PIPELINES IN CENTRAL ASIA AND THE CASPIAN REGION: COMPETITION TAKES A NEW TURN
Sergei Zhiltsov, D.Sc. (Political Science), Professor at the Chair of Political Sciences, Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia (PFUR) (Moscow, the Russian Federation)
During their more than twenty-year history, the countries of the Caspian Region and Central Asia have achieved remarkable success in crude hydrocarbon production. The appearance of additional volumes of oil and gas in the Caspian and Central Asian countries has made it important to find ways to deliver them to the foreign markets, turning energy and transportation-communication factors into one of the top priorities in regional development.
The history of current pipeline projects in the Caspian Region and Central Asia is compelling the regional states to exert efforts to reduce Russia’s transportation-communication domination. The Caspian and Central Asian countries that pin their hopes on oil and gas as a way to confirm their independence and expand their cooperation with Western states are focusing priority attention on overcoming their dependence on Russia and diversifying pipeline routes. This has caused a shift in accents toward hydrocarbon resources in foreign policy, including in pipeline transportation.
In addition to the plans for building gas and oil pipelines, geographical considerations are making significant corrections to the implementation of pipeline projects. In the 1990s, large-scale pipeline projects could only be carried out in the Caspian Region with the active participation of the Black Sea countries, which acted as an energy bridge for delivering hydrocarbon resources from the Caspian fields. The pipeline projects eventually gave rise to the Black Sea-Caspian link, which became a backbone for the new international relations forming and served as a foundation for joining the two regions into a unified geopolitical area. As new projects for delivering hydrocarbon resources from the Central Asian countries through the Caspian Sea appeared, the term “Caspian-Central Asian region” came into scientific circulation, reflecting the growing interconnection and interaction of the two regions in implementing pipeline projects.
In recent years, pipeline projects in the Caspian and Central Asia countries have been acquiring increasing importance. As new data about oil and gas reserves appear and industrial production begins, interest in export pipelines is increasing, attracting the attention not only of the Caspian and Central Asian countries, but also of foreign states and leading oil and gas companies. This situation means that the competition among export routes will remain intense.
This article examines the results of implementing pipeline projects in the Caspian Region and Central Asia and analyzes the factors hindering the building of export routes. It focuses particular attention on the geopolitical struggle that is largely generated by pipeline competition.
Keywords: pipelines, Caspian Region, Central Asia, energy policy, oil, gas.