Hakob Badalyan

Lragir, Armenia
Nov 29 2006

U.S. President Bush stated during the NATO summit in Riga that the
doors of NATO remain open to Ukraine and Georgia. Perhaps, this is
the least that Georgia, for instance, would expect, which is rushing
towards the North Atlantic. The expectations that the summit in Riga
would take an essential step towards the membership of Georgia did
not come true. But Bush's statement is important in terms of regional
developments. In fact, Georgia is singled out of the three South
Caucasian states, at least on the level of statements. In other words,
the words of the U.S. president imply that Georgia can become member
of NATO separately from Armenia and Azerbaijan. Consequently, the
U.S. policy on the region is estabishing a new hierarchy of approaches,
which may act as a precedent for the actions of other international
organizations, namely the European Union. Certainly, Bush's statement
is not a guarantee that Georgia will soon become member of NATO but it
also allows concluding that the United States considers the membership
of one separately from the other two as quite possible. Even if it
does not take place, the approach nevertheless marks the revision of
the general regional policy - the South Caucasus, at least for the
United States, is no longer an integrated region in tactical terms.

This may be an impetus for te EU to conduct a similar policy.

Strategically, the South Caucasus will remain by all means an
integrated region for both the United States and the EU. However,
they have come to realize that it is not effective to implement this
strategic approach through the same tactical method. The point is that
the common policy of integration with the Western organizations was
one of the main obstacles for the development of the South Caucasian
countries. The approach that either these three countries become
members together or none of them becomes member separately eliminated
competition between them. A country knows that even if it is a little
behind of the other, it will not affect the prospect of integration
because everyone is measured and viewed in a package.

Moreover, one of these three could use its slow pace of reforms to
influence the other two, threatening their integration. Perhaps this
is the reason why the countries of the South Caucasus do not display
sufficient will for reforms and regional partnership.

Apparently, the United States took this into consideration in
separating Georgia and encouraging it. This policy was first adopted by
the European Union, which separated the three South Caucasian countries
in the framework the New Neighbors Policy. However, it did not have
enough courage, and the European Union did not sign the policy of
individual partnership until all the three countries upgraded to the
required benchmark. Now Bush's statement shows, in fact, that the
West can separate the three with regard to practical steps already.

Actually, this gives rise to a competitive situation in the region.

Obviously, the state which is ahead on the track for integration with
the European and Atlantic organizations will contend for leadership,
picking the fruits of this situation. In other words, Armenia, in
particular, can no more be consoled by the fact that Azerbaijan is
less democratic than we, or in reality Georgia is on the verge of
decay. Everyone will be measured by a separate benchmark, and the
three states will be viewed with all their pros and cons. In this
situation, all Armenia can do is to rely on the development of civil
institutions and modernization of political and economic systems.

Armenia does not have other resources to compete with Georgia and
Azerbaijan. Apparently, the leadership of Armenia including the head
of state realize this. At least, they have stressed this in their
statements. But the point is that competition already requires definite
acts, because as Bush could have said, "I make statements here."