Big Powers Jockey for Oil in Central Asia ; the US, Russia, China, and Others Have a Military or Business Presence

By Weir, Fred | The Christian Science Monitor, March 28, 2007 | Go to article overview

Big Powers Jockey for Oil in Central Asia ; the US, Russia, China, and Others Have a Military or Business Presence


Weir, Fred, The Christian Science Monitor


Here at Dushanbe airport, French Air Force planes sit on the tarmac, their blue, white, and red roundels looking a bit incongruous against the backdrop of the soaring, snowy Pamir Mountains.

A dozen miles away, Indian engineers are quietly reconstructing a former Soviet airfield. In central Tajikistan, Russia maintains a motorized infantry division of 10,000 men at a sprawling outpost, while the US is reportedly training Tajik forces in counterterrorism techniques.

They're all piling into a modern replay of the 19th-century "Great Game," in which the contending Russian and British Empires vied for land and influence amid these same Central Asian desert wastes and towering mountain peaks.

In this round, the main prize is control over pipelines that will deliver an estimated 5 percent of the world's dwindling energy reserves to market. And the players are far more diverse: In addition to the US, China, France, and India, the region's five post- Soviet states are getting into the game, giving the local hazards that stalk them - including faltering authoritarian governments, rising Islamic militancy, and a wave of drug trafficking that originates in the poppy fields of Afghanistan - a new international dimension.

"The game in Central Asia is very much about competition between the powers," says Dmitri Suslov, an expert with the independent Council on Foreign and Defense Policy in Moscow. "But this time the countries of the region are players themselves, using the contradictions between Russia, the US, the European Union, and China for their own benefit. It's becoming very complicated."

It's not only Tajikistan where world powers have taken to flying their flags, especially since the 9/11 attacks focused attention on the dangers of state failure in this volatile region.

In neighboring Kyrgyzstan, gleaming rows of US Air Force KC-135 midair refueling tankers line the airstrip at Manas International Airport; Russia flies Sukhoi-27 fighters from its base at nearby Kant. China is said to be eyeing its own Kyrgyz military presence. And Germany stations 300 troops with helicopters at Termez, in next- door Uzbekistan.

West seeks Russia-free energy

On Tuesday and Wednesday this week, a delegation of European Union officials, led by German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, is meeting with foreign ministers of five Central Asian states in the Kazakh capital, Astana, to discuss deepening ties. The EU has declared an "Energy Dialogue" with Central Asia a key foreign policy goal, as part of a general effort to wean Europe from a perceived overdependence on Russian supplies. That coincides with US purposes in the region and, experts say, this is the main play to watch as the game develops.

"The Central Asian countries are still very much locked into the Russian pipelines and infrastructure and must sell their oil and gas to world markets on Russian terms," says Ivan Saffranchuk, Moscow director of the independent World Security Institute. "The Western idea is that these countries will have real sovereignty only when they are able to independently sell their resources."

The US strongly backed the recently opened $4 billion Baku- Ceyhan pipeline, which carries Caspian oil to the West without Russian participation. Mr. Suslov says that Washington is urging hydrocarbon-rich Kazakhstan to break free from Russia's grip and build links to the Baku- Ceyhan network. China has recently managed to buy a key Kazakh oil company and in 2005 a 1,000-mile pipeline began carrying Kazakh crude to China. It reportedly has plans to extend the pipeline westward by 2011 to funnel Caspian oil eastward.

Fears of instability, Islamist influence

Two years ago this week a lightning revolution overthrew Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev, and the little mountain state has been mired in unrest ever since. A few weeks later a putative Islamist uprising at Andijon, Uzbekistan, was brutally put down by forces loyal to Uzbek strongman Islam Karimov.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Big Powers Jockey for Oil in Central Asia ; the US, Russia, China, and Others Have a Military or Business Presence
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.