SIGNIFICANCE OF THE GEORGIAN-SOUTH OSSETIAN CONFLICT FOR TURKISH FOREIGN POLICY

Savaş GENÇ


Savaş Genc, Professor, Department of International Relations, Fatih University (Istanbul, Turkey)


In the 20th century, the world reconciled itself to the Soviet Unions influence in the Caucasus and the Central Asian Region. The West, particularly the U.S., wanted to be a major if not the main actor in this power game after the collapse of the Soviet system. Its first goal, certainly, was to gain control over the wealthy oil and natural gas reserves of the Caucasian and Central Asian nations, but its next goal was no less significant: diverting oil around Russia and preventing Moscow from reasserting its control over the Caucasus and Central Asia. Georgia was preferred as the primary pro-Western state for secure transportation of the huge oil and gas prosperity of the neighboring regions. So when the main Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline for transporting oil through Georgia was completed in 2005, it was hailed as the most important success U.S. strategy had scored over Russia and helped to diversify its energy deliveries, given the instability of the Middle East.

Now energy experts declare that the hostilities between Russia and Georgia could intimidate Americas plans to gain access to more of Central Asias energy resources. At the other end of the continent are China and India whose desire for energy will keep the struggle for supplies going, as well as increase pressure to hike oil and gas prices. Georgia and the Caucasus, under the observant eyes of Russia, whose imperial desires are not loathe to resorting to military methods, no longer appear to be the safe passage for oil and gas as was formerly believed. Western states and multinationals, as well as the Central Asian and Caspian governments, may now be more unwilling to build new pipelines or move large volumes of energy resources along this corridor. One thing is certain: Russia headed by a leader who sees his countrys future path to global power through the monopolization of energy resources and pipelines and who has demonstrated his inclination to use armed force to tame dissidents to that end will be the main actor in determining the regions energy future. This issue threatens to dash the hopes of the U.S. and its Western allies of reducing their dependence on oil supplies from the Middle East and shifting them to the Caucasus and Central Asia.

The most recent Russian attack on Georgia has left American policy, intended to drive a wedge between Russia and the old Soviet Central Asian countries, in a quandary. The success achieved by the BTC pipeline could not be repeated in order to move oil out of Kazakhstan via a non-Russia route. A large portion of oil from the rich Tengiz fields passes through the northern Caspian to the Russian Black Sea port of Novorossiisk. This new pipeline is called the Caspian Pipeline Consortium. It had optional routes in the planning phase, but the Russian threat consolidated the present route.

Georgia is very important for the EU in terms of energy security. It is the only country where pipelines transporting natural gas and oil from the Caspian area that do not cross Russian territory can be laid. In other words, in the event it can protect its territorial integrity, Georgia is the only state that..


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