September 1, 2008

Russia Trying to Block East-West Energy Corridor – Georgian Daily

Russia wants to establish control over Georgia in order to block the East-West energy corridor, Georgian newspaper Rezonansi has said. Georgia needs to become a member of NATO since the pipelines that are to deliver Caspian energy resources to Europe via Georgia "can only operate under the umbrella of a powerful international security system", Rezonansi noted. The following is an excerpt from Lasha Tughushi's editorial in privately-owned Georgian daily newspaper Rezonansi on 1 September headlined "What should we expect?"; subheadings as published:

Russian President Dmitriy Medvedev who has made some hasty moves lately is now planning to sign "interstate" agreements with Sukhumi and Tskhinvali. These agreements will naturally provide for military cooperation among other things. By signing the documents, Russia will try to legitimize the occupation of Georgian territories. The Poti port and the town of Senaki remain occupied too. While being located on the road that links the eastern and the western parts of the country, in terms of global geopolitics, they are also part of the corridor linking the East with the West.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel protested against Russia's failure to honour the six-point cease-fire agreement brokered by French President Nicolas Sarkozy a couple of days ago. Merkel also spoke of several proposals about a new Neighbourhood Policy. She mentioned Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine along with the countries of the South Caucasus. Naturally, the energy corridor that Georgia is a part of should be a key element of this new policy. The possibility of delivering the energy resources of the Caspian states (Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan) to Europe is being discussed.

Gifts from Russia

Russia has consistently created problems for the West in the field of energy.

[Passage omitted: Russia is trying to use its energy resources to attain political objectives]

What is Russia's goal? It wants to establish control over Georgia in order to block the East-West energy corridor. This will make it possible for Moscow to gain an almost complete control over the rich energy resources of the Caspian region as well as a large part of the deliveries of gas and oil both to the West and to the majority of Asian countries. Moscow will consequently be able to step up the pressure on the West. In an article published in the Observer, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown called on the EU to immediately establish ties with other producers of oil and gas in order to defend Europe against the threat.

In this context, the decision to preserve and develop the East- West energy corridor would imply depriving Russia of the possibility to establish a monopoly over the Caspian energy resources.

Gas and security

It is vitally important for the West to find an alternative route. Such a route can only operate under the umbrella of a powerful international security system. Georgia's security which implies, among other things, the protection of the pipelines and the transport and communication facilities located on its territory can be safeguarded through the country's accession to NATO. Georgia will find it difficult to do this on its own.

There is a different option too: the country could form an alliance and develop a partnership outside NATO. This can be done, for example, through a bilateral agreement with the United States. Washington has these kinds of ties with Saudi Arabia. The partnership between the two countries guarantees the security of the latter.

There are two options and one does not exclude the other.

Positive and negative

The EU will apparently take some steps to bring Georgia closer to itself. For a start, the union is likely to offer economic support. At the same time, they need new corridors to safeguard their own economic and energy security. For this reason, they need to act to implement the Nabucco and the White Stream energy projects. The White Stream is the route of a pipeline that will deliver Caspian gas to Europe via Georgia, Ukraine and the Black Sea.

Georgia should aim to expand the possibilities of economic collaboration with the West through measures like free trade regime, while introduction of simpler visa procedures is also important. Naturally, the West is likely to offer aid in order to help Georgia revive its economy.

It will be difficult to manage domestic economic processes and to implement regional energy projects unless there is stability. There will be continuous pressure on Russia in order to force it to withdraw its troops that remain in Georgia in violation of the cease- fire agreement. Georgia must also avoid domestic disturbances and reinforce the process of democratization in order to overcome the crisis. This is probably what the West expects us to do.

Regardless of whether the EU imposes sanctions on Russia today, its attitude to Moscow will not be the same as before in the foreseeable future. For this reason, we need to make the right decisions. We need to show understanding towards their position and return gradually to the large Western family.

Originally published by Rezonansi, Tbilisi, in Georgian 1 Sep 08 pp 1, 2.

(c) 2008 BBC Monitoring Central Asia. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.