Petropolitics at heart of Russia-Georgia clash
Oil-pipeline routes, market leverage make struggle a 'battle for energy.'
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If the pipeline crossing Georgia, bringing approximately a million barrels of Caspian oil a day to the West, remains shut down for much longer, it could result in higher oil prices.
"We could see $4 a gallon gasoline again," warns Edward Yardeni, an American consulting economist.
The 1,100-mile Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline provides only about 1 percent of the global demand for oil. But, as Prof. Michael Klare of Amherst College notes: "There's not a lot of spare [crude oil] capacity" in the world.
In the long-running struggle for control of Caspian oil and gas and influence in the ex-Soviet states of that region, the clash has been a blow to US clout.
"The Russians come out of this as winning this round," says Professor Klare. "They are the power brokers in this part of the world…. But there will be more skirmishes to come."
Klare, author of "Rising Powers, Shrinking Planet: The New Geopolitics of Energy," sees the conflict as "not a battle for democracy," as portrayed by Washington. "It was a battle for energy," he says.
In his State of the Union Address in 1980, President Jimmy Carter proclaimed what has become known as the "Carter doctrine." It stated that the US would use military force if necessary to defend its national interest in the Persian Gulf region. Carter saw the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan at that time as "a grave threat to the free movement of Middle East oil."
President Clinton, as Klare sees it, expanded the Carter doctrine "more or less" to include Caspian oil. The BTC pipeline, taking crude from Azerbaijan through Georgia to the Turkish port of Ceyhan, where it is loaded on tankers for the international market, was "Clinton's brainchild," says Klare.