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The "Great Game" Revisited


From the time of Brezhnev, the Russian economy has come to depend to a considerable extent on the export of oil as one of the main sources of hard currency revenues. Chechnya had substantial oil reserves. Even more importantly, the pipelines were built through its territory to carry oil from the rich fields of Azerbaijan to Russias seaports. Chechnya provides the gateway to the Caspian and central Asia, which holds a substantial share of world oil and natural gas reserves. The safety of those pipelines could hardly be guaranteed by Dudayevs regime. 

Some analysts interpret the events in the region as a global-strategic game played by the major world powers in their struggle for access to natural resources. The competition had begun as far back as the early nineteenth century, when the British began their Great Game for the control of the mineral resources of the Caspian region. Their plans, however, were thwarted by the Russian revolution and the creation of the Soviet Union.

During the Second World War one of Nazi Germanys key objectives in invading the Soviet Union was to gain control of the Caucasian oil supplies, but their defeat at Stalingrad dashed these intentions. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Great Game has revived with new intensity.

At present, all major transnational energy companies are involved in the exploration and exploitation of natural resources in the former Soviet republics of the Caspian region. The independence of Chechnya and its hostility to Russia would automatically exclude or seriously impede Russias participation in major international projects on transporting the mineral resources of Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan through the Russian North Caucasus into Europe.

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