Great Game for oil & power

In March 2001 Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham told the National Energy Security Summit that “America faces a major energy supply crisis over the next two decades. The failure to meet this challenge will threaten our nation’s economic prosperity, compromise our national security and likely alter the way we lead our lives.”

This taken-for-granted imperial outlook was subsequently spelled out in Dick Cheney’s National Energy Policy statement and George W. Bush’s national security pronouncements. But an energy policy that rests upon controlling the world’s oil, seeking permanent military superiority over all potential rivals, and, in the words of political analyst Tom Barry, pursuing a policy of global “warlordism,” can only be a recipe for disaster.

In no other part of the world is this pursuit of dominion more volatile than in the Caspian Sea Basin, which takes in Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Iran and Russia.

Speaking to oil industrialists in 1998, then-Halliburton CEO Dick Cheney remarked, “I cannot think of a time when we had a region emerge as suddenly to become strategically significant as the Caspian.”

Under the cover of its “war on terrorism” the Bush administration has initiated what British Guardian writer Lutz Kelveman refers to as “The New Great Game,” a rerun of the 19th Century imperial rivalry between Czarist Russia and the British Empire. Only now it is the United States that “seeks to control the Caspian oil resources.”

For now Georgia is the epicenter of the new great game. It represents the bridge carrying Caspian oil on its journey to the port destination of Ceyhan, Turkey. The U.S. has invested substantial political-economic resources in Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline venture.

Recently a U.S.-friendly candidate, Mikhail Saakashvili, was elected president of Georgia. Saakashvili received considerable outside support for his campaign, including from George Soros’ Open Society Institute, the National Endowment for Democracy, and the American Center for International Labor.

Subsequently, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld has shuttled back and forth, offering military “assistance” and a pledge to police the Caspian Sea. The IMF and World Bank are on their way to Georgia.

Secretary of State Colin Powell has warned Russia about supporting three breakaway Georgian provinces, Adjara, Abkhahzia (which currently houses a Russian military base) and South Osettia. The leaders of these self-governing regions recently met with top Russian officials in Moscow, with the leader of South Osettia, Edward Kokoity, exploring, according to a BBC report, “ways to become part of Russia.”

According to the BBC, President Putin has “recommended to the Russian parliament that the several thousand Russian troops in Abkhahzia should remain there in a peacekeeping role until a settlement is achieved between its leaders and Tbilisi.”

Sergei Blagov, a correspondent for cnsnewscom, writes about the deepening “rift between Russia and U.S.-backed Georgian government.” Blagov quotes Colin Powell warning an unnamed country at a recent Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe meeting in the Netherlands that “no support should be given to breakaway elements seeking to weaken the territorial integrity of Georgia.”

Akbar Aslanbek, writing in Infoshop News, reports that there is mounting evidence that the U.S. would support military operations by the new Georgian government “against the Moscow-backed breakaway provinces of Abkhahzai, South Osettia and Adjara.”

On Nov. 30 Eric Margolis of the Toronto Sun wrote that the Russians “will try to limit U.S. influence in Georgia and extend its own influence by stirring the pot and finding new Georgian allies. Washington will shore up its man in Tbilisi, Saakashvili, and may send Special Forces troops under the pretext of faux war on terrorism.”

Margolis warns, “The entire Caucasus is near a boil. The sharply increasing rivalry between the U.S. and Russia for political and economic influence over this vital land bridge between Europe and the oil-rich Caspian Basin promises a lot more intrigue, skullduggery and drama.”

In their article entitled “Georgia’s ‘Rose Revolution’: a Made in American Coup,” Barry Grey and Vladmir Volkov write: “Not only is U.S. policy in the Caucasus predatory, it is reckless in the extreme. The Bush administration is challenging Russian interests in a highly provocative manner, openly working to split away the former Soviet republics from Moscow and virtually surrounding Russia with American military installations.”

A new, very dangerous “great game” has begun.

The author can be reached at pww@pww.org.