Caucasus key point for U.S.
Date: Thursday, December 11 @ 11:20:59 UTC
Topic: Oil

by Salman Daudov, Kavkaz-Center
December 10, 2003

Increased activities of the US politicians have been spotted by the end of the last week in the Caucasus. US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld paid an official visit to Azerbaijan and Georgia. This visit was tied to the order from George W. Bush to start regrouping the US forces on a global scale. Relocating US troops from Europe to the Caucasus is now on the agenda. According to various reports, it could be 20 to 70 thousand servicemen. The main reason for relocating the troops is to provide security for energy supply in the region and guarding the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline. Besides, the reports point at the increase of opposing the new threats coming from the "rogue nations, global terrorism and weapons of mass destruction".

Today you can say with a great deal of confidence that at this stage it will go even past the declaration of intentions. Areas on the territory of Azerbaijan have already been designated. Mainly, they are the areas where Soviet troops used to be stationed in the past, and remodeled airfields. During his visit to Baku (capital of Azerbaijan) US Defense Secretary stated that preference will be given to creation of mobile military units.

Secretary Rumsfeld stressed that the US is going to cooperate with Azerbaijan and give it all support on strengthening maritime borders in the Caspian Sea.

In this connection you can't overlook possible scenarios of how the confrontation between Iran and the US may develop. Former Soviet Republic of Turkmenistan has been considered as Iran's possible ally lately, besides Russia and Armenia. Regardless of the country's neutral status, the Turkmen government is considerably increasing its military might. Turkmenistan's armed forces, consisting of 300 thousand troops now have new Ukrainian-made air-defense systems that allow controlling the airspace of Azerbaijan and its coastline (all across the Caspian Sea). Several military boats and vessels came to Turkmenian Navy from Iran, thus considerably consolidating the country's positions in the Caspian Sea.

There is a noticeable lack of reaction from Russia to the changes happening in the region. Decreasing influence of Russia in the Caucasus could be seen from a painful reaction of Russian politicians to the visit of US military advisers to Georgia two years ago. Today, on the eve of even more radical changes in the region, no indignations are heard from Russian politicians, except for some cold coverage in the press. There is a chance that the lack of Russia's reaction may have something to do with the fundamental position the Rumsfeld expressed in Europe, where he called Russia to comply with the agreements on withdrawing its troops from Georgia and stopping to interfere in Georgia's domestic affairs.

Some observers say that Russia will be refraining from expressing indignation openly, but it will still take measures on opposing the new force in the Caucasus. Russia still has some influence on some of Georgia's power structures and secret services, whose officials are still keeping in touch with their Moscow colleagues. When secret services officials came to power in Russia, their ties with their Caucasus colleagues got even stronger.

While the forces that came to power in Georgia are interested in rooting out Russia's influence (which will surely lead to a total cleanup of the power structures), in Azerbaijan the situation is much more complicated regardless of the visible stability.

In this connection it is symptomatic that the visit of US Secretary of Defense to Azerbaijan coincided with the arrival of the emissary of Kurdish Working Party, Samil-ogly Hajar. There are some questions arising due to the fact that Kurdish Working Party is considered as a terrorist organization by certain states such as Turkey first of all, which is the US main ally in the region.

Azerbaijani sources reported that coordinator of Kurdish Working Party in CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States, former Soviet Union) came to Baku, Azerbaijan from Moscow under the guarantees of the authorities to conduct some negotiations. Even though the Kurdish problem is kind of universal and directly concerns Iran, Iraq and Syria besides Turkey, it is hard to guess that the enemy of Turkey living in Moscow may be an ally of the West, although the US is using the Kurds in Northern Iraq. So far there are more questions than there are answers.

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