Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Azerbaijan in the 'Stans

Robert Cutler takes a look at the geopolitical context of Azerbaijan's new investments in Tajikistan and Kyrgyztsan:
"An agreement was signed between the companies Azeraluminum and Tajik Aluminum Co (TALCO) during a state visit to Baku by Tajikistan's President Emomalii Rahmon last week for Azeraluminum to construct an oil refinery in his country...
"Earlier this year, SOCAR agreed to construct a US$250 million oil refinery in Kyrgyzstan with a capacity of 2 million tonnes per year, equivalent to about 40,000 barrels per day. This would reduce and possibly even eliminate Kyrgyzstan's dependence on Russia, on which it relies for imports of about 1.4 million tonnes per year, representing three-quarters of its oil and oil products consumption...
"Having thus reached already westwards, now Azerbaijan and SOCAR are extending their activities and influence eastwards beyond the Caspian Sea basin proper, to Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan in southern and southeastern Central Asia. The projects themselves are quantitatively minor, as such things go, but the countries involved are also relatively small; and since they are near the collision points not only of geological tectonic plates (producing the Himalaya mountains) but also geopolitical tectonic plates, the moves by Azerbaijan have a much larger potential geo-economic significance.
"That is especially so because, combined with initiatives from China, the given countries may be in the process of extricating themselves from a Russian sphere of influence inherited from the Soviet, indeed pre-Soviet, era. Over the past decade and half, China has become an extremely important player in the economy of Kyrgyzstan, through which it also penetrates the market for (re-exported) consumer goods in Uzbekistan."

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