UK says Russia unreliable supplier of energy

Observer/Guardian:

Gordon Brown warns today that the West will not be held to ransom by Russia, threatening a 'root and branch' review of relations with the Kremlin and urgently moving to stop Britain's reliance on Russian oil and gas.

His defiant words in an article in today's Observer, following a 'frank' conversation with the Russian president yesterday, will heighten tensions ahead of tomorrow's meeting of European heads of state called to discuss the crisis in Georgia. The Prime Minister's intervention reflects fears that the territorial conflict over South Ossetia risks spilling into an energy war, with Russia using its vast supplies of oil and gas - on which many European countries depend - to blackmail the West into submission.

'No nation can be allowed to exert an energy stranglehold over Europe,' says Brown. He promises urgent action to prevent Britain 'sleepwalking into an energy dependence on less stable or reliable partners', including seeking out alternative suppliers of gas and oil, as well as pushing ahead with plans for new nuclear plants and alternative fuels.

The Prime Minister argues for more funding to build a pipeline from the Caspian Sea carrying gas through Turkey to the West, avoiding the traditional route through Russia and its satellites. Analysts had speculated that the Nabucco pipeline project would be jeopardised by the invasion of Georgia.

Brown's new, hawkish tone suggests he is reasserting his authority after a summer where first David Cameron and then David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary and Brown's potential leadership rival, have made most of the running on the Georgian crisis. It will also be seen as a response to criticism that EU sanctions are an empty threat because Russia actually holds all the cards.

...

In his article, Brown argues that the EU must now speed up work on creating a single European market in gas and electricity as 'a collective defence to secure our energy supplies' and try to strike collective deals with Russia on energy supplies. He warned President Dmitry Medvedev yesterday to expect a 'determined' response to the invasion of Georgia.

...

It is not clear what Brown's alternatives are, but it is clear he sees the need to explore them. It is also clear that Medvedev has a knack for eliciting a response that will ultimately be harmful to Russia. His bluster is only going to further isolate Moscow and make it harder for either side to compromise.

He is certainly hastening the search for alternatives to Russian energy.

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