For upwards of fifteen years now, the United States, the European Union countries (or at least some of them), and China, have been attempting, with only some success, to penetrate the Central Asian states of the former Sovietskaya Vlast. With their (allegedly) vast oil and natural gas resources, much of which is still unexplored,to many Western analysts, the Central Asian states were ripe for the picking, in terms of opening them to Western and or American influence. Economic, political and cultural. To some extent, this 'project', which in the aftermath of the collapse of Sovietskaya Vlast, seemed a plausible one, especially in the period after the 11th of September 2001, has just suffered an almost catastrophic body blow. On the 12th of this month, in the Turkmen city of Turkmenbashi, Russian President, Vladimir Putin, managed to forge an agreement with his Turkmen and Kazakhstan colleagues, to in essence, corral much of the two countries future supplies of natural gas. Consequently, the competition between Russia, China and the West, now appears to have been decisively won by Russia (for news of the agreement see: www.ft.com). As the Moskva based, political analyst Sergei Blagov, has recently noted:
"Russian officials and experts can barely conceal their glee over the signing of pacts that give the Kremlin a seemingly unbreakable stranglehold over Central Asia's energy resources" (see his article: "Russia celebrates its Central Asian Energy Coup", in www.eurasiaNet.org).
With this agreement, Russia has in effect secured a stranglehold on the energy resources of a good portion of Central Asia. An in addition of course, is now in a much greater position to dictate (or should one say, diktat), the terms of future energy collaboration between the European Union states and Russia. By 'dictate' of course, one is not referring to a process in which Moskva merely determines the price of collaboration between EU Europe and itself. Rather, what has and what will occur again and again in the future, is that Moskva will be in a much better position to forge ties, with some of the larger states in the Union, most especially Deutschland, and, in that way override the caveats of some of the smaller, and, more 'anti-Russian', states such as the Baltic countries and Poland. As the Financial Times recently noted about Berlin's own attitude: rather than actively seeking an escape from Germany's dependence upon Russian energy resources, Angel Merkel, et. al., appears to be quite content to remain beholden to Moskva. Partly this is a matter of economics (Russia is a big market for German exports), and, partly a matter of realpolitik (Germany cannot envisage a time when Russia will not be its largest and most important neighbor for more on this, see: "How Disputes are exposing the limits of German Ostpolitik", in www.ft.com). Consequently, as the run-up to the two day Russia-EU Summit has already demonstrated, most of the tensions have not, and will not be between Russia and a unified EU, but between differing members of the latter itself. Making of course, fairly easy pickings for Putin, or any other Russian leader in the future, to divida et impera...? Well if not necessarily that, but certainly, it will make it much easier for Moskva to pick and choose which countries in the EU it wishes to work closely with (Germany, Greece, Bulgaria, Romania, France, Italia), and, those that it prefers not to: the Baltic states, and Poland in particular.
For the United States, the results of the Russian energy agreements are only important in a foreign policy sense. Not being even minimally dependent upon Russian oil or natural gas, Washington's only concern, is with the geopolitical fallout of Putin's coup. Those are, as we have indicated, that in a real sense, as far as Central Asia is concerned, for the moment, Russia is once again the undisputed maitre of the game. And, America is not even in a real sense any longer in the game any longer. Of course there are other pickings for Washington to bite on, such as Azerbajian, but, while Baku's energy resources are plentiful enough, they are no match for those of Central Asia. Indeed, Baku even shows signs of being fearful of being left out of the new agreements being forged between Moskva, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan. Much the same can be said for the PRC. So notwithstanding its own hordes of cash to invest, and, bribe if need be, Peking, appears to be left standing in the cold. With the end result as Steven Blank of the United States Army War College, has noted:
"China, which has a deal in place to import up to 30 bcm of gas annually from Turkmenistan starting in 2009, is in danger of being left holding the bag if there is not enough gas after exports through Russian pipelines. From the Western viewpoint, this situation could result in two undesirable scenarios. First, China’s dependence upon Russia for gas could grow; or secondly, and far more likely, Beijing would feel compelled to take aggressive action, and pay top dollar, to lock up supplies from other sources, including politically disreputable states. Either alternative would do little to enhance US-Chinese relations" (see: Stephen Blank's article: "Russia Takes a Step towards the Formation of a Natural Gas Cartel", in www.Eurasianet.org).
In short, one can in a real sense say that for now, the fabled 'Great Game', is finis, over in Central Asia. It is 'game, set and match' Russia.