US Bribes Way Into
Kazakhstan's Oil Wealth


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 and Moscow.
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 Pravda" said.
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 adds.
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 Security Council.
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," he said.
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.




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