By Stephen Blank
July 10, 2023
On May 4 Secretary of State Blinken announced that the negotiations between Armenia and Azerbaijan had made progress and that an agreement that would terminate the thirty-year war over Nagorno-Karabakh was “within reach.” While much more negotiation is obviously necessary and will be difficult, this announcement, if true, is an epochal one whose ramifications spread from Europe to the Middle East and Central Asia. It also reflects the fact that security in the Caucasus cannot be considered separately from a discussion of international order in those three regions. If Washington can broker or mediate an end to this war it, with the support of the EU whose prior initiative has been the basis for its approach, will become the primary foreign power and even possibly security manager in the Caucasus.
By Alexander Yeo and Emil Souleimanov
Russia has long been a regional hegemon, able to actively exert hard and soft power over many of its neighbors, the Central Asian and South Caucasian states among them. However, since the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, this influence has weakened, with military and economic resources being diverted to an increasingly protracted and unpredictable war effort. This has led to a shift in regional power balances, as showcased by Azerbaijan’s ascendancy in the South Caucasus, as well as economic challenges including the difficult choices faced by the allies of an increasingly isolated Russia.
By Sudha Ramachandran
July 5, 2023
Recent violent clashes between Iranian and Taliban border guards brought to the fore the festering dispute over the sharing of the waters of the transboundary Helmand River. The clashes occurred amid an escalation of tensions and led to a heated exchange of threatening rhetoric between the two sides. The Helmand’s water is vital to both Iran and Afghanistan and the sharing of this resource evokes strong emotions on both sides of the border. The regimes in both countries regularly engage in muscle flexing on this issue in order to rally the masses behind them. Under the current circumstances, there is little likelihood of a resolution of the dispute.
By Robert M. Cutler
June 26, 2023
Intensive rounds of negotiations between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the past few months seem to be hitting a pause. Some progress has been made via each of the now-existing three tracks sponsored respectively by Russia, by the EU, and by the U.S. These have shown a certain limited mutual complementarity, yet crucial issues still await authoritative resolution. At present, only the U.S. would appear to have the goal of a final peace treaty firmly in sight. The process presided by Council of the EU President Charles Michel in Brussels may potentially still be helpful, but the activity of other EU institutions has become obstructive. U.S. diplomacy should not allow the current momentum to dissipate.
The Central Asia-Caucasus Analyst is a biweekly publication of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute & Silk Road Studies Program, a Joint Transatlantic Research and Policy Center affiliated with the American Foreign Policy Council, Washington DC., and the Institute for Security and Development Policy, Stockholm. For 15 years, the Analyst has brought cutting edge analysis of the region geared toward a practitioner audience.