Eastring vs. Balkan Stream: The Battle For Greece, by Andrew Korybko

Russia wasn’t bluffing when it said that Turkish Stream would be the only route for Ukrainian-diverted gas shipments after 2019 , and after dillydallying in disbelief for over six critical months, the EU has only now come to its senses and is desperately trying to market a geopolitical alternative. Understanding that its need for gas must absolutely continue to be met by Russia for the foreseeable decades (regardless of trans-Atlantic rhetoric), the EU wants to mitigate the multipolar consequences of Russia’s pipeline plans as much as it feasibly can. Russia wants to extend the Turkish Stream through Greece, Macedonia, and Serbia, in a project that the author has previously labelled as “ Balkan Stream ”, while the EU wants to scrap the Central Balkan route and replace it with one along the Eastern Balkans via Bulgaria and Romania, the so-called “Eastring” line.

Although Eastring could theoretically transit Caspian gas being shipped through the TAP pipeline, the proposal being thrown around most lately is for it to link to Turkish Stream instead, likely because the possibly projected 10-20 bcm a year from the former (Azerbaijan’s reserves may not be capable of meeting the demand without Turkmen assistance, which is far from assured at this point) is dwarfed by the guaranteed 49 bcm from the latter. If Europe does intend for Eastring to connect to Turkish Stream, then Russian gas supplies would reach the continent regardless of the route involved (Central Balkans or Eastern Balkans), meaning that it’s a win-win for Russia…supposedly. The strategic differences between Eastring and Balkan Stream are actually quite acute, and coupled with the implied motivational impetus revealed by the EU’s Eastring-Turkish Stream connective proposal in the first place, it means that they must be analyzed more in-depth before anyone jumps to a predetermined conclusion about Eastring’s ‘mutually beneficial’ nature.

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