March 20, 2014
An Opening Address of Dr. Gayane Novikova at the international conference «NATO’s Partnerships and the South Caucasus: A Strategic Approach to Regional Security»
Dear Mr. Secretary of the National Security Council,
Mr. William Lahue, Ambassadors Samvel Mkrtchian, and Katherine Leach,
Dear Colleagues and Friends,
In my capacity as the Funding Director of the Center for Strategic Analysis, I have the honor and pleasure to welcome you to our conference.
Today’s conference which has received generous support from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, is the logical continuation of earlier discussions held by our Center on critical developments in the South Caucasus and beyond. Before introducing our distinguished guests, I would like to emphasize, that the security system of the South Caucasus has changed significantly over the last six years. Let me identify seven causes which are apparent.
First, a different status of the South Caucasus state entities in the international security environment contributes to simmering internal tensions in our region.
Second, the instability across the perimeters of the Middle East, which was provoked by the Arab awakening, directly and negatively influences developments in the South Caucasus.
Third, the Western European states and the USA are exhibiting a decreasing interest in the South Caucasus, and consequently this region is increasingly handed over to Eastern European surveillance.
Fourth, Russia is making serious efforts to integrate the region into its global economic and security projects. Let me mention, that the unsuccessful attempts to «reset» the US-Russia relations and the current developments in Ukraine tremendously complicate multilateral and bilateral relations throughout Eurasia, including those in the South Caucasus. All of us are watching carefully developments in and around Ukraine and are aware of some parallels with developments in the South Caucasus in the early 90s, and in the late 2000s.
Fifth, Turkey is turning more toward the Middle East. Although its involvement in developments in the South Caucasus is secondary among its foreign policy priorities, Turkey is increasingly concerned to maintain stability in this area. In the meantime, it is entering a period of internal unrest, and this influences its role as a regional power.
Sixth, Iran is trying to restore its distinguished role in the world affairs making significant efforts to become more open to the world.
The next — and final in this range of causes — is a trend, which related to the participation of sovereign states in international organizations, should also be mentioned. The Third Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius in November, 2013, was a watershed in respect to the EU Associated Agreements with the Eastern partners. The division lines between the South Caucasus states are becoming deeper; their interaction with each other in the political, economic, and civic spheres are becoming more complicated.
Furthermore, in comparison to the previous six years, internal developments now in each state and state entity of the South Caucasus increasingly impact the joint — regional — security system. The overlapping of internal and external processes influences the dynamic of the region’s security in ambiguous and to some extend unpredictable ways.
Although against the background of growing insecurity throughout the broader region, the South Caucasus can be considered as an area of relative tranquility, peace and stability in this area are illusive. It is crucial for all three states in the region — Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia — to avoid involvement in any intra-regional or interregional conflict. It is also critical that efforts be undertaken to create a framework for cooperation, at least in the soft security field.
Let me mention briefly that the people who are gathered around this table are internationally recognized professionals in regional security. I do believe that the presentations of the panelists, the exchange of thoughts, and roundtable discussions and brainstorming will contribute significantly to the better understanding of the security environment in our region, and will generate new ideas regarding its improvement. I am looking forward for open, interesting, and provocative discussions.
For more information see conference’s page.