Thursday 9 March 2023

Natural gas as a feature of Putin's war

At the very start of Putin's war, I asked: What plans does Little Volodya have for his [natural] gas weapon?  (day one, 24.02.22)  Well, to his utter astonishment - and mine - we in Europe have managed a whole (exceptionally warm) winter without it, and gas turned out to be not the crucial geo-political trump card he quite fairly assumed (even if this is partly down to the ignorant nonsense that we don't actually need gas, peddled by greens and swallowed by many).   We went on:

Ol' Uncle Joe Biden said something at the weekend rather bellicose about Nord Stream 2 but I kinda doubt he has in mind blowing it up, easy and rather satisfying though this would be (there's a James Bond film involving a Russian gas pipeline, as I recall) ... Which leads us to consider a Big Accident. If there's too much high-explosive shit flying about in Ukraine, well, all that infrastructure is really quite fragile (although not too difficult to repair). Quite a big chunk of Russian exports still transit Ukraine, albeit NS2 is designed to put paid to that. Who knows what any number of rogue actors might think of doing in that very large country, in the fog of war? There are plenty of people who could profit handsomely from a Big Accident...

So now we have a new Nord Stream theory being widely bruited about: it was Ukrainians wot did it!  Let's see what evidence transpires - we've had enough quite evidence-free echo-chamber speculation for my liking already.  As you'll gather from the 24 February 2022 quote above, I'm not averse to a Rogue Actor hypothesis.  There are plenty of rogues, with plenty of money and complicated interests, in the world of Big Gas.

One thing I will tell you: there's almost no chance of anyone finding a smoking gun irrefutably in the hands of the Kyiv government.  With 100% certainty, we may be sure that Rule No.1 laid down to Zelensky by Joe Biden 12 months ago, will have been No Surprises.  And - can Zelensky get by without US aid?  I don't need to answer that.  So, let the wild speculation continue.  On the stopped clock principle, somebody's guess will turn out to have been correct (my money has switched from Soros to the military wing of Greta & the Greens). 

On the subject of Big Gas actors, they don't come much bigger than my old friends at Gazprom.  We hear that Gazprom is being encouraged to set up a 'private military company' on the Wagner model, but inevitably on much more Kremlin-friendly lines.  

Why?  Easy: Putin needs to harness all the local competence he can find; and Gazprom has plenty of competent people, well versed in mustering big efforts for big projects.  And, needless to say, they are part of the Kremlin elite (indeed, one of its paymasters).  If you're simply thinking like, perhaps a Shell or a BP - engineer-heavy companies stuffed with men-of-the-world with global experience of managing complex affairs - well, that's a fair starting point: but Gazprom has traditionally engaged in the practical world with even broader scope.  Not only do they have their own bakeries,  as I described here some years ago, they have schools and hospitals, AND an armed service, complete with AFVs.  

How come?  Because Russia is a big place (until 1990 it was even bigger) and the further you get from Moscow, the more you need to deal with local warlords of the Kadryov variety.  And Gazprom has always needed to do business far and wide.  Collecting money from a distant райо́н is often as difficult for the Big G as it was for the Tsar's tax farmers in earlier years, or the Golden Horde's tribute-gatherers before them.  The arrival of the men from Gazprom in a small armoured column is often how the matter is handled (as noted here 15 years ago). 

And would you rather be on the payroll of a Gazprom motor rifle regiment, or one of Wagner's cannon-fodder 'musicians'?



Anonymous said...

The original NYT story is linked to Adam Goldman, who has a reputation to be a stenographer for the US intelligence community. Because of this, it's probably not real journalism but rather a way to shape a narrative.

The Trump Russia "pee-tape" dossier is an example of how US intelligence agencies made completley made up intelligence seem legitimate – circular verification.

Theis involved leaking the unverified information to the press, who then report it based on anonymous sources. These articles are then used as secondary confirmation of the original intelligence report, even though they are the same thing.

I like this line form the article:
U.S. officials declined to disclose the nature of the intelligence, how it was obtained or any details of the strength of the evidence it contains

Probably originated from a word document written by someone in cubicle B on the second floor of the Pentagon...

Clive said...

Yes, sad but true, the oil companies (And the miners, for that matter) have to despite their qualms (and the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977 (FCPA) which you really don't want to fall foul of, even if it's more of a leverage tool for Uncle Sam to use rather than anything to prevent, erm, well corrupt practices) know how to deal with sometime recalcitrant locals.

So, you've got a read-made network of fixers, Mr. 10%s, borderline paramilitaries, bent politicians, bent cops, warlords, tribal chiefs, NGOs on the take and much else rather dreadful but rather unavoidable to call on.

And it's not just that. It's the know-how and experience to work out that, if something has gone wrong and keeps going wrong -- or merely just doesn't happen and ends up delayed and delayed -- that it's down to someone (or several someone's palms needing greasing or someone shown a bit of muscle and coercion. From what I'm told, you just know, almost by instinct, eventually, what needs to be done to resolve whatever local difficulty is vexing you.

No, none of this is discussed in polite company. There's layers and layers of plausible deniability so the board can say, when it might get sticky for them "more tea, vicar?" and look perfectly innocent of having to get down and dirty with the more unpleasant types they have to deal with.

Anonymous said...

Slightly off topic, but are we at war with Eurasia or Eastasia at the moment?

I'm sure the Ministry of Truth will let us know.

E-K said...

A parallel universe, obviously. A Wild West of endeavour with REAL men in charge.

Kenneth Noye (in another life) would have fitted in well - he was misplaced in our society but there is need for people like him on the frontiers.

Who knows about NS2. More importantly ... who DOESN'T want to know about NS2 is probably the more pertinent question. It's happened, change direction. Let's not turn over too many pebbles - whoever pulled that off without fingerprint is obviously very powerful indeed.

Sobers said...

So we are supposed to believe that some sort of Oceans 11 gang of marauding criminals managed to place explosive charges on pipelines in one of the most surveilled bits of water in the world, and nobody noticed? Pull the other one.....

Whoever blew up the Nordstream pipes will be known to the US, if it isn't the US themselves. And the operation will have been done with their tacit approval, ie it wouldn't have happened if they didn't want it to happen. The more interesting question is 'Who are they protecting, if they didn't do it?'

Anonymous said...

As the US said in big block letters that NS2 would not go ahead if Russia intervened in the Ukrainian Civil War aka the Donbass/Luhansk War Of Independence, that a senior Polish guy tweeted 'thanks USA' and that Rubio and the usual suspects gloated about the attack, I think we should believe them for once.

E-K said...

Do we not think that the 5 Eyes community know who sabotaged NS2 ?

If not then how on earth not ? And whom might they be covering up for ?

If it were the Russians then wouldn't that have been well and properly leaked by now ?

Anonymous said...

OT - China just brokered a Saudi-Iran deal. Tectonic plate shift.

Maybe a bit of a bugger for BAe too.

Someone in the State Department will be digging out the Colour Revolution playbook, or retrieving it from the Georgia desk.

Of all our erstwhile "allies", the Saudis have been the least defensible from a 'yuman rites' perspective since pretty much forever. I foresee our free and independent press will just discover that fact...

I wonder how this will affect Yemen/Houthis? Much as I admire them as scrappers, it would be nicer to be able to descend into Abu Dhabi without having to wonder if a Houthi drone is also coming in.

E-K said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
andrew said...

It was the Chinese.
In a couple of years time they will build a nice big pipeline for all that cheap gas.
Chances are it will be built before hs2 reaches Birmingham.

Jeremy Poynton said...

Meant to add (finger trouble)

Maybe they confused it with HS2?

E-K said...

Jeremy - I expect 5 Eyes know by whom and why Britain would be sabotaged in such a way !

E-K said...


How would Gary Lineker feel if Rishi Sunak had major influence over Leicester City's tactics this weekend ?

The Tories don't want him to be shut up - they actually want him to speak out but only after leading the tedious and boring life that is needed to earn the votes that warrant that sort of political power.

This will be the second major tranche of elected conservatism overturned by footballers.

Bill Quango MP said...

If the bbc wasn’t funded by compulsory taxation on all formats of live streaming media Mr L could say whatever he likes.within the business contract he signed.

But it isn’t.
Impartial pretence keeps the BILLIONS of tax pounds flowing in. Regardless of content, competition, market share, production costs, talent or audience preferences.

The BBC DG knows this.
That’s why he is so worried.
The pretence of impartiality is the only reason to fund the thing at all

jim said...

OT but amusing. Perhaps a public on camera kiss and make up between Ms Braverman and Mr Lineker with a bit of Hancock grab-ass for good measure.

On the one hand a gobby but well liked media star and on the other side a petulant and disliked Home Secretary. Home Secretaries are a dime a dozen (but never sane), good footy people much harder to find.

The mood music in today's DM seems to be swinging Lineker's way whilst maintaining a bit of outrage at that lefty enemy the BBC. Now why could that be? Because there are more important fish to fry, there is the little matter of Mr Dacre's gong or even a bit of ermine, something that matters. So tone it down, get everyone off the hook. And tell Ms Braverman to button it.

Any fool can see Ms Braverman and Mr Sunak are wasting our time and money on a forlorn hope to hold back the migrants. Five hundred million smackers to the Frogs - for what? The hope of having no migrant boats in the coming election run up. Our money p*"sed up the wall to save Sunak's skin.

But wait a mo. Even for £500 mil the Frogs are not going to enthusiastically run up and down their beaches for over a year. Do I smell an early election coming?

E-K said...

Jim - yes. The fake boats route, I'm probably more in danger of driving to work than crossing the channel in the organised NGO/RNLI/BF dinghies.

After the early election, moves will be made to set up a free and proper ferry service and all pretence of border control will be gone. Lineker will get his way.

Hitchens makes exactly my point this morning.

Caeser Hēméra said...

I'm stunned at how the badly the BBC have handled this.

All they needed to do was chuck out a statement along the lines of "Mr Lineker's comments in no way represent that of the BBCs and were a personal opinion, from a personal account. We do note his comparison with 1930's Germany was unreasonable hyperbole, and on this point we talked and have commissioned Mr Lineker to do a thirty minute special on 1930s Germany."

Get to distance themselves from his views, finger-wag his comparisons to the Nazis, and get some new content to chuck out on BBC2 later in the year. Wins all round.

It has saved the government the troubles of having the policy looked at in the cold and harsh light of day.

For me, just another policy that isn't going to work, there's an article in the Speccie by Kate Andrews that neatly explains why.

Why we're not just sending Albanians back en-masse, a la France and Germany, and instructing our intelligence service to quietly, and permanently, remove the traffickers most insulated from legal consequences is beyond me.

We don't process their claims quickly, we don't allow them to work whilst the Home Office engages in its primary role of arse-sitting and we dump them all in the poorer areas.

Letting them work would help the economy, and a few migrant hostels in the mostly-white, mostly middle-class+, effectively gated communities ought to help introduce good intentions to harsh reality.

Yet another thing, along with Laura Norder and the economy, the Tories are meant to be competent at, yet have spent the last decade plus providing ample evidence to the contrary.

Someone needs to have a word with Tory Central and quietly explain no swing voter votes Tory out of a deep love for them, but for a perceived need for a harsh and capable hand on the tiller. Remove that perception, and what are they for?

E-K said...

It really isn't about Mr Smug. It is about BBC adherence to its covenant of impartiality. It's lead sports presenter is about to change government policy (he really is.)

This is good. Very good,in fact.

Finally the long needed licence strike may be about to happen because millions of licence payers have just been smeared by their lead sports presenter. Thank you Mr Smug !

Anonymous said...

"letting them work would help the economy"

And lower wages, but who cares about that?

Caeser Hēméra said...

@EK - nobody - except on twitter, so, nobody _of consequence_ - gave any number of hoots, figs or shits about Lineker's opinions on Government policy.

His tweets were not about to change any minds.

Ex-footballer, presenter, and slinger of crisps, he's not exactly Emily Matliss, and the public know that.

Until the BBC kicked up a stink, it was yet another storm in a social meeja teacup, and it took it becoming an actual story for people to start waggling 'No to Racism' at footie matches.

A conspiracy theorist might think that's what the more liberal heads at the BBC wanted, but really, that's giving the piss-weak tea of BBC management a lot more credit than they deserve.

It's a poor policy designed to make it look like the government is doing something meaningful, when it'll achieve little other than enrich the French, so I can't see policy being changed in any way, especially as I'm presuming the target is to stop the rot of the traditional Tory voter shopping elsewhere these days, rather than actually stopping the boats.

That'd require actual thought and effort, rather than chucking money over the Channel for headlines.

Caeser Hēméra said...

@anon 10:56

Might want to check the overall immigration figures, usually refugees are a small percentage of overall migration. Ukraine and Hong Kong have distorted that somewhat.

Any impact the likes of the boat people would have on wages would be minimal, as we saw post-Brexit, where the migrants come from has an impact on wages too. Wages in a lot of areas rebounded with less EU sourced migration, although migration itself hasn't declined.

And supply and demand only works if you actually have the supply aspect, which it's pretty clear in some areas we don't have enough of.

Of course if you take it to extremes, and it's cheaper to automate, then wages drop to a nice round zero for those jobs.

Caeser Hēméra said...

Back to Leicester's finest potato product pusher, just seen it suggested elsewhere it may just tie-in to his IR35 court case.

As he claims he isn't an employee of the BBC as such, and so outside, an argument over whether BBC employee guidelines apply to him or not maybe of value to that particular branch of Mssrs Sue, Grabbit and Runne representing him.

Old Git Carlisle said...

Fully support last comment. As a matter of interest how many of other BBC creeps are not on properly taxed terms and conditions and how many footballers are non doms. Also is i correct that MP's have bespoke tax terms that do not require 'wholly and necessary' test for expenses - Or am I just a malcontent

Clive said...

Beginning to suspect that, with regards to migration, the government is adopting a fairly new strategy that it (successfully, I may add) deployed against Extinction Rebellion/Just Stop Oil etc.

Namely, in trying to stare down interest groups which use a tactic of victimhood activism, it’s very tricky to mount a direct assault. It plays right into the activist’s hands (they can counter by getting whiney and victimey which, despite what you might think, does generate some degree of public support because the government can’t help but look like they’re bullying the little guy). It’s a very clever approach and, when you start looking for it, you see it a lot.

But, if government instead allies what looks like an overdose of compassion — such as all that “is there anything you need?” and cups of tea policing to protest blocking roads and so on — before too long, public opinion is all but demanding firing squads. The tables get turned on the vitcimhood activists and government seems to be imposing a policy it wanted all along but reluctantly in a woe-is-me style of having no choice but to quell the worst outbursts of “the mob”.

E-K said...

The issue isn't Lineker but BBC funding.