The Tattered Sweater

Trans Caspian.jpgWhat doesn’t seem to be much appreciated is that the main problem isn’t really Georgia. It’s that Georgia is the thread hanging off the tattered sweater; you pull it, and the sweater falls apart.”

This quote, from Steve LeVine in BusinessWeek, introduces a new Jamestown Foundation report on the strategic implications of the 2008 war in Georgia on the Black Sea/Caspian region, NATO, and the U.S. and Europe in general. The gist of the report is that “In the long run, Russia may face very serious problems of separatism on its own territory due to Russia’s recognition of the breakaway provinces of Georgia. Given these uncertainties, it may be natural to expect that there will be stronger drive to get away from: 1) dependency on Russian energy in Europe; and 2) dependency on Russian transit infrastructure in Caspian /Central Asia region. In the long run, that may be reflected by Russia’s weakened strategic position in Europe and Central Asia.” 

Much of the report is devoted to the protecting the delicate transit infrastructure of the Caucasus:

“The August war in Georgia demonstrated some risks associated with the functioning of the transit energy corridor in the southern Caucasus. It also demonstrated the need for broader security guarantees for a region that is vital to European and global energy security. The most important finding of the paper is that while the corridor has a tremendous potential to augment its transit capabilities with new pipelines, railroads, marine and air ports, the security of the South Caucasus transportation corridor cannot be taken for granted. Moreover, Western countries will need to ensure stability and security in the region in order for the corridor to meet its full potential.”