Russia’s use of gas to exert pressures upon Ukraine has provoked concern in the West. However, pressures upon Georgia are even stronger although less noticed. In Georgia, as well as in Ukraine, Vladimir Putin wants to apply the doctrine of the liberal empire formulated by Anatoli Chubais, chairman of the United Energy System. It’s goal is to create a new Russian empire by means of money and not tanks.
The first stage of this strategy was aimed at controlling the economy of Armenia. Afterwards, it had to be integrated into a unified economic zone with Russia but, in view of the Georgian interests in the country, Tbilisi had to be controlled first. This is what Russia tried to do with political pressures first and economic pressures later. The plan was interrupted by the Rose Revolution but the Russian companies managed to obtain, at least, the shares of the Georgian companies.
The main actor of the Russian foreign policy in Georgia is Gazprom. Its goal is to control the gas industry in Georgia and the gas pipeline that provides supplies to Georgia and Armenia. Russia could succeed in this without the support of the West. It could also count on Russian state-owned bank Vnershtogbank which has already taken control of several banks in Armenia and Georgia. Gradually, Russia extends its imperial influence. An influence which may even include the annexation of Abkhazia.
If the West does not react, the southern part of the Caucasus could become anti-western oriented and then be part of the Russia-Iran alliance.

Daily Star (Lebanon)
Korea Herald (South Korea)
Daily Times (Pakistan)

Economic imperialism in Russia, by Frederick Starr and Vladimer Papava, Korea Herald, January 20, 2006.
In the Caucasus, a ’neo-imperial’ Russian revival”, Daily Star, January 20, 2006.
Russia turning to entrapment with its satellite states”, Taipei Times, January 20, 2006.