G8 meetings will focus on energy security
In the run-up to next month's G8 meetings in St. Petersburg, the Russian government has had a pretty consistent message for its partners: Energy security is vital to the future of the world, and the only way to achieve it is through interdependence.
It says the message is finally starting to hit home in Europe and North America.
"Independence will never lead us to global energy security," Igor Shuvalov, a top aide to Russian President Vladimir Putin, said yesterday in an interview from Moscow.
Mr. Shuvalov, 39, is Mr. Putin's chief policy adviser for the July 15-17 Group of Eight summit, which Russia is using to push its long-term energy-security strategy.
In general terms, the West wants access to Russia's vast reserves of oil and gas. Russia wants to be able to invest in Western energy infrastructure and technology.
The New York Times reported this month that a draft declaration being prepared for the summit will provide wider Russian access to Western energy facilities in return for greater access to foreign investment in Russia.
But Mr. Shuvalov said that's not quite right.
"We would like the leaders to discuss the ability of producers and consumers to invest mutually when they think it is appropriate. And, if American and Canadian companies would like to invest in Russian upstream [energy reserves], we think Russian companies should have free access to downstream investment [in energy facilities]."
As an example, Mr. Shuvalov cited the prospective deal between Petro-Canada and Russian energy giant OAO Gazprom to build a $1.5-billion liquefied-natural-gas plant near St. Petersburg.
Russia's message of global-energy integration is being honed with the help of Ketchum, an international public-relations firm whose Toronto office set up the interview with Mr. Shuvalov.
"We work with all our G8 partners, including Americans, and we just want them to understand that our strategy is to sell oil and gas to them -- but [for them] to get the gas, we want access to technology," Mr. Shuvalov said.
"We need to convert our economy from oil and gas economy to an innovative-based society. Without help and co-operation with our G8 partners, we will never achieve that."
The Russian government says the world must engage in renewable energy sources and protect the environment, but is nevertheless a strong proponent of nuclear energy.
That is because it believes not only that nuclear power is needed to achieve global energy security, but also because it believes that it will spur further technological development, Mr. Shuvalov said. "Nuclear science will be the basis of new technologies of the future. We have to combine all our efforts to create safer reactors, safer technologies."
Mr. Shuvalov said one irritant between Russia and some of its G8 partners is Russia's refusal to allow third-party access to pipelines delivering Russian energy supplies.
"We don't think that's the right approach at the moment because we believe the infrastructure should be controlled by the government in order to provide equal access to all private companies."