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Kaliningrad/Königsberg

1) Kaliningrad, possessing vast natural resources, for instance ninety per cent of the world's amber, may retain its Russian name and political affiliation, but its economic reality will soon be German again. It might then develop into a Baltic Hong Kong.

2) Berlin is 600 kilometres from Kaliningrad, half the distance from there to Moscow. Beginning a couple of years ago there is now a direct rail link, the airline KD Avia is offering cheap tickets, and there are current plans to revive the old scheme of building a Berlin-Königsberg motorway - the Berlinka project, initiated in 1933.

Chechnya

1) These are the last people you want to fight, because:

a) they share a common set of strong values

b) mentally they are indomitable

c) they have always fought

d) they are not luxury-lovers; they are used to living on the floor in barrack-like, bombed-out and filthy flats

e) they are financed by the biggest bankers in the world, the Saud family.

2) Russian presence in the region is quite recent. The Chechens were never really under Russian or Soviet control, not even after the area was annexed in 1835-59. When it proclaimed independence in 1991, the Russians were slow to react.

3) Three factors work against Russia in this region: the clan-based structure of the country;172 the strong religious sense (Sufi Islam); and Russian military morale.

4) Chechen soldiers have more and better weapons too - often American. Since they have money, they also attract numerous mercenaries.

The Caucasus

1) As in the Balkans, the political problems in the Caucasus result from the political vacuum caused by the collapse of the Soviet Union. In both regions this has created space for new players: in the case of the Caucasus the players include the locals (primarily Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Georgia), Russia, and the West, led by the US. All are fighting over interests deriving from the region's oil reserves.

2) The Caucasus, attractive for its vast natural resources, is not a new site for adventure. In 1914 Azerbaijan accounted for half the world's total oil production (Thual 2004: 8). After the Russian Revolution, many Western businessmen lost everything they had there.

3) For thousands of years this narrow mountain region between the Black Sea and the Caspian has been a crossroads for people of all kinds. It is also an important border separating Christians and Muslims.

4) The Caucasus is home to three large ethnic groups: Caucasians, Indo-Europeans, and Turks, speaking about forty different languages and belonging to six different religions (Sunnis, Shiites, Orthodox Christians, Monophysite Christians, Jews, and Buddhists).

5) In fact the name "Caucasus" covers three quite separate territories, each of which was part of the Soviet Union:

a) the three independent States in the south

b) the four rebellious States in the north-east

c) the Russian territory in the north-west.

The rebellious region comprises four areas; from east to west, Dagestan, Chechnya, Ingushetia, and North Ossetia.

6) The Russians gradually infiltrated the area after their two main rivals in the region, Turkey and Persia, had lost their strength in the eighteenth century. The annexation strategy was:

a) first the Russians sent their Cossacks

b) then they sent their farmers

c) finally they sent their factory workers.

7) Three parties are now racing to build new pipelines from the shores of the Caspian. Iran has plans to build on either side of the southern end of the sea. Russia and the West are in direct competition. Western companies want to route the pipes through allied territory, particularly Turkey, or through countries which have become hostile to Russia, such as Georgia and Azerbaijan.

8) The most important piece in this oil-logistics jigsaw is Georgia. Many Georgian officials and business leaders draw their salary directly from organizations funded by American private-sector organizations. This type of political influence has panicked Russia. In response, Putin has banned all direct activities by foreign humanitarian organizations.

9) The motive for the Russian attack on Georgia was not to defend South Ossetia; that was just the excuse. In modern wars there is always a real motive and an excuse. The excuse is what lends the war legitimacy, it is what is propagated in the mass-media; the motive is often hidden. During the 2008 war, BP had to close the South Caucasus Pipeline. The South Caucasus Pipeline threatens Gazprom's quasi-monopoly on gas deliveries to large parts of Europe.

 
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