Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan have consolidated efforts to emerge as key players in the regional energy sector, establishing closer ties with Turkey as plans for the European Nabucco pipeline develop. Kazakhstan, meanwhile, has expressed interest in following suit as it began in November to move its oil through the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline.
This is good news for Europe, says Ariel Cohen with the Heritage Foundation in an article for the Trend News Agency. European markets are looking to move away from Russian dependency, while the Caspian states are searching for high-paying energy customers.
Azerbaijan has played a key role in these developments, eschewing Russian energy giant Gazprom by signing on to gas deals with nearby Georgia.
The Kremlin, however, has followed precedents set in the 1990s when it moved against BTC by courting Nabucco rivals. Meanwhile, pressure on Ukraine over gas debts may result in shortages to European markets, as it did in 2006.
The West, Cohen notes, should hail these developments, however, as Russia's belligerence in the regional energy sector has only pushed the Caspian states closer to Europe.