Balkan Energy Battlegrounds: Gas Pipelines and Geopolitics

The Jamestown Foundation is proud to present “Balkan Energy Battlegrounds: Gas Pipelines and Geopolitics,” a multi-panel conference discussing the emerging geopolitical competition over natural gas supplies to Southeastern Europe. In December 2019, the United States announced new sanctions targeting pipe-laying vessels that had been engaged in building offshore portions of Russia’s two major new pipelines to Europe—Nord Stream Two and TurkStream. But while the US sanctions managed to suspend construction of Nord Stream Two, which will deliver additional volumes of gas from Russia to Germany under the Baltic Sea, Gazprom’s gas conduit from Russia to western Turkey, TurkStream, managed to avoid those same sanctions, as the off-shore part of this pipeline had been completed a month earlier.

Like Nord Stream Two in the north, TurkStream is designed to allow Moscow to reduce the volumes of Russian gas transit through Ukraine. Once fully online, TurkStream will redirect 33.5 billion cubic meters of gas to Turkey and the Balkans. Gazprom aims to retain its monopoly as gas supplier in the Balkans and compete with other prospective suppliers in the region, such as the Southern Gas Corridor from Azerbaijan and increased global deliveries of LNG.

This important conference will focus on the geo-strategic energy competition in the Balkans as well as its broader implications for this region, Ukraine and Central Europe. The event will feature a rich collection of experts, including business leaders, analytical researchers, and government officials.


Tuesday, February 25, 2020
1:30 P.M.–4:45 P.M.

Choate Conference Room, First Floor
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
1779 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20036-2109


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View the PowerPoints: 

Assenova_TurkStream February 2020




1:30 P.M.
Glen E. Howard
President, The Jamestown Foundation


Panel One:
The Balkans at a Strategic Energy Junction
1:35 P.M.–3:00 P.M.

“The Balkans at an Energy Crossroads”
Margarita Assenova
Senior Fellow, The Jamestown Foundation

“Global Gas Markets and Russian Pipeline Projects: Impact on the Balkans”
Mikhail Korchemkin
Founder and Managing Director, East European Gas Analysis

“The Three Seas Initiative in the Balkans”
Ambassador Réka Szemerkényi
Vice-President, Center for European Policy Analysis

Coffee Break
3:00 – 3:15 PM

Panel Two:
The Southern Gas Corridor, TurkStream and LNG:
Competition or Rivalry?
3:15 – 4:45 P.M.

“The Southern Gas Corridor in 2020 and EU Energy Security”
Robert M. Scher
Head of International Affairs, BP America

“Competition or Rivalry: Impact on Ukraine”
Benjamin L. Schmitt
Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Harvard University
Fmr. European Energy Security Advisor, U.S. Department of State

“Prospects for LNG Supplies to the Balkans”
Rauf Mammadov
Senior Fellow, The Middle-East Institute

Discussant and Moderator:
Ambassador Robert Cekuta
Board Member, Caspian Policy Center


Concluding Remarks
4:45 P.M.



Margarita Assenova

Margarita Assenova is a Senior Fellow at The Jamestown Foundation and a regular contributor to the Jamestown publication Eurasia Daily Monitor on political and energy security developments in the Balkans and Central Asia. Assenova is a recipient of the John Knight Professional Journalism Fellowshipat Stanford University for her reporting on nationalism in the Balkans.

Assenova’s latest books include Eurasian Disunion: Russia’s Vulnerable Flanks (The Jamestown Foundation, 2016), a critical study on Russian subversion in Europe, Eurasia and Central Asia, co-authored with Janusz Bugajski, and the edited volume Azerbaijan and the New Energy Geopolitics of Southeastern Europe  (The Jamestown Foundation, 2015).

She also authored the reports “Europe and Nord Stream 2: Myths, Reality, and the Way Forward” (CEPA 2018) and “Bulgaria’s Ambitions for a Balkan Gas Hub: Challenges, Opportunities and the Role of a New Offshore Gas Storage Project” (Jamestown Foundation, 2018).

Robert Cekuta

Ambassador to the Republic of Azerbaijan (2015 – 2018), Bob Cekuta has long and extensive experience as a top level U.S. diplomat. Deeply engaged in advancing high-profile international energy projects, trade policy initiatives and agreements, commercial sales, and other complex international security matters, Amb. Cekuta’s positions in the State Department included Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Energy Resources as well as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Energy, Sanctions, and Commodities.

His overseas postings included the U.S. Embassies in Berlin and Tokyo where he oversaw the full range of economic, commercial, nonproliferation, and scientific relations. In addition, Bob was Deputy Chief of Mission in Albania and held positions in Vienna, Baghdad, Kabul, Johannesburg, and Sana’a, Yemen. He established the Economic Policy Analysis and Public Diplomacy Office in the State Department’s Bureau for Economic and Business Affairs, and served on the boards of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) and the International Energy Agency (IEA), where he also chaired the IEA Board’s Standing Group on Long-term Cooperation charged with anticipating global energy developments.

During his career with the State Department Ambassador Cekuta received nine Senior Foreign Service Performance Awards, four Superior Honor Awards, five Meritorious Honor Awards, and the Career Achievement Award. He is a graduate of Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, the Thunderbird School of Global Management, and the National War College.

Mikhail Korchemkin

Dr. Mikhail Korchemkin is the founder and managing director of East European Gas Analysis, a consulting company that specializes in cost-benefit and financial analysis of natural gas projects in the former Soviet Union.

His previous experience includes performing numerous feasibility studies for the USSR Gas Ministry, predecessor of Gazprom.

Prior to going into full-time consulting Mikhail taught at the University of Pennsylvania. He has also had visiting scholarships at Harvard University and Erasmus University in Rotterdam.

Mikhail has consulted numerous corporate and governmental clients including ABN-AMRO Bank, Amoco, BP, British Gas, Chevron, Conoco, Ernst & Young, ExxonMobil, Gas Strategies, Gasunie, Neste Oy, Osaka Gas, OTA of the U.S. Congress, Ruhrgas, Shell, Statoil , Swedegas, Total, Vattenfall and The World Bank. He has acted as expert witness in arbitration cases concerning natural gas business in Russia and Eastern Europe.

Rauf Mammadov

Rauf Mammadov is resident scholar on energy policy at The Middle East Institute. He focuses on issues of energy security, global energy industry trends, as well as energy relations between the Middle East, Central Asia and South Caucasus. He has a particular emphasis on the post-Soviet countries of Eurasia. Prior to joining MEI, Mammadov held top administrative positions for the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan Republic (SOCAR) from 2006 and 2016. In 2012, he founded and managed the United States Representative Office of SOCAR in Washington D.C.

Robert M. Scher

The Honorable Robert M. Scher is the Head of International Affairs for BP America. In this position Bob tracks and analyses US foreign policy as it affects BP’s businesses around the world. Bob has close to 25 years of experience in senior global affairs and national security roles in the US Government, most recently serving as the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Strategy, Plans, and Capabilities in the Pentagon from 2014 to 2017. In that role, he directly advised the US Secretary of Defense on a wide range of global defense, security, strategy, and budgeting matters. Prior to becoming Assistant Secretary, Bob held a series of progressively more senior roles at the Departments of Defense and State focused on defense strategy and Asian foreign policy, including as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (DASD) for South and Southeast Asia, DASD for Plans, and as a member of the Policy Planning Office at State. He also served in the private sector as a consultant with Booz Allen Hamilton on defense and foreign affairs issues. Bob received his Bachelor’s degree with high honors from Swarthmore College, and a Master’s of International Affairs from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs.

Benjamin Schmitt

Benjamin L. Schmitt, is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow and Project Development Scientist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, where he focuses on the development of instrumentation and infrastructure for next-generation experimental cosmology facilities at the South Pole. From 2015-2019 Benjamin served as European Energy Security Advisor at the U.S. Department of State where he advanced policy engagement vital to the energy and national security interests of the Transatlantic community, with a focus on supporting Ukraine and other nations along NATO’s Eastern Flank facing Russian malign energy activities.  Benjamin has been an invited lecturer on European energy security and horizonal energy technologies for the Harvard Ukraine Research Institute and Harvard Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies and continues to publish energy security analysis, most recently with the Harvard International Review, Natural Gas World, and the Atlantic Council.  Schmitt regularly provides expert transatlantic security policy commentary for both print and television media, including with the New York Times, Foreign Policy, the Daily Beast, Voice of America, Germany’s Bild Zeitung, and Ukraine’s Kyiv Post, and Segodnya.  Benjamin is the current Amicus Poloniae Award laureate, a recognition by the Government of the Republic of Poland for outstanding efforts to promote development of cooperation between the Republic of Poland and the United States of America, and has received both Superior and Meritorious Honor Awards from the U.S. Department of State.   Before entering government, Schmitt served as a NASA Space Technology Research Fellow while pursuing doctoral research at the University of Pennsylvania, focusing on direct imaging of the Cosmic Microwave Background, for which he received both M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in experimental physics. Schmitt has also previously served as a U.S. Fulbright Research Fellow to the Max-Planck-Institute for Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg, Germany.

Réka Szemerkényi

Réka Szemerkényi is executive vice president of the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA). From 2015 to 2017, Szemerkényi was Hungary’s first woman ambassador to the United States. Before this, she was chief advisor in foreign and security policy to the prime minister of Hungary (2011-15); state secretary for foreign and security policy in the prime minister’s office (1998-2002) and senior advisor to the state secretary in the Ministry of Defense (1991-94), at the time of Hungary’s efforts to join NATO and later the Kosovo war in the Balkans. Szemerkényi is an elected member of the European Council on Foreign Relations since 2016 and serves as vice president of the Hungarian Atlantic Council.