The Greater Game
The focus of interest in central Asia is returning to strategic and newly oil-rich Kazakhstan where tycoons and reform politicians are vowing to shake up the longest-lasting regime in the post-Soviet constellation. With growth in double figures, foreign investors are watching too.
On November 27, as American and Afghani forces laid siege to the last remaining Taliban strongholds, a small group of officials and executives presided over what may be an even more important milestone in central Asian history. Gathered in the Russian Black Sea port of Novorossiysk, the VIPs inaugurated the first major pipeline linking the rich new oil fields of the Caspian basin to western markets. Yet as the ministers and businessmen sought to highlight the contribution the new pipeline would make to regional stability, the country at the other end of the $2.6 billion, 1,580 kilometre conduit was being shaken by its most significant political upheaval since its independence from the former Soviet Union.
The drama began in the second week in November, with the sudden announcement that a son-in-law of Kazakhstan's long-serving president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, had resigned as first deputy chairman of the National Security Committee, the country's successor to the old KGB.