Is American involvement in the conflict between Russia and Georgia primarily to do with oil?
We all know how crucial oil is to the world's economy. Many people think America invaded Iraq to get their hands on more of the stuff. Does this latest conflict have anything to do with the black gold?
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U.S foreign policy is nearly always driven by oil
From Iraq to Afghanistan to Venezuela, US foreign policy has been driven by the need to control countries with large oil reserves. One only has to take a look at the rocketing prices of fuel at the pumps to know there is a serious problem in supply. The US wanted to protect her Baltic oil interests and so was involved in the Georgia confrontation months before it began. Along with the Israelis, the US provided the Georgians with military hardware, intelligence, and training for this war. The US and other members of the EU are insisting that Georgia be admitted into NATO forthwith. Unfortunately, the UN and the EU have been woefully inadequate in negotiating with Russia, leaving the US open to sail into Georgian waters with “humanitarian” aid and ensure that Georgia is not annexed by Russia so that the Caspian sea pipeline can go ahead, providing petroleum to the West.
Contrary to the assertion that US foreign policy is oil-centric, US foreign policy is capitalism-centric. Oil, because it is literally the lubricant of today's world economy has taken a place of primacy in US foreign policy because much of the substance comes from nations whose governments are unstable or hostile to the west, and to the US in particular. Insofar as Iraq goes, the US has seized none of the oil reserves there or made all or a portion of the current petroleum production a "spoil of war." Rather, the US has bent over backwards, in a manner transparent to the world, to make sure that oil production is uninterrupted and that the proceeds benefit the new Iraqi government and the Iraqi people.
The relationship of the US with Georgia is partly economic and partly ideological. Georgia is an interesting nation because of its location - it borders the Black Sea and Turkey, and it also borders oil producing countries and countries that border oil producing countries in south Asia. As a result, it is the perfect location for pipelines to ship the petroleum to the west, avoiding the oil hegemony of Russia. And although its form of government isn't perfect, Georgia is far more democratic than Russia - and it is willing to align itself with the west. In a perfect world this is important because a fully NATO-invested Georgia would provide a geographical containment of Russia in this area of the Caucasus, thus preventing future uninhibited military forays into the region by the Russians (east of Georgia, the terrain and the indigenous populations become increasingly inhospitable!).
Everything a nation does in relation to their foreign policy is in their nation's interests. The interests of the US include insuring that there is a worldwide, unimpeded source of petroleum available to the free market -- this is what drives the US economy. The interests of Russia include providing choke points in the petroleum supply in order that they may exert undue influence on the worldwide market, and hence become a world economic "player" and perhaps a re-invigorated superpower. It is the at the perfect intersection of these interests that, unfortunately, Georgia resides.
Fear of expansionist policy
Despite what the politicians may say, since the Second World War there has been and still is a lot of mistrust between Russia and the USA. After WWII Russia did remain influential in countries it had 'liberated' from Nazi rule, the result was the creation of many satellite states and the iron curtain. The way in which the Russian Army moved into South Ossetia and is showing little sign of pulling out hints that it may wish to annex the region. The USA therefore has a lot to fear as if the Russian Federation shows any signs of expansionist policy it is bound to set alarm bells ringing in the White House.
Oil is now an old commodity.
Must shift to eco-friendly alternatives, eco gas, eco methane etc. or solar tech, or may be electric wired.
Deal between the U.S, China and Russia over Iraqi oil
European, Russian and Chinese oil companies including Shell, Lukoil, CNPC and BP are having a field day winning auctions to develop big Iraqi oil fields. Shell and Petronas have obtained the right to develop Majnoon with 7 billion barrels of reserves, Lukoil and Statoil the West Qurna 2 field which in total holds 9.75 billion barrels, and Total and Petronas the Halfaya field with 0.5 billion barrels. The only US company that secured a deal is ExxonMobil over the development of West Qurna .
Quite a disappointment given the amount of money the US has invested in Iraq through the Iraqi war?
I have heard lately from different sources rumors that their was a deal made between China, Russia, and the United States. China and Russia have been selling weapons to different terrorist groups in Iraq AND NOW THEY HAVE AN INTEREST THAT PLACE WILL BE SAFE.
It is an assertion of power
This conflict is about US superpower ability to reduce the power of Russia over its former Soviet Union states. Oil is naturally a part of the equation but it is essentially about the assertion of power. By installing a defence shield in Poland, the US has opened a whole host of international problems, reigniting cold war hostilities and the possibility of a third world war. The logic goes that if the US is so concerned about the nuclear capabilities of its Chinese and Arab neighbours, why not allow Russia to install a similar defence system in Cuba and Venezuela or other countries in South America that are vulnerable to an American preemptive nuclear strike
The only 'power' that interests the U.S. is energy, and with it economic strength. Georgia is an important part of the oil transit routes that supply the west. The BTC pipeline passes through South Ossetia. Russia wants to keep its strategic control over the BTC pipeline; the Western powers do not want to be dependent on Russian energy supplies and would like to develop alternative routes that bypass Russian territory.
At the end of the day, whoever controls the oil supply, has the power; and the U.S. wants to prevent Russia from seizing that power.
History repeating itself - Sudentenland 1938
A possible reason for the USA's fear of Russian action in Georgia could come from the experience of Hitler's move into the Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia in 1938. In March of that year Germany had annexed Austria in the Anschluss. This was followed by the Wehrmacht moving into the Sudetenland as a pre-requisite to taking over the whole of the Country. The theory is that Germany was very much testing the water and looking at the International reaction to it's agressive policy. Chamberlain looked to appease Hitler and gave in over the region, resulting in the famous "peace in our time" speech. It is therefore possible that Russia is just testing the water in order to see whether it can annex South Ossetia. The USA will want to stop any moves to expand immediately to limit the threat of an already isolated and unpopular super power.
If we're going to look at historical precedent, then why not cast our minds back to the Gulf War, an example of the U.S. interfering in a conflict to protect it's interests in, yup, you guessed it- oil.
US-GEO Relations: A Short Primer
While oil is certainly a factor, we must remember that the Georgian state itself does not produce large quantities of oil. In fact, it must import almost 10 times what it is able to produce in any given year. In my view, its role, as a transitional state of the B-T-C pipeline, has been slightly overplayed recently. While enticing, oil hasn't been enough to trigger significant US reactions against Russia in the recent past (i.e. a reheating of the cold war as they say), and should not be viewed as the US primary objective in the Georgia.
Short Historical Background on the Origins of US-GEO Relations:
Historically, the US developed a more direct form of relations with a newly independent Georgia in 1992-1993, when it participated in force training for Georgian Presidential body guards. In fact, a U.S. citizen (Fred Woodruff) was murdered -possibly by separatist sympathizers -while serving the U.S. and tasked with the lead to create a new security system for Georgia. Then President Shevardnadze, who had survived two assassination attempts by 1998 mostly due to political/military conflict in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, wanted a better force for the protection of his primary government officials. From that small start, the U.S. and Georgia have grown a military partnership that has included several US missions to Georgia in support of other objectives around the globe, joint training exercises, a NATO Partnership for Peace commitment, a NATO IPAP, and significantly more on other fronts. At the time, a much weaker Russia supported many of these US moves as it was unable to seal off Chechen separatists on its Southern frontier without a strong Georgian military force and border patrol in areas like the Pankisi Gorge. Russia was focused deeply on its war in Chechnya and its own political and economic revival.
From this fledgling military partnership, significant economic, military, and diplomatic relations grew. The first Georgian President was not even granted a state visit upon arrival in Washington D.C. Today, Georgian delegations are received openly in the US capitol and vice versa.
The post 9-11 foreign policy of the U.S. has provided almost 40 million dollars a year (a significant part of the overall aid package) for efforts to dismantle aging, unstable Soviet military weaponry within Georgia in order to prevent it being pillaged and sold on the world market, potentially falling into the hands of the wrong people. This continues to be a major objective of the U.S. and an issue that has the U.S. and Russia working harmoniously together in many cases.
The U.S. and NATO have also used Georgia extensively. Shevardnadze opened Georgia up for military flights to Afghanistan immediately after 9-11. As Uzbekistan slowly pulled back from NATO (the US mainly) and shut down strategic air bases in Central Asia, Georgia stepped in full swing, and allowed a major increase in NATO logistical activities to fly through Georgia. Additionally, it provided troops to both the Kosovo and Afghanistan missions, although not a full NATO member. Enter Western leaning new Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili, who many think came to power through U.S. involvement, who openly defies Russia, seeks to reunify Georgia’s de facto separatist republics, and welcomes U.S. participation in Georgia.
Lastly, Georgia is the 2nd largest per capita contributor of combat power (3rd largest overall) to the U.S. war in Iraq. Georgia has increased its presence in Iraq when traditional US allies either failed to show up or scaled down dramatically. This partnership cannot be overlooked, particularly when the U.S. President’s popularity has plummeted in large part because of the Iraq war. Not so in Georgia, where one of the newest boulevards into the Capitol City bears the Bush name.
Foreign Direct Investment in Georgia is at an all time high and countries like the UK, Ukraine, Turkey, and Kazakhstan have used significant investments to their advantage in the banking, construction, and mining industries. The Georgian GDP has grown by 10% for almost 3 years running. U.S. economic aid to Georgia has totaled approximately 150 million USD for every year since 1995. The creation of the B-T-C oil pipeline, the Baku-T'bilisi-Erzerum gas pipeline, and the Kars-Akhalkalaki Railroad are all fitting nicely into a Western strategy that seeks to capitalize on Georgia's unique location between Europe and Asia and develop its role as a transit point for gas, oil, and many other goods. Oil, though important, is often significantly overshadowed here by natural gas. Mainland Europe depends heavily on Russian natural gas and has expressed interest in a stable alternative. Here the U.S. seeks to maintain this status quo by achieving a tenuous balance between those factors above in an effort to protect the growth of commerce, part of the U.S. mantra since its inception, and drive out corrupting influences that stifle competition. Such an example would be the consistent 'weaponization' and cut off of Russian heating oil supplies during harsh Caucasian winters.
The U.S. also must continue to support democracy wherever it appears, though it may be less than perfect. This tenet of U.S. foreign policy has remained almost constant for over 60 years and must stay relatively consistent. The U.S. believes, correctly or not, that democracies fight less amongst each other and that democracy may provide an amount of freedom, politically and economically, leading to the opening of economic markets. (See above) This indisputable tenet, though perhaps slightly controversial amongst theorists in its core principles, of U.S. policy has been present since the birth of the U.S. as a nation. The search for new economic markets, in part oil, has had a tendency to shape and often achieve primacy in U.S. foreign policy and diplomatic relations at different times throughout history.
Overall, there are many competing interests, as usual, but it would be an overstatement to say oil is the primary reason for U.S. involvement, but naïve to say it matters not.
What do you think?