Event Summary by Hayden Gilmore
On September 14, 2018, the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute hosted an off-the-record
roundtable discussion on U.S. Security Challenges in the South Caucasus. Speakers at the event
included Former U.S. Ambassador to Azerbaijan Robert Cekuta, Senior Director at Penn Biden
Center for Diplomacy and International Engagement Dr. Michael Carpenter, and American
Foreign Policy Council Senior Fellow Dr. Stephen Blank. CACI Director Svante Cornell moderated
The roundtable started with a discussion on changing variables within the region. The
speakers acknowledged key issues currently affecting U.S. relationships with the states of the
Caucasus and major players outside of the region. These issues include a lack of U.S. policy
focus in the region, the loss of Turkey as a model for states in the Caucasus and Central Asia,
political leadership that is fearful of a resurgent Russia and Iran, and the influence of China’s
Belt and Road Initiative in the region. The participants agreed that the U.S. should respond now
rather than later as a loss of influence, business operations, and spreading corruption all affect
U.S. relationships with countries in the South Caucasus.
One participant argued that the U.S. needs to be more involved in the region and utilize
opportunities with countries willing to accept and welcome U.S. involvement. The example of
Georgia and its territorial defense program was mentioned in this context. It was suggested
that the U.S. should help redesign the national security of the Georgian executive branch, as
well as present new military and tactical ideas, such as using the terrain to the Georgian
advantage. The restructuring could have a major impact with minimal U.S. resources.
Another key issue discussed was the relationship with Azerbaijan. There is a potential to
improve relations with the U.S. by means of security cooperation, particularly maritime
security. The previous administration was distracted from the region, and both Azerbaijan and
Armenia now need reasons to place trust back in the U.S.
The topic of Black Sea Security was raised, and the roundtable agreed on the necessity
of increased security in the Black Sea. One participant discussed increasing NATO presence and
maritime domain presence. However, Russia could consider these actions as provocative. Still,
the importance of the Black Sea to European allies was noted, as was the close link between
European security and Caucasus security. Concerning the Black Sea, it was noted that a
Romanian port is needed as there are currently only land forces in the area and the naval base
in Rota, Spain is too distant. Maritime presence in the area would act as power projection.
Two important opportunities for the U.S. to take advantage of were noted: the first is the 2018
Armenian Revolution, and the second is the Caspian Convention. Focusing on the importance of
the Caspian Convention, the argument is that this agreement lays the groundwork for a
possible gas pipeline to Europe, enhances Azerbaijani importance to Turkey, and causes the
South Caucasus to have more strategic importance as an energy provider to Europe in the long
run. It was noted that Russia continues to play Armenia against Azerbaijan to prevent
democratic values from reaching Armenia. This will stall democracy and prevent the gas
pipeline from materializing. To prevent this scenario, the U.S. must provide support and
convince Armenia that sustaining the conflict with Azerbaijan is counterproductive to its own
interests, and the U.S. should ramp up its role in the conflict resolution process. This would
entail committing U.S. resources as incentives towards economic revitalization to encourage
During a discussion of the prospect of energy pipelines across the Caspian, a note of caution
was issued: the U.S. has been against the Nord Stream 2 pipeline and for the Southern Gas
Corridor. Delays to construction through Italy though, could lead to a situation where Nord Stream 2 is built while the Trans-Adriatic pipeline, part of the SGC, falters. This would reduce U.S. credibility, and thus, before attempting to build Trans-Caspian pipelines, the U.S. should ensure the TAP pipeline is successfully constructed.
Svante E. Cornell, Halil Karaveli and Boris Ajeganov
November, 2016, pp. 112
Wednesday, 30 November 2016, from 5 to 7 p.m.
Light reception with Georgian wines at 5; main program at 5:30
A decline in commodity prices and slowing in key economic partners such as Russia and China, had a significant impact on the countries of Central Asia and the South Caucasus. Regional growth is projected to average only 1.3 percent this year, representing a dramatic decrease in economic activity compared with growth rates of the early 2000s. According to the IMF, next year the region's economies should turn a corner, with average growth reaching 2.6 percent. Medium-term prospects remain weak, however, with growth projected to average 4 percent in the 2018–21 period, half that in 2000–14.
These and other important economic topics will be discussed as part of the Regional Economic Outlook Report, the latest IMF release on the Caucasus and Central Asia. The special focus of this year's presentation is Kazakhstan: the discussion will review this country's macroeconomic and structural policy response to shocks that began in late 2014, and will examine prospects for the medium term.
Juha Kahkonen, Deputy Director, Middle East and Central Asia Dept., IMF
Mark Horton, Mission Chief, Kazakhstan, IMF
Mamuka Tsereteli, Research Director, Central Asia-Caucasus Institute
Rome Building Auditorium
SAIS - Johns Hopkins University
1619 Massachusetts Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20036
Tuesday, 22 November 2016, from 12 to 2 p.m.
Since its emergence as a nation in the early twentieth century, Azerbaijan’s state and society have both remained remarkably faithful to secular governance and a civic national conception. In recent years, the government has doubled down on these concepts, among other by designating 2016 the year of multiculturalism. But what do these terms mean in practice? What are the policies developed by the Azerbaijani government, and what reactions have emerged in society? How does Azerbaijan compare to countries in its neighborhood, and what are the implications for the West?