It has been a couple of years in the planning but it seems that Gazprom is gathering the wherewithal it needs to push forward the South Stream pipeline. Agreements have been signed with transit states - Greece, Serbia, Bulgaria and Italy - in Sochi.
The pipeline, which is scheduled to be finished by 2015, would carry gas from Russia, the Caucasus and Central Asia. As such it poses a threat to the EU sponsored Nabucco project which aspires to bring natural gas to member countries from producers in Central Asian and the Caspian without the involvement of Russia or Gazprom.
Although the more rabid anti-Moscow elements within the EU will see South Stream as a serious reversal which increases dependence on Russian gas, there is a strong argument that the pipeline will increase energy security, by bypassing erratic transit states like Belarus and Ukraine, whose payment disputes with Gazprom have disrupted supplies in recent winters.
In conjunction with Nord Stream, which comes into operation from 2011 and will bring gas into the European Union across the Baltic Sea, Russia hopes that it can rebuild its reputation as a reliable supplier.