Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Russia and the Caspian

In the far-off niche land of Caspian energy politics, Russia has struck a huge blow to the West in winning more control and leverage over a key oil pipeline originating in Kazakhstan, and eventually delivering crude oil to Europe. Stratfor reports that Russia bought the Omani government's stake in the Caspian Pipeline Consortium, and upped its share in the project from 24 to 31 percent. Crossing the 25 percent threshold is significant in that it gives Russia the power to veto decisions by the consortium's management, effectively giving it operational control of the pipeline.

The analysts at Stratfor seem to think that China is the next target, as its the only country outside the region with its own access to the Caspian region's energy riches, bypassing Russia. This, they argue, is problematic for Russia, as Russia needs these resources in order to gain influence over Europe:

The last thing Russia wants to see is some 2 million bpd of crude and 70 billion cubic meters of natural gas per year diverted away from Russian-controlled energy networks. Not only would such an outcome deal a heavy blow to the Russian economy, it would also constrain Russia in supplying European energy contracts — an area key to Russia’s ability to bully Europe on political matters — and seriously undermine Russia’s influence in Central Asia.

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