CASPIAN HOPES

By S. Usovsky

The problems of regional cooperation are sought by the five Caspian littoral states. Such a partnership today is uncontested, but there are a number of obstacles to its development. But there is growing awareness that they can be overcome only together. For example, the legal status of the Caspian is still not regulated, although there is a hope that this problem will be resolved in 2018.

Obviously, the Caspian region is a new phenomenon if it is understood within the framework of the current international context. 25 years ago it took the current outlines and, in fact, became a region of multilateral cooperation. Until 1991, the region was the zone of responsibility of the USSR and Iran, and the influence of the USSR was prevailing in the military and economic plans. The status of the Caspian Sea was regulated by the Soviet-Iranian treaties of 1921 and 1940. In fact, it was a sea of ​​two countries where the non-Caspian countries were not able to keep ships, did not conduct exploration and production of oil. After 1991, the situation changed radically: five subjects came to the place of the two actors. This, as well as the very fact that five new independent states got to the Caspian, largely determined the future of the region for a quarter of a century.

The central problem in the region is the definition of the legal status of the Caspian Sea. This issue has been discussed for more than 25 years. First, Russia and Iran advocated the joint development of the Caspian. However, the establishment of a five-party consortium for the extraction of energy resources raised concerns that countries would not be able to pursue an independent energy policy. As a result, the process of concluding the Convention on the legal status of the Caspian Sea dragged on for many years. At the same time, in the 1990s, Azerbaijan began actively developing its oil fields after the conclusion of the so-called contract of the century with the help of Western companies.

In 2003, after a long negotiation process, Russia, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan agreed on the division of the northern part of the Caspian Sea. The southern part remained undivided. Tehran proposed an option in which 20% of the water area would remain in its charge, which would lead to the splitting off part of the water area from Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan. In the case of division along the median line, Iran would receive less than 14% of the water area. At this stage, the consensus was not reached.

Today there is a hope that the Convention on the legal status of the Caspian Sea will be signed in 2018. Even though the legal status has not yet been settled, the Caspian countries have achieved certain successes in the issues of multilateral partnership. At the summit in Astrakhan in 2014 a number of important agreements were adopted, in particular on the issues of combating emergencies, hydrometeorology, bioresources, which, along with energy carriers, are the storehouse of the Caspian Sea. The mere fact of their conclusion shows that in such a complex region with different interests of participants it is possible, if desired, to realize the importance of common interest and achieve tactical success even in the presence of an unresolved territorial problem.

Another important issue is the influence of the third extra-regional forces. It is clear that speech cannot go about isolation, especially in the presence of Western oil companies and China's active penetration. We also need to understand that problems such as the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh will in some way influence the development of international cooperation in the region. Initiatives such as the idea of ​​the "Caspian guards" put forward at the beginning of the zero-point Americans are indicators of the fact that the Caspian Sea as an object causes serious interest of external forces. According to a number of experts, this interest is more likely to work for disintegration, to minimize the opportunities for the countries of the region to solve the problems facing them.

In this context, the key is the five-sided regional format, its development and strengthening, in addition to bilateral and other formats, and, accordingly, minimizing the opportunities for destabilizing the region and the risks of disengagement of the participants in the "Caspian Five". Closely related to this is the problem of carrying out main pipelines along the Caspian seabed. In this regard, it is extremely important to ensure the principle that the construction of such pipelines is possible only with the consent of all five countries in the region.

Another important issue is the issue of the militarization of the region. Undoubtedly, a strong build-up of power can create an atmosphere of distrust and fear. But the very fact that Russia has the prevailing forces in the Caspian, and the second by the forces - the Navy from Iran, - their overall potential is quite objective. In addition, the use of Russian ships against terrorists in Syria from the Caspian Sea has shown that the region can be responded to global challenges and threats. The existing practice of joint maneuvers is also positive.

An important issue in the development of the region is the issue of information security and the development of a common agenda. The information policy, of course, depends on whether there is a real foundation for it, whether there is a success story. It seems that public diplomacy, humanitarian partnership, information exchange among the countries of the region could significantly improve its image and promote the implementation of some infrastructure projects.

Today there are questions: is the Caspian region as such in the social and economic, cultural and information dimensions? Are there enough factors that allow talking about the formation of a common agenda? The answers to these questions are ambiguous. On the one hand, there are integrating factors, but on the other - the region has not yet become a platform for common development, the countries sometimes demonstrate completely different information agenda, lack of communication, and good intentions often do not go over to the real plane.

From the solution of issues related to security, social development and the mutually beneficial use of the region's resource base, the future of not only the Caspian space depends to a large extent.
 
 
20.10.2017
 
 

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