Ukraine Outta Gas, Outta Credit, Reverse Flow Fizzles—gonna be a cold winter

EU Can’t Sell Ukraine Any More Russian Gas

Kiev is eager to see the capacity of ‘reverse flow’ increase, but Slovakia is meeting with technical and financial difficulties in making this happen

Who wants to build facilities that will become superflous as soon as Kiev starts paying Russia for gas on time?

This article originally appeared at ICIS

A planned increase in eastbound pipeline capacity to flow natural gas from Slovakia to Ukraine may not happen this year, a source at the Slovak grid operator Eustream has told ICIS.

In July it was announced that capacity at the Budince border point would rise from 40 million cubic metres (mcm)/day to 57mcm/day by 1 December.

“This is not an easy task, this project requires both investment and construction,” the source at Eustream said. “We are conducting a technical analysis and waiting for permissions from different government agencies at the moment.”

Neither the exact date of when the project could be implemented, nor the final capacity have been agreed yet.

The source said that the Ukrainian grid operator Ukrtransgaz – which approached its Slovak counterpart with an offer to increase the capacity in late spring – was pushing Eustream to accomplish the project as soon as possible. “We are very unhappy about their method,” he said.

Despite repeated requests, Ukrtransgaz was unable to comment on the planned expansion at Budince.

There is currently no written agreement between the two parties over the project, with Eustream unwilling to sign any deal with Ukrtransgaz unless all the details are properly analysed.

Eustream is planning to discuss the technical side of the project this month but no exact date has been scheduled.

Another issue that Eustream is concerned about is how the additional capacity would be sold. The source said the Slovak operator would only want to sell the capacity through an open season.

“For us, it’s the only chance to see if there is any interest among shippers to book the capacity before we invest large amounts of money into this project,” he said.

A trader active on the Slovak and Czech markets said there was enough gas in Slovakia for reverse flows to Ukraine, but the major question was if Ukraine would be able to buy more gas from the EU.

All of Ukraine’s gas is currently being imported via Slovakia, with the country choosing not by Russian volume, or via Poland or Hungary.

Eustream data shows that gas flows from Slovakia to Ukraine via the Budince point fell by 30% over the previous week, averaging at about 26mcm/day.

Ukraine is currently trying to get funding from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development to buy more European gas. But a representative of the bank told ICIS last week that the EU might may not allocate a $300m financial loan to the country earlier than mid-October.

Russia Alters the Syrian Narrative—How Could That Be Bad?

Should we cry or rejoice as Russia steps up in Syria?

cbc news

Vladimir Putin has vastly different objectives in Syria than the West, but not much as worked so far

In Syria, it is often difficult to tell who is fighting whom. Here, a man holds a girl, who survived what activists said was heavy shelling by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in the Douma neighborhood of Damascus in June.
In Syria, it is often difficult to tell who is fighting whom. Here, a man holds a girl, who survived what activists said was heavy shelling by forces loyal to Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad in the Douma neighborhood of Damascus in June. (Bassam Khabieh/ Reuters)

By Brian Stewart, CBC News


Such is the torment of Syria’s ongoing war that the idea of Russia sending in its forces to attack ISIS have caused a rare diplomatic mix of alarm and excitement.

I mean, really, would that be truly bad news? Or something to be hoped for, given all the recent disasters there? Would more direct Russian involvement prolong the fighting, or shorten it? Do we even have a clue?

We know only that intelligence reports have Vladimir Putin’s Russia stepping up large transport flights of new military equipment for Syria, as well as barracks for personnel on the ground.

And now Reuters is reporting that Russian forces have begun participating in military operations alongside Syrian government troops.

The U.S. had warned Moscow against any such move, even if meant to fight ISIS, a common enemy.

Washington’s position is that more direct Russian involvement, beyond the military advisers it’s had in the country, would further escalate the fighting, increase refugee flows, and risk even broader extension of a conflict now destabilizing much of the Middle East.

Certainly Russia’s responsibility for the bloodshed there over these past four years is substantial as it has been, along with Iran, the primary supplier of arms and diplomatic muscle to the besieged Assad government.

Until now, at least, no boots on the ground, but plenty of planes and ammo.


Always Syria’s friend. A Syrian election poster last year on a micro-bus shows, from left, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Lebanese Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah. (Reuters)

On the other hand, what has the West’s own vague, often distracted and mostly hands-off policy achieved?

“It is difficult to imagine how a civil war that has lasted four years, and by most accounts killed 300,000 people and created millions of refugees could become any more expansive in its effect,” Canadian military strategist, retired colonel George Petrolekas wrote this week.

“Paradoxically, if the increased Russian presence is true, it may in fact hasten an end to the conflict”

‘Strange hysteria’

Geopolitics will warn, of course, that adding Russian troops to the Syrian quagmire would bring a hefty price tag, including the spread of Russian influence inside the heart of the Middle East, something the West struggled to contain throughout the Cold War.

For now, Moscow is still denying, sort of, that it intends to send in its forces, dismissing Washington’s nervousness as a “strange hysteria.”

On the other hand, since the Crimea and Ukraine crises erupted, Moscow’s denials carry limited weight.

What’s more, the Kremlin doesn’t actually deny that events are pushing it in that direction, even conceding it may adopt new measures to fight Islamic jihadists, including ISIS, “if the conflict worsens,” which of course it has been.

And clearly something is afoot. Keep in mind Russia tried only a few months ago to sell the U.S. and Saudi Arabia on a Syrian peace deal, which would involve a continuing Assad government, along with Iran and other outside forces, in a new anti-ISIS coalition.

There were no takers then, but this new move, assuming it’s substantive, might be a way to up the ante.

Speculation is also building around Putin’s appearance at the UN later this month.

That could be his opportunity to launch a Russia-backed initiative in the full glare of global publicity.

He knows many in the West are desperate — the right word these days — to see the war ended, the refugee crisis staunched and ISIS firmly checked on the ground.

Different objectives

Any end to the nightmare would have to involve compromises by many factions, and almost certainly other international involvement.

Notably, British Prime Minister David Cameron hinted this week that he might deploy troops to protect civilian safe havens in and around Syria, if other allies were willing to join in.

It makes you wonder if a new European-Russian-U.S.-Iranian-Arab coalition might be stitched together under some kind of humanitarian/military mandate.


Cementing alliances? Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (R) and his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif meet in Moscow last month to discuss Iran’s nuclear program and possible peace efforts in Syria. (Maxim Zmeyev / Reuters)

Winning kudos in the West, and perhaps even some easing of Western sanctions, is likely a side motivation for Putin, but he also has more profound issues to grapple with.

First, he will have to work fast to shore up the crumbling Assad regime, which now holds barely 18 per cent of the country, largely areas of Alawite and Christian populations who have largely supported the government.

Putin — like Iran, but unlike the West and others in the anti-ISIS coalition — wants Assad to survive in order to play a role in future peace talks and so is rushing more help to him.

The Russian president is old enough to remember, though, the U.S. humiliation when South Vietnam quickly crumbled once American support ceased in 1975, and he won’t want a similar Damascus collapse with Russian advisers fleeing by helicopter.

Putin clearly wants influence in any future Syria, including continuing naval rights, important for Russia’s expanding fleet presence in the Mediterranean.

It will expect large commercial benefits and to continue as the main seller of arms to Syria, as it has been since the depths of the Cold War.

Another motivating factor is that there are strong links between Russian orthodox churches and the much endangered orthodox Christians in Syria, who the now overtly religious Putin likely sees as his role to protect.

More importantly, Putin knows that any expansion of ISIS and similar groups that would follow the collapse of Assad will ignite jihadist rebellions within Russia’s own southern flanks, especially deeply restless Chechnya, where Putin, early in his presidency, suppressed one long-standing rebellion.

Neither Russia nor the West have ever wanted to send troops to Syria, but now that it seems mired in a hurricane of total chaos there may be little choice in the near future.

For the rest of us, fresh thinking seems to be required, for what clearly hasn’t worked is everything we’ve tried to do and not to do up to this utterly sad point.

Northern Europe Digs-In To Resist Forced Resettlement of River of Syrian Refugees

Denmark rejects EU call for refugee quotas

Refugees arriving in the southern Danish town of Padborg on Tuesday were transferred to a local school. Photo: Mikkel Berg Pedersen

[SEE: live blog: Hungarian army conducts military exercise along border amid refugee crisis]

Denmark rejects EU call for refugee quotas



European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker gave an impassioned defence of the European Union and European values in his first annual European State of the Union address on Wednesday.
Speaking in a packed European Parliament in Strasbourg, a forthright Juncker wasted no time in addressing Europe’s refugee crisis, a topic which many had touted would be the focus of the morning’s proceedings.
Calling for solidarity, he said European countries should on a “compulsory basis” resettle 160,000 refugees, confirming a figure that had become public earlier in the week.
“Now is not the time to be frightened, it is time for bold, determined action for the European Union,” he said.
But a EU resettlement of refugees will be without the participation of Denmark, Jakob Ellemann-Jensen, a spokesman for ruling party Venstre, said shortly after Juncker’s address.
“It is obvious that there is a need for joint European solutions and there is a need for a better and wider distribution of these people in Europe. But with that said, Denmark has already taken its share of the responsibility and will continue to do so. Quotas are not something we care for,” Ellemann-Jensen told Jyllands-Posten.
“Of course Denmark should participate in the solution but we have an opt-out [on EU Justice and Home Affairs, ed.], we stand outside of the joint asylum and immigration policies and Danish asylum rules shall continue to be determined in Denmark,” he added.
Ellemann-Jensen said that the government’s opinion on quotas remains “unchanged” and Denmark will not accept “dictated quotas from either Brussels or Stockholm”.
He did, however, open up the possibility that Denmark might volunteer to take additional refugees after EU ministers meet in Brussels on Monday.
“We’ll have to look at it on Monday. One expects that there will be a draft of how the distribution should be. And if from the Danish side, we find it reasonable than we can decide how many we wish to take,” Ellemann-Jensen told Politiken.
Denmark’s opt-out on EU Justice and Home Affairs makes the Nordic nation exempt from having to participate in a shared European approach to the current refugee crisis, even though joining a EU-wide solution could result in Denmark taking in fewer refugees than it does now.
Denmark will hold a referendum on ending its opt-out on December 3rd, but the new proposed ‘opt-in’ model would have no bearing on Denmark’s asylum and immigration policies.
Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen earlier in the week said that “the only solution [to the refugee crisis, ed.] is a European solution” and defended Denmark’s asylum policies.
“We need to help people in need. Denmark does that more than most other countries. Last year, Denmark was the country that took the second-highest number of refugees in comparison to our size,” he said.
In Strasbourg on Wednesday, Juncker reminded listeners that Europe’s history is also a history of immigration, and attempted to put the scale of the current crisis in perspective, noting that the asylum seekers only make up 0.11 percent of the European population. That figure was 25 percent in Lebanon, he added.
Lauding the efforts of ”far poorer” countries like Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan in dealing with the Syrian refugee crisis, Juncker said countries such as Greece, Italy and Hungary “cannot be left alone to cope with the enormous challenge”.
The Commission President also stressed it was unacceptable for countries to accept asylum seekers on the basis of religion — a statement met with applause.
During the speech, Juncker said Europe also needed to create a list of safe countries — chiefly Balkan states — but that his was a “procedural” issue, helping EU countries to prioritize refugees from Syria, rather than overriding the Geneva Convention on refugees.

Saudi Scum Bans Adoption of Syrian Or Iraqi Orphans Who Manage To Survive Wahhabi Terror Onslaught

syrian orphansBan on adopting Syrian, Iraqi orphans



DAMMAM — The Ministry of Social Affairs has prohibited Saudi families from adopting children of foreign or Arab nationalities and said the ministry is only concerned with taking care of Saudi orphans. According to Al-Hayat newspaper on Thursday, the ministry said the children who lose their parents in areas of conflicts such as Iraq and Syria are the concern of the international humanitarian organizations. Latifa Al-Tamimi, director of the women social supervision office in the Eastern Province, said the ministry is also looking after children of Saudi fathers with foreign wives abandoned abroad.