Control over the vast energy resources of the Caspian region is coveted both by Washington and by Moscow. Despite the recent emergence of a few very speculative reports to the effect that Washington and Moscow may have secretly agreed between themselves on how to divide up the region’s resources, both parties are intent on extending their respective control in the region, and each is wary of the other’s presence and influence. The stakes in their rivalry for control over energy resources are nothing less than enormous for both parties, and their respective interests in the region are mostly incompatible.
On the one hand, in order to increase and extend its own influence in the region and to cause oil-rich states to fully join the BTC pipeline project, Washington is employing a strategy which mixes economic and ideological support for regimes favorable to Washington, mostly “peaceful” regime changes where necessary, along with the proliferation of its military bases, in a clear effort to create and to strengthen proxy regimes through which it can exercise considerable influence.
On the other hand, Moscow is pursuing a strategy of a revised “Putin Doctrine” in which Russia both maintains its already extensive oil and gas monopoly, and significantly and rapidly extends that monopoly by means of strategic economic (oil and gas) agreements with the oil-rich Caspian states, all the while acting so as to avoid any increase of instability in the region, so as to facilitate continued exports by means of its own pipeline system.
In the Great Game over energy resources, Washington is having considerable success in creating and strengthening certain important proxies in the region, but has not yet been successful in obtaining the required, unambiguous full commitment of all the necessary players to the BTC pipeline project. Moscow is having considerable success in tilting certain oil-rich Caspian states away from BTC and toward strategic oil and gas agreements with itself, actually putting the economic viability of the BTC pipeline at significant risk.
The outlook is for some continued success for Washington’s efforts at proxy creation and for the finishing of the BTC pipeline – but its efforts to bring the flow of crude oil through that pipeline up to the required levels once it is finished looks very problematic, as Moscow will continue to enjoy notable success in turning the Caspian oil exporting states toward its own export system. Hence, Moscow is letting Washington enjoy, and is even facilitating, some success on a certain level, while at the same time Moscow ensures its own success on a much higher, more important level, consolidating its own control over Caspian energy resources, moving toward winning the Great Game. Consequently, in the Great Game over control of energy resources, it is now the last two minutes of the 4th quarter, Moscow is already ahead by at least two touchdowns, and has gone into its prevent-defense, allowing Washington to gain some ‘yards’, but denying any ‘touchdowns’, as the clock runs out on Washington.
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