The New York Times reports
that Russian President Dmitri A. Medvedev has “ordered a halt to his country’s military operation in Georgia”; however, “he did not say that troops were pulling out and he insisted that Russian forces were still authorized to fire on enemies in South Ossetia.” Despite the ceasefire, a New York Times
reporter said bombing continued.
As posted last week in the New Security Beat, the conflict in Ossetia has significant natural resources elements, as the region is rich in timber, manganese, iron ore, and copper and coal deposits. In a Foreign Affairs article last winter (which to a large extent predicted the current conflict), Nixon Center President Dimitri K. Simes pointed out that high energy prices have granted Russia newfound economic and political independence: “Energy exports finance about 30 percent of the Kremlin’s budget”—and this was at $61 per barrel.
By positioning itself as the major energy supplier to Europe, Russia is attempting to regain much of its sphere of influence. However, Georgia maintains oil and gas pipelines to Europe that offer alternatives to the Russian supplies. Some of these, such as the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline, were built at the strong urging of the United States.
Reuters reports that Georgia “accused Russia of bombing its fuel lines on Tuesday.” However, while British Petroleum “has closed two oil and gas pipelines [including BTC] running from its Caspian Sea fields through Georgia,” according to inspections “neither has been damaged by recent fighting in the country.”
The BTC pipeline is “the only major conduit for Central Asian resources not under Russian control,” notes The Telegraph, which quotes the Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili on Russia’s motivation: “They need control of energy routes.”