Georgia conflict - August 15
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Klare: Russia and Georgia: all about oil
Michael Klare, Foreign Policy In Focus
... the conflict is more about the future than the past. It stems from an intense geopolitical contest over the flow of Caspian Sea energy to markets in the West.
This struggle commenced during the Clinton administration when the former Soviet republics of the Caspian Sea basin became independent and began seeking Western customers for their oil and natural gas resources. Western oil companies eagerly sought production deals with the governments of the new republics, but faced a critical obstacle in exporting the resulting output. Because the Caspian itself is landlocked, any energy exiting the region has to travel by pipeline – and, at that time, Russia controlled all of the available pipeline capacity. To avoid exclusive reliance on Russian conduits, President Clinton sponsored the construction of an alternative pipeline from Baku in Azerbaijan to Tbilisi in Georgia and then onward to Ceyhan on Turkey’s Mediterranean coast -- the BTC pipeline, as it is known today.
... All of this, needless to say, was viewed in Moscow with immense resentment. Not only was the United States helping to create a new security risk on its southern borders, but, more importantly, was frustrating its drive to secure control over the transportation of Caspian energy to Europe. Ever since Vladimir Putin assumed the presidency in 2000, Moscow has sought to use its pivotal role in the supply of oil and natural gas to Western Europe and the former Soviet republics as a source both of financial wealth and political advantage. It mainly relies on Russia’s own energy resources for this purpose, but also seeks to dominate the delivery of oil and gas from the Caspian states to the West
... It is against this backdrop that the fighting in Georgia and South Ossetia has been taking place. The Georgians may only be interested in regaining control over an area they consider part of their national territory. But the Russians are sending a message to the rest of the world that they intend to keep their hands on the Caspian Sea energy spigot, come what may.
(13 August 2008)
Russia starts "Lukewarm War" with the West
M.D. Nalapat, UPI Asia Online
Manipal, India — The Soviet Union became a superpower during the rule of Josef Stalin, who terrorized those territories that he did not immediately annex. After the 1939-45 war, the USSR controlled Eastern Europe and challenged the primacy of the United States and its European partners across the world.
But since Stalin’s death in 1953, Moscow has almost always given way when confronted with a resolute Western response. Nikita Khruschev blinked hard in Cuba in 1962, with the United States agreeing only to avoid another invasion of Cuba -- a course that anyway had been shown to be folly a short while earlier -- in exchange for a humiliating withdrawal of Soviet missiles from the island.
Throughout the Cold War, although Moscow enjoyed considerable conventional military superiority in Europe, its forces never once strayed beyond the boundaries set in 1945. Had it done so, the history of Europe may have been different in that such tensions would almost certainly have affected the economic environment negatively...
(12 August 2008)
Conflict narrows oil options for West
Jad Mouawad, New York Times
When the main pipeline that carries oil through Georgia was completed in 2005, it was hailed as a major success in the United States policy to diversify its energy supply. Not only did the pipeline transport oil produced in Central Asia, helping move the West away from its dependence on the Middle East, but it also accomplished another American goal: it bypassed Russia.
American policy makers hoped that diverting oil around Russia would keep the country from reasserting control over Central Asia and its enormous oil and gas wealth and would provide a safer alternative to Moscow’s control over export routes that it had inherited from Soviet days. The tug-of-war with Moscow was the latest version of the Great Game, the 19th-century contest for dominance in the region.
A bumper sticker that American diplomats distributed around Central Asia in the 1990s as the United States was working hard to make friends there summed up Washington’s strategic thinking: “Happiness is multiple pipelines.”...
(13 August 2008)