Washington’s Caucasus dilemma

Agency WPS
February 23, 2005, Wednesday


SOURCE: NG-Dipkurier, February, 2005, p. 14

by Nikolai Zlobin, Director of Russian and Asian Programs of the
Center of Defense information (Washington)


Washington is left under the impression that Russia is not interested
in restoration of territorial integrity of the countries of the
region and only aims to remain a monopolist in the area. Since all
these efforts are invariably futile, Washington becomes skeptical. On
the other hand, there is a question to be answered first: is the
Caucasus worth the trouble of going there? Russia in its turn is
skeptical about international efforts to settle conflicts on the
territory of the former Soviet Union. The attempt to settle the
conflict in Karabakh was international – with nothing to show for it.
This is approximately what Moscow thinks, “The Western friends will
come. It will be no use, in fact, but driving them out again
afterwards will be nearly impossible.”

The following dilemma is what America is facing now. Is it prepared
to challenge Russia and sort out the mess that is the Caucasus
disregarding the Russian-American bilateral relations and the fact
that Russia is its ally in the war on terrorism?

It is clear that from the military point of view Washington is far
from the idea of a march to the Caucasus. Firstly, it still retains
the hope that Moscow will try to solve problems of the region by
political means. Moreover, it should be noted that the Americans have
only primitive notions on what the Caucasus is. The United States
does not understand if the Caucasus is an integral region or not. The
opinion that Armenia is not a country of the Caucasus and therefore
needs a special approach is actively lobbied in America. It follows
that it does not know what exactly it needs there – a regional policy
or individual work with countries.

The Americans understand that going to the Caucasus at this point
will only deteriorate the situation. The United States was taught a
lesson in Iraq. A lot of mistakes made there are ascribed to the fact
that the Americans did not know what to do in the country or how work
with it should be organized. The situation in the Caucasus being what
it is, Washington will probably prefer working side by side with
Russia. All the same, other scenarios are possible as well.

While the situation deteriorates, the Americans will probably put
Moscow under more and more pressure in order to internationalize
peacekeeping efforts. First and foremost, the matter concerns the use
of peacekeepers from CIS countries and NATO armies in the
Georgian-Abkhazian and Georgian-Ossetian conflict areas. In fact,
even involvement of the US Army should not be ruled out. It will
become inevitably if an all-out conflict flared up in the Caucasus
and Russia demonstrated its inability to localize it. Or if
Washington became convinced that the region is transforming into an
uncontrolled zone from which strikes at Western countries and their
interests are possible.

Translated by A. Ignatkin