Regnum, Russia
July 3 2006

Three subjects of the ethnic politics, three unrecognized South
Caucasian states, Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Nagorno-Karabakh,
are different in many parameters. Each of them has its own peculiar
problems, its own unique fate, but also some things in common; and
now we are witnessing one more quite special common factor looming
large for all: the reality of war - not just minor demonstrative
clashes on border but real war.

The South Caucasus is facing a new Abkhaz-Ossetian-Nagorno Karabakh
problem - a problem of war that can lead to total fiasco of the policy
of the Western community and, first of all, of the US.

Obviously, in Georgia the wars will not last for long: from several
weeks to several months, with several time-outs. Georgia may well
manage to gain control over some new positions in South Ossetia and
low-lands in Eastern Abkhazia, but it may also be crushed, with all the
three sides sustaining large-scale losses. This may lead to disastrous
human casualties in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, who will, therefore,
get more yielding in political issues. Depending on the scale and
scenario of the war, Georgia may either win - or lose so much that
further war will have no sense. Most probably, Georgia's enemies will
manage to retain control over bigger part of their territories. Given
more political will, the Georgian army could successfully start war
even today. The only factor that might keep the Georgian authorities
back is human casualties. However, if Georgia continues building up
its army as actively as it is doing now it will shortly have no other
decent way as to start new war. The availability of strong forces
and growing internal political and social problems will be decisive
in the matter.

Azerbaijan is also eager to fight. Azeri generals keep calling for
war, thereby, encouraging arms race and military spendings. Now its
arms supplier is not only traditional Ukraine but also CSTO member
Belarus. The general staffs of two western powers say that in case
of active military actions in Karabakh, the Azerbaijani army may
well lose their offensive capacity in just three weeks. They say
that position war is very inconvenient for Armenia and, therefore,
that country will try to knock out Azerbaijan with just one-two
heavy blows. Azerbaijan will try to strike the nuclear power plant
in Metsamor and some other vital centers in Armenia, in response,
Armenia will destroy sea and other oil and gas facilities and oil and
gas pipelines in Azerbaijan. In a couple of hours the West will lose
$14bln-$16bln and any hope for Caspian oil import in the following
5-7 years. The Caspian Sea will face an ecological disaster. There
will be no need for the Armenians to get very close to oil pipelines,
they have enough people knowing how to carry out such operations.

Unless supported by Turkey, Azerbaijan may either lose its statehood
at all or be given new borders and name - something the Iranians will
be really happy to see. With military experts giving advantage to the
side who will start the war the first, Armenia has no reason to wait
for Azerbaijan's "victorious march" but will have to start the war
itself - at least, three days before the enemy's planned attack. It
is better to have advantage at the front than in the findings of
international experts as a victim to aggression. Azerbaijan will lose
25,000-35,000 soldiers and up to 100,000 civilians, Armenia will lose
10-12 times less.

After some delay, the international community will try to stop the
war - of course, only when it sees that Azerbaijan is on the verge of
a military and national disaster. If the Armenians try to destroy the
west-sponsored oil-gas complex, the US and NATO will, most probably,
decide to strike a counter-blow on the Armenian positions. This will
not lead to Russia's interference. Russia will interfere only if the
Armenian territory is attacked, while the US will interfere if Turkey
meddles in or if Armenia gets into an extremely hard situation. In
this case, the US will put an end to the war irrespective of its
results. Will it be able to? Can the war be avoided at all? - idle
question and vain supposition.

All the three problems could never and can never be solved in the
format the western community suggests. "Territorial integrity" can be
restored only by war. The very thesis and principle of territorial
integrity means a war that goes beyond the conventional idea of war
and implies genocide and mass deportation as obligatory addendum to
military actions. The US has never planned to solve these problems
in this way, i.e. to restore the territorial integrity of Georgia
and Azerbaijan at any price. The US has already got all it wanted
in the South Caucasus, namely, it has already ensured successful
oil transportation from the region. The last trifling thing the US
had to do was just to gain control - together with the UK - over the
"Caucasian Panama Canal." For this purpose, it carried out a consistent
policy from Arytau to Batumi. All the other tasks were either
subservient or - if going beyond those tasks - were either ruled out
or stifled by feigned political games and endless negotiations. What
kind of policy is this? Anti-Georgian, anti-Armenian, anti-Azeri,
anti-Russian or anti-Iranian? This policy is purely American. The
US is absolutely unwilling to see war in the region. War means the
failure of its tremendous efforts to ensure the safe operation of the
Caucasian-Caspian, or, more correctly, American-British energy complex
in the region. The Americans may want some political tension in some
parts of the region but only provided they have full control over them.

Can we assert or deny that by expanding into the South Caucasus the
US has been and is partly or fully preventing military actions in
the local conflict zones? In the last 15 years the US has failed
its policy in a number of regions. Even disorganized, bankrupt
and capitulated Iraqi society has proved to be a hard nut to crack
for the US. With all its might and power, the US has no sufficient
military force for active suppression in even one - not very big -
country, and has, in fact, failed to guarantee peace and security in
any single country or region it held a military campaign in. Let's
not dwell on the ideological and stylistic differences between the
relevant policies of the Republicans and the Democrats.

War is at the door. Despite their strategic interests, the Americans
has been led by their partner-opponent Europeans into absolutizing
the principle of territorial integrity - something they regard quite
cynically. By their political-propaganda games, they have convinced the
"victims" that they have the right to use military force to restore
sovereignty over their lost territories. The US has come up with
dubious initiatives to encourage arms race for ensuring the safety
of energy communications - initiatives that have resulted in extreme
militarization in the region. We can't deny the influence of both
complex and individual factors on the military-political situation in
the region. The positions and interests of the western and eastern
great powers are certainly complex factors. However, the region's
countries are becoming a loomingly large source of concern for the
US in terms of their plans to resolve their conflicts by war.

It couldn't be otherwise.

By implementing its policy, the US has contributed to the collapse of
the CAFE Treaty and, together with its Western and Eastern European
allies, has launched an arms race in the South Caucasus. The only
question is what they are training national armed units for. The US has
"guaranteed" that they will not be used in ethnic conflicts. At the
same time, the US and NATO are actively stimulating the militarization
of the region. No doubt, this is part of the US' policy to ensure
the safety of its oil complex. However, all these efforts are not
augmenting the US' sway or diminishing Russia's presence in the region,
but are, on the contrary, undermining the US' policy and ruining the
oil complex together with the whole "Eurasian corridor" ("corridor"
is always something vulnerable, something that leads to war).

This spring the author questioned 88 British and US experts as to
security problems in the South Caucasus and the possibility of new
wars in Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Nagorno-Karabakh. None of them
has denied that the US cannot guarantee non-resumption of war. At
the same time, they clearly differentiated two questions: are there
enough factors proving that new war is possible and is the US able
to prevent this possibility. This refers to all the three conflicts.

Pacifist Europe will react to war stoically. Their conservative
media will call for interference and protection of oil facilities and
pipelines, but no single European soldier will set foot in the region
or will come here just to keep peace when the fight is already over.

It will be for the US and Russia to react, of course, if Turkey is
kept away and Iran is not very active.

Igor Muradyan - expert of Caucasus analytical center.