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September 02, 2008

New Tomdispatch


Putin's Ruthless Gambit
The Bush Administration Falters in a Geopolitical Chess Match

By Michael T. Klare

Many Western analysts have chosen to interpret the recent fighting in the Caucasus as the onset of a new Cold War, with a small pro-Western democracy bravely resisting a brutal reincarnation of Stalin's jack-booted Soviet Union. Others have viewed it a throwback to the age-old ethnic politics of southeastern Europe, with assorted minorities using contemporary border disputes to settle ancient scores.

Neither of these explanations is accurate. To fully grasp the recent upheavals in the Caucasus, it is necessary to view the conflict as but a minor skirmish in a far more significant geopolitical struggle between Moscow and Washington over the energy riches of the Caspian Sea basin -- with former Russian President (now Prime Minister) Vladimir Putin emerging as the reigning Grand Master of geostrategic chess and the Bush team turning out to be middling amateurs, at best.

The ultimate prize in this contest is control over the flow of oil and natural gas from the energy-rich Caspian basin to eager markets in Europe and Asia. According to the most recent tally by oil giant BP, the Caspian's leading energy producers, all former "socialist republics" of the Soviet Union -- notably Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan -- together possess approximately 48 billion barrels in proven oil reserves (roughly equivalent to those left in the U.S. and Canada) and 268 trillion cubic feet of natural gas (essentially equivalent to what Saudi Arabia possesses).

The rest.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at September 2, 2008 11:45 AM


Posted by: Mike Meyer at September 2, 2008 02:06 PM

A couple more things:

1.) If you look at the history of Saakashvili and the military buildup since he took office, this war was clearly intended by the U.S. Russia didn't have much choice but to protect the ethnic Russians in Ossetia or lose respect throughout their empire. But it was also clear that Georgia was going to lose this war.

2.) The war was a loss-leader. It helps to promote the Cold War and all its expenditures past the end of the Bush regime. This will be necessary in case the Dems in power want to spend our largesse foolishly on healthcare, jobs, etc. It will also help to justify the pipeline through Afghanistan, once they get around to mentioning it to the American public.

Posted by: Bob In Pacifica at September 2, 2008 09:52 PM