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Crisis in the Caucasus - 2008
Russian / Georgian Crisis and its Impact on Azerbaijan

1. Cracks in Putin's Kingdom
by Paul Quinn-Judge
Sept4, 2008

For the first time since Vladimir Putin came to power in 1999, serious voices are expressing doubts about his judgment.

2. NY Times: U.S. Rules Out Unilateral Steps Against Russia
by Thom Shanker and Steven Lee Myers
Washington, Sept 8, 2008 -
The Bush administration, after considerable internal debate, has decided not to take direct punitive action against Russia for its conflict with Georgia, concluding that it has little leverage if it acts unilaterally and that it would be better off pressing for a chorus of international criticism to be led by Europe....

3. Economist: The Caucasus: After the war - Baku, Tbilisi and Yerevan
Baku, Azerbaijan, Oct 16, 2008
- An edgy neighbourhood has become both more dangerous and more important... Now the Caucasus is at centre-stage again.... But it is the three countries of the south Caucasus-Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia-that are the bigger story now, for they are the cockpit in a new clash between Russia and the West. The main reason these tiny countries matter, despite a combined population of only 16m or so, is geographical. Perched next to Turkey, north of Iran and south of Russia, this is a place where empires have long met-and clashed. Russia never reconciled itself to losing control of the Caucasus when the Soviet Union broke up in 1990-91....

4. NY Times: A Northern Neighbor Growls, and Azerbaijan Reassesses Its Options
by Sabrina Tavenise
Baku, Azerbaijan, Oct 22, 2008 -
This country has always had tricky geography. To its north is Russia. To its south is Iran. And ever since the collapse of the Soviet Union it has looked west, inviting American companies to develop its oil reserves and embracing NATO. But since Russia and Georgia fought a short war this summer, its path has narrowed ...

"Azerbaijan is doing a dance between the West and Russia," said Isa Gambar, an Azeri opposition figure. "Until now, there was an unspoken consensus. Georgia was with the West, Armenia was an outpost of Russia, and Azerbaijan was in the middle ...

"The chess board has been tilted, and the pieces are shifting into different places," said Paul Goble, an American expert on the region, who teaches at the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy in Baku, the capital. "What looked balanced before does not look balanced now ...

A Western official said, referring to Azerbaijan: "Georgia was very much a wake-up call. This is what the Russians can do and are prepared to do. Georgia events underscored their vulnerability ...

The Russian attitude toward Azerbaijan, one Azeri official said, was that "the U.S. has come to your country and is plundering your natural resources, but not giving you any support. Why not go with us instead?"...

5. UK Guardian: Back to the future in the Caspian Corridor
by Simon Tisdall
Oct 30, 2008
- Russia's attempts to re-establish its Soviet-era spheres of influence seem to have caught the US on the hop. Russia's efforts to control oil and gas supplies to Europe from the Caspian basin and central Asia could advance significantly at the weekend when the Kremlin hosts a summit meeting of the leaders of long-time south Caucasus rivals Azerbaijan and Armenia.

6. Azerbaijan: Moscow Brings Pressure to Bear on Baku
by Steve Brand
Nov 4, 2008 -
Aiming to build on its military success in Georgia, Russia is bringing pressure to bear on Azerbaijan. Moscow's intent is to coerce Baku into going along with the Kremlin's grand plan to remake the Caucasus' security and energy framework...

Baku's most sensitive pressure point is clearly the Nagorno-Karabakh issue, and, not surprisingly, that is where Russia is exerting the most force. Moscow's pressure on Baku does not end with the Karabakh issue. Reports have circulated that Moscow wants a military base in Azerbaijan - i.e., an expanded presence for a longer duration at the Qabala air defense base - and also a stronger position in Azerbaijan's economy. In particular, Russia is eager to integrate Azerbaijan into the Kremlin's Caspian energy framework. This objective has taken on an added sense of urgency because Russia, Iran, and Qatar are now seriously exploring the creation of a natural gas cartel, and because Turkmenistan's gas fields have been shown to be of world-class size. Azerbaijan, another major gas producer in the Caspian Basin, is the only holdout that is preventing Russia from monopolizing trans-Caspian energy flows to Europe...

Obviously, the key prize here is the redirecting of Azeri energy flows through Russian pipelines to effectively render the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline strategically meaningless. During the Russian-Georgian war, Baku, acting prudently, redirected some of its energy flows from the BTC route to Russian installations. Moscow now wants to make this shift permanent. More....

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