Milena Kalfova, PH.D.
The Caspian Knot and the Balkans 
in the end of 20-th century

Balkans'21 / volume 3 - 2003

      The Caspian Knot as geopolitical and economic phenomenon combines the rivaling interests of the states in the Caspian Sea region and the Great Powers in two main problems: 
1.The question about the access to petroleum and gas resources and 
2. The problem about participation in transportation of these resources to the main world consumers. The region is considered to be third in the world of petroleum and gas stores after the Persian Gulf and Russia. So, this makes it the main attractive aim in the rival about sources of energy and about control over their traces of transportation. That means rival about economic, political and military domination over whole Europe.
        The problem about the access to taking part in exploatation and transportation of the Caspian resources is mainly connected with the disputable statute of the Caspian Sea. Russia as the main interested part stands on the position that the Caspian Sea is an inner /domestic/ water basin, which gives it enough legal rights to counter the separation of the Caspian shelf between the other coastal states. So far neither of the Caspian states could undertake any actions /including petroleum or gas production/ in the shelf without the agreement of the other countries. The other Caspian states /Azerbajdzan, Kazakhstan,Tadzikistan,Turkmenistan and Iran/ insist on the position that everyone of them have to possess its own share in the shelf near their coast. This position is a reflection of the vital interests of the states which were constituted as a result of their separation from the former USSR. Obtaining petroleum and gas is their main source of incomes and a mean for guaranteeing their independence and sovereignty by the alternative petroleum- and gas pipelines which wouldnt pass through Russian territory. Simultaneously these states have not enough means for exploatation of the finds, so they should co-operate with investment companies.So, that gives possibility for raising rivalry about economic and political control over the region.
            According to former American States Secretary of Deffence Caspar Wineberger if Moscow win in the rival for the Caspian Sea, that would be more important than the success of the West in enlargement of NATO./1/ Control over this region means not only economic domination over its energy sources and their traces of transportation. It gives possibility for political control over Euro-Asia which has a key-position about the world domination, because the geographic situation of this region makes it one of the connecting links between Europe and Near- and Middle East. The basic position for obtaining domination over the Caspian region plays the control over Balkans. Especially Balkans are the crossroad through which pass the most important maritime communications between  the Mediterranean Sea, the Atlantic Ocean and the Indian Ocean /the line Gibraltar- Malta-Suetz/. The European transit for the Near and Middle East passes through the Balkans too. Through the Black Sea Russia can get outlet to the Mediterranean. For the USA control over Balkans and Caspian region means not only participation in exploatation of one of the richest energy sources in the world, but it means strategic approaching to Middle Asia and North Africa too.
Realizing of these ambitions was of vital importance for the USA in the conditions of recession which came over American economy in the end of 80-s. Decrease of American share in the gross world production from 38% in 60-s to 20% in the end of 80-s threatened the world politic and military hegemony of the USA. The United States demonstrated its military power in the Gulf War, but they arent the world economic leader now- this is the conclusion of the leading Japanese Center for Economic Research made in 1990./2/ Analyzing the disposition of the main strategic players after dissolution of the bipolar world the Center prognosticated: Without clear defined World leader the world probably would pass to a regional system including the next main regions: Europe, Asia and North America. The unification of Europe is in realization in practice. The USA, Canada and Mexico set up NAFTA. In 1989 APEC was founded in Asia. Despite its difficult to forsee the future of these regions its calculated that the gross inner production in 2010 for Europe /including East Europe and a part of the former USSR/, America /including Central and South America/ and Asia /including Eastern part of the USSR/ would be accordingly : 15 trillions, 11 trillions and 12 trillions /in dollars for 1990/./3/
          This analysis not only intends shaking of American leaders position in the world, but it points at the greatest threat to American ambitions- a multi-regional world with clearly defined competitors of the USA- United Europe, Russia and the States from Pacific region. These changed realities make Washington to re-valuate and re-formulate the basic strategic aims of its global politic in order to realize its ambitions for world hegemony. In general realizing of these ambitions depends on achievment of two main strategic aims: 1.Preventing the real unification of Europe and its emergence as a rival of America; 2.Depriving Russia of individuality /and every other possible power / as a real rival of the USA.
          Penetration in the Caspian region and control over its petroleum- and gas supplies would give the USA control over whole Euro-Asia and would deprive Russia of individuality as a Great Power. It could counter eventually German Drang Nach Osten and the real unification of Europe.
              Domination over the Caspian region and over traces of transportation of its petroleum and gas is of vital importance for Russia too. Withdrawal of the Soviet Army from Afganistan and East Europe, followed of the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact and the USSR itself /1991/ resulted in fall of Russian authority to the level of a post-super power/4/ After 1979 Russia was involved in three military conflicts with its Moslem neighbours to the South : the war in Afganistan / 1979-1989/, the conflicts in Tadzikistan /1992/ and Chechnja /from 1994 till nowadays/. These conditions force Moscow , despite of its position of a Great Nuclear Power,to understand the bitter reality and to re-value the basic aims of its foreign politic in order to prevent foreign domination over Caspian petroleum and gas which would resulted not only in economic consequences but in pushing Russia out of Caspian region,  Mediteranean and Euro-Asia as a political factor too. As far as Russia can not balance its interests in the Balkans and Europe on one hand and in Asia on the other hand, Russian attention is directed to the Caspian region and Middle Asia, so the European politic is in the background .
            Simultaneously control over Balkans gives possibility for control over traces of transportation of the Caspian petroleum and gas. The specific geographic position of the Balkans on the crossword between three continents /Europe, Asia and Africa/ makes the Peninsula a zone of special interests in building-up many infrastructure projects of trans-regional and trans-continental importance. At the same time Balkans energy sources are very mean. So the region depends of external sources on one hand, but it makes the Balkans an extremely important zone of communications. So nine of thirteen strategic metals are produced in the Balkans./5/ These facts make control over the Peninsula one of the main factors for realizing domination over communications between Europe and Asia and thus- for realizing political control over whole Euro-Asia.
Balkans and Black Sea region with its situation between huge gas- and petroleum supplies of Russia and Caspian Sea on one hand and the main consumers in the West on the other hand, become an important transit zone where many interests are interwoven. The Euro-Asian security depends on the control over the buffer-zones as Balkans, the Black Sea region, the Caucausus, East Mediteranean, Near East and central Asia. At the same time the main traces of transportation of strategic energy sources pass through these regions.
             At present two international consortiums the Azerbjdzanian and the Caspian dominate in the exploatation of the Caspian petroleum supplies. The first consortium was founded in 1993. The Azerbajdzanian States Petroleum Company, British Petroleum, Norwegian Statoil, the American AMOKO, Russian Lukoil, Turkish Petroleum, etc. took part in this consortium. In 1994 it signed so called Contract of the Century$ with the government in Baku. The contract  allowed the consortium to exploatate the Azerbajdzanian part in the Caspian shelf for thirty years with the obligation to invest 8.000.000 dollars./6/
              In the Caspian International Consortium for exploatation of supplies in West Kazakhstanian region Tengiz and other petroleum fields took part three states companies /Russian Governments /24%/, Kazakhstanian /19%/ and Oman /7%/ and eight transnational companies- American Shevron /15%/,Russian Lukoil /12,5%/, RosNeftShell /&,5%/,American Mobile /7,5%/, Britishgas /2%/, AGIP /2%/ etc./7/ This consortium signed a contract with the Kazakhstanian government for exploatation of Tengizian and other petroleum supplies for forty years. It invested only in building the pipeline Tengiz- Novorosijsk dollars which is the greatest foreign investment in Russia during whole Russian history./8/
               Different variants of petroleum- and gas pipelines were reduced to two main variants: Russian /North/ and Turkish /South/. The first variant provided passing the trace from Baku through Russian harbor Novorosijsk and then through Burgas to Alexandrupolis. The Turkish variant provides passing the pipelines from Azerbajdzanian petroleum fields in the Caspian Sea through Turkey and then to the main consumers through the way Baku- Dzejhan which assure a direct outlet to the Mediterranean.
         The Azerbajdzanian Presidents / Gejdar Aliev/ idea for building the main trace through Turkey reflected in decisions of the Meeting of Foreign Ministers of Turkey, Georgia, Azerbajdzan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan in March 1998./9/ Their Common Declaration clearly pointed the former Soviet Republics aspirations for strengthening their sovereignity by economic independence of Moscow. Simultaneously Turkish aspirations for making Turkey a leader of the post- Soviet area in South-West Asia are very strong. These aspirations of the new independent states from Causausian-Central Asian region force them to intensify the relationships with their South neighbors- Iran and Turkey which are situated on the key-position crossroads. Turkey became a very attractive center for the post-Soviet states in this region. This fact played an important role in countering the ambitions of Teheran in Central Asian and Caucausus. At the same time Turkey is a crossroad communications between the Balkans, the Black Sea region, Caucausus, East Mediterranean, Near East and Central Asia which gives the country a special geopolitical importance and makes it a pretender for regional leadership.
             These ambitions of Ankara are clearly claimed by the President Sulejman Demirel in 1995, who declared that after dissolution of the USSR and former Yugoslavia, Turkey became the most stabile state in Euro-Asian crossroad which is simultaneously built-in NATO structures./10/ Turkey became an attractive center not only for the new independent states in post-Soviet area in Central Asia and Caucausus, but for the Moslem minorities in the neighbor Balkan states. This fact gives Turkey possibility for invasion in the most important parts of the Euro-Asian area. This way the country became a very strong factor for balancing the ambitions of Iran in Central Asia.
             So far in 1992 the President George Bush- Senior stressed on the global role of Turkey as a bridge between the Wets and the new independent states on the territory of the former USSR./11/
              A principal ambition of Turgut Josals foreign policy became making Turkey a basic export corridor of petroleum from the Caspian Sea to Mediterranean by the pipeline Baku-Dzejhan. This opportunity was discussed on political level between presidents of Turkey and Azerbajdzan Josal and  Elchibej in 1992.Building this pipeline became a core not only of the Turkish policy in the Caspian region, but one of the priorities of the Turkish foreign policy in general. For Ankara realizing the Baku-Ceyhan project means not only concrete economic profits but obtaining political domination over Balkans and Caspian region. So far the political goals are the most important in this case. But in the problem for building the gas pipelines the economic goals play the leading role for Turkey, which is the most increasing gas market in Europe. Last decade Turkey was extremely embarrassed with providing enough gas for increasing consumption. Turkish economic increase depends on gas deliveries and their decrease during last year dooms Turkish economy to stagnation. Envisaging Turkish necessities of electricity if the next years the state could not have access to gas supplies, the experts prognosticate a serious economic crisis. Building gas pipelines from the Caspian Sea through Turkey is a question not so much of a political interest but of a real vital economic necessity.
             Different projects for petroleum and gas transportation from the Caspian region interwave different political and economic interests. So they depend on dramatic changes in the correlation of powers between the main players on the world stage.
             The USA aspire to impose such kinds of traces which cold support Turkey blockade Iranian influence in the region and counter unilateral Russian domination the Caspian area.
       On the other hand the simultaneous participation of Russian and American companies /states and private/ in the two consortiums for gaining petroleum from the Caspian Sea indicates common interests requiring balance not confrontation. Full pushing out of Russia of the Caspian region would provoke the furious Russian resistance. It would break the balance of powers in the region for benefit of Iran which would seriously hurt American economic and political interests. Moreover Russia as a reanimated junior partner of the USA is less dangerous than Russia brought to the edge of confrontation with its nuclear potential. Simultaneously including Moscow I the shared world order Washington could counter its eventually raprochement with European states especially with Germany. American politic in the Caspian region pursue gaining this complete balance which could counter unilateral Russian hegemony over the region, but at the same time to reanimate Russian positions of respecting factor against Teheran. As a basic means to gain this aims the USA use the so-called politic of controlled chaos, provoking /directly or indirectly/ rapid conflicts in the Caucasian region. These conflicts include intensively Moscow and give America possibility to intervene as a peacemaker and arbiter. That is the reason for American support for Turkey as a balancing factor against Moscow in the region during the 90-s. At the same time Washington supported the Baku-Ceihan project when Russia was engaged in the Islamic fires in the Caucasus. Development of the conflicts in Chechnya through which territory would pass the projected pipelines from the Caspian Sea to Novorosiysk in practice marked the basic points in development of the relationships between the USA and Russia in 90-s. This conflict not only engaged Russian Army and exhausted Russian finances but it deprived of sense the Novorosijsk-Alexandrupolis pipeline.
                       This fact concerned directly not only Russian but Bulgarian and Greek interests too. For the last two countries realization of this trace is directly connected with the ambitions for building-up the corridor 8 /the corridor East-West/ which pass parallely to the trace of the famous Ancient Via Egnatia- from Rome to the Eastern provinces. Realization of this project would connect Italian and Albanian harbors on the Adriatic Sea /through Albania, Macedonia, Bulgaria and Turkey/ with Istanbul and Burgas on the Black Sea and then through the Ancient Silk Road- to Caucasus-Caspian region and the Pacific Coast. This corridor would be the shortest link between Europe and Asia. Its building-up together with realization of the pipeline Novorosijsk-Bourgas-Alexandrupolis would give Bulgaria and Greece indisputable hegemony in the Balkans. So this would make Russia an unilateral dominating power in the Black Sea and Caspian regions.
                      Among the projected transnational corridors  which should pass through the Balkans are corridor 4 /Drezden/Njurnberg-  Prague-Vienna-Budapest- Sofia-Thessaloniki/Plovdiv- Istanbul/ and corridor 10 /Zalsburg-Ljubljana-Belgrade-Nis-Skoplje-Solun with a branch  Nis-Sofia-Istanbul which coinsides with corridor 8/ too. Realization of these projects and building-up the pipeline traces for Russian and Caspian oil and gas through Balkans would contribute in a great extend economic development of the states in the region and it would enforce their geopolitical role too. At the same time this fact would help Russia to become an unilateral leading power Euro-Asia, which would ruin the balance of powers in the New World Order dominated by the USA. This way Russia could become a great powerful rival of American ambitions. Possible close relations between Russia and European states would upright the USA against insuperable rivalry. The complex balance of relationships between Russia and America force  the USA to help keeping Russian positions in the Caspian region as a balance against Iranian ambitions and its fundamentalistic  allies. But American interests force USA to counter Russian positions in the region too in order to prevent unilateral Russian hegemony in Euro-Asia. So for Washington in impossible to allow combining Russian leadership in the Caspian Sea region with Russian domination on the Balkans and Black Sea region. So far the USA should on one hand give Russia enough freedom for getting over the conflict in Chechnya / especially when this conflict had exhausted Russian finances and army/ and on the other hand to provoke chain military conflicts in the Balkans which would make the ambitions of the Balkans states for building-up transs-national and trans-continental communications passing through the region  impossible at least in the near future.
          Moving to the  South-East conflicts in the former Yugoslavia combined with NATO strike in 1999 make Balkans a very unstable  and unattractive  for foreign investments region. In practice that ruin the projected corridors 8, 4 and 10 as possible for realizing in near future projects. This way is countered building up the most direct communications between Europe and Asia. So thus the natural Euro-Asian communications are interrupted, which destroys over eventually European and especially German Drang Nach Osten and Russian domination over this basic geopolitical region.
                   Destroying Balkans as a region of European and Russian hegemony successfully realizes the American ambitions for the new world order designed by Washington and shared with Moscow as a second-handpartner.
                     Despite of the fact that its early  to speak for returning of the Russian power in the Caucasus, after Russian drawing back from the Balkans and after Putins success in the elections for President in 2000 Russia little by little gains real success in fight for suppressing the rebel in Chechnya- a region through which passes the trace of the pipeline Novorosijsk- Burgas-Alexandrupolis.
                   Dramatic dissolution of the USSR /1991/ followed of the deep economic crisis and political chaos in Russia forced Moscow to accept the policy of tacit and deepening co-operation with Washington, because exactly the USA give the main part of financial aid for Russia. Without this aid the country would be faced with an economic collapse. In order to free its hands for actions in the Caucasus Russia revalued entirely its interests in all regions of the world. In its post-Soviet foreign policy Balkans went to the background. So Russian policy towards the Yugo-crisis in 90-s was restricted in effective demonstrations, but when real actions were necessary dominated the compromises. A clear example about the reflection of shared interests between the USA and Russia in the Caspian region over their Balkans policy was a decisive role of Victor Chernomirdins mediation for Miloshevichs capitulation in spring of 1999. Chernomirdin was not only former  Russian prime-minister, but a gas magnate too.
                 After the terroristic outrages over the USA on September,11,2001 NATO revalued the events in Chechnya in different way- was Gearge Robertsons oppinion from November 22,2001./12/ In the new balance of powers Turkey is included too- in November 2001 Ankara gave Washington its agreement to undertake military operation against the fundamentalistic baces in Bosnia and Chechnya./13/
                    The tacit Russian support for NATO strike in Yugoslabia and its official support for the operation against Afganistan together with the changed policy of NATO towards the conflict in Chechnya designs the new outlines of the co-operation between the USA and Russia. In this new co-operation the Caspian region became a zone of the shared interests while the Balkans are given the role of the zone of dissintegration. In this zone of dissintegration the natural Euro-Asian communications are interrupted and Russian and European ambitions for rivalry with America are countered.
        1., - , , 1998,.153;
        2.World Geography in the Age of Diversification- A new report from the Japan Economic Research Center, released on February 24,1992;
        4. , - /1918-1992/. , , 1999,. 255;
        5. , - - , , , , , 1995, .16;
        6. , .  Ibid;
        7. Ibid;
        8. Ibid;
        9. Ibid;
        10. Ibid;
        11. Ibid;
        12. , 23.XI. 2001, .3198, .19;
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