During the Cold War, the main threats to security emanated from East-West rivalry and nuclear confrontations between the blocs. This did not exclude the existence of threats such as environmental hazards, terrorism, organized crime and illegal immigration, but the military issues overshadowed their importance and granted them a second-class status. It was with the end of the Cold War that these problems including environmental hazards, organized crime, terrorism, economic instabilities, illegal immigration and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) became articulated as main sources of concern for global security. Since then, non-traditional aspects of security have been an important area for research in social sciences, especially by International Relations scholars.
Within this general framework, a workshop entitled “Non-Traditional Security Threats and Regional Cooperation in the South Caucasus” aimed at highlighting those challenges that the Southern Caucasian countries have been experiencing since the collapse of the Soviet Union, took place in Istanbul between 22-24 October 2009. With the participation of regional and international experts as well as representatives of key international actors (i.e. international governmental and non-governmental organisations), various issues including identification of problems in the fields of democratization, formation of civil society, economic re-structuring, security building and regional cooperation were discussed. This book is the end product of that workshop, which aimed at finding alternative solutions to current problems and challenges. The book identifies the role of exogenous factors including NATO, the EU, other intergovernmental and non-govermental organizations as well as the main state stake-holders in the process of political transformation, assessing their impact on security-building and regional cooperation in the region, and aims to anticipate, analyze and increase awareness on emerging non-traditional threats to Southern Caucasian security.
The first part of the book provides overviews of emerging non-traditional challenges to regional security – i.e. societal, economic and political problems by focusing on the situation in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia and making a regional comparison. This prepares the ground for further detailed analysis of the later chapters. The first paper in this section by Gubad Ibadoglu from Azerbaijan focuses on energy resources of the region and their effect on transformation of the regional countries. It reviews the economic situation in the Caucasus and tries to asses both economic and political transformations of the region with a view to identify the role of economic factors for regional security. He argues that the regional security might be at risk as a result of global financial crisis and therefore suggests a preventive set of actions in the Southern Caucasus. The second chapter also looks into the impact of global financial crisis on the economic transformation of the Southern Caucasus. Vladimer Papava focuses on what he calls necro-economy, which is the existence of unproductive industrial companies in the Southern Caucasus. He argues that all the regional countries suffer from the same basic problem as in all the other post-Communist countries, which is the threat of the zombie-ing of the economy under the conditions of a financial crisis. All the goods they produce fail to meet the high international standards as a result of their overall low quality and/or high prices; nevertheless, they continue to exist because of various non-economical, mostly political, reasons. As a result Southern Caucasian economies suffer un-proportionally under the strains created by the global financial crisis.
The third chapter by Nigar Göksel focuses on the connection between rural conditions and labor migrations in the Caucasus. Although poverty has been generally dealt with by the economic growth since 2003 and life conditions have improved compared to the 1990s, its impact on the rural areas was very limited. Since all three Caucasus countries have a high rural/urban ratio as well as higher rates of poverty among their rural populations, this problem is a potential destabilizing factor and needs to be tackled before long. Drawing upon extensive field research, the chapter describes the socioeconomic conditions in the region that motivate labour migration. The general economic trends of each country are elaborated on, shedding light on how national policies have impacted rural opportunities. The focus in the case of Armenia is on the structural distortions of the economy; in Azerbaijan, on the effects of energy-related sudden growth; and in Georgia, on the policy experiments of the Rose Revolution.
The last two chapters of this section look into democratization and development of civil society in the post-Soviet Southern Caucasus as well as their connection with the future of liberal state in the region. First, Ayça Ergun takes a critical look at the democratization efforts in the region and argues that the post-Soviet period in this region is shaped by the processes of nation and state-building while the rest of the former Soviet countries were engaged at attempts for democratization. However, the nature of political transformation, democratization and civil society development has been different in the Southern Caucasus, where the entire process of transition has been dominated by the co-existence of continuity and change. The patterns of continuity inherited from the Soviet past are predominantly represented and reproduced by the ruling elite while the patterns of change associated with liberalization and democratization are mainly internalized and propagated by the societal actors. However, since the transformative power of societal actors remains insufficient, the regional countries have not yet made the crucial jump from controlled states to liberal countries. A similar conclusion is reached by David Darchiashvili, who argues that the Southern Caucasus states are not consolidated liberal-democracies, though liberalization attempts are rather visible. Looking into the future, he speculates that the main challenge for the liberalization agenda in the region will arise from the complex political and ideological realities; that is the existence of resistance to modernity by pre-modern indigenous forces, actions of Russia that limit the freedom of choice in its “Near Abroad”, existence and exploitative actions of external forces, and finally post-national imperatives limiting the state's ability to act according to security requirements. He proposes that, to succeed in the liberalization of the South Caucasus, local and global agents of change should better balance democratic and security arguments, as well as understand that while the main principles of liberal democracy are the same, the tactics and tools of the defense of liberalism in post-national, postmodern Europe might be different from those in modernizing young nation-states.
The second section of the book focuses on the international dimension of identifying security policy orientations of regional and wider international actors (i.e., Russia, Turkey, the USA and the EU) and the policies implemented by international governmental and non-governmental organisations operating in the region. In this part, the chapters try to analyze the extent of exogenous influence in fostering regional integration in the Southern Caucasus.
The first paper by Nina Caspersen looks into third party involvement in conflict resolution efforts and their record track so far. Looking into conflict areas in the Southern Caucausus, the chapter asks whether international community can create ripe conditions for solution of the so-called frozen conflicts. It focuses on the extreme cases of separatist conflicts and finds that the timing of conflict resolution interacts with the process and substance of the approach. It argues that while there is a room for creative diplomacy, a viable strategy requires a multi-level approach encompassing international and intra-communal levels, including the unrecognised entities. One way of doing this is to get intergovernmental institutions to help enhance the regional cooperation. This is what is argued by Panagiota Manoli in her paper. She claims that external players either in terms of third countries or of international organizations significantly affect dynamics in the South Caucasus. Thus her chapter considers the possible impact of international organisations on regional processes, and maps the obstacles and breakthroughs for regional cooperation. It finally concedes that while regionalism might be driven by international institutions, its success certainly rests on local countries' initiatives and support.
The next set of four papers by Neil MacFarlane, Mitat Çelikpala, Mustafa Aydın and Sinem Akgül Açıkmeşe focus on the policies of the US, the Russian Federation, Turkey and the EU. Their common attempt is to identify main contours of the Caucasus policies of their respective actors as well as their impact on regional cooperation and existence of security threats. Neil MacFarlane traces the evolution of the US policy since the collapse of the USSR and discusses major drivers of its regional policy. He concludes with a discussion of the directions being taken by the Obama Administration. The paper argues that US policy has displayed a lack of coherence for much of the period since the end of the Cold War. While the policy towards the Caucasus is in general part of a larger effort to approach the former Soviet region as a whole, the relations with the three states in the Caucasus have been dominated in each case by a different logic: Energy, US minority politics, ideological exceptionalism, and leadership preferences. Although the lack of coherence reflects the weakness of systemic drivers, the resurgence of Russia in the region forced the significance of systemic underpinnings of the US policy and produced a more coherent American approach to the region in recent years. Russian policies on the other hand, argues Mitat Çelikpala, are dominated in the post-2000 period by energy dependence of the surrounding countries on Russia, changes in the trade patterns and the impact of globalization, the fight with terrorism, entrenched ethnic conflicts, and the enlargement of Western structures including NATO. In this framework, he argues that the Caucasus has had a special importance for Russia due to its geopolitical and strategic position at the crossroads of energy transit lines, the existence of rich energy resources and the complexity of its ethnic structure.
In contrast, Turkey has been facing an increasingly diminished influence in the Caucasus in recent years. Mustafa Aydın, in his chapter, argues that the emergence of newly independent states in the Caucasus at the end of the Cold War presented challenges to Turkey, while enlarging its role. In this environment, Turkey became an important actor, while it had traditionally avoided involvement in regional politics. Although its efforts to further increase its presence in the region is severely restricted as a result of its unhealthy relationship with Armenia, in the aftermath of August 2008 crisis, the two countries have engaged in a new process of rapprochement. Though halted at the moment for various political reasons, the process will no doubt create new networks of interdependency between Turkey and the regional countries. In this context, the impact of Turkish and Armenian societies is important. Thus Tigran Mkrtchyan looks at the role of NGOs in Turkish-Armenian rapprochement. The key question he poses and addresses is whether the civil initiatives play a role in the rapprochement. For this purpose, he studied around 50 initiatives implemented in the last decade or so, and his analysis shows that civil society initiatives and governmental actions have been mutually strengthening factors in the Turkey-Armenia rapprochement process. Armenian-Turkish NGO activities have gained much attention and coverage only when there was an explicit or even implicit interest for political normalization of relations by the governments of Armenia and Turkey. Thus, judging from Turkish-Armenian process, it would be wrong to claim that NGOs can play a pivotal role in rapprochement efforts in the Caucasus, unless they are supported by governmental action and supplement the political process.
Finally in this section, Sinem Akgül Açıkmeşe looks at the European Union's role in the Southern Caucasus, which was thought to be a distant neighbour during the 1990s. Nevertheless, due to pressures of eastern enlargement and newly emerged challenges as a result, EU position on the Southern Caucasus has started to change gradually. After comparing the EU's role before and after the eastern enlargement, this chapter suggests that the EU is becoming more powerful as a structural stabilizer dealing with the problems of the region at the grass-roots level, more so than as a security actor assuming direct roles in the resolution of the regional conflicts in Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
The last part of the book comprises four papers, dealing with the prospects of regional cooperation with views from within the region. Stepan Grigoryan looks at the impact of changing global imperatives on regional cooperation. He argues that the events of the last 20 years have led to significant geopolitical changes in the world, creating large opportunities for newly independent countries of the Caucasus, and, at the same time, setting difficult tasks for them. Many of these events have had serious consequences for global processes, as well as for the Southern Caucasus, making the region globally important. Along similar lines, Gayane Novikova argues that one of the main conditions for the successful realization of regional cooperation is identifying threats and risks common for regional states and expressing readiness to jointly overcome existing problems for the sake of creating a favorable environment for cooperation. Yet, this remains elusive goal in the Caucasus, because, since gaining their independence, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia not only have found themselves on different sides, but they also have focused on establishing relations with external actors. The interests of the latter have made searches for an acceptable means of regional cooperation even more difficult. As a result the very concept of regional cooperation remains difficult to achieve.
Kornely K. Kakachia focuses more on the post-August 2008 South Caucasian geopolitics with a Georgian perspective. According to him, the August 2008 Russian-Georgian conflict and its recognition of the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia significantly transformed the geopolitical calculations in the Southern Caucasus. The best alternative to maintain stability here is regional integration. However, as a result of the unresolved conflicts, markedly different foreign-policy perspectives, and diverse security perceptions of the three post-Soviet states, the Southern Caucasus has come to be seen as a “broken region.” This paper deals with the political and security issues that significantly overshadow sub-regional, regional and inter-regional relations and examines the key obstacles to forging closer relations with regional players. Leila Alieva, on the other hand, from an Azerbaijani perspective, argues that unresolved conflict regarding Nagorno Karabagh has been constantly defining Azerbaijan's view on regional cooperation. Facing the necessity to resolve its major security issue, while at the same time sustain its independence and build strategic alliances, Azerbaijan developed a multilayered foreign policy. As there was little progress in terms of resolution of the conflict, Azerbaijan remained devoted to the alliances and strategic direction of its integration. The geopolitical changes, which started after the Russia-Georgia war, such as Turkish-Armenia rapprochement, will have little effect on the nature of regional cooperation, if and while the major conflict preventing the states from comprehensive economic cooperation is separated from the process of reconciliation.
The common conclusions of the book appear to be two-pronged. In order to overcome obstacles in front of regional cooperation, a set of possible solutions to prevail over the burdens of the transition in the Southern Caucasus need to be identified. Within this framework, knowledge on emerging threats other than military issues in South Caucasus need to be expanded; the relationship between domestic and international actors need to be analyzed; and the impact of this relationship on democratization, security-building and regional cooperation need to be highlighted. The original workshop and the resulting book aim at just that.
Istanbul, September 2010