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The South Caucasus: New Chance for Regional Security

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Baku, 4 February 2015 – Newtimes.az

It is no secret that on the global scale, there are ongoing complex and fluid processes. Unfolding conflicts in certain parts of the world imperil the formation of a security system in general, especially in the South Caucasus, where the issue of stability and peace is of greater relevance. Therefore, the substance of the foreign policy of the regional countries evokes interest. The analysis demonstrates that each nation has the posture of its own. Armenia plays an utterly destructive role. Yerevan’s recent actions prove that the region is prone to escalation of uncertainty. Georgia, in the meantime, is deprived of a capacity to effectively leverage the situation, owing to the number of errors this nation made, in terms of the geopolitical choices. And it is only up to Azerbaijan to play an instrumental role for the sake of ensuring regional security.

Aggressor’s Choice: Hesitations Endure

The issue of the regional security of the South Caucasus continues to retain its relevance. The subject may acquire extra undertones in light of the developing geopolitical processes on the global arena. The problem is that the emerging aspects require the regional states to conduct a more sensitive policy, whereas owing to Armenia’s inability to make palpable corrections to its foreign policy course the situation impels ambiguity.

The observations demonstrate that the official Yerevan lacks intention to take new steps in this particular direction. On the contrary, the domestic sociopolitical situation is only aggravating. The recent assassination of the entire family in the city of Gumri prompted the tensions in the psychological state of the society. Although the crime was committed by the Russian soldier, he certainly had the history of problems with the locals. The taking of human life is absolutely unacceptable. But the erroneous policy conducted by the Armenia’s leadership for many years has led to exacerbation of the socio-psychological environment in the society.

For now, Armenia’s political opposition remains silent on this issue. Yet the protesting voices are also heard. It is fascinating that the experts blame Armenia’s choice for the dramatic even in Gumri. They argue that the political-social security system overseen by Russia has failed and it must be replaced by the NATO alignment. Apparently, the Armenians are readying to betray Russia under the pretense of economic grievances. In reality, however, this means more uncertainty for the region.

The entire issue has a complex nature. Lack of a final decision regarding the NATO’s enlargement and deterioration of the geopolitical situation in different regions prompts several scenarios for defining the organization’s strategy. Some experts believe that, despite different circumstances, NATO must pursue the enlargement and play the role of the world’s gendarme. The advocates of such an approach generally are those who evaluate the issue from the Soviet perspective.

Another group of experts recommends that the NATO should solidify its presence within the current borders. The argument is that the world’s geopolitical landscape is volatile and the organization cannot ensure security throughout the vast geography. Thus, the NATO should exercise caution, while not ignoring the regional security issues. In this context, the South Caucasus could be evaluated from the prism of the security of the Black Sea-Caspian Sea basins. The Black Sea could serve as a fulcrum here, while the South Caucasus is viewed in conjunction. Although the proponents of this view are currently not in the position to influence the official circles, this forecast remains valid.

And finally, some experts suggest that NATO should address the security concerns solely of the member states. They prefer that the organization consolidates its resources and remains within its frontiers. This option excludes the enlargement of the Northern Atlantic alliance and questions its relevance for other regions.

Azerbaijan: Place of Hope

All of this provokes questions as to how realistic the advices for Armenia’s engagement with the NATO are? One could easily conclude that these people are completely wrong. And this is the very reason why, under the circumstances, Armenia remains the source of the greatest threat to the region. It is no coincidence that recently, the Armenians started to accuse Azerbaijan, Turkey and Russia in different contexts. They allege that these countries are uniting against Armenia with the ultimate objective of avoiding political damage to the Turks and the Azerbaijanis, emanating from centennial of the ''Armenian genocide''. Supposedly, this was the reason why Russia lured Armenia into the Customs Union and thus, tied official Yerevan’s hands behind the back.

When it comes to Turkey, this country allegedly aims to keep its borders sealed and cover up its culpability by stepping up the diplomatic performance. Oddly enough, the Armenians continue to forward such preposterous allegations and to depict Azerbaijan as an aggressor. Purportedly, the official Baku is issuing belligerent statements in order to dodge the key problem it faces. That the falling oil prices could derail Azerbaijan’s development and therefore, Baku is resorting to psychological ploys.

Indeed, these ridiculous allegations are totally unfounded. On the contrary, the processes demonstrate that Azerbaijan is the only country in the region to escape the crisis that has engulfed virtually every corner of the world. Sound and independent policy conducted by the leadership of the country ensures social stability and maintains economic growth. On numerous occasions, President Ilham Aliyev addressed these issues and clearly stated his position.

In the meantime, Azerbaijan continues to contribute to the regional security. Baku’s actions, without exaggeration, preclude the deterioration of the geopolitical situation. Neither Armenia, nor Georgia can fill these shoes. The reason is clear – in the times of the geopolitical choices they made errors and thus, are currently unable to calibrate their positions. Such a state of affairs makes both countries susceptible to certain changes.

In this sense, Georgia is the source of concern. Russia may choose to restore the overland connection with Armenia using Abkhazia and Javakhetia factors. Armenian media have regularly reported on this subject. Most recently they suggested that Chechnya could be used to construct the railway link to Armenia. Albeit a speculation for the time being, this could spur concrete provocations in the future.

Domestic complications of the socioeconomic nature are among the aspects that compound the situation in Georgia. Struggling nations are usually easier to derail. And therefore, the significance of the support that Tbilisi receives from Azerbaijan and Turkey must not be dismissed. Thanks to this assistance there have been no tangible efforts to undermine the stability in the neighboring country.

Along with the complexities of ensuring regional security in the South Caucasus, this highlights Azerbaijan as a key factor. This point conveys the great importance of the country in terms of the global politics. The big powers need to acknowledge and recognize this. Instead of meddling with the Azerbaijan’s internal affairs, it would be more useful if they bolstered the ties with the country with respect to ensuring regional security. The foreign policy realized by the official Baku provides normal relations with the West, Russia. Turkey, Iran and the EU. None of them can reproach Azerbaijan, as its successful balancing policy is bearing fruit.

Therefore, although the ongoing geopolitical processes in this region are coupled with contradictions, they nevertheless reveal one important reality – Azerbaijan is the only country capable of playing an important role in the shaping of the security system of the South Caucasus. The big geopolitical stakeholders need to acknowledge this fact. This opportunity, if used wisely, would bolster peace, stability and development in the vast geopolitical space.

Leyla Mammadaliyeva

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