The Oil and the Glory: The Pursuit of Empire and Fortune on the Caspian Sea
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Remote, forbidding, and volatile, the Caspian Sea long tantalized the world with its vast oil reserves. But outsiders, blocked by the closed Soviet system, couldn’t get to it. Then the Soviet Union collapsed, and a wholesale rush into the region erupted. Along with oilmen, representatives of the world’s leading nations flocked to the Caspian for a share of the thirty billion barrels of proven oil reserves at stake, and a tense geopolitical struggle began. The main players were Moscow and Washington–the former seeking to retain control of its satellite states, and the latter intent on dislodging Russia to the benefit of the West.
The Oil and the Glory is the gripping account of this latest phase in the epochal struggle for control of the earth’s “black gold.” Steve LeVine, who was based in the region for The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and Newsweek, weaves an astonishing tale of high-stakes political gamesmanship, greed, and scandal, set in one of the most opaque corners of the world. In LeVine’s telling, the world’s energy giants jockey for position in the rich Kazakh and Azeri oilfields, while superpowers seek to gain a strategic foothold in the region and to keep each other in check. At the heart of the story is the contest to build and operate energy pipelines out of the landlocked region, the key to controlling the Caspian and its oil. The oil pipeline that resulted, the longest in the world, is among Washington’s greatest foreign policy triumphs in at least a decade and a half.
Along the way, LeVine introduces such players as James Giffen, an American moneyman who was also the political “fixer” for oil companies eager to do business on the Caspian and the broker for Kazakhstan’s president and ministers; John Deuss, the flamboyant Dutch oil trader who won big but lost even bigger; Heydar Aliyev, the oft-misunderstood Azeri president who transcended his past as a Soviet Politburo member and masterminded a scheme to loosen Russian control over its former colonies in the Caspian region; and all manner of rogues, adventurers, and others drawn by the irresistible pull of untold riches and the possible “final frontier” of the fossil-fuel era. The broader story is of the geopolitical questions of the Caspian oil bonanza, such as whether Russia can be a trusted ally and trading partner with the West, and what Washington’s entry into this important but chaotic region will mean for its long-term stability.
In an intense and suspenseful narrative, The Oil and the Glory is the definitive chronicle of events that are understood by few, but whose political and economic impact will be both profound and lasting.
"The collapse of the Soviet Union was a big opportunity for Big Oil, whose exploits are detailed in this fast-paced work of political and economic reportage by Wall Street Journal energy correspondent LeVine.
Westerners had been sniffing for black gold in Russia and its satellites long before the empire disintegrated, notes the author. Averell Harriman, “the Harvard-trained scion of nineteenth-century robber baron Edward Harriman,” tried his hand at the business before turning to manganese mining, while Armand Hammer “became a money launderer for the Bolsheviks, sneaked cash to secret Bolshevik agents in the United States, and profited handsomely as the representative in Russia of some thirty American companies.” Hammer set the tone for the Americans who flocked to the Caspian in the first years of the Clinton presidency, which maneuvered for the construction of an east-west oil pipeline that, by reversing the old pattern of Central Asian materials going north to Russia and coming back as products for sale, “would favor the West and disfavor Russia.” Not a nice way to treat a fledgling democracy, but the oil scouts, of course, considered Russia a rival for Central-Asian resources second only to Iran, with its heartfelt and long-standing enmity toward the United States in the region and abroad. These scouts–the first among equals being LeVine’s heart-of-darkness antihero, Jim Giffen–kept their distance when Russia still had control over the area, spurning a Gorbachev-era program to allow foreign co-ownership. But they rushed to support separatist movements and encouraged ethnic and political divisions that opened the door to an even bigger share of the wealth. The tale of Giffen’s rise and fall (the latter for perhaps surprising reasons) occupies much of the later pages, but he never loses sight of the bigger picture: namely, Central Asia as oil lamp and potential powder keg in the realpolitik of the next few years.
A complex story rendered comprehensible, with much drama and intrigue."--KIRKUS
days hence in Baku at which the agreement would be submitted to a formal vote by the oilmen. Would there be any surprises? Sheila Heslin hoped not. But anything could happen. The CIA’s position was emblematic of the uncertainty. The morning of Clinton’s call, the agency’s daily briefing had expressed a sour view of the Georgia option. In the agency’s opinion, “there was no way [it] was going to work. The companies were for the [Russian] line. Aliyev was for the [Russian] line. We were going to
study in the religious schools known as madrasahs; the word taliban means “students” in Afghanistan’s Persian language. The group was quickly lionized by the general population, and converts rushed to join their ranks. One was Bashar Noorzai, whose finely tailored, flowing cotton garments and silk turbans were fitting for the son of a successful businessman. Bashar was also an old friend of Mullah Omar and funneled cash and weapons to the Taliban. It was a mutually advantageous relationship, for
scrutiny because bribery was legal at the time under the laws of their countries. Documents in the case were obtained almost immediately by Akezhan Kazhegeldin, the politician whom Nazarbayev’s police chief son-in-law had set out to incriminate. Through his well-connected Washington lieutenant, Rinat Akhmetshin, he was delighted to pass them on to human rights lawyers and journalists, and soon the tribulations of Giffen and the Kazakh leadership were being reported around the world. Former
meeting with Hammer at which Satra chief Ara Oztemel enthusiastically described his latest idea—to export Soviet nickel. Hammer suggested a joint venture but then negotiated a nickel deal for himself. Oztemel was furious, as was the normally reserved Proehl. When Hammer launched a personal campaign for the Nobel Peace Prize, Proehl wrote to one influential friend that Hammer’s “success hangs by his acquaintance/friendship with Lenin and some other imponderables too deep to fathom at this point,
short game that he used to great effect in match play, in which victory is awarded the player who wins the most holes, regardless of how many strokes are taken overall. Some suppose that golf reveals a great deal about a person. One school of thought is that those gifted at match play are likely to be assertive individuals especially adept at seizing the advantage in one-on-one encounters; those mediocre in such situations perhaps feel less need to control and do best as part of a team. Giffen