Masthead graphic based on a painting by Gudrun Thriemer.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Charles Ganske, "Pipeline politics: How Georgia influences Israel and Iran," Russia Blog, January 3, 2009.

Since the August 2008 war between Russia and Georgia, many geopolitical analysts have tried to understand the origins of the conflict, and explain both U.S. support for the Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili and Russian support for his opponents, the separatist governments of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. In doing so, geopolitical thinkers around the world have sought explanations for the conflict that go beyond the personalities of the individual leaders involved, such as the Russian President Dimitry Medvedev, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, and the Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili.

  Perhaps the biggest mystery of all, and the question that historians will be asking for years to come, is why Saakashvili thought the U.S. would risk war with Russia and ride to the rescue of his overmatched forces

A New Great Game?

In seeking deeper underlying explanations for the sudden outbreak of war in the Caucases, some analysts have pointed to an alleged "New Great Game" between Russia, China, the U.S., and European Union, all competing to acquire access to natural resources in the Caspian Sea and Central Asian regions of the former Soviet Union. These analysts claim that the U.S. became involved in supporting the Georgian government with foreign aid and diplomacy in the last several years primarily due to the construction of the Baku-Tblisi-Ceyhan (BKC) oil pipeline, which pumps oil from Azerbaijan overland through Georgia to the major Turkish port of Ceyhan on the Mediterranean Sea and circumvents Russian territory.

During the war, the Georgian government repeatedly alleged that Russia was trying to topple Saakashvili's government and attack the BKC pipeline in order to maintain a monopoly over the flow of oil and gas to the West from the former Soviet Union. The Russian government denied these allegations, pointing out (correctly) that there had been no structural damage to the pipeline whatsoever, and that its forces chose not to advance on Tblisi when Georgian Army resistance crumbled and the road to the capital was open. At any rate it, the BKC pipeline had been shut down by its operators for allegedly routine maintenence not long before the outbreak of hostilities on August 7.

Read the rest here => (includes reprint of "The Implications of the Georgia Crisis in the Middle East" by Mark N Katz (MERIA December 22, 2008).
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