Guest essay by Eric Worrall
Power pylons supplying regions of the Crimean have been blown up, causing significant economic disruption to disputed territory currently occupied by Russian backed Ukrainian rebels.
According to Reuters;
Crimea was left without electricity supplies from Ukraine on Sunday after pylons carrying power lines to the Russia-annexed peninsula were blown up overnight.
It was not immediately clear who had damaged the pylons, but a Russian senator described the move as an “act of terrorism” and implied that Ukrainian nationalists were to blame.
Crimea receives the bulk of its electricity from the Ukrainian mainland and its seizure by Russia last year prompted fury in Kiev and the West, which then imposed economic sanctions on Russian companies and individuals.
Russia’s Energy Ministry said emergency electricity supplies had been turned on for critical needs in Crimea and that mobile gas turbine generators were being used, adding that around 1.6 million people out of a population of roughly 2 million remained without power as of 1000 GMT.
Read more: Reuters
This act of insurgency, regardless of your sympathies in the Ukrainian crisis, opens a wider question, about the vulnerability of Russian and European energy assets.
Militarily Russia appears strong. They are fighting a number of wars at the moment, including significant action against ISIS in Syria. But economically Russia is weak.
MOSCOW, November 21. / TASS /. Russia’s economy is going through a tough year, and, unlike the crises of 2008 and 2009, for the first time since the early 2000s, a decrease in real incomes, Alexei Kudrin, former Finance Minister and Chairman of the Committee of Civil Initiatives said at the third All-Russian Civic Forum in Moscow.
“We have for the first time since early 2000 have seen the decline in real incomes. In my opinion, government measures to support the economy of the population are not enough,” Kudrin said.
Read more: http://tass.ru/en/economy/838272
A major economic shock in a weak economy might force Russia to scale down her military efforts. The Trans-Siberian Pipeline is the potential vehicle by which insurgents, Ukrainian Nationalists or ISIS terrorists, or other groups motivated to attack Russia, could deliver that catastrophic economic shock. Even a credible threat to the pipeline would force Russia to divert military resources to guarding the pipeline.
In addition, destroying a section of the pipeline would disrupt gas supplies to Europe, with possibly lethal results – fracking shy Europe is heavily dependent on gas from Siberia, especially in Winter. The pipeline supplies 30% of Europe’s gas.
The pipeline is 4500km (2800 miles long). No doubt Russia takes protecting the pipeline very seriously. But thats an awful lot of pipeline which has to be protected, from dangerous people who have a lot to gain, if Russia was crippled economically.