GLOBALIZATION OF REGIONAL CONFLICTS: A FUTURE WAR FOR THE UPPER KARABAKH

Dr Lasha TCHANTOURIDZE


Lasha Tchantouridze, Senior Instructor, Master of Diplomacy Program, Norwich University (Northfield, Vermont, USA)


Introduction

Globalization in international relations is perhaps best understood in terms of increased interdependence in the international system. This interdependence manifests itself in both economic and military affairs. Since World War II, the United States has been the leading force behind globalizing processes: as economic interdependence leads toward more open markets, and military interdependence makes global affairs more peaceful, it has been in the vital interest of Washington to rid the world of isolationist and militarily autarkic powers.

With increased interdependence regional conflicts also have become politically globalized. No regional conflict today remains isolated to a particular region despite the fact that very few of them directly affect power hierarchy in the international system. Regional conflicts in part acquire their global significance due to a spread of the phenomenon loosely understood as soft power. Since the dominant powers in todays world are either liberal democracies (the United States, the United Kingdom, France, etc.) or trying to play the democratic game (Russia, China, India, etc.), the concepts associated with democratic ideals have become the major currency in soft power transactions. Therefore, regional actors have to pay attention to public opinion and cultural sensitivities prevalent in dominant global powers even though these powers may not be directly affected by regional conflicts. Soft power of public opinion and ideals of international justice and freedom may well push and/or allow hard power to step in to quell or mediate by force a protracted conflict, and this could have disastrous consequences for one or both parties involved in a regional dispute.

The rise of soft power has made such concept as victory and resolution of conflict more political rather than military phenomena. As the Bush administration found out in 2003, a proclamation of military victory may amount to little if it is not politically endorsed or acknowledged by the others who may have stakes in such an outcome. Substantial dissention in regional or global public opinion may well result in a protracted and rather costly conflict, especially if a proclaimed military victory does not look that decisive.

The frozen conflict of the Upper Karabakh between Armenia and Azerbaijan is not and cannot be isolated from globalizing trends. In fact, one could argue that the very fact this and other similar conflicts are frozen reflects the preferences of dominant global powers in the international system. Violent regional wars go against the notions of global security, and stability, especially the latter, since it implies, to a large degree, preservation of a status quo. In this sense, national interests of those directly involved in the frozen conflicts may well contradict priorities and interests of those powers who prioritize stability in order to better promote interdependence in trade, and predictability in military affairs. Almost everywhere frozen conflict does imply closed borders and military stand-off, but even such circumstances would be preferable to damaging upheavals that accompany attempts to regain or conquer lost territories by force.

For better or for worse, the Karabakh conflict is part of the international system, although its eventual direct outcome may only influence power game at.............


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