Many political analysts expected that Russia will not come back on track after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. However, as Vladimir Putin became on the helm of the Russian state, he vigorously attempted to regain the international standing the Soviet nation used to have in the last century as a major power.

To the chagrin of the United States (US), Putin has arguably helped Russia to rise in the world again, having regained its prominent role on the international arena. No wonder then that he was elected by the Time magazine as the most influential international figure in the year 2007, despite the fact that he will leave office this year.

In what was considered as a step toward achieving this goal, the Russian government has been trying to expand its influence on Europe by tightening its grip on energy sources of the old continent.

Consequently, the Russian officials have succeeded at last to sign a landmark agreement with Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan by virtue of which the main pipeline connecting natural gas from those two countries to Europe will pass through the Russian territories. The agreement is widely viewed as an astounding victory for Moscow over Western European capitals and the US, which tried to make the vital pipeline pass beneath the Caspian Sea then to Turkey, far removed from the Russian territories.

“We have about ten quite large private oil companies… Nobody is going to nationalize them, nobody is going to interfere with their activities. They are going to develop according to market conditions like private companies.”

Europe consumes about 500 billion cubic meter of natural gas annually, 30 percent of which is imported from Russia. As Russia was unable to secure more natural gas supplies for Western European capitals, their eyes were set on Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan as alternative suppliers. Turkmenistan intends to increase its annual production of natural gas to 120 billion cubic meters by 2010, while Kazakhstan vowed to raise its annual production to 45 billion cubic meters.

The new pipeline, which is expected to be completed by 2010, will increase the size of European natural gas imports from Central Asia from 55 billion cubic meters to 75-85 billion cubic meters annually. This, as a matter of fact, will further extend Russia’s influence on European politics.

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