Many of us are still digesting the news of the conflict in the Caucasus. Ossetia and Abkhazia sound like names taken out of a James Bond script, but they are very real places, and we better take heed of the history and politics of this region – because the stakes could not be higher. Is this the sign that Russian bear is increasingly developing its position in the world as a lgreat power? Where is it re-asserting its sphere of influence? What will America’s response be, especially since Georgia is an American ally and would not have begun its exercise without tacit approval from Washington. How will the CIS states respond? How pivotal is the BTC line to all this? Will this mean something for the Middle East? Here are a few articles already noticed about the conflict:
Georgia has no significant oil or gas reserves of its own but it is a key transit point for oil from the Caspian and central Asia destined for Europe and the US.
Crucially, it is the only practical route from this increasingly important producer region that avoids both Russia and Iran.
The 1,770km (1,100 miles) Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, which entered service only last year, pumps up to 1 million barrels of oil per day from Baku in Azerbaijan to Yumurtalik, Turkey, where it is loaded on to supertankers for delivery to Europe and the US. Around 249km of the route passes through Georgia, with parts running only 55km from South Ossetia.
The West, in particular America, has stoked the regional fire. At the NATO summit in Bucharest this year it pressed for Georgia and Ukraine’s membership of the alliance. The move was blocked by the Europeans but NATO did give a commitment to offer the two countries membership later. That move was seen in Moscow as a challenge to its dominance in what it calls the “near abroad,” the former Soviet republics.
Since then Russia has made clear in word and deed that it will do anything to prevent NATO’s expansion on its western and southern flanks.
“The conflict has potentially serious implications for Russian-U.S. relations, and Russian-Western relations,” said Dmitri Trenin, deputy director of the Carnegie Center in Moscow. “The Russians are watching intently what the U.S. will do, as an indication of how the U.S. will pursue its relationship with Russia going forward.”
Russian warplanes on Saturday bombed two villages in the Georgia-controlled part of the Kodori gorge, cutting deep into Georgia’s breakaway region of Abkhazia, prompting the United States to voice its concerns over the “dangerous escalation” of the crisis. Georgia approved state of war for 15 days and called for an “immediate ceasefire.”
Overnight, Russian warplanes bombed the Vaziani military base on the outskirts of the Georgian capital and near the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline, Georgian Interior Ministry spokesman Shota Utiashvili said. He also said two other military bases were hit, and that warplanes bombed the Black Sea port city of Poti, which has a sizable oil shipment facility.