The way our network news covers it is a little like talking about the aftermath of the bombing of Hiroshima without mentioning the atom bomb. But they are only following the lead of our elected officials.
It is to the undying shame of American democracy that this is not part of what our elected leaders tell us about the decisions they are making.
Russia and Georgia: All About Oil
Michael Klare | August 13, 2008
This struggle commenced during the Clinton administration when the former Soviet republics of the Caspian Sea basin became independent and began seeking Western customers for their oil and natural gas resources. Western oil companies eagerly sought production deals with the governments of the new republics, but faced a critical obstacle in exporting the resulting output. Because the Caspian itself is landlocked, any energy exiting the region has to travel by pipeline – and, at that time, Russia controlled all of the available pipeline capacity. To avoid exclusive reliance on Russian conduits, President Clinton sponsored the construction of an alternative pipeline from Baku in Azerbaijan to Tbilisi in Georgia and then onward to Ceyhan on Turkey’s Mediterranean coast -- the BTC pipeline, as it is known today.
The BTC pipeline, which began operation in 2006, passes some of the most unsettled areas of the world, including Chechnya and Georgia’s two breakaway provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. With this in mind, the Clinton and Bush administrations provided Georgia with hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid, making it the leading recipient of U.S. arms and equipment in the former Soviet space. President Bush has also lobbied U.S. allies in Europe to “fast track” Georgia’s application for membership in NATO.
All of this, needless to say, was viewed in Moscow with immense resentment. Not only was the United States helping to create a new security risk on its southern borders, but, more importantly, was frustrating its drive to secure control over the transportation of Caspian energy to Europe. Ever since Vladimir Putin assumed the presidency in 2000, Moscow has sought to use its pivotal role in the supply of oil and natural gas to Western Europe and the former Soviet republics as a source both of financial wealth and political advantage. It mainly relies on Russia’s own energy resources for this purpose, but also seeks to dominate the delivery of oil and gas from the Caspian states to the West.