Monday, November 1, 2010

South Caucuses and a Return to Normal Foreign Policy

Map of the Kura River, whose watershed drains ...Image via Wikipedia
 In what should be considered another example of a return to “normal” foreign policy choices cited in a previous post, Russia signed a treaty with Armenia that commits it to defend the borders of Armenia proper while in August, Turkey signed a Treaty on Strategic Partnership and Mutual Assistance with Azerbaijan that happens to include the establishment of a military base in the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic – an Azerbaijani exclave between Armenia and Turkey. The tacit agreement, with US preoccupation in other regions, is that the South Caucuses (see map) now belongs to Turkey and Russia to work out. Indeed, both the EU and the US seem to have concluded on a period of strategic neglect in the region.

What is interesting about the latest round of treaties vowing to protect the territorial integrities of Azerbaijan and Armenia by, respectively Turkey and Russia (with the notable exception of the Ngorno Kharabakh enclave which both Armenia and Russia studiously avoided), is the return to a 19th and early 20th century diplomacy. These are zones of interest which could be characterized as a return to normalcy after the end of history in 1991. It also represents the collapse of any agreement on Ngorno Kharabakh as the two local players rely on their much more powerful regional allies to assure their relative safety and prevent the conflict from reigniting while retaining the status quo.

Meanwhile, both Turkey and Russia are shepherding a solution to the Ngorno Kharabakh issue by working on bi-lateral meetings between Baku and Yerevan – the first one having been held in the Russian Caspian Sea city of Astrakhan during the last week of October and the next soon to be held at the OSCE conference in Astana. The absence of the EU and the US from this process is telling and another example of a new, old foreign policy system based on regional power.
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