On May 7 and 8, the Brookings Energy Security Initiative (ESI) and the National Committee on American Foreign Policy (NCAFP) co-hosted a conference entitled “Strategic Assessment of the Caspian Sea Basin Region”.
The conference sought to evaluate the present state of affairs in the Caspian region, as well as the region’s geopolitical importance to the United States and to the European Union, especially with reference to energy security. The efforts of ESI and NCAFP were given impetus by concerns about Russian attempts to restore the region into its own sphere of influence, growing Chinese inroads, instability in neighboring Afghanistan, and uncertainty about the ability of the post-Soviet republics of Central Asia and the Caucasus to maintain their sovereignty under multiple internal and external pressures. All this had to be measured against the backdrop of Central Asia being geographically landlocked and separated from Europe by Russia, of unresolved conflicts in Afghanistan and in the Caucasus, and the key problem of freeing the flow of the energy riches of the Caspian Sea Basin to the rest of the world, despite great power rivalries.
The conference was divided into four panel discussions: geopolitics, pipeline routes, pipeline security, and other issues: Russian and Chinese inroads, insecurity in Afghanistan, and the lack of regional cooperation between post-Soviet states, and each was chaired by a Brookings or NCAFP expert. Rivalry between great powers, competing pipeline routes, and ability of the states of the region to deal with those problems were running themes throughout the conference discussions.
The goal of the conference was not only to evaluate the existing situation, but to present recommendations to the new administration concerning best ways to approach and resolve existing problems.
In addition to U.S. experts, the conference hosted participants from numerous countries, including the United Kingdom, Germany, France,Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan. Conference participants also took part in a joint session with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy on “Russia and the Caspian in the Global Energy Balance.”