One Man’s Stranglehold Is Another Man’s Market-Share

Russia’s Strike Shows The Power Of the Pipeline

By Steven Pearlstein
Wednesday, August 13, 2008; D01
It was surely not lost on Russia’s bully in chief, Vladimir Putin, that the oil giant BP decided to shut down the pipeline that runs through parts of Georgia controlled by Russian troops. Indeed, that was one of the aims of the cross-border incursion.
Putin understands better than anyone that oil and gas are the source of Russia’s resurgence as a military and economic power and his own control over the Russian government and key sectors of its economy. It is oil and gas that provide the money to maintain Russia’s powerful military, along with a vast internal security apparatus and network of government-controlled enterprises that allow the president-turned-premier to maintain his iron grip on the levers of political and economic power.

. . . Nabucco (a Western intervention pipeline) also became a top priority of the Bush State Department — in particular, of Matt Bryza, a deputy assistant secretary of state, and C. Boyden Gray, a Bush family confidante who was named a special envoy for Eurasian energy, who began actively courting the leaders of Azerbaijan. (the plot thickens–these are my parentheticals)
. . . Putin, quite correctly, viewed Nabucco as part of a larger campaign by Washington to contain and isolate Russia and limit the expansion of its burgeoning energy empire. With Gazprom, the state gas monopoly, Putin launched his own competing proposal called South Stream to build a new pipeline to the Caucasus.
. . . What we’ve been reminded once again is that Vladimir Putin is perfectly willing to sacrifice the rule of law and the good opinion of others to protect the Russian empire and the energy monopoly that sustains it. The techniques he used to bring Georgia to heel, while more lethal and destructive, have the same thuggish quality as the techniques Putin uses to silence domestic opposition and to expropriate the energy assets of Yukos, Shell and BP.
Ouch. Steven, you are my most admired economic writer, but the references here sound as though they came directly out of the administration. It’s becoming more apparent every day that Bush and Cheney encouraged Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili to lean out over the abyss and, like countless U.S. promises to countless dissident groups, we were not there when they got nudged from behind.
C. Boyden Gray can put that in his diplomatic bonafides when he next represents Bush in Eurasian energy circles. George Bush’s thumb on the scales suddenly seemed very evidently up an embarrassing part of his anatomy. And there he was, enjoying himself so much in China–another country he works to alienate.
The man and his so-called foreign policy is unable to do other than stride the world in very muddy seven-league boots, staining diplomatic carpets and muddying up the international landscape for decades to come. Oil–the obsession of this administration and the subject of still secret energy policy constructed in the silence and darkness of Dick Cheney’s office–continues to stoke our with-us-or-against-us belligerence, triple the cost of crude, depreciate our currency by half, spiral the nation into unending debt and set the stage for an American economic crash second to (possibly) only one.
This administration and (I would suppose by his article) Steven Pearlstein seem to think that sovereign Russia is incapable of protecting its interests in the sphere in which those interests reside. That’s a very dangerous foolishness. America has encouraged Georgia to shove a stick in the eye of the Russian bear a time too often. What in the name of god are American military advisors doing in Georgia–smack bang up against the border of Russia?
It’s no surprise Russia reacted militarily. It’s no surprise that thousands died and lost their homes because of our encouragement. It’s no surprise (except perhaps to a very shaken Saakashvili) that we left him holding that stick and looking stupid. It’s no surprise that this poisonous and dangerous administration continues to risk American blood, treasure and reputation for their own narrow self-interest and that of their crony-profiteers.
It’s no surprise that John McCain would fall into line and march to the same sad, failed, disproven and ignorant tune. The worst of it is that it’s no surprise to find a large part of the country feeling good about itself by following in those same muddy prints.

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