Monday, January 23, 2006

The Georgian Pipelines: Sabotage or Provocation

Trying to make sense of the destruction of the gas pipelines and electricity networks linking Russia and Georgia. I don't think that this is something that GAZPROM or RAO UES would have sanctioned. Not only does it destroy infrastructure they have to repair, it damages their commercial interests. Why would GAZPROM not want to deliver gas to Georgia now that Georgians are paying a higher price? And why would they want to negatively impact the Armenians, Russia's closest ally in the Caucasus?

Lines of speculation--who is responsible and who benefits?

Was it done by the Russian special services in conjunction with the Ossetians--a "reminder" that Georgia's separatist regions can still impact the central government, given that the lines that were destroyed were done so in northern Ossetia. Or simply by the Ossetians themselves without any sanction from Moscow (but perhaps with the assistance of "rogue" or independent security elements)?

Was it done deliberately to "highlight" the problem of energy security--to blame it on "terrorists" (and conveniently to cause the Georgians deliberate hardship)?

A Chechen connection, given where the sabotage took place? To benefit the cause of destabilizing the Caucasus?

How does the Saakashvili administration benefit? Russia's image as a reliable energy supplier again tarnished, new emphasis on diversification of supply, ability to rally national sentiment against Russia?

How does the Putin administration recover? Two black eyes in January as Russia takes over the presidency of the G-8 which was supposed to cement Russia's position as the world's "reliable" energy supplier?

If this action was sanctioned at higher levels in Moscow, it really calls into question the quality of advice the Kremlin is receiving on how to use Russia's energy leverage to its best effect.

What about other option that georgians had role in destruction of lines to discredit russia and gain sympathy in west, just as muslims shelled bread line in sarajevo to get west to intervene on their side?
All those protestors who have signs about "no blood for oil" need to realize that at some basic level energy is at the heart of sustaining the modern way of life. And this also means that policymakers have to snap out of the fantasyland that you can push for all sorts of dramatic changes without impact.

If, in 2006, there is a major clash with Iran, Chavez in Venezuela decides to play politics and the relationship with Russia worsens appreciably, does anyone not think this won't have a major impact on energy prices--and that there won't be a major economic crunch as a result. It's time to step back and get some perspective.
A related development is the whole British spy story and the attempt to link foreign espionage with the Rusisan NGO community. We seem to be closer than ever to a return to some sort of Cold War, if not on a global scale, then certainly a regional one.
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