A dangerous blind spot in the incoming administration's view of Russian affairs is its inadequate understanding of the significance of the newly independent states (NIS). The unanticipated consequences of such policy blindness are exemplified by developments in the 1990s in Belarus, formerly called Byelorussia—a country sandwiched between Russia and Poland—sharing a border with Ukraine to the south and with Lithuania and Latvia to the northwest.
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Ukraine's positioning makes it a natural bridge between East and West. A wise U.S. foreign policy would be one that is sensitive to Ukraine's function as a bridge between Russia and the Western military alliance.
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The beginning of the year 2001 has seen a re-inauguration of economic and political warfare over the production, distribution and consumption of natural gas in the greater Caspian region. On the first day of the year, Turkmenistan stopped exporting gas to Russia because of a failure to agree with the energy-transport company Itera on prices for the year to come. On the very same day, for the second time in a month, Russia cut off gas supplies to Georgia, in abrogation of existing contracts.
Continue reading "A Frosty New Year in the Caspian Region" »
The results of the recent visit by Russian president Vladimir Putin to Baku have received different interpretations in different media. This week’s column focuses on figuring out exactly what those results are, and what they mean, for the aspects of Russian-Azerbaijani relations that are most pertinent to Caspian Sea division and related issues.
Continue reading "Putin’s Caspian Diplomacy" »