Washington, Aug.16 : In both geopolitical and economic terms, the United States appears a loser in the Russia-Georgia conflict, says an energy expert, who believes the current war is not about territorial infringement, but about who will control future energy flows from the Caspian region to the West.
If the pipeline crossing Georgia, bringing approximately a million barrels of Caspian oil a day to the West remains shut down for much longer, it could result in higher oil prices, claims Professor Klare in an article for the Christian Science Monitor.
He says that the 1,100-mile Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline provides only about one percent of the global demand for oil, and there has been a long-running struggle for control of Caspian oil and gas and influence in the ex-Soviet states of that region.
He is of the opinion that the present Russia-Georgia clash has been a blow to US clout.
"The Russians come out of this as winning this round," says Professor Klare.
Klare, the author of "Rising Powers, Shrinking Planet: The New Geopolitics of Energy," sees the conflict as "not a battle for democracy," as portrayed by Washington, but as "a battle for energy."
Oil reserves underneath the Caspian Sea are believed to be huge, perhaps as much as 200 billion barrels. That compares with the estimated 260 billion barrels in Saudi Arabia.
In his State of the Union Address in 1980, President Jimmy Carter proclaimed what has become known as the "Carter Doctrine." It stated that the US would use military force if necessary to defend its national interest in the Persian Gulf region.
President Clinton expanded the Carter Doctrine "more or less" to include Caspian oil.
President Bush has heated up what Klare regards as a struggle over vital resources, rather than a throwback to the cold-war era or classic balance-of-power politics.
The four billion dollar BTC pipeline, managed by and 30 percent owned by British Petroleum, was routed through Georgia to avoid sending Caspian oil through Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan, or Russia.
A 10-mile pipeline could have connected Caspian oil to the well-developed Iranian pipeline system.
Georgian authorities charged Russia with trying to bomb the pipeline last Tuesday, a pipeline that had been buried deep in a trench for the sake of security.
The Russia-Georgia war may have reduced the prospects for such a gas pipeline getting financing and European backing.
Klare advocates that the US, EU, Russia, and the Caspian states develop a comprehensive regional energy plan for Caspian oil and gas.