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Caspian Guard

Two strategic initiatives that EUCOM continued to develop and expand are Caspian Guard and the Gulf of Guinea Guard. These are two engagements that demonstrate a regional approach towards establishing stability and security in relatively remote areas within the theater susceptible to transnational threats.

An example of military, non-military, and private sector collaboration to reach common strategic goals is Caspian Guard, a regional multinational effort partnering U.S. and host nation military and nonmilitary agencies with private firms to help Caspian Sea littoral states establish an integrated airspace and maritime border control regime.

In the Caspian Basin, EUCOM has moved from concept development to full implementation of an initiative which established an integrated airspace, maritime and border control regime for the nations of Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan.

Sponsored by OSD, Caspian Guard addresses counterproliferation, counterterrorism, and illicit trafficking as well as defense of key economic zones such as Caspian Basin petroleum. The concept is to focus EUCOM regional security cooperation activities in partnership with the Defense Threat Reduction Agency to assist the littoral states in integrating their airspace and maritime surveillance and control systems; their national command, control, communications, computers, and intelligence systems; and their reaction and response forces.

The development of oil and gas deposits in the Caspian region, particularly oil rich Western Kazakhstan, and the infrastructure to transport it to market, has been the focus for U.S. policy in Central Asia for over a decade. Before the United States intervention in Afghanistan, outside the oil industry or the small circle of academic and government specialists on the region, few in the United States knew where Central Asia was or had ever heard the name Kazakhstan. Even today, with Kazakhstan as a quiet sideshow to the events in Afghanistan, it is a relatively small group who understand Kazakhstan's potential to shift the balance of power in world oil markets and lessen the strategic importance of the Middle East. With the addition of the recently confirmed reserves of the Kashagan field in the North Caspian, within twenty years Kazakhstan could potentially become the largest oilproducing nation outside the Middle East.

Given the explosive growth of oil infrastructure in Kazakhstan's Caspian Sea Region, the need to develop a comprehensive security system is becoming evident. There are those who are concerned that the sea is already becoming militarized and this in itself is a danger to regional stability. However, Iran and Russia already have significant maritime forces, including naval infantry. Caspian security cannot be based on the hope that the neighborhood will continue to be politically stable or the neighbors benevolent. Terrorists have proven that they can strike in distant locations against soft targets.

Given that the largest concentration of U.S. commercial investment in the former Soviet Union is in oil production facilities in western Kazakhstan, Kazakhstan's ability to deter or respond to a terrorist attack should be an issue of U.S. concern. Also, the Caspian Sea presents a significant challenge to U.S. efforts to control the spread of weapons of mass destruction since it is a direct and lightly monitored transport route to Iran and the Caucasus.

The first attempt to form a comprehensive concept to improve Caspian security was in the fiscal years 2004-2009 security assistance budget submission in June 2001 which included a multi-year request to develop a Caspian Region rapid reaction capability and a maritime training center. Based on discussions with the Coast Guard International Training Department, the US also began planning for a Coast Guard survey to review the overall maritime security situation to better understand what our priorities should be.

The Exercise Related Construction (ERC) program is a valuable tool and one of the more important aspects of EUCOM's Theater Security Cooperation program. The ERC program is a powerful catalyst that effectively leverages austere minor military construction funding targeted at particular countries or regions that complements EUCOM's overall theater strategy.

Caspian Guard, launched in the fall of 2003, will include a radar-equipped command center in Baku, Azerbaijan. The Wall Street Journal on 11 April 2005 reported that the US planned to spend $100 million on Caspian Guard to respond to crisis situations in the Caspian Sea region.

On 20 September 2003, the former U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Point Brower was officially turned over to Azerbaijan. The Point Brower-now renamed S-201-is the third patrol boat of its type that the U.S. government has given Azerbaijan. Two smaller U.S. Coast Guard cutters were given to Azerbaijan in 2000. The transfer of this cutter represents over $2.5 million in U.S. government assistance to Azerbaijan, including the preparation and transportation costs and the value of the ship itself.

The ship's long journey began in San Francisco, California and continued as the Maritime Brigade crew piloted the vessel across the Black Sea and Sea of Azov, through the Volga Don canal to the Caspian Sea, and finally to Baku.

The 27-meter patrol boat Point Brower was commissioned in 1970 and stationed in San Diego, California. Its primary missions were law enforcement and search and rescue. The cutter has been refurbished and retrofitted several times, most recently in preparation for its transfer to Azerbaijan.

Iran has shown interest in forming a "rapid reaction force" with Russia in the Caspian.

The Caspian Sea region has become a central focus point for untapped oil and natural gas resources from the southern portion of the former Soviet Union. Beginning in May 2005, oil from the southern sections of the Caspian Sea began pumping through a new pipeline (built by a BP-led consortium) to the Turkish seaport of Ceyhan. The 8-year effort of Western capital, technology, and diplomacy had aimed to decrease reliance on Middle Eastern oil. However, in recent years, new oil finds and production performance in the Caspian region have not met levels that had been expected in the 1990s. At any rate, the Caspian Sea's production levels, even at their peak, will be much smaller than OPEC countries' output. Production levels are expected to reach 4 million barrels per day (bbl/d) in 2015, compared to 45 million bbl/d for the OPEC countries in that year.

In almost any direction, Caspian region export pipelines may be subject to regional conflicts, an additional complicating factor in determining final routes. Numerous ethnic and religious groups reside in the Caspian Sea region, and continuing conflicts pose threats to both existing pipelines and those under construction. Despite the ouster of the Taliban government in December 2001, Afghanistan remains scarred and unstable after years of war. Negotiations to resolve the Azerbaijan-Armenia war over the Armenian-populated Nagorno-Karabakh enclave in Azerbaijan have yet to make significant progress. Separatist conflicts in Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and Ajaria in Georgia flared in the mid-1990's. However, the June 2004 election of a leader in Ajaria who is aligned with neighboring Georgia decreased the risk of further oil transport interruptions. Finally, Russia's war with Chechnya has devastated the region around Groznyy in southern Russia, and the September 2004 terrorist massacre in Beslan underlines the tenuous political situation in the Caspian Sea region.

The most significant problem with the Caspian Sea's oil and natural gas resources is the lack of an agreement among the five littoral states. Although Russia, Azerbaijan, and Kazakhstan have each signed bilateral agreements with the other, Iran's position is that each country be given 20 percent of the Sea's resources. In other words, each country ought to receive 20 percent of all production revenues from the entire Caspian Sea. Iran stands alone among littoral states in insisting upon a division of the Caspian Sea into five equal sectors. The Islamic Republic, with due regard to the unique specifications of the Caspian Sea, advocates joint exploitation of the Sea as the best option for completing its legal regime, and has expressed readiness to enter into negotiation on division of the Sea, as some of the littoral states have shown their willingness to this effect.

In May 2003, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Russia divided the northern 64 percent of the Caspian Sea into three unequal parts using a median line principle, giving Kazakhstan 27 percent, Russia 19 percent, and Azerbaijan 18 percent. Following this, development of the northern Caspian Sea's hydrocarbon potential, where most of the region's oil reserves and largest international projects are found, will likely move forward despite the lack of a comprehensive regional consensus. On 14 October 2003 Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Dr Hamidreza Assefi said that the trilateral agreement signed on 08 October 2005 between the republic of Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Russia on dividing the Caspian seabed was not in conformity with the principle of consensus and lacks legal value. Dr Assefi said, "Any measure to change the legal regime of the Caspian sea should be endorsed by all five littoral states," adding, "the recent agreement totally contradicts the principle of consensus and makes the issue more complicated and delays the process of resolving the issues pertaining to the Caspian sea and the Islamic Republic of Iran considers it to be of no legal bearing."

On 10 March 2004 Iranian foreign ministry spokesman, Dr Hamidreza Assefi, said Iran had always supported talks among the littoral states aimed at setting up a legal regime that would satisfy all the said countries and guarantee their long-term interests. He noted that Iran had proposed its plans on the basis of international norms and unique status of the Sea. Dr Assefi stressed that Iran favors joint exploitation of the Sea as the most logical solution on for completing the said regime, but the idea of dividing the sea for joint exploitation would be acceptable to Iran only if it is based on the international norms and bearing in mind the unique characteristics of the Caspian Sea in a bid to provide the ground for the littoral states to gain a fair share of the Sea. Expounding on Iran`s official stance, he said it is necessary to consider the special status of the Caspian Sea such as its shape and the length of its coastline. On this basis the share of Iran would be around 20 percent, he added. Dr Assefi expressed hope that the next meeting of foreign ministers of the Caspian Sea littoral states would bring the views of these countries closer toward solving the problem.

The April 2005 visit to the capital of Azerbaijan, Baku, by US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was made in great secrecy. Observers were reminded of a statement by General James Jones, NATO Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, in which he said that the US planned to establish military bases in the Caspian area and was drafting the Caspian Guard program for the coming decade. Under this project, the US attaches particular importance to Azerbaijan, seeing it as a prime location for deploying mobile rapid reaction forces and for solving its foreign policy problems in the region, mainly those concerning Iran.

Significantly, the US program also includes setting up special task forces, whose mission will be similar to those Russia had proposed for its regional plans: "a rapid reaction not only to terrorist attacks at oil pipelines, but also to any emergency situations in the Caspian countries." A command center equipped with most up-to-date radars will be established in Baku and the entire Caspian zone will become its responsibility. Some analysts say the Azerbaijani authorities have already agreed in principle to the proposal. The implementation of the Caspian Guard program will pose a threat primarily to the defense interests of Russia and Iran, as it includes observation systems for the air and sea, and will place a vast territory under US control.

Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan had not concealed their desire to modernize their naval forces, in which the US, in contrast to Iran and Russia, is helping them. Kazakhstan's navy will soon receive a ship displacing more than 1,000 tons free of charge. The republic will establish military infrastructure along its coast using American money. The US is offering the same to Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan.

Iran has offered support for a Russian initiative on the Caspian Sea states alone establishing a joint rapid reaction force in the region. Russia's initiative initially envisaged more than efforts to combat international terrorist attacks against the region and to avert other common threats. It was also designed to prevent countries from outside the region, above all the US, from becoming involved in the affairs of the region, which the US has included in the zone of its interests.

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Page last modified: 27-07-2018 23:52:53 ZULU