On Monday we flagged a notable escalation in the build up to the geopolitical “main event” in Syria where, thanks largely to the West’s ambition to break Gazprom’s leverage over Europe, the US and Russia are one “accidental” run-in away from taking the “proxy” out of the term “proxy war.”
With the Kremlin now ramping up its military presence around the Assad stronghold of Latakia, the US is scrambling to do anything and everything in its power to slow the Russian build up – including putting pressure on Greece to deny Russia the use of its airspace for supply flights to Syria.
This isn’t the first time Greece has found itself in the middle of Cold War 2.0, as Athens (and notably Panagiotis Lafazanis) used Greece’s geographical position to field competing gas pipeline bids from Washington and Moscow during the height of the country’s fraught bailout negotiations.
So while we wait for Greece to pick a side between the US and Russia by either allowing Moscow to use its airspace on the way to supplying Assad or else snubbing the Kremlin and jeopardizing a potentially lucrative gas deal, at least one country has been quick to make a decision: Bulgaria…
— Al Arabiya English (@AlArabiya_Eng) September 8, 2015
Why, you ask? According to a spokeswoman, the Bulgarian foreign ministry has “enough information that makes [it] have serious doubts about the cargo of the planes, which is the reason for the refusal.”
What’s particularly amusing here is that all of the above (Greece’s reluctance to immediately acquiesce to Washington’s demands, Bulgaria’s move to deny Russia use of its airspace, and the whole Syrian civil war) is the direct result of energy disputes. As mentioned above, Greece is being pulled between The Southern Gas Corridor and the Turkish Stream, while the South Stream debacle means Bulgaria has no reason not to side with the West. And of course the entire crisis in Syria all comes down the proposed Qatar-Turkey line.
So once again, it all comes down to natural gas and if the conflict in Syria has taught us anything so far, it’s that when it comes to energy, the world’s most powerful nations are willing to sacrifice hundreds of thousands of lives to protect their interests.