Speaking to the Strategic Council on Foreign Relations, and while referring to the agreement between Gazprom and SOCAR of the Republic of Azerbaijan for the transfer of one billion cubic meters of Russian gas to the Republic of Azerbaijan from November 15 to March 2023, Afifeh Abedi said that from the past, there existed the issue of Russia’s use of the Republic of Azerbaijan for gas swap and there has been cooperation between these two countries, but this new agreement, at the same time as the ongoing war in Ukraine and the escalation of tensions between Russia and the West, has a different meaning, and it seems that the export of Russian gas to the Republic of Azerbaijan is based on a behind-the-scenes agreement or it was based on an implicit tripartite agreement between Europe, the Republic of Azerbaijan and Russia.
She added that after Russia’s attack on Ukraine, Europe reached an agreement with this country to buy gas from the Republic of Azerbaijan and it was announced that this export would increase by two times. While Europe considered various strategies for its energy supply to punish Russia, from the very beginning it seemed that reducing Europe’s dependence on Russian gas would not be achieved easily and in the short term. In fact, based on recent evidence, it can be said that Europe has adopted various measures to reduce the costs and political and economic consequences of its decisions, and one of them is the indirect import of energy from Russia.
US effort to reduce tensions with Russia in cold seasons
Abedi pointed to the news published about the behind-the-scenes negotiations with the US regarding the Ukraine war and also urging Kiev to start a dialogue with Russia, and added that in the short term, the US will try, especially in the cold seasons, to control the level of tensions with Russia and the crisis in Ukraine so that its economic and political consequences do not increase for Western Europe.
He pointed out the inevitability of the West to circumvent the Russian sanctions and also the large costs that Europe has incurred to deal with the energy crisis and said that “some Western media reports on the statistics of the oil tankers find that UK has also circumvented the Russian oil sanctions in the past months.” And according to the news, it has bought at least 39 shipments of Russian oil since February. Although these shipments were registered as imports from other countries and by ship to ship transfer, these reports have been able to register dozens of Russian oil shipments that have arrived at English ports since March, and their origin has been traced in Germany, Poland, Holland, France and other countries.
This expert on Russian issues continued that Moscow is also trying to make the necessary use of the opportunity that has been created and, considering the sanctions against Russia, to get the most profit in the short term and to improve its position in order to rejuvenate for the developments which are unpredictable after the cold seasons.
European efforts to reduce the consequences of Russian sanctions
Stating that since March, there have been about 267 transfers of Russian oil from ship to ship around the world, this researcher of the Research Institute of the Diagnosing Forum pointed out that although Britain is going to start embargoing Russian oil on December 5th, it seems that this oil purchase will continue with the ship-to-ship transfer method.
While reminding that Russia and the West are strategically in conflict of interests, Abedi described their cooperation and agreement in the short term as tactical and said that Europe is trying to control the political and economic consequences of the war in Ukraine, and Russia is also following this. It is to take maximum advantage of new opportunities by controlling the consequences, so that while controlling the level of tensions, it can maintain and improve the economic interests it has traditionally had with the West and its international position.
Referring to the efforts of the Republic of Azerbaijan to increase the transfer of gas to Europe after the Ukraine war and playing an active role to help Europe on the road to energy independence from Russia, he added that when Europe decided to reduce the level of its gas transactions with Russia, the best scenario was a 50% reduction in gas imports from Russia in the next 5 years. Russia used to export gas to Europe through various lines and it was not easy for Europe to replace this huge source. Azerbaijan’s gas transmission routes to Europe were not as diverse as Russia’s gas transmission routes, and in the short term, Baku simply cannot replace Russia.
This Russian affairs expert added that although the Republic of Azerbaijan has a relative capacity to compete with Russia and through its relations with the West and NATO, it may be able to influence Russia’s interests in the South Caucasus, but they have political and security considerations with each other. Moscow is also trying to manage its relations with Baku through new initiatives and not to add new regional and international problems to the previous issues. One of these ways is to use the capacity of the Republic of Azerbaijan to continue exporting gas to Europe.
Stating that the transfer of Russian gas to the Republic of Azerbaijan is a step to control the level of tension on the part of all parties and includes the overlapping of tactical interests, Abedi said that Europeans are trying to use different mechanisms and methods to deal with gas with Russia to avoid remaining in a weak position.
According to this Russian affairs analyst, it seems that the sabotage operation that took place against Russia’s energy transmission lines to Europe was an attempt to weaken Russia and increase Moscow’s desire for another initiative and agreement with Europe and force Moscow to give concessions at the negotiating table. Russia also uses the opportunities, as by welcoming Turkey’s energy centrality, it sent a message to Europe and the United States that they can maintain economic relations with each other in another way.