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The Emerging Russian Giant (Part 2): Washington’s nightmare

F. William Engdahl, Asia Times
…In terms of overall standard of living, mortality and economic prosperity, Russia today is not a world-class power. In terms of energy, it is a colossus. In terms of landmass, it is still the single largest nation in the world. It has vast territory and vast natural resources, and it has the world’s largest reserves of natural gas, the energy source currently the focus of major global power plays. In addition, it is the only power with the military capability to match that of the United States, despite the collapse of the Soviet Union and consequent deterioration of the Russian military.

Russia has more than 130,000 oil wells and some 2,000 identified oil and gas deposits, of which at least 900 are not being exploited. Oil reserves have been estimated at 150 billion barrels, similar perhaps to Iraq. They could be far larger but have not yet been exploited because of the difficulty of drilling in some remote Arctic regions. Oil prices above US$60 a barrel begin to make it economic to explore in those remote regions.

Currently, Russian oil products can be exported to foreign markets by three routes: Western Europe via the Baltic Sea and Black Sea; the northern route; the Far East to China or Japan and East Asian markets. Russia has oil terminals on the Baltic at St Petersburg and a newly expanded oil terminal at Primorsk. There are additional oil terminals under construction at Vysotsk, Batareynaya Bay and Ust-Luga.

Russia’s state-owned natural-gas pipeline network, its so-called “unified gas-transportation system”, includes a vast network of pipelines and compressor stations extending more than 150,000 kilometers across Russia. By law only the state-owned Gazprom is allowed to use the pipelines. The network is perhaps the most valued Russian state asset outside the oil and gas itself.

F William Engdahl is author of the book A Century of War: Anglo-American Oil Politics and the New World Order, Pluto Press Ltd. He has completed a soon-to-be published book on genetically modified organisms titled Seeds of Destruction: The Hidden Political Agenda Behind GMO. He may be contacted through his website,
(26 Oct 2006)

Hunting Hugo

Conn Hallinan, TomPaine
There are times when the tensions between Venezuela and the Bush administration seem closer to Commedia dell’arte than politics. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez compares President George W. Bush to the devil, right down to the smell of sulfur during a speech at the U.N. General Assembly. Homeland Security responds by strip-searching Nicolás Maduro Moros, Venezuela’s foreign minister, at JFK airport. Venezuela seizes 176 pounds of frozen chicken on its way to the U.S. Embassy in Caracas.

But recent White House initiatives suggest that the administration has more than tit-for-tat in mind.

In late June, U.S. Southern Command, the arm of the U.S. military in Latin America, concluded that efforts by Venezuela, Ecuador, and Bolivia to extend state control over their oil and gas reserves posed a threat to U.S. oil supplies. While Latin America produces only 8.4 percent of the world’s oil output, it supplies 30 percent of the oil consumed in the United States.

“A re-emergence of state control of the energy sector will likely increase inefficiencies and, beyond an increase in short-term profits, will hamper efforts to increase long-term supplies and production,” the study concludes. In an interview with the Financial Times , Col. Joe Nunez, a professor of strategy at the U.S. Army War College, added an observation that ought to send a collective chill down the backs of the three countries named: “It is incumbent upon the Command to contemplate beyond strictly military matters.”

That one of the U.S. military’s most powerful arms should find itself deep in the energy business should hardly come as a surprise. Four months after Bush took office, Vice President Dick Cheney’s National Energy Policy Development Group recommended that the administration “make energy security policy a priority of our trade and foreign policy.” The administration has faithfully followed that blueprint, using war and muscular diplomacy to corner U.S. energy supplies in the Middle East and Central Asia.
(25 Oct 2006)

‘Tupperware navy’ to protect Gulf oil route

Ian Bruce, The Herald
UK — Two of the Navy’s smallest but most sophisticated and expensive warships are preparing to leave their Clyde base at Faslane for a two-year deployment to the Persian Gulf.

HMS Ramsey and HMS Blyth, specialist mine-hunters whose glass-reinforced plastic hulls have earned them the nickname of the Tupperware navy, are due to sail to their new operational training area early next month.

The unspoken reason for the posting is to allow crews to learn how to counter the potential threat of Iranian sea mines along the West’s strategic oil routes in the region.
(26 Oct 2006)