Bulgaria Says “Thanks, But No Thanks”

Over at TYR, I argued that the explanation of the Ukraine-Russia gas dispute was an effort by the Russian side to break up the European gas customers as a negotiating block by exploiting the conflict between the transit states (like the Ukraine) and the customers (like Germany). This gave rise to further discussion down-blog right here on AFOE, in the comments to this post of Tobias’s, where this was said…

I think he was trying to play off the customer states against the pipeline states, in order not to deal with a European monopsony. Unfortunately, the pipeliners and customers were rather induced to hang together rather than swing separately, and he backed down in order to prevent the point of payment being moved to the Russian-Ukrainian border, which would have effectively put the Ukraine in the EU for gas purposes.
Posted by Alex at January 5, 2006 10:50 AM

“I think he was trying to play off the customer states against the pipeline states”

Interesting theory, but how do Moldova and Armenia fit into this. The former was cut off and the latter has been badly threatened?
Posted by Edward at January 5, 2006 11:02 AM

Armenia – rather different case. The pipeline/customer thing doesn’t apply (AFAIK), but as Armenia is a small customer relative to Russian gas production, the relationship is very different. No need for anything complicated, just a shakedown for more cash.

Moldova – interesting question. It’s not on the way to anywhere is it?
Posted by Alex at January 5, 2006 03:32 PM

“It’s not on the way to anywhere is it?”

Not that I know of. It just seems to have been……forgotten.
Posted by Edward at January 5, 2006 03:43 PM

It seems Moldova is sitting on the pipeline to Romania and Bulgaria.
Posted by Oliver at January 5, 2006 03:53 PM

That’s it, then: a power grab for control of (or at least cheaper rates on) two export lines, by trying to play off the customers against the pipelines. Armenia was pure opportunism.
Posted by Alex at January 5, 2006 04:43 PM

“It seems Moldova is sitting on the pipeline”

“That’s it, then: a power grab”

Fascinating! This certainly gives plausibility to the idea that they were going for control of the landline installation. The issue now is how will the customers respond.
Posted by Edward at January 5, 2006 09:28 PM

Now, though, we may be about to find out. Bulgaria has been faced with a demand from Gazprom very similar to the one to the Ukrainians, and it seems they’ve given them the brushoff in much the same way. A very similar logic applies, as Bulgaria is both a transit provider (it’s odd how this Internetworking terminology creeps into what is after all a discussion of networks) and a fair-sized gas customer. The Russians seem to have been of a mind to use the latter fact to force changes on the former, and the Bulgarians have adopted an identical strategy.

Which would predict a settlement in double quick time, if we’re right.