Georgia’s pipelines to the West remain vulnerable
As the conflict in Georgia evolves, the oil pipeline that head to the Westr emain vulnerable as Moscow seems to emerge as the immediate winner.
In less than a week of military operations sparked by Georgia's assault on its breakaway province of South Ossetia, Moscow is emerging as the immediate winner. A still-stunned West is looking for ways to censure Russia for its "disproportionate" incursion into Georgia that has reshaped the strategic game in the Caucasus and beyond to Russia's great advantage. "If the Russians stop hostilities now, they will have redrawn the whole strategic situation in the Caucasus, to the detriment of the Americans," says François Heisbourg, special adviser to the Foundation for Strategic Research in Paris.
For the past decade Georgia has been championed as a reliable country through which new pipelines, safely controlled by Western companies, could bypass both Russia and Iran. On the face of it, the past week has made a mockery of that claim. But not completely. Georgia will point out that its energy infrastructure survived the war unscathed: no pipeline was bombed. Russia, mindful of the need for good relations with Azerbaijan and Turkey, has been careful to point out that this was not an oil war.
Yet the crisis—including the dangerously unresolved dispute between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Karabakh—raises wider issues. South Caucasus is supposed to be the location for the next generation of so-called “fourth corridor” projects, by means of which Western strategists dream of ending Europe’s dependence on Russian gas and getting Caspian gas to European markets.