CENTRAL ASIA AND THE CASPIAN: A NEW STAGE IN THE GREAT ENERGY GAME

Igor TOMBERG


Igor Tomberg, Ph.D. (Econ.), leading research fellow, Center of Energy Studies at the Institute of World Economy and International Relations, RAS (Moscow, Russia)


The events that took place early in September 2006 can be described as the starting point of a new round of the Great Game for control over the Central Asian and Caspian gas resources. The near monopoly domination of Russia and Gazprom in this part of the world is becoming a thing of the past. China, which signed contracts on the delivery of over 100 bcm of gas with Russia and the Central Asian countries, has moved to the fore, thus tipping the balance of forces. The fact that the huge contractual amounts have not yet been confirmed either by available resources or by adequate transportation facilities testifies that the countries involved are working toward new and more acceptable rules on the market that is just taking shape.

The rivalry over the energy sources of Central Asia and the Caspian is rooted in the 19th century when Britain and Russia were locked in the so-called Great Game over the region. Early in the 20th century, the Caspian supplied the world with half the oil it consumed; this was where the huge wealth of the Nobels and Rockefellers originated. When the


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