U.S. PRIORITIES IN THE SOUTH CAUCASUS

upa-admin 09 Haziran 2014 1.526 Okunma 0
U.S. PRIORITIES IN THE SOUTH CAUCASUS

The South Caucasus that has historically seen the influence struggle between Russia, Turkey and Iran, in modern times, has yet again become an arena where geopolitical powers are locked in a clinch. Along the XX century, for the Western block the Caucasus was a frontline of the struggle with the Soviet Union. Interests of the West in this region were accommodated by Turkey.

In the geopolitical environment that emerged in the wake of the Cold War, the South Caucasus became a theatre for the West’s rivalry with two big powers. Geopolitical objectives of the West in this region were to confront Russia and Iran and to secure access to the energy resources of Caspian-Central Asia region. That is to say, strategy of the U.S. towards this region is to guarantee not the interests with regard to the regional states but rather to utilize this platform for a global outreach.

By doing so, the U.S. relegates national interests of the regional states. Recent warming of relations between U.S. and Iran, turbulence in Turkey, eroding trust towards Georgia and other processes led to ambivalence in geopolitical objectives of the U.S. in the South Caucasus. Under such circumstances, historically a “log tong” – Armenia, and the issue of opening of its borders with Turkey started to concern more America’s official quarters. This idea runs through a report titled “U.S. And Iranian Strategic Competition: Turkey And The South Caucasus” prepared by the Center For Strategic And International Studies that reads, “Predilection of the big powers to confrontation in the struggle for regional dominance increases the risk factor. And Armenia can be used for this very purpose.(1) This is how Armenia is seen from the perspective of U.S. policy.

Apparently, independent foreign policy fails to concur with the U.S. priorities in this region. Meanwhile, the leader of the South Caucasus – Azerbaijan – is known on the international arena for conducting national interests-driven foreign policy. It has to be highlighted that, in light of the geopolitical importance of the region where our country is situated, this independence, underpinned by cooperation based on mutual respect, does not come cheap.

Azerbaijan: Reliable Partner at the Global Crossroads

Located at the crossroads where East and West, and Islam and Christianity converge – Azerbaijan, throughout all historical phases, has rested in the center of geopolitical processes. Azerbaijan combines a legacy of different civilizations and cultures. All of this is embodied in the Azerbaijani way of life, development history and policies. This is why universal values in our country are safeguarded in coalescence with national and religious ones.

Azerbaijan is a country where representatives of different faiths and cultures coexist. Being a Muslim nation, our country nonetheless has thriving Christian and Jewish communities that have lived here problem-free for ages. It is also reflected in the architecture of the capital Baku. Baku is among handful of cities in the world where mosques, churches and synagogues stand side-by-side. Unlike present-day Europe, multiculturalism is not experiencing a crisis in Azerbaijan, because multiculturalism and tolerance are not regarded as a policy but a daily way of life. For our people multiculturalism is a philosophy of life.

From the early days of our independence Azerbaijan has actively cooperated with Western countries and companies. Nations of the West are among Azerbaijan’s key trading partners and the Western companies are top investors in our country. Azerbaijan’s main export oil and gas pipelines are Europe-bound. One cannot find any other country in the South Caucasus and Central Asia that has cooperated so closely with the West.

Azerbaijan is among the first nations to respond to challenges of antiterrorism. Azerbaijani military servicemen served under the NATO command in Afghanistan and Iraq. Our country is presently a linchpin for NATO shipments in and out of Afghanistan and significance of Azerbaijan is set to grow in connection with the process of NATO troop drawdown in Afghanistan in 2014.

Regrettably, despite Azerbaijan’s active cooperation with the West, U.S. and Europe do not always respond adequately to Azerbaijan’s partnership efforts, a telling example of which can be their approach to Armenia-Azerbaijan, Nagorno Karabakh conflict. Albeit Western nations claim to support Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity, no concrete efforts are made to that end.

Double Standards: A Source of Injustice in the World

Western position with respect to Crimea events is something that is missing with regards to Azerbaijan. Even without resolutions by the UN or any other European institution the West came out with a firm position, whereas on Nagorno Karabakh there are four UN SC resolutions, as well as respective decisions and resolutions by OSCE, European Parliament, Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, NATO and others. International community and international organizations recognize territorial integrity of Azerbaijan in all of these documents.

UN resolutions demand unconditional withdrawal of Armenian troops from Azerbaijan’s territories. Nevertheless, owing to lack of unyielding position by the international community and the West, the demands of neither resolution were met. Meanwhile, it took only two hours to enforce a similar resolution on Libya. That is to say, the international law is applied solely when the self-interests of the big powers are concerned. All of this only undermines the trust towards just and fair attitude in the world and provokes resurgence of proponents of radicalism. Let us put it this way – double standards used on the international arena is what causes crisis of justice in the world.

Azerbaijan had high hopes of the U.S. efforts as the co-chair of the Minsk Group of the OSCE. Apparently, however, while the U.S. is not troubled by the non-implementation of the UN resolutions regarding the occupied territories of Azerbaijan, America’s official and public quarters are concerned about the closed borders between Armenia and Turkey. The U.S. is endorsing this process through various means. It is known that based on the political directive of the West Turkey and Armenia are conducting a normalization process through “silent diplomacy”.

Non-governmental organizations, research centers and academic circles are identified as key actors of this diplomacy. Since 2010, through its embassies in Ankara and Yerevan, the U.S. has allocated $4.7 million to bolster cooperation between NGO’s used for public diplomacy. Turkish and Armenian NGO’s received $2.4 million worth of grants through the U.S. Embassy in Yerevan, while $2.3 million were distributed by the U.S. Embassy in Ankara.(2)

On the other hand, earmarking of funds by the U.S. Congress for the separatist regime in Nagorno Karabakh and various USAID-realized projects in Nagorno Karabakh serve the purpose of bolstering economic capacity of the separatist regime rather than catering to the humanitarian needs. Representatives of the separatist regime travel freely to the U.S. to organize various fund-raisers. Against such a background, Amendment 907 to the Freedom Support Act adopted by the U.S. Congress with respect to Azerbaijan is yet to be annulled.

Soros Fund: Axiom of The U.S. Geopolitics

Along with the official quarters, informal players are also instrumental in patronizing the betterment of Turkey-Armenia relations on the international arena. Soros Fund is particularly active in this regard. Involvement of Soros Fund in every region with the U.S. interests is already seen as a “geopolitical axiom”. Through his “fifth column” Soros vigorously interferes with the processes in Turkey. Turkish chapter of his Open Society Institute operates in the country since 2001. The Soros Fund supports the likes of Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation (TESEV), Open Radio, Open Site, BIanet, Umut Foundation, Mother and Child Education Foundation, Helsinki Citizens Assembly and the European Movement. Bilgi, Boğaziçi and Sabancı universities are also among the recipients of financial aid from George Soros.

There is another aspect to Soros’s “fifth column” in Turkey that deserves an emphasis. These organizations are trying to soften the harsh reaction of the Azerbaijani society to this process. One of the topical plans of affecting the public opinion in Azerbaijan is by means of the Turkish soap operas. An event organized by Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation (TESEV) and Eurasia Partnership Foundation held in 2012 in Tbilisi addressed the ability of the Turkish soap operas to impact Azerbaijan. The event that hosted EU’s former Special Representatives for the South Caucasus Peter Semneby, former U.S. Ambassador to Georgia Kenneth Yalovitz and International Crisis Group’s European Program Director Sabina Frasier identified the subject of appeasing Azerbaijan through the Turkish soap operas in connection with Armenia-Azerbaijan relations as a main requirement.(3)

Thus, analyses demonstrate that the opening of Turkey-Armenia borders is a main priority for the U.S. policy in the South Caucasus. Of course the benefits that the U.S. stands to gain and changes in the geopolitical landscape of the South Caucasus remain vague.

Yet the fact of the matter is that while pursuing policies in this particular direction the U.S. disregards relations with its key allies in the region. First, the claims of the contribution to the settlement of the conflict that opening of the borders are supposed to provide are grossly detached from reality. Second, Turkey is the main political ally of the U.S. in the region. Turkey is of geopolitical significance as a transportation and energy hub, opening to the South Caucasus and the Central Asia, and as such, this position is critical to the U.S. in terms of global competitiveness. Pursuing normalization without taking into account Azerbaijan’s self-interests can damage Azerbaijan-Turkey relations, which in turn jeopardizes the fate of the very energy and transportation corridors.

Turkey-Armenia borders are known to be closed owing to the occupation of the Azerbaijani lands. The objective of changing the situation prior to liberation of Azerbaijani lands is an attempt to harm Turkey-Azerbaijan relations. These geopolitical games of the U.S. are among the factors favorable to Armenia. Being brothers and strategic allies, Turkey and Azerbaijan are conscious of this and act concertedly. Meanwhile Armenia, serving as an outpost of a third nation, attempts to emerge a winner from this game.

Generally, the priorities of the U.S. in the South Caucasus are unclear. American strategists are not at all worried of potentially losing America’s key regional ally Turkey and Azerbaijan that has so closely cooperated with the West, all because they opt to include an outpost of a third nation into own orbit of influence. This is indicative of flawed strategic priorities and sacrifices of national interests to the lobbying agenda.

Arastu HABIBBEYLI

PhD in Economics

  1. “U.S. and Iranian Strategic Competition: Turkey and the South Caucasus”. By Anthony H. Cordesman, Bryan Gold, Robert Shelala and Michael Gibbs. www.csis.org, 06/02/2013. 
  2. David Philips. “Diplomatic History:Turkey-Armenia Protocols”. Institute for the Study of Human Rights. Columbia University. 2012. p. 83.
  3. Pınar Ersoy. “Türkiye Kafkaslar’ı unuttu mu?”, 11 Mart 2012. Milliyet.com.tr http://dunya.milliyet.com.tr/turkiye-kafkaslar-i-unuttu-mu-/dunya/dunyadetay/11.03.2012/1513824/default.htm, 11.03.2012. 

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