COOPERATION IN SOUTHERN CAUCASUS: THEORY AND PRACTICE
Laura Bagdasarian, Head, “Region” Research Center at the Association of Investigative Journalism of Armenia (Erevan, Armenia)
The Survival Formula for the Region
No matter how different were the aims of each of the twelve CIS members every one of them was seeking for its survival formula. In Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia it included a triple task: to stem civil and ethnic wars; to minimize inevitable complications caused by new economic relations in the states and between them; and to actively participate in dividing the property of the 4 million-strong Soviet Army to be able to set up their own national armed forces.
The survival formula was aimed at setting up three attributes of any independent state: political stability, dynamic economy, and effective defense. The events of the first half of the 1990s in the South Caucasian states showed that not only the very possibility of acquiring the “three whales” of statehood but the very chance of survival are caught in pinching limits. It was the time when each of the countries either discontinued its relations with the neighbors in the region (Azerbaijan and Armenia are the most appropriate example) or reduced them to an impossibly low level (like hauling cargoes to blockaded Armenia across Georgia). At the same time, the survival formula opened new vistas of cooperation with Russia. It was the time when the South Caucasian countries caught in a web of difficulties pinned their hopes on Russia in an effort to heal their social and economic spheres. The majority of those who left their countries in the wake of the Karabakh and Abkhazian conflicts, the severe economic and energy crisis in Armenia, domestic clashes in Georgia and Azerbaijan settled in Russia. It is even more important that the countries looked at Russia to resolve their serious political problems.
From the very first days of the Commonwealth of Independent States integration inside it was proclaimed the basic principle of interstate relations. Yet each of the South Caucasian states looked at integration as the need to move as close to Russia as possible so that to resolve the most painful political problems. For Armenia political cooperation with Russia was the main instrument of its own security and that of Nagorny Karabakh. Georgia looked at its CIS membership as a chance to use the Russian factor in winning the Tskhinvali (South Ossetia) and Abkhazian conflicts. “Georgia believes that it is its most urgent task within the CIS to finally resolve the Abkhazian and Tskhinvali problems. Positive developments will tell us whether the CIS has finally acquired mechanisms of dealing with specific and sensitive tasks. In case of a positive answer we shall be ready for the deepest possible integration.”1 Azerbaijan entertained similar hopes (Russia’s help in dealing with the Karabakh problem) when it joined the CIS when Heydar Aliev had come to power.
Why the “Peaceful Caucasus” Conception Failed
In the latter half of the nineties when cease-fire in the conflict zones (Karabakh, Abkhazia, South Ossetia) had been achieved and when Azerbaijan had signed a “contract of the century” in September 1994, local and foreign politicians and experts showed an inordinate attachment to the term “regional cooperation” meaning an integration of the South Caucasian countries into a single whole.
The stability concept for the Caucasus rested on the following principles of interstate relations: restoration of state sovereignty within the frontiers recognized worldwide; protection of human rights at all times and in all places; joint guarding of transportation and other communication routes and a complete rejection of their blockade; cooperation in environmental protection and liquidation of effects of natural calamities; ethnic and religious tolerance; all-round support for international projects and foreign investments in the region.
All-round cooperation was expected to strengthen collective security in the Southern Caucasus and required of all states to adjust their national strategic goals to the common regional interests. From the political point of view it was expected to help resolve all contradictions in the shortest possible time, to settle all ethnic conflicts, to strengthen democracy and stability in the region. From the point of view of economic development it was expected to let the countries join profitable projects with potentially fabulous returns. In fact, the entire conception can be described in the following way: the countries being involved in grandiose economic projects will leave far behind those states that failed to subordinate their national interests to common regional tasks and, therefore, found themselves outside these projects. The ratio between the principles of political and economic cooperation was 50:50, yet economic considerations obviously dominated over political issues. The formula “subordination of the national interests to common economic prosperity” turned the imperatives of interstate relations upside down. “The Caucasus of general welfare” provided a theoretical possibility of shelving the unresolved conflicts till economically more favorable times.
Formally, the model in which the economic interests dominated over the political ones (economic interests-restored confidence-settlement of political disputes) was logically flawless. Economic cooperation, restored traditional transportation routes (between Georgia and Abkhazia, Turkey and Armenia, Azerbaijan and Armenia), and foreign investments could detract the countries from all other problems for the sake of economic development. The living standards, a narrower confidence gap between the nations and their leaders, subdued emotions caused by contradictory results of settled ethnic conflicts over which so far passions are flowing high, etc. can be the most welcome results. Indeed, neighbors are best situated to use their communication routes and to cooperate for their mutual advantage. According to the geography-based logic Russia, the pillar of Abkhazian independence, and Armenia, the main guarantor of Nagorny Karabakh’s security, should have found the door to regional economic projects at least half open. This did not happen because from the very beginning the Peaceful Caucasus conception relied on a contradiction between the countries’ political demands and the promised economic prosperity.
The events that followed stemmed from this contradiction.
Oil As a Key to Regional Integration: Plans and Reality
Nearly the entire region was plunged into a frantic rivalry and caught the “oil fever” caused by certain assertions about the Caspian Sea’s hydrocarbon riches. In 1994-1999, the rivalry continued to mount as the restored Great Silk Road and oil transportation routes were discussed. Finally, this rivalry developed into a war of nerves and loud statements. Today, it is unimportant on whose suggestion President Shevardnadze initiated the Peaceful Caucasus idea. What is important is the fact that the mechanism designed to make the Southern Caucasus a knot that tied together Europe and Asia, the North and the South, and the West and the East or a bridge between them envisaged a security system at least for Azerbaijan and Georgia. The third South Caucasian country was expected to throw away two basic elements of its security (Russia and the Armenian conditions of Karabakh settlement for the sake of those imposed on it) to be able to join the system. The diplomatic euphemism used to describe this was “cooperation for the sake of common security.” Here are two commentaries to the above formula. “This (the joint Azerbaijani and Georgian Declaration on Establishing Peace and Security in the Caucasus.—L.B.) is the first stage of accumulation of the Caucasus’ peaceful potential. Experience has shown that peace cannot be exported. Everybody knows that a true catastrophe will start as soon as the feeling of Caucasian solidarity is exhausted and replaced with narrow separatist psychology. Those who are not with us are against themselves.”2 Another commentary: “The project that promises political and economic advantages to the three South Caucasian republics should not be turned into an apple of discord and an instrument of aggravating the already grave situation in the region. This will not happen unless somebody tries very hard. To reject an urgency of such cooperation and to refuse to accept its absolute necessity means to be an enemy of the fragile peace that has finally come to the region.”3
The doors to the “Caucasus theoretically integrated around Azeri oil” remained ajar—this inevitably caused serious political bargaining. Since that time the Caspian pipeline has been called an instrument of demarcation, integration, a geopolitical factor, etc.
Strange as it may seem the fact that all pipeline routes (Azerbaijan-Iran-Nakhichevan-Turkey, Azerbaijan-Iran-Persian Gulf, Azerbaijan-Georgia-Turkey, Azerbaijan-Georgia-Black Sea, Baku-Novorossiisk, and even Azerbaijan-Armenia-Turkey) were potentially possible was gladly accepted by all. The options were treated with nearly equal enthusiasm since all sides could bring their political priorities into play. By using the Baku-Novorossiisk route Azerbaijan could preserve its influence on Russia’s policies in the Southern Caucasus. This also gave an opportunity to restore the trust in Russia undermined by the January 1990 events in Baku. In 1996, as soon as the first Chechen war was over the route was revived and commissioned a year later. “Baku is patiently waiting for Moscow’s response (to early Azerbaijan oil being transported along the Baku-Novorossiisk pipeline.—L.B.) in the first place in relation to the Armenia-Azerbaijan settlement. Without it an efficient cooperation between Azerbaijan and Russia within the CIS would be impossible. The same applies to cooperation between Russia and Georgia. Very soon the countries that have found themselves sides in conflicts through Russia’s fault will reject Russia’s patronage within the CIS.”4
Two years later, in April 1999, an alternative, so-called Western, route Baku-Supsa was commissioned which strengthened the positions of Georgia as the second oil-related player. Baku and Tbilisi were prepared to cooperate with Moscow to the extent Moscow was able to heal the most painful wounds (the Karabakh and Abkhazian conflicts) in favor of Azerbaijan’s and Georgia’s territorial integrity and security. In exchange, Russia could have got a chance to participate, as an equal partner, in two Caspian oil transportation projects and the trans-Caucasian mainline. While Azerbaijan was exploiting the oil route options Georgia used the Chechen factor to wage an oil game against Russia. In 1996-1999, Tbilisi noticeably stepped up its contacts with the self-proclaimed republic.
Moscow was naturally concerned with a series of statements coming from the Ichkeria leaders about the strategic importance of their contacts with Georgia. Tbilisi openly demonstrated its interest. The sides were pursuing their own aims: Georgia had never concealed its intention to become “a geostrategic center of the Caucasus” while Chechnia was seeking an outlet to the Black Sea and Turkey across Georgian territory. By the same token, and this was all-important, Georgia acquired additional levers in its game in Abkhazia. For many years it had formulated time and again, in different forms and at different levels (including the highest official level) its demands to Russia: “Russian military bases in Georgia in exchange for the settlement in Abkhazia.” Having mastered the Chechen factor Tbilisi could profit from oil transportation routes.
The relations between Georgia and Azerbaijan were based on the formula: “Azerbaijan is a country thanks to which American companies and American money reached the Caspian region.”5 The Istanbul declaration that determined the oil route from the Caspian across Georgia to Turkey was signed in November 1999 against the background of the second war in Chechnia. One got an impression that with the end of the period of potentially equal options and the key role in transportation projects gained by Georgia and Azerbaijan the main problems that had been pestering them should have faded away. This did not happen: their bilateral relations were marred by expectations of political dividends of the still unrealized economic projects. Azerbaijan could no longer rely on Russia: it obviously and strongly relied on the United States. By its involvement in the regional U.S.-dominated economic projects and through the unresolved Abkhazian problem (in which Russia played a major role) Georgia found itself between a rock and a hard spot. The relations between Georgia and Azerbaijan were clouded after the Istanbul Agreement had been signed: early in 2000 Georgia demanded higher tariffs for the transit of Azeri oil across its territory. Baku agreed with suppressed disappointment.6
In those years the region looked like a patchwork: “Azerbaijan is the most independent of all CIS countries and is in the center of attention of the world’s largest powers, the biggest potential supplier of energy fuels to Europe. Its territory is free from foreign bases. Its greatest political problem is the Karabakh conflict that awaits its settlement. Supports regional cooperation.
“Armenia’s loyalty to the CIS is of a dual nature. Significantly, it negatively treats a possibility of a membership in the Union of Russia and Belarus. Its agreement with the step-by-step solution to the Karabakh conflict may cause a domestic political crisis. The only state that has given an official status to the Russian military bases on its territory. It is interested in regional cooperation.
“Georgia joined the CIS under military-political pressure, it is a geostrategic center of the Caucasus and a key link in the trans-Caucasian mainline. It is traditionally oriented to the West and Russia. It initiated the Black Sea alliance; the conflicts in Abkhazia and Tskhinvali are frozen. The CIS has demonstrated its absolute inability to resolve these problems. The president is very respected worldwide which causes irritation in the Kremlin.
“Russia was one of those who set up the CIS. It enjoys a special place on the post-Soviet territory because of a set of political and economic causes and the latest ‘division of the world.’ Its behavior is marked by lack of logic when dealing with the near abroad.”7
Cooperation Between Armenia and Azerbaijan: A Link Absent From the Peaceful Caucasus Conception
In May 1996, the Kremlin amazed everybody by signing a peace treaty with Chechnia at a meeting between President Yeltsin and head of the Republic of Ichkeria Aslan Maskhadov. It did not resolve the problem of the status of Chechnia, the quality of relations between the sides and other fundamental problems. It was designed to push aside political problems, to concentrate on economic aspects and to include Chechnia in the regional projects. In this way the economic lining of the Peaceful Caucasus conception could have been tested in Chechnia. By signing a peace agreement with Chechnia Russia reaped political dividends and ensured security of the Azeri oil pipeline that crossed Chechnia going from Baku to Novorossiisk. It was a wise strategy: like the United States Russia looked at its involvement in oil projects as a geostrategic, rather than economic, imperative. Indeed, in those years neither the Kremlin nor the White House depended on foreign sources of oil and gas. The Mideastern countries (Saudi Arabia and Iraq) with 40 percent of all oil reserves were the world’s leaders, the CIS countries with 22 percent came second (Russia, Azerbaijan, and Kazakhstan). According to Russian specialists neither the U.S. nor Russia needed more oil to wage wars, to deal with Islam or with anything else. The oil extracted in the latter half of the 1990s in Russia could have ensured its population the living standards of Saudi Arabia.8
Russia’s blunders of the previous period in the Caucasus could have irreparably damaged its geostrategic interests along its southern borders (in the Caucasus and Central Asia). Yet the idea of a political settlement through economic cooperation on which regional integration in the Caucasus was standing proved faulty. Theoretically, Azerbaijan and Georgia should have been interested in gaining confidence in Karabakh (rather than Armenia) and in Abkhazia (rather than Russia). In practice it was fraught with lost opportunities to scheme against Russia: it was at that period that Azerbaijan and Georgia stepped up their contacts with Chechnia. It was not accidental that all key agreements on the Caspian oil and gas projects that determined the investors and export routes were signed when tension between Russia and Chechnia increased.
The 1996 peace in Chechnia designed to remove the instability seat on the potential oil routes was not accepted as a pattern in the Southern Caucasus. This did not happen not only because Russia had managed to create an image of a country that knows how to settle ethnic conflicts and could guarantee stability in the region and not because the United States, Turkey, and other countries had no such plans for the Southern Caucasus. “We are dealing not so much with penetration into the Caucasus as with a large-scale redivision of the entire continent and penetration into Central Asia. In this respect, the Caucasus serves as a transit corridor. It is precisely from that area that Russia, Iran, China, India, and others can be controlled. This means control over much more powerful states than the South Caucasian countries.”9
Russian experience of dealing with the Chechen threat to “regional integration” could not be applied to Karabakh for two reasons. First, the idea of “cooperation for the sake of stability” contradicted the idea of an accelerated settlement in Karabakh. Second, the oil pipeline and a share in the regional project was Russia’s only instrument of influencing Armenia.
This explains why it was deemed necessary to settle the conflict as promptly as possible: allegedly it “braked down the region’s economic and social development.”10
Back in 1992 the presidents of Azerbaijan and Turkey discussed the oil transportation routes starting in Baku. They agreed that its strategic aim was to avoid Russia’s influence (the results of the Karabakh war had not yet been clear at that time). The conclusion seemed quite logical and proceeded from Azerbaijani President Elchibei’s obviously pro-Turkish and anti-Russian views. The strategic task of oil transportation routes remained the same even when Heydar Aliev, more loyal to Russia at that time, came to power. Driven by another political aim, that of return of Nagorny Karabakh, Baku sometimes moved closer to Moscow and sometimes away from it. Azerbaijan had to counter Armenian arguments with a set of its own conditions. The oil projects from which Armenia was excluded were the pillar of Azerbaijan’s security system. Indeed, all sorts of calculations clearly demonstrated that it would be much more profitable to move oil to Turkey across Armenia than along all other existing and discussed routes. Despite this Erevan, the missing link in the South Caucasian integration structure, could be included in the oil project at a price of its accelerated and complete concessions. One got an impression that the term “accelerated” had been introduced into the Peaceful Caucasus conception to be included in the Karabakh issue. It should be promptly settled to keep Armenia within the regional security system and within the reach of promising economic projects. Naturally enough, at that time an accelerated Karabakh settlement was described as a key task for the region as a whole when all sides of peace and cooperation (bilateral, multilateral, political, economic, practical, and theoretical) were discussed. By offering a share in its projects in exchange for Karabakh Azerbaijan succumbed to an illusion that such participation spelled an Armenian victory and an Azerbaijani defeat. There is an opinion that in this approach emotions dominated reasoning, others argue that it is a manifestation of a loser syndrome (inherited from the early postwar period when it had been generally believed that “what is good for them is bad for us”). I believe that this is a lost chance to connect the economic interests of both countries and create an atmosphere of trust—something that Azerbaijan needs even more than Armenia.
Strictly speaking, Azerbaijan would have gained more from the idea of an accelerated settlement without any conditions, yet while it was insisting on it with increased passion it became dead set against Armenian participation even in abstract discussions and conferences on regional economic cooperation. This threw into bolder relief the contradiction between Azerbaijan and its Western partners who felt pressed by Baku’s unyielding position. “In this context the United States would obviously come out a winner. A settlement in Karabakh would have opened prospects for the projects that, with a wide use of American economic levers, could ensure increasing American presence in the region and moving Central Asian natural resources, oil in the first place, to the world markets. This would also have tied the economies of the South Caucasian countries to transit projects and pushed Armenia closer to America to strengthen the U.S. political impact in the region.”11
Armenia has created its own security system to oppose that of Azerbaijan: it relies on Nagorny Karabakh and the strategic partnership with Russia. Erevan translates “economic cooperation with Baku in exchange for Karabakh” as an exchange of its post-war status for a future economic prosperity. Erevan could not accept this.
Erevan cooperated with Moscow because Russia could guarantee Armenian’s security in the face of what was seen as a dangerous neighbor—Turkey. There were other reasons: a guarantee of no further armed clashes on the Karabakh front, a share in the alternative projects Russia and Iran were discussing at the time. In exchange, Moscow received 25 years of military presence in the region based on a treaty with Armenia, a treaty on joint guarding the Armenian border with Turkey (in fact, the region’s southern frontier). Moscow believed that Armenia could ensure Russia’s military presence in the region—and this was important for Moscow. Armenia became even more loyal to the long-term military presence of Russia over time, which is explained by the following factors: more active military cooperation between Azerbaijan and Georgia with Turkey; discussions of a possibility of using international units to guard the pipelines; an intensified military-political nature of GUUAM; and a continued “war of statements” between Moscow and Tbilisi with regards to the Russian bases. The relations between Russia and Armenia were also not totally cloudless. Like Baku Erevan ran a risk of increased pressure from its allies when it demonstrated its unyielding position on Karabakh. In the fall of 1998 Levon Ter-Petrossian, who was president of Armenia at that time, agreed with what the OSCE Minsk Group offered. Russia could have lost its influence in Armenia as a result of this move. The situation was a paradoxical one: Azerbaijan, a strategic partner of the West in the Caucasus, did not allow Armenia to participate in its economic projects thus strengthening Russian influence in Erevan. The latter, by displaying an avid interest in such projects, played into the hands of the West and “betrayed” Russia.
The Battle of Southern Caucasus
The pipeline project caused a lot of unease in Armenia: it was seen as an instrument of pressure in the Karabakh settlement. The oil-related enthusiasm was not economically justified as numerous Russian forecasts and assessments demonstrated. Some of the American oil companies retreated because of lack of oil or inadequately justified forecasts for Azerbaijan. Gradual disappointment that enveloped the republic when promised prosperity had not arrived played an important role, too. The future of the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline project looked vague.
In 1999, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, and Georgia organized in Rustavi (Georgia) joint military pipeline guarding exercises that included the Baku-Supsa pipeline and related installations. While such exercises could be explained by a natural desire to protect the pipeline (that belonged to the GUUAM somewhat altered functions) in 2000 and 2001 the military relations between Azerbaijan and Georgia clearly manifested that they were quite serious about closer military cooperation with the West. Both countries found the Partnership for Peace program (in which all three South Caucasian states participate) too narrow; they are seeking even closer cooperation with the NATO members and a membership for themselves. The military ties between Azerbaijan/Georgia and Turkey and between Armenia and Russia are becoming more and more demonstrative. This is illustrated by the joint Azerbaijani and Turkish (NATO) and Armenian and Russian military exercises of 2000-2001. Ankara opposed Russia’s control of the Armenian airspace and the border area between Turkey and Armenia. The former objected to the deliveries of Russian MiG-29 aircraft and S-300 surface-to-air missiles to the Russian bases in Armenia. Ankara deemed it necessary to help Azerbaijan guard its state border and its airspace and delivered weapons and materiel to the republic. In February 2000 Armenia signed the CIS Collective Security Treaty. Turkey and Azerbaijan responded with official statements of their intention to set up a military alliance with a tentative name of a Regional Stability and Security Pact.
Georgia was following this pattern that made the situation even worse. On the one hand, the Russian military bases and the Russian peacekeepers in the Gali Region were still on the Georgian territory. On the other, Turkish military appeared in the Marneuli Region. These actions turned the Southern Caucasus into an arena of a Russia-NATO opposition. At first glance the sides had their reasons: Armenia explained its signature under the CIS Collective Security Treaty by its desire to demonstrate its agreement with the important decisions made by other treaty members. Weapon deliveries to the Russian military bases were explained by the need to stick to the treaty the sides had signed and the need to modernize the RF Armed Forces as a whole. Azerbaijan explained its military cooperation with Turkey, Georgia, and other countries by a desire to protect the pipelines and a response to the growing military might of its adversary, Armenia. It also explained that it had rejected the CIS Collective Security Treaty because its participation in the security system side-by-side with Armenia looked absurd.
In Georgia the dramatic relationships in the Southern Caucasus were even more obvious. Tbilisi and Erevan worked hard to preserve the traditionally friendly relations between the two countries. Regional confrontation reached its peak when Azerbaijan announced that Turkey would place its military bases on its territory while Georgia spoke about its desire to replace the Russian military bases with NATO troops. The North Atlantic Alliance and the United States treated these statements with demonstrative coldness so that not to tip the precarious balance of forces in the region and make the situation even worse.
Obviously, by that time the period of theoretical deliberations about possible economic integration in the region had ended. The attempts at cooperation had failed. Time had come for military-strategic cooperation fraught with dangers. It became even clearer that the United States in its stake on Azerbaijan and Turkey in an attempt “to harmonize the region and bring closer its countries on an economic basis” blundered. Washington had no intention to leave Armenia in the cold and to attach a tag of a “rogue state” to it—obviously, this would not bring Armenia into the American sphere of influence. Yet too close relationships with two world rivals forced the South Caucasian countries to guide themselves by the political interests of their strategic partners rather than by their foreign political priorities. This deepened the contradictions created in the period “of an integration on an economic basis.” Quite often this created absurd and awkward situations like the Armenian, Azerbaijani and Georgian response to the NATO operation in Yugoslavia in 1999. Obviously, the positions of Azerbaijan in the Karabakh settlement and of Georgia in the Abkhazian settlement demanded that they should condemn the Alliance. Both approved of the operation because it was conducted by NATO.
Guided by the logic of its strategic partnership with Russia Armenia had to condemn NATO with which official Erevan wanted to preserve good relations. The only good thing in this mess was that outside the Caucasus the Armenian, Azerbaijani and Georgian statements were of no political importance. It seems that Eduard Shevardnadze, the founding father of the Peaceful Caucasus conception, had this in mind when he admitted with regret: “There is no reason to sign the documents that cannot be realized. It would have been great to gather together again but today it is hard to bring all Caucasian leaders to one place.”12 These theoretical and practical exercises with the conception of regional cooperation went on and on until 11 September, 2001.
On the Events That Have Taken Place before 11 September
First, everything that happened in the Southern Caucasus in the last decade of the last century says that no bilateral relations in the region can ignore the interests of a third side. Still, the newly independent South Caucasian states were still prophesying the wartime truth “what’s good for them is bad for us.” They were still pursuing foreign policies that run contrary to the inner logic of their strategies and tactics.
Second, an attempt to integrate on the economic basis provided the region’s countries with a rare chance of bringing their positions maximally closer together and to turn their region into a political whole. Regrettably, they let the chance slip away: the United States, Russia and the South Caucasian countries themselves let politics tower over economy.
Third, wishing to exploit to the maximum the contradictions that divided Russia and the United States, Turkey and Iran (the countries still able to influence local developments), the regional countries were seeking allies outside the region. This separated them to the greatest extent and was fraught with a distortion of the traditional format. Armenia became a strategic ally of Russia while Azerbaijan and Georgia became the territories of strategic interests of the United States and Turkey. Diplomatic demarcation lines that separated alliances Russia-Armenia-Iran and the U.S.-Azerbaijan-Turkey replaced the front line
Fourth, no wonder that in the last two or three years any question important for one of the states was discussed by the neighbors from the point of view of their strategic partners rather than proceeding from the logic of bilateral relations. Indeed, while Azerbaijan and Georgia were realizing their conception of regional cooperation having in mind territorial integrity and Armenia was struggling to strengthen Nagorny Karabakh as the main element of its security the South Caucasian states have considerably undermined their “diplomatic integrity” and lost a great deal of resources for mutually advantageous partner relationships.
Whom Will Osama bin Laden Help?
The world has irrevocably changed after 11 September, 2001. The Southern Caucasus became a territory of “neighbors-enemies and far-away partners.” It seems that everybody has finally agreed that the changes are caused by Russia and the United States drawing closer. Indeed, the fact that NATO and the United States can temporarily use the territories of the Caucasian and Central Asian countries and air corridors looks like a blend of Russian and American interests in the regions. Yet in an antiterrorist struggle the U.S. and Russia are using different chronological and political reckoning points. The two powers may disagree over the global issues. By this I mean Moscow’s attitude to a full-scale cooperation with NATO. Russia is self-sufficient from the point of view of human resources and defense capability with no reason at all to queue for NATO. The White House announced its intention to withdraw from the ABM Treaty. Moscow negatively responded to the U.S. desire to leave its troops in places of their temporal deployment when the antiterrorist operation in Afghanistan is over. Today, the United States is engrossed in its antiterrorist struggle and the yardstick Washington uses for all is an ability and a desire of any state to side with it even if this help does not totally coincide with the U.S. former political priorities.
The formula of cooperation in the Southern Caucasus that is offered to the local countries somewhat differs from the integration formula of the mid-1990s. In the past they were expected to cooperate on the basis of common economic interests and, in the distant future, smooth away the sharp angles of the Russian and American positions. Today, what looks like the U.S. and Russia’s common interests will provide a chance for Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia to integrate. Recently the region has been hastily trying to forecast possible impacts of the U.S.-Russia cooperation on the conflict situations and their settlement that might lead to integration. The South Caucasian states want a settlement based on their advantageous pre-11 September positions. Baku is of an opinion that since Russia intends to join NATO as a result of a newly developed Russian-American closeness the strategic partnership between Moscow and Erevan can be described as a thing of the past. Russia will no longer need Armenia as its toehold in the Caucasus. Left alone Armenia will be forced to accept the Azerbaijani conditions of the Karabakh settlement. Azerbaijan was further encouraged by a partial removal of 907th amendment under which it had been deprived of American aid for many years for its blockade of Armenia.
To be on the safe side Erevan announced at the highest level that it was prepared to extend its cooperation with NATO and participate in the struggle against terrorism. These statements were accompanied with declarations that Armenia would never abandon its cooperation with Russia. Foreign Minister V. Oskanian described this as a complementary foreign policy. There is a thaw in the Georgian-Russian relations. Russia is even prepared to ratify the big framework Treaty on Friendship and Cooperation signed by the Georgian side in 1995. Tbilisi started revising its position vis-à-vis the Russian peacekeepers in the Abkhazian conflict zone; there is much more patience over delayed withdrawal of the Russian military bases in Gudauta (Abkhazia) and Akhalkalaki (the Georgian Javakheti Region with a compact Armenian population). At first glance, all are ready to start a parity cooperation with the United States and Russia. Judging by what highly placed officials in Baku, Tbilisi, and Erevan say the formula of regional cooperation that will involve all three countries lies where the interests of two great powers meet. Today it has become clear that Russia and the U.S. look differently at this formula. The latest statements that came from the United States say that cooperation with the Southern Caucasus is not simply associated with conflict settlement—this is its main condition. Rudolf Perina, plenipotentiary representative of the U.S. Department of State in the Karabakh settlement who is also a co-chairman of the OSCE Minsk Group, said in Washington on 10 January, 2002 that judging by the White House response to the events of 11 September time had come to settle the Karabakh conflict in the nearest future. During the Moscow visit of President Aliev President of Russia Putin suggested that the issues of Azerbaijani-Russian cooperation be discussed separately from the Karabakh problem.
The increasingly frequent calls to settle all conflicts in the Southern Caucasus as promptly as possible that come from the United States bring to mind the “acceleration principle” of the past to which all regional economic projects were subordinated. In the context when the Karabakh negotiations were stopped in early summer 2001 because “the people were still unprepared to adequately respond to the variants put on the table while the heads of the sides in the conflict were not yet ready to take unpopular measures”13 the present acceleration looks nothing but a form of pressure. The results of the previous acceleration are too fresh in our memory.
1 From an interview of Zurab Zhvania, the then speaker of the parliament of Georgia, Segodnia (Moscow), 4 September, 1996.
2 From an interview of the then Minister of the Interior of Azerbaijan H. Hasanov, Aravot (Erevan), 3 June, 1996.
3 From an interview of Foreign Minister of Georgia I. Menagarashvili to the present author, Region information and analytical bulletin, Erevan, No. 1, 1996.
4 Prime-News Agency, Georgia, 7 November, 1997.
5 Svobodnaia Gruzia, 25 July, 1997.
6 See H. Kuliev, “Azerbaijan: Pipeline Strategy and Pipeline Geopolitical Dimensions,” Central Asia and the Caucasus, No. 3 (9), 2001, pp. 26-27.
7 Svobodnaia Gruzia, 31 October, 1997.
8 See: Moskovskiy komsomolets, 1 July, 1997.
9 “Kavkaz v sisteme sovremennoi geopolitiki” conference, Institut stran SNG information and analytical bulletin [http://www.zatulin.ru].
10 The Denver statement of the OSCE Minsk Group countries, Aiastani Anrapetutiun, No. 117, 1997.
11 Institut stran SNG, No. 28, 1 May, 2001.
12 Erkir (Armenia), 17 June, 1999.
13 From the statements of the then co-chairman of the Minsk Group from the U.S. Carey Cavanaugh (see: Mediamax (Armenia), 26 May, 2001).