Sunday, 24 August 2008

Vardan Oskanian’s “The Caucasus moment”: a historic opportunity which should not get lost

Vardan Oskanian, Armenia’s former foreign minister has a piece in the International Herald Tribune on the situation in South Caucasus and the ways out of it. His proposal seems to me the most pragmatic and cold-headed approach to come out from a politician in South Caucasus. He is effectively advocating for a neutrality of the South Caucasus, “free of security memberships and adversarial alliances”. Difficult to implement, but worth listening to and considering.

"...Conflicts in the region would be viewed in a wholly different, more reassuring and tolerant context if there were a binding and strong security pact that assured non-use of force.

These conflicts are not frozen. In the absence of a security pact, there is an arms build up that is in itself destabilizing, distorting national budgets and hampering the normal development of civil society.

Yet in the Caucasus, our countries and peoples have lived under a common umbrella far more than we have been divided. Today, we share a common vision of European integration, a vision that is greater and more enduring than issues that divide us. It is in the broader context of European integration that our issues should be resolved.

Although integration with Europe is not controversial, NATO expansion is. Never in history has a grand coalition formed to defeat a particular enemy survived after the task was completed. Not after the Napoleonic wars, not after World War I and not after World War II.

After the West's Cold War victory, two things happened. NATO tried to reinvent itself by directing its attention and resources to other regions and addressing other problems. Containing Russia was not a declared intention. And NATO created the Euro Atlantic Partnership Council, which invited all Eastern Bloc and former Soviet republics to participate.

This was visionary and potentially sustainable. After all, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the Council of Europe extended their efficacy in that way by including the remnants of the USSR. Not only did they remain relevant and viable, they contributed immeasurably to our own growth and development.

But NATO also planned to continue and even expand in the same form, even after its stated goal had long been met. Given the changed security environment and Russia's great security sensitivities, this was, it appears, a strategic mistake.

Georgia's eagerness to get into NATO is understandable. But the security benefits to Georgia that NATO membership would bring would be offset by the creation of a dividing line in the Caucasus, and its attendant security challenges.

Perhaps this is the Caucasus moment: A historic opportunity, in the context of a new regional security pact, for Brussels, Washington and Moscow to meet with Tbilisi, Yerevan and Baku and create a nonaligned Caucasus, free of security memberships and adversarial alliances. Such positive, engaged, inclusive neutrality will be possible and beneficial all around.

This would be in the best interest of this highly combustible region. A U.S.-Russia confrontation at the Georgia-Russia level will make life very difficult, not just for us here in Armenia but also for Azerbaijan and Turkey.

It is in the context of these existential security issues that we must view the recent Turkish proposal for a Caucasus Stability and Cooperation Platform. […]

The Black Sea Economic Cooperation pact, for example, was created precisely for the purpose of bringing together those who otherwise shared no common forum for economic cooperation and the resolution of problems. But it's effectiveness has been limited because Turkey lacked the commitment to use the forum as a way to relate with a country like Armenia, with whom its borders are closed.

The proposal today, in this new tense environment, must be more serious and sustained. It must marginalize no one. Security issues are intertwined, and they ought to be addressed in a stability pact with a comprehensive, strong security component.

During his visit to Baku last week, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan discussed the Turkish plan and publicly made reference to Armenia's inclusion. It is also a fortuitous coincidence that President Abdullah Gul of Turkey has been invited by President Serzh Sargsian of Armenia to watch the Turkey-Armenia FIFA World Cup qualifying match on Sept. 6 together.

This offers an opportunity for these two neighbors to discuss common security challenges and pave the way for a region of peace."

Vardan Oskanian was foreign minister of Armenia from 1998 to April 2008. He is the founder of the Civilitas Foundation in Yerevan, which addresses foreign policy, democracy and development issues in the Caucasus.


Anonymous said...

All those who doubted Oskanyan's ability as Foreign minister and his intellect in general should take another look into what one could call a massive HR crisis in Armenia, with loads of people with worthless degress and very few with any actual skills.It's time to finally accept that this was the best minister in any department we've ever had. I'm still waiting for him to make a comeback to big politics as we cannot afford to waste his great talents and experience.
Regarding the 'Caucasus moment', one could not agree more that the region is crying for peace and solutions to existing issues between Caucasian countries. At the same time, Mr Oskanyan more than anyone else will know that 'mother Russia' cannot tolerate a stable Caucasus.
His remarks strangely overlap with Turkish idea of building a ' Caucasian home', which comes to tell us that there is some serious international initiative for bringing troubled Caucasus under one roof under some sort of framework. One would like to see, though, how they plan to accomodate Russia in one organisation with Georgia, whose territory it's currently occupying let alone Armenia and Azerbaijan.
Can't wait to see what conspiracy theorists are going to come up with this time!

spm said...

Archuk, it is a good article if it was written by you or me. But VO was actually the person who should have done something for Caucasian stability and its unite independence from Russia. Show me one definite result of his work as MFA except usual semi intelligent blah, blah blah
Being an obedient servant of Rober Kocharian did not help.

Anonymous said...

Dude, he's not all powerful genie in a bottle to bring stability to Caucasus and end Russia's influence n the region. In fact, I think even Alladin's all-powerful servant couldn't have accomplished that mission. Give him a brake, he's been a great foreign minister.

spm said...

I am not asking for a genie. But did he ever go to Tbilisi and persuade them openly or secretly to:
1. serve as intermediary between Armenia and Azerbaijan? (you may laugh at it, but internal intermediary could do much better job than external superpowers.
2. to intermediate between Abkhaz and Georgians to establish a truly free confederation, where Abkhaz could feel better off than in Russian Federation.
3. to tell his boss RK to stop kissing so hard Putin's ass every time his presidential chair seems shaky and think how to strengthen it by popular support of non-corrupt, independent presidency.
4. He actually seemed like a rather uncorrupt and decent person, but did he ever threaten to resign over corruption issues? Or making intelligent appearances in the West he just helped corrupt president to embellish a bit his authoritarian and corrupt government.