The following paper appeared in the print edition of 21st Century, an
international foreign policy journal produced by Yerevan-based think-tank
Noravank Foundation.

http://noravank.am/upload/pdf/05.Taniel%20Koushakjian_21_Century_02-2011.pdf


*U.S.** FOREIGN POLICY TOWARDS THE SOUTH CAUCASUS*

*A Comparative Analysis from Inside Washington, DC's Policy Circles*


A majority of articles written about the Caucasus seem to focus on
Azerbaijan and Caspian energy. Therefore, it is no surprise that talk about
U.S. and European policy toward the region is devoted to those two aspects.
Some even describe them as a top priority for U.S. interests in the region,
above and beyond democracy and civil freedoms, which have been on the
decline in recent years. At first glance, many Americans might ask: what
does the United States have to do with Europe's energy needs? To put it
plainly, why do we care? Vincent O'Brien, Chief of Staff to Richard
Morningstar, Special Envoy for Eurasian Energy at the U.S. Department of
State, raised that exact question at the Woodrow Wilson Center earlier this
year.[1] He
stated that the United States and the European Union (EU) have the
largest trade relationship in the world, so it is natural that European
concerns are in our interest and vice versa. In 2009 the U.S. and the EU
established a bi-lateral Energy
Council.[2] According
to O'Brien, the central theme to the US-EU Energy Council is
energy security - make sure the gas keeps flowing to Europe. The U.S.-EU
Energy Council is focused on energy security and new markets, energy
efficiency, research and development for carbon capture and storage, new
and renewable resources, emissions and environment, and adopting universal
standards and policies.[3] A
strategic goal of the Council is to link the South Caucasus and
Eurasian
countries to the West - and to Western markets - through our energy policy.
As Philip Gordon, Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of European and
Eurasian Affairs at the U.S. Department of State testified, `U.S.-European
cooperation is and remains essential to achieving our strategic objectives.'
[4] When
O'Brien was asked which specific project or pipeline does the U.S.
support, his response was that we support the least expensive and most
easily transportable energy
project.[5]


Also this year, the Center for Strategic & International Studies held its
second annual conference on the South Caucasus entitled `Outlook for U.S.
Strategy in the Southern Caucasus and the Caspian.' The Atlantic Council's
Ross Wilson, a former U.S. Ambassador to Turkey and Azerbaijan, reflected
on the origins of American foreign policy in the region and its current
state of affairs. According to Wilson, four objectives defined American
foreign policy over the last 20 years: newly independent states should stay
independent; promote open, free market democracy; integrate the region into
the Euro-Atlantic community and global economy; and help where we could
with messy conflicts.[6] Wilson
stated that although our interests have not changed, `I would be
dishonest if I say that we are where we wanted to be.' Wilson also stated
that as Georgia is sliding into a long haul stalemate, Armenia and
Azerbaijan are sliding out of one, alluding to the increasing likelihood of
a renewed war in
Nagorno-Karabakh.[7] According
to the International Crisis Group, `an arms race, escalating
front-line clashes, vitriolic war rhetoric and a virtual breakdown in peace
talks are increasing the chance Armenia and Azerbaijan will go back to war
over Nagorno-Karabakh. Preventing this is
urgent.'[8]



Stephen Blank from the U.S. Army War College followed Wilson, arguing that
the U.S. lacks a South Caucasus strategy. In regards to the U.S.-Russia
`reset,' Blank commented that according to Russian press and analysts,
the
United States accepts the South Caucasus as Russia's sphere of influence
and that Russia in turn doesn't view the South Caucasus states as
independent, sovereign
states.[9] Blank
goes on to elaborate the positive and negative aspects of Obama's
`reset' policy. Positive outcomes to the reset policy include increased
cooperation and collaboration on Afghanistan and the signing and
ratification of the START treaty. A negative aspect of the reset is our
decreased involvement or attention to South East Europe, Eastern Europe and
the South Caucasus. Blank plainly revealed the pattern that had emerged in
practically all of the Washington policy discussions held on the South
Caucasus over the last few years - the U.S. doesn't have a specified South
Caucasus strategy and our current approach is two fold - no war and peace
along pipelines.



Now that we know that we don't have a detailed strategy towards the South
Caucasus, other than the fundamentals of preventing war and ensuring peace
along pipelines, and that we need to re-engage the region, there are some
important policy recommendations that are currently being discussed on how
to do just that. Last year Samuel Charap, Associate Director for Russia and
Eurasia at the Center for American Progress, co-authored with Alexandros
Peterson, Senior Fellow from the Atlantic Council, an important piece
in *Foreign
Affairs* entitled `Reimagining Eurasia.' There are some key points that
sound great in theory and some which require further debate, especially in
the `Reimagining Azerbaijan' segment that appeared separately. Charap and
Peterson reflect that `U.S. policy toward countries in the region
essentially became a derivative of Russia policy as a result. We failed to
forge long-term partnerships and instead sought leverage, neglecting
engagement that provided no benefit in the push and pull with
Moscow.'[10]



In their recommendations, Charap and Peterson state that `U.S. policy
makers must abandon the tired Russia-centric tack and develop new
individualized approaches to the states of the greater Black Sea region and
Central Asia' in the attempt to `=85avoid re-creating a
nineteenth-century-style Great
Game.'[11] They
further state that `The Obama administration may have `reset'
relations with Russia, but it must now develop a clear parallel strategy to
reimagine its policies toward Eurasia - ones tailored to the specific U.S.
interests at stake in each country and transparent to all other states.'
These statements imply developing multiple foreign policies based on
detailed bi-lateral relationships with all the nations in the region. In
fact, Charap recommends that the U.S. `deepen bilateral U.S. engagement
with Azerbaijan,' clearly referring to Azerbaijan's energy potential while
discounting its horrendous human rights record and recent crackdown on
media and civil
liberties.[12] Of
the three South Caucasus states, only Azerbaijan was listed as `not
free' in the 2010 `Freedom in the World' report by *Freedom
House*.[13]



However, an alternative approach offered by Thomas de Waal, Senior
Associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, looks at the
region in a much broader view. He states that `almost no one in Washington
is thinking of how to approach the South Caucasus as a region, whose
economic needs and security problems are inter-connected and best resolved
by a holistic approach.'[14] According
to de Waal, `Narrow bilateralism is an abiding problem in
Caucasus policy - a problem complicated by the multiple policy agendas of a
country such as Russia or the United
States.'[15]



Returning to Charap and Peterson's assessments, they argue that `playing
the game not only brought Washington to the brink of confrontation with
Moscow (in the 2008 Russia-Georgia War) but also distorted the United
States' priorities in Eurasia and hollowed out U.S. relationships with
states in the region.'[16] Eerily
reminiscent of Hollywood's 1983 film `War Games,' Charap and
Peterson conclude that `the only way for Washington to `win' is not to play
the game.'[17]


These alternative approaches to encouraging a solid and just, long-term
relationship with the people of the South Caucasus are thought-provoking in
their own right and deserve much credit. Yet when we bring these issues
back home, faced with the daunting challenge of reducing the U.S. national
debt, it is difficult to see where this reality fits into these policy
recommendations. In fact, of all the discussions attended by the author
since the global economic crisis hit, only on one occasion did a panelist
ever raise the question of how these challenges can be met if we are
reducing foreign aid. At a Center for American Progress discussion, Dr.
Fiona Hill, Director and Senior Fellow at Brookings Institute, questioned,
`Do we, the U.S., have the resources and the people to underpin the years
of policy that the people of the region
want?'[18] As
all politics are local, it was refreshing to hear this domestic
reality
mentioned when discussing the formulation of U.S. foreign policy towards
the region. It appears that House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI)
attempted to answer that question when he released his 85-page plan calling
for a drastic 44% cut in international affairs and foreign assistance
spending over the next 5 years.



Whether or not the entirety of Congressman Ryan's `Path to Prosperity' is
cemented, U.S. domestic challenges can not be overlooked when formulating a
new strategy to an important and delicate region. At the same time, our
approach to the South Caucasus region should not follow but rather stem
from efforts to promote greater civil liberties and media freedoms, freer
and fairer elections, enforcement of the rule of law, and more open
free-market economies. However, we have to be mindful of how far these
young republics have come in the 20 years since their independence. Our
policy should reflect a long-term investment in and understanding of the
people of the region, their culture and religion and, most importantly,
support for their struggle for a more peaceful and democratic society;
especially since that policy can shape the lives of thousands who work to
see it implemented over the course of the next century, and millions who
have to live with its outcome.



*Taniel Koushakjian***

*Grassroots Director*

*Armenian Assembly of America*

*June, 2011*

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

[1]Author
attended presentation entitled `The Future of U.S.-E.U. Energy
Cooperation' at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, D.C. on February
9, 2011.

[2]Id.

[3]Id.

[4]Overview
of U.S. Relations with Europe and Eurasia, Testimony of Philip H.
Gordon, Assistant Secretary, Bureau if European and Eurasian Affairs at the
U.S. Department of State, before the U.S. House Foreign Affairs
Subcommittee on Europe and Eurasia, Washington, D.C., on March 11, 2011.
Available online at: http://www.state.gov/p/eur/rls/rm/2011/158214.htm

[5]Author
attended presentation entitled `The Future of U.S.-E.U. Energy
Cooperation' at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, D.C. on February
9, 2011.

[6]Author
attended presentation entitled `Outlook for U.S. Strategy in the
Southern Caucasus and the Caspian' at the Center for Strategic &
International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, D.C. on February 18, 2011.

[7]Id.

[8]International
Crisis Group, Europe Briefing No. 60, `Armenia and
Azerbaijan: Preventing War,' February 8, 2011.

[9]Author
attended presentation entitled `Outlook for U.S. Strategy in the
Southern Caucasus and the Caspian' at the Center for Strategic &
International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, D.C. on February 18, 2011.

[10]Charap,
Samuel and Alexandros Peterson, `Reimagining Azerbaijan,'
*Center for American Progress*, August 23, 2010.

[11]Charap,
Samuel and Alexandros Peterson, `Reimagining Eurasia,'
*Foreign Affairs*, August 20, 2010.

[12]Charap,
Samuel and Alexandros Peterson, `Reimagining Azerbaijan,'
*Center for American Progress*, August 23, 2010.

[13]Freedom
House Country Report on Azerbaijan, Freedom in the World 2010.
Available online at: www.freedomhouse.org

[14]de
Waal, Thomas, `Call Off the Great Game,'
*Foreign Policy*, September 13, 2010.

[15]Id.

[16]Charap,
Samuel and Alexandros Peterson, `Reimagining Eurasia,'
*Foreign Affairs*, August 20, 2010.

[17]Id.

[18]Author
attended presentation entitled `Reimagining Eurasia: Devising a
Strategy for U.S. Engagement with the States of the Greater Black Sea
Region and Central Asia' at the Center for American Progress in Washington,
D.C. on October 20, 2010.