Skip to content

It would be a logistical nightmare, but the biggest obstacles are geopolitical.

A trans-Caspian energy and trade corridor has long captured the interest of many nations that would benefit from its creation, and the war in Ukraine has made things only more urgent. The reasons it has never come to fruition are fairly obvious; ferrying hydrocarbons and other commodities from Central Asia along a route that bypasses Russian territory is a massive logistical undertaking. But the biggest obstacle is geopolitical. The nations comprising Central Asia and the South Caucasus will have to manage a litany of issues for a trans-Caspian corridor to ever take off.

Which is why some recent reports out of Central Asia are so interesting. On April 10, the presidents of Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan jointly called for increased oil exports through Azerbaijan. In late March, Kazakh state-owned energy firm KazMunayGas began shipping oil from the Kashagan field, located in the Caspian Sea, to the Azerbaijani terminal of Sangachal for onward distribution via the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline. Only a year earlier, oil from Kazakhstan’s Tengiz field was exported through the same route, in accordance with a contract between KazMunayGas and the State Oil Company of the Republic of Azerbaijan.

A trans-Caspian corridor could involve any number of players, including countries like Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, which have substantial natural gas reserves. But for now, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan are the essential pieces in a trans-regional energy shipment network. Both understand as much, and both are capitalizing on regional conflicts to enhance their respective positions.

Read the rest in Geopolitical Futures.