3E Intelligence

In the cacophony of the new Cold War rhetoric, it is hard to grasp the real geopolitical significance of the August “warlet” between Georgia and the new Russian petro-empire. But some analysts have hit the nail on the head: this was not a war for freedom and democracy but a return to the future of coming global wars over control of natural resources (in this case oil and gas pipelines).

In yesterday’s Guardian, emeritus professor John Gray dismisses the idea of a new cold war and exposes the “folly of the progressive fairytale“:

“… Nothing is more misguided than talk of a new cold war. What we are seeing is the end of the post cold war era, and a renewal of geopolitical conflicts of the sort that occurred during the late 19th century. Their minds befogged by fashionable nonsense about globalisation, western leaders believe liberal democracy is spreading unstoppably. The reality is continuing political diversity. Republics, empires, liberal and illiberal democracies, and a wide variety of authoritarian regimes will be with us for the foreseeable future. Globalisation is nothing more than the industrialisation of the planet, and increasing resource nationalism is an integral part of the process. (So is accelerating climate change, but that’s another story.) As industrialisation spreads, countries that control natural resources use these resources to advance their strategic objectives. In deploying energy as a weapon Russia is not resisting globalisation but exploiting its contradictions”.

To understand the real reasons behind the Cold War fever following the August war, one can find no better article than Michael Klare’s essay “Putin’s ruthless gambit“. In this detailed analysis of the background of the conflict, energy and security expert Klare writes the following:

To fully grasp the recent upheavals in the Caucasus, it is necessary to view the conflict as but a minor skirmish in a far more significant geopolitical struggle between Moscow and Washington over the energy riches of the Caspian Sea basin — with former Russian President (now Prime Minister) Vladimir Putin emerging as the reigning Grand Master of geostrategic chess and the Bush team turning out to be middling amateurs, at best.

The ultimate prize in this contest is control over the flow of oil and natural gas from the energy-rich Caspian basin to eager markets in Europe and Asia. According to the most recent tally by oil giant BP, the Caspian’s leading energy producers, all former “socialist republics” of the Soviet Union — notably Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan — together possess approximately 48 billion barrels in proven oil reserves (roughly equivalent to those left in the U.S. and Canada) and 268 trillion cubic feet of natural gas (essentially equivalent to what Saudi Arabia possesses).”

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