I’d like to be a fly on the wall for the upcoming talks between Condoleezza Rice and the Russian leadership. From The New York Times, May 6, 2006:
A day after chastising Moscow for its use of oil and natural gas as "tools for intimidation or blackmail," Vice President Dick Cheney visited Kazakhstan on Friday to promote export routes that bypass Russia and directly supply the West.
With his comments, Mr. Cheney waded into a messy geopolitical struggle for energy and influence in the countries of the former Soviet Union, rapidly becoming one of the world’s largest-producing regions.
The United States backs efforts to weaken Russia’s grip by building new export routes for the enormous energy reserves of Central Asia, much of which now must cross Russian territory to reach ports in the Black Sea or pipelines to Europe.
Mr. Cheney’s visit to Kazakhstan, on Russia’s southern rim, highlighted the balancing of United States interests, trying to counter Russian dominance in energy matters by cozying up to states like Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan that have spotty human rights records and limited democracy — and plenty of oil.
The Russian national oil company whose actions had so infuriated Cheney was led by Dmitri A. Medvedev — now president of Russia. Here’s a Times article from today with more detail on these tortured geopolitics.