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Energy Analyst Sees Russia as Key Oil Supplier to Europe

Vladimir Socor, an energy analyst based in Germany, told Washington audience Monday planned new pipelines will consolidate Russia's position as a leading supplier of oil and gas to Western Europe. VOA's Barry Wood has more.

Socor says that oil and gas pipelines advocated by Russia in the Balkans will add to Western Europe's dependence on Russian supplied energy. Concerning oil, he said the planned pipeline between Bulgaria and Greece is a major success for Russia as it will be the only Russian controlled pipeline within the European Union.

The deal was agreed last year and construction is expected to begin soon.

Socor told an audience at Washington's Center for Strategic and International Studies that Moscow hopes for a similar success in gas. Its plan, he said, is to build the South Stream Pipeline under the Black Sea to Bulgaria and Western Europe. Socor said a competing European Union proposed gas line from Central Asia called Nabucco is losing support.

"With Nabucco's real prospects dwindling, Turkey, like Austria, like the Hungarian government, and like Bulgaria are losing confidence in Nabucco and are opting for the only alternative visible to them, which is South Stream," he said.

Socor said Nabucco, intended to carry mostly Turkmenistan gas across Turkey to the Balkans, will happen only if the European Union and the United States give the project high level support.

Socor said through pipelines Russia is gaining control over the export of oil and gas from the former Soviet republics in Central Asia. "Russia is combining Central Asian gas reserves with its own gas reserves into a single pool under Russian commercial and physical control to supply both Russia and Europe," he said.

Turkmenistan is Central Asia's biggest gas exporter and Kazakhstan is the biggest oil exporter.

To counter what he sees as a potentially dangerous European dependence on Russian energy, Socor advocates a dialogue with Iran, which could lead to Iranian gas being supplied to the Nabucco pipeline. Such a dialogue is opposed by the United States.