Greece crucial in west’s effort to limit Russian energy influence

The US is increasingly viewing Greece as a platform capable of supporting American energy interests in the wider region, a development that would stifle Russia’s current energy-related dominance. This outlook ultimately upgrades Greece’s geostrategic role in the region.

This American perception of the wider region was made clear yet again yesterday by the US Ambassador to Greece, Geoffrey R. Pyatt, during a speech delivered at the “1st Oil & Gas Forum” in Alexandroupoli, northeastern Greece. The event was organized by the American-Hellenic Chamber of Commerce.

Signs of growing intervention by Russia in the domestic affairs of Balkan countries have prompted US officials to increase their monitoring of the region.

Closer ties being established between Balkan countries and the west, combined with the development of energy projects supporting western interests, promise to reduce the Balkan region’s energy dependence on Moscow, currently as high as 90 percent.

Pyatt, during yesterday’s energy conference in Alexandroupoli, noted that an attempt made last year to prevent Montenegro from becoming a NATO member – the accession process was completed just months ago, in June – was propelled by Russian concerns over Russia’s  potential loss of influence in energy regions. This remark reiterated a recent comment made on the issue by US Vice President Mike Pence.

Montenegro is now a NATO member, the new Fyrom (Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia) government appears to be distancing itself from the previous administration’s pro-Russian position, while Albania, Bosnia, Kosovo and Serbia all find themselves at different stages along the EU accession course.

Energy projects of western interests, which, once completed, promise to reduce the region’s reliance on Russia, are now in full progress. Many of these projects carry Greek dimensions.

One of these, the TAP natural gas pipeline, to pass through Greece’s north, Albania and the Adriatic Sea across to Italy, promises to reform energy security in southeast Europe, Pyatt, the US Ambassador to Greece, told yesterday’s energy conference.

Pyatt expressed concerns over delays holding back the development of the IGB Greek-Bulgarian gas grid interconnection and extolled the roles to be played by a prospective FSRU in Alexandroupoli and extension of the existing LNG facility on Revythoussa, an islet just off Athens.