August 18, 2008

Pipeline politics

The neocons traditionally pooh-poohed the idea that the American forward policy in the Caucasus had anything to do with the new 1100 mile BTC (Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan) pipeline for getting oil out of the Caspian Sea that runs from Azerbaijan north to Georgia then south to a Turkish port in the Levant. Instead, it was all about democracy! But for the last two weeks, we've been hearing from them about the pipeline as justification.

One question I've had is why wasn't the pipeline built on the most direct route, bypassing Georgia and running through Armenia instead? (Here's a map.) After all, Armenia has a ferocious lobby in America, making it unlikely the Russians would mess with Armenia. Wikipedia explains:

"The choice of a Turkish route meant oil export from Azerbaijan via either Georgia or Armenia. For several reasons a route through Armenia was politically inconvenient, due to regional tensions over Turkey's refusal to recognize the Armenian Genocide[6] [7], as well as the unresolved military conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh.[8] This left the circuitous Azerbaijan-Georgia-Turkey route as politically most expedient for the major parties, although it was longer and more expensive to build than the other options."

Ah, the intricate joys of Caucusus politics! Apparently, Armenia sides with far-off Russia because it hates its neighbors so much and vice-versa.

Anyway, the whole BTC pipeline cost $3.9 billion to build, which is really not that much these days, so the cost of building a bypass through Armenia would be affordable, if there was some necessity.

Multiple routes would encourage better behavior on the part of all concerned.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer


Anonymous said...

Wrong question. Why not build the pipeline through Iran? It is the shortest distance.

Anonymous said...

Do you think that fact that BP build an oil pipeline which bypasses Russian oil pipelines have anything to do with BP getting kicked out of Russia?

Peter said...

Armenia's bad relationship with some of its neighbors has left the landlocked country quite isolated. Its borders with Azerbaijan and Turkey are closed, and its only land connection with Iran is a 2-lane mountain road that can be impassable for weeks at a time in winter. Armenia's only useful ground links with the outside work are a single railway line and a couple of not-too-good roads leading into Georgia.

An interesting aspect of the state of near-war between Armenia and Azerbaijan is that Iran sides with Christian Armenia rather than with Muslim Azerbaijan. Islamic solidarity is less important to Tehran than is keeping in check Iran's sometimes restive Azeri minority.

Anonymous said...

It's not just Armenia (Hayastan). The BTC also avoids historical Kurdistan. It's all about the fruits of WWI. Kind of like the Georgians looking to America for more than lip service. The Georgians should have asked the Armenians about America's lip service 100 years earlier.

Anonymous said...

'Trust a snake before a Jew and a Jew
before a Greek, but don't trust an Armenian.'

George Orwell

Anonymous said...

Read Steve Levine's book the "Oil and the Glory" on the former Soviet Union oil business to get a sense of the history of BTC. It was one of the few foreign policy successes in the region by the Clinton administration.

It's true enough that it would be relatively cheap to build more export pipelines; it would also be relatively cheap to build a rainbow bridge for fairies and unicorns. Neither is going to happen in the current environment.

albertosaurus said...

This is an excellent example of why I read this blog as opposed to the thousand others available on the web.

Good points Steve!