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Page added on September 29, 2007

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A massive wrench thrown in Putin’s works

t almost seemed since the month of May that in the battles of the Caspian energy war, Russian President Vladimir Putin was destined to glide serenely from victory to victory until next March when he leaves office in the Kremlin.

But a backlash was bound to happen. Putin’s standing as the ace player in the Great Game of our times had surely become an eyesore for Western capitals.
You could tell it from the stillness in the air, as the autumn began

stealthily approaching the Central Asian steppes, that something was afoot. Are we heading for a season of unraveling, with the West bracing, no matter what it takes, for a marathon jawing that would somehow punctuate the claustrophobic intensity of the Kremlin’s string of success stories in May-June – and create an alternative?

In focus is Turkmenistan, the energy-rich gas powerhouse of Central Asia. These have been manic weeks in Ashgabat. The melodrama is acute. But then the inscrutable space between victory and the chimera of victory has always been very narrow in Central Asia.

September 1 was the cutoff date that the Kremlin penciled in for the signing of agreements relating to the Russian-Kazakh-Turkmen gas deal that Putin had wrapped up during his sensational Central Asia summit on May 12. But September is drawing to a close, and not only have the agreements not been signed, the main protagonist, Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdimukhamedov, is unavailable in Ashgabat. He has proceeded on an extended visit to the United States, accompanied by bigwigs in the Turkmen oil and gas industry. It suddenly dawns that in one big throw of the dice, the US and the European Union are desperately playing themselves back into the game, which Moscow thought it had all but secured.

Asia Times

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