The Streetwise Professor (Dr. Craig Pirrong) has a post today urging the State Dept. to get its act together in regards to the creation of alternative export routes for Central Asia’s gas and oil supplies. He writes:
While the Americans and Europeans engage in long distance happy talk, they are not doing the face-to-face horse trading (almost literally–Putin left Kazakhstan with a beautiful stallion) needed to do business in that part of the world. Not to say that it is easy. The governments in the region are authoritarian and corrupt. Moreover, Russia is next door, while the US and Europe are far, far way; like I said many months ago, Turkmenistan is so close to Russia, so far from God. These governments fear color (color revolutions, that is)–as does Russia; Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan fear that US/EU support will be tied to demands for reform, demands that the Russians will never make. Moreover, Kazakhstan has a large Russian population. It is surely paying close attention to how Russian nationalists are making trouble in Estonia. Indeed, I would not be surprised to learn that the FSB is stirring up the Nashiniks in Estonia in part to send a message to other countries with a large Russian population. It is one thing to lose when the odds are against you. It is something else altogether not to get in the game at all. The Russians have some strategic advantages in this region, but we certainly have some arrows in our quiver as well, but we are not even forcing Putin to break a sweat. The matter should be particularly pressing for the Europeans, but they can’t seem to get their energy act together.
And here are some recent posts on the subject from RA: Russia Moves to Block the Trans-Caspain Export Route Russia’s Capture of Central Asian Energy And some intrigue from Global Witness: It’s a Gas. Funny Business in the Turkmen-Ukraine Gas Trade