Ben N. Dunlap

Document Type



The search for alternative sources of oil has renewed U.S. interest in the Caspian Sea. Bordered by Russia, Azerbaijan, Iran, and the Central Asian states of Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, the Caspian Sea contains up to thirty-three billion barrels of proven oil reserYes. The legal status of the Caspian has remained unresolved since the collapse of the Soviet Union, however. In the early 1990s Russia joined with Iran to argue for common ownership of the sea by all five states, aiming for Yeto power over Western involvement in the region. Now, Russia argues for dividing the seabed (and the oil and gas underneath it) into national sectors, while leaving most of the surface waters for common management and use. The Russian solution offers political and economic benefits to both Russia and the United States in the short run, but may be an unsound basis for long-term stability in the Caspian region.