I don’t agree with Green with a Gun‘s PC envirnmentalist cant about the people of Great Powers being able “to have more than their fair share of world resources.” Shares of world resources are actually not conventionally exchanged at gun point. Sorry, Marx. We buy them.
Some countries have politically systems providing security of property and the rule of law, and cultural traditions favoring education and hard work. Those countries are consequently more productive, and consequently wealthier, and can afford to buy more of everything than people living in countries where blood feuds and brigandage enjoy greater status than investment banking.
Russia, Lord knows, has more than her fair share of natural resources, but Russia has not been notoriously successful historically in doing anything with them.
Today, Russia would like to use its ability to supply oil and natural gas as a weapon to restore its ability to wield power.
As Green with a Gun aptly puts it:
The Russia energy company Gazprom supplies something like three-quarters of Eastern Europe’s natural gas, and overall about a quarter of the EU’s natural gas. If the EU pisses off Russia, Europeans face a cold winter. Russia has already shown itself ready to turn off the tap, as it did with the Ukraine and Belarus.
You can see, then, that the US and EU are rather keen not to have to rely on Russian goodwill to keep the oil flowing out of Central Asia. If they rely on Russia for oil or for natural gas, then if Russia switches one off it hurts a lot but they can change to the other, but if Russia controls both, they’re stuck. Russia has them not merely by the balls but also the throat. Russia can then dictate not only prices, but to some degree foreign policy. “Yes, dear EU, you can support airstrikes on our friends in Iran, but you will gain a new appreciation of your white Christmas, as you’re walking out in the cold past your unfuelled cars.”
The practical alternative is the BTC Pipeline delivering oil from the Central Asian Republics via Azerbijan and Georgia to Turkey and thence to Europe.
And that’s what Russia’s invasion of Georgia is all about.
There are many ethnic and historical issues behind the Georgia-Russia conflict. The Ossetians feel a kinship with Russia more than with Georgia, Georgia was set for NATO membership next year, putting a NATO country directly on Russia’s border, and Russia has long held sway over the entire Caucasus. And since the West went to war with a Russian ally in Serbia to secure the independence and self-determination of the Kosovar Albanians, they can hardly complain if Russia goes to war with Georgia to secure the same for the Ossetians. But really that is not important: for the world and for Russia it all comes down to energy, to controlling the flow of it. Russia has chosen an effective means of controlling the flow of oil from the Central Asian republics.
Russia has accomplished a strategic coup de main. The aim of most warfare is to present your enemy with a dilemma. For example, achieve air superiority against his land forces, and his forces can either sit still in bunkers and be encircled by your troops, or move and be bombed – either way they’re screwed, it’s a dilemma. Russia has presented the West with a dilemma – do nothing to help Georgia and lose BTC, or go to war against Russia and in the course of the conflict lose BTC.