Celebrating the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan Pipeline

Date: 06-13-2005 | Category: Articles, Energy Security, Geopolitics

Celebrating the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan Pipeline


Opened late last month, the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) oil pipeline has a capacity of 1 million barrels of oil per day and is the greatest achievement in the Caspian energy area. The pipeline will take oil from Azerbaijan and eventually Kazakhstan to the global markets—free of Russian and Iranian domination. After years of inaccessibility for the West, vast oil reserves under the Caspian Sea—comparable to those in Kuwait—are now within hand’s reach of the world’s commodity markets.

The Heritage Foundation was an early supporter of this important project—quickly dubbed “the New Silk Road”—and was active in educating U.S. policymakers about its importance and helping them understand and work through difficulties in the region. In 1996, for example, Ariel Cohen drew U.S. policymakers’ attention to the developing “Great Game” of oil politics in the Caucasus and Central Asia in “The New ‘Great Game’: Oil Politics in the Caucasus and Central Asia,” “U.S. Policy in the Caucasus and Central Asia: Building A New “Silk Road,’” “U.S. Policy in the Caucasus and Central Asia: Building A New ‘Silk Road’ to Economic Prosperity,” and “Ethnic Interests Threaten U.S. Interests in the Caucus;” and later to Iran’s claim of Azerbaijan’s share of Caspian resources as a threat to energy security.

Completion of BTC would have been unattainable without U.S. support and championing of for democratic transition, sovereignty, and security cooperation in Georgia and Azerbaijan. The Heritage Foundation has forwarded these policies throughout. For example: “Securing the Democratic Transition in Azerbaijan,” “Aliev Dynasty or Azerbaijiani Democracy? Securing A Democratic Transition,” “U.S. Should Support Georgian Democracy and Independence,” and “Our Challenge in Georgia.” Dr. Cohen also co-authored and edited Eurasia in Balance, a book on U.S. strategy in the Caucasus and Central Asia, available this month from the British publisher Ashgate and on Amazon.com.

Halted several times by ethnic fighting in South Ossetia and Adzharia, the BTC will flourish if there is a peaceful resolution of the conflicts in the region. Promoting peace in this area has long been in the U.S. interest and is now perhaps even more so.

The BTC is the first link between the Caspian and the Mediterranean, to be followed by a natural gas pipeline between Azerbaijan and Turkey, and will be a key component of U.S. energy security for years to come. In addition, it is the largest foreign investment project in the region since the fall of the Soviet Union. Partially financed by its shareholders, such as British Petroleum and Azeri State Oil Company SOCAR, the project also received assistance from international financial institutions, such as the International Finance Corporation, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and the U.S. Export-Import Bank, all of whom hail BTC as a model of development. It promises to be a gateway for revenue that could well bolster economic and democratic development in the Caucasus and Central Asia. This is a virtuous cycle; these gains will serve to improve the West’s access to diversified oil supplies and reduce its dependence on the Middle East.

Heritage is proud to have supported the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline.



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