On February 17, Kosovo broke away from Serbia and declared its independence. Not surprisingly it was instantly recognized as a state by the U.S., Germany, Britain and France. With 4203 square miles area, Kosovo may be a tiny territory but in the great game of oil politics it holds great importance which is in inverse proportion to its size.
Kosovo does not have oil but its location is strategic as the trans-Balkan pipeline - known as AMBO pipeline after its builder and operator the US-registered Albanian Macedonian Bulgarian Oil Corporation - will pass through it.
The pipeline will pump Caspian oil from the Bulgarian port of Burgas via Macedonia to the Albanian port of Vlora, for transport to European countries and the United States. Specifically, the 1.1 billion dollar AMBO pipeline will permit oil companies operating in the Caspian Sea to ship their oil to Rotterdam and the East Coast of the USA at substantially less cost than they are experiencing today.
When operational by 2011, the pipeline will become a part of the region's critical East-West corridor infrastructure which includes highway, railway, gas and fiber optic telecommunications lines. This pipeline will bring oil directly to the European market by eliminating tanker traffic through the ecologically sensitive waters of the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas.
In 2000, the United States Government’s Trade and Development Agency financed a feasibility study of pipeline which updated and enlarged the project's original feasibility study dating from early 1996. Brown & Root Energy Services, a wholly-owned British subsidiary of Halliburton completed the original feasibility study for this project.
The US Trade and Development Agency's paper published May 2000, which assesses that the pipeline is a US strategic interest. According to the paper, the pipeline will provide oil and gas to the US market worth $600m a month, adding that the pipeline is necessary because the oil coming from the Caspian sea will quickly surpass the safe capacity of the Bosphorus.
The project is necessary, according to a paper, because the oil coming from the Caspian sea "will quickly surpass the safe capacity of the Bosphorus as a shipping lane". The scheme, the agency notes, will "provide a consistent source of crude oil to American refineries", "provide American companies with a key role in developing the vital east-west corridor", "advance the privatisation aspirations of the US government in the region" and "facilitate rapid integration" of the Balkans "with western Europe".
The pipeline itself, the agency says, has also been formally supported "since 1994". The first feasibility study, backed by the US, was conducted in 1996.
In November 1998, Bill Richardson, the then US energy secretary, spelt out his policy on the extraction and transport of Caspian oil. "This is about America's energy security," he explained. "It's also about preventing strategic inroads by those who don't share our values. We're trying to move these newly independent countries toward the west.
"We would like to see them reliant on western commercial and political interests rather than going another way. We've made a substantial political investment in the Caspian, and it's very important to us that both the pipeline map and the politics come out right."
Professor Michel Chossudovsky, author of America at War in Macedonia, provides a deep insight into the Albanian-Macedonian-Bulgarian-Oil Pipeline project:
“The US based AMBO pipeline consortium is directly linked to the seat of political and military power in the United States and Vice President Dick Cheney's firm Halliburton Energy. The feasibility study for AMBO's Trans-Balkan Oil Pipeline, conducted by the international engineering company of Brown & Root Ltd. [Halliburton's British subsidiary] has determined that this pipeline will become a part of the region's critical East-West corridor infrastructure which includes highway, railway, gas and fibre optic telecommunications lines.
“Coincidentally, White and Case LLT, the New York law firm that President William J. Clinton joined when he left the White House also has a stake in the AMBO pipeline deal.
“And upon completion of the feasibility study by Halliburton, a senior executive of Halliburton was appointed CEO of AMBO. Halliburton was also granted a contract to service US troops in the Balkans and build "Bondsteel" in Kosovo, which now constitutes "the largest American foreign military base constructed since Vietnam".