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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

US-Azerbaijan energy deal reduces Russian influence

The US and Azerbaijan are to sign a major new energy pipeline deal, US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Matthew Bryza announced on 19 March.

This major energy project would create an energy corridor from Central Asia to Europe, completely bypassing the Russian Federation. It seems the US is offering its support to this project as this would play a key role in decreasing Moscow's influence in the region. Russia has traditionally used its monopoly on export routes and the imposition of increased gas and oil prices to gain leverage over states in its near abroad. By diversifying the export options of the energy producing countries in the region, such as Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan, it can allow them to follow increasingly independent foreign policies.

The construction of the pipelines will certainly offer valuable new alternatives for the export of Caspian and Central Asian energy in the medium term. However, the engagement may have been undertaken too late to provide much leverage in Central Asia where Russia and China have already undertaken major efforts to secure influence and access to energy.
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