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Security Architecture in Caucasus: where do the interests match?

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Security Architecture in Caucasus: where do the interests match?

None of the South Caucasian nations can count on EU membership or closer cooperation without careful consideration, assessment and step-by-step reduction of existing common regional threats.

This article was written by: Tatoul Manasserian

Introduction

Caucasus remains one of the most unstable regions in the world, particularly after the collapse of the previous political regime in the early 1990s. All three nations started to look for new strategic partners after gaining their political independence, however, this did not allow them to have added value in terms of political stability, regional security, economic cooperation and tangible economic growth. Ethnic conflicts and wars became real threats to human resilience for all people in Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan. We attempt to reveal the difference in goals and objectives set for the mentioned nations, considering the difference in geopolitical goals pursued by their strategic partners – Russia, the European Union, and Turkey. This takes Caucasus to nowhere but to a growing uncertainty and turns the region into a platform, where the interests and ambitions of superpowers leave no space for mutual understanding, peacebuilding and security architecture. Therefore, we intend to concentrate on more common threats that nations of Caucasus currently face followed by some policy recommendations for national governments, as well as international organizations. In other words, a new “Marshall Plan” might be one of the remedies for the current complicated state of affairs in this region.

Reasoning and clear statement

Despite the differences in goals and geography of strategic partnerships, all nations of Caucasus share or partially share one common interest: strengthening economic and related relations with the European Union. Georgia is struggling to become a member of the European Union from the very beginning of gaining independence. Armenia is currently willing to make a move to even closer cooperation with the European Union today and report on the progress of implementing the CEPA agreement signed between the European Union and Armenia back in November 2017[1]. Although Azerbaijan makes no political efforts to apply for EU membership, nevertheless, this country is involved in the EU Eastern Partnership providing more opportunities for the state and civil society to adopt European values and standards in all areas – starting from democratic reforms up to the bilateral and multilateral trade and economic cooperation with the EU member states. Moreover, recently Europeans have taken advantage of buying oil and gas from Azerbaijan[2] after imposing sanctions against Russia since the armed conflict started in Ukraine. How all of this impacts the overall process of stabilizing the situation in the Caucasus considering the recent developments, namely the invasion of Azerbaijani troops into the sovereign territory of Armenia, as well as after ethnic cleansing in Nagorno Karabagh, followed by the 44-day war started by Azerbaijan. How does it match the declared goals of Azerbaijan and its readiness to sign a peace agreement? How does it contribute to human resilience? Can the close relations of Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan with the European Union play a positive role in establishing peace in the region? Can a new “Marshall plan” be designed for Caucasus and how shall it be implemented?

Positioning to the importance of the topic

Aside from mentioned questions, someone may consider to examine the current situation both internally and externally. One of the principal points of our study is to look at Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan from the angle of the European Union. Do Europeans want us to be part of the EU with existing problems in Caucasus, or do they expect to solve the internal, particularly the strategic issues before applying for membership? It seems that accepting these nations in the complicated situation where they are today will be an additional headache and burden for Europe. Of course, everyone is free to dream about it and all agree that it will be beneficial for three nations to be part of Europe since they are a part of Europe not only geographically, but also by sharing the same values, however, we believe that one of the fundamental things we shall look at and take steps toward it, is to build reliable security system in the Caucasus.

What makes you an expert on this topic?

From the early 1990s, several studies were conducted to disclose various threats to Armenia, the region and the world economy[3]. A series of workshops, round table debates and conferences were organized to address these issues[4]. They suggest that after the break-up of the previous political regime, many post-soviet countries faced similar hardships, risks and threats to their economic growth. As a result of continuous work, a manuscript was also published related to the mentioned issues[5]. More pragmatically, we have had several opportunities to discuss this topic with our colleagues from Georgia and Azerbaijan within the framework of various forums and gatherings, including European platforms, particularly the George Marshall Center PfP consortium meetings, as well as others organized by Geneva Centre for security policy, mediating talks between the experts from Armenia and Azerbaijan. The good news is that experts from all three Caucasian countries share this concern. One of the most realistic steps to take from the very beginning might be to sit down together and start discussing issues related to our common destiny. European people were brave to find a viable solution to their problems after the World War 2.

Analysis with very brief theoretical background

Many of the people with a clear pro-Western approach have a hard time to elaborate why they like Europe and why the EU is so attractive to many nations. For some of them, it is the high level of the quality of life, for others, it is the social welfare and the benchmarks that Europe has achieved so far. The real incentive may not be the money, and even not the macroeconomic indicators or improved competitiveness of goods and services originated and maintained in EU, but mostly the art of living together. This is something people in Caucasus need to learn from Europeans. After a long history of bloody wars and even genocides, people managed not only to live next to each other but also to have real friendship among people and states. Learning from this exceptional experience the states in Caucasus need to put an end to the armed conflicts and wars as well. None of the other countries will do it if people in this region do not make the first move to communicate, exchange views and cooperate on the most sensitive issues we have today. This is the truth, this is the reality where we live and we have to face it. All the targets with nice expressions and wordings about starting trade between Armenia and Azerbaijan or immediate unblocking of communications may never be realized if nations fail to start from the right point. This concern is also true about the initiative of Armenia on “Crossroad of peace” with all respect to the authors of such a regional project. Therefore, there is a need to face and carefully examine the threats that are common. In turn, the regional experts need to analyze, evaluate the threats, be unbiased and jointly design policy recommendations feeding the decision makers in all three states. One of the key requirements for experts is to be independent and serve the regional interests, which may match the long-term strategic interests of each nation in peace-building and security architecture. This also requires mutual respect and excludes hostility among nations.

Outcomes of the analysis

Armenia supports Georgia’s attempts to become an EU member state. This may also have a positive impact on the overall political climate in the region. At the same time, Armenia also recognizes the importance of close cooperation with the EU member states and makes a formal move to apply for EU membership as well. To make those targets achievable, presumable the time is right to think about collaboration on reducing the common threats. To be more precise, a study is required to examine and prioritize the threats in each country and by conducting a comparative analysis, reveal those that are common for Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan. To start with one may consider such threats that harm the environmental security regionally, since they don’t recognize any borders, including the air, irrigation water, drinking water, etc. Air and water pollution are equally precarious particularly for bordering communities. Communicable diseases, such as COVID-19 and others are also among the common threats for the region and for humanity in general. Another alarming topic is food security. Based on national statistical data, as well as considering the figures in the reports of international organizations, it is clearly indicated that none of the countries in the Caucasus is currently able to maintain a proper level of food security. In some reports rankings Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan are placed next to each other as food insecure countries[6]. The same is true for financial security, information security, “brain drain”, to name a few.[7]

Positioning and proposals

Based on this brief overview we may conclude that the representative of civil society, particularly, the expert society, may be actively involved and contribute to the overall process of security building in the region. Coming to the venue for the mediation and talks, experts may come together in Baku, in Tbilisi or in Yerevan. But the role of Georgia cannot be overestimated especially in the initial phases of such a process. Georgia’s role is most vital since this nation is the most interested party in establishing peace and security in the Caucasus.

It is also worthy to discuss the opportunities to explore and utilize the cooperative advantages of nations in the Caucasus. Based on our study, each of the three neighbouring countries holds cooperative advantages which are still ignored due to the political unrest. This is not only a newly invented economic theory but may serve efficiently the common interests of people and states for the foreseeable future and beyond. It can also be viewed as a prerequisite for future regional cooperation[8]. The truth is that none of today’s competitive national economies was successful in being integrated into the world economy before being integrated into the regional markets. And Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan cannot be exceptions to this “rule”. Moreover, Caucasus is not just a part of a map. It has to be a region, a common market. These three nations need to be courageous and creative enough to find the ways, as French and Germans did, to establish a sort of Union of Steel and Coal. Why was it created in Europe? The simple answer is to control the use of the strategic raw materials extensively used in the military industrial complex. The broader vision of it was also to establish trust and to be committed to accomplishing the common goals. Finally, it is essential to talk about peace or the possibility of signing a peace agreement between Armenia and Azerbaijan. However, peace may also be viewed as a consequence of establishing reliable and long-lasting security. Before achieving this goal, there is a need to have peace in our minds to be sincere, frank and responsible for building security in our common home.

How to do it if that would be us or you.

It will be a naive perception to expect a tangible outcome within a reasonable time frame without international organizations, such as the European Union, specialized UN structures, OECD, OSCE, as well as regional organizations, international think tanks, and others. Taking into consideration the complicated state of affairs in the Caucasus, certain preconditions need to be set to make the tasks achievable.

First, strategic partners of Armenia – Russia, Georgia – EU, USA, and Azerbaijan – Turkey are considered among the key obstacles to security building since their goals in the Caucasus may never coincide or be harmonized. Therefore, strategic partners are required to stay away from the process of security building and let the leaders of three nations in the Caucasus prioritize their interests and design the road map of security architecture.

Second, as a cornerstone of the process, a decision needs to be taken by current strategic partners to avoid selling arms to the mentioned nations with further monitoring of the local defence budgets of the three countries and the movement of weapons of all kinds. Representatives of nations in the Caucasus, as well as their strategic partners and international organizations may be involved in monitoring and drafting annual reports on the implementation steps.

Third, hate speech and misleading information against neighbouring and other nations shall be banned and concrete measures, including sanctions be imposed in case of violating joint commitments.

Fourth, an establishment of special Fund for regional development (FRD) is required to support the regional security talks and the development of regional projects, as well as attracting investments for their implementation. OECD (former OEEC) countries may be among the first nations to contribute as it was clearly formulated in the Marshall Plan[9] to provide aid to developing nations for economic recovery. Among other contributors, one may expect Russia, Iran, and Turkey as key stakeholders and beneficiaries in establishing security in the Caucasus.

Fifth, as nations might progress to their goals and common threats will presumably be decreased, it will be worthy to initiate a parallel to it process of cutting budget military expenditures of Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan and directing them to the FRD and/or to the unified security system and mechanisms.

Sixth, joint regional projects aimed at improving the state of energy security (green energy, renewable energy and other power plants), recycling economy, and regional infrastructures, including roads, highways, bridges, etc. are required to bring closer the three nations in constructing a common market and making small, divided and isolated national economies more attractive in a bigger union for mega projects and MNC investments.

Seventh, gradually state borders may be turned into administrative limits with free access for the citizens of Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan with no fear of ethnic or other conflicts. This, in turn, may lead to joint benefits of all nations from the geographic location as a crossroad between East and West, between North and South, by complimenting the goals and interests, as well as combining and better utilizing existing human, natural, technological, financial and other resources in the Caucasus.

Conclusion

To sum up, nations in the Caucasus need to make a choice from two possible scenarios:

  1. To leave everything as it is and continue to pursue the goals they have designed so far with their strategic partners and look for opportunities through different projects – isolated from each other or involving two parties in some business initiative and interstate programs.
  2. Start to communicate directly, without mediations and preconditions set by their strategic partners and look for solutions to the regional issues and conflicts. Examine common threats and work jointly on their reduction and elimination. Design regional security architecture for the region (a new “Marshall Plan” for the Caucasus).

We firmly believe that the civil societies, particularly, the experts from Armenia, Georgia, and Azerbaijan may play a significant role in providing an agreed by three parties unbiased opinion to their governments and start demolishing walls by bringing the people together to work on fighting common threats and making Caucasus a region free of armed conflicts and an attractive place as a common market for trade, investments, and cooperation.

  1. The EU and Armenia Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement enters into force, available at: https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/ip_21_782

  2.  Rovshan Mammadli, Azerbaijan keeps trade option open amid sanctions busting accusations, March 27, 2024, available at: https://www.euractiv.com/section/azerbaijan/news/azerbaijan-keeps-trade-option-open-amid-sanctions-busting-accusations/

  3. Tatoul Manasserian, Peace Building through Economic and Infrastructure Integration in the South Caucasus, Silhouettes of Peace, Security and Cooperation, Band 11 / 2022, pp.159-170, available at: https://www.bmlv.gv.at/pdf_pool/publikationen/11_2022_sgi_naples_webversion.pdf

    REGIONAL ASPECTS OF UTILIZING ECONOMIC DIPLOMACY AIMED AT GRADUAL REDUCTION OF ECONOMIC THREATS Tatul Manaseryan, “Alternative” quarterly journal of economics, Vol. 3, 2023, pp.252-259.

  4. ACNIS Hosts International Seminar, Foreign and Local Experts Address NATO, Prospects for Regional Cooperation, June 3, 2003, available at: https://acnis.am/archive/pr/natoseminar.htm; ACNIS Press Conference on
    Armenian Opinion Formers’ Visit to NATO and SHAPE, December 13, 2002, available at: https://acnis.am/archive/pr/nato.htm; Double Standards and Regional developments, Research Center ALTERNATIVE address regional threats, December 5, 2023, available at: www.alternative.am

  5. Manaseryan T., Economic security: silhouettes of strategy, 2014, Yerevan, Academy of Sciences of Armenia, 836 p.

  6. https://www.globalhungerindex.org/pdf/en/2021/synopsis.pdf

    Insecurity, Calling for Export Recovery, Debt Relief

  7. REGIONAL ASPECTS OF UTILIZING ECONOMIC DIPLOMACY AIMED AT GRADUAL REDUCTION OF ECONOMIC THREATS, ALTERNATIVE quarterly journal of economics, January 2022, DOI:10.55528/18292828-2022.1-252, available at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/361837803_REGIONAL_ASPECTS_OF_UTILIZING_ECONOMIC_DIPLOMACY_AIMED_AT_GRADUAL_REDUCTION_OF_ECONOMIC_THREATS

  8. Manasserian, T., Theoretical Aspects of the Bioinformatics Impact of Natural Intelligence in Cooperative Advantages: : The Challenges of Discovering and Utilizing, International Journal of Applied Research in Bioinformatics (IJARB), Volume 11, Issue 1, 2021, Pages 31 – 39, available at: https://dl.acm.org/doi/10.4018/IJARB.2021010104

  9. The Marshall Plan: Design, Accomplishments, and Significance Curt Tarnoff Specialist in Foreign Affairs January 18, 2018, available at: https://sgp.fas.org/crs/row/R45079.pdf

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