For much of the period since the November 1999 OSCE summit in Istanbul, this column has principally discussed developments concerning the Baku-Ceyhan main export pipeline (MEP). I wish to shift gears here for an extended review of recent events related to Turkmenistani gas exports. The first two sections of this article address, respectively, the background and current prospects of the Trans-Caspian Gas Pipeline (TCGP). The next two do the same for the "Blue Stream" project from Russia under the Black Sea to Turkey. Then I set out some broad geopolitical considerations, focusing on European and American misperceptions of each other and of Turkey. After that, I briefly discuss the Iran factor as it affects Turkey's geopolitical considerations and conclude with Turkey's stake in the TCGP.
Continue reading "The Trans-Caspian and Blue Stream Pipelines: Turkey's Place in the Big Picture" »
Dissatisfaction among ethnic Russians in Kazakhstan is growing. Many have left since the country gained independence, and those who remain are feeling increasingly frustrated and excluded by "Kazakhization" policies. Emigration has caused a significant decline in Kazakhstan's overall population, far outpacing the higher birth rates of those remaining.
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In mid-February, Turkmenistan's President Saparmurat Niyazov rejected a proposal to split equally with Azerbaijan exports of natural gas through the proposed Trans-Caspian Gas Pipeline (TCGP) with a projected volume of 30 billion cubic meters (bcm) per year. The contract to construct the TGCP was awarded last year to PSG, a joint venture of Royal Dutch Shell, Bechtel and the GE Capital unit of General Electric. Turkmen President Niyazov accused US President Clinton's Caspian advisor John Wolf of pressing Ashgabat to accept unfavorable conditions from Baku. Later on March 9, Niyazov announced an agreement with Azerbaijan President Aliev to scale down Azerbaijan’s demands from nearly one-half of the pipeline's capacity to one-sixth, thus defusing the latest clash between the Caspian’s hydrocarbon titans.
Continue reading "Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan Untie the Caspian Gas Knot" »