Russia and Eurasia

How Alliance Politics Affects The Resolution Of Conflicts In The South Caucasus?*

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By Zaur Shiriyev | 15 December 2010


Alliance politics is an important factor affecting threats and conflicts in South Caucasus region. Alliances in this region are a direct reaction to the security of the region. The regional developments coupled with perceived threats, make the three states very cautious in choosing their allies. Allies are chosen to meet complex military-political needs vis-à-vis each other and regional and big powers. Hence, the Caucasus states, with the Azerbaijan as an exception, are still incapable of defending their national interests and providing for their security alone. Consequently, the security concerns raised by the states in this region and the foreign policy behavior they display, may originate in their own belief that they are incapable of relying solely on their own means, and, that the solution of any ‘security dilemma’ must come from the outside.

However, it is hard to deny that the political situation in the Caucasus is unique or unstable [and even hazardous] in terms of the perspectives of the regional security. This fact was highlighted in August 2008 during Russia-Georgia war that resulted in Russia’s recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states (1). As such, the three South Caucasian countries have now developed diverging strategies to ensure their own security (2). The ongoing ethno-territorial conflicts over Abkhazia and South Ossetia in Georgia (with overall entrapment by Russia), and over Nagorno-Karabakh in Azerbaijan have been the primary sources of enhancing the overall regional security dilemma and rendering unintended anarchical consequences more tangible.

  • Azerbaijan

Concerned with threats from Armenia, Azerbaijan anchors its national security policy to Turkey, with whom it shares strong ethno-linguistic affinities and offers a bridge to connect Azerbaijan with both West (Euro-Atlantic structures) and East (the Muslim world). Geopolitically, the problems facing the country comprise: (1). the ‘frozen’ conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh and (2). the increasing militarization of the Caspian Sea, which brings into play, conflicts among the five littoral states regarding the development and export of energy resources from this basin to world markets. Nonetheless, besides the threats from Armenia and disputes over the NK, Azerbaijan faces strong economic challenges as well. That is why, Azerbaijan, unlike Armenia, seeks to have more diversified relations with other powers to respond both to its existential and economic challenges. Considering the united security principle and South Caucasus region as a part of Euro-Atlantic space, Azerbaijan supports efforts toward establishing the security system in this space and as it was determined by the military doctrine (3). Accordingly, it will continue cooperation with NATO on the basis of mutual interests. Moreover, Azerbaijan makes significant steps towards the Euro-Atlantic structures, without, however, asking for membership in NATO or the EU. The reaction of the EU and the US follows immediately by including Azerbaijan into the “Nabucco” project, a very ambitious strategy meant to contain Russia’s gas and oil monopoly. In actual fact, the BTC and BTE pipelines, mainly built to relieve the Western world’s oil and gas dependency on the Middle East, underscore Azerbaijan’s geopolitical importance for the European market (4).



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* Published in the Fourth Issue of Political Reflection Magazine (PR).

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