|Revolution, geopolitics and pipelines
By F William Engdahl
After a short-term fall in price below the $50 a barrel level, oil has broken
through the $60 level and is likely to go far higher. In this situation one
might think the announcement of the opening of a major new oil pipeline to pump
Caspian oil to world markets might dampen the relentless rise in prices.
However, even when the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries agreed on
June 15 to raise its formal production quota by another 500,000 barrels per day
(bpd), the reaction of NYMEX oil futures prices was to rise, not fall.
Estimates are that world demand in the second half of 2005 will average at
least 3 million barrels a day more than the first half of the year.
Oil has become the central theme of world political and military operations
planning, even when not always openly said.
Caspian pipeline opens a Pandora's box
In this situation, it is worth looking at the overall significance of the May
opening of the Baku to Ceyhan, Turkey, oil pipeline. This
kilometer long oil pipeline was completed some months ahead of plan.
The BTC (Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan) pipeline was begun in 2002 after four years of
intense international dispute. It
cost about US$3.6 billion, making it one of the most expensive oil projects
ever. The main backer was British Petroleum (BP), whose chairman, Lord Browne,
is a close adviser to Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair. BP built the
pipeline through a consortium including Unocal of the US, Turkish Petroleum
Inc, and other partners.
It will take until at least late September before 10.4 million barrels can
provide the needed volume to start oil delivery to the Turkish port of Ceyhan
on the Mediterranean Sea. Ceyhan is conveniently near to the US airbase
Incirlik. The BTC has been a US strategic priority ever since president Bill
Clinton first backed it in 1998. Indeed, for the opening ceremonies in May, US
Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman attended and delivered a personal note of
congratulations from US President George W Bush.
As the political makeup of the Central Asia Caspian region is complex,
especially since the decomposition of the Soviet Union opened up a scramble in
the oil-rich region of the Caspian from the outside, above all from the US, it
is important to bear in mind the major power blocs that have emerged.
They are two. On the one side is an alliance of US-Turkey-Azerbaijan and, since
the "Rose" revolution, Georgia, that small but critical country directly on the
pipeline route. Opposed to it, in terms of where the pipeline route carrying
Caspian oil should go, is Russia, which until 1990 held control over the entire
Caspian outside the Iran littoral. Today, Russia has cultivated an uneasy but
definite alliance with Iran and Armenia, in opposition to the US group. This
two-camp grouping is essential to understanding developments in the region
Now that the BTC oil pipeline has finally been completed, and the route through
Georgia has been put firmly in pro-Washington hands, an essential precondition
to completing the pipeline, the question becomes one of how Moscow will react.
Does President Vladimir Putin have any serious options left short of the
ultimate nuclear one?
A clear strategy
A geopolitical pattern has become clear over the past months. One-by-one, with
documented overt and covert Washington backing and financing, new US-friendly
regimes have been put in place in former Soviet states which are in a strategic
relation to possible pipeline routes from the Caspian Sea.
Ukraine is now more or less in the hands of a Washington-backed "democratic"
regime under Viktor Yushchenko and his billionaire Prime Minister Yulia
Timoshenko, known in Ukraine as the "gas princess" for the fortune she made as
a government official, allegedly through her dubious dealings earlier with
Ukraine Energy Minister Pavlo Lazarenko and Gazprom. The Yushchenko
government's domestic credibility is reportedly beginning to fade as Ukrainian
"Orange" revolution euphoria gives way to economic realities. In any event, on
June 16 in Kiev, Yushchenko hosted a special meeting of the Davos World
Economic Forum to discuss possible investments into the "new" Ukraine.
At the Kiev meeting, Timoshenko's government announced that it planned to build
a new oil and gas pipeline from the Caspian across Ukraine into Poland, which
would lessen Ukraine's reliance on Moscow oil and gas supplies. Timoshenko also
revealed that the Ukrainian government was in positive talks with Chevron, the
former company of US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, for the project.
It goes without saying that such a project would run counter to the Russian
regional interest. One reason for Washington's strong backing for Yushchenko
last year was to counter a decision by the Kuchma government and parliament to
reverse the flow of the Brody-Odessa pipeline from a planned route from the
Black Sea port into Poland. The initial Odessa-to-Poland route would have tied
Ukraine to the West. Now Ukraine is discussing with Chevron to build a new
pipeline doing the same. The country presently gets 80% of its energy from
A second project Ukraine's government and the state NAK (Naftogaz Ukrainy) are
discussing is with France's Gaz de France to build a pipeline from Iran for
natural gas to displace Russian gas. Were that to happen it would
simultaneously weaken ties of mutual self-interest between Russia and Iran, as
well as Russia and France.
On the same day as the Kiev conference, Kazakhstan's government told an
international investors' conference in Almaty that it was in negotiations with
Ukraine to route Kazakh oil as well through the proposed new Ukrainian pipeline
to the Baltic. Chevron is also the major consortium leader developing Kazakh
oil in Tengiz. Given the political nature of US "big oil", it is more than
probable that Rice, Vice President Dick Cheney and the administration in
Washington are playing a strong role in such Ukraine pipeline talks. The
"Orange" revolution, at least from the side of its US sponsors, had little to
do with real democracy and far more with military and oil geopolitics.
Pipelines and US-Azeri ties
The Baku-Ceyhan pipeline was originally proclaimed by BP and others as the
project of the century. Former US national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski
was a consultant to BP during the Bill Clinton era, urging Washington to back
the project. In fact, it was Brzezinski who went to Baku in 1995, unofficially,
on behalf of Clinton, to meet with then-Azeri president Haidar Aliyev, to
negotiate new independent Baku pipeline routes, including what became the BTC
Brzezinski also sits on the board of an impressive, if little-known,
US-Azerbaijan Chamber of Commerce (USACC). The chairman of USACC in Washington
is Tim Cejka, president of ExxonMobil Exploration. Other USACC board members
include Henry Kissinger and James Baker III, the man who in 2003 personally
went to Tbilisi to tell Eduard Shevardnadze that Washington wanted him to step
aside in favor of the US-trained Georgian president Mikhail Shaakashvili. Brent
Scowcroft, former national security adviser to George H W Bush, also sits on
the board of USACC. And Cheney was a former board member before he became vice
president. A more high-powered Washington team of geopolitical fixers would be
hard to imagine. This group of prominent individuals certainly would not give a
minute of their time unless an area was of utmost geopolitical strategic
importance to the US or to certain powerful interests there.
Now that the BTC pipeline to Ceyhan is complete, a phase 2 pipeline is in
consideration undersea, potentially to link the Caspian to Kazakhstan and
Turkmenistan with its rich gas reserves, directing that energy away from China
to the West in a US-UK-controlled route.
In this context, it's worth noting that Bush himself made a trip to Tbilisi on
May 10 to address a crowd in Freedom Square, promoting his latest war on
tyranny campaign for the region. He praised the US-backed "color revolutions"
from Ukraine to Georgia. Bush went on to attack Franklin D Roosevelt's Yalta
division of Europe in 1945. He made the curious declaration, "We will not
repeat the mistakes of other generations, appeasing or excusing tyranny, and
sacrificing freedom in the vain pursuit of stability," the president said. "We
have learned our lesson; no one's liberty is expendable. In the long run, our
security and true stability depend on the freedom of others." Bush continued,
"Now, across the Caucasus, in Central Asia and the broader Middle East, we see
the same desire for liberty burning in the hearts of young people. They are
demanding their freedom - and they will have it."
What color will the Azeri revolution take?
Not surprisingly, that speech was read as a "go" signal for opposition groups
across the Caucasus. In Azerbaijan four youth groups - Yokh! (No!), Yeni Fikir
(New Thinking), Magam (It's Time) and the Orange Movement of Azerbaijan -
comprise the emerging opposition, an echo of Georgia, Ukraine and Serbia, where
the US Embassy and specially trained non-governmental organizations operatives
orchestrated the US-friendly regime changes with help of the US National
Endowment for Democracy, Freedom House and the Soros Foundations.
According to Baku journalists, Ukraine's Pora (It's Time), Georgia's Kmara
(Enough) and Serbia's Otpor (Resistance) are cited by all four Azeri opposition
organizations as role models. The opposition groups also consider Bush's
February meeting in Bratislava with Pora leader Vladislav Kaskiv as a sign that
Washington supports their cause.
It seems the same team of Washington regime-change experts are preparing for a
"color revolution" for the upcoming November elections in Azerbaijan as were
behind other recent color revolutions.
In 2003, on the death of former Azeri president Haider Aliyev, his playboy son,
Ilham Aliyev, became president in grossly rigged elections which Washington
legitimized because Aliyev was "our tyrant", and also just happened to hold his
hand on the spigot of Baku oil.
Ilham, former president of the state oil company SOCAR, is tied to his father's
power base and is apparently now seen as not suitable for the new pipeline
politics. Perhaps he wants too big a share of the spoils. In any case, both
Blair's UK government and the US State Department's AID are pouring money into
Azeri opposition groups, similar to Otpor in Ukraine. US Ambassador Reno
Harnish has stated that Washington is ready to finance "exit polling" in the
elections. Exit polling in Ukraine was a key factor used to drive the
opposition success there.
Moscow is following Azeri events closely. On May 26, the Moscow daily
Kommersant wrote, "While the pipeline will carry oil from the East to West, the
spirit of 'color revolutions' will flow in the reverse direction." The
commentary went on to suggest that Western governments wanted to promote
democratization in Azerbaijan out of a desire to protect the considerable
investment made in the pipeline. That is only a part of the strategic game,
however. The other part is what Pentagon strategists term "strategic denial".
Until recently the US had supported the corrupt ruthless dictatorship of the
Aliyev's as the family had played ball with US geopolitical designs in the
area, even though Haider Aliyev had been a career top KGB officer in the Soviet
Mikhail Gorbachev era. Then on April 12, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld went
to Baku, his second visit in four months, to discuss demands to create a US
military base in Azerbaijan, as part of the US global force redeployment
involving Europe, the Mideast and Asia.
The Pentagon already de facto runs the Georgia military, with its US Special
Forces officers, and Georgia has asked to join the North Atlantic Treaty
Organization (NATO). Now Washington wants to have direct bases in Azerbaijan
proximate to Russia as well as to Iran.
The Pentagon has also allocated $100 million to build a Caspian Guard of
special forces military, ostensibly to guard the new BTC pipeline, though the
latter was deliberately built underground to make it less vulnerable, one
reason for its high cost. Part of the Pentagon money would go to build a
radar-equipped command center in Baku, capable of monitoring all sea traffic in
the Caspian. The US wants airbases in Azerbaijan, which naturally would be seen
in Tehran and Moscow as a strategic provocation.
In all this maneuvering from the side of Washington and 10 Downing Street, the
strategic issue of geopolitical control over Eurasia looms large. And
increasingly it is clear that not only Putin's Russia is an object of the new
Washington "war on tyranny". It is becoming clear to most now that the grand
design in Eurasia on the part of Washington is not to pre-empt Osama bin Laden
and his "cave dwellers".
The current Washington strategy targets many Eurasian former Soviet republics
which per se have no known oil or gas reserves. What they do have, however, is
strategic military or geopolitical significance for the Washington policy of
dominating the future of Eurasia.
That policy has China as its geopolitical, economic and military fulcrum. A
look at the Eurasian map and at the target countries for various US-sponsored
color revolutions makes this unmistakably clear. To the east of the Caspian
Sea, Washington in one degree or another today controls Pakistan, Afghanistan,
potentially Kyrgystan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. These serve as a potential
US-controlled barrier or buffer zone between China and Russian, Caspian and
Iranian energy sources. Washington is out to deny China easy land access to
either Russia, the Middle East or to the oil and gas fields of the Caspian Sea.
Since early 2005, when a series of opposition protests erupted over the
fairness of parliamentary elections in February and March, Kyrgystan has joined
the growing list of Eurasian republics facing major threat of regime change or
color revolution. The success of former Kyrgystan premier Kurmanbek Bakiev in
replacing ousted president Askar Akayev in that country's so-called "Tulip"
revolution, becoming interim president until July presidential elections,
invited inevitable comparisons with the "Orange" revolution in Ukraine and the
Georgian "Rose" revolution.
Washington's Radio Liberty has gone to great lengths to explain that the
Kyrgystan opposition is not a US operation, but a genuine spontaneous
grass-roots phenomenon. The facts speak a different story however. According to
reports from mainstream US journalists, including Craig Smith in the New York
Times and Philip Shishkin in the Wall Street Journal, the opposition in
Kyrgystan has had "more than a little help from US friends" to paraphrase the
Beatles song. Under the Freedom Support Act of the US Congress, in 2004 the
dirt-poor country of Kyrgystan received a total of $12 million in US government
funds to support the building of democracy. This will buy a lot of democracy in
an economically desolate, forsaken land such as Kyrgystan.
Acknowledging the Washington largesse, Edil Baisolov, in a comment on the
February-March anti-government protests, boasted, "It would have been
absolutely impossible for this to have happened without that help." According
to the New York Times' Smith, Baisolov's organization, the Coalition for
Democracy and Civil Rights, is financed by the National Democratic Institute
for International Affairs, a Washington-based non-profit organization in turn
funded by Rice's State Department. Baisolov told Radio Liberty he had been to
Ukraine to witness the tactics of their "Orange" Revolution, and got inspired.
But that isn't all. The whole cast of democracy characters has been busy in
Bishkek and environs supporting American-style democracy and opposing
"anti-American tyranny". Washington's Freedom House has generously financed
Bishkek's independent printing press, which prints the opposition paper, MSN,
according to its man on the scene, Mike Stone.
Freedom House is an organization with a fine-sounding name and a long history
since it was created in the late 1940s to back the creation of NATO. The
chairman of Freedom House is James Woolsey, former Central Intelligence Agency
(CIA) director who calls the present series of regime changes from Baghdad to
Kabul "World War IV". Other trustees include the ubiquitous Zbigniew
Brzezinski, former Clinton commerce secretary Stuart Eizenstat, and national
security adviser Anthony Lake. Freedom House lists USAID, US Information
Agency, the Soros Foundations and the National Endowment for Democracy among
its financial backers.
One more of the many non-governmental organizations active in promoting the new
democracy in Kyrgystan is the Civil Society Against Corruption, financed by the
National Endowment for Democracy (NED). The NED which, with Freedom House, has
been at the center of all the major color revolutions in recent years, was
created during the Ronald Reagan administration to function as a de facto
privatized CIA, privatized so as to allow more freedom of action, or what the
CIA likes to call "plausible deniability". NED chairman Vin Weber, a former
Republican congressman, is close to neo-conservative Bill Bennett. NED
president since 1984 is Carl Gershman, who had previously been a Freedom House
scholar. NATO General Wesley Clark, the man who led the US bombing of Serbia in
1999, also sits on the NED board. Allen Weinstein, who helped draft the
legislation establishing NED, said in 1991, "A lot of what we do today was done
covertly 25 years ago by the CIA."
Not to be forgotten, and definitely not least in Kyrgystan's ongoing "Tulip"
revolution is Soros' Open Society Institute - which also poured money into the
Serbian, Georgian and Ukraine color revolutions. The head of the Civil Society
Against Corruption in Kyrgystan is Tolekan Ismailova, who organized the
translation and distribution of the revolutionary manual used in Serbia,
Ukraine and Georgia written by Gene Sharp, of a curiously named Albert Einstein
Institution in Boston. Sharp's book, a how-to manual for the color revolutions,
is titled From Dictatorship to Democracy. It includes tips on
non-violent resistance - such as "display of flags and symbolic colors" - and
Sharp's book is literally the bible of the color revolutions, a kind of "regime
change for dummies". Sharp created his Albert Einstein Institution in 1983,
with backing from Harvard University. It is funded by the US Congress' NED and
the Soros Foundations, to train people in and to study the theories of
"non-violence as a form of warfare". Sharp has worked with NATO and the CIA
over the years training operators in Myanmar, Lithuania, Serbia, Georgia,
Ukraine and Taiwan, even Venezuela and Iraq.
In short, virtually every regime which has been the target of a US-backed soft
coup in the past 20 years has involved Gene Sharp and usually, his associate,
Colonel Robert Helvey, a retired US Army intelligence specialist. Notably,
Sharp was in Beijing two weeks before student demonstrations at Tiananmen
Square in 1989. The Pentagon and US intelligence have refined the art of such
soft coups to a fine level. RAND planners call it "swarming", referring to the
swarms of youth, typically linked by short message services and weblogs, who
can be mobilized on command to destabilize a target regime.
Then Uzbekistan ...?
Uzbekistan's tyrannical President Islam Karimov had early profiled himself as a
staunch friend of the Washington "war on terror", offering a former Soviet
airbase for US military actions, including the attack on the Taliban in
Afghanistan in late 2001. Many considered Karimov too close to Washington to be
in danger. He had made himself a "good" tyrant in Washington's eyes.
That's also no longer a sure thing. In May, Rice demanded that Karimov
institute "political reforms" following violent prison uprisings and subsequent
protests over conditions in the Ferghana Valley region in Andijan. Karimov has
fiercely resisted independent inquiry into allegations his troops shot and
killed hundreds of unarmed protesters. He insists the uprisings were caused by
"external" radical Muslim fundamentalists allied with the Taliban and intent on
establishing an Islamic caliphate in Uzbekistan's Ferghana Valley bordering
While the ouster of Karimov is unclear for the moment, leading Washington
backers of Karimov's "democratic reform" have turned into hostile opponents. As
one US commentator expressed it, "The character of the Karimov regime can no
longer be ignored in deference to the strategic usefulness of Uzbekistan."
Karimov has been targeted for a color revolution in the relentless Washington
"war on tyranny".
In mid-June, Karimov's government announced changes in terms for the US to use
Uzbekistan's Karshi-Khanabad military airbase, including a ban on night
flights. Karimov is moving demonstrably closer to Moscow, and perhaps also to
Beijing, in the latest chapter of the new "Great Game" for geopolitical control
Following the Andijan events, Karimov revived the former "strategic
partnership" with Moscow and also received a red-carpet welcome at the end of
May in Beijing, including a 21-gun salute. At a June Brussels NATO meeting,
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Ivanov backed Karimov, declaring there was no
need for an international investigation of what happened in Andijan.
Tajikistan, bordering Afghanistan and China, is so far the only remaining
Central Asian republic not yet to undergo a successful US-led color revolution.
It's not for lack of trying. For several years Washington has attempted to woo
Dushanbe away from its close ties to Moscow, including the economic carrot of
US backing for Tajik membership in the World Trade Organization. Beijing has
also been active. China has recently upgraded military assistance to
Tajikistan, and is keen to strengthen ties to all Central Asian republics
standing between it and the energy resources to the Eurasian west, from Russia
to Iran. The stakes are the highest for the oil-dependent China.
Washington playing the China card
The one power in Eurasia that has the potential to create a strategic
combination which could checkmate US global dominance is China. However, China
has an Achilles' heel, which Washington understands all too well - oil. Ten
years ago China was a net oil exporter. Today China is the second-largest
importer behind the US.
China's energy demand is growing annually at a rate of more than 30%. China has
feverishly been trying to secure long-term oil and gas supplies, especially
since the Iraq war made clear to Beijing that Washington was out to control and
militarize most of the world's major oil and gas sources. A new wrinkle to the
search for black gold, oil, is the clear data confirming that many of the
world's largest oilfields are in decline, while new discoveries fail to replace
lost volumes of oil. It is a pre-programmed scenario for war. The only question
is, with what weapons?
In recent months Beijing has signed major oil and economic deals with Venezuela
and Iran. It has bid for a major Canadian resources company, and most recently
made the audacious bid to buy California's Unocal, a partner in the Caspian BTC
pipeline. Chevron immediately stepped in with a counter bid to block China's.
Beijing has recently also upgraded the importance of the four-year-old
organization, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, or SCO. SCO consists of
China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgystan and Tajikistan. Not
surprisingly, these are many of the states which are in the midst of US-backed
attempts at soft coups or color revolutions. SCO's July meeting list included
an invitation to India, Pakistan and Iran to attend with observer status.
This June, the foreign ministers of Russia, China and India held a meeting in
Vladivostock where they stressed the role of the United Nations, a move aimed
clearly at Washington. India also discussed its project to invest and develop
Russia's Far East Sakhalin I, where it has already invested about $1 billion in
oil and gas development. Significantly, at the meeting, Russia and China
resolved a decades-long border dispute, and two weeks later in Beijing
discussed potentials for development of Russia's Siberian resources.
A close look at the map of Eurasia begins to suggest what is so vital here for
China, and therefore for Washington's future domination of Eurasia. The goal is
not only strategic encirclement of Russia through a series of NATO bases
ranging from Camp Bond Steel in Kosovo to Poland, to Georgia, possibly Ukraine
and White Russia, which would enable NATO to control energy ties between Russia
and the EU.
Washington policy now encompasses a series of "democratic" or soft coup
projects which would strategically cut China off from access to the vital oil
and gas reserves of the Caspian, including Kazakhstan. The earlier Asian Great
Silk Road trade routes went through Tashkent in Uzbekistan and Almaty in
Kazakhstan for geographically obvious reasons, in a region surrounded by major
Geopolitical control of Uzbekistan, Kyrgystan and Kazakhstan would enable
control of any potential pipeline routes between China and Central Asia, just
as the encirclement of Russia allows for the control of pipeline and other ties
between it and Western Europe, China, India and the Mideast.
In this context, the revealing Foreign Affairs article from Zbigniew Brzezinski
from September/October 1997 is worth again quoting:
Eurasia is home to
most of the world's politically assertive and dynamic states. All the
historical pretenders to global power originated in Eurasia. The world's most
populous aspirants to regional hegemony, China and India, are in Eurasia, as
are all the potential political or economic challengers to American primacy.
After the United States, the next six largest economies and military spenders
are there, as are all but one of the world's overt nuclear powers, and all but
one of the covert ones. Eurasia accounts for 75% of the world's population, 60%
of its GNP [gross national product], and 75% of its energy resources.
Collectively, Eurasia's potential power overshadows even America's.
This statement, written well before the US-led bombing of
former Yugoslavia and the US occupations in Afghanistan and Iraq, or the BTC
pipeline, helps put recent Washington pronouncements about "ridding the world
of tyranny" and about spreading democracy into a somewhat different context
from the one usually mentioned by Bush.
Eurasia is the world's axial supercontinent. A power that dominated Eurasia
would exercise decisive influence over two of the world's three most
economically productive regions, Western Europe and East Asia. A glance at the
map also suggests that a country dominant in Eurasia would almost automatically
control the Middle East and Africa. With Eurasia now serving as the decisive
geopolitical chessboard, it no longer suffices to fashion one policy for Europe
and another for Asia. What happens with the distribution of power on the
Eurasian landmass will be of decisive importance to America's global primacy
"Elementary, my dear Watson. It's about global hegemony, not democracy, you
F William Engdahl, author of A Century of War: Anglo-American Oil
Politics and the New World Order, from Pluto Press Ltd.
(Copyright 2005 F William Engdahl)
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