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What Russia Wants (and Fears)

Russian President Vladimir Putin threw the world for a loop last month by expressing a seemingly strong sign of support for the nuclear ambitions and security of Iran. Meeting with the Supreme Leader during the Caspian state summit in Tehran, the two nations no doubt discussed several issues of concern. The one we talk about the least? Energy.

EurasiaNet blogs on it:

Behind the fa├žade of cooperation, Russia and China are waging a spirited, though not yet adversarial competition in Central Asia over access to natural resources. In May, Russia appeared to lock up much of Central Asia's natural gas, when Russian, Kazakhstani and Turkmen leaders announced the expansion of the Prikaspiisky Pipeline.

Since then, however, the project, which would funnel the bulk of Kazakhstan's and Turkmenistan's natural gas to Russia via a pipeline network skirting the Caspian Sea, has stalled.

At a bilateral meeting with Russia's Zubkov in Tashkent on November 2, Kazakhstani Prime Minister Karim Masimov pledged to finalize negotiations on the Prikaspiisky pipeline in the near future. The talks could be completed at a meeting of the Kazakhstani-Russian intergovernmental commission later in November, Masimov said. Incidentally, Zubkov refrained from comments on the Prikaspiisky pipeline.

Lingering uncertainty over the Prikaspiisky route has given China an opening, especially in Turkmenistan. During a brief visit to Ashgabat, Wen, the Chinese prime minister, called for efforts "to step up bilateral trade cooperation to a new level." Berdymukhamedov, in turn, expressed interest in "working closely" with China on a natural gas pipeline project, Xinhua reported.

Putin is obviously worried about a challenge to his nation's energy monopoly, which had as much to do with the Iranian meeting of last month as nuclear power did. Appeasing Iran on nuclear power could assist Russia with Azerbaijan, and this latest attempt to make a regional energy power in Central Asia appears an attempt to keep China out of the oil and gas rich region.

Does this factor in to our diplomatic efforts wit Russia?

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