Are the emerging securities markets in Eastern Europe worth paying attention to? Yes, if one is careful and avoids the "conventional wisdom." The conventional wisdom is that Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic are on track to become members of the European Union (EU), that their growth will be export-led, and that they are set to take off in the foreseeable but always indefinite future. Each of these three assumptions is either a little off-base or just plain wrong-headed.
Continue reading "Eastern Europe: Still Out in the Cold?" »
With the dismantlement of the inherited Soviet nuclear arsenal now under way, it is the apparent lack of well defined long-term goals (apart from "stability") that largely account for Washington's inability to clarify the nature of its engagement in Central Asia, leading it to deal with immediate issues (such as the Tajikistan situation) on a piecemeal basis. There are, however, at least two key areas of central Asian concern (not counting the burgeoning drug trade or the Tajikistan civil war) that directly engage "vital" U.S. interests. These areas are nuclear nonproliferation and energy security.
Continue reading "The West's Irreducible Interests in Central Asia" »
Корреспондент "НГ" Игорь Ротарь в своей статье "Чеченские проекты получают международную поддержку" обратил внимание на новые аспекты кавказской политики, значение которых трудно переоценить. Речь идет об инициативах одного из чеченских лидеров Хожахмеда Нухаева по созданию "Общего рынка Кавказ - Евразия", способного лишить Россию монополии на транспортировку каспийской нефти. Дело в том, что и самому мне неоднократно доводилось выступать с аналогичными предложениями - например, в январе 1995 г. на международной конференции, организованной администрацией президента Финляндии совместно с Институтом мировой политики (Нью-Йорк) и МГИМО, собравшей представителей высокого уровня из почти всех новых государств Евразии, в октябре этого года - в Вашингтоне, на международной конференции, поддержанной IREX и неправительственным Национальным бюро азиатских исследований. В 1996 г. в Tбилиси вышла моя статья на ту же тему в научно-политическом журнале "Кавказские рeгиoнaль-ныe исследования". В ней я защищал проект создания евроазиатской нефтяной и газовой ассоциации, или EAOGA.
Continue reading "Москва рискует изоляцию от Кавказа" »
Invited Speech to the Plenary Session "Caspian Sea Resources", Monaco Summit on Energy (Crans Montana Forum in Monaco sponsored by UNIDO).
Continue reading "Energy Resources, Human Resources, and Co-operative Energy Security" »
When Nursultan Nazarbaev was re-elected president of Kazakhstan earlier this month, there was little surprise in the West and some disappointment. The disappointment was not that he won the election—the result was never really in doubt—but rather that he held the election at all, on short notice and ahead of schedule.
Continue reading "Kazakhstan between East and West" »
In March, the private U.S. consulting firm Legal Technical & Advisory Services will hold a training session for energy officials from Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. This high-level, hands-on seminar will focus on legislation, policy and regulations of the oil and gas sectors. A particular advantage will be the simultaneous presence of leading officials from the three most important energy-producing countries in Central Asia.
Continue reading "How To Orient Energy Regulation towards Economic Cooperation" »
A prospective loosening of investment controls by the OPEC states, formerly most concerned to constrain foreign direct investment, makes it likely that at least some attention will be diverted from the Caspian region to the Arabian peninsula. Both Saudi Arabia and Kuwait have publicized their intentions of allowing international energy companies to acquire equity stakes in developing prospective new fields on the peninsula. However, this does not necessarily mean that the international energy companies will cease operations in the Caspian.
Continue reading "Transit Tariffs Come to the Fore" »
Iran, Iraq, and Turkey continue to dominate energy developments in Southwest Asia. Current events make it imperative to assess the state of play in the region as a whole. This week's column analyzes the significance of recent developments for the former Soviet area.
Continue reading "Southwest Asia and the Caspian Region" »
The military operations in the Balkans affect the calculations concerning export routes for Caspian oil. The near-term regional effect of the hostilities in Kosovo is to make the Baku-Ceyhan line slightly more likely.
Continue reading "Kosovo, International Security, and Caspian Energy" »
Competition among export pipeline companies in the Caucasus is heating up, even while the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline project remains on at least temporary hold. As predicted here some time ago, transit fees are beginning to play a major role in at least the short-term development of pipeline routes. This may have unexpected implications for the longer-term future, inasmuch as seven years ago no one was even thinking about Baku-Supsa.
Continue reading "Tariff Competition in the Caucasus and a Test Case for Reform in Iran" »
Transit of oil through the Baku-Novorossiisk pipeline continues to be a problematic affair. Since the beginning of the month, the pipeline has been shut down three times. The reasons given are the age of the Russian section of the pipeline and defects in its reconstruction as well as theft of oil along the Chechen part of the route. Although the Azerbaijan International Operating Company (AIOC) says it intends to continue cooperation with the Russian oil pipeline operator Transneft to use the route, the decision to seek other routes such as Baku-Supsa seems now well justified. However, it is clear that Baku-Supsa can only be a temporary bypass in its present state and that the early oil pipeline is unlikely to satisfy all export needs even if upgraded and expanded.
Continue reading "Baku Continues at the Center of Negotiations" »
In the early 1990s, the Caspian oil exploration was like a high-ante, high-stakes game of poker with several rounds of draw and a large (but unknown) number of wild cards. A lot of the players frankly acted like cowboys shooting from the hip, and there was a lot of bluffing as well. It was, moreover, a "table stakes" game: if you couldn't meet the level of the bet when it came your turn to call, you had to clear out or find some kind of collateral, usually by signing an IOU to another player who would back you and split any winnings. This is why consortia were established: to pool resources and intelligence.
Continue reading "The Changing Nature of the Caspian Oil Game" »
At the end of this summer, the Kazakhstani government is scheduled to reach a decision on the export route for Tengiz oil. Of course, in the AIOC main-export-pipeline tradition, it could decide to postpone the decision. Still, it is instructive to review the options. There are a number of possible routes. The principal ones are the Caspian Pipeline Consortium (CPC) line projected across southern Russia, the gigantic project eastwards into western China (and supposedly further east) signed with the Chinese National Petroleum Company (CNPC), undersea to Baku and out through Ceyhan, and south through Iran. This is an involved issue.
Continue reading "Tengiz Oil in Search of a Pipeline" »
The problem the AIOC has in the short term is the opposite of the one that everyone has been talking about in the long term. In the long term, the general opinion is that there will be a problem is finding enough oil to fill the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline if it is built. In the short term, the problem is finding enough pipelines to take its oil production exported from Baku.
Continue reading "The AIOC Has a Problem but Not the One You Think" »
The current situation around the Caspian is sometimes compared with the nineteenth-century "Great Game." However, it differs on at least three accounts: the players are more numerous, the stakes are not control of territory but access to resources, and the decisive players are multinational-financial bureaucracies rather than state-political structures. Also, the financial environment is unstable and constantly changing. This week's commentary begins a two-part series on the latter theme. This week I discuss the need for strategic alliances and their strengths, and selected issues of financing and feasibility. Next week I argue that financing is not everything, and conclude on the relationship between financing and other forms of engineering.
Continue reading "Finance Issues in Eurasian Energy Development (1/2)" »
This week's commentary concludes the theme begun last week on the unstable and constantly changing financial environment for energy development in the Caspian region. Last week I discussed the need for strategic alliances and their strengths and selected issues of financing and feasibility. This week, I explain why financing is not everything and conclude with the relationship between financing and other forms of engineering.
Continue reading "Finance Issues in Eurasian Energy Development (2/2)" »
Kazakhstan is now in the midst of a comprehensive re-evaluation of its export options. The strategies and choices open to Astana concerning international energy development must be seen in the perspective of the difficult political and economic problems facing the country's leadership. This week begins a multi-part article on Kazakhstan and international energy development. This four-part article begins here with a review of the political geography of Kazakhstan's economy and an assessment of why China cannot be the preferred export solution.
Continue reading "Kazakhstan and International Energy Development (1/4)" »
Three weeks ago, the first article in this series discussed how the economic and physical geography of Kazakhstan has constrained and conditioned President Nursultan Nazarbaev's choices for export routes for Tengiz oil. It gave a series of reasons why the once highly-touted route to Xinjiang province in western China was unlikely to be constructed. It also observed that although earlier this year Almaty set this autumn as a time by which a definitive choice of an export route should be made, it was just as likely that no such decision would be in fact taken. Events over the last three weeks appear to confirm that no definitive choice will soon be made. The principal reason is the opening of new possible export routes. The present article discuses these developments and why have occurred.
Continue reading "Kazakhstan and International Energy Development (2/4)" »
The first article in this series discussed how the economic and physical geography of Kazakhstan has constrained and conditioned President Nursultan Nazarbaev's choice of export routes for Tengiz oil. The second analyzed recent events leading to the multiplication of export route possibilities despite the Asian financial crisis and the temporary fall in the price of oil. This week, I take a broader view to inspect the problems behind the expansion of Kazakhstani oil exports.
Continue reading "Kazakhstan and International Energy Development (3/4)" »
The last article in this series distilled three central problems that have impeded the development and export of Caspian energy resources. From those three problems, three lessons were drawn. In turn, it was shown that those three lessons are directly analogous to the lessons from research on the effectiveness of international environmental institutions.
Continue reading "Kazakhstan and International Energy Development (4/4)" »
In mid-June, I wrote that "if and when construction begins on Baku-Ceyhan, it will be due to a major shift in a variable whose immutability everyone now takes for granted." Construction has not yet begun, but such a variable has shifted. That variable is the attitude of BP-Amoco, the largest shareholder in the Azerbaijan International Operating Company (AIOC), which on October 19 stated that "the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline is a strategic transportation route that should be built."
Continue reading "Just When You Thought Baku-Ceyhan Was Dead and Buried (1/7)" »
This week’s commentary continues the analysis begun last week, of the terms and prospects for agreement on construction of the Baku-Ceyhan main export pipeline (MEP). The column last week discussed two of the four agreements being negotiated: the MEP agreement itself and the cost guarantee agreement. This week, I begin discussion of the prospective agreement between investors and transit states.
Continue reading "Just When You Thought Baku-Ceyhan Was Dead and Buried (2/7)" »
Part one of this series, published after BP-Amoco made an announcement in support of the Baku-Ceyhan Main Export Pipeline (MEP), reviewed the background to that decision and its implications with regard to the four agreements being negotiated between Turkey and Azerbaijan. It also discussed what the MEP agreement and the cost guarantee agreement might look like. Part two began the discussion of the agreement between investors and transit states. This week's column is being written on the weekend preceding the November 18-19 meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in Istanbul. It is expected that a set of framework agreements will be signed at that meeting, at least by Turkey and Azerbaijan. In anticipation of that event, the discussion of the agreement between investors and transit states will continue here, with special attention to Georgia. First, however, will come a few necessary preliminary remarks about BP-Amoco and the Istanbul conference.
Continue reading "Just When You Thought Baku-Ceyhan Was Dead and Buried (3/7)" »
The signing of the Istanbul Protocol on the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline at the recent OSCE meeting was highly important politically to the leaders who signed it. But the project will in the long run be more important to the peoples of the region than to those leaders who expended so much effort bringing it about. The pipeline deal presents regional leaders with a fateful decision. Should they fail to use local suppliers and train local labor for its construction, current disparities in income distribution will become aggravated. This could create civil unrest, leading to political instability that would threaten the pipeline project itself. But by using local NGOs to train a capable workforce, individual workers would experience the decision-making autonomy necessary to foster democratic institutions, build civil society, and perhaps also lead to civil unrest.
Continue reading "Instability in the Balance: The Baku-Ceyhan Pipeline" »
This commentary provides background on Javakhetia, the ethnically Armenian region in southern Georgia, in order to establish that is not the next Karabakh and not another Abkhazia, and therefore neither flashpoint nor bottleneck for oil pipelines crossing the Caucasus from the Caspian to the Black Sea. Stability in Javakhetia is likely to continue, although in the long term there is a wild card: the Meskhetian Turks, a people deported by Stalin whose has been mandated to their homeland, which lies west of Javakhetia proper and east of Ajaria.
Continue reading "Javakhetia: Flashpoint or Bottleneck?" »
Nearly two weeks ago, twenty-two individuals (twelve citizens of Russia and ten ethnic-Russian citizens of Kazakhstan) were arrested in Ust-Kamenogorsk in East Kazakhstan province. They were charged with planning an uprising to seize political power in the province and proclaim a republic called "Russian Land," autonomous of both Russia and Kazakhstan. The deeper significance of this group's arrest is not limited to only inter-ethnic relations in Kazakhstan or even problems of democratization in the country; it more importantly concerns relations between Russia and Kazakhstan and the future geopolitical configuration of Central Eurasia itself.
Continue reading "Kazakhstan's Ethnic Mix: Recipe for a Shatterbelt In Central Eurasia" »
This column continues the series on the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline agreements and their fall-out. Previous articles discussed the cost guarantee agreement, the Main Export Pipeline (MEP) agreement itself, and the agreement between investors and transit states. This week, I wish to interject remarks on the role of the Azerbaijan International Operating Company (AIOC). Future articles will continue discussion of the Istanbul accords, including the Trans-Caspian Gas Pipeline (TCGP) for natural gas from Turkmenistan to Turkey and the problem of identifying sufficient oil to fill the MEP, as well as the construction contract and Iran’s recent moves to cut the cost of its swaps to the producer countries.
Continue reading "Just When You Thought Baku-Ceyhan Was Dead and Buried (4/7)" »
[Note: This article was written after Turkmenistan had agreed to resolve a territorial dispute, before it subsequently reversed that decision.]
The territorial dispute over the Kyapaz/Serdar offshore oilfield that was a major stumbling block to the Baku-Ceyhan Pipeline agreement, no longer is an impediment to Caspian energy development or a barrier to cooperation between Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan. Now, however, a more important question confronts the region. Will Azerbaijan be permitted to put natural gas from its newly proven Shah-Deniz gas-and-condensate field into the Trans-Caspian Gas Pipeline (TCGP) that is planned to bring Turkmenistani gas to Turkey via Azerbaijan and Georgia? This crucial issue may well influence whether, when and how the Baku-Ceyhan Main Export Pipeline (MEP) for Azerbaijani oil is built. In the new scenario, it is possible that negotiations over TCGP implementation will set the logistical precedents for the MEP to follow.
Continue reading "Azerbaijan vs. Turkmenistan: The Caspian Offshore Oil and Gas Conflict" »
Recent initiatives aimed at fostering a multilateral security system in the South Caucasus potentially represent an historic shift in how Russia relates to the region. These initiatives would lead Russia to view the South Caucasus as an area for common co-operation rather than to treat it as a private preserve. The effectively autonomous province of Ajaria in southwest Georgia, and the Russian military base at its capital Batumi, are auspicious for the political integrity of the Georgian state and for South Caucasus regional stability. The ramifications for Georgia are especially profound. The ongoing [late 1999 and early 2000] fighting in Chechnya has strained relations between Russia and Georgia, as Moscow has repeatedly accused Tbilisi of providing tacit assistance to Chechen separatists. Georgian officials deny the accusations and assert that Russia's "special services" (as distinct from the Russian government itself) have been acting as agents provocateurs.
Continue reading "Ajaria, the Russian Military in Georgia, and Stability in the South Caucasus" »
In mid-January, the first multilateral meeting of parties interested in the Trans-Caspian Gas Pipeline (TCGP), which will carry natural gas from Turkmenistan to Turkey, was held in Ashgabat. It included the countries concerned, parties to the TCGP consortium that will be building the TCGP and interested observers. TCGP consortium is 50% owned by PSG International, which in turn includes the U.S. companies GE Capital and Bechtel, plus Royal Dutch/Shell. It has been known for some time that the initial volume of gas to be pumped through the TCGP will be 16 billion cubic meters per year, subsequently to be raised to 30 billion. As in the case of the Baku-Ceyhan main export pipeline (MEP) for Azerbaijani oil, the fact that the pipeline will traverse more than two countries makes the negotiations technically intricate.
Continue reading "Negotiations Proceed on the Trans-Caspian Gas Pipeline" »
SUMMARY: President Islam Karimov's reelection in Uzbekistan has been followed by his statement that a program of economic liberalization and privatization will now be introduced in the country. Currency controls on the Uzbek som and its less than full convertibility, have been the greatest roadblocks to the overall development of the Central Asian trading block, called the Central Asian Union, that includes Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan. If barriers including bilateral trade tariffs can be overcome, the Central Asian Union holds the greatest potential to reanimate regional trade throughout the Central Asian region.
Continue reading "Uzbekistan's Trade Liberalization: Key to Central Asian Economic Integration" »
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.
Continue reading "Ethnic Russian Discontent Grows in Kazakhstan" »
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" »
This article continues a series begun late last year as an analysis of the then-accelerating negotiations that led to the initialling of agreements on the Baku-Ceyhan main export pipeline (MEP) at the OSCE's mid-November summit in Istanbul. There were four such agreements: a cost guarantee accord, an accord between investors and the transit states, the MEP accord itself and the construction contract. The first four articles in this series addressed the four agreements and the role played by the Azerbaijan International Operating Company (AIOC), including its component companies and BP-Amoco in particular, in the talks. The fifth looked at Georgia's demands, which by then were the main obstacles holding up to the talks. In late March, the talks were brought to a successful conclusion, with all of Georgia's demands receiving satisfaction. Therefore, it is appropriate to bring this series to a conclusion, although future columns will undoubtedly revisit the MEP and related issues. The present column traces the negotiations from early January until their conclusion, with special attention paid to Georgia's demands and how they were satisfied.
Continue reading "Just When You Thought Baku-Ceyhan Was Dead and Buried (6/7)" »
Secretary of State Madeleine Albright arrives April 14 in Kazakhstan, on the first leg of a week-long tour of Central Asia that will also take her to Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. The visit occurs against a backdrop of increasing Russian diplomatic activity in the region in the period since Vladimir Putin's appointment as Acting President by Boris Yeltsin and subsequent election in his own right. This coincidence opens speculation about United States-Russian relations in Central Asia and the directions Central Asian countries themselves will choose to chart their futures.
Continue reading "Russia Slouches towards Central Asia" »
This week I begin a new, short series on an issue that few people talk about and fewer people do anything about. This is the industrial infrastructure problem. It is already clear that problems of energy development in the Caspian are unique. Over the last 10 years, companies have devised new organizational methods of work to deal with human-resource issues. In international-legal and project-structuring terms, the Baku-Ceyhan agreement is apparently the first instance ever of a trilateral intergovernmental project that includes a transit country and that was concluded through intergovernmental accords, with industry consortia representing strategic alliances sitting at the table during negotiations and concluding side agreements to facilitate and implement the overall plan. However, infrastructure limitations add themselves to other idiosyncratic factors, political and economic, that slowed Caspian energy development in the 1990s.
Continue reading "Solving the Problems of Caspian Industrial Infrastructure (1/2)" »
It was announced recently that Georgia will sign this week a host government agreement with private investors in the oil pipeline pipeline from the Azeri capital Baku, through the Georgian capital Tbilisi to the Turkish Black Sea port of Ceyhan. This agreement represents the final piece in the legal framework for the Baku-Ceyhan Main Export Pipeline (MEP). Accordingly, I bring the series I began late last year on this topic to a conclusion, although future columns will undoubtedly revisit the issue.
Continue reading "Just When You Thought Baku-Ceyhan Was Dead and Buried (7/7)" »
Ceded by Turkey under the 1921 Treaty of Kars, Ajaria under the Soviet regime enjoyed the status of Autonomous Republic inside Georgia. As the USSR withered away, the modern Georgian state was established as a unitary political entity without autonomous sub-units, but Ajaria retained de facto autonomy after 1991. After Eduard Shevardnadze was re-elected President of Georgia last month [April 2000], the parliament in Tbilisi voted to change the constitution, transforming the administrative region of Ajaria into the Ajarian Republic. This federal precedent may help resolve the status of South Ossetia, but it will not satisfy Abkhazian demands. To establish Javakhetia as a federal entity could create more problems than it solves.
Continue reading "Ajaria’s New Federal Status: Implications For Georgia’s Territorial Integrity" »
Three weeks ago I began describing part of the industrial infrastructure problem in the Caspian region. Limitations of physical geography require relative self-sufficiency in the development of basic infrastructure and installation of production facilities. The amount of investment required to build up the infrastructure capacity also limits the pace of the region's development. Steel fabrication capacity is especially key.
Continue reading "Solving the Problems of Caspian Industrial Infrastructure (2/2)" »
Russian President Vladimir Putin just spent the weekend of May 19-21 in Ashgabat where he reached an agreement in principle to increase Russian gas purchases from Turkmenistan. It is yet another indicator of Russia's renewed interest in Central Asia since Putin assumed control. Russia and Turkmenistan have reached an agreement in principle to renew and expand their December 1999 agreement to export 20 billion cubic meters (bcm) for calendar year 2000 and increase this figure by 10 bcm per year for three to four years until import levels reach 50-60 bcm per year. But Russia's real target in Central Asia is neither Turkmenistan nor Uzbekistan but Kazakhstan.
Continue reading "Russia and Central Asia: Playing the Turkmenistan Card" »
On the natural gas front, all signs are "go" for Azerbaijani gas from the offshore Shah-Deniz deposit to find purchasers in Europe. The head of the European Union's TACIS (Technical Assistance for the Commonwealth of Independent States) program, visiting Baku, declared earlier this month that anticipated industrial growth in southwestern Europe would assure a stable long-term market for this gas. Norway's Statoil, which owns a 25.5 per cent share in the Shah-Deniz consortium and has experience with deep-water gas development in the North Sea, is proposing a strategic partnership to the State Oil Company of the Azerbaijan Republic (SOCAR). In particular, it seeks to organize and operate, together with SOCAR, the country's midstream gas development. Significant investment in Azerbaijan's Soviet-era gas infrastructure would be necessary.
Continue reading "How Shah-Deniz Is Changing the Equation (1/9)" »
In a series of public statements last month including a May 17 seminar at the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute at Johns Hopkins University-SAIS, Andrei Urnov, head of the Caspian Sea working group of the Russian Foreign Ministry, suggested a new approach to the demarcation of national sectors in the Caspian Sea. His announcement followed a decision by the Security Council of the Russian Federation to re-activate Russian policy in the region through sea-bed delineation for the purpose of subsoil use which may thus signal a qualitatively new development in the stalled negotiations over the legal regime of the Caspian Sea.
Continue reading "Russia Reactivates Its Caspian Policy with a New Demarcation Approach" »
The one formal organization is the Central Asian Economic Union which includes Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. The leaders of these countries have concluded several agreements on expanding economic cooperation, but these will remain a dead letter until the Uzbek som is made fully convertible. The two multilateral formations are not embodied in formal organizations. One is a coalescence of energy-related issues bringing together Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, in a geo-strategic sense, as a north-south axis along the eastern shore of the Caspian Sea. The other is a coalescence of counterinsurgency-related issues bringing together Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, also in a geo-strategic sense, as an east-west axis along the southern border of the Commonwealth of Independent States.
Continue reading "Russia, Turkey and Iran: An Eternal Triangle" »
Fall-out continues from the Shah-Deniz gas find offshore from Azerbaijan. Several weeks ago, part one of this series examined developments around the Trans-Caspian Gas Pipeline (TCGP) from Turkmenistan, and Iran's problems with Turkmenistani gas imports. The evident withdrawal of PSG from the TCGP has brought to the surface many subterranean possibilities that have been silently percolating. Whereas a few weeks ago, it was generally thought that Turkmenistan would be left only with Gazprom as a gas-buyer and would have to take whatever price it was offered, other suitors have presented themselves.
Continue reading "How Shah-Deniz Is Changing the Equation (2/9)" »
China has declared ownership of its planned pipeline from Xinjiang to Shanghai open to foreign entities. This follows President Jiang Zemin's visit to Turkmenistan, where he discussed the possibility of a pipeline to carry natural gas from that country across Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan to Xinjiang. The announcement comes three weeks after Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing, whose companies recently bought a stake in PetroChina, reportedly made the suggestion to Chinese officials at a June 23 meeting.
Continue reading "How Shah-Deniz Is Changing the Equation (3/9)" »
This week I continue my analysis of the fall-out from the gas discovery in the Shah-Deniz deposit offshore on Azerbaijan, which, as explained earlier in this series, has led Turkmenistan to turn away from the Trans-Caspian Gas Pipeline (TCGP) project.
Continue reading "How Shah-Deniz Is Changing the Equation (4/9)" »
This week I resume my series on the fall-out from the discovery of vast natural gas resources at the Shah-Deniz deposit, located off the coast of Azerbaijan. That discovery put into question the Trans-Caspian Gas Pipeline (TCGP) from Turkmenistan to Turkey, though this project has recently been re-endorsed by Ashgabat. I will cover the latter development in a future column. For the present, however, I wish to focus on the neglected Turkmenistan-Ukraine-Russia energy triangle and discuss how TCGP politics have contributed to a political battle among elites in Kyiv.
Continue reading "How Shah-Deniz Is Changing the Equation (5/9)" »
The Chinese National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) asserts that Xinjiang has 17.4 trillion cubic feet of proven gas reserves. However, it is not clear that they are all recoverable. The geology is frequently difficult and the depths are often extreme. It is more likely that this figure is for potential or estimated reserves. Indeed, several years ago western energy companies, encouraged by Beijing's touting of Xinjiang's natural energy resources, paid high fees to test-drill for oil, and they came up dry. Now, the 2,600-mile-long "West-East" pipeline is projected to carry gas from Xinjiang to Shanghai at a construction cost of $5 billion and to open in 2003.
Continue reading "China’s "Go West" Pipeline Projects: A "Great Leap Westward"?" »
I conclude the short series, on efforts to settle the international legal status of the Caspian Sea. Last week I addressed the inheritance from the Soviet period and surveyed the most salient events during the 1990s up to the end of 1997. I now pick up the thread at the beginning of 1998 and put the most recent developments into context.
Continue reading "Developments in the evolving Caspian legal regime (2/2)" »
I resume my series on the fall-out from the discovery of vast natural gas resources at the Shah-Deniz deposit, located off the coast of Azerbaijan. That discovery put into question the Trans-Caspian Gas Pipeline (TCGP) from Turkmenistan to Turkey, though this project has recently been re-endorsed by Ashgabat. I will cover the latter development in a future column. For the present, however, I wish to focus on the neglected Turkmenistan-Ukraine-Russia energy triangle and discuss how TCGP politics have contributed to a political battle among elites in Kyiv.
Continue reading "How Shah-Deniz is changing the equation (6/9)" »
The article examines once more the results of the Shah-Deniz find for the Russia-Turkmenistan-Ukraine triangle. It first dissects the most recent developments in their interactions over energy supplies and policy. It then examines the question of what the Russian contract for an additional 10 billion cubic meters (bcm) means for Turkmenistan, for the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline, for the Shah-Deniz project and for the TCGP itself.
Continue reading "How Shah-Deniz is changing the equation (7/9)" »
The CIS was originally a sleight-of-hand trick by which the presidents of the RSFSR and Ukrainian and Belorussian union-republics conjured the disappearance of the USSR. It is generally conceded now that Yeltsin's wish for revenge against Gorbachev was a sine qua non of this remarkable, and successful, performance. The creators of the CIS never intended it to be the continuation of the USSR by other means.
Continue reading "The CIS Is Dead, Long Live the CIS!" »
Reports have recently circulated of an agreement between Russia and the European Union (EU) for long-term energy sales. Europe wants more Russian oil and gas, but this does not mean that it will not continue to seek oil and gas from other Caspian countries. However, for Europe to take more oil and gas from Russia, new pipelines would have to be constructed, and this in turn would require a clear legal framework. The best step Russia can make right now in that direction is to ratify the Energy Charter Treaty (ECT).
Continue reading "Russia and Europe's Energy Strategy" »
[This edited translation by of "Russia and Europe's Energy Strategy," published by Нефтегазовая Вертикаль, contains all the main points of the original text but re-arranges some of them and includes additional explanatory material for a more general Russophone readership.]
Между Россией и Европейским Союзом (ЕС) идет серия переговоров о новых соглашениях на долгосрочные поставки российских энергоносителей. Европа хочет заручиться гарантией значительного увеличения поставок нефти и газа из России на длительную перспективу. Имеющиеся транспортные магистрали справиться с дополнительным потоком энергоносителей не смогут. Строительство новых трубопроводов, в которых заинтересованы и Россия, и Европа, потребует значительного финансирования. Оно должно придти из Европы. Обсуждаемая формула "энергоносители за инвестиции" сможет работать только при наличии в стране ясной законодательной базы. Первым эффективным шагом России в этом направлении может стать ратификация Договора к Энергетической Хартии.
Continue reading "Как России завоевать Европу" »
The lack of economic momentum in Uzbekistan has led to a general decline of great-power interest in the country. In a vicious circle, Uzbekistan's profile in international and regional diplomacy has fallen in turn. Its response could be called an "all directions" strategy, after France's General De Gaulle's "tous azimuts" nuclear doctrine of the 1960s. But whereas De Gaulle targeted the source of every possible threat, even from allies, for President Karimov "all directions" means looking for help from whatever direction of the compass he can find it. This policy on the part of the government risks manifesting as an "every man for himself" policy for Uzbekistani individuals in their everyday lives.
Continue reading "Uzbekistan's Foreign Policy and Its Domestic Effects" »
It is difficult to say what any new administration's policy will be by the end of the president's term of office. However, there are some clear indications of the broad outlines of U.S. policy toward Russia under the Bush administration as it prepares to take office. This policy will not seek to present a cooperative image of the relationship, as has been so under the outgoing administration. Instead it will have a more overtly "realist" or "realpolitik" approach and will concentrate in the first instance upon European security and controlling arms proliferation.
Continue reading "A First Glance at the New [U.S.] Administration’s Policy toward Russia" »
In my most recent installment in this series, I indicated that recent developments pointed towards the need to review Turkmenistan's options for export of its natural gas. That is the subject of this article.
Continue reading "How Shah-Deniz Is Changing the Equation (8/9)" »
The Shah Deniz gas discovery had the effect of decreasing the volume of the Trans-Caspian Gas Pipeline (TCGP) allocated to Turkmenistan, whose President Saparmurad Niyazov consequently sought other new routes. However, he has so far failed to conclude any agreement other than his fallback plan, which is to sell more gas to Russia, which, because of the absence of signficant pipelines for export to other countries, remains his only big customer. In this context, Iran has again come forward as a potential consumer of Turkmenistan's gas.
Continue reading "How Shah Deniz Is Changing the Equation (9/9)" »
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.
Continue reading "The Unanticipated Consequences of Policy Blindness: Why Even Belarus Matters" »
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.
Continue reading "U.S. Policy Must Be Sensitive to Ukraine's Balancing Act" »
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 GUAM formation (Georgia-Ukraine-Azerbaijan-Moldova) had its origin in the 1996 round of talks implementing the Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe. The four countries found they had a common opposition to the stationing of Russian weapons on their territory. GUAM became GUUAM when Uzbekistan joined in April 1999. According to recent reports, the GUUAM countries intend, in spring 2001, to institutionalize their cooperation by forming a permanent international organization. This organization will have its own secretariat (probably in Kiev, the capital of the Ukraine) and a small number of ancillary bodies but will have principally a coordinative function with no supranational authority. In response to this prospect, three schools of thought regarding GUUAM have begun to appear in Western, principally U.S., commentary and analysis.
Continue reading "Just What Is "GUUAM" Anyway?" »
Armenia has suffered severe energy shortages since 1991 and has long been looking to Iran to relieve its energy needs. Last year the European Commission decided to back a project for construction of a pipeline from Iran into Armenia. Discussions have now begun with Ukraine concerning the possibility of Iranian natural gas transiting Armenia and Georgia, then travelling either overland through Russia or under the Black Sea into Ukraine and onward to European markets. However, it is unlikely that the gas will get any further than Armenia. Nevertheless, Turkmenistan's President Niyazov must now face Russia and Iran as potential competitors for the European market. Unless Niyazov decides to build the Trans-Caspian Gas Pipeline (TCGP), both Russia and Iran will have a stranglehold on Turkmenistan's gas and oil exports.
Continue reading "Will the Iran-Armenia-Ukraine Energy Triangle Happen?" »
In an official announcement, the government of Turkmenistan put its cards on the table concerning the diplomatic position that it plans to take on the demarcation of the Caspian Sea and the division of its resources at the summit meeting that will take place on March 8-9 in the port city of Turkmenbashi. This column analyses the content and significance of that announcement in the context of new developments in the region.
Continue reading "New Configurations around the Caspian (1/4)" »
Significant events that will determine the fate of a number of Caspian export pipelines have continued to occur in rapid succession, even as the government of Turkmenistan made a surprise announcement postponing a long-awaited summit among Russia, Azerbaijan, Kazakstan, Turkmenistan and Iran. That summit had been scheduled for March 8-9 in the Caspian port of Turkmenbashi.
Continue reading "New Configurations around the Caspian (2/4)" »
A new report by the International Crisis Group (ICG) helps answer the question about what the appropriate responses are to Islamic militancy in Central Asia. The ICG is a highly respected, well connected, expert, private, multinational organization that describes itself as "committed to strengthening the capacity of the international community to anticipate, understand, and act to prevent and contain conflict." In its new report titled "Central Asia: Islamist Mobilisation and Regional Stability," ICG makes recommendations to Central Asian governments, external powers, and international organizations.
Continue reading "Islamic Militancy in Central Asia: What Is To Be Done? (1/2)" »
The current, contradictory phase of events around the Caspian is captured by the difficult realism of Viktor Kalyuzhnyi, Russia's deputy foreign minister, who also serves as President Vladimir Putin's special envoy on Caspian affairs. As developments continue to accelerate, Russia is seeking to trace a course between the Scylla of hardball Realpolitik, which could alienate neighboring states, and the Charybdis of exclusively economic gain to the possible detriment of state interests. This contradiction is clearest in Russian policy towards Iran, which includes the question of influence over the choice of export pipelines for Kazakhstan's now undeniably significant energy resources.
Continue reading "New Configurations around the Caspian Sea (3/4)" »
The selection several weeks ago of Italy's ENI as operator of the Offshore Kazakhstan International Operating Company (OKIOC), which is exploring the vast Kashagan deposit offshore from Kazakhstan, came as a surprise to most observers. Eni was a dark horse in OKIOC and not one of the front-runners to become operator.
Continue reading "New Configurations around the Caspian Sea (4/4)" »
In early April the United States is hosting a nearly week-long meeting in Key West, Florida, bringing together President Robert Kocharian of Armenia and President Heydar Aliev of Azerbaijan. This meeting is part of a continuing attempt to settle the conflict between the two countries over the region of Nagorno-Karabakh. This region is an enclave in Azerbaijan settled by Armenians since the early nineteenth century, and from which the resident Azerbaijanis were chased during a war in the late 1980s.
Continue reading "The Key West Conference on Nagorno-Karabakh: Preparing Peace In the South Caucasus?" »
The opening, or at least the beginning of the filling, of the oil pipeline of the Caspian Pipeline Consortium (CPC), from the Tengiz field in northwest Kazakhstan to Novorossiisk on the Russian Black Sea coast, received deserved if extended—indeed sensational—publicity several weeks ago. The CPC line is, after all, the first new pipeline to be built from the Caspian region since the demise of the Soviet Union. The pumping of oil into the pipeline began belatedly, but it is now expected that the first tanker will be filled in Novorossiisk in June.
All the attention paid to western Kazakhstan makes it difficult for most observers to gain an understanding of the overall energy balance in Central Asia. For example, sight is often lost of Uzbekistan's regional role as an energy producer because of its two better-endowed neighbors, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan. Yet as explained below, Turkmenistan does not really come into play although it is certainly a regional actor; rather, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan are the main players on the scene. This article calls attention to overlooked aspects of the Central Asian energy balance, with special attention paid to Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan and the contrasts between them and the significance of those contrasts.
Continue reading "Geo-economics and Energy Development in Central Asia" »
In one of the generally less remarked-upon recent political earthquakes, the reform-oriented government of Prime Minister Viktor Yushchenko of Ukraine has lost a no-confidence vote in the Ukrainian Rada (parliament) but will stay on at the head of a caretaker government for up to 60 days. The column analyses the significance of the political crisis in Ukraine for energy questions in Europe and Eurasia.
Continue reading "Euro-Caspian energy and the political crisis in Ukraine" »
The recent summit of Turkic-language countries in Ankara provided Turkmenistan's President Saparmurad Niyazov with the opportunity to insist yet again that his country and his person are central, if not key, to the resolution of major problems in the region. His suggestion that the next Turkic summit be held in Ashgabat inevitably recalls his plan for a summit of the Caspian Sea states in the port city of Turkmenbashi.
Continue reading "Do all roads lead to Ashgabat?" »
SUMMARY: Earlier this month India's Prime Minister Atel Behari Vajpayee became only the second Indian head of government to visit Tehran since the disintegration of the Soviet Union, and the first in over seven years. At the head of a large delegation, he signed seven cooperation accords on energy, water, trade and science but sought to downplay efforts at bilateral defense cooperation.
Continue reading "The Indo–Iranian Rappochement: Not Just Natural Gas Anymore" »
Two weeks ago, in the context of Turkmenistani President Saparmurad Niyazov's visit to Ankara for the Turkic-speaking countries' summit, this writer discussed how Ashgabat is currently situated in the "great game" over Caspian Sea energy resources, especially with respect to relations with Azerbaijan, the Trans-Caspian Gas Pipeline (TCGP) project and Caspian Sea demarcation. The discussion of Turkmenistan's position continues in light of Niyazov's subsequent visit to Ukraine.
Continue reading "Turkmenistani natural gas: The key to Ukraine's economy?" »
A sensational report has arrived that Moscow may be altering its policy on the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) export pipeline, so as to permit Russian companies to participate in its construction and operation. Russia's foreign minister Ivan Ivanov is said to have stated a few days ago in late May, that although in his judgment BTC will not be economically viable, Russian companies would not be blocked from participating in it. However, now that Caspian Pipeline Consortium (CPC) from Kazakhstan is scheduled to arrive later this year in Novorossiisk, it is clear that high-ranking Russian officials are take seriously the environmental objections from Turkey concerning the flow of excessive quantities of oil through the Straits.
Continue reading "Recent developments in the self-organizing Caspian pipeline network" »
The first Bush-Putin meeting will not take place in a vacuum. Their one-day summit in Slovenia will come after Bush concludes a swing through Spain, Belgium, Poland, and Sweden (which currently holds the rotating presidency of the European Union). President Vladimir Putin will have already assessed the new U.S. president personally through psychological profiling and consultations with European leaders who have met him. He already has his agenda, which is to use the meeting to influence European elite and public opinion, which is already skeptical about Washington's plans for National Missile Defense (NMD).
Continue reading "The Slovenia Summit: Bush Meets Putin" »
Only days before the Putin-Bush meeting in Ljubljana, an even more significant meeting took place in Shanghai between Putin and Chinese President Jiang Zemin, within the framework of the mechanism known until recently as the "Shanghai Five" or "Shanghai Forum". At the Shanghai meeting, Uzbekistan was welcomed as the institution's sixth full member. Documents were adopted bearing the titles, "Declaration of the Establishment of the 'Shanghai Cooperation Organization'" and the "Shanghai Covenant on the Suppression of Terrorism, Separatism and [Religious] Extremism". The name-change signals a move to establish a formal structure with a permanent secretariat in Shanghai, and to promote multilateral interministerial cooperation across a wide range of issue areas. It also signals, if one takes Beijing at its word, the incipient coalescence of a Sino-Russocentric geopolitical bloc in Asia. China's vision for such a bloc is to countervail any strategic vision that puts the United States at the forefront of twenty-first century global politics.
Continue reading "Did Putin Shanghai Bush?" »
It is projected that the Blue Stream pipeline will increase Turkey's dependence on Russian sources of natural gas from the current two-thirds level to about four-fifths. For this reason, the United States has reportedly raised hesitations to Ankara over the past several years.
Continue reading "The "Blue Stream" Gas Project: Not a Pipe-Dream Anymore" »
Mavi akım projesinin tamamlanması konusundaki kuşıkular son dönemlerde daha da arttı. Bunun birinci nedeni, Türkiye'deki krizin sürmesi ve bizzat Mavi Akım anlaşımasına yönelik yolsuzluk soruşıturması.
Continue reading ""Mavi Akim" Doğalgaz Projesi: Artik Bir Rüya Değil" »
In late March, Kazakhstan's Prime Minister Kasymzhomart Tokaev turned the tap at the Tengiz field to begin filling a pipeline built by the Caspian Pipeline Consortium (CPC). This 1,580-kilometer pipeline was built to take oil from Tengiz (estimated to hold between 6 and 9 billion barrels in recoverable reserves) from western Kazakhstan to the coast of the Black Sea. The Tengiz deposit is being developed by TengizChevrOil (TCO), a consortium led by the US oil major Chevron (50%) and also including ExxonMobil (25%), LUKArco (5%) and the government of Kazakhstan (20%).
Continue reading "Kazakhstan’s Search for Export Pipelines" »
A good deal of attention has been devoted in recent days to the incident in the south Caspian on July 23, when Iranian military airplanes buzzed vessels that had been chartered by BP to begin exploring the Alov deposit, a component of the Araz-Sharg-Alov offshore block. Iranian ships subsequently intervened that evening, to dispute ownership of the block (which Iran calls "Alborz") and warn these exploratory vessels off. Almost paradoxically, this show of military force came only a day after Hassan Rouhani, the secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, signed an agreement in Baku with Ramiz Mehdiev, the head of the analogous Azerbaijani body, concerning security cooperation and covering drugs, crime and terrorism. Indeed, it came only a few weeks before a long-planned visit by Azerbaijan's President Heidar Aliev to Tehran.
Continue reading "Renewed conflicts in the Caspian" »
In the late fifteenth century, what is now known as the Transdnistria--the region on the eastern bank of the Dnistr River and with the border of today's Ukraine for its eastern limit--was part of the Kingdom of Lithuania. By the mid-sixteenth century it had passed into the Ottoman Empire, of which it remained a part until the late eighteenth century, when the whole western coast of the Black Sea from Odessa to Varna (now in Bulgaria) became embroiled in military conflicts among the Ottoman, Russian, and Austrian Empires. From that era it emerged as part of the Russian Empire. After the Bolshevik Revolution and First World War, it became part of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, until Stalin redrew the internal borders of Moldavia and Ukraine in 1940, when it was attached to a remnant of the former Romanian province of Bessarabia to form the Moldovan Soviet Socialist Republic. There it remained until 1991, when it became part of independent Moldova.
Continue reading "Moldova/Transdnistria: Conflict Profile" »
Toward the end of President Bush's September 24[, 2001] statement about freezing terrorists' assets, one finds the overlooked but no less remarkable assertion that the U.S. is "working closely with the United Nations, the EU and through the G− 7/G−8 structure to limit the ability of terrorist organizations to take advantage of the international financial systems."
Continue reading "What Bin Laden and Global Warming Have in Common" »
Russia's entry into the North Caucasus dates from the military campaign begun in 1783. The resistance was led by Sheik Mansur, a Chechen captured in 1791. From 1824 to 1859, the Muslim peoples of the North Caucasus led by Imam Shamil fought a long, bloody war of resistance, but the Russians won through overwhelming numbers and a policy of total war. After the Bolshevik Revolution, Stalin's collectivization campaign in 1929 led to new rebellion and repression. During 1936-38 the purges led to the imprisonment and execution of thousands of Chechens.
Continue reading "Chechnya: Conflict Profile" »
Oil from the Tengiz deposit in western Kazakhstan is being pumped westward through a pipeline through southern Russia. The pipeline, built by the Caspian Pipeline Consortium (CPC), has cost $2.6 million to construct: twice the originally estimated cost. It will have an initial capacity of somewhat less than 600,000 barrels per day (bpd). Its eventual full capacity will range from 1 to 1.5 million bpd. The date for loading the first tanker in Novorossiisk has been postponed several times, now likely to take place to be sometime in September.
Continue reading "The Caspian Pipeline Consortium Beats the Skeptics" »
In its new war on terrorism, Washington is quickly moving to put its "strategic partnership" with Uzbekistan to work. It has already turned to Uzbekistan's President Islam Karimov, who has spent the past decade cracking down so hard in his own country that he has driven the possibility of loyal Islamic dissent out of the political arena, and is now targeted by the Taliban-backed Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), with which there have been military clashes over the past two years.
Continue reading "Cozying up to Karimov?" »
The effect of events in Afghanistan on public opinion in Central Asia is difficult to gauge. Yet this public opinion is already in general either exhausted by economic hardship or increasingly discontent with political repression. That very situation is what presents the danger that the U.S. rapprochement with Central Asian regimes will negatively affect its long-term interests.
Continue reading "Central Asian energy and security in light of the Afghanistan crisis" »
Earlier this month, a helicopter carrying members of the United Nations Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG) was shot down after taking off from Sukhumi, capital of the secessionist region of Abkhazia. It crashed, killing all nine on board. At first glance, it might seem that some party to the secessionist conflict whether Georgian, Russian, or Abkhaz--was trying to take advantage of the world's attention being focused on Afghanistan, in order to pursue tactical, strategic, or political aims in Georgia. However, the situation is more complicated than that.
Continue reading "Abkhazia Again: The UN Helicopter Shootdown" »
The air strikes on Afghanistan put U.S. policy in Central Asia in a delicate position. On the one hand, Central Asian governments will be tempted to harden further their authoritarian domestic policies toward dissent and opposition, driving people further toward Islamic-based protest. If popular opinion in the region comes to identify the U.S. too directly with those policies, then the post-authoritarian transitions could see widespread Islamic militancy, tied to anti-Americanism, come to the fore.
Continue reading "Islamic Militancy in Central Asia: What Is To Be Done? (2/2)" »
Roughly three millennia ago, two unions among tribes then inhabiting present-day Georgia established the political structures that survive in the written historical record. One of these unions was that of the Colchis, whose land Greek legend depicts in the myth of Jason and the Argonauts as the origin of the Golden Fleece. After the Colchis' kingdom weakened and fell, its eastern provinces constituted themselves a new kingdom called Kartli. At the same time, roughly about the time of Rome's founding according to the legend of Romulus and Remus (753 BC), the Greeks began colonizing the Black Sea coast in the west of the land. The cities they founded still survive. In the Abkhazia region, for example, Dioskuras is the forerunner of present-day Sukhumi, which the Abkhaz call "Sukhum" (the terminal "-i" being a syntactical Georgianization.)
Continue reading "Georgia/Abkhazia: Conflict Profile" »
Before the terrorist acts in New York City, the U.S. looked to be largely absent diplomatically and militarily, while limiting its economic presence to Caspian energy development in Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan. Yet the formation of a U.S.-sponsored ‘global anti-terrorist coalition’ has not undercut the basis for the Sino-Russian rapprochement signaled by the institutionalization of the SCO and the signing of the first bilateral Sino-Russian treaty in fifty years.
Continue reading "The Shattering of the Sino-Russian Entente over the Shape of Central Asia?" »
Just when it looked the Central Asian countries were facing the growing joint political hegemony of Russia and China in the region, the events of September 11 opened the door to an increased and indefinite-term U.S. military presence.
Continue reading "U.S. Intervention in Afghanistan: Implications for Central Asia" »
On November 15, deputy National Security Council director Rakhat Aliev resigned from his post after his boss Marat Tazhin forbade him to give evidence to a parliamentary commission investigating corruption in government. Three days later, deputy prime minister Uraz Dzhandosov and other members of cabinet announced the foundation of an elite reform movement favoring decentralization and democratization, called Democratic Choice. The prime minister then threatened to resign unless the Democratic Choice members left the government. In spite of support for Democratic Choice from the heads of two commercial banks and other business and political leaders in the country, Nazarbaev chose to support his prime minister Kasymzhomart Tokaev.
Continue reading "Government Crisis in Kazakhstan: Warm-Up for the Succession to Nazarbaev?" »
Washington has not only blocked the impending closure of Sino-Russian hegemony over Central Asia, but also finessed Russian strategic opposition to the American project for deploying a space-based defense. The new U.S. presence in Central Asia has reinforced the emerging post-Cold War reconnection of Central Asia with South and Southwest Asia. In geopolitical terms, Uzbekistan remains the "pivot" of the region. However, within the larger "shatterbelt" that Central Asia represents for the broader Eurasian landmass, the post-Nazarbaev future of Kazakhstan looms large.
Continue reading "Redrawing the Architecture of Central Asian Security" »
In late 2000, the EU and Russia began extensive high-level commercial talks about the prospects for European importation of Russian energy resources over the course of coming decades. However, Russia's failure to pursue adequate investment in its natural gas industry would require significant capital outlay from the European side in order to increase imports significantly. In essence, an entirely new pipeline system would have to be constructed in order to satisfy Europe's upcoming energy requirements, whether in gas or in oil. Because it is ecologically cleaner, the EU had taken a policy decision in favor of gas. The European Commission began to look still more definitely towards Iran to satisfy at least some of its long-term gas demand, as well as to put price pressure on Russia.
Continue reading "How Deeply Will Iran Penetrate the Evolving Eurasian Energy Networks?" »
Central Eurasia, which is what specialists have taken to calling most of the geographic area once covered by the Soviet Union, has a long history of ethnopolitical complications and related struggles focused on collective identities. Tsarist Russia had moderate success in keeping these within bounds, partly because it was willing to tolerate such collective identities as social constructions autonomous of its own political rule.
The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) had a more insistently penetrative ideology that left little room for cultural, ethnic, or religious autonomy. The Soviet regime tapped the mass communications technologies of the twentieth century to pursue its control over all populations and to implement its program of political socialization. All ethnically based opposition to Moscow’s rule was driven underground. The all-pervasive nature of the Soviet political and security apparatus made calls for any significant sort of self-determination extremely difficult to sustain. When Gorbachev combined economic reform (leading to economic disruption and attendant problems of supply) with political empowerment (permitting Soviet citizens to voice complaints publicly without the fear of repression), he unwittingly unleashed two elements necessary for a political explosion. Long discussed (but little understood) in Soviet political writings, the so-called ‘national question” became the fuse igniting the internal conflicts that burst forth across the Soviet regions in the late 1980s, as the USSR collapsed, and into the 1990s.
Continue reading "Self-Determination Issues in Central Eurasia" »
Press reports have indicated that what separates the United States and Turkey in their negotiations [over conditions for American access to Turkish territory and facilities for military action against Iraq in 2003] the size and nature of the economic package wanted by Ankara. This is partly true, but it is not the whole story, and not even necessarily the most important part of the story. Military aspects of any Turkish incursion into northern Iraq and political aspects of northern Iraq's future are, rather, the more significant sticking points. Before discussing the latter, it is nevertheless useful background to review how the level of the economic package has recently increased.
Continue reading "The Turkish Military and Northern Iraq" »
Late last year, the flagship venture TengizChevrOil took the unusual step of holding its board meeting in Almaty and voting to suspend the next stage (planned at $3 billion) in the project’s development. A number of explanations filtered out over subsequent weeks to explain the decision, although all the explanations turned on the issue of the level of TengizChevrOil's taxes. A more disturbing explanation later emerged, that KazMunaiGaz, the Kazakhstani partner in TengizChevrOil, had put forward a bureaucratic stategem that amounted to making ChevronTexaco to pay its portion of the cost.
Continue reading "Kazakhstan’s New Foreign Investment Law" »
Press reports, especially in North America, suggested that a deal between Ankara and Washington was just a question of money, using the metaphor of the bazaar to explain Turkish negotiating behavior. In the end, this description was shown to be ill-conceived and inaccurate. More was at stake than just the amount of money. Turkish leaders consistently said so, but no one in Washington seemed to hear them. The American administration also appeared to assume that the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in Ankara could make its parliamentary deputies fall into line as easily as the Republican Party in the US can whip its congressmen and senators into supporting administration policy.
Continue reading "The Turkish Parliament's Double-Fisted Knockout" »
The Turkish Grand National Assembly, in failing to approve the economic assistance package to be provided to Turkey by the US in return for American troops using Turkish soil for an attack on Iraq, also failed to authorize Turkey's army to enter northern Iraq. The Turkish constitution requires a parliamentary vote to send the country's armed forces outside its own borders. With this not being approved, the dynamics of the impending war have changed.
Continue reading "Out With the US, In With the Turks" »
Iran has been seeking since the mid-1990s to undertake oil swaps with Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan as a way to increase its own exports. Such swaps involve Iran’s importing oil in the north on its Caspian Sea coast for domestic refining and consumption, while exporting compensatory quantities to the world market from its southern ports on the Persian Gulf. This has been part and parcel of Iran’s strategy not only for developing its own energy sector but also for situating itself as an important transit country for international trade flows in general.
Continue reading "Russia Begins Oil Swaps with Iran" »
The recent detention of Turkish soldiers by US troops in northern Iraq is only a symptom of the divergence of interests between erstwhile Cold War allies. The vote of the Turkish Grand National Assembly this year against allowing the United States to use Turkey's territory for transit of military forces in the run-up to Gulf War II is likewise only a symptom of that divergence of interests.
Continue reading "Turks, Kurds and the US-Turkish relationship" »
Real GDP fell throughout the first half of the 1990s in all newly independent states, declining by about half in Kazakhstan. The country was also adversely affected towards the end of the decade by the Asian and Russian crises as well as by fluctuating world market prices for energy. However, Kazakhstan's economic performance has significantly improved since late 1999, due partly to capable macroeconomic engineering, partly to the rebound of world energy prices, and partly to spillover effects from energy-sector growth taking hold in the domestic economy.
Continue reading "Kazakhstan's Economic Promise Revisited" »
The significance of the agreements on energy cooperation achieved during Russian President Vladimir Putin's recently completed visit to Kazakhstan is only an indicator of the consolidation of deeper tectonic shifts in Eurasian security and economic affairs. A new triangle is emerging in East Central Eurasian geo-economics among Russia, Kazakhstan and China. (It is being complemented by the emergence of another such triangle in West Central Eurasia among Russia, Turkmenistan and Ukraine.) Energy cooperation is a linchpin of each of the emerging triangular ententes, but the ententes themselves go far beyond energy.
Continue reading "Emerging triangles: Russia-Kazakhstan-China" »
В Евразии происходят глубинные тектонические сдвиги в области обеспечения безопасности и экономического сотрудничества.
Continue reading "Новый треугольник Россия-Казахстан-Китай" »
After a slow start in 2002, the SCO's St.-Petersburg summit in May 2003 approved development of a military arm to assist SCO anti-terrorist cooperation. The organization’s first multilateral military exercise (called “Interaction-2003”) took place that August in Kazakhstan and China, although without Uzbekistan’s participation. In September of that year, the prime ministers of the member states agreed in Beijing to fund the SCO in the amount of $4 million during 2004, establishing its secretariat in Beijing (moved from Shanghai in accordance with a September 2002 decision) and the Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure in Tashkent (rather than Bishkek, and beginning operations in January 2004).
Continue reading "The Shanghai Cooperation Organization Moves into First Gear" »
SUMMARY: The supergiant Karachaganak energy field, onshore in northwestern Kazakhstan, sends gas for processing over the Russian border to a processing plant in Orenburg operated by Gazprom. Production is slated to increase. The joint operators of the Karachaganak gas venture, BG and ENI, together with the Government of Kazakhstan, are considering building a plant on-site in Karachaganak to process the new volumes. Gazprom argues against this and is trying to offer incentives to send the gas instead to an expanded Orenburg plant. The eventual decision, coming soon, will have significant implications for how Kazakhstan's national pipeline system develops in the future.
Continue reading "Karachaganak Gas and the Future of Kazakhstan's Pipeline System" »
On September 19, Kazakhstan held the first round of elections for a new Majilis (lower parliamentary body). Second-round run-offs are being held on October 3, but the first round already established the contours of the complete results. In addition to parties formed around the persons of President Nursultan Nazarbaev (Otan) or his daughter Dariga Nazarbaeva (Asar), the technocratic Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan (DCK) and Ak Zhol, which emerged from it, were among those running candidates. The conduct of the elections was better than in other Central Asian states, but exit polls were diverged markedly from the official results, which give Otan a majority in the chamber. Important structural impediments to de-authorization and democratization remain, but they are not insurmountable. However, the longer reform is delayed, the more endemic they will become.
Continue reading "Kazakhstan Holds Elections for a New Parliament" »
Takeyh and Gvosdev are right on target when they write: "It should be abundantly clear that Moscow and Washington do not see eye-to-eye on the Iranian question. When [U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza] Rice declared last Saturday that Iran had no need for even a civilian nuclear program, [Russian Foreign Minister Sergei] Lavrov countered that Iran had a full right to possess a nuclear fuel cycle."
Continue reading "Russia and Iran's nuclear program" »
When US President George W. Bush was in India this month, he caused a flurry of commentary, especially in the Indian media, by appearing to lift long-standing American objections to the construction of a natural gas pipeline from Iran through Pakistan to India. "Our beef with Iran is not the pipeline," he said in Islamabad. "Our beef with Iran is the fact that they want to develop a nuclear weapon ... We understand that you [Pakistan] need to get natural gas, and that is fine."
Continue reading "Delhi's Options beyond Iran" »
A significant indicator of Turkmenistan's future diplomatic and economic course is whether new President Gurbanguly Berdymuhammedov will undertake a rapprochement with Azerbaijan.
Continue reading "A New Chance for the Trans-Caspian Gas Pipeline?" »
Recent weeks have seen increasing United States activity in favor of constructing the Trans-Caspian Gas Pipeline (TCGP) from Turkmenistan to Azerbaijan. But what are the chances of anything really happening? From the technical standpoint, there is no obstacle.
Continue reading "Another trans-Caspian pipe dream" »
A little over a month ago, Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbaev signed amendments passed several weeks previously by the Majilis (parliament) to the law “On the Subsurface and Subsurface Use” that would allow the government to amend or annul natural-resource contracts if these are judged to threaten the country’s national security. This dispute indicates the changing nature of Kazakhstan’s energy sector.
Continue reading "Kazakhstan's Foreign Investment Law Changes Again" »
Two weeks after successful renegotiation of Kazakhstan's participation in the Kashagan offshore project, the country's energy minister stated on January 29 that Kazakhstan may impose a duty on nearly half of all exports of crude and oil products beginning in 2009. The Italian company Eni will cease to be operator of the Kashagan consortium, but the Kazakhstan state company KazMunaiGaz will not gain that status, which it coveted.
Continue reading "Kazakhstan Threatens Oil Export Duty Following Kashagan Settlement" »
Kazakhstan's Prime Minister Karim Masimov has announced major energy-related decisions in the wake of President Nursultan Nazarbaev's address to the nation last week. First, and most strikingly, he has ordered the suspension all negotiations with foreign investors on exploration, development and extraction of subsurface natural resources pending the working out of a new tax code.
Continue reading "Kazakhstan announces new energy directions" »
After eight days, Turkey this month ended its ground operation in the Kurdish territory in northern Iraq without achieving its stated goal of uprooting the Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK) presence. However, the professional military in Turkey must have known how difficult that would be; more likely, they agreed with politicians' wish to use force to focus others' attention on the issue.
Continue reading "Turkey and Iraq take a step at a time" »
Turkmenistan’s President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the EU’s External Relations Commissioner, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, during the trip of a very high-level EU delegation to Central Asia, providing for the export of natural gas from Turkmenistan to the EU but not specifying a route, which is nevertheless understood not to cross Russia. The 10 billion cubic meters per year (bcm/y) mentioned in the MOU amount is not very much of the estimated 500 bcm of natural gas that EU countries consume each year; however, for the EU it is an initial step towards diversification of supply.
Continue reading "The European Union Looks to Central Asia For Energy" »
Azerbaijan’s president Ilham Aliev has announced a doubling of the reserves of both oil and gas in his country’s Caspian offshore. New finds in as many of five fields to be developed contain perhaps 50 trillion cubic feet of gas, such as to require a new gas export pipeline. An executive of the national oil company SOCAR has hinted that gas from Turkmenistan could be included, starting even in the near term with small quantities. The French company And although Gazprom has lately offered to buy Azerbaijani gas at near-market prices, probably for re-export to Europe via its planned South Stream pipeline, Azerbaijan has not shown much interest, instead declaring that it will feed the first contracted gas into the rival Nabucco pipeline destined for Bulgaria and beyond.
Continue reading "Azerbaijani Gas Again on the Front Burner" »
New prospects for a Trans-Caspian Gas Pipeline (TCGP) from Turkmenistan to Azerbaijan have been receiving deserved attention in recent months. However, another project to pipe energy resources from the western to the eastern shore of the Caspian Sea also demands attention, with implications that loom as large as those of the TCGP. This is an overland oil pipeline that Kazakhstan intends to build from the Tengiz field, in the northwest of the country, to the port of Aqtau in the southwest.
Continue reading "Caspian pipelines ease Russia's grip" »
Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan have culminated years-long negotiations with agreements that increase the amounts of Kazakhstani oil to be shipped across the Caspian Sea, supplementing Azerbaijani crude in the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline. Still more significant, redevelopment and expansion of ports on Georgia’s Black Sea coast now prepare the way for Kazakhstani crude to enter the Odessa-Brody pipeline (OBP), which will be reversed again so as to flow east-to-west, and so to reach world markets by way of Gdansk. This oil will come from the massive offshore Kashagan field or even the onshore Tengiz field itself.
Continue reading "Kashagan Leads Kazakhstan To Increase Trans-Caspian Oil Exports" »
Ground was broken in Kazakhstan last week for construction of that country's segment of a natural gas pipeline from Turkmenistan to China, set to be the longest and most expensive such pipeline in the world - its length is usually given as 7,000 kilometers, and although this looks like a rounding-up of a distance exceeding 6,500 km it may when work is finished be a more accurate figure than the most recent construction estimate of US$26 billion.
Continue reading "Gas pipeline gigantism" »
The one-year anniversary of the EU's Partnership Strategy with Central Asia gets off to a slow start but is not without potential.
Continue reading "EU's Central Asia partnership, one year on" »
The strong recovery in Turkey's stock markets that preceded and followed the rejection last week by the country's Constitutional Court of prosecution calls to ban the political party of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan may be short-lived.
Continue reading "Turkey ruling spurs (brief) stock revival" »
The armed conflict between Russian and Georgia has further exposed the fragile position of the energy links running through the smaller country from the Caspian Sea to developed market economies
Continue reading "Oil in troubled mountains" »
With Georgian government websites shut down by cyber-attacks in the days immediately preceding hostilities, the Russian story of its army coming to the defense of South Ossetia in the face of Georgian assault gained currency. This script is still often invoked as a preface to any commentary or reportage on current developments. However, as facts begin to surface, it is increasingly revealed as a propaganda strategy planned in advance and contradicted by evidence on the ground, by the testimony of neutral observers, and by the increasingly transparent cynicism of its purveyors.
Continue reading "Russia’s Disinformation Campaign over South Ossetia" »
Moscow's equity markets, whose benchmark measure has declined with increasing rapidity since the start of the year, have turned worse with Russia's invasion of Georgia. The dollar-denominated RTS index is down 33% in three months and the ruble-denominated MICEX is nearly as much off at 28% in the same period.
Continue reading "Georgian invasion worsens Russian downturn" »
The realities of Turkey's economy and politics would alone have killed off the summer revival in the country's stock markets. Russia's invasion of Georgia, on Turkey's back doorstep, made sure.
Continue reading "Turkey has a rough road ahead" »
Türkiye’nin ekonomik ve siyasi gerçekleri tek başına, piyasalardaki yaz canlanmasının canına okurdu. Rusya’nın Türkiye’nin arka kapısı Gürcistan’ı işgali de bunu kesinleştirdi.
Continue reading "Türkiye’nin İşi Zor" »
Թուրքիայի տնտեսական և քաղաքական իրողությունները միայն բավական կլինեին երկրի արժեթղթերի շուկայում ամռանը գրանցված աշխուժությունը սպանելու համար: Իսկ Ռուսաստանի ներխուժումը Թուրքիայի դրկից Վրաստան դրան թափ հաղորդեց:
Continue reading "Թուրքիան դժվարին ճանապարհ ունի անցնելու" »
Russia's stock markets, hit hard by declines in world energy and commodity prices and done no favors by the Kremlin's decision to invade Georgia last month, are now declining at an even faster pace.
Continue reading "Russian equity flight accelerates " »
In mid-July, the Belgian prime minister Yves Leterme (Christian-Democrat Flemish party, CDV) tried to resign: for the third time. King Albert II once more refused to accept the resignation and appointed a three-person commission to resolve the deadlock. This week it reports back to him, although the verdict will not be known for some days.
Continue reading "Can Belgium Still Exist?" »
Ukraine is in the midst of a financial and banking crisis, exacerbated by political turmoil, that has driven the principal national stock equities indicator, the PFTS Index, down 78% from a high of 1,209 in mid-March to 266 on Monday. The country relies heavily on external finance, and its banking system is by some measures the most at risk after Iceland’s, which collapsed only days ago. On the basis of the cost of its credit-default swaps, Ukraine is the least creditworthy of all of Europe’s emerging markets.
Continue reading "Ukraine goes from orange to red" »
Kazakhstan, whose economy has endured a switchback progress since independence from the Kremlin in 1991, is discovering the benefits of salting away wealth in the good times as it seeks to survive the global downturn without recourse to foreign aid.
Continue reading "Kazakhstan does its own bailing" »
The Kazakhstan government, concerned about runaway costs and repeated delays in the vast Kashagan oilfield, has increased its role in the Italian-led consortium charged with developing the most important oil reserves in the Caspian Sea Basin.
Under the terms of a newly amended North Caspian Sea Production Sharing Agreement (NCSPSA), the share in the Agip KCO consortium held by state-run KazMunaiGaz will more than double to 16.81%, equal to those of Italian company Eni, ExxonMobil, Shell, and Total. ConocoPhillips and INPEX retain 8.4% and 7.56% respectively.
Continue reading "Kazakhstan reins in oil majors " »
Azerbaijan's state oil company SOCAR and Kazakhstan's state monopoly KazMunaiGaz this month signed an agreement setting out the main principles for a transport system to convey Kazakhstani oil across the Caspian Sea for entry into the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline and subsequent re-export to world markets. This represents a step forward in the realization of the Kazakhstan-Caspian Transportation System (KCTS) that, while long discussed, has become Kazakhstan's response to Russia's unwillingness and/or inability to implement the long-promised doubling of the capacity of the Caspian Pipeline Consortium (CPC) line.
Continue reading "Euro-Caspian energy plans inch forward" »
The political future of the Russian administration has become an implicit question mark as the fall in the price of oil drags the value of the rouble down with it.
Continue reading "Rouble joins Russia's pointers to decline " »
China's economy requires a minimum annual growth rate of 8% to maintain production levels sufficient to prevent unemployment from increasing, according to a general consensus inside and outside the country. Until recently, collective wisdom held that such a level of growth was likely to be maintained through 2009, easing the threat of social unrest as migrants, newly qualified university students and less-skilled school-leavers struggle to find work, while cushioning the global impact of declining demand for industrial metals and related natural-resource commodities.
Continue reading "Chinese demand a wobbly bulwark " »
The re-eruption of the conflict between Ukraine and Russia over payments for gas deliveries illustrates that developments in Eurasian energy geo-economics do not take vacations, even over the New Year holidays. The Ukrainian-Russian dispute, for example, takes place in circumstances (economic, financial, political, military, even cultural) that are different from those surrounding their last tiff three years ago. Its significance and its dynamics differ accordingly.
Continue reading "Reality wins over energy grand design" »
The crisis over Turkmenistan's gas, transmitted by Russia via Ukraine, demonstrates the need for other energy routes from the Caspian Sea region to Europe.
Continue reading "Turkmen gas almost in reach" »
Today, Thursday, the Chinese government released statistics showing that the country's economy grew at at an annualized rate of 6.8%, the slowest pace in seven years, during the last quarter of 2008. The performance follows a Fitch Ratings estimate at the end of last week that full-year 2009 growth would fall to 6% or below. The World Bank continues to insist on a 7.5% growth rate for the current year, based on the increasingly doubtful assumption of growing domestic demand. The International Monetary Fund has bruited a possible growth rate of 5%. Other estimates are being revised downwards, some even into negative territory.
Continue reading "Asia turns blind eye to facts" »
As Russia and China seek to augment their influence over the development of Kazakhstan’s energy production, Astana looks for other routes to overcome the restraints. The reinvigoration since 2007 of prospects for a Trans-Caspian Gas Pipeline (TCGP) with Turkmenistan's participation creates the possibility for Kazakhstan, which already cooperates with Azerbaijan on trans-Caspian oil shipments, to participate also with gas exports. Delays in the development of the offshore Kashagan field make associated gas from the onshore Tengiz oilfield the first candidate for such exports.
Continue reading "Kazakhstan Looks at the Trans-Caspian for Tengiz Gas to Europe" »
Turkey, facing a multi-billion dollar financing shortfall, will resume efforts to reach agreement with the International Monetary Fund on a stand-by facility later this month after an IMF mission departed Ankara on January 27 without a final settlement The last such program, which expired in May 2008, was only the most recent in a series going back nearly 10 years that has been nearly universally viewed as an "anchor" for instilling the financial discipline necessary to implement successive economic reform agendas.
Continue reading "Turkey, IMF talks go to the wire " »
Popular unrest and government collapse in Reykjavik in the wake of the ongoing global financial crisis are only the tip of the iceberg.
Continue reading "Meltdown in Iceland" »
Kazakhstan, its economy roiled by the global fall in prices of key earners oil and gas, may have to let its currency weaken further following the 18% devaluation earlier last week as the current account balance continues to worsen. On February 4, Kazakhstan's central bank devalued the tenge to the level of 150 to the US dollar and set up a 3% band around the new level. There was a hint of this coming when in mid-January Grigorii Marchenko was appointed the new chief of Kazakhstan's central bank.
Continue reading "Kazakhstan's tenge far from secure" »
Rising concern that Ukraine, suffering tumbling demand for its exports as the global economy slows down, is heading towards default on its international debt may yet nudge its government to rein in political infighting, even as leading factions position themselves for an election next year.
Continue reading "Divided Ukraine skirting default " »
The agreement announced late last month between Russia and China for construction of a pipeline branch to China from the East Siberia-Pacific Ocean (ESPO) oil pipeline is only one aspect of a relatively new strategic policy direction from Beijing to acquire foreign assets during the ongoing global economic downturn.
Continue reading "China on buying and lending spree" »
Talk of a Medvedev-Putin rift is no longer only talk, as the economic crisis already pulls the two further apart regardless of their intentions, but any rumor of the conflict producing an open split is highly premature.
Continue reading "Medvedev, Putin: Rift But No Split" »
The rebound in the international price of oil and the decline in the value of the rouble have helped Russian stock markets to stage an apparently strong bounce from their precipitous drop of 2008. The recovery, though, is less striking in relative terms and is doing little to assuage concerns about the ability of the country's large companies to pay billlions of dollars of debt coming due this year.
Continue reading "Russia recovery not yet enough" »
Разговоры о том, что между Медведевым и Путиным пролегла трещина, перестали быть только разговорами: экономический кризис разводит политиков в разные стороны независимо от их желания. Однако слухи об открытом расколе преждевременны. По мнению социологов, бунт Медведева против Путина невозможен, а его недавние шаги - всего лишь проявление популизма.
Continue reading "Медведев и Путин: трещина, но не раскол " »
Turkey is continuing to make unacceptable demands for the transit of Azerbaijani gas across its territory as part of the Nabucco pipeline project. That is unlikely to keep that gas from reaching Europe in the long run. The Turkish government is seeking to extract advantageous terms that, according to reports from Baku, include taking 15% of the transit gas for domestic consumption.
Continue reading "Turkey risks gas bypass" »
In mid-February, Russia and China signed an agreement providing for Chinese agencies to lend US$25 billion to the Russian energy trusts Transneft and Rosneft in return for the construction of a branch from the East Siberia-Pacific Ocean (ESPO) oil pipeline from Skorovodino to the Chinese border and the guaranteed supply of significant amounts of oil over the long term. In the wake of the breakdown of American efforts to build its tactical cooperation with the Central Asian states over Afghanistan and the “global war on terror” into a broader strategic vision, the ESPO accord agreement signifies a reestablishment of the ability of China and Russia to cooperate together on geo-economic questions even within the context of their competition for influence in Central Asia.
Continue reading "Does the ESPO Signal a New Sino-Russian Rapprochement?" »
The significance of the recent European Council summit is less its failure to address the full effects of the global financial crisis on Eastern members and more the rallying around a response that diverges from Washington’s.
Continue reading "Finance: Eastern Europe’s Response" »
В середине февраля Россия и Китай подписали соглашение, по которому китайские кредитные учреждения выдадут заем в 25 млрд. долларов российским энергетическим компаниям 'Транснефть' и 'Роснефть' в обмен на строительство ответвления нефтепровода 'Восточная Сибирь - Тихий океан' от Сковородино до китайской границы и гарантированные долгосрочные поставки значительных объемов нефти. После провала усилий США во встраиванию тактического сотрудничества с государствами Центральной Азии по вопросу Афганистана в более широкое стратегическое видение, соглашение о ВСТО означает, что Китай и Россия вновь способны вести сотрудничество по геоэкономическим вопросам даже в контексте своего соперничества за влияние в Центральной Азии.
Continue reading "ВСТО: сигнал о новом сближении между Китаем и Россией?" »
The European Council, in a meeting principally devoted to determining the European Union's policy towards its eastern members and preparing an EU position for next week's Group of 20 summit in London, also took an important decision last week on energy with a compromise to keep plans for the Nabucco gas pipeline on life-support.
Continue reading "Europe keeps Nabucco on life-support" »
The Taiwan presidential election victory of opposition Nationalist Party (KMT) candidate Ma Ying-jeou a year ago was expected to bring an upsurge in trade with the mainland resulting from increased economic integration across the strait - that was one of the winner's campaign promises.
Continue reading "Taiwan's ambiguous recovery" »
The leaders of Russia and Turkmenistan have been unable to agree on terms for the (re)construction of a Soviet-era gas pipeline in western Turkmenistan. While subsequent negotiations are not excluded, Ashgabat has declared its intent to allow companies other than Gazprom, including Western companies, to bid for the work. In the context of recent developments, a pattern begins to form that may signify the breaking of what is left of Russia’s hold on Central Asian gas transport, to which its relationship with Turkmenistan has been central in the post-Soviet era.
Continue reading "Moscow and Ashgabat Fail To Agree over the Caspian Coastal Pipeline" »
The hopes of the India's United Progressive Alliance as it heads towards next week's general elections are being encouraged by a stock-market revival that has seen shares recover 20% since the Satyam Computer Services fraud scandal broke on January 23.
Continue reading "Indian stocks give poll cheer" »
A sparkling performance by the Turkish stock market is defying gloom across the country's economy, which has shown little sign of lightening since a disillusioned public reined in support for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in municipal elections on March 29.
Continue reading "Turkish magic" »
The US$10 billion deal this month allowing China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) to purchase 50% of Kazakhstan's privately owned MangistauMunaiGaz (MMG) and a $5 billion loan from China will come as welcome boost to the Central Asian country's economy, which shrank in the first quarter after years of double-digit growth.
Continue reading "China deal helps out Kazakhs" »
Более ста лет назад сэр Халфорд Макиндер (Halford Mackinder) произнес знаменитые слова о том, что территории к востоку и северу от Каспийского моря могут стать "географической осью истории", выдвигая свою геополитическую теорию о евразийском "центре мира". Этот термин сейчас в равной мере применим и к Азербайджану, учитывая его роль на южном Кавказе. И вызвано это не только тем, что он обеспечивает самый надежный и самый эффективный транзит каспийских энергоресурсов на запад в Европу и за ее пределы.
Continue reading "Азербайджан может отвернуться в другую сторону" »
Over 100 years ago, Sir Halford Mackinder famously identified territories to the east and north of the Caspian Sea as the "geographical pivot of history" in his Heartland Theory of geopolitics. Much of that territory corresponds to modern-day Uzbekistan, whose importance was rediscovered in the wake of the disintegration of the multinational Soviet state. The term could now equally apply to Azerbaijan's role in the South Caucasus, and not only because it provides the most secure and efficient transit of Caspian Sea energy resources westward to Europe and beyond.
Continue reading "Azerbaijan can look the other way" »
The European Union (EU) and Turkey have resolved two major differences that were preventing agreement on the terms for the Nabucco natural gas pipeline, and the Turkish President Abdullah Gul is reported to have promised that a signing ceremony will take place on June 25 in Ankara.
Continue reading "Nabucco starts to shape up " »
The turn for the better in Taiwan's dealings with mainland China, resulting in improved access for businessmen and tourists across the Taiwan Strait and eased investment rules, could hardly have come at a better time for the island as its export-dependent economy reels from the global downturn. Stimulus efforts by the governments in both Beijing and Taipei are also helping to lift the prospects for economic growth after a dismal few quarters.
Continue reading "Taiwan goes back to work " »
Negative, even tragic, events have dominated recent news from the Korean Peninsula, yet the resilience of the South Korean economy, aided by government stimulus packages, has helped the equity markets to shrug off personal tragedy and war threats alike.
Continue reading "South Korea sticks to business" »
Prime Minister Najib Razak took over a tough assignment when he took office in Kuala Lumpur at the beginning of April, following the election victory of the United Malays National Organization (UMNO). He faced an economy in contraction, with a decline of 6.2% in gross domestic product (GDP) in the first three months of this year and about the same is expected for the second quarter. Not surprisingly, he has announced a stimulus package amounting to US$19 billion.
Continue reading "Malaysia tries for economic reset " »
Some small fanfare was given to the signature on May 24 between the presidents of Iran and Pakistan of an agreement for the construction of a gas pipeline running from the former's South Pars gas field through the latter's unstable Balochistan province to population centers in the east of the country, notably Lahore. This is the rump result of Iran's inability to come to terms with India for the Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) pipeline, as it was originally proposed.
Continue reading "Iran-Pakistan pipeline not a done deal" »
In a 1955 essay in The Economist, British historian C Northcote Parkinson formulated the now well-known "law" forever after eponymously associated with him, that work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion. Another of his aphorisms, less well known but still more cogent, states that delay is the deadliest form of denial. While the European Union was for years up until a May summit in Prague threatened with this latter lesson, it may now be Turkey that needs to remember it.
Continue reading "Nabucco is still alive" »
The unrest in China's far-west region of Xinjiang, notably in the local capital of Urumqi, comes after 15 years of development and transformation of the area to be a geo-economic springboard for projecting influence into Central Asia and the Caspian region in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Continue reading "Xinjiang: China's energy gateway" »
The signing this week of a transit agreement to govern the Nabucco natural gas pipeline marks an important staging post in bringing to reality the long-touted energy route, which is projected to run 3,300 kilometers from the Caspian Sea region to Europe. Yet it is important to understand what such a transit agreement is intended to do - and what it is not intended to do.
Continue reading "Nabucco ink starts to flow" »
Волнения в Синьцзян-Уйгурском районе разразились спустя 15 лет после начала масштабной трансформации этого региона в геоэкономический трамплин для китайского прыжка в бывшие советские республики.
Continue reading "Синьцзян - энергетические ворота Китая" »
In the English-speaking world, it was once popular to suggest the irrelevance of an idea by asking rhetorically, "But what's that got to do with the price of tea in China?" Today, however, everything in the global economy seems one way or another tied into the price of copper in China. The metal has acquired a higher profile than usual as an indicator of international economic health.
Continue reading "China's demand bends copper's value " »
Iran expects to deploy its first deepwater semi-submersible drilling rig in the Caspian Sea next month, following the conclusion that the country's shallow-water sector has no exploitable resources, according to hydrocarbon energy industry sources.
Continue reading "The Caspian boils again" »
Taiwan, still counting its dead more than a week after being swept by Typhoon Morakot, may have escaped economic loss on a scale that matches what is considered the fourth-worst such event in the past 18 years. The devastation killed at least 100 people and possibly several times that when the final count comes in, and agricultural losses are severe. Yet the physical plant of the all-important technology sector emerged unscathed and may even have profited from the weather, as the regions where it is located had been suffering from drought all summer and needed the rain to refill reservoirs on which it draws for its water-intensive chipmaking and other industrial processes.
Continue reading "Taiwan counts typhoon cost " »
In order to understand energy geopolitics in Asia, even in East Asia, it is no longer adequate to look westward to Central and Southwest Asia across the Arabian Peninsula to North Africa. A new, massive liquefied natural gas (LNG) development in Australia has just passed an important environmental hurdle, and China, India and Japan are lined up to be customers.
Continue reading "Australia approves gas megaproject" »
The South Korean economy continues to show its ability to bounce back rapidly from crisis, this time due mainly to the combined impact of a domestic stimulus and restocking of global inventories.
Continue reading "South Korea shows recovery skills" »
Question: There's an opinion, that during the Aqtau summit, the questions concerning Caspian sea were discussed, without Iran. What is your opinion on this? If, for example its true, how would it affect the future talks with all five Caspian littoral states?
Continue reading "Four-way Caspian Summit in Aqtau" »
[Thai translation of South Korea shows recovery skills.]
เศรษฐกิจเกาหลีใต้กำลังควบตะบึงเข้าสู่ภาวะฟื้นตัว เมื่อบรรดาผู้บริโภคของประเทศพากันใช้ประโยชน์จากแพกเกจมาตรการกระตุ้น เศรษฐกิจกันอย่างเต็มที่ ขณะเดียวกัน ผลิตภัณฑ์จากโรงงานของโสมขาวก็สามารถขายได้เพิ่มขึ้นมาก ด้วยความช่วยเหลือจากการที่ทั่วโลกพากันสต็อกสินค้าคงคลังกันอีกคำรบหนึ่ง
Continue reading "เกาหลีใต้โชว์ทักษะการฟื้นตัวทางเศรษฐกิจ" »
The presidents of Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Russia, and Turkmenistan ended their meeting in Kazakhstan's resort city of Kenderly last weekend with its purpose and consequences as clear as distant figures in an early autumn mist. Two elements did emerge more clearly than others - Turkmenistan's determination to diversify its energy export routes and to make future price talks with Russia tough going, and Iran's displeasure at not being invited to the party.
Continue reading "Four-way street in Kazakhstan" »
The difference of emphasis between Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, whose public statements more and more underline the need for economic rationality and transparency, and Prime Minster Vladimir Putin, who takes a different tack, remains in evidence as the economy recovers from precipitous decline.
Continue reading "Russia hangs on to recovery " »
Вопрос ограничения доступа Ирана к газовому проекту Набукко вызван недоверием общественности к выполнению этой страной своих обязательств, считает американский эксперт Роберт Катлер.
Continue reading "Общественность не доверяет партнерству с Ираном" »
В 2002 году Тегеран негативно отреагировал на военные маневры России на Каспии и отказался направить на них военных наблюдателей. Теперь ситуация иная. Россия с большими сомнениями относится к энергетическим проектам в регионе, поддерживаемым США. Кроме того, Москва не удовлетворена тем, что администрация Обамы не пошла на компромисс по системе ПРО.
Continue reading "Обозреватель “Asia Times” Роберт Катлер считает" »
Азербайджан является важнейшим звеном в транзите каспийской нефти на европейские рынки, отметил в ходе встречи с журналистами старший научный сотрудник Карлтонского университета, известный эксперт по евразийской политике профессор Роберт Катлер.
Continue reading "Эксперт по евразийской политике: «США высоко ценят проводимую Азербайджаном независимую политику»" »
Bu gün Azərbaycan Prezidenti Yanında Strateji Araşdırmalar Mərkəzi “Genişlənmiş Qara dəniz hövzəsi regionunda Azərbaycanın enerji strategiyasına geosiyasi amillərin təsiri” mövzusunda dəyirmi masa keçirib. SİA-nın məlumatına görə, tədbirdə əsas məruzəçi Kanadanın Karlton Universitetinin Avropa, Rusiya və Avrasiya tədqiqatları institutunun baş elmi işçisi, doktor Robert Katler idi.
Continue reading "Robert Katler: “Rusiya ilə Ukrayna arasındakı münasibətlər Avropanı Azərbaycanla enerji sahəsində əməkdaşlığa daha çox diqqət ayırmasına sövq edir”" »
[This article is the Russian translation (from http://www.inosmi.ru) of the Bulgarian translation (from the newspaper 24 Часа [Sofia]) of the Georgian translation (from the newspaper 24 Ⴑაათი [Tbilisi]) of an interview originally conducted in English, on Caspian and Caucasus region energy security, in Tbilisi on 30 September 2009.]
Continue reading "Роберт Катлер: 'Очень многое зависит от погоды'" »
«Проект прокладки газопровода по дну Каспия, с восточного берега в Азербайджан – Транскаспийский газопровод, наиболее реальный путь транспортировки среднеазиатского газа на западные рынки». Об этом заявил на встрече с журналистами старший научный сотрудник Карлтонского университета, известный эксперт по евразийской политике профессор Роберт Катлер.
Continue reading "Транскаспийскому газопроводу наметили путь" »
Фридрих Энгельс писал, что исторические события зачастую представляют собой «нежелательный результат» различных импульсов в «параллелограмме сил».
Continue reading "Серьёзные ставки в переговорах о газопроводах" »
АрмИнфо. В обозримом будущем энергетические потоки со стороны Каспия будут проходить в обход Армении. Такое мнение высказал сегодня журналистам эксперт по Южному Кавказу и Центральной Азии, профессор Мичиганского университета Роберт Катлер, выступая в Институте Кавказа в Ереване.
Continue reading "Американский эксперт: В обозримом будущем энергетические потоки со стороны Каспия будут проходить в обход Армении" »
French President Nicolas Sarkozy's visit to Kazakhstan for the signing of an energy pipeline deal marked a week that included two other significant events, including a novel approach to bank restructuring, that trace how the embattled country is seeking to surmount the economic crisis. Kazakhstan, Central Asia's largest economy, has moved to reinforce its banking system, hard hit by the world economic crisis, by agreeing with the creditors of Alliance Bank on terms for restructuring the financial institution. This is the first time that such a deal has been struck without the bank first having been taken under the state's protection.
Continue reading "Kazakhstan points route out of crisis" »
Визит президента Франции Николя Саркози в Казахстан для подписания сделки по трубопроводу ознаменовал собой неделю, на которой произошло два других важных события (в том числе новый подход к реструктурированию банка), "отслеживающие", как страна, приведенная в боевую готовность, стремится преодолеть экономический кризис.
Continue reading "Казахстан указывает на путь выхода из кризиса" »
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's visit to China this week is the latest indicator that the rapprochement in Russian-Chinese relations, initiated through the 2001 bilateral "Treaty on Good-Neighborly Relations, Friendship and Cooperation", which provided for increased Russian arms sales to China and the training of Chinese officers at Russian military schools, is developing steadily into closer strategic cooperation. Burgeoning cooperation in the energy sphere dates from Putin's December 2002 visit to China, as president, when it was agreed that a project for a gas export pipeline to China would be elaborated, with the Kovytka gas field being the most likely candidate for supply.
Continue reading "Price limit on China's Russian friendship" »
การไปเยือนจีนของนายกรัฐมนตรี วลาดิมีร์ ปูติน แห่งรัสเซียในสัปดาห์นี้ บ่งบอกให้ทราบว่าความร่วมมือในระดับยุทธศาสตร์ระหว่างประเทศทั้งสองกำลังมี การพัฒนาขยับเข้าใกล้ชิดกันมากยิ่งขึ้น อย่างไรก็ดี การที่ปักกิ่งตกลงใจที่จะใช้วิธีต่อรองอย่างเต็มเหนี่ยว สำหรับราคาก๊าซที่จะนำเข้าจากแดนหมีขาว อันเป็นท่าทีที่เปลี่ยนแปลงไปจากความอะลุ้มอะล่วยด้วยการเสนอให้เงินกู้แบบ ผ่อนปรนในโครงการเกี่ยวกับน้ำมันของมอสโกเมื่อต้นปีนี้ ก็เป็นเครื่องบ่งชี้ว่าความร่วมมือกันดังกล่าวนี้มีข้อจำกัดของมันอยู่
Continue reading "ราคายังเป็นตัวจำกัดมิตรภาพจีน-รัสเซีย" »
Визит российского премьер-министра Владимира Путина в Китай на этой неделе является последним показателем того, что сближение в российско-китайских отношениях, начатое в рамках двустороннего «Договора о добрососедстве, дружбе и сотрудничестве» 2001 г., который предусматривал увеличение поставок российского оружия в Китай и подготовку китайских офицеров в российских военных ВУЗах, стабильно перерастает в более тесное стратегическое сотрудничество.
Continue reading "Предел цены для китайской дружбы с Россией" »
In all the debate and speculation over the various pipelines planned for the Caspian-South Caucasus corridor and adjacent regions (Nabucco, South Stream, White Stream, and Trans-Caspian Gas Pipelines in addition to various oil pipeline projects), the troubled state of energy relations between Azerbaijan and Turkey has been lost from view, mainly due to their stellar cooperation in the past over the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline and South Caucasus Pipeline for gas in particular.
Continue reading "Azerbaijan and Turkey clash over energy" »
Зарубежные эксперты считают, что нынешняя стабилизация тенге является краткосрочной, а об укреплении национальной валюты можно будет говорить только после повышения сырьевых цен и решения проблем коммерческих банков. За прошедшие после 4 февраля дни о девальвации в Казахстане успели написать почти все влиятельные мировые издания. Для традиционного обзора прессы на радио Азаттык мы отобрали публикации, в которых речь идет о перспективах национальной валюты и экономики в целом.
Continue reading "Тенге будет продолжать девальвировать?" »
Более ста лет назад сэр Халфорд Макиндер (Halford Mackinder) произнес знаменитые слова о том, что территории к востоку и северу от Каспийского моря могут стать “географической осью истории”, выдвигая свою геополитическую теорию о евразийском “центре мира”. Значительная часть этой территории соответствует месту расположения современного Узбекистана, чья значимость вновь дала о себе знать после распада многонационального советского государства.
Continue reading "Азербайджан может отвернуться в другую сторону" »
Questions have been raised this month about whether the gas resources of Turkmenistan are in fact as spectacularly voluminous as verified last year by the British firm, Gaffney Cline & Associates.
Continue reading "Turkmenistan gas sets Ciceronian riddle" »
В этом месяце были подняты вопросы о том, являются ли на самом деле газовые ресурсы Туркменистана столь огромными, как было установлено в прошлом году английской фирмой "Gaffney Cline & Associates ". "Gaffney Cline & Associates" подтвердила, что новое газовое месторождение "Южный Йолотан" содержит от 4 трлн. до 14 трлн. кубометров газа, вероятнее всего- 6 трлн. кубометров. А месторождение "Яшлар" - от 0,3 до 1,5 трлн. кубометров, вероятность - 0,7 трлн. кубометров.
Continue reading "Туркменский газ становится цицероновской тайной" »
An Iranian official's declaration that his country has entered into negotiations with European firms about the supply of natural gas into the Nabucco pipeline intended to supply Europe via Turkey was rejected this week by one of the firms concerned.
Continue reading "Iran claim clouds Turkey's energy goals" »
Recent energy and other developments in Southwest Asia, particularly involving Turkey, Iran and Iraq, sketch the outline of an imminent reorganization of international relations in the region. This will have knock-on effects for Eurasia as a whole and the shape of the international system in coming decades. At the same time, it suggests new and unexpected relevance of the mid-20th century geopolitical theorist Nicolas Spykman.
Continue reading "The Rise of the Rimland?" »
The differentiation in Russian policy and politics between President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minster Vladimir Putin is becoming more accentuated.
Continue reading "Medvedev urges change to "primitive" economy" »
Azerbaijan's efforts to diversify gas export routes and reduce its reliance on Turkey as a transit country for moving the fuel on to Europe are increasing as its negotiations with Ankara over supplies continue to face difficulties. As talks with drag on with Turkey, Azerbaijan has recently added Iran and Bulgaria to its customer base.
Continue reading "Azerbaijan looks past Turkey" »
The distinguishing feature of Iraq's auction of oil rights this weekend is the relative absence of American companies, in contrast to five weeks ago, when US firm ExxonMobil and Anglo-Dutch Shell signed an agreement to develop the West Qurna Phase 1 field.
Continue reading "Surprises aplenty in Iraqi oil selloff" »
If the Chinese stock market is still an indicator of global investor appetite for risk, as analysts viewed it a few months ago, then that appetite has lately diminished. Perhaps they are finally absorbing some of the revelations about statistical manipulations.
Continue reading "Blindfolded on a cliff edge" »
China has now entered, or is trying to enter, a cooling phase of the economic stimulus that, according to reliable estimates, accounted for as much as 95% of the country's economic growth through the first nine months of 2009.Yet according to Caixin Media, a Beijing-based media group, commercial banks issued loans worth 600 billion yuan (US$88 billion) during the first full week of January, and this despite instructions from banking regulators and the People's Bank of China (PBoC) to the contrary.
Continue reading "China tries to cool down" »
The fiscal crisis between Athens and Brussels puts EU credit and currency problems in the spotlight.
Continue reading "Zoning In on Greece" »
Bangladesh, long known in the West as an "international basket case", is doing its best to consign to history the dismal label so firmly attached to it by US diplomat Henry Kissinger. The economy is humming and the stock market surging. Now the government is being urged to pursue reforms while the opportunity lasts.
Continue reading "Bangladesh breathes in hope" »
The continuity inherent in incumbent President Mahinda Rajapaksa's election victory, based on early returns, is likely to further strengthen confidence in Sri Lanka's economic revival after decades of civil war.
Continue reading "Sri Lanka's economy onwards and upwards" »
With the entry of Iraq into the mix of potential suppliers of natural gas for the Nabucco pipeline to Europe and the proliferation of alternative supply lines beyond the Russian-sponsored rival South Stream pipeline, the "classical" variant of the Nabucco pipeline is undergoing significant modification, just as it moves closer to final realization.
Continue reading "Reconfiguring Nabucco" »
The opening of the first segment of the Turkmenistan-China gas pipeline last month is only one in a series of recent events in Caspian Sea basin energy developments. It signifies Turkmenistan’s first real moves to break its dependence upon Gazprom and the Russian state for international sales of its energy resources. These developments are to the detriment of Europe, which remains dependent upon Russia and Turkey as transit countries and has been unable to push forward the implementation of its Nabucco pipeline project.
Continue reading "Turkmenistan-China Gas Pipeline Becomes a Reality" »
Ukraine's run-off election between Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and rival Viktor Yanukovych, to be held on Sunday, may decide the future of a pipeline that could be used to deliver Caspian Sea oil to Europe, bypassing both Russia and Turkey.
Continue reading "Ukraine poll may deliver oil to Europe" »
Of the "newly independent states" of the former Soviet Union, Kazakhstan continues to lead the economic recovery from the continuing global financial crisis, based in part on an innovative approach to financial restructuring of the banking sector that statutorily limits the prerogatives of creditors.
Continue reading "Kazakhstan innovates banking development" »
Headline stories have announced that China is no longer the largest holder of United States Treasury holdings. As Bloomberg News noted, for example, "China's Treasury holdings peaked at $801.5 billion in May, and net sales in November and December were the first consecutive months of reductions since late 2007." However, Chinese concern over US Treasury holdings is hardly new. Nine months ago, Premier Wen Jiabao publicly expressed worry over the safety of the country's China's Treasury holdings, and other officials have continued to air concerns about the increasing US fiscal deficit.
Continue reading "China diminishes US Treasury holdings" »
The EU has affirmed itself as the last resort to save Greece’s finances, but without making any specific promises and insisting that Greece must first do much more on its own.
Continue reading "Greek Tragedy Averted for Now" »
Viktor Yanukovych came first in the presidential elections in Ukraine, but Yuliya Tymoshenko has instructed lawyers to bring to the courts evidence of voting irregularities to put Yanukovych’s margin of victory under question. Even if the latter is able to muster a negative majority to oust her from office and form his own parliamentary majority, he may be forced to call new parliamentary elections. Nevertheless, he has already moved on the energy front through floating new proposals, if not yet able to offer them formally for legislative consideration. The elections in Ukraine change the odds also for other projects in the east-west energy corridor from Central Asia and the Caucasus to Europe.
Continue reading "Ukrainian Elections Complicate Southern Energy Corridor" »
In recent days, energy diplomats on both the Azerbaijani and Turkish sides have revealed that an agreement in principle over the price that Turkey will pay for Shah Deniz gas from Azerbaijan has been reached. However, there are several ongoing sets of simultaneous negotiations over Shah Deniz, also taking place in the context of larger implicit bargaining games over other the Caspian Sea basin deposits of natural gas and indeed the geo-economics of their supply to Europe over the next several decades. These subtleties must be unpacked in order to understand the wide-ranging significance of even seemingly small agreements.
Continue reading "Turkey and Azerbaijan Move Towards Agreement on Shah Deniz Gas" »
Various diplomats appear to be questioning the supposed competition between the Nabucco and the South Stream natural gas pipelines. In fact, Russia and Turkey are collaborating to block the full implementation of the EU’s Southern Corridor energy strategy so as to assert a duopoly over natural gas supplies to Europe.
Continue reading "Europe Focuses on Southern Energy Corridor" »
Kazakhstan, which is seeking to strengthen its influence over the scale and pace of development of its natural resource projects, appears to have the onshore Karachaganak natural gas venture in its sights after driving through a shake-up at the offshore Kashagan deposit.
Continue reading "Kazakhs tighten grip on Karachaganak" »
Казахстан, стремящийся усилить свое влияние над масштабом и темпом развития своих проектов по природным ресурсам, похоже, имеет в поле зрения прибрежное газовое месторождение Карачаганак после проведения коренной реорганизации на месторождении Кашаган.
Continue reading "Казахи и контроль над Карачаганаком" »
The South Korean economy, which last year scraped through the global slowdown without sinking into recession, returned to the recovery path last month after faltering in January, Finance Minister Yoon Jeung-hyun said on Friday, backed by a report that attributed earlier negative data to one-off factors such as heavy snow and an end to tax incentives for car purchases.
Continue reading "South Korea back on track" »
Statements by Azerbaijani and Turkish diplomats indicate that the two sides have reached an agreement in principle concerning the price that Turkey will pay for gas from the offshore Shah Deniz deposit for its own domestic consumption. With these signals, the two countries are on the road to settling issues related to conditions for Shah Deniz gas to transit Turkey to Europe through the Nabucco pipeline.
Continue reading "Locks turn in Nabucco door " »
The US stock markets have recently notched over a dozen consecutive days of upward movement. There is, however, no cause for complacency.
Continue reading "Not So Steady As She Goes" »
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's recent moves to weaken institutionally the two principal centers of resistance to the conservative-populist rule of his Justice and Development Party (AKP) have met with little resistance from the country's stock markets, buoyed by positive trade figures and upgrades in Turkey's sovereign debt ratings.
Continue reading "Stocks ride out Erdogan offensive" »
The EU is taking its time in deciding what real policy actions to implement regarding the crisis over Greek finances and the eurozone, but publics in Greece and elsewhere are not waiting to express their disenchantment with national and supranational elites.
Continue reading "Brussels Fiddles While Athens Strikes" »
Turkey last week strengthened its energy ties with Iraq by renewing a contract to import Iraqi oil to the Turkish Mediterranean Sea port of Ceyhan, where Azerbaijani oil also arrives via the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline. Earlier this year, it was announced that Iraq will export between 5 billion and 10 billion cubic meters per year of natural gas to Turkey for inclusion in the Nabucco pipeline carrying the fuel to Europe.
Continue reading "Turkey strengthens Iraqi energy ties" »
Евросоюзу не следует спешить и поздравлять себя с тем, как он поступил в ситуации, связанной с проведением президентских выборов на Украине. Будущее, а не прошлое, покажет, что произойдет дальше. И будущее должно отличаться от прошлого.
Continue reading "Белые пятна в отношениях ЕС и Украины" »
The EU should not be too quick to congratulate itself for its handling of the situation surrounding Ukrainian presidential elections. The future, not the past, will tell the story, and the future has to be different from the past.
Continue reading "Blind Spots in EU-Ukraine Relations" »
The Moscow metro bombings on Monday hit the Russian currency, the rouble, yet ironically were a factor in gains on the energy-biased local stock market, on concern that further attacks could push up oil prices.
Continue reading "Metro blasts pressure rouble" »
Ukraine's new government, formed by President Viktor Yanukovych after he was inaugurated in March, this week affirmed that the country's gas transportation network is for sale to no one, including Russian gas monopoly Gazprom. At the same time, Russia has made it clear that it is willing to cooperate with the European Union in any project to modernize the network, which includes more than 60,000 kilometers of pipe plus 71 compressed air plants and 13 underground gas storage facilities. Last year, it carried over three-quarters of natural gas exports from Russia to Europe.
Continue reading "Ukraine seeks pipeline threesome" »
The EU should recall Talleyrand’s dictum that “the devil is in the details” when evaluating Turkish constitutional amendments proposed by the ruling Justice and Development Party in Ankara, writes Robert M Cutler for ISN Security Watch.
Continue reading "EU Uncritical of Turkish Constitution Plan" »
A record surge in Chinese property prices has added new tension to China's high-wire act of maintaining the economic growth required for social stability while warding off overheating and at the same snubbing demands from the United States that the government allow the Chinese currency to appreciate.
Continue reading "China's economy feels the heat" »
The election of Derviş Eroğlu as president in northern Cyprus complicates Turkey’s EU accession negotiations, as well as the already thorny negotiations over the island republic’s reunification.
Continue reading "Complicating Cyprus" »
Wybór Dervisa Eroglu na prezydenta w północnym Cyprze komplikuje negocjacje akcesyjne Turcji z UE jak również już wcześniej trudne negocjacje na temat zjednoczenia wyspiarskiej republiki.
Continue reading "Komplikacja na Cyprze" »
Two events coincided this week to point towards further complications in Euro-Caspian energy geo-economics. Azerbaijan has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Georgia and Romania to promote liquefied natural gas (LNG) transportation across the Black Sea, and has separately announced the possibility of postponing a decision on the start-up of production from the offshore Shah Deniz Two natural gas field until 2017 (press reports cite various years from 2016 to 2018).
Continue reading "Caspian pipeline knots tighten" »
Last month, after years of on-again, off-again negotiations, Iran and Pakistan signed an agreement for a bilateral natural gas pipeline to be sourced from the South Pars deposit. India has since asked to reopen negotiations, from which it had earlier withdrawn, to make the project trilateral. While pricing issues between Iran and Pakistan appear to be resolved, questions about pipeline security in Pakistan, pricing with India, and the role or non-role of China, are only three of the sets of problems still awaiting resolution.
Continue reading "India Seeks to Re-enter New Iran-Pakistan Gas Deal" »
Concern continues to mount over a property bubble in China in the near term. Whereas earlier this year economic observers were suggesting that a bubble might burst in one to three years, the overdrive of the Chinese economic recovery has led BNP Paribas, for example, to warn of a 20% fall in real estate prices in the second half of the year. Bloomberg News this week quotes the head of Citigroup’s global head of real estate Thomas Flexner as calling the bubble in the Chinese housing market "very real".
Continue reading "China bubbles away" »
In Brussels Fiddles While Athens Strikes seven weeks ago, the Neronic allusion was intended half in irony, half as warning: This week Athens burned; and it is not yet even summer, the season known in southern Europe for wildfires.
Continue reading "Greek General Strike Turns Tragic" »
An anonymous but highly placed representative of the Azerbaijan state oil company, SOCAR, confided to Trend News Agency in Baku last week that agreement has been reached with Turkey concerning the price of Azerbaijani gas and its transit through Turkish territory.
Continue reading "Baku gas price deal moves Nabucco forward" »
Following the recent agreement on principles and prices between Azerbaijan and Turkey for bilateral gas sales, Azerbaijan this week increased again the amount of gas it is willing to provide to the Nabucco pipeline, this time to half its projected capacity.
Continue reading "Nabucco, and Baku, filling up on gas" »
As you know, Europeans with an interest in energy affairs get very excited when discussing the source of the gas they’ll in 5-10 years. Especially in Italy, where Berlusconi’s center-right government is openly defying EU policy on the matter and nurturing very close ties to Russia, the debate tends to be quite heated and often partisan. We would like then to here the view of an informed and independent outsider on this.
Continue reading "Interview by European Center for Energy Security Analysis (ECESA)" »
The murder by Naxalite insurgents of 35 civilians and police in a landmine attack on a bus in the eastern Indian state of Chhattisgarh on Monday, a month after another attack killed at least 75 policemen, barely registered among investors seeking to tap into the country's burgeoning economy.
Continue reading "Naxalites drill away at India's wealth" »
Эксклюзивное интервью 1news.az с профессором Института европейских, российских и евразийских исследований Карлетонского университета (Канада), Роберт Катлером (Robert Cutler).
Continue reading "Роберт Катлер: «Соглашение по газу между Азербайджаном и Турцией приближает осуществимый срок реализации Набукко»" »
“ABŞ doqquz aydan çoxdur ki, Bakıda müvəqqəti işlər vəkili səviyyəsində təmsil olunur. Bu, 1992-ci ildə yaranmış ABŞ-Azərbaycan münasibətlərinin tarixində ABŞ-ın Azərbaycan paytaxtında səfirsiz təmsil olunduğu ən üzün dövrdür. Bu cür vəziyyət isə istənilən halda ikitərəfli münasibətlərdə çətinlik yaradır”. Karlton Universitetinin (Carleton University) Avropa, Rusiya və Avrasiya Tədqiqatları İnstitutunun baş elmi işçisi Robert Katler (Robert M. Cutler) APA-nın Vaşinqtondakı müxbirinə belə deyib.
Continue reading "Robert Katler: “Demokrat Partiyasının erməni lobbisinin fikirlərini nəzərə alması ABŞ dövlətinin Azərbaycanla bağlı enerji siyasətinə təsir edir”" »
«Уже больше девяти месяцев США представлены в Баку временным поверенным в делах.» Со времени установления отношений между США и Азербайджаном в 1992 году, это самый долгий период представления интересов США в Баку без назначения посла. А такое положение, в любом случае, создает трудности в двусторонних отношениях». Об этом вашингтонскому корреспонденту АПА сказал главный научный сотрудник Исследовательского института Европы, России и Евразии Карлтонского Университета (Carleton University) Роберт Катлер.
Continue reading "Роберт Катлер: «То, что Демократическая партия учитывает мнения армянского лобби, влияет на энергетическую политику США»" »
Events this week confirm that Turkmenistan has taken a decisive strategic decision to diversify its gas exports not only beyond Russia but also beyond China.
Continue reading "Tectonic shift under way in Turkmen gas" »
In the wake of recent bank failures, high-level proposals suddenly abound for the taxation of financial transactions or financial institutions. But rather than give in to injunctions to "seize the time," we should instead observe Hippocrates' principle: “First, do no harm”.
Continue reading "Europe Sets Taxing Questions" »
Энергетические конференции в регионе Каспийского моря в последние годы сменяют друг друга с такой головокружительной скоростью, что некоторые представители отрасли и правительственные чиновники перестали относиться к ним серьезно. Правда, иногда сами организаторы получают от них больше пользы, если принимать во внимание резко возросшие сборы за участие. Тем не менее, проходящая в настоящий момент Международная конференция и нефтегазовая выставка, судя по всему, может стать исключением их этого правила. Эта семнадцатая по счету из серии подобных конференций и пройдет она в Баку.
Continue reading "Трубопровод Nabucco подстегивает каспийские проекты" »
Energy conferences in the Caspian Sea region have come so fast and furious in recent years that some industry and government figures consider them a dime a dozen. In fact, the organizers are sometimes the ones who draw most advantage from them, in view of steep fees for participation. Nevertheless, the current International Oil and Gas Conference and Exhibition looks to be an exception. It is the seventeenth in the series hosted in Baku.
Continue reading "Nabucco spurs Caspian projects" »
Labor unrest in China has reached the headlines of the Western media. The suicides at Foxconn and the strike at Honda have led to significant percentage wage increases that have been widely publicized. This will eventually increase somewhat disposable income and consumer spending in the country, encouraging a shift to production for the domestic market rather than for export. With the expected appreciation of the yuan during the course of this year, the wage hikes will inevitably make China’s exports more expensive for consumers in the developed countries, where they will consequently contribute to an increase in inflation.
Continue reading "China's labor unrest and the world economy" »
Tensions created by China's tearaway economic growth emerged on full display Thursday, when figures showed an almost 50% gain in exports in May and a near-record rise in house prices in the same month. The data kept pressure on the government to raise the value of the yuan, stoked fears of more moves to cool the economy, and sent stock prices sharply up - and then down.
Continue reading "Chinese exports surge, for now" »
Robert M. Cutler amerikai politológus-tanácsadó szerint a közép-európai országoknak muszáj együttműködniük az orosz befolyás csökkentéséért. Az oroszok a gázt politikai fegyverként használják, és a nagy nemzetközi vezetékekért folyó küzdelem akár fegyveres konfliktusok kitörésében is szerepet játszik. Az azeri gázmezők válthatják meg térségünket a moszkvai nyomástól.
Continue reading "Nekünk Azerbajdzsán kell" »
Petroleum Industry Review: In your opinion, how will the international energy market change, given the high energy demand (in the EU and the U.S. energy consumption increased by more than 40% since 1970, in Japan it doubled and in China it is more than four times higher) but also the decrease of the world hydrocarbons resources? What is your opinion concerning alternative energy sources? Is renewable energy a solution for the world economy during this time of crisis? Is it a solution for the future?
Continue reading "Interview by "Petroleum Industry Review" (Ploiesti, Romania)" »
Petroleum Industry Review: Cum evaluaţi evoluţia pieţei internaţionale de energie, având în vedere cererea crescută (în Uniunea Europeană şi în SUA consumul energetic a crescut cu peste 40% din 1970, în Japonia acesta s-a dublat, iar în China este de peste patru ori mai mare), dar şi declinul resurselor mondiale de hidrocarburi? Care este opinia dvs. cu privire la resursele alternative? Reprezintă energia regenerabilă o soluţie pentru economia mondială în perioada de criză? Dar pentru viitor?
Continue reading "Interviu cu "Petroleum Industry Review" (Ploiesti)" »
Despite recent improvements in Turkey's economic performance, political uncertainty is weighing on the country's stock markets, with little prospect of relief until the outcome is known of a September 12 referendum on proposed constitutional amendments.
Continue reading "Turkey's markets on hold" »
With moderate fanfare, yet another multilateral economic cooperation agreement was signed among a limited number of the Soviet successor states this month, in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan. Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia signed up to a customs union in the margin of a meeting of the EurAsian Economic Community (EurAsEC), which also counts Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan as members.
Continue reading "Russia tries a ménage à trois" »
В столице Казахстана Астане под несколько приглушенные звуки фанфар было заключено очередное многостороннее соглашение об экономическом сотрудничестве между некоторыми из стран-наследниц Советского Союза. На встрече Евроазиатского экономического сообщества (ЕврАзЭС) три его члена (Белоруссия, Казахстан и Россия) из пяти (остальные — это Таджикистан и Киргизия) подписали договор о вступлении в Таможенный союз.
Continue reading "Россия пробует "любовь втроем"" »
Adjusting the arcane rules governing exchange trading execution will not remedy broader financial-system problems and global macroeconomic mismanagement that are producing a new wave of volatility in the world's securities markets.
Continue reading "Volatility Returns to World Stock Markets" »
Embattled oil giant BP, which is looking for ways to meet bills arising from the Deepwater Horizon blowout in the Gulf of Mexico, has numerous assets it could sell to meet its obligations, but reports that these could include Caspian Sea projects appear to be unfounded.
Continue reading "BP set to remain in the Caspian" »
Investors are pouring money back into China's stock markets, helping to reverse a plunge of more than 27% this year, on signs that the government's efforts to cool the economy are having their effect and on the hope that policy tightening measures may thus be relaxed.
Continue reading "China on a razor's edge" »
Political friction over economic issues between the US and China has faded for the time being, but its sources remain and may reappear at any time.
Continue reading "US-China Economic Conflict: Not Dead, but Asleep" »
President Nursultan Nazarbaev of Kazakhstan publicly endorsed the Nabucco natural gas pipeline earlier this month, then criticized Europe for putting too much talk into the project and not enough action.
Continue reading "Nazarbaev faults Europe on Nabucco" »
The results of the bank stress test in Europe have been greeted with widespread skepticism; even though financial markets seem calmer, the system is not yet out of the woods.
Continue reading "Stress-Testing European Banks" »
South Korea's recovery from the crisis of 2007-08 was impressive in its speed, but the country's Finance Ministry this month acknowledges that the economy still faces "downside risks" because of a possible slowdown in the economies of its principal trading partners. Consumer prices rose 2.6% in July over July 2009, within the government's target range, and industrial output was up 16.9% year-on-year, after a revised 21.7% increase in May, according to the national statistics office.
Continue reading "Seoul questions recovery stamina" »
Belgium’s presidency of the European Council will not suffer from domestic Belgian political turmoil; indeed, the EU’s adjustment to the Lisbon Treaty’s new framework will likely be eased the fact that the Council’s new president is Belgian.
Continue reading "Belgium Guides New EU Course" »
Singapore's breathtaking economic growth, an annualized 24% compared with the previous three months, is unlikely to continue at the same pace as key trading partners such as the United States and the European Union struggle to maintain recovery momentum, according to the government.
Continue reading "Singapore shows its strengths" »
A "golden decade" lies ahead for Taiwan equities, according to CLSA Asia-Pacific Markets in a report published a day after the island's parliament approved an historic trade agreement with the mainland.
Continue reading "Golden period ahead for Taiwan" »
Bulgaria and Romania have over the course of the summer been setting down their markers as regards the Nabucco and South Stream pipeline projects in an on-again, off-again manner. What they finally decide may determine which pipelines from the South Caucasus and Turkey get built where in Southeast Europe. Major investment decisions are also on the line in coming months. It is consequently little exaggeration to say that the next year, if not the next half-year, will set the main lines of the blueprint for Caspian/Black Sea hydrocarbon development for the better part of the oncoming decade.
Continue reading "The Black Sea’s West Coast Weighs In On Caspian Sea Basin Pipelines" »
Jakarta's principal stock market index has more than doubled since President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono won the July 2009 presidential elections with a margin that made a run-off unnecessary. Yudhoyono's comfortable victory came three months after his Democratic Party coalition won 314 of the 560 seats up for election to the People's Representative Council, the country's legislature. The stage was set for a period of political stability that has encouraged investment by local and overseas companies, including South Korean steel giant POSCO, and consumer spending.
Continue reading "Indonesia to keep shining" »
In mid-August, BP Azerbaijan announced that oil from Turkmenistan is now entering the BTC in Azerbaijan and will constitute between four and five percent of its present throughput of 800,000 barrels per day (bpd), which is being upgraded to 1.2 million bpd with a view towards eventual inclusion of oil from Kazakhstan’s offshore Tengiz field. These practical steps of cooperation with Azerbaijan, combined with the mid-August announcement in Ashgabad of new directions in Turkmenistan’s gas export policy, point the way towards a European direction for future Turkmenistani production, not forgetting China and the possibility of South Asia, while Iran is given only marginal reference and Russia is ignored.
Continue reading "Turkmenistan Confirms Export Shift Away From Russia" »
When Najib Razak took over as Malaysia's prime minister at the beginning of April last year, following the election victory of the United Malays National Organization (UMNO), the country's main stock exchange index KLCI stood at 901.
Continue reading "Malaysia reaps reform benefits" »
The Turkish government's hopes for a victory in this weekend's closely fought referendum on changes to the constitution are being strengthened by an economic performance that in the first six months was possibly second only to China, after expansion of nearly 12% in the first quarter.
Continue reading "Turkish strength fragile in referendum run-up" »
Whatever doubts Sri Lanka's local and overseas investors had about constitutional amendments reinforcing President Mahinda Rajapaksa's already appreciable powers, they did not show up in the stock market in the week since parliament approved the changes.
Continue reading "Sri Lankan economy powers on" »
"We are currently constructing the East-West Pipeline [across southern Turkmenistan, which] will be laid along the coast of the Caspian Sea. … Nabucco is associated with this project." Thus spoke Turkmenistan's President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow at a press conference last week, as reported by many international sources, including Azerbaijan's Trend News Agency, despite the fact that these words did not appear in the official transcript of his remarks as cited by his government's news agency.
Continue reading "Turkmenistan signals Nabucco intentions" »
Kazakhstan's economy has responded strongly to the return of international demand for its energy, mining and manufacturing exports, growing at an 8% rate during the first half from the equivalent period in 2009. That is helping to fuel optimism that Astana looks like weathering the global financial crisis in much better shape than many other countries.
Continue reading "Kazakhstan continues economic recovery" »