CAUCASUS DOMINO
by Oleg Dvinsky

WPS Agency, Russia
What the Papers Say Weekly Review (Russia)
September 1, 2008 Monday

EVENTS IN SOUTH OSSETIA WILL CHANGE THE GEOPOLITICAL MAP OF THE REGION
FOR YEARS TO COME; Georgian escapade in South Ossetia changed the
geopolitical map of the region.

Destabilized by the Georgian move against South Ossetia, situation
in the Black Sea - Caspian Sea region remains tricky. Tension did
not even abate with withdrawal of the Russian army from the Georgian
territory in keeping with the Medvedev-Sarkozy plan.

Three NATO ships sailed into the Black Sea (German Luebeck, Spanish
Adm. Juan de Bourbon, and Polish General K. Pulaski) through the
Bosporus and their appearance did not ease the tension either. NATO
feigns innocence and claims that the ships are there for the planned
exercise and not because of the events in Georgia, but nobody is
fooled. Appearance of NATO's surface combatants in the region when
the Russian-Georgian war barely ended is nothing short of provocation.

Tbilisi in the meantime keeps making militaristic statements and
aggressive gestures. Georgia requested $1-2 billion from the United
States for restoration of the military infrastructure. Analysts wonder
what will happen in the Black Sea - Caspian Sea region now.

The first conclusion is inescapable: Georgian aggression against
South Ossetia voided all previous international agreements concerning
political geography of the Caucasus. Absence of any global strategic
view on the region in the United States and its NATO allies,
their efforts to preserve the administrative territorial borders
set up by the Bolsheviks, lack of professionalism on the part of
Western diplomacy and provincialism on the part of the local - all
of that resulted in gross political mistakes that leave the issue of
territorial integrity of the countries of the region unanswered.

It is clear that the turn of events that already transpired in the
Balkans may repeat itself in the Caucasus. It is gradually dawning on
the international community that neither South Ossetia nor Abkhazia
will return to Georgia ever again. Neither does Nagorno-Karabakh
appear to be eager to return to Azerbaijan.

The second conclusion: The process of unification - provided it is
possible in the first place - is going to take place in no foreseeable
future. It is possible only in theory, provided the local leaders
want something like the Caucasus Confederation with an emphasis on
a common market, hard currency, and legislation rather than on the
territorial integrity principle.

The third conclusion: when Washington recovers from the emotional
shock caused by Georgia's unexpected military-political fiasco, the
United States had better come up with a more constructive approach to
evaluation of the situation in this region. It requires an unprejudiced
view on the existing correlation of forces and exact knowledge of
America's own national interests. It should be remembered as well
that only a chance put Georgia into the epicenter of the international
politics.

Two variants are possible. The optimistic one is as follows:
putting an end to the phase of the military-political confrontation
and transforming the Caucasus into a region of mutually beneficial
cooperation. The pessimistic one is this: unless cooperation is chosen,
the United States will be eventually ousted from the Caucasus.

As things stand, Professor Ali Demir of the University of Galatasarai
suspects that Georgian escapade in South Ossetia compromises
fulfillment of several promising economic projects Azerbaijan
counted on. The Turkish analyst does not rule out the possibility
that economic interests of the EU may shift now from Azerbaijan to
Iran with its colossal oil and gas fields. And that will mean wholly
different geopolitics.