SOUTH CAUCASUS AS A REGION OF STRATEGIC IMPORTANCE
Prof. Ph.D., National Defense College, Sofia, Bulgaria, firstname.lastname@example.org
The article ‘South Caucasus as a Region of Strategic Importance’ provides a detailed analysis of the geopolitical characteristics of South Caucasus as a region with unique position on the world map. It justifies the topicality of the subject and the strong interest in the region populated by diverse ethnicities and religious denominations, exposed to a high concentration of frozen and active conflicts, many border problems, internationally unrecognised and partially recognised states.
Revealed are the geographic, ethnic, geo-economic and political characteristics of the region. A focus is placed on the instability in the region and on the existing frozen conflicts on the territory of Azerbaijan and Georgia. Reviewed is the diverging foreign policy orientation of the individual states. The article underscores the geopolitical symbol of South Caucasus as a clashing and conflicting centre of the interests of the big players: Russia, the US, the European Union, Turkey and Iran. Their influence is juxtaposed and the key role of Russia and the USA is highlighted. A special attention is paid to the relationships of the US and NATO with the three South Caucasus republics. The issue of energy security and transportation of energy resources through South Caucasus is seen as central to the conflict of interests of the big geopolitical players. Justified is the understanding that the security environment in South Caucasus is strongly affected by and has lastingly deteriorated as a result of the Ukrainian crisis, the annexation of Crimea and the conflict in Donbas. Another factor behind the complex relationships among the South Caucasus states is their multi-vector foreign policy orientation and mutually exclusive interests. Georgia appears to be a clear enemy of Russia and makes efforts, by all means, to come closer to the time when it will accomplish its national goals for membership in NATO and the European Union. Armenia in turn is a strategic ally of Russia and a diligent member of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation, dominated by Moscow. Azerbaijan pursues a balanced foreign policy, striving to maintain equally good relations with Russia and with the US and neighbouring Turkey.
In summary it is difficult to find clear positive signs of stability in South Caucasus in the current situation. Russia will continue its efforts to assert its political influence, where this is possible. Against the ongoing situation with the conflicts in the Middle East, in the Black Sea region, in Afghanistan and the complex set-up in the relationships between the US and Iran, the US and NATO policies are expected to intensify further. A conclusion is drawn that the existing status-quo in the relationships of the global geopolitical players would probably develop negatively in the foreseeable future and confrontation will continue for a long period of time.
Keywords: South Caucasus, Black Sea region, geopolitics, conflicts, security environment.
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