1. Context of the geopolitical layout of forces in the Caucasus in the 90s
The collapse of the USSR in the geopolitical sense meant a sharp narrowing of the zone of influence of Eurasia (Russia) and the expansion of the positions of the US and its NATO allies in the post-Soviet space . In the symmetric coordinate system of the Susha-Morea, strengthening of the positions of one of the sides always occurs due to the weakening of the other. Geopolitics is the “chessboard” that Zbigniew Brzezinski wrote about in the book of the same name. And here it is always worth remembering who is playing with whom: the civilization of the Sea against the civilization of Sushi, Atlanticism against Eurasianism, Washington against Moscow .
The Caucasus in this party is one of the most important zones, control of which gives each of the players a lot of positional advantages.
The main vector of geopolitical transformations in the Caucasus in the 1990s was the gradual withdrawal of Russia from the South Caucasus, with parallel strengthening of both directly pro-American influences and indirect penetration of Atlanticism through the Turkish factor . Three South Caucasian republics occupied unequal positions in this situation:
– Armenia gravitated toward Russia (in parallel developing relations with Iran, as well as with Europe and the US),
– Azerbaijan, after a strong shift towards Turkey, was balancing between the orientation toward Ankara and Moscow (taking into account the increased interest in the oil sector by Britain and the US),
– Georgia acted as the flagship of pro-American and anti-Russian geopolitical orientation.
In general, the South Caucasus zone was relatively neutral, since even after the emergence of the three independent states, Russian (Eurasian) influence was largely preserved, and the Atlantic increased gradually and through various mediating institutions. This process was aggravated by a series of inter-ethnic conflicts (Nagorno-Karabakh, Abkhazia, South Ossetia, etc.), as well as proximity to the Russian North Caucasus, which, in turn, had a number of conflict areas, primarily in Chechnya. At the same time, the situation was shaken by the factor of imported Islamic fundamentalism, Wahhabism and extremism, which brought additional geopolitical tension.
Throughout the 1990s, the most active players in the Caucasus region were:
– Moscow, (rather passively and haphazardly) seeking to regain or maintain its positions;
– Washington, which is playing to weaken these positions;
– Ankara, through available levers and taking into account its own interests, realizing the Atlantist strategy of counteraction to Moscow;
– Tehran, fearing unrest in Southern Azerbaijan and supporting for this reason Yerevan;
– The Arab world, first of all, Saudi Arabia and other extraterritorial centers of radical Islam, exporting extremist groups (further away from their borders), not without some coordination of the strategy with American curators.
Against this background, each of the South Caucasian republics sought to use the situation in their favor, balancing between external geopolitical poles.
2. Change in the geopolitical alignment of forces in the South Caucasus in 1999-2004
During this period, a series of very important geopolitical shifts takes place in the situation of the main players of the Caucasian policy. Putin’s coming symbolizes the Kremlin ‘s consistent will to restore lost positions and strengthen the influence that during Yeltsin’s time it was only sporadic and episodic splashes, and under Putin it turned into systemic actions. While not directly challenging the United States, Putin, nevertheless, seriously took up the post-Soviet space and, first and foremost, the Caucasus, where – in Chechnya – the most painful point of modern Russian statehood is. The political legitimacy and national consensus of Putin’s support are based on his will and ability to prevent Chechnya’s separation from Russia and the inevitable subsequent “Caucasian chaos”. Putin coped with this in general, that he somewhat stopped in Washington the most ardent supporters of accelerating the disintegration of Russia. Under Putin, the inertia of the disintegration of the Eurasian system was gradually replaced by a vector of integration tendencies . It is no accident that his rapprochement with the President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev, a consistent champion of Eurasian integration . For the South Caucasus republics, this meant the emergence of a clearer logic in relations with Russia – rapprochement with Russia became systemic.
Even more serious transformations took place in the geopolitical orientation of Turkey. During the 90s, Ankara’s active pan-Turkic, pan-Turkic and anti-Russian strategy produced virtually no results. With the economic development of the Turkic countries of the CIS, it became clear that Ankara’s potential is far from sufficient to become the main engine of modernization, and the cultural level of the Soviet and Russian-language education turned out to be higher and more attractive than the Turkish one. In the area of spreading Islam, Turkey was outstripped by richer and more active Saudis and Wahhabis, and support by Turkish emissaries of the Chechen resistance had a negative impact on the development of the Turkish-Russian dialogue and did not bring any serious dividends to Turkey itself.
Simultaneously, Ankara became more and more aware of the ambiguity of the Atlantic strategy in the new conditions . The demands put forward by Turkey for Turkey to enter the European Union and the settlement of the Cyprus problem on Western (American-European) conditions inflicted a severe blow to the national-state identity of the Turks; The continuation of the pro-American and pro-NATO policies towards neighboring countries put Turkey in isolation from other Islamic powers, and the constant friction with Russia only hampered the economic ties that were extremely beneficial for the Turks . The last straw was the US invasion of Iraq, which released the genie of Kurdish separatism Saddam bottle.
At that moment, Turkish geopolitical thinking revealed the Eurasian perspective as the most attractive alternative to Atlantism . For Turkey’s policy in the Caucasus, this meant: seeking common interests with Russia, refusing to frown with Moscow, testing new ties with Iran and the Arab countries .
In parallel, the United States made the main bet on Georgia, which turned out to be opposed to all neighboring countries – Russia, Turkey, Iran, Armenia, Azerbaijan, becoming an isolated enclave, a sort of Caucasian “cordon cordon” separating the states, which the objective logic of the geopolitical transformations of post-Soviet reality pushed To convergence and the search for common strategies.
3. The Moscow-Baku-Ankara axis
Recent changes in the situation in the Caucasus have opened new prospects for Azerbaijan. If up to a certain point the choice of Baku was in a dual format: either Ankara or Moscow (under Yelchibey the bank was exclusively in Turkey’s direction, with Heydar Aliyev there was a balance and a more stable multi-vector policy), then from now on these poles ceased to be mutually exclusive and the possibility of a new common Turkish-Russian Caucasian strategy, where Azerbaijan was given a central role. This means a new Eurasian alliance of the three qualitatively Eurasian powers – Russia, Turkey and Azerbaijan , which found themselves in a similar situation in the current situation: the process of Westernization and modernization is, on the one hand, a necessity, and on the other hand, the specificity of the “traditional society” prevailing in These countries, puts serious restrictions along this path, requires a profound adjustment of political and economic processes, reveals a significant “eastern”, “Asian” aspect in the structure of these countries, which can yt is regarded not only as an obstacle and a barrier, but also as an advantage and an inherent property of the historical national and political identity. In addition, the economic and strategic interests of the three countries coincide in many respects: if for Turkey the expansion of influence goes under the sign of “turanism” and “Turkism”, then for Russia integration projects unambiguously act as “Eurasianism”. But at some point the Turkish strategists discovered that the Eurasian line of Moscow is not an alternative, but another aspect of “turanism,” and therefore both projects can converge with each other, provided that “turbanism” rejects the racial component and anti-Slavic, anti-Russian dimension, and Russian Eurasianism is freed from inertial Slavic-imperial motives. And the central point of the concept of the alliance, a geopolitical convergence becomes namely Azerbaijan, as a country at the same time historically close to both Russia and Turkey.
There are precedents of such a Russian-Turkish alliance in recent history. The Kemalist stage of the establishment of the post-Ottoman Turkish statehood was just under this sign: a close alliance of Soviet Russia with Turkey in the reorganization of the political space of the Caucasus. It is another matter that since the early 1950s, in the post-war world, Ankara has been drawn into the Atlantic pro-American camp, when the historical plots of the previous Russo-Turkish conflicts were again artificially animated and actualized. But it was a tribute to the geopolitical conjuncture of that time. Precedents of the reverse positive model of the Russian-Turkish alliance can be found not only from Ataturk, but also from the Russian philosopher Konstantin Leontiev, who was fighting for a tight Russian-Turkish alliance at the end of the 19th century.
Thus, the emerging Moscow-Ankara Eurasian axis gives Azerbaijan new strategic and geopolitical significance , making Baku the most important component of the entire construction in the triple Moscow-Baku-Ankara model.
4. The Karabakh problem
The Karabakh problem is extremely painful for the Azerbaijani identity. This topic serves as a weighty argument in the domestic political situation, and at any moment can be updated if the overall balance of power in the Caucasus region begins to shift in one direction or another.
The Karabakh problem does not have a quick and direct solution. The legal aspect in this matter is secondary, because in this case the main thing is a coarse balance of power and a concrete state of affairs: the de facto formally part of Azerbaijan is a homogeneous ethnic Armenian zone with transitive quasi-statehood . This status quo can not be quickly and painlessly shifted either way: the legitimacy of Armenian Nagorno-Karabakh outside Azerbaijan can not be recognized by Azerbaijan, and under no circumstances will the Armenian side voluntarily allow the appearance of authorized representatives of the Azerbaijani authorities on this territory. This means that the Karabakh knot continues to possess high conflict potential, which can make itself felt at any time.
The Eurasian solution to this most complicated situation is seen in the following direction. – Russia should act as the main module in unraveling the Karabakh knot . Armenia has close military cooperation with Armenia. If a similar strategic partnership is established with Azerbaijan, for example, through the organization of the Russian naval base in the Caspian Sea with the function of border control, and also to counter various forms of poaching and compliance with the agreements on the use of the Caspian shelf, Russia will be able to apply even pressure on both Parties in order to implement the optimal scenario, which would satisfy both parties.
In the first place, it would have affected the return to Azerbaijan of all occupied areas (besides the Karabakh), which would help to at least partially solve the refugee problem. And in this issue, Russia has already reached certain preliminary results in relations with Stepanakert.
The next step logically would be the Azerbaijani-Armenian cooperation in the economic field in the region of Nagorno-Karabakh, as well as other joint projects.
Finally, the stay of Armenia and Azerbaijan in a single strategic Eurasian space together with Russia and in the system of a common collective security zone would create prerequisites for the return of ethnic cleansing from Azerbaijan to Nagorno Karabakh and for the final legal settlement of the entire problem .
However, aware of the complexity and dramatic nature of the situation in this issue, one should not make too hasty steps. And the symmetrical rapprochement between Moscow and Baku in itself should lead to the most harmonious and fair outcome of the protracted tragedy that claimed so many human lives.
In this case, one should be inspired by the example of the modern European Union – it integrates countries and peoples that have shed bloodstreams in internecine wars in past centuries into a single political and economic system. And the two most fierce European enemies – France and Germany – are today the engine of all European integration.
The key to the Karabakh problem in the Eurasian scenario is the accelerated strategic rapprochement between Azerbaijan and Russia .
5. Iran-Azerbaijan relations
A certain problem is the Azarbayjan-Iranian relations. Southern Azerbaijan, which is part of Iran, Tehran is seen as a potential separatist enclave that threatens national statehood. This factor can play a particularly active role if Iran collides with external challenges and centralism weakens. The growing internal political contradictions between the fundamentalists of the ayatollahs and cautious reformers, centering around President Khatami, also create conditions for the likely activation of separatism by Tabriz.
In this situation, the slogans of the national association of Azerbaijanis in a single state can become a real factor in the process of the disintegration of the Iranian statehood . Fears of this turn of events made Tehran to conduct very cautious policies against Baku in the 1990s, regardless of the Shiite of Azerbaijanis. The same factor pushed the Iranians towards rapprochement with Yerevan and Stepanakert.
So in the 90’s there was a (rather shaky) triple axis Moscow-Yerevan-Tehran. It is significant that the official languages of these three countries are the languages of the Indo-European group, i.e. This axis is ” Aryan “.
Shiism objectively brings Baku closer to Tehran, and the Turkic factor divides. At the same time it is indicative that the ethnic and geopolitical component in relation to Tehran with Azerbaijan and Armenia, respectively, has more importance in this case than religious.
In the Eurasian perspective, the separatism of Southern Azerbaijan is seen as an undesirable and negative phenomenon, capable of blowing up the Caucasian system and creating a line of false conflict between the various Eurasian forces, which in the Eurasian project are viewed, on the contrary, as allied and friendly, subject to strategic integration. It is another matter that interethnic relations in Iran itself must meet certain criteria allowing harmonious solution of some Persian-Azerbaijani tensions, respecting the rights and freedoms of Azerbaijanis, with strict observance of their civil and national dignity. But at the same time, Russia’s geopolitical line in this issue should be oriented toward rapprochement of Baku with Tehran in parallel with the Eurasian co-sponsorship of Moscow in preserving the territorial integrity of Iran.
The Caucasian axes Moscow-Baku-Ankara and Moscow-Yerevan-Tehran should transform into a monolithic framework of the Eurasian geopolitical system linking the North of Eurasia with the South. And while it is too early to talk about a real rapprochement between Baku and Yerevan, other participants of this complex construction should seek new ways for mutual understanding, overcoming the historical barriers of mutual claims, misunderstandings, conflicts and controversial topics. It is particularly important in this sense to seek ways to bring Ankara closer to Tehran, which is one of the key moments of modern Turkish geopolitics, which is increasingly gravitating toward the Eurasian paradigm.
6. Azerbaijan in the American project “The Great Middle East”
Above, we analyzed the development of the situation in the Caucasus from the Eurasian point of view . But we should not lose sight of the fact that this is a counterstrategy ; The intention of one of the sides of the geopolitical process, which recently suffered serious damage and is trying to correct the situation today, and if possible, then take revenge . The individual elements of this counterstrategy become more and more discernible, but nevertheless as a whole it remains in a virtual state. Eurasia, for now, it’s virtual. Topical is Atlantism.
And here we are faced with a directly opposite geopolitical vision . Recently reelected for a second term, the US President in June 2004 at the NATO summit in Istanbul announced the “Project of the Great Middle East”, which describes a picture of the transformation of the alignment of forces in this region, as Washington sees it. It is a question of overthrowing those Islamic regimes that refuse to obediently adhere to American policy and defend their own strategies. Following Iraq, which has already paid for its persistence with the occupation and the horrors of guerrilla warfare, Iran and Syria, possibly Saudi Arabia, are on the turn (Saudi Arabia is referred to the “axis of evil” by some influential American neo-conservatives – in particular Robert Pearl, L. Murav’ev, M. Ledin, etc.). Turkey and Israel are given the role of the Atlantic avant-garde, opposed to the entire Islamic environment. If in the Eurasian scenario we are talking about the rapprochement of Ankara with Tehran, then the Atlantist Project of the “Great Middle East”, on the contrary, assumes their conflict – right up to the military one.
The Caucasus region here is also seen in the reverse direction to the Eurasian perspective. The privileged zone of the US presence is Georgia, where a strategic center should be located for the forthcoming military operation against Iran. From there, it is easy for Americans to destabilize the situation in the Russian North Caucasus in order to distract Moscow from what will happen to the south and to weaken its influence on Armenia and Azerbaijan. Pro-American Georgia is also convenient for blackmailing Ankara if it continues its Eurasian quest, and the Akhalkalaki region (Javakheti) with the Armenian population is able to drag the pro-Russian Yerevan into a dead-end conflict. It is because of this geopolitical position of Georgia that the US so actively supported the overthrow of Shevardnadze (a politician who clearly understood the structure of the Caucasus balance, but powerless to change something) and brought to power the fully pro-American nationalist Saakashvili.
Azerbaijan also has an important role in this scenario. It is important for the USA to win over Azerbaijan to its side on the eve of the attack on Iran and on the whole in a new Middle East project. For this, provocative actions in border regions with Russia, exacerbation of ethnic tensions, the use of Chechen separatists with illegal channels of transit and conspiratorial networks on the territory of Azerbaijan, etc. can be used. The Atlantic forces in Turkey itself, nationalist and anti-Russian organizations (like the “Gray Wolves”), as well as the remnants of the “panturanist” organizations can be reanimated. Initiation of unrest in Southern Azerbaijan and possible punitive measures of Tehran will further exacerbate Azerbaijani-Iranian relations, which will facilitate the involvement of Baku in the American NATO coalition against Iran . In this case, the Azerbaijani factor will be used in the opposite way, rather than in the Eurasian scenario: it will alienate Turkey from Russia and strengthen the Atlantic wing in it, provoke nationalist and separatist circles in Iran, and eventually become the base for a military invasion of the country. Iran .
In parallel, an artificial anti-Iranian wave will be raised in Southern Azerbaijan, for which, in particular, a well-developed network of South Azerbaijani Protestant groups will be used, supervised from Washington and prepared to become the basic network of the separatist anti-Iranian insurgency on time.
To activate the whole process, the US can again raise the issue of Nagorno-Karabakh, triggering a new wave of escalation of conflicts in this region.
The Atlantic strategy is traditionally not interested in creating stable and stable systems . Its priority is only to establish point control over key points . The example of Iraq and Afghanistan clearly demonstrates this rule: the US seizes the main strategic points and stops there, and then the situation develops according to its logic. A positive long-term scenario is completely absent . Something similar will happen in the Caucasus: the United States is theoretically able to achieve its goal, to uncover and actualize existing co-fociogenic foci, to provoke destructive processes and take control heights, but then events will develop according to their logic, and it is far from obvious that the forces involved in this bloody Mash on the side of the US, will be able to get exactly what they expect.
7. Baku before the choice
Two geopolitical strategies – the Eurasian and the Atlantic – in relation to the Caucasus are mutually exclusive . Here, as in chess, you can not play both “for whites” and “for blacks . ” Therefore, the republics of the South Caucasus have a certain freedom of choice. It is quite obvious that none of them has sufficient geopolitical potential to pretend to play in the new conditions – the rules of the game are determined knowingly, and it is possible to choose only a camp and complicity in a particular strategy. This is the moment of geopolitical freedom in strictly defined frames .
The matter is complicated by the fact that both projects are not equivalent . The Atlantist project is not just conceptually formulated, it is sound and resource-based. Eurasian project is in a state of maturation – an objective logic of events deployment pushes all potential participants, but even on a purely theoretical level, this process is not complete and is constantly faced with natural and artificial obstacles. As for resource maintenance, then to him seriously not yet reached his hands, and the existing potential – including historical, cultural, economic, military, psychological, etc. – Not Rated and not numbered quantitatively.
In this situation, a lot will depend on the will of historical consciousness and geopolitical intuition rulers . In complex situations, often all historical choice is limited by the shape of the sovereign – the king, leader, president, on which depends the choice of the future path.
Now it is very much will depend on the positions of Azerbaijan – on how to solve the problem of geopolitical Baku. It is clear that, in contrast to ordinary chess, chess geopolitical – it’s not a game. From this or that step depends on the fate of the nation, the state, nation, war and peace. But whatever the final choice, the rulers should at least clearly aware of the objective picture in which they are destined to live, act and edit.