GUAM AND THE TRANS-CASPIAN GAS TRANSPORTATION CORRIDOR: IS IT ABOUT POLITICS OR ECONOMICS?

Rustem ZHANGUZHIN


Rustem Zhanguzhin, D.Sc. (Political Science), leading research fellow at the Institute of World Economy and International Relations of Ukraine (Kiev, Ukraine)


I. New Songs to Old Tunes

The question presupposes preliminary inventory auditing of the oil and gas resources of the Caspian shelf and identification (at least within the scope of this article) of the best routes for bringing them to the world markets and which are undoubtedly the most desirable prize of the political and economic rivalry that has been unfolding in the region over the last decade.

In the Caspian-Black Sea Region, the European Union and the United States have concentrated on setting up a reliable logistics chain to connect Central Asia with the European Union via the Central Caucasus and Turkey/Ukraine. The routes form the centerpiece of INOGATE (an integrated communication system along the routes taking hydrocarbon resources to Europe) and TRACECA (the multi-channel Europe-Caucasus-Asia corridor) projects.

The TRACECA transportation and communication routes grew out of the idea of the Great Silk Road (the traditional Eurasian communication channel of antiquity). It included Georgian and Turkish Black Sea ports (Poti, Batumi, and Ceyhan), railways of Georgia and Azerbaijan, the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline, ferry lines that connect Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan with Azerbaijan across the Caspian Sea/Lake (Turkmenbashi-Baku; Aktau-Baku), railways and highways now being built in Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, and China, as well as Chinese Pacific terminals as strategically and systemically important parts of the mega-corridor.

It was back in 1996 that the U.S. had put forward the idea of a Trans-Caspian gas pipeline, which later took the form of the transnational GUAM project (Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, and Moldova). The leaders of Georgia (Eduard Shevardnadze) and Azerbaijan (Heydar Aliev) at that time both claimed authorship of the project, which generated a stream of publications and many years of discussions.

Under the initial plan, one of the routes of the new strategic gas pipeline (the construction of which was to begin in 2008) was expected to connect Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan before crossing to Azerbaijan, where it was expected to join the Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum and Nabucco pipelines (it was expected that the latter would be completed by 2010). This means that the gas extracted in the Caspian shelfs eastern zone would have.


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