two maps from the NY Times show how Russia’s maritime territory expanded and Ukraine’s diminished through Russia’s annexation of Crimea

This Wikipedia map shows the original planned route of Russia's South Stream natural gas pipeline that ran through deep, international waters south of Ukraine's maritime territory. Now, with Russia's expanded maritime territory, the pipeline can be constructed closer to shore in shallow waters

This Wikipedia map shows the original planned route of Russia’s South Stream natural gas pipeline that ran through deep, international waters south of Ukraine’s maritime territory. Now, with Russia’s expanded maritime territory, the pipeline can be constructed closer to shore in shallow waters

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