In 1898 Henry Adams, after visiting Europe, wrote that Russia was "a huge iceberg overhanging Europe." The Czar's million-man army was always viewed as both a threat and a blessing. It rescued Western Europe from Napoleon and distracted the Kaiser's invasion of France in 1914. It defeated Hitler in the East but turned into a hostile terror, dropping the Iron Curtain across Eastern Europe after the war.
Today, with Communism gone, Russia is still a huge, looming presence, always threatening to overrun Europe with its vast supplies of armed men and natural resources. The above map illustrates how far Russia has now penetrated everyday life in Europe with its vast supplies of Siberian natural gas. There are three major pipelines bring gas from Russia with a fourth under construction. The Nord Stream runs across the Baltic into northern Germany. The Yamal enters through Poland. Two major pipelines through Ukraine join and enter Europe through Slovakia. And the South Stream Pipeline, now under construction (and not shown on the map) will cross the Black Sea below the Crimean Peninsula and enter Europe through Bulgaria, distributing gas to Serbia, Hungary, Greece, Italy and Austria. It is scheduled to be completed in 2015.
The European Union tried to counter this dependence by proposing the Nabucco pipeline, which will bring gas from Azerbaijan and Iran through Turkey, up the Danube Valley and into Austria. But a shortage of funding, political instability in the region, and a lack of technological know-how have since cast doubt on whether construction of the 2,500-mile, multibillion-dollar project will ever begin.