Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in late 1991, the Caspian Sea region has been seen as a potential major oil and natural gas reservoir. For more than a decade, the five nations that share the Caspian—Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia, and Turkmenistan—have sought to develop the basin’s hydrocarbon resources. This paper provides an assessment of these resources and examines two major hurdles: lack of consensus on the legal status of the Caspian and disagreement of the most cost effective pipeline routes. It argues that oil and natural gas from the Caspian is certain to contribute to global energy security. However, the Caspian Sea should not be seen as a replacement to the Persian Gulf.

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