- A recent trip by U.S. Vice President
Dick Cheney, partially aimed at securing energy resources for America,
took him to Lithuania, Kazakhstan and Croatia. His trips instigated a race
for energy resources, while complicating efforts to handle energy security,
expected to be the focus of the Group of Eight nations summit to be held
in St. Petersburg this summer.
- While on a visit to Russia, the U.S.
Vice-President criticised Putin's government, saying that "in many
areas of civil society from religion and the news media to advocacy
groups and political parties the government has unfairly and
improperly restricted the rights of the people". He also warned the
Kremlin against using oil as a tool to achieve political ends.
- "No legitimate interest is served
when oil and gas become tools of intimidation or blackmail, either by supply
manipulation or attempts to monopolize transportation," Cheney claimed
earlier this month.
- A day after criticizing Russian President
Vladimir Putin, and chosing to ignore the State Department's annual human
rights report attacking the rule of the longtime president, Nursultan Nazarbayev,
Mr. Cheney hailed the government of Kazakhstan, likely to become one of
the world's top 10 oil producers in the next decade, saying that "All
Americans are tremendously impressed with the progress that you've made
in Kazakhstan in the last 15 years. Kazakhstan has become a good friend
and strategic partner of the United States".
- Cheney's condemnation of what he referred
to as policy of repression pursued by Moscow received a fierce reaction
from Russians, for the vast majority of the Russian nation, hadn't yet
recovered from the corruption and poverty of the first post-Communist decade
under Boris Yeltsin, supports Putin's drift towards a "soft dictatorship".
- Cheney's comments against Russia's monopolization
of natural resources, in which he so obviously applied a double standard,
follow an increased debate in Europe over the security of Russian energy
supplies after Russian gas monopoly Gazprom decided earlier this year to
cut off supplies to Ukraine temporarily, sparking a row between Washington
- Moscow's business daily Kommersant, a
strong critic of the Kremlin, ran an article titled "Enemy at the
Gate", warning that "the Cold War has restarted; only now the
front line has shifted".
- "What is Russia to do? Evidently
it needs to strengthen links with Belarus and Central Asia. And get friendly
with China, to counter-balance this Western might," "Komsomolskaya
- Kazakhstan, a new oil wealth in the region,
and a close friend of the United States, is not a democratic country and
Nazarbayev is not a democrat, if we judged according to U.S. "standards".
- According to a Monday editorial on The
New Vision, Nazarbayev had been the President of Kazakhstan for fifteen
years now, his last reelection was last December, when he won 91 per cent
majority in a vote, foreign observers condemn as fraudulent.
- But the U.S. in this case doesn't care
much about "democracy", what it seeks from Nazarbayev is commitment
to pipelines that transfer Kazakh oil to Europe without having to pass
by Russia, meaning through pipelines under the Caspian Sea, the editorial
- Nazarbayev is now waiting for a concrete
offer from his U.S. friends, an offer that he can use to blackmail the
Russians and demand a higher price for his country's gas that's transferred
to Russia through the existing pipelines.
- He's waiting for the American's offer
also to use it against the Chinese and pressure them build pipelines through
which he can transfer his country's oil and gas to China.
- U.S. experts on the other hand view America's
current steps against Moscow, now planning to increase the development
of nuclear power by 23-25 percent which will help guarantee energy security
globally, as complicating current U.S. efforts aimed at referring Iran
to the UN Security Council, for it risks winning Russia on its side which
will boost its anti-Tehran campaign.
- "Russia's key position is that broad
access to civilian nuclear power must be guaranteed, while at the same
there must be a guarantee that weapons of mass destruction will not proliferate
under any circumstances," Kiriyenko said.
- "Russia holds this position in discussions
over the Iran issues, and in developing new means to ensure non-proliferation."
- "We believe that any military operation
in Iran could lead to consequences that could seriously aggravate the situation
in the region and beyond," said Igor Ivanov, secretary of Russia's
- Putin seeks to restore Russia back to
it powerful position, especially through the use of oil and gas revenues,
according to analysts.
- In a recent interview with The New York
Times, Andrew C. Kuchions, director of the Russian and Eurasian Program
at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace stated that "oil
and gas revenues are such an important piece of the Russian economy and
they're the key lever for Russia's recovery in the near-term, and the oil
companies have been privatized for a song,"
- Responding to U.S. charges of "blackmail",
the Russian President stressed in his annual state of the union address
that his government doesn't seek undermining democracy through monopolization
of natural resources.
- "We must be ready to counter any
attempts to pressure Russia in order to strengthen positions at our expenses,"
- Understanding the American oil strategy
helps understanding whatever political moves taken by the Bush administration,
or rhetoric and double standard policy it pursues whether in the Middle
East and the Arab world on one hand, or Western powers on the other.
- Tom Malinowski, Washington advocacy director
for Human Rights Watch said that the Bush administration risks fueling
worldwide anger over its "democracy" by carving out such exceptions
for energy-rich nations.
- "When the vice president appropriately
criticizes Russia one day and praises Kazakhstan the next, it contributes
to that cynical view of U.S. policy," Malinowski said.