The politics of the Caspian Sea

Headlines are starting to appear that Iranian warships are headed to Russian military bases! OMG! Stupid Obama! Nuke Iran! Nuke Russia! Kill Assad! Kill the people trying to kill Assad! Nuke the West Bank!… Errrr – hold the phone.

The Caspian Sea Is an inland Sea (Or a big lake depending on who you ask). It is fed mostly by the Volga River (“yo, heave ho – all together now – Yo heave ho”). The Soviet Union built a canal connecting the Caspian Sea to the Black Sea that goes only through Russian territory. As a “big lake”, the only countries that have any rights to put ships into the Caspian “lake” are countries that have borders on the water – like Iran. The US and Israel have no right of passage through the canal, especially since the US is not a signatory to the UN treaty regarding navigation on International waters,

Turkey asserts that this is not fair – Turkey lets Russian military ships have transit access to the Black Sea. There are two very important differences – Turkey was a signatory to the treaty in the 1930s permitting Russia to enter and exit the Black Sea. Perhaps more importantly, the Bosporus linking the Mediterranean and Black Sea is a natural waterway. Turkey has also refused to sign the UN Convention on the Sea.

The US has found proxy states like Kazakhstan that have rights to use the sea, but not free transit through Russia’s Canal.

(route of the canal in red)

There is also a less capable series of canals connecting to the Baltic Sea and hence the North Atlantic, but it usually freezes in the winter
Volga Baltic Waterway
(note that this is an Iranian website – don’t access it if you are in say… Israel?) note that it was written back when Russia and Iran had contentious relations, unlike today.

Bishop x R7

Your move, John Kerry.

Kazakhstan opened a pipeline in 2009 that connects to China without going through either Russia or Iran. Kazakhstan are not Arabs nor Persians – following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the new capitalist country was very agreeable to western influence, especially from Israel. John Batchelor went on a junket with Malcolm Hoenlein to meet the post Soviet government. John was significantly impressed with the hospitality.

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