The Russian Energy Ministry confirmed plans June 11 to stimulate hydrocarbon production in Russia's continental shelf in the Caspian Sea. First proposed in 2012, the plan includes developing logistics for shelf projects, establishing infrastructure in hydrocarbon fields and deploying personnel for the projects.
Though Russia has actively pursued such plans for some time, the Ukraine crisis, not to mention Europe's efforts to diversify its energy resources, has given new life to Caspian Sea projects. Central to its development is the Trans-Caspian pipeline, a natural gas pipeline that would link Turkmenistan with Azerbaijan via the Caspian Sea.
The European Union recently has tried to expedite the project. Several meetings have been held in recent months in this regard, and EU Commissioner Jose Manuel Barroso is scheduled to visit both Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan this week.
But Russia will probably continue to resist the project. Littoral states are legally disputing the maritime borders of the Caspian Sea, obstructing any energy projects in the disputed areas beyond each country's immediate continental shelf. Russia has specifically contested the Trans-Caspian project on legal grounds, but its opposition is mostly strategic: If completed, the project could undermine Russia's energy position in Europe substantially.
Therefore, moving forward with its own unilateral projects in the Caspian Sea could provide Moscow a way to impede the Trans-Caspian pipeline. The Europeans will continue to court Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan to see the project through, but Russia can be expected to resist the Trans-Caspian on legal grounds or otherwise.