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Archive for October 5th, 2010

The Caucasus: A New Book by Thomas de Waal

Posted by Info on 05/10/2010

With the collapse of the Soviet Union and the conflicts that accompanied it, the South Caucasus was thrown into a complicated and fractured condition, de Waal said.

The South Caucasus is a single region with significant human potential and remains unrealized due to the tensions and bureaucracy that prevent the countries in this region from working together.
De Waal outlined three “mirages,” or misperceptions, which have informed the general wisdom on the South Caucasus but have helped to exacerbate the economic, political, and social situation in the region.

* The “Great Chessboard” mirage. One inaccurate perception of the region is that outsiders manipulate the countries of the South Caucasus in order to further their own strategic interests… The region is more accurately described as a castle of dominos—an unstable construction in which dislodging one piece can topple the others.

* The “Russian bear” mirage. While Russia remains the most powerful outside actor in the region, its capacity to affect events in the South Caucasus is exaggerated.

o Russian influence has been limited in part by geographic barriers, de Waal argued. The Greater Caucasus mountain range has limited Russian military presence south of the mountains, as well as Russian migration.
o Russia has never had absolute control over the South Caucasus. Russia always relied on local rulers, both in tsarist and Soviet times, to control the region.
o Despite the examples of the 2008 war between Russia and Georgia and Russia’s recent extension of its military alliance with Armenia, Moscow is shifting toward using economic tools, rather military power…

* The mirage of great strategic importance. The South Caucasus’ strategic importance for the West as an energy route and security zone is also exaggerated.

o Energy. The South Caucasus is indeed an important transport corridor for Caspian oil and gas….Western energy investment in the region has also failed to deliver broader prosperity, as resource extraction largely benefits elites and creates few jobs.
o NATO expansion. It is now clear that the push for NATO membership for Georgia benefited neither NATO nor Georgia. The attempt to join NATO did not boost Georgia’s security, and antagonized Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Russia. After the August war Georgia ended up with neither a NATO Membership Action Plan nor Abkhazia and South Ossetia…

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