If anything offers a litmus test for trends in hard-nosed realpolitik, it’s the cutting of strategic international energy deals. While the Western media persists in warning of apocalyptic consequences should Iran’s nuclear ambitions lead to outright conflict with Israel – a conflict drawing in Russia et al. – an entirely different scenario is developing as Moscow is quietly buying long-term into the Israeli-Cypriot gas and oil energy bonanza.
Despite the Kremlin’s apparent public support for its traditional Middle East (ME) partners, its actions represent nothing less than a paradigm shift in the tectonic plates of regional power. More specifically, they represent an effective selling out of Russia’s backing for both Iran and Syria – something we predicted in Has Russia Sold Out Iran for a Stake in Israeli Gas? last year.
Only too aware of the threat of east Mediterranean supply if Europe is able to diversify away from Russian gas dependency, Moscow has been steadily feting Israel to buy into a piece of the action. On February 26th, that culminated in Russia’s Gazprom clinching a key deal to market Israeli liquefied natural gas (LNG).
But the 20-year contract between Gazprom Marketing, Trading Switzerland and Levant LNG Marketing Corporation represents only the first step in Russia’s new Middle East energy game.
As veteran observer M.K. Bhadrakumar wrote in the Asia Times, “The Tamar deal rewrites the ABC of geopolitics of energy security” being “an important milestone for strengthening Gazprom’s position in the global LNG market … and in the booming Asian LNG market.” More than that, however, it’s a masterstroke that reflects Russia’s underlying priority across the Middle East itself.