Fashioning intentions, interests and instrument of external actors in southern Caucasus (part 2)

Andranik Aslanyan/Wulf Lapins


The development of eight new states in southern Caucasus and in Central Asia after 1991, five of them mainly inhabited by Turkish peoples, and with which Turkey (Ottoman Empire) has history, religion and language in common after ancestors of the Anatolian Turks had migrated from the 10th century onwards, caused Ankara to hope to be able to take over a regional economic political leading role and to especially establish the Pan-Turkish ideology in the form of building a Pan-Turkish block. Because of its geographical vicinity to Turkey, Azerbaijan takes a bridging function to Central Asia. Due to the close relationship, very often Aserbaijanian was denoted Aserbaijanian-Turkish, and up to the beginning of the 20th century the Aserbaijanians were called Caucasian Turks or Tatars. In order to institutionalise the political relations and the economic cooperation with the Turk republics, Turkey invited the Turk states to take part in a summit in Ankara in the end of October 1992. This Turkish Council aimed at fostering “economic and humanitarian cooperation of the Turk states” and “internationally talking with one voice, thus shaping the alliance of the Turk states based on the model of the European Union in the future.” In the course of this summit, the Turkish President of that time, Turgut Özal (1989-93), announced the founding of a Turkish World “from the Adriatic Sea to the Chinese Wall”. Ankara strived for establishing Turkey as a countervailing power against the influential ambitions of Iran in Caucasus and Central Asia, as well as a political counterpoise against the re-vitalizing Russian progress in the framework of the controlled CIS, and as an economic „head hunter“ for possible EU-market openings in the Caucasus-Caspian region. With the intentions and interests of Russia, Turkey, Iran, USA and EU in this region as a basis, these five actors will pursue those applying their well-known political-military-diplomatic instruments. As the German foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel has already detected in their behaviour in the Syria-Conflict, Turkey and Iran appear “to be inclined to pay some kind of superpower tax for their status. Economic losses, diplomatic ostracisms, financial punishments - much is accepted in order to document the regional claim for leadership and national sovereignty.” Southern Caucasus will continue to act conflict-dynamically as a geo-political zero-sum game region. There is no geo-political no man’s land in geo-politics, but there are grey areas of poising struggle for balance, dominance and hegemony. Against this background, it appears to be illusive to reckon with nearer time horizons for the shaping of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia as stabile centralized states. Fundamental or radical changes of their international status are not on the anticipatable agenda. Gradual improvements, however, are certainly possible due to western development-political cooperative supporting and fostering measures. The particular political-economic dependencies described will continue structurally, but with conceivably new sports and variations. The southern Caucasus republics Georgia and Azerbaijan are „failing states“ because of their secessionist regions. Armenia does not belong to them, as the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict has no territorial connotation in Armenia. The regionally correlated conflict does not affect Armenia formally, as it does not claim Karabakh as its territory, neither politically nor in terms of law of nations. Nagorno-Karabakh de facto is gradually developing into an “integral” part of Armenia in military, economic and social-political terms. Russia and Turkey will presumably not be interested in giving up their active roles in the continuance of the conflicts. The basic confirmation for Georgia to join NATO given at the Bucharest Summit of 2008 will not be abrogated, but a Membership Action Plan cannot be found on the agenda of the alliance. The USA, however, might be willing to accept Georgia as a „Major Non-NATO Ally“ for security-political cooperation. EU-Europe will continue to act only marginally invasive with its limited order projection power. Looking at southern Caucasus, resources, geography and history illustrate once again the small political clearance of small states to escape from the corset of addressee of external powers towards politically self-determining actors.