This is an edited excerpt of a Los Angeles Times editorial, which was published Friday.
THE states of the Caspian Sea region are rich in energy resources and eager to maintain the independence from Moscow.
The West wants to diversify its sources of oil and natural gas and at the same time try to head off a reassertion of Russian dominance in Central Asia.
These interests have now joined in the proposed construction, with U.S. financial help, of oil and gas pipelines from Azerbaijan to Turkey. If built, the pipelines could each year move hundreds of millions of barrels of oil and billions of cubic meters of natural gas to Western markets.
U.S. backing for the project, and the blessing for it that was personally delivered by President Clinton at the Istanbul meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, has become another irritant in U.S.-Russia relations.
However, the key aim, as Mr. Clinton said, is to increase the security of the West's energy resources. This is a prudent policy in a region fraught with risks.