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Free Riding in Georgia

Peter Kiernan has a pretty good piece in World Politics Review which argues that Washington the West throughout most of the 1990s were accomplishing a lot with very little resources in the Caucasus, but now with Moscow’s assertion by invasion, the “free ride” is over. I am not sure that I agree with him that the war did not represent a move on the energy route, but it is still too early to speak with any authority about that.

The construction of the BTC pipeline was a strategic victory for the Clinton administration, which was able to overcome initial oil company skepticism and Russian opposition. By actively helping to secure the supply of energy from the Caspian region via its preferred routes, the U.S. became a player in this previously forgotten part of the world. “All strategic contracts in Georgia, especially the contract for the Caspian pipeline, are a matter of survival for the Georgian state,” Mikheil Saakashvili, who soon became Georgia’s president, said in 2003, at the height of that country’s Rose Revolution. But the American courtship of Georgia — and its earlier courtship of Azerbaijan — was a development that did not go unnoticed in Russia.