The project is fraught with problems, however. The first is the price of oil. Although the price has increased recently, the overall trend since the oil crises of two decades ago has been down, as a result of the relentless pressure of technological advancements. The lower the price of oil, the more questionable the commercial viability of the expensive Baku‐Ceyhan pipeline. The governments of the United States and Turkey are already being pressured to subsidize construction.
The second problem is political. The effort to bypass Russia makes the United States appear hypocritical. Administration officials are arguing that Russia should move to a market economy while Washington asserts the superiority of U.S. strategic interests in selecting pipeline routes. U.S-Russian tensions, which are already disturbingly high, are being exacerbated by the pipeline issue, because Moscow suspects that Washington is trying to establish a U.S. sphere of influence on Russia’s southern flank. Similarly, the effort to bypass Iran is creating an obstacle to efforts to reach out to the elements in that country who want better relations with the United States. Thus, the pipeline, far from promoting U.S. interests in the region, undermines them. The U.S. government should heed its own rhetoric and let the market determine the pipeline route.