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5. The Caspian Sea Basin: the security dimensions




The security situation in the Caspian Sea region has
become important in world politics during the 1990s. It has been
strongly influenced by increased competition among regional as well as
several extra-regional countries over the vast oil and gas reserves
claimed to be in the Caspian Sea Basin. Among the major obstacles to
the use of the Caspian oil and gas resources is the dispute over the
existing Caspian Sea legal regime and different approaches to its
resolution favoured by the littoral states (Azerbaijan, Iran,
Kazakhstan, Russia and Turkmenistan). Another is linked to the problem
of transportation of oil and gas from the Caspian Basin to outside
consumers. This conflict of interests among the littoral states has
been exacerbated by the growing involvement of the USA and a number of
European and Asian countries in the regional affairs. Finally, the
security of oil and gas transportation routes passing across or located
close to zones of local conflicts (in Abkhazia, Chechnya and
Nagorno-Karabakh) has become increasingly linked to the resolution of
these conflicts. The influence of radical and militant Islam in a
number of Caspian littoral states and their neighbours threatens to
further destabilize the security situation in the region. These
developments have led to an increase in the militarization of the
Caspian Sea Basin. Realizing the dangerous consequences for regional
security the littoral countries have tried to diffuse mounting
interstate tensions in the region. However, there has been insufficient
progress in this direction.