South Caucasus facing drastic change?

Ruben Mehrabyan:

South Caucasus facing drastic change?

PanARMENIAN.Net - To all appearance, the South Caucasus is facing drastic change. Main actors - U.S. and Russia - intensified activities, what makes Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan reconsider their foreign policy. The question is whether the U.S. will succeed in pushing Russia out of the region, where it used to establish rules in the course of 20 years. Expert at Armenian Center for Political and International Studies, Ruben Mehrabyan comments on the situation to PanARMENIAN.Net.
Was the visit of Armenian Foreign Minister to Washington unexpected or was it dictated by recent intensification of U.S. diplomatic maneuvers?

This visit proves the United States' decision to speed up the Nagorno Karabakh conflict settlement process. Turkey's consent to exclude Karabakh from the agenda of normalization talks was a difficult choice. Formally divided, these two processes are closely interwoven. As to the U.S., it doesn't care which country of the region can win the dispute. Barack Obama's major task is to ensure 'a free entrance' to the South Caucasus to have an access to Central Asia and to secure Afghan transit, independently of Kremlin's whims. To do that, U.S. must have an open Armenian-Turkish border and frozen Nagorno Karabakh conflict.

Despite its strategic importance, South Caucasus is excluded from global geopolitics. What can drive the region out of isolation?

We witness attempts to form a homogenous region. South Caucasus is a land suffering from lingering conflicts, offences and fears. Its political re-activation is also important for the United States. Eastern Partnership initiative, which envisages opening of the Armenian-Turkish border, came very opportunely. I think the process has gone too far already.

What does Russia, the second actor of no small importance, do in this case?

Russia continues playing a very important role in the region. This is a country tied with the Caucasus through two centuries of common life. However, Russia can be very changeable in the course of time, this country is good at leaving very quickly, as it happened twice in the 20th century due to known internal reasons.

Russia is undergoing pressure of the world crisis and expecting its second wave accompanied by own payment of immense amounts for corporate debts. These and some other reasons have resulted in untwining of Putin's chain of command and changing its consistency, and now Russia is looking for a new course of building relations with outer world. New leadership, in my opinion, understands the whole hopelessness and danger of the old course. The problems of Kremlin in the region are rather of moral quality, prestige, etc. This is a solvable question if attached to "reload" of stabilization credit, WTO membership and other advantages, necessary in the short run for the Russian economy which is already tearing at the seams, as Russian economists estimate.

What is Armenia's place in that whirl of events?

Unfortunately, Armenia stepped into that whirl of events during the most unlucky time in regard of own internal policy situation and quality of political elite. Being the weakest link in the region in the long run, Armenia sometimes loose own individuality in the vital process of decision-making, this is a matter of deep concern. Unacceptable high trust deficit and legitimacy deficit in respect to authorities inevitably diminish the scope of possible maneuver of our diplomacy in space and time. Not the character, but rather the logic and algorithm of steps of American administration in our region remind us of Balkan processes of 90-ties. Taking into account all above mentioned, we are likely to march to Caucasian Dayton. Who will become the Caucasian Serbia - this is not an empty question, for Armenia and Karabakh first of all.