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ISSN 2294-1274


Volume 2 - Issue 8, August 2012

SOUTH CAUCASUS AND TRANSATLANTIC SECURITY: Views from the region In early June 2012, the long-standing ‘frozen’ conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the Nagorno-Karabakh region flared up with clashes between the armed forces of the two countries that led to deaths on both sides. These incidents triggered new security concerns in a region that is looking back at a long history of conflicts. Although the region got worldwide attention during the August 2008 War between Georgia and its separatist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, the potential for the outbreak of military conflicts is still underestimated in international politics. The major western institutions - above all

The Nagorno-Karbakh conflict is one of the major sources of tensions in South Caucasus


NATO, EU and OSCE - hold the main respon-

Global Pulse: A way forward or glimpse back? Reflections on interna-

sibility when it comes to finding strategies for

tional cooperation in South Caucasus

stabilizing the South Caucasus region. One

Tornike Metreveli looks at different concepts of ’nationalism’ and examines the reasons for

important issue will be the democratization of

the difficulties with creating international cooperation in South Caucasus. He argues that

security governance in all countries. Thereby,

youth cooperation could be the key for a better understanding of the Caucasian peoples.

the situation needs to be analyzed individually for each country with their respective political

South Caucasus and transatlantic security cooperation: Views from

systems. Yet what is even more important is

Armenia and Azerbaijan

changing people’s mindsets. As long as age-old

Tevan Poghosyan and Rozy Kopyan as well as Orkhan Ali examine the status quo of their

stereotypes and narrow-minded public opinion

countries’ integration into the transatlantic security framework and the prospects for

dominate in the region, no progress towards

NATO membership. They conclude that, given different national political circumstances,

mutual trust and more transnational coopera-

the relations of the Southern Caucasian countries to NATO differ significantly.

tion will be made. - Florian Bauernfeind Atlantic Voices, Volume 2, Issue 8


GLOBAL PULSE A way forward or glimpse back? Reflections on international cooperation in South Caucasus By Tornike Metreveli The starting point Those of us who at some point in their lives had certain connec-

hance regional cooperation and stimulate a peaceful departure from ethno-nationalist thinking.

tions with South Caucasus might outline general observations about the characteristics of the people of this region. A culture of

‘Old’ versus ‘new’ nations: A myth or a reality?

hospitality, an emotional behaviour and a commitment to help

The origins of nations and nationalism appear to be one of the

each other are perhaps the qualities best describing Armenians,

central topics for discussion among scholars of nationalism stud-

Azerbaijanis and Georgians. Forget these sweeping generaliza-

ies. Opinions are divided about this topic and different camps

tions for a second, and bring in another side of the coin: Ethno-

have their own “objective” arguments at hand. Two sets of rival

cultural nationalism, secessionist and interstate wars, military

schools of thought within nationalism studies propose several

coups, a lack of democratic institutions and a poor economic

conflicting visions on the subject. Modernists aka constructivists

performance are the issues the aforementioned nations experi-

suggest to see ‘nation’ as a modern phenomenon which emerged

enced and are still experiencing.

in the 18th and 19th centuries. Thus, nationality or nation-ness is

Bearing this in mind, one might be surprised to find explana-

not something historically given or inherited or “natural” neces-

tions for quite basic and simultaneously rather complex ques-

sarily having connectivity with one’s past, neither is it fully acci-

tions which may arise. Why, for example, can the peoples such

dental in all cases. Constructivists consider a nation as a humanly

as the Armenians and Azerbaijanis, or the Georgians and

constructed phenomenon which can also be invented ex nihilo by

Abkhazians and Ossetians, while being quite peaceful to their

nationalist elites, even if cultural roots and links with the ancient

guests, be so hostile and antagonistic towards each other? How

past do not exist at all. The process of modernization can create

can we explain a dialectical opposition to another’s identity (the

those roots without any preconditions or connection to antiq-

hostile “other”) while defining its own (what Charles Taylor

uity, suggested Ernest Gellner.

called dialogism when reflecting on the role of the other in self-

While arguing about the origins of nations, Anthony Smith

imagination)? And, how can international actors such as NATO

distinguishes between two relatively similar terms: nations and

deal with cultures, legacies and institutions of these societies in

ethnies. Smith construes a nation as “a named human population

order to prevent radical nationalism from evolving and

sharing an historic territory, common myths and historical

strengthen regional cooperation but at the same time remain

memories, a mass, public culture, a common economy and com-

themselves distant from an involvement into domestic politics?

mon legal rights and duties for all members,” whereas ethnie is

Finding answers to these questions is indeed difficult, even for

defined as “a human population with shared myths of ancestry,

experts of the region.

common historical memories, one or more elements of culture,

There may be some general reflections on nationalist tenden-

a link with a territory, and a measure of solidarity, at least

cies in South Caucasus, raising the issues rather than addressing

among the elites.” As we will find out further, it is Smith’s and

them comprehensively. I don’t mean to qualitatively contextual-

not necessarily Gellner’s argument that gained broader popular-

ize the Georgian, Armenian and Azerbaijani nationalist dis-

ity among the academic and political circles in South Caucasus

courses; I seek to reflect on similar trends in national narratives.

during the early and mid-1990s, and it continues to be popular

After a critical reflection, the article will examine how to en-


Atlantic Voices, Volume 2, Issue 8


The pride of small nations

gism” entails a way of defining oneself by identifying what we are

Based on reflections on history textbooks, a media discourse

not (i.e. “hostile other”), and ethnicity still plays a substantial

analysis and academic literature about nationalism, one might

role in this process in South Caucasus. However, an essential

assert that the concept of nationhood is understood in Smithian

question is how to deal with an ongoing clash of the modernist

primordial terms rather than in the Gellnerian modernist vision.

versus the primordialist way of thinking when the latter prevents

This does not necessarily suggest that South Caucasian states still

regional cooperation.

suffer from ethno-cultural nationalisms, perhaps they do to a lesser extent than in the past, but this is not the point of concern.

Ways forward: Looking to the past or the future?

Noteworthy is a belief among the nationalist elites in accuracy of

Having in mind a complex historical legacy, not to mention the

history and reference to “historical justice” while constructing

historically shaped cultural and institutional set-up of this region,

their political agendas. For example, certain disputed territories

one might wonder how organizations like NATO may contribute

are believed to be exclusively under the ownership of particular

to the development of regional cooperation if some nations still

ethnies which historically inhabited these regions. The ironic

literally hate each other. I see one essential dimension that is

thing is that the historical narratives about similar geographic

working with younger generations.

areas considerably differ and mostly even contradict each other.

Comprehensive sociological empirical research suggests that

A historical deadlock – a space for primordial thinking of tri-

the youth is less reluctant to regional cooperation than for exam-

umph – emerges. It is worth reading a passage in Armenian and

ple the generations that lived in the Soviet Union or fought wars

Azerbaijani textbooks about Nagorno-Karabakh, or Georgian

against each other after its demise. An observation of the activi-

versus Abkhazian history on the matter of ‘who owns what’ in

ties and work of the Youth Atlantic Treaty Association (YATA)

Abkhazia, in order to understand how conflicting the search for

of Georgia and Russia on the one hand, and Armenia and Azer-

historical justice might be and to what extent it may be counter-

baijan on the other, shows that, despite tense political relations,

productive for peace-building.

younger generations still manage to cooperate in various formats

The recent history illustrated that the war between historians

within the framework of YATA activities and events.

and linguists sometimes, if not quite often, evolved into inter-

Thus, it is an enhancement of a bottom-up rather than a top-

state conflicts between the nation-states (e.g. the Azerbaijani-

down cooperation what regional actors should aim at. YATA’s

Armenian conflict over Karabakh), or between central govern-

Balkans experience tells us that despite bloody ethnic rivalries,

ments and leaders of autonomous republics (e.g. the Georgian

historical memories of war and personal tragedies, younger gen-

war in Abkhazia and South Ossetia). We may argue that the eth-

erations from Croatia and Serbia successfully cooperated and

nic perception of ‘nation’ is mainly or partly a by-product of

continue to do so within the framework of YATA. Their joint

Soviet ethno-federalist and titularization policies. However, bear-

activism within YATA only strengthens the argument that

ing in mind the deeply rooted beliefs in pre-modern and quite

younger generations are more adaptable to work with the so-

ethno-culturally exclusive concepts of nationhood among the

called “enemies” than their more aged compatriots. On a critical

nationalists in Tbilisi, Yerevan and Baku in the early 1990s, one

note, it will be reductive to suggest that aiming at youth coop-

might suggest that the instrumentalization of history appeared

eration will have a direct short-term positive impact on regional

easy for Russia in order to maintain “spheres of influence” in its

peace. Yet perhaps in the long run, a long-term engagement

formerly occupied states.

with younger generations within the young Atlantic community

Despite the fact that more than twenty years passed and

in South Caucasus may have a potential of becoming a driving

ethno-nationalism already “thrived” to destroy states, divide

engine for change and a tool for gradual departure from primor-

societies and antagonize political actors, certain primordialism in

dial thinking.

imagining the self and a dialectical identification vis-à-vis the hostile “other” still persists. For Armenians, it is the Azerbaijanis who are the “hostile others” and vice versa; for the Abkhazians and Ossetians, targets of these “dialogical relationships with others” are the Georgians; for Georgians, it is the Russians, etc.

Tornike Metreveli is a PhD Candidate at Ilia State University who specializes in Political Science. He is a Visiting Researcher at London School of Economics. He holds a Master of Science degree from the University of Edinburgh.

Perhaps Charles Taylor is right suggesting that “indirect dialoAtlantic Voices, Volume 2, Issue 8


South Caucasus and transatlantic security: A view from Armenia by Tevan A. Poghosyan


nership for Peace (PfP) and the Individual Partnership Action Plan (IPAP). NATO inaugurated the IPAP instrument at the

rmenia gained its independence in September

2002 Prague Summit as a mechanism to tailor relations with

1991. Since then, the main objective of the

specific countries, which may include eventual membership.

country has been to ensure the security, stability

IPAPs are open to countries that demonstrate the political will

and peace in the region, as its neighbour Azerbaijan imposed a

and ability to deepen their relationship with NATO. The pro-

war on the newly created republic. During the Nagorno-

gram is also used for countries not desiring to join NATO.

Karabakh war between the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic

Though Armenia-NATO relations date back to 1992, when Ar-

(Artsakh) and Azerbaijan, Armenia found itself in an economic

menia joined the North Atlantic Cooperation Council (later

blockade, which was planned by Azerbaijan and Turkey. The aim

renamed the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council), the key docu-

of our neighbours’ blockade has been to force the Republic of

ment on which the relations are based is the IPAP. The main

Armenia to make concessions in favour of Azerbaijan in the Na-

spheres of cooperation under the IPAP are security, defense and

gorno-Karabakh conflict. Though a ceasefire was signed between

military issues, public information, science, environment, and

the Republic of Armenia, the Nagorno Karabakh Republic and

democratic reforms. But while Armenia intends to intensify

the Azerbaijani Republic in May 1994, bellicosity from Azerbai-

practical and political cooperation with NATO, it does not seek

jan didn’t stop. The ceasefire regime has repeatedly been vio-

membership in it. Some say that NATO membership may

lated by Azerbaijan.

worsen relations between Armenia and Russia, Armenia’s main

Since the dissolution of the USSR, NATO has also experi-

strategic partner. The point is that South Caucasus is an impor-

enced a multitude of changes. The Cold War era with its bipolar

tant geopolitical region and NATO’s control over it may ensure

system disappeared, and the unipolarity in international relations

Russia's isolation from both the Caucasus and the Middle East,

could have led to the collapse of the military Alliance as its main

which is against Russia’s interests. Today, Russia has a military

aim was to oppose the Soviet Union that no longer existed.

base in Armenia, which contributes to the protection of Arme-

Therefore, NATO decided to prevent its breakdown by enroll-

nian borders. Along with Russia, Armenia is a member of the

ing more and more states in it in order to become a global Alli-

Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), which is a

ance. As a result, South Caucasus was also considered as a region

major component of the country’s security architecture. But

of possible new members.

unlike NATO, the CSTO doesn’t pursue global goals. Russia is a

Today, cooperation between NATO and South Caucasus is

dominant country among the CSTO members, and the security

implemented through different NATO projects such as the Part-

of member states usually does not depend on the organization as a whole but on the intentions of the Russian Federation. Thus, Armenia needs to maintain close relations with Russia, which, however, should not imply limitations on NATO-Armenia relations. However, at the same time, the Russian Federation doesn’t launch any effective initiative to contribute to the solution of the regional issues, as the current status quo is beneficial for the country. This is why some experts think that Armenia’s integration into NATO will provide the country with better opportunities for resolving its disputes with the neighbours and for maintaining regional security. Others, however, are worried about

Visit of Armenian President Serz Sargsyan to NATO in March 2012 (Photo: NATO)

Atlantic Voices, Volume 2, Issue 8

close relations with NATO, as Turkey is a member of the Alliance. It is well known that Turkey, along with Azerbaijan, does 4

not have diplomatic relations with Armenia and has blockaded the country. Therefore, the main objective of the Armenian security system is to eliminate the threats coming from neighbouring countries. So, according to Armenian politicians, NATO membership will only be on the agenda when the Alliance clarifies its position on the regional issues.1 Otherwise, Turkey might have an influence on NATO resolutions over the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in favour of its partner Azerbaijan. Moreover, even if Armenia decides to join NATO, Turkey

Russia and Armenia signed an agreement on Russian military presence at the Gyumri base in 2010 (Photo: N. Armenakyan)

might veto its membership like any other pro-Armenian resolu-

aggressiveness by turning down all the confidence-building meas-


ures. One year later, Azerbaijan objected to the participation of

However, Armenia cooperates with NATO even without

Armenian officers in “The Cooperative Best Effort 2004”, which

being a member of the Alliance. For instance, in the sphere of

had been planned to be held in Azerbaijan.4 As a result, NATO

defense and military cooperation, the Armenian Armed Forces

decided to cancel “The Cooperative Best Effort 2004” as all PfP

receive personnel training and support from NATO to increase

exercises are agreed and conducted on the principle of inclusive-

border security. Cooperation with NATO is very important in

ness for all Allies and partners wishing to participate. On Sep-

this sphere because NATO can contribute to the technological

tember 13th, a NATO spokesman declared: “We regret that the

progress of the Armenian Armed Forces, which the Russian

principle of inclusiveness could not be upheld in this case, lead-


Army cannot guarantee as it is the USSR’s old-fashioned legacy.

ing to the cancellation of the exercise.”5

Armenia also participates in the Partnership for Peace (PfP).

Four years later, Armenia hosted the PfP exercise

Since joining it in 1994, Armenian troops have cooperated with

“Cooperative Longbow/Lancer”. It involved approximately 900

NATO countries in many peacekeeping operations. For exam-

troops from NATO, PfP, and Istanbul Cooperation Initiative

ple, Armenia contributed troops to the Kosovo Force (KFOR) as

(ICI) nations. Unfortunately, very few sources highlight the fact

of 2004. But recently, Armenia has ended its participation in

that while being the smallest country in South Caucasus, Arme-

KFOR. The Armenian platoon of light infantry (35 personnel),

nia hosted the biggest NATO exercise of the region. The exer-

which served within the Greek contingent had to return to Yere-

cise served as an opportunity to learn how to work together in

van because of the pull-out of most of the Greek peacekeeping battalion. Today, Armenia is ready to send its troops back to Kosovo if another NATO member state agrees to cover their logistical ex-

the framework of a NATO-led opera-

Since 2009, Armenia has been contributing troops to the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan.

penses in the place of Greece. Besides,

tion. In September 2010, Armenia hosted the Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Centre’s civil emergency exercise (“Armenia 2010”) in the Kotayk region.

since 2009, Armenia has been contributing troops to the Interna-

Teams from 15 Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC) and

tional Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan. In June

Mediterranean Dialogue (MD) nations took part in the exercise,

2011, the number of Armenian troops serving in ISAF was al-

and 11 additional countries participated by sending staff officers.

most tripled to about 130.

Altogether, more than 600 individuals belonging to civilian and

In 2003, Armenia successfully hosted a NATO/PfP exercise

military teams from NATO and partner countries with capabili-

for the first time. “The Cooperative Best Effort 2003” took place

ties to deal with different aspects of emergencies took part in the

at the Vazgen Sargsian Military Institute in Armenia. The aim of

event. Through this exercise, NATO and partner nations prac-

the exercise was to improve land force effectiveness in the field

ticed the Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Centre

by making NATO and partner contributors work together to

(EADRCC) procedures and capabilities, in order to improve the


develop better understanding and interoperability. Turkish

nations’ ability to respond to a disaster.

troops also participated in that exercise on Armenian soil. But

Besides, Armenia participates in the NATO Parliamentary

this does not apply to Azerbaijan. The country continued its

Assembly, thanks to which it is able to prevent the adoption of

Atlantic Voices, Volume 2, Issue 8


unfavourable resolutions for Armenia, especially concerning the

The AAA’s main goal is to foster Armenia’s links with the North

Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

Atlantic Treaty Organization and to promote a better under-

Armenia contributes to the fight against terrorism through its

standing within Armenia of NATO’s mission and activities. The

participation in the Partnership Action Plan on Terrorism (PAP-

Association strives to correct misperceptions about NATO and

T). This includes sharing intelligence and analysis with NATO,

its policies that exist in the country. Another goal of the AAA is

enhancing national counter-terrorism training capabilities and

to inform the public in NATO member-countries about politi-

improving border security.

cal, economic and social developments in Armenia and to pro-

Under the Science for Peace and Security (SPS) Programme,

mote solidarity amongst nations participating in the NATO PfP


program. The AAA

grant awards for about 38

adheres to the princi-

projects. Projects under-

ples of equality, self-

taken include the preven-

governance and pub-

tion, detection and re-

lic service. It does

sponse to nuclear threats,

not pursue political

risk assessment on natural

aims and is not affili-

disasters and water secu-

ated with any politi-

rity. Armenia also par-

cal group.

ticipates in the Virtual

It is worth mention-

Silk Highway project, the

ing that all three

purpose of which is to

states of the South



improve internet access for research communities

Armenia has increased its troop contribution to ISAF up to 130 soldiers in 2011 (Photo: RFI/RFN)

Caucasus region conduct different policies

in South Caucasus and Central Asia. Under this project the aca-

towards NATO. While Armenia is not interested in NATO

demic and educational communities in the eight countries con-

membership, Georgia desires to join the Alliance as soon as pos-

cerned will be connected to the Internet by way of a common

sible. Georgia is very interested in NATO integration mainly

satellite beam.

because it has no alternative. The point is that in both the Geor-

One should keep in mind that, before 2000, relations be-

gian-Abkhazian and the Georgian-Ossetian conflict, Russia sup-

tween NATO and Armenia were not strong enough. Armenian

ported the self-declared movements. As a result of these con-

politicians didn't trust NATO. They considered the Alliance as

flicts, Russian forces are present on Georgian territory. Thus, Georgia needs NATO as a means of pro-

an enemy as Turkey, the historical foe of Armenia, has been its member since 1952. Armenians thought that NATO’s policy is similar to the policy conducted by Turkey. Though public opinion has

Some say that NATO membership may worsen relations between Armenia and Russia, Armenia’s main strategic partner.

changed recently, this perception hasn’t

tection from the threat coming from its powerful northern neighbour Russia. The areas of NATO-Georgia cooperation are the same as in the case of Armenia. The main difference is that NATO-

disappeared completely. That is why Armenia intends to raise

Georgia relations are based on the Annual National Programme

public awareness of NATO by implementing information cam-

(ANP), which has replaced the IPAP.

paigns about the North Atlantic Alliance. An information centre

As for Azerbaijan, the country hasn’t made any clear state-

about NATO was established in Yerevan in 2007 with the sup-

ments about its position on NATO membership. Though Azer-

port of the Armenian government and NATO.6 Besides, Arme-

baijan tries to cooperate with the Alliance in implementing de-

nia organizes annual NATO weeks in order to deliver informa-

mocratic reforms, in this sphere the country is far behind the

tion on NATO activities in the world and in the region. In its

other two states of the region. Azerbaijan’s human rights abuses,

turn, the Armenian Atlantic Association (AAA), which was es-

the basic breaches and violations of the principles of democracy,

tablished in 2001, also contributes to raising public awareness.

freedom of speech, rule of law, etc. are strongly condemned by

Atlantic Voices, Volume 2, Issue 8


NATO, nor NATO is ready to accept Armenia.”7 The point is

the European Union. In NATO-Azerbaijan relations the Turkish factor should also

that NATO membership implies responsibilities not only from

be taken into account because, while being a NATO member for

the Armenian side but also from NATO. First of all, the Alliance

decades, Turkey maintains close relations with Azerbaijan and

should be responsible for the security of the region, which is

may have an impact on its integration into the Alliance.

quite complicated because of the ongoing regional conflicts.

But at the same time, Azerbaijan tries to maintain high-level

Armenia doesn’t seek NATO membership because Armenian

relations with Russia, as the latter plays an important role in

politicians comprehend that it is unrealistic in the current situa-

South Caucasus, and especially in the process of peaceful settle-

tion. But Armenia’s integration into NATO should not be ruled

ment of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Azerbaijani politicians

out. Maybe the situation in South Caucasus will change, and

comprehend that the intensification of NATO-Azerbaijan rela-

Armenia would come up with an intention to join NATO in the

tions will definitely contribute to the improvement of the al-

nearest future.

ready close Russian-Armenian ties, which may have a negative effect for Azerbaijan regarding the future settlement of the Na-


gorno-Karabakh conflict.



North Atlantic Treaty Organization,

It can be concluded that all three states of the South Caucasus region are trying to implement major reforms in the area of


security, economy and defense in order to be integrated into the


EU and other European institutions. But as Armenia, Azerbaijan


Human Rights in Armenia, Civil Society Institute,

and Georgia conduct different policies towards NATO, the integration process of each will differ from the others’. Russia’s role should also be taken into account, as it has a huge influence in


As Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia conduct different policies towards NATO, their integration processes will differ from each other.

the region and can therefore have an impact on NATO-South Caucasus relations. For example, while Georgia is trying to become a NATO member as soon as possible, in order to feel safe from the Russian threat, Armenia does not need this. On the contrary, a NATO member state (Turkey)





http:// 6

Information Centre on NATO in Armenia, http:// 7



http:// kocaryan-armenia-is-not-going-to-join-nato.html

The views expressed in this article are entirely those of the author. They do not necessarily represent the views of the Atlantic Treaty Association, its members, affiliates or staff.

is a source of danger to Armenia. In its turn, Azerbaijan does not want to deepen relations with NATO either as it may harm the country’s ties with Russia.

About the authors

Though the three South Caucasus states have different positions on NATO, they have one thing in common – the European

Tevan A. Poghosyan

integration, which is an important factor that contributes to

Tevan A. Poghosyan is Executive Director of the Interna-

NATO-South Caucasus cooperation. The European integration is

tional Center for Human Development in Armenia as well as

one of the main goals of the foreign policies of Armenia, Azer-

Executive Director of the Armenian Atlantic Association (AAA)

baijan and Georgia. As NATO is an important organization in the

and lecturer at the Armenian Russian States (Slavonic) Univer-

European system, close relations and the integration into the

sity. Prior to this, he has also worked for the Central Bank of

Alliance can represent a huge step towards the EU.

Armenia and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Nagorno-

As for Armenia, NATO membership is not on the agenda today as the Alliance’s role is not efficient enough to solve re-

Karabakh Republic.

Rozy Kopyan

gional conflicts and to maintain peace and stability in South Cau-

Rozy Kopyan is an MA candidate in International Relations

casus. In this context, the former Foreign Minister of Armenia

at Yerevan State University. She is also member of the Young

Vartan Oskanyan once stated: “Neither Armenia is ready to join

Armenian Atlantic Association.

Atlantic Voices, Volume 2, Issue 8


South Caucasus and transatlantic security: A view from Azerbaijan by Orkhan Ali


comprising 93%, Georgia’s and Armenia’s economic growth are mainly based on the construction, services, transit routes and st

he 21 century brought many changes to the

agriculture sectors. For Armenia, remittances from Armenians

South Caucasus region, but it had limited impact

living and working abroad play an important role. For Georgia,

on any peace process in the region. Due to the

the transit of resources from the Caspian Sea to Turkey matters

conflicts, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia have narrowed down

greatly, while for Azerbaijan, Georgia is the most important

tripartite integration and demonstrate a lack of willingness to

transit country for its resources to Europe. Georgia is also a

cooperate. Each of them has different aspirations vis-à-vis secu-

crucial partner for Armenia to access regional and international

rity guarantees because of their diverse political, economic, so-

markets, and approximately 70% of Armenian trade is linked to

cial and diplomatic developments. The continuation of Armenian

transits via Georgia. This illustrates how prosperous the region

occupation of Azerbaijani territories and the annexation of

could be if cross-border cooperation were in motion. In this

Abkhazia and South Ossetia after the August War in 2008 have

conflict-driven region in which security is being questioned, a

prevented the region from joining the NATO security platform

regional security framework still remains unmatched.

or at least seeking for a regional security guarantee under a single defense structure.

Conflicts and the search for ‘new security’: To rush or not to rush?

The Caucasian security context

Russia has always regarded South Caucasus as its traditional back-

As far as regional security is concerned, all three states are

yard of influence and resisted western involvement in this re-

grouped under one regional security complex regarding many com-

gion. The geostrategic importance of the region for Russia is

mon issues such as occupation of territories, unresolved con-

based on three factors: rich hydro-carbon resources of the Cas-

flicts, refugee problems,

pian Basin (Azerbaijan),

ethnic tensions, economic

and its role as an energy-

dependence and safe en-


ergy transportation. This

(currently Azerbaijan and

security framework is ob-

Georgia) and security in-

viously defined by the se-

surance (military presence

curity concerns that are

in Armenia, gateway to the

interlinked, and this leads

Middle East, Gabala radar

to the perception that na-

station in Azerbaijan).

tional problems cannot be

Although the South Cauca-

reasonably solved inde-

sus countries tried to di-

pendently from each other.

versify their foreign poli-

Security developments in all three countries under-

Azerbaijani and US soldiers participating in a NATO military exercise outside Baku (Photo: NSI News Source Info)


cies away from Russia, they could not simply ig-

went serious drawbacks, and the region is seeking a comprehen-

nore the country they had lived with for 200 years. In this con-

sive security framework.

text, the perception of Russia has been decisive for the develop-

Even from an economic point of view, the states of the re-

ment of a security framework for Armenia, Azerbaijan and

gion differ but nonetheless depend on each other. While the

Georgia. Moreover, all three states were left with very limited

share of oil in Azerbaijan generates more than 70% of budget

leverages to pursue independent foreign policies after the Soviet

revenues, with the export of oil and petroleum products alone

break-up, and they were in political disarray to systematically

Atlantic Voices, Volume 2, Issue 8


resist Russian pressure.

tense muscles of both countries, which coincided with the visit

The occupation of the Nagorno-Karabakh region in Azerbai-

of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to the region from 4 to 6

jan by Armenian military forces at the beginning of the 1990s is

June 2012. The likelihood of a military confrontation is like a

the most significant impediment for regional integration. The

time-bomb in the region. Azerbaijan’s defense budget has grown

war between Armenia and Azerbaijan reached the point of a

from $1.59 bn in 2010 to $1.76 bn in 2012 while Armenia’s

mutual stalemate, and the ceasefire was officially inked on 27

military stands at a budget of about $400 million in 2012, which

July 1994, paving the way for the OSCE to technically start the

is about 4.5 times less than Azerbaijan’s military budget. The oil

mediation mission. However, a preservation of the status quo of

boom in Azerbaijan, however, could reverse the status quo and

the conflict is mostly sustained due to the Russian control of

may convince Armenia not to trust its opponent at the negotia-

Caucasus politics. Armenia is the only country in the region with

tion table. Most dangerously, Yerevan could act pre-emptively

a pro-Russian posture and a member of the Collective Security

to forestall the risk of being attacked by Azerbaijan. And obvi-

Treaty Organisation (CSTO), where Moscow remains a security

ously, as long as the conflict remains in a ‘no war, no peace’

-guarantor. Furthermore, a recent security agreement signed

conundrum, the possibility of a future military scenario cannot

between Armenia and Russia in 2010 has extended the Russian

be ruled out. Nevertheless, Armenia is the dominating party in

troop deployment to Gyumri until up to 2044. Beside that de-

the negotiations for now, as it invaded and took control not only

ployment, Russian border guards continue to monitor Armenia’s

of Nagorno-Karabakh, but also of the seven adjacent regions to

borders with Iran and Turkey. The purpose of siding with Russia

Nagorno-Karabakh for convenient defense posture and legalization of more occupied areas.

militarily is to get Russia’s military and tacit political support for Armenian occupation until the legalization of military gains and to restrain Azerbaijan from

The likelihood of a military confrontation is like a time-bomb in the region.

Georgia is a different case. Mikheil Saakashvili’s triumph in the 2004 Rose Revolution was a turning point in Geor-

starting any military operation. There-

gia’s search for a security framework.

fore, Armenia is more confident in Rus-

The solidification of the pro-Western

sia than NATO, an organization in which Turkey is deeply in-

president in power significantly increased the course towards

volved, while Azerbaijan relies on Turkey as a “brother country”

European integration. Tbilisi declared a membership interest to

and NATO member with the same Turkic root. Taking this into

NATO, and since then, Saakashvili’s administration perceived

account, Yerevan gave preference to being the Kremlin’s only

Russia as the only threat towards its breakaway regions and tried

strong foothold in the region.

to deter it through an alignment with NATO and the US. During

Conversely, the energy potential has made it possible for

NATO’s Riga Summit in 2006, NATO parties even encouraged

Azerbaijan to diversify its political and economic contacts and has

Tbilisi in its effort to join the NATO family. This tendency im-

enabled Baku to deal with Russia as a partner, albeit in limited

proved even further in the 2008 Bucharest Summit. Then US

terms. However, the status-quo in Karabakh is the most power-

President Bush lobbied strongly for Georgia’s case. Bush’s sup-

ful tool of Moscow to control Azerbaijan. This policy could seri-

port for Georgia, however, contradicted the German, French

ously challenge Russia in the case of military escalation between

and Italian governments’ interests within NATO. As a result,

the parties, where abstention would potentially engage other

under the consistent pressure of France and Germany, NATO

actors, above all Turkey. Turkey could hardly remain a mere

denied granting a Membership Action Plan (MAP) to Georgia.

observer of a war, and Ankara would most likely be forced to

But all these pre-assessments of Georgia’s readiness to join

take part in the conflict on the side of Azerbaijan, which might

NATO and overly sensitive advocacy policy failed in mid-2008.

trigger NATO’s intervention if Turkey’s security is at stake. This

The new leadership in Tbilisi began to falter in managing overly

scenario might also trap Russia and Turkey into a proxy war, if

ambitious expectations. Hasty and imprudent decisions em-

not into direct confrontation.

ployed in solving the conflicts in the two breakaway regions by

Recently, the breach of the Armenian-Azerbaijani line of

the use of force in August 2008 ended up in a fiasco for Georgia.

contact and the death of soldiers on both sides created concern

The relations with the Kremlin plummeted, resulting in the

over the ‘frozen’ status of the conflict and demonstrated the

controversial recognition of de-facto independence of Abkhazia

Atlantic Voices, Volume 2, Issue 8


and South Ossetia by Russia, thereby disrupting the territorial

all projects of the PfP to demonstrate its vivid interest in NATO

integrity of Georgia. Russia proved to be the defining country

membership. Armenia doesn’t seek NATO membership to deter

for whether Georgia could go any further or not. As a result, the

its enemies, in particular Turkey and Azerbaijan, as this task is

MAP has been put on hold for Georgia. Besides, NATO member

reserved to Russia. Yerevan just tries to diversify its relations

countries came to the conclusion that extending the organiza-

and pursues a multi-vectoral foreign policy. Azerbaijan is also

tion’s membership to the area where Russian troops are heavily

actively cooperating with NATO under the PfP, but its relation-

deployed and numerously present could possibly initiate a con-

ship with NATO is more balanced than Georgia’s and Arme-

frontation of bigger scale.

nia’s. Nevertheless, Azerbaijan doesn’t need to fully integrate into NATO, but its relation with NATO is much stronger than

NATO and confrontational partnership in South Caucasus

Armenia’s. However, Baku has never materialized its commit-

As the conflicts in the region, labeled ‘frozen’ in many western

policy with particular consideration of Russia, and does not con-

media, have begun to thaw, basically no progress was made

sider NATO membership as a priority. In support of this sign,

around the table between the parties. There is a reason to be-

Azerbaijan also joined the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) in

lieve that NATO is interested in pipeline security in South Cau-

2011 with full membership status, which clearly marks Baku’s

casus for clear geostrategic reasons. But energy is not the only

reluctance to be part of either NATO or any other defense or-

reason to keep an eye on the region. NATO member states are


ment to NATO, due to the preservation of a balanced foreign

now deeply committed militarily in both Afghanistan and Iraq,

One can say that the PfP puts forward a very flexible coop-

generating a much greater interest in the wider Middle East. The

eration framework in line with the Caucasian countries’ prefer-

South Caucasus region is a logistical corridor crucial for the ac-

ences. NATO’s moves are determined by the interest in balance,

cess of coalition aircraft to operational theatres further east in

and if vital interests are at stake, member states come to terms

Afghanistan. On a strategic level, the increasing NATO focus on

on action with regard to collective defense. Bearing this in mind,

the Caucasus stems from the fact that security interests of NATO

it was witnessed that NATO gave preference to common inter-

in South Caucasus have grown to an extent that they would sig-

ests it shares with Russia, such as counter-terrorism activities,

nificantly be affected by more instability

arms control and disarmament, non-

in the region. The collective interests of

proliferation of WMD, rather than

NATO members therefore suggest that a larger role of the Alliance in strengthen-

Baku does not consider NATO membership as a priority.

straining its relations with the Kremlin. NATO’s influence in the region has de-

ing the security in South Caucasus is war-

clined after the August War. The August


2008 events reinforced the reservations

NATO unveiled the Partnership for Peace (PfP) in 1994, and

of many NATO members concerning the granting of member-

it was hailed as the cornerstone of a new security relationship

ship to a state with unresolved territorial disputes. The lesson

between NATO and the newly democratic states in the East.

was that false security hopes granted to Georgia could entail a

Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia joined this programme on 5

risk of drawing NATO into conflicts which could lead to a direct

October, 4 May and 23 March 1994 respectively. But the PfP

confrontation with Russia. Not surprisingly, Russia legally insti-

falls considerably short of a security guarantee; it only assures the

tutionalized the results of its intervention by officially recogniz-

Eastern European states of consultation if their security is threat-

ing South Ossetia and Abkhazia as new independent states on 23


ened. The PfP is an individual program that offers the military

August 2008. NATO simply confined itself to condemning Rus-

diversification of member states, but doesn’t promise a NATO

sia’s military move as being in breach of UN Security Council

security guarantee.

Resolutions and infringing on Georgia’s territorial integrity and

Despite the fact that all three countries show a deep interest

sovereignty. Indeed, at the 2009 Strasbourg/Kehl NATO 60th

in a partnership framework with NATO, the level of engage-

Anniversary Summit, member states did not demonstrate an

ment differs from country to country. Georgia is more active in

over-excessive support for upgrading Georgia to the status of

Atlantic Voices, Volume 2, Issue 8


MAP country. However, this event unpacked many controversial issues.

security alternatives with NATO; however, any upgrade in its MAP efforts will be constrained by Russian counter-moves.

Since then, Georgia has become more realistic in drawing up the

Unfortunately, the OSCE Minsk Group, co-chaired by Rus-

prospects of an aligned European or Transatlantic security

sia, the US and France, is limited to initiating a peace deal be-

framework, and new realities cemented a sober judgment of the

tween the warring countries, and the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict

likelihood of Georgia’s success in the aspiration for NATO mem-

remains a low priority on the international level because of the

bership. Russia has used this experience for putting pressure on

consensus that there is no immediate danger of escalation. The

other post-soviet nations’ NATO aspirations and displayed its

Geneva talks, established with the aim of arriving at a conflict

immediate alertness regarding such moves. Armenia and Azer-

resolution in Abkhazia and South Ossetia after the August War in

baijan took the lesson that an excessive NATO aspiration could

2008 and co-chaired by the EU, the OSCE and the UN, have not

end up with the cost of unprecedented territorial outcomes.

produced any tangible results over the last four years. Both the

Hence, at NATO’s recent Chicago Summit, member coun-

OSCE Minsk Group and the Geneva talks have had the role of

tries came up with a cautious agenda based on the lessons-

monitoring the cease-fire agreements rather than promoting

learned. For Georgia, the Summit was of particular significance

peace-frameworks that could potentially lead to meaningful rap-

in order to demonstrate Tbilisi’s firmness concerning Euro-

prochement. Out of the three, the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict

Atlantic integration. The Summit Declaration reiterated

stands as the only hindrance over-shadowing the entire Caucasus

NATO’s support of the territorial integrity of Georgia and re-

region, and it creates great uncertainty with respect to future

affirmed its aspiration for NATO membership. Nevertheless,

cooperation between the three nations.

Brussels was very careful in the wording and put an accent on the

However, an uncontrolled tension in the region cannot be

implementation of necessary reforms to complement NATO

ruled out and this would not only mean serious political changes

standards. For Armenia, the Summit Declaration sparked dissat-

in the entire South Caucasus region but it would also force Rus-

isfaction, stating its support for the territorial integrity of Azer-

sia, Turkey, Iran, and possibly NATO member states, to seri-

baijan in resolution of the ongoing confrontation. In this context,

ously revise their respective policies. Given the example of the

Azerbaijan seems to be happy with NATO’s reference to the

August 2008 War, those assumptions supporting the war scenar-

territorial integrity, which, to a certain extent, enhances Azer-

ios could be revisited.

baijan’s diplomatic standing against Armenia, regarding the withdrawal of military forces from the occupied territory.


Hugh de Santis, “Romancing NATO: Partnership for Peace and East European stability”,

Journal of Strategic Studies, vol. 17, no. 4, 2004, p. 65.



For twenty years, South Caucasus has been plagued by conflicts and fails to benefit from progress, due to closed borders and limited economic developments on a war footing. Efforts to

The views expressed in this article are entirely those of the author. They do not necessarily represent the views of the Atlantic Treaty Association, its members, affiliates or staff.

change this situation have yielded few results, let alone a peace agreement. NATO is interested in the peaceful settlement of the conflicts in the region in order to avoid any unexpected escala-

About the author

tion. The more stable and independent the South Caucasus countries are the easier it will be for NATO to secure the diversifica-

Orkhan Ali

tion of the energy flow from the Caspian Sea and to establish a

Orkhan Ali works as a Governance Programme Coordinator at

reliable cooperation with Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia for

Oxfam Great Britain in Azerbaijan. He holds an MA degree in

its operations. Russia is committed to blocking any further

Non-Proliferation and International Security from King’s Col-

NATO involvement in the region, which means that any future

lege London and a Post-Graduate Diploma from Université Li-

talk of possible deployment of NATO peacekeeping forces in the

bre de Bruxelles. He was Director of the NATO International

Caucasus is far from happening. Georgia will most likely look for

School of Azerbaijan in 2008.

Atlantic Voices, Volume 2, Issue 8


ATA Programs In July 2012, two traditional seminars for young Atlanticists took place. From 2 to 8 July, the Danish ATA hosted the Danish Atlantic Youth Seminar (DAYS) at Aalborg Airbase. The 27th

Atlantic Voices is the monthly publication of the Atlantic Treaty Association. It aims to inform the debate on key issues that affect the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, its goals and its future. The work published in Atlantic Voices is written by young professionals and researchers.

DAYS was held under the headline “Tomorrow’s Challenges Today” and involved 22 participants from 15 different countries. From 21 to 28 July, the Portuguese Atlantic Youth Seminar (PAYS) took place at Lisbon Airbase looking at “NATO Transformation and the New Transnational Threat Paradigm”. YATA President Kristin Durant participated in both events and exchanged her views with representatives of many national chapters.

The Atlantic Treaty Association (ATA) is an international nongovernmental organization based in Brussels working to facilitate global networks and the sharing of knowledge on transatlantic cooperation and security. By convening political, diplomatic and military leaders with academics, media representatives and young professionals, the ATA promotes the values set forth in the North Atlantic Treaty: Democracy, Freedom, Liberty, Peace, Security and Rule of Law. The ATA membership extends to 37 countries from North America to the Caucasus throughout Europe. In 1996, the Youth Atlantic Treaty Association (YATA) was created to specifially include to the successor generation in our work. Since 1954, the ATA has advanced the public’s knowledge and understanding of the importance of joint efforts to transatlantic security through its international programs, such as the Central and South Eastern European Security Forum, the Ukraine Dialogue and its Educational Platform. In 2011, the ATA adopted a new set of strategic goals that reflects the

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constantly evolving dynamics of international cooperation. These goals include:

the establishment of new and competitive programs on international security issues.

the development of research initiatives and security-related events for its members.

the expansion of ATA’s international network of experts to countries in Northern Africa and Asia. The ATA is realizing these goals through new programs, more policy

activism and greater emphasis on joint research initiatives.

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These programs will also aid in the establishment of a network of international policy experts and professionals engaged in a dialogue with NATO.

Atlantic Voices Vol. 2, no. 8