Russian Security Council secretary Ivan Rybkin has deplored proposals by Ukraine and Azerbaijan to transport Caspian oil by a route bypassing Russian territory. Rybkin said this would harm not only Russia’s economy but that of the Chechen Republic.
It would be hard to imagine the Kremlin reacting other than negatively to such proposals. Moscow has a vital interest in the "northern variant," whereby Azerbaijani oil would travel along the Baku-Makhachkala-Djohar-gala-Kropotkin-Novorossiisk route, and from there by tankers to European ports. According to interpretations widespread in the Russian media, the Kremlin began the war in Chechnya in order to assert control over the territory covered by the "northern variant." Today, Kommersant-daily asserts, Russia’s neighbors are trying to create an oil "cordon sanitaire" around their former colonial power. (Kommersant-daily, March 25)
Bulgaria Wants to Buy and Service Russian MiG-29s.