The back of beyond
There's a roundup of the circumstances surrounding the dismissal of Putin adviser Andrei Illarionov at Pajamas Media. Illarionov was one of the obstacles in the way of Putin's total control of the Russian oil resource which the Russian President wants to use as a lever on the Ukraine and Continental Europe. The principal agency for controlling Russian oil supplies -- and adjusting its influence -- will be Gazprom, which has a surprising new executive on board. According to a Washington Post article dated December 10, 2005, "Former German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder landed a job Friday as board chairman for a Russian-German gas pipeline that he championed while in office, a post that deepens his already close relationship with the Russian government and President Vladimir Putin. ... Alexei Miller, the chief executive of Gazprom, the Russian energy giant that holds a majority stake in the pipeline partnership, said the Schroeder-led board would be involved in 'reaching all strategic decisions on all areas of the company's activity.'"
To wiggle off the Russian hook, Europe is looking to bringing oil through a pipeline from Iran, which Dr. Zin calls the Pipeline to Trouble, "But in hitching its energy star to the Islamic Republic, Ukraine runs the risk of endangering the new diplomatic and economic bonds it has begun to build with Washington in the wake of the Orange Revolution. Iran is steadily emerging as America's cardinal strategic challenge in the post-Saddam Middle East." China, which is becoming more energy dependent by hour is also looking to obtain oil supplies from Central Asia, but wants to keep its lifeline out of the clutches of the Russian Bear. Stratfor says " All told, the Chinese plan aims to connect half a dozen pieces of independent infrastructure -- some Soviet-built, some Chinese-built, others built by yet other entities -- then reverse the flow of some of them and cobble together a new export corridor stretching from Kazakhstan's oil-rich Caspian basin through a series of western- and central-Kazakh oil zones, and ultimately into China proper. For the first time, China will have a source of imported energy not vulnerable to such pesky things as U.S. aircraft carrier battle groups."
There was always something odd about calling OIF a "war for oil". Oil from the Middle East has been shipped through established marketing channels for decades. OIF is unlikely to alter those arrangements. Perhaps the real war for oil, in the sense of a struggle for arrangements that do not yet exist is over the reserves in Central Asia. In that struggle Russia has the key advantage of geography. It lies right across the Eurasian landmass and the petroleum roads of the 21st century must pass within or close to her borders. The future oil fields are redoubts of the Islamic fundamentalism and the traditional arena of the Great Game power rivalry between Russia, China and the leading maritime power, once Britain, now the United States.