May 19, 2007

Russia's Caspian Interest

Russia has enormous oil and gas reserves. It's currently using that fact to keep the EU in check, forcing them to overlook Russia's various sins against democracy, economic liberty, and human rights because these governments couldn't survive sanctions against Russia and everybody knows it while Russia could route its exports around the EU and have enough revenue to survive. And where are the EU governments going to go for morally superior energy supplies, Saudi Arabia?

VOLZHSKY UTYOS, Russia (AP) - President Vladimir Putin, emboldened by Russia's vast oil and gas wealth, bluntly rejected European criticism of his crackdown on political foes, saying Friday that ``like it or not'' Russia's Western neighbors would have to accept it as a partner.

But Caspian Sea energy, were it to find a route to the EU without Russia getting its fingers in the pie, would upset this equation in a manner most threatening to Russia's current government (though not necessarily to Russia's detriment). Simply reading a map can inform you of Russia's likely strategies if you keep your eyes open and your mind in gear.

Russia has an interest in making the safest, most moral route for that energy westward to be through Russia's pipeline network. Russia has an interest in instability and odious governments arising in Georgia (or separatist region's thereof) and Azerbaijan. It has an interest in Turkey's romance with the EU ending in failure. Most intriguing of all, it has an interest in keeping the mullah regime staggering along in Iran.

It's the southern route that is most threatening to Russia because unlike the Caucuses, Iran is not historically "bandit country" where grievances are relatively easy to stir up and profound instability is just a few strategic tribal/clan murders away. Iran is historically its own creature, a regional and sometimes world class power that is difficult to disrupt. It's also the swiftest route for Caspian energy to hit the sea at which point it can go all over the world, including the EU. Russia's strategy of political impunity through energy dominance of Europe is history if a stable post-mullah regime emerges in Iran.

Is Russia reading the map the same way? Or do they see overriding interests that make them act differently? Just read the headlines and Russian moves cease to be puzzling, bearish orneriness and start fitting into a pattern pretty quickly.

Inspiration HT: Instapundit

Posted by TMLutas at May 19, 2007 09:06 PM