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Monday, July 21, 2008

Crazed Russia Lashes out Against Czech Republic

Writing in the Jamestown Foundation's Eurasia Daily Monitor, Vladimir Soccor explains the barbaric actions of Russia retaliating against Czech Republic for daring to defend itself against Russian missiles. While Russia claims it is just a "technical" issue, none of the other countries who receive oil through this pipeline have been affected in the least, including Poland Hungary and Slovakia. Russia a reliable energy partner? Dream on, Europe. Time to wake up and smell the radioactive poison!

On July 8 in Prague the United States and the Czech Republic signed the agreement on placing a U.S. radar on the Czech Republic’s territory, as part of the antiballistic missile shield. Two days later, Russia’s oil pipeline monopoly Transneft announced that oil deliveries to the Czech Republic were being cut from the contracted volume of 500,000 tons down to 300,000 tons for the month of July. Transneft did not mention the reasons for this deep cut and did not specify whether supplies would fully resume after July (Interfax, July 10).

Whether the signing of the Czech radar agreement triggered Russian retaliation through the oil supply cut is a matter of conjecture. In any case, maintaining uncertainty about the reasons behind supply cuts and forcing the target country to guess is a key element in Russia’s misuse of energy supplies as a political instrument. This uncertainty provides deniability for Russia and delays an effective response from the target country and its European partners. Even if a cut turns out not to have been politically motivated, it introduces an element of intimidation into the relationship by reminding the target country that Russia can use this instrument politically next time.

The Czech government’s inquiries in Moscow remain unanswered thus far. Russian diplomats in Prague are giving enigmatic responses to local inquiries. The relevant Czech ministries, the state-owned oil transport company MERO, and the refineries’ shareholders are all in the dark about Moscow’s and the Russian oil companies’ intentions. Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek and Minister of Foreign Affairs Karel Schwarzenberg have told the Czech and international media that they are awaiting a Russian response to their requests for an explanation.

Russia failed to inform the European Commission about the supply cut. Moscow is obligated to provide such information in a timely manner, in accordance with an early-warning procedure regarding oil and gas supplies. Russia agreed with the European Union to institute that procedure in 2007, following supply cuts through the Druzhba pipeline system that affected Germany and several new member countries of the EU in Central Europe. In that incident (January 2007), Transneft suspended oil deliveries to Belarus, where the Druzhba system originates, causing supply shortfalls to six European countries farther downstream.

On July 14 Transneft vice-president Mikhail Barkov invoked “technical and commercial reasons” for the supply cut to the Czech Republic. In his version, two Russian producer companies, which he did not name, have decided that their crude oil can be processed more profitably in Russia. Another Russian company might, however, step in to compensate for the supply shortfalls, Barkov said (Interfax, July 14).

The Czech Republic is 100 percent dependent on imported oil, 70 percent of it from Russia through a branch of the Druzhba pipeline system. Other branches of the Druzhba system supply several Central European countries and Germany. As the Czech government’s special envoy for energy affairs, Vaclav Bartuska, observes, the cut to the Czech Republic is unlikely to be a merely technical problem, since the other Central European countries are not affected (Lidove Noviny, July 14). Moscow’s move seems suspiciously to single out the Czech Republic.

The Czech Republic is storing oil reserves for 95 days of average-level usage, amounting to almost 1 million tons. In the event of longer-term shortfalls in supplies, Prague can activate supply agreements for increased deliveries through the Trans-Alpine (TAL) pipeline, which runs from Trieste (Italy) via Austria to the refining center at Ingolstadt in Bavaria. That pipeline has a continuation line from Ingolstadt to Kralupy and Litvinov (IKL pipeline) in the Czech Republic. The Czech government had made agreements for both regular and contingency oil deliveries through the TAL-IKL pipelines already in the 1990s, as part of a foresighted policy to diversify supplies. However, switching the flow of supplies even partially can be a costly move (Hospodarske Noviny, July 14).

The main consumers of Russian oil in the Czech Republic are the Kralupy and Litvinov refineries, owned by the Ceska Rafinerska consortium. Its shareholders are the Polish PKN Orlen (via its Unipetrol group) with 51 percent, Italy’s ENI-Agip with 32.5 percent, and Royal Dutch Shell with 16.5 percent. Shell, however, looks to sell its stake to some other company, which remains publicly unnamed but was known last year to have been Russia’s Lukoil and this year Russia’s Rosneft. Meanwhile, Polish majority control of the consortium is a bulwark against a partial Russian takeover.

PKN Orlen rescued Lithuania’s Mazeikiai refinery in 2006 from a takeover by Lukoil or Rosneft. These, along with Transneft, had earlier cut deliveries of oil by pipeline to Mazeikiai to force it to surrender. Russia has stopped all deliveries to Lithuania through the Druzhba system since 2006 in retaliation for the Lithuanian-Polish agreement. In recent days, Rosneft president Sergei Bogdanchikov and board chairman Igor Sechin, who is deputy prime minister of Russia, have declared an interest in acquiring refining capacities in EU territory, specifically in Hungary and the Czech Republic (RossBusinessConsulting, July 1; Vilaggazdasag, July 8; Reuters, July 11).


Tower Bolshevik said...

Czech Republic is defending itself by allowing a U.S missile radar to be built? This clearly demonstrates your narrow-mindedness and one-sidedness. FACT: the vast majority(70%) of the Czech population are staunchly against the building of this radar. They don't buy into this U.S invented tune of threat that their government enjoys dancing to.

Already some Czechs are going on hunger strikes to protest the construction of this U.S radar.

In fact Poland earlier this month (on the 4th of July) has just rejected the U.S missile base plan. Poland's first U.S puppets to say no to their master.

So it looks like Bush's dream might not be possible without American tanks and troops all over the Czech Republic and Poland.

La Russophobe said...

That's really cute. You can't handle the subject of this post, energy blackmail, so you try to change it -- just like the failed USSR always used to do. So pathetic! Not a single word that is actually on point. Lame!

Are you suggesting that your post acknowledges any legitimate reasons Czechs might have to fear or despise Russia, including energy blackmail? Talk about one-sidedness! What a laughable hypocrite!

If Czechs support Russia, then why is Russia denying them energy resources and harming them?

Fact: You cite ZERO evidence to support your claim about what Czechs want. If Garry Kasparov goes on a hunger strike to protest Vladimir Putin, does that mean Putin must step down? It's laughably absurd for someone supporting the Putinist regime which liquidates opposition and criticism to talk about the popular will. If a majority of people in Chechnya support secession, does that mean Russia must accept it? A majority of Georgians want Russia out of Abkhazia. Does that mean you are calling for Russia to leave?


You seem to be confused by Czech democracy. Granted, a Russophile wouldn't be able to understand how dissent strengthens a country rather than weakening it. So pitiable.

Fact: Poland is merely negotiating, they haven't refused to accept the missile system and have allied themselves with NATO as Czech Republic has done, against Russia's will. NATO, by the way, just overwhelmingly supported the Bush plan. Can't you ever stop lying?

If you think the people of Eastern Europe are overflowing with affection trust for Russia, you really need to stay away from all that nasty Russian moonshine.

Tower Bolshevik said...

I'm not trying to change anything, I'm merely correcting a distorted moronic notion. Czechs have no reason to hate Russians, and don't. At least not when I went there. The Czechs in the USA are almost entirely Czech trash. Now where did I say that the Czech people side with Russia? Someone has a severe reading impediment. If you think I'm lying that the vast majority of Czechs are oppposed to the U.S radar, take a look at any Czech poll on the topic. Or just see this website:

If anything your reply confirms is your dilusional mentality about anything other than America. I'm a Communist, and therefore do not supprt capitalists like Putin. Again, Putin is part of the same force that destroyed the USSR with support from the USA. And yes, I do call for Russian troops to get out of the Caucasus, whether in Chechnya or Georgia. And you call me demented? Look how naive and ill-informed you are.

I agree with your statement that dissent strengthens a country. It shows that Czech people are not mindless sheep who follow their government unlike Americans who think dissent weakens America.

You really need to get out if you really believe that this whole planet follows their U.S pupput leaders unquestionably. And no, I don't see any reason why Eastern Europeans or anyone else should trust U.S or Russian imperialism.

La Russophobe said...

Oh that's rich! Now your own personal impressions constitute "fact"! Next you will be telling us about the awesome powers of your ESP!

Both Czech Republic and Poland despise and fear Russia for the excellent reason that they see Russia trying to reacquire Soviet control over places like Ukraine and Georgia and assume they are next.

If you knew a little Czech history, you'd know what reasons they have for hating Russians. Maybe you should read a little more (and from a Czech source, not a Russian one).

You once again ignore that both Poland and Czech Republic have ignored Russia's wishes and joined NATO. Your attempt to decree to them what they may and may not "reasonably" think sounds just like what you accuse Americans of doing. Aren't you being rather insanely hypocritical?

Tower Bolshevik said...

When I was in Prague I didn't meet one Czech who said he/she collectively hated Russians. Met plenty who think the U.S rulers are imperialists and utter morons.

"Soviet control"? Maybe you've not updated your politics, but the Soviet Union fell in 1991. Any Czech or Pole with a brain can see that Russia even if they wanted would be totally incapable of incorporating Ukraine, Georgia, Czech Republic, and Poland into its own sphere.

Well, then bith Czechs and Russians have a reason to hate each other. For example: the Czechoslovak Legion of Tomas Masaryk, a Churchill asskisser invaded Soviet Russia during the Civil War, killed thousands for the Americans, British, and Russian Whites. But they got the crap kicked out of them by the heroic Red Army. Besides, if you looked at the website on the U.S radar site I gave you, or even the URL, you should clearly see that it is not Russian, if you have an ounce of intelligence.

I've shown you sources, this was not merely my own opinion. I know very well that both Czech Republic and Poland joined NATO. Their ruling classes are as Trotsky so appropriately described them as "gansters of imperialism" when he argued against defending both regimes from the Nazi invasion.

whattaktak said...

Officially, the antimissile defense radar that is to be built in the Czech Republic is intended against Iranian, not Russian missiles. :D

La Russophobe said...

So that means it has nothing to do with Russia, and Russia must shut up!

By the way, officially Vladimir Putin is only the prime minister of Russia and can be dismissed at any time.

whattaktak said...

Oh yeah, Russia must shut up... and quietly deploy on Cuba a base of its strategic bombers... in order to fight Columbian drug lords, or course! ;))