The Baltic Course  

Oil in fire

Michael Tuzhikov, Transport Rossii

In the XX century, oil, or black gold, actively began to add oils to fire in the struggle for authority in the Middle East region, strongly having secured a label for itself of : "Oil - the blood of war"

Photo: Oil&Capital

In terminology of classical geopolitics, the Eurasian continent is named the World's Island, the control over which provides for domination over the world. The Crimean peninsula, being the center of the southern border of Europe and Asia, is determined by western geopolitics as the core of the earth - the heartland. And the one who supervises this core, owns the key to the World Global Island. This abstract abstraction expresses only a naturalistic approach to the interpretation of history, and in XVI centuries has been shown repeatedly in the struggle for control over the Black Sea passages Bosphorus and Dardanelles.


The Eurasian ellipse

If to throw a panoramic sight on large geopolitical strokes of British policies on the Middle East–Centerasian direction in the XIX and XX centuries, a rather precise and successive strategy can be constructed. The sense of it consists in achievement of control above the certain Eurasian ellipse connecting the Mediterranean with British positions in India. Two strategic centers of this ellipse are the Middle East and the Persian Gulf.

If to take as a starting point the Mediterranean northern curve, already completely subordinated to Atlantic control, one should capture a line: passages from the Mediterranean through the Black to Caspian Sea. The southern curve has reference points: Asia Minor - Middle East - Mesopotamia - Persian Gulf - Pakistan. We shall notice, that short circuit of these lines occurs in Afghanistan and involves the sphere of action.

The northern border of this elliptic region is adjacent to Ukraine, Moldova, the Caucasus and Transcaucasia, which makes a clear strategy of retraction in the Atlantic orbit of territories from the Baltic to the Black Sea, the persecution of Belarus - the missing part of a spread mosaic, the struggle for final replacement Russian Crimea, giving the Chechen criminal mutiny an aura of national-liberation, finally, involving Georgia in the American orbit. Struggle for east and southern components, as well as in first half of the XX century the struggle for Iraq, and grasping the Central-Asian countries of Uzbekistan, Kirgyzstan, Tajikistan.

Britain has always been interested in Iran and has tried to seize it right after defeats of Russia in the Crimean war. Then the October revolution induced the Englishmen in 1918 immediately to occupy Iran, enter Afghanistan and to designate itself on all lines of Russian Central Asia.

On the southern border of the Eurasian ellipse Britain began to show interest in Iraq and Kuwait from the beginning of the XVII century, and after opening of the Suez canal in 1859, the role of Iraq and trade with it between England has sharply increased. In the last quarter of the XIX century Iraq became an object of struggle between Great Britain and Germany in connection with opening rich oil fields in the area of Mosul and with construction by Germany of the Berlin-Baghdad railway, with the line ending in Kuwait. One of the major purposes for Britain in World War I, was Mesopotamia-Iraq, and lord Kerzon directly said that the border of the British Empire should pass over Euphrates.


The Baghdad pact

In post-war times the struggle for petroliferous Middle East regions did not weaken the Baghdad pact for a minute. Actual domination by Great Britain in Iraq in different forms proceeded till 1958. In 1954 within the framework of the general strategy of creating blocks around the former Soviet Union and on the boundaries of Anglo-American petroleum and strategic interests in Iraq, the so-called Baghdad pact became the basis of the Organization of the Central Treaty - СЕNТО. Having lost India, Britain held on as true conductors of Anglo-American interests - Iran and Pakistan which as members of СЕNТО prolonged a Middle East axis up to the borders of India.

Nevertheless, the Middle East situation promptly varied: Egypt had nationalized the Suez canal; Iraq was won over with an "anti-imperialistic" revolution; the last British soldiers from Habbany and Shuaiba were removed on May 30, 1958, and also cancelled the majority of enslaving contracts with Great Britain. Since then Iraq has accumulated its own resources, which has not been very hard, taking into account the increased role of petroleum. Saddam Hussein has constantly strengthened its army, gradually transforming the country into a regional superpower that derived jealousy of its no less arrogant neighbors. The Islamic revolution in Iran destroyed the rests of an Anglo-American axis from the Mediterranean to the Indian Ocean. Skillfully spun around the Heartland, the web of control has turned to a tatter.



What can be predicted today? The events of September 11 gave an occasion for the Americans to try and restore the axis of power, using destruction of the bipolar world. However a new mosaic is forming, while there are some blanks: Iraq, Iran and a shaky balance on the Middle East between Israel and Arabia.

The destruction of Iraq would sharply change the weight of forces in the region for the benefit of an old Anglo-American axis, as in the early Fifties and will allow to engage in Iran, which because of its contradictions with Iraq is necessary as a counterbalance for Baghdad. Iran connects the Persian Gulf to the Caspian basin and Transcaucasia. This piece finishes one more configuration inside the already outlined strategic Eurasian ellipse. This region, smaller in size, but not in value, has for a long time been called the "global hydrocarbon power ellipse " by American economic and strategic researchers. Having broken Iraq and Iran, and also having provided for influence in the Caspian and  Black Sea republics of the former Soviet Union, the U.S.A. has seized almost completely a global power ellipse, a strategic belt around it, and sea routes for the transportation of hydrocarbons. The huge and insufficiently mastered stocks of petroleum in Iraq would be under the control of Washington, which the vice-speaker of the Russian State Duma, Vladimir Zhirinovsky precisely described by saying: "It's that we don't like the regime in Iraq - It's the petroleum there we like so much!"

The beginning of military operations in Iraq will result in the further growth of global prices for petroleum: any aggravation of conditions, let alone large-scale operations in the basic petroleum regions of the world, will by all means be reflected in the market of this "black gold". By expert forecasts, in case of war in Iraq the prices for petroleum may even reach 60 US dollars per barrel. The question is, however, who and in what degree will suffer from this? It is considered that operations against Baghdad may act as a boomerang against the USA, as America experiencing serious economic difficulty could really collide with a rise in price of crude oil, pushing development of the inflationary phenomena in the country.

Yet in fact it seems that Europe is even more vulnerable from growth of petroleum prices, rather than the USA, which is to purposely provoke this growth. The matter is that Americans extract petroleum, and Europeans buy it. Besides, the fuel base components in costs of European goods are higher than they are in America. Also it is not necessary to forget, that the European economy as a whole is weaker than Americas, and that consumer costs for Europeans are appreciably lower in comparison with the USA.

Theoretically an inevitable burst of prices for petroleum will not be of use for anybody from developed countries. However, taking into account all this above, it is possible to assume, that disproportionate easing for America and Europe, caused by a rise in prices on petroleum, will result in strengthening positions by the first. Further it will result in strengthening and stabilizing the dollar in relation to the euro, and also escalating other competitive advantages held by the USA.

In a word, the "military game" with Baghdad can cost quite some candles even in the present rather heavy conditions of the American economy. A unique problem for the States is that there is a danger of growth for budgetary deficiency, which will inevitably result in military charges. Similarly, the indecision of the American side concerning terms on beginning the military phase of operation - calculations on positive and negative effects of the war are not completed yet. Are not completed yet...

From the group of diagrams submitted with this article it is visible, that in Europe, and in the USA, annual consumption of petroleum is about equal in quantity, with own extraction making up only half of this amount, that in turn compels these countries to import from the Middle East. The fragile power balance is dependent on many factors - including prices for petroleum, which may suddenly be destroyed by war in Iraq.

Diagrams prepared according to the International Energy Agency, the Ministry of Energy of the Russian Federation, the Ministry of Transport of the Russian Federation and others.