NATO getting involved in Caspian
Azerbaijan and Georgia are using NATO's Partnership for Peace program as a vehicle to engage the alliance in
protecting the Caspian oil pipelines against local insurgents.
NATO's "Infrastructure Logistics & Civil Emergency Planning Division" has been providing advice to Azerbaijan on environmental security -- i.e., handling oil spills and similar accidents.
The alliance now is considering a request from Azerbaijan to expand the co-operation to include "operational security," meaning co-operation on actually protecting or defending the Caucasus pipelines. NATO's role would consist of expert visits and consultations.
Although NATO has no plans to offer actual military assistance to the Caucasus pipelines, the alliance may provide its expertise to local militaries.
Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Moldova are discussing a joint battalion tasked with protecting the pipelines.
Protection for oil facilities is needed because the Caucasus region -- and Georgia in particular -- is rife with secessionist rebellions that could target the pipelines. The coup in Georgia in October, for instance, forced a two-day suspension in the construction of the Baku-Supsa pipeline. The region's problems run deep, and NATO's military assistance for pipeline protection could bring some stability in the region.