The name of the game is OIL! & the prize is profits


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Former Yugoslavia: The name of the game is OIL! & the prize is profits
Posted Friday, May 18, 2001
Source : People's Weekly World

The Bush administration, with its spectacular connections to oil and energy corporations, is telling the U.S. people they need more oil, gas and nuclear power to meet the so-called "energy crisis." It is becoming unmistakeable that events in the Balkans, including the recent terrorist attacks in Macedonia, have been directly related to this drive for ever greater sources of oil and profits.

By Karen Talbot

Not only do the people of the former Yugoslavia continue to pay an enormous human price, but U.S. consumers and taxpayers are shelling out huge sums that ultimately enrich these corporations. The intensifying civil war in Macedonia is a case in point.

Terrorist assaults in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) by the so-called "National Liberation Army" (NLA) have resumed and greatly escalated in recent days with major ambushes, including against security forces near Kumanova. The FYROM government troops have responded with a major offensive to counter the terrorists.

The ethnic Albanian terrorists have been engaging in fierce attacks in the rugged mountains of Macedonia, not only targeting Serbs and Macedonians, but also Albanians who oppose them. Their actions have been criticized by Western powers as threatening to ignite a wider Balkan conflict. But is there a hidden agenda?

Though the U.S. administration says it opposes the recent terrorism in this region, they have not stopped these attacks, which are initiated from the Serbian province of Kosovo. This is despite the overwhelming KFOR presence, including U.S. forces stationed at Camp Bondsteel the huge military base in Kosovo, conveniently located in this vital area.

The NLA forces are openly acknowledged to be connected with the Kovoso Liberation Army (KLA), which has consistently been backed by the U.S. and NATO troops occupying Kosovo. This alliance has persisted despite the KLA's continuing widespread attacks on Serbs and other non-Albanians in Kosovo and its widely known criminal and drug-trafficking activities.

The KLA was nominally transformed into the Kosovo Protection Corps (KPC), which is trained by Military Professional Resources, Inc. (MPRI), made up of former U.S. military officers, based in Alexandria, Va. The MPRI also had been involved in the training and command of the Croatian military that forced over 200,000 ethnic Serbs from the Krajina region of Croatia in 1995.

It is curious, therefore, that NATO Secretary-General George Robertson described the ethnic Albanian NLA fighters as "a bunch of murderous thugs whose objective is to destroy a democratic Macedonia and who are using civilians as human shields." Are they not thugs when engaging in similar behavior in Kosovo?

The current attacks in Macedonia have centered very near the boundaries between Macedonia, Kosovo and the Presevo Valley in southeast Serbia. This valley is a narrow strip of land between high mountain ranges that border Kosovo on the west and Bulgaria on the east. It is a strategic route that has been used for centuries for commerce and passage for armies between Europe and the Middle East.

It is now becoming clearer than ever that a primary reason the U.S. has been so involved in Kosovo, Bosnia and throughout Yugoslavia, has much to do with the immense wealth to be gleaned from oil.

Construction of a major "trans-Balkan" pipeline is underway from Burgas in Bulgaria on the Black Sea, through Macedonia, to the Albanian Adriatic port of Vlore. It is being built by U.S.-owned Albanian-Macedonia-Bulgarian Oil Corporation (AMBO) and is scheduled to be operational by 2005.

The trans-Balkan pipeline passes through what is known as corridor 8 - traversing very near the borders between Macedonia, Kosovo and the Presevo Valley (see map). Furthermore, it is to be connected with another series of pipelines, some of them Soviet-era pipelines. A major one of these will pass down the Presevo Valley - known as corridor 10 - connecting with the AMBO pipeline precisely at these same critical borders.

This system of pipelines is designed not only to transport petroleum to seaports for shipping abroad, but extends into the heart of Europe. Two branches of the AMBO line jut into Greece - one to Thessalonika, the other to a terminal on the west coast.

All of this has to do with the enormously rich petroleum fields of the Caspian Sea basin. In order to get that oil to market, one of the best routes is to pipe it to the Black Sea, ship it in tankers across the sea and then pipe it again across the Balkans to the Adriatic Sea. This bypasses the treacherously narrow Bosporous Straits near Istanbul, which Turkey claims could not safely accommodate the heavy tanker traffic from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean.

By restricting this route, Turkey is also limiting Russian oil transport through the straits and boosting its own interest in the construction of a pipeline from Baku on the Caspian Sea to the Turkish terminal at Ceyhan, which would also by-pass Russia.

This route has fluctuating support by the United States. The AMBO trans-Balkan pipeline will make all countries from the Caspian Sea to the Balkans politically and economically dependent on the U.S.

The transport of oil through the Balkans is not the only consideration for the giant oil cartels. They are also pursuing the development of rich petroleum fields in various parts of the Balkan region itself, especially in Albania.

The feasibility study giving the green light to the AMBO project was largely paid for by U.S taxpayers. Was it mere coincidence that the terrorist attacks in Macedonia began just after the successful completion of the study and the go-ahead was given for the pipeline?

Journalist Richard Norton-Taylor, writing in The Guardian of London, put it this way: "While the U.S. and NATO - and now the [European Union (E.U.)] - hold out the prospect of untold wealth for the Caucasian states of the former Soviet Union, the West will also have an important economic stake in Albania and Macedonia ... The implications for Kosovo, a Serbian province with an overwhelming ethnic Albanian population, and for Macedonia, with armed groups from Kosovo stirring up trouble among the ethnic Albanian population, are potentially immense."

General Michael Jackson, who eventually took over command of KFOR in Kosovo, when speaking of Macedonia, said: "[W]e will certainly remain here a long time so that we can also guarantee the security of the energy corridors which traverse this country."

Somehow it comes as no surprise that the AMBO pipeline project is headed by AMBO CEO E.L. "Ted" Ferguson, former director of oil and gas development for Europe for Brown and Root, which is part of Halliburton, Vice President Dick Cheney's old company.

Interestingly, the gargantuan Camp Bondsteel was also built by Halliburton. It is the largest U.S. military base constructed since Vietnam. Furthermore, the troops stationed in the Balkans are being serviced by Halliburton and the feasibility study for the AMBO pipeline was conducted by Brown and Root.

There is a tremendous pot of "Black Gold" at the end of this pipeline rainbow. The oil giants already moving into place to operate under the umbrella of AMBO are Texaco, Chevron, Exxon, Mobil, BP, Amoco, Agip and TotalElFina.

A project as massive as the trans-Balkan pipeline requires enormous amounts of U.S. government money in the form of investment guarantees from the Export-Import Bank, loans from the World Bank and other backing. It needs the sword to march along with the dollar, even if that sword is wielded by surrogate forces. It needs NATO troops and the massive U.S. "Fort" Bondsteel in the "frontier" outpost of Kosovo, to protect the investments. Who better to guarantee all of these things than the Bush administration team with its connections to corporations like Halliburton, and big oil? They are dripping in oil and energy profits.

The E.U., with Germany leading the way, has been projecting several corridors since the early 1990s. These are not only energy corridors, but also will provide a vast complex of communications - highways, railroads, airports, maritime ports and rivers - critical to the economy and corporate profits in Europe. The U.S. has balked at several of the pipeline and corridor plans that would carry oil from the Caspian and Russia (including through Ukraine) into Europe.

Another pipeline competing with the AMBO corridor is projected to carry crude from Russia to Greece via Bulgaria. Hundreds of billions of Euros are at stake. However, it appears that the AMBO pipeline, with its connection to the corridor 10 pipeline, will give the U.S. control over a considerable amount of the oil coming into Europe from the Caspian basin.

These plans have created one of a number of substantial rivalries between the U.S. and the E.U. This competition has been reflected in recent years in differences over Kosovo, Bosnia and Macedonia, among other disputes.

The goal of the ongoing terrorism, led by the KLA, has been, and now is openly proclaimed to be, the establishment a "Greater Albania." The only time such an entity ever existed was under the fascist rule during World War II. This objective is being espoused by the neo-fascists of today. Is the success of the AMBO pipeline project dependent on going along with this aim?

The map of "Greater Albania" includes parts of Greece. Is it mere happenstance that the AMBO line includes branches into Greece and that the Presevo Valley is the only possible route for a pipeline between Europe and the Greek port of Thessalonika? (see map)

The agony of the people of Yugoslavia, who were steadily bombed by the U.S. and NATO for 78 days and hard hit by the severest economic sanctions for years, coupled with the fragmentation of the former Yugoslavia, must be viewed against the backdrop of corporate profits, particularly oil profits.

Upon close examination, one discovers that the giant oil companies continue to be deeply involved in most of the conflicts in the world, including in efforts to destroy national sovereignty and break up nations. More often than not, U.S. government and military policies back them up. In the case of the southern Balkans, the intent may well be to establish a "Greater Albania" to advance the interests of the oil conglomerates.


In response to the so-called "energy crisis," Vice President Richard Cheney brushed aside energy conservation and renewable energy and announced that the Bush-Cheney administration favors a sharp increase in oil and gas production as the answer.

Cheney is the ramrod for oil drilling in the fragile Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. He favors opening federal lands and offshore sites for oil exploration. Cheney also announced that the administration will push for the construction of 1,300 new power plants by the year 2020, fired by fossil fuels that will pump out millions of tons of greenhouse gases, adding to the crisis of global warming.

In opting for an energy-intensive policy, Cheney rejected a report by scientists at five national laboratories that a vigorous energy conservation program could reduce electricity demand by as much as 47 percent. That is the equivalent of the energy produced by between 265 and 610 big 300 megawatt power stations, depending on how effective people are in saving energy.

Some of the conservation proposed by the Lawrence-Berkeley National Laboratory were common sense measures like encouraging people to turn off lights, installing heat pumps and converting to energy-efficient fluorescent lamps. The U.S. government itself, with 500,000 buildings, is the biggest energy consumer and could save $1 billion each year through adoption of energy conservation measures.

President Bush and Cheney scorn these proposals because they are Texas oil men ever loyal to their cronies in gas and oil business. Conservation would do nothing to add to the bottom line of companies like Halliburton and Enron that put them in the White House. It has taken less than five months for the Bush administration to preside over gasoline prices at $3 per gallon and home heating bills that have doubled and tripled. George W. Bush has earned the chant heard at so many marches and rallies, "Hail to the Thief."

- Tim Wheeler


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