Alternatives & Analyses: The Turk Stream shadow behind the expulsion of Russian diplomats

The second leg of Borisov’s transactional diplomacy is already a fact. Very much in line with events preceding his trip to Washington and the visit to the White House – both kicked off with a sequence of image-repairing events.

It seems like Bulgaria’s Prosecutor’s republic its Foreign Policy is designed and aired in the General Prosecutor’s office. Under normal circumstances, the General Prosecutor would not be supposed to make public discrete communications regarding national security matters – and allegations of malign conduct by foreign diplomats.  Not least of all because they have immunity and the Government might decide, again on national security and above all on policy grounds, to chose a less harmful and less public way of asking the diplomats to leave.

The statement made by the General Prosecutor on the wrongdoing of the two diplomats has left the MFA and Zaharieva Minister with no option but to declare both ‘personas non-gratas’ immediately. Any delay will harm the image of the Minister and the Ministry.It is all too evident that the pending expulsions send a message to Washington and Moscow.

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A lot is at stake, but above all looms the fate of the Turk Stream – 2. At the end of the month, the State and Treasury Departments will announce the list of sanctioned companies and individuals. As the NDAA law enacts the sanctions, the two departments can’t ignore the fact that the Bulgarian segment of the Turk Stream falls into the category – “successor” project to the Turk Stream’s maritime part.

Borisov, who needs breathing space to see the Turk Stream section finished, can’t afford to be perceived as a Russian proxy of a Russian project. Hence the urgent need to distance himself from Russia, where the action of the Prosecutor General fits in. Note, the move by Ivan Geshev relieves Borisov and the Government of responsibility, leaving the case entirely in the legal and criminal territory.

Even if the Balkan Stream’s main contractor  – the Arkad Group or its subcontractors, are not included in the list, on the grounds of political expediency,  the threat remains that the Turk Stream -2 project will be halted, very much as the Nord Stream – 2 was. Whether the US Company providing the critical equipment for the Compressor station (CS) of the new pipeline and securing spare parts and maintenance for the existing CSs operated by the TSO, will be allowed to deliver is another matter. The chances are slim to none.

If this happens – the main idea behind replacing the name of Turk with Balkans stream as the geopolitically balanced project will fall apart, removing the smokescreen and exposing its core identity – a Russian project.The crisis management visit to the US next week of the Energy Minister and the CEOs of BEH, BTG, and Bulgargaz, is meant as a final and desperate attempt to thwart sanctions in return for deals. Bulgargas, as promised by the US ambassador, will meet three US gas traders already active in the CEE to discuss future long term LNG sales. All gas traders that over the years have visited Bulgargas’s office or have come in contact with the CEO have seen their utmost optimism shattered in the strange mix of prejudice and Gazprom-centric mind – that the CEO of Bulgargaz emanates.

Sooner or later, PM Borisov will have to admit that the expulsion of Russian diplomats is no substitute for a concise and principled policy. Instead of seeking leniency from the US, allowing him to complete the Balkan Stream pipeline, he is most likely to end up as the third-party loser.

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