Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Georgia On My Mind

As highlighted in this previous post, resources are becoming an increasing strategic and geopolitical tool. The ramifications of this may soon be much more apparent with Russia's recent 'smackdown' of its former republic, Georgia. Today I'd like to feature an article that examines this conflict: Welcome Back to the 19th Century.

Conflict between Georgia and Russia is very old and complex, and I'll readily admit I am no expert. While I knew Georgia was not just the Peach State; a week ago you could have told me South Ossetia was the setting for The Princess Diaries 2 and I would not have argued.

Back to reality ... While the conflict is obviously rife with cultural and ethnic tensions, I'd like to focus on one feature that could have grave implications for Europe, and by default, the rest of the West. I'm not sure if I agree that the conflict can technically be summed up quite so succinctly, but this passage is key:

The object is pure 19th-century: domination plus winning the resource war. Georgia is the "last of the independents," so to speak, a critical conduit of oil and gas that goes around Russia into the Black Sea and (with a planned gas pipeline) via Turkey into the Mediterranean. It is no accident that Russian planes are bombing throughout the country, and narrowly "missed" pipelines. The message to the West is: "You don't really want to invest in energy here."
The 'critical conduit of oil and gas' is the Baku-Tblisi-Ceyhan pipeline, which is a newly built passage for vast Caspian sea resources to the West. As you can see from the map, it meanders quite a bit farther than a direct route (bypassing Armenia and Iran), for purely geopolitical reasons.

If/when Georgia is (actually or practically) reabsorbed into Russia's sphere of influence, Europe's access to Eurasian oil and gas will come from two sources: Russia and the Middle East. One can quickly see how this can be a negative outcome. Just ask Ukraine how the Russians approach customer service when they have a natural gas monopoly.

In this specific case, there was little the West could do to help Georgia. Georgia seemingly misplayed their hand and will most likely end up crippled and humiliated. Russia knows that our options are limited and are taking full advantage. The question becomes, Will this be the end of the revisionism? ...Or will the expansion continue?


Winston Smith said...

Back in the USSR, you don't know how lucky you are.

Chief said...

In America, you can always find a party.

In Soviet Russia, Party finds you!