Thursday, April 14, 2005

US Moves in the Caucasus

Stratfor Intelligence Brief has a fascinating article on recent US moves in the Caucasus, where we not only supported the replacement of authoritarian regimes but are now helping negotiate with breakaway regions. Link.
In a little-noticed detour from his swing through Central Asia and Afghanistan, U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld made a stop April 12 in Azerbaijan. There, sources say, government officials agreed to host U.S. forces at three bases in what, in all likelihood, would be a long-term arrangement. A day earlier, U.S. State Department envoys met with leaders in a breakaway region of neighboring Georgia, signaling strong interest in ending that country's secessionist conflicts. (...)

The U.S. strategy in this region is complex: Moscow is correct in its belief that Washington has launched an assault against Russian influence, but the game is much larger than that. Together with Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan form a land bridge between the Black and Caspian Seas, and thus represent an important transport corridor for Caspian and Central Asian energy supplies that have attracted huge investments from the West.

At the same time, exerting control of the Caucasus would complete the United States' geopolitical encirclement of Iran. (...)

Throughout the region, Josef Stalin carved out state boundaries in such a way that no single republic would contain undivided nationalities or ethnic groups, and all would be utterly dependent on Moscow as Soviet entities. As its interest in the region deepens, Washington will find itself inheriting some level of responsibility for resolving the ethnic conflicts and tensions that are among the most enduring aspects of Stalin's legacy.

President Bush certainly likes to take on tough problems. While the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians gets the most press play, the ethnic conflicts in the Caucasus - between Abkhazia and Georgia, between South Ossetia and Georgia, and between Azerbaijan and Armenia over the Nagorno-Karabakh region - seem just as intractable and have roots going back much further than the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Success in any one of these conflicts is deserving of the "old" Nobel prize (before they started giving it to terrorists and ex-presidents whose only virtue for the Nobel committee is his opposition to the current president). Success in several or all of them deserves sainthood.


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