Between Eurasia and the Middle East: Azerbaijan's New Geopolitics

BakudialoguesSvante E. Cornell

Baku Dialogues, September 2020

Azerbaijan’s geopolitics have changed considerably in the last decade, along with the growing general instability in its neighborhood. Gone are the days symbolized by the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline’s construction, when a relatively stable balance existed between a loose Russian-led alignment including Iran and Armenia, and an informal entente between the United States and Turkey, which supported the independence of Azerbaijan and Georgia and the construction of direct energy transportation routes to Europe. From 2008 until today, the geopolitical environment has shifted in several important ways. First, it is more unstable and unpredictable. Second, the threshold of the use of force has decreased dramatically. And third, to a significant extent, the geopolitics of Eurasia and the Middle East have merged, bringing increasing complications. 

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Resources on the Armenia-Azerbaijan Conflict

 

The Central Asia-Caucasus Institute & Silk Road Studies Program have a long track record of covering the Armenia-Azerbaijan Conflict. This page presents the key resources and most recent analysis. 

In 2017, Palgrave published the first book-length study of the International Politics of the Armenia-Azerbaijan Conflict, edited by Svante Cornell. The book concluded by arguing that if international efforts to resolve the conflict are not stepped up, “the ‘four-day’ war of April 2016 will appear a minor skirmish compared to what is sure to follow”.

In 2015, CACI & SRSP released the Silk Road Paper  “A Western Strategy for the South Caucasus”, which included a full page of recommendations for the U.S. and EU on the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict. These are reproduced below:

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Develop a substantial and prolonged Western initiative on the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict.

o This initiative must be led by the United States, in close consultation with its European partners – primarily the EU Commission and External Action Service, and France. Barring some process to reinvigorate the Minsk Process – a doubtful proposition given Western-Russian relations in the foreseeable future – Western leaders must be prepared to bypass that process, utilizing it where appropriate but focusing their initiative on developing direct negotiations between the Armenian and Azerbaijani leaders.

o The U.S. and its European partners must abandon the practice of relying solely on the Minsk Group co-chairs to resolve the Karabakh conflict. These diplomats have contributed greatly to formulating a workable framework agreement. However, strong and sustained U.S. Government leadership from the top level is needed to complement or, failing that, to replace the Minsk Process. In practice, this means the expressed support of the President, involvement of the White House, and leadership manifested in the appointment of a distinguished citizen as Special Envoy for the resolution of the conflict.

o The EU must take a more clearly defined and substantial role in the process, by integrating to the highest degree possible the French co-chairmanship of the Minsk Group with EU institutions. While Washington will need to take the lead on the political side, it would be natural for the EU to take the lead in organizing an international development program for the currently occupied Azerbaijani provinces and Karabakh itself. That effort, too, would need to be led by a senior EU figure.

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In 2011, CACI & SRSP helped launch an extensive study of the steps needed for the post-conflict rehabilitation of Azerbaijan's occupied territories, in cooperation with Eldar Ismailov and Nazim Muzaffarli of the Institute for Strategic Studies of the Caucasus. The monograph "Basic Principles for the Rehabilitation of Azerbaijan's Post-Conflict Territories" can be accessed here

 

More background resources:

Svante E. Cornell, "Can America Stop a Wider War Between Armenia and Azerbaijan?", The National Interest, October 2020

Brenda Shaffer and Svante E. Cornell, Occupied Elsewhere: Selective Policies on Occupation, Foundation For Defense of Democracies, January 2020. 

Brenda Shaffer and Svante E. Cornell, "The U.S. Needs to Declare War on Proxies", Foreign Policy, January 27, 2020

Svante E. Cornell, “The Raucous Caucasus”, American Interest, May 2017

Svante E. Cornell, Small Nations and Great Powers: A Study of Ethnopolitical Conflict in the Caucasus, RoutledgeCurzon, 2001.

Svante E. Cornell, The Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict, Uppsala University, 1999

More recent analysis:

Turkey Seeks to Counter Russia in the Black Sea-Caucasus Region,” Turkey Analyst, 10/5/20, Emil Avdaliani

Turkey’s Commitment to Azerbaijan’s Defense Shows the Limits of Ankara’s Tilt to Moscow,” Turkey Analyst, 9/25/20, Turan Suleymanov & Bahruz Babayev

 “Cross-Border Escalation between Armenia and Azerbaijan,” Central Asia-Caucasus Analyst, 9/25/20, Natalia Konarzewska

Russia and Turkey: Behind the Armenia-Azerbaijan Clashes?”, Central Asia-Caucasus Analyst, 8/31/20, Avinoam Idan

Armenia and the U.S.: Time for New Thinking?”, Central Asia-Caucasus Analyst, 10/2/19, Eduard Abrahamyan.

Why Washington Must Re-Engage the CaucasusCentral Asia-Caucasus Analyst, 7/8/19, Stephen Blank

Azerbaijan’s Defense Industry Reform”, Central Asia-Caucasus Analyst, 5/7/19, Tamerlan Vahabov.

Military Procurements on Armenia's and Azerbaijan's Defense Agendas”, Central Asia-Caucasus Analyst, 3/27/19, Ilgar Gurbanov

Armenia's New Government Struggles with Domestic and External Opposition,” Central Asia-Caucasus Analyst, 3/20/19, Armen Grigorian.

Bolton's Caucasian Tour and Russia's Reaction”, Central Asia-Caucasus Analyst, 12/17/18, Eduard Abrahamyan.

Published in News

Mamuka Tsereteli

UIK Panorama, April 24, 2020

Following the break-up of the Soviet Union, the Unites States, together with Turkey and other Western allies, led the process of strengthening the political and economic sovereignty of the newly independent countries in the South Caucasus and Central Asia. Turkey was a major anchor and channel of Western political, strategic, and economic interests in the Black Sea-Caspian region.

This collaborative effort brought about the development of the vibrant energy, trade, and transit connections between the Black Sea-Caspian region and the Mediterranean, delivering huge economic and political benefits to all the producing and transit countries of the region: Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, and Georgia. But Turkey was, and continues to be, the major beneficiary of the economic, political, and security benefits of the East-West energy and transportation corridor, of the expanding pipeline, railway, highway, and port infrastructure, linking the country to Caspian resources and markets. Further, the enlargement of NATO and the EU also brought more security and economic development to the western shores of the Black Sea – to Bulgaria and Romania.

Thursday, 05 December 2019 16:54

America and the Kurds

Real Clear Defense
December 3, 2019

John Bednarek and Svante E. Cornell 

 

Much of the outrage and frustration for the U.S. withdrawal from Syria focused on America’s long-standing relationship with the Kurds, without differentiating between Kurdish groups. While America’s relations with Syria’s Kurds are in flux, as a matter of foreign policy, America should increase its support for the Kurds of Iraq, a clear and reliable long-term partner in this historically contested region.

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