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Did the Caspian Summit Do Anything to Improve Caspian Security?

The presidents of Iran, Azerbaijan, Russia, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan gather to talk the Caspian

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev is on his way to the NATO summit in Lisbon, amid expectations that the meeting will mark a new era in NATO-Russia relations. But yesterday, at another summit -- in Baku, of the five nations surrounding the Caspian Sea -- he gave a Putinesque, thinly veiled warning about the West sticking its nose in that part of the world:

“If at any moment we relax in our mutual cooperation, there is no doubt that other states will want to interfere with our concerns — states that lack a know-how of or a relationship with the Caspian but whose interest stems from economic interests and political goals” he said.

It's not too hard to figure out what "other states" he might be talking about.

At the summit, the five countries signed a security cooperation agreement, the content of which does not seem to have been reported at all. But an Azerbaijani analyst says Russia's big concern is western military involvement in the Caspian:

Russia stands against any foreign naval forces in the Caspian Sea and is most concerned about NATO naval forces.

(And it probably goes without saying that Iran is even more against such a thing.)

But the overarching issue in the Caspian is how to delineate the waters -- and the oil and gas resources within -- between the five countries. And unsurprisingly, no apparent movement was made on that. The Moscow Times surveyed some analysts on the issue:

Analysts stressed, however, the significance of the Caspian in the transportation of energy supplies from Central Asia to the West. Any settling of the long-running territorial disputes would “lessen Russian influence in the region” said Chris Weafer, chief strategist at UralSib.

Ambiguity and a lack of resolution is exactly what Moscow and Tehran desire because neither want to lose control of energy supplies across the Caspian, said Mikhail Korchemkin, managing director of East European Gas Analysis. If there was an agreement about the Caspian, he said, the issue of a 200-kilometer trans-Caspian pipeline from Turkmenbashi, Turkmenistan, to Baku would become a “purely bilateral matter between Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan.”

Specifically, the analysts said, an agreement would make the U.S.- and Europe-favored Nabucco pipeline much more viable, which is not in Russia or Iran's interest. Therefore, no agreement.

What might this mean? Pravda gives us the worst-case scenario:

It seems that there is no peaceful solution to the problem, so the navy will play an important role at this point. One should also take account of the destructive influence of the West, the USA, first and foremost, as they attempt to destabilize the situation in the region.

The piece is titled "War for Caspian Sea Inevitable?"

Did the Caspian Summit Do Anything to Improve Caspian Security?

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