Exclusive interview of the Minister of Defence of the Republic of Latvia Dr. Artis Pabriks
Held on August 13, 2013 visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin in one of the key countries of the South Caucasus - Azerbaijan and accompanied the President respectable Russian delegation, which included representatives of the first echelon of the government and big business, has once again demonstrated what a tremendous value that this the region continues to be for Moscow. And it is directly related to the extremely favorable geopolitical location of the South Caucasus, especially in periods of high volatility around its perimeter.
Kazakhstan's Defence Minister Adilbek Dzhaksybekov met with the Special Representative of the Secretary General of the NATO for the Caucasus and Central Asia James Appathurai and a new NATO officer on interaction with Central Asia Alexander Vinnikov.
In March the Head of the Foreign Affairs Ministry of Lithuania Linas Linkevičius paid a visit to the states of South Caucasus – Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia. Against the background of the development of bilateral relations of Lithuania with these states, this visit looks quite logical.
In early September, President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev accepted the credentials of the new US ambassador Richard Morningstar. Thus, the period of instability in the work of the US embassy in Baku was finished. After the mission of Ann Dercy came to an end in July 2009, the position of the American ambassador was free for more than a year. Later the president of the US Barack Obama appointed to the position an experienced diplomat, the former co-chairman of the OSCE Minsk Group Mathew Brayza by-passing the Senate. However, due to an active resistance of the Armenian lobby in the Senate Brayza’s career ended sooner than it should: he managed to work only for a year, after which his functions were not prolonged.
In recent times, the role of Turkey is growing in the Middle East due to the Syrian events increasing the general tension in the region. It is no secret that Turkey has an interest in spreading its political influence on neighboring sub-regions, for example in the South Caucasus or Central Asia. Such directions of Turkish geopolitical development are not new in the history of the country. At the same time, and it is very important, motives and reasons for them are different. In the early 20th century political development of the Ottoman Empire was defined by a difficult complex of internal contradictions and external disability; but today revival of old ideas is initiated by the economically, politically and military strong country.
A few years ago the subject of NATO’s role in regional policy in South Caucasus was one of the key within estimations and declarations of many politician, experts and reporters involved into the region. The August Russian-Georgian war of 2008, world financial-economic crisis, “Arab spring” and return of “classic” geopolitics into the region have changed the priority of perception of the North Atlantic Alliance in South Caucasus. NATO is already perceived by South Caucasian countries not the way as it was in the first part of 2000. In its turn Brussels also already not that ambitiously targets at South Caucasus.
Azerbaijan differs from its neighbors in the South Caucasus very much. Despite Mikhail Saakashvili's statement about Sakartvelo's amazing development, Baku is the leader for economic growth among the former Soviet republics. While the financial crisis has walked throughout the planet, the share of the Azerbaijani economy in the region exceeded 80 percent. Its GDP became higher than in Georgia and Armenia together. Will the oil sector help to strengthen the political position of Mr. Aliyev on the international stage?
I am in Tbilisi to talk about what is (or at least should be) of deep concern to Georgians: the country’s long-term domestic evolution, economic problems and political transition. But a lot of Georgians, especially in the government, want the conversation to get back to the enemy just outside—Russia. Is this because the Georgians are paranoid and want to use the Russian bear to distract attention from their own problems? Or because the Russians are actually out to get them? Or perhaps a bit of both?