Crude oil, once seen as a wealth-creating blessing for mankind, is fast turning into the devil’s tears.” The struggle to control the world’s remaining energy reserves increasingly culminates in bloody conflicts and the killing of innocent civilians, with the war in Iraq being only the latest example. In The New Great Game, Lutz Kleveman gives us a fearless, insightful, and exacting portrait of a new battleground in the violent politics and passion of oil: Central Asia, known as the black hole of the earth” for much of the last century. The Caspian Sea contains the world’s largest amount of untapped oil and gas resources. It is estimated that there might be as much as 100 billion barrels of crude oil in the former Soviet republics of Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan alone.
Using the concept of the Great Game” that Rudyard Kipling immortalized in his novel Kim, Kleveman argues that now a New Great Game rages in the region, a modern variant of the nineteenth-century clash of imperial ambitions of Great Britain and Tsarist Russia. Only this time the stakes are raised. Desperate to wean itself from dependence on the powerful OPEC cartel, the United States is now pitted in this struggle against Russia, China, and Iran, all competing for dominance of the Caspian region, its resources and pipeline routes.
Complicating the playing field are transnational energy corporations with their own agendas and the brash new, Wild Weststyle entrepreneurs who have taken control after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Traveling thousands of miles, from the Caucasus peaks across the central Asian plains down to the Afghan Hindu Kush, Kleveman met with the principal Great Game actors between Kabul and Moscow: oil barons, generals, diplomats, and warlords.
Based on extensive research and travel in the Caucasus, the Caspian, and Central Asia, The New Great Game is a gripping narrative and a savvy and incisive analysis of the power struggle for the world’s remaining energy resources.
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I knew little about Central Asia, much less the intricacies of its economic and political situation. Kleveman's journalistic style makes this an enjoyable read and his reporting brings a non-specialist up to date. He explains his own personal experiences and also presents the relevent history of the region with integrity. I am confident that one will come away feeling 'in the know' with regards the present and future developments of the oil and gas industry and the socio-political situation of Central Asia, the United States and the major suppliers of our petroleum in the Middle East. One will hopefully also gain a sense of fitting toghether a vital piece of the puzzle that is the relation of the global oil market to the politics of regions. At the moment, given Kleveman's presentation, the only viable alternative that the Bush administration seems to be acknowledging with regards a shift away from dependecy in Middle Eastern oil is to invest heavily in Central Asia. Hence the importance of Kleveman's work.
I read this book with great interest. It portrays in concrete detail this little-known area of the world. It is fascinating, in terms of all that potential oil wealth along side abject poverty and the 'clash of civilizations' (Russian, Iranian, Chinese, etc.). The author portrays his subject with great objectivity. However, in the chapter on Iran, he hardly mentions the fact that Iran has been the number one sponsor of terrorism in the world since 1979, and is basically in a state of war with the U.S. Also, his comment that the Iranian nuclear program is for 'civil' purposes is of course pure speculation at best. The chapter on Iran was disappointing, because he treats Iran as if it were not a terror state. However, I would still highly recommend this book.