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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Geopolitics of Oil, Gas, and Ecology in the Caucasus and Caspian Sea Basin. 1998 Caucasus Conference Report.


In the early 1990s, energy companies around the world began to realize the enormity of the still-untapped oil and natural gas reserves of the Caspian Sea basin, igniting a scramble to develop new extraction and transport networks to bring these resources to the world market. The result has transformed the region into a fulcrum of geopolitical interaction: Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan have formulated long-term plans to use the anticipated windfall of "petro dollars" from their reserves; the United States and Russia have vied to influence the placement of pipeline routes; and attention to the region's resources has increased pressure on disputes between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh, Russia and Georgia over Abkhazia, and Russia and Chechnya. And all of these developments are unfolding against a backdrop of deepening ecological problems: the condition of the Black Sea, Turkish concerns over oil tankers travelling through the Bosporous Straits, the legacy of Soviet oil production in Azerbaijan, and the crisis of the Caspian Sea resulting from its unresolved legal status. This is a report from a conference held in 1998 that addressed: the relation between energy policies, ecological problems, and regional political dynamics in the contemporary Caucasus and Caspian Basin. The outcome of these struggles to influence regional energy policies will shape the long-term prospects for energy, ecological, and political stability on a global level.

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