The geopolitics of the Caspian Basin
This article examines the current geopolitical situation in the Caspian Basin and the extent to which it differs from the historical "Great Game" played by imperial powers in the previous centuries. It looks first at a number of critical issues that shape the dynamics of relationships among countries in the Caspian Basin: resources, their location and various countries' jurisdiction (and claims of ownership) over them, market factors, transport options (access), and environmental concerns, as well as the role of Islam and ethnicity in shaping the region's emerging identities. It then turns to an assessment of major interests perceived to be at stake and the policies that result from those perceived interests. It concludes that, even more than the question of how the internal struggles within regional states play out, the unanswered question most critical to the future of the Caspian Basin (and to the geopolitics of the region) is the future direction of Russia under President Vladimir Putin, and that, until this question is answered, the vision for Central Asia articulated by Deputy Secretary Talbott three years ago remains the most conducive to the region's development and prosperity.
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