Shifting Conflict and Security Dynamics in the Caucasus

The Georgian Foundation for Strategic and International Studies (GFSIS) hosted a conference last Friday, April 29, to discuss Conflict and Security Dynamics in the Caucasus.

The EU-financed assembly brought together leading analysts and scholars from Europe, Georgia and beyond as well as representatives of the international community, including Magdalena Grono, Europe and Central Asia Program Director of the International Crisis Group.

In his introduction, Kakha Gogolashvili, a Senior Fellow and Director of EU Studies at GFSIS, touched upon the conflict situation in the Caucasus and spoke on some key factors of Russia, Turkey and Iran in the process of peace and stability in the region.

Tom de Waal, Senior Associate at Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, went on to describe the Nagorno Karabakh conflict and the recent escalation of the dispute between Azerbaijan and Armenia, underlining the importance of the Minsk Group, which is ‘less active and influential than it should be.’ “When a proposal is made within the Minsk Group meetings, it is relatively easy for one of the parties to reject it,” de Waal said, going on to describe the existing situation in the conflict transformation as ‘poverty in peace processes.’

Discussions regarding Georgia’s occupied regions and restoration of the Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism (IPRM) at meetings in the Gali region were said to be a positive sign. The decision to restore IPRM meetings in Gali was made in March at the 35th round of the Geneva International Discussions. However, Russia’s key role in protracting the conflicts of Abkhazia and South Ossetia/Tskhinvali Region was accentuated.

Some experts noted major similarities between Georgia-Ukraine and Azerbaijan conflicts as they are driven by the Russian side. The experts agreed that there is no low cost solution and international community language in the process, including that of the OSCE, should be less timid.

In his speech, Michael Cecire, Associate Scholar at the Foreign Policy Research Institute spoke of the enhanced cooperation between Georgia and the US in military and intelligence spheres. At the same time, the expert noted that while interesting, the Caspian oil and gas products are not a game-changing factor for the West and the overall concentration of western countries in the Caucasus region is declining.

Panel speaker Nigar Goksel, Senior Analyst at Turkey’s International Crisis Group discussed Turkey’s engagement in the region, stating that, as the Syria crisis is the key difficulty for Turkey to deal with, the country is unable to show an active role in the Caucasus. Richard Giragosian, Director at Regional Studies Center added to this point by emphasizing that Turkey’s declining engagement in diplomatic and political processes in the Caucasus should be reconsidered in the future.

The event was co-organized by the GFSIS (Rondeli Foundation) and the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

Analysis by Georgia Today’s Zviad Adzinbaia

The Caucasus region, with its checkered past, has often been a battlefield for diverse regional powers, currently representing Iran, Turkey and Russia. The three countries, former empires, sought to gain influence in the West and East, with Georgia representing a geographical crossroad for them. Hence, Georgia, ‘stuck’ between these giants, has experienced a myriad of interventions, assimilations, annexations or other kinds of existential threats.

In this current era, as Georgia is relatively protected by International Law and her partners, such as the US and the EU, it has become a difficult task for a regional force to enter the country and occupy it in spite of strategic aspirations. However, these circumstances did little to contain Russia from occupying 20 percent of Georgia’s territory and further invading Georgia in August 2008.

Moreover, Iran, following the western-lifted sanctions, is expected to reengage greatly in the region in the foreseeable future. Even if the historical sentiments of Iran, Turkey or Russia may have, as some think, been rehabilitated, the region of the Caucasus still remains in the midst of divergences between the current regional powers.

Zviad Adzinbaia

05 May 2016 19:27