One of the main tools of Russian influence across Central Asia remains poorly understood.

S. Frederick Starr and Svante E. Cornell
The Diplomat, January 17, 2020

Since Vladimir Putin came to power twenty years ago, much ink has been spent detailing the role of the security services in Russian politics, and it is generally accepted that the Putin regime essentially is a result of the Soviet-era KGB's takeover of the Russian state. But few have connected this to Russian foreign policy in its neighborhood. Meanwhile, many observers have puzzled over the reluctance of former Soviet states to embrace political reform or liberalization. Many have connected this to Russia's active opposition to greater openness and political participation in neighboring states. But few have ventured into specifics – how does Russia make its influence felt? Who is the "enforcer" with the power and resolve to translate Moscow's words into action?

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Published in Staff Publications
Wednesday, 15 January 2020 00:00

Greater Eurasia: Russia's Asian Fantasy

Screen Shot 2020-01-23 at 12.20.07 PM

S. Frederick Starr
Kennan Cable No. 46, January 15, 2020

Is there a grand strategy that informs Russia’s activities abroad and, if so, what is it? For years it seemed that President Putin based his foreign policy mainly on his 2005 statement to the Russian nation that the collapse of the Soviet empire “was the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century.” The task of Russian policy was therefore to reclaim by whatever means necessary as much control over former Soviet territories as possible. This led to his seizure of Georgian territory in 2008, his Crimean grab of 2014, and his armed incursions into eastern Ukraine in 2014-2019. More recently, it has led to his forcing Kyrgyzstan to join his politics-driven Eurasian Economic Union and his current bullying of Uzbekistan and Tajikistan to follow suit.

In practice, Russia’s foreign moves in places as diverse as Eastern Europe, Syria, and Africa seem to be guided more by opportunism than strategy. This has not sat well with some members of Moscow’s policy-oriented intelligentsia. Modern Russia, after all, is heir to a half millennium of messianic ideologies that justified and encouraged the expansion of territories under Moscow’s rule. Whether building the Third Rome, destroying the Tatars, placing the Cross of St. Vladimir atop the Hagia Sofia in Constantinople, building a Holy Alliance against future Napoleons, protecting Europe against revolution in 1848, conquering Muslim Central Asia in the 1860s, or aspiring to Sovietize Eastern Europe under Stalin, ideas, not mere opportunism, have driven Russia’s actions abroad. Even as Putin repeated his assertion about the collapse of the USSR, a deficit of theory was forming in Moscow’s foreign policy circles.

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Image via Kennan Cable No. 46: Greater Eurasia: Russia's Asian Fantasy

Published in Staff Publications

China's Belt Road Initiative in Eurasia: The Challenge of Fostering Sustainable Connectivity

Co-sponsored by the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies and the Fairbanks Center for Chinese Studies at Harvard; and the Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government; and the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute at the the American Foreign Policy Council

Since its official launch in 2013, China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has become a topic of intense research and and discussion. While there is no shortage of research projects on the features and implications of Beijing's massive investments in infrastructure connecting Asia with Europe and Africa, our understanding of linkages between China's activities in various geographic regions and emerging interdependencies is limited. This roundtable will gather experts on Chinese investments and policies in Europe, the South Caucasus and Central Asia (the Silk Road region of the BRI) to present a more comprehensive picture of Chinese-designed connectivity in Eurasia.

Roundtable participants will discuss the current responses by policy makers in the EU, the South Caucasus, Central Asia and the US to the BRI and the changing realities that it is producing. They will also propose their visions of what is desirable and feasible, taking into consideration the opinions of American and European officials regarding the importance of environmental standards and the need for a level-playing field for companies. The European Commission recently published the Joint Communication "Connecting Europe and Asia – Building Blocks for an EU Strategy" explaining its own approach to connectivity as sustainable, comprehensive and rules-based and enlisting its plans for raising investment to foster such sustainable connectivity. This promises to be a tall order--what role can (or should) the US play?

Philippe Le Corre is a Senior Fellow at the Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government at the Harvard Kennedy School. He is also a nonresident Senior Fellow with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and Associate with the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies at Harvard. He was previously a Fellow with the Brookings Institution in Washington, and a Special Assistant for International Affairs to the French Minister of Defense. For the past five years, he has specialized on China-Europe relations, Chinese overseas investments and China's foreign policy, authoring many articles and reports, including the newly published "China as a Geoeconomic Influencer: Four Case Studies" (Carnegie Paper, 2018). His latest book, China's Offensive in Europe, was published by Brookings Press in 2016.

Mamuka Tsereteli is a Senior Fellow with the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute, part of the American Foreign Policy Council, based in Washington DC. He is a Senior Adjunct Professorial Lecturer at School of International Service at American University. He served as a Director, Center for Black Sea-Caspian Studies at AU between 2009-2013, and as an Assistant Professor at School of International Service in 2007-2011. Dr. Tsereteli is a member of the part time faculty at Johns Hopkins SAIS. His areas of interests include international relations and international economic policy, economic and energy security, political and economic risk analysis and mitigation strategies, and business development. Dr. Tsereteli previously served as Founding Executive Director at the America-Georgia Business Council, and Economic Counselor at the Embassy of Georgia in Washington, covering relationships with international financial institutions, US assistance programs and business initiatives.

Nargis Kassenova is a Senior Fellow at the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies, Harvard University, where she leads the Program on Central Asia. She is an Associate Professor at the Department of International Relations and Regional Studies of KIMEP University based in Almaty (Kazakhstan) where she launched both the KIMEP Central Asian Studies Center (CASC) and China and Central Asia Studies Center (CCASC). Her areas of research include Central Asian politics and security, Eurasian geopolitics, Kazakhstan's foreign policy, and religion and politics in Central Asia.

Svante E. Cornell is the Director of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute & Silk Road Studies Program Joint Center, and a co-founder of the Institute for Security and Development Policy, Stockholm. His main areas of expertise are security issues, state-building, and transnational crime in Southwest and Central Asia, with a specific focus on the Caucasus and Turkey. He is the Editor of the Central Asia-Caucasus Analyst, the Joint Center's bi-weekly publication, and of the Joint Center's Silk Road Papers series of occasional papers. Cornell is Senior Fellow for Eurasia at the American Foreign Policy Council. He is a member of the Swedish Royal Academy of Military Science, and a Research Associate with the W. Martens Center for European Studies in Brussels. He is a Senior Fellow with the American Foreign Policy Council and an Associate Research Professor at the Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies. Formerly, Cornell served as Associate Professor of Government at Uppsala University.

Speakers: 

Philippe Le Corre, Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government, Harvard Kennedy School

Mamuka Tsereteli, Senior Fellow, Central Asia-Caucasus Institute at the American Foreign Policy Council

 Nargis Kassenova, Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies, Harvard University

Moderator: Svante E. Cornell, Director, Central Asia-Caucasus Institute at the American Foreign Policy Council

 

Where: CGIS South Building, 1730 Cambridge Street, Room S354, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138

When: Tuesday, October 30, 2018 from 2:00 - 4:00 pm

RSVP: Click HERE to register

More Details: Please call 617-495-4037.

Published in Forums & Events

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CACI Forum with the Jamestown Foundation

We have learned from Paul Goble that he has experienced medical complications and has therefore been admitted to the hospital for observation. Because of this, he will not be able to travel to Washington for the Forum and associated events on Monday.
 
CACI will reschedule the Forum as soon as we receive an "all clear" from Paul Goble. 
 
Meanwhile, his many friends send him warm wishes for a quick return to his normal routine.

 

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Published in Forums & Events

CACI FORUM

Current Dynamics in Eurasia Region: Political and Economic Implications

Monday, 4 May 2015, from 5 to 7 PM

You may view a recorded version of this CACI Forum below or on the SAIS events YouTube channel.

Recent developments in the Eurasia region demonstrate that regional superpowers stepped into a vigorous race for shaping a geopolitical picture that suits their own political interests and security considerations. Russia has formed a union of allies that helps to destabilize countries that did not pledge their loyalty to Russia:  the Eurasia Economic Union, established by Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan, will extend its borders as far as Armenia and Kyrgyz Republic (pending ratification in May).  Thus Russia uses political and military leverage to form a comfort zone in the Caucasus and Central Asia; meanwhile, China uses trade and massive infrastructure projects financing to increase influence in Central Asia and  Mongolia.  At the same time, the European Union has been cooperating with Ukraine and republics in the Caucasus to sign EU association agreements on free trade within the European Union.
 
Countries in Central Asia, Caucasus and Mongolia are at the crossroads of choosing their destinies. What will be the future of the region?  What will be the role of Eurasian Economic Union?  Will China’s role in Central Asia grow?
 
CACI Rumsfeld fellows will discuss possible scenarios of development in the Eurasia region, with relevant political, social, and economic implications, based on their personal experience in public sector and business.    

Published in Forums & Events

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News

  • New Article Series on Changing Geopolitics of Central Asia and the Caucasus
    Wednesday, 24 November 2021 11:53

    Eurasia

  • CACI Initiative on Religion and the Secular State in Central Asia and the Caucasus
    Sunday, 24 January 2021 13:53

    In 2016, the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute & Silk Road Studies Program launched an initiative on documenting the interrelationship of religion and the secular state in the region. This initiative departed from the fact that little systematic reserch had been undertaken on the subject thus far. While there was and remains much commentary and criticism of religious policy in the region, there was no comprehensive analysis available on the interrelationship of religion and the state in any regional state, let alone the region as a whole. The result of this initiative has been the publication of six Silk Road Papers studying the matter in regional states, with more to come. In addition, work is ongoing on a volume putting the regional situation in the context of the Muslim world as a whole.

     

    Case Studies

    Each study below can be freely downloaded in PDF format.

    az-formula-SRSP

    Azerbaijan's Formula: Secular Governance and Civil Nationhood
    By Svante E. Cornell, Halil Karaveli, and Boris Ajeganov
    November 2016   




    2018-04-Kazakhstan-SecularismReligion and the Secular State in Kazakhstan
    By Svante E. Cornell, S. Frederick Starr and Julian Tucker
    April 2018

     

     

     

    1806-UZ-coverReligion and the Secular State in Uzbekistan
    Svante E. Cornell and Jacob Zenn
    June 2018

     

     

     

    2006-Engvall-coverReligion and the Secular State in Kyrgyzstan
    Johan Engvall
    June 2020

     Event video online

     

    2006-Clement-coverReligion and the Secular State in Turkmenistan
    Victoria Clement
    June 2020

    Event video online

     

     

     

    Articles and Analyses

    Svante E. Cornell, "Religion and the State in Central Asia," in Ilan Berman, ed., Wars of Ideas: Theology, Interpretation and Power in the Muslim World, Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2021.

    Svante E. Cornell, "Central Asia: Where Did Islamic Radicalization Go?" in Religion, Conflict and Stability in the Former Soviet Union, eds. Katya Migacheva and Bryan Frederick, Arlington, VA: RAND Corporation, 2018.

  • Basic Principles for the Rehabilitation of Azerbaijan's Post-Conflict Territories
    Wednesday, 07 October 2020 09:01

    Rehab-coverIn 2010, the CACI-SRSP Joint Center cooperated with Eldar Ismailov and Nazim Muzaffarli of the Institute for Strategic Studies of the Caucasus to produce a study of the methodology and process for the rehabilitation of the occupied territories in Azerbaijan. The study was written in the hope that it would prove useful in the aftermath of a negotiated solution to the conflict.

    Such a resolution nevertheless did not materialize. At present, however, it appears that some of these territories are returning to Azerbaijani control as a result of the military conflict that began in late September, 2020. While it is regrettable that this did not come to pass as a result of negotiations, it is clear that the challenge of rehabilitating territories is as pressing today as it would be in the event of a peaceful resolution - if not more, given the likelihood that such a solution would have included a time-table and provided the Government of Azerbaijan and international institutions time for planning.

    It is clear that the study is a product of a different time, as much has changed since 2010. We fully expcect many updates and revisions to be needed should the recommendations in this study be implemented today. That said, we believe the methodoloy of the study and its conclusions remain relevant and would therefore like to call attention to this important study, published in English, Russian and Azerbaijani versions.

    Click to download:

    BASIC PRINCIPLES FOR THE REHABILITATION OF AZERBAIJAN’S POST-CONFLICT TERRITORIES

     

  • Resources on the Armenia-Azerbaijan Conflict
    Monday, 05 October 2020 08:19

    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:

    ------------------

    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.

    --------------------------------------------

    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.