Five years after the Russian-Georgian war captured world attention, the South Caucasus — Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia — continues to face huge challenges. The region’s geopolitical importance is ebbing as global energy production expands and NATO winds down in Afghanistan. The three countries also face major security risks, unmet popular expectations and governance failures. For the South Caucasus, this is a time for choices.
Security issues plague the South Caucasus. Russia’s military occupies two “independent” enclaves in Georgia — Abkhazia and South Ossetia — and some contiguous land. A two-decade military standoff persists around Nagorno-Karabakh, populated by ethnic Armenians but lying within Azerbaijan.… Seguir leyendo »
Western leaders have been largely silent while President Vladimir Putin unleashes a campaign of police-state tactics against Russians who voice opposition to him. Yet by emphasizing human rights, the West can inspire those in Russia who seek more freedom, without putting at risk most other important goals with Russia.
Russia is not a totalitarian Soviet Union redux. But the measures Putin has employed since large demonstrations against his rule began appearing in late 2011 suggest a Soviet-like arrogance of power. On the defensive, Putin is shoring up his political base by mobilizing nationalists and xenophobes.
Independent groups such as Golos, which monitors elections, and Memorial, which promotes human rights and honest history, may soon close because they refuse to register as “foreign agents,” a term that in Russian connotes spies.… Seguir leyendo »
Two Russias are emerging — one seeking freedom and prosperity, the other focused on patriotism and populism. In the first, people can travel abroad, buy and sell their homes and keep money securely in banks. In the other Russia, President Vladimir Putin stifles dissent, alleges NATO missile defense threats, and seeks to ensnare former Soviet neighbors in an unequal Eurasian union. A new diplomacy that deals effectively with both Russias is essential.
The first Russia is modernizing. In 2011 it had the world’s sixth-largest economy by purchasing power parity. Gross national income per capita was approximately $20,000, akin to European Union members Poland and Hungary.… Seguir leyendo »
Weeks after Georgia’s free and fair parliamentary election and an acclaimed peaceful transfer of power to the opposition, democratic gains are being thrown into question by a spate of arrests of high-ranking officials of the previous government of Mikheil Saakashvili, despite the fact that he remains president.
Saakashvili’s former defense and interior minister, ranking officials of the Interior Ministry, the chief of the armed forces general staff and the vice mayor of Tbilisi are among those who have been arrested. Charges brought against them by the new government of Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili, a billionaire businessman, include abuse of office, illegal detention and torture.… Seguir leyendo »
The overuse of veto rights — such as blocking three United Nations Security Council resolutions on Syria — has reduced Russia’s international standing and contributed to its growing isolation. Unless the Kremlin becomes more pragmatic and softens its dealings with other nations and institutions, the country will see its influence further erode.
Last month, Russia and China angered Western and Arab countries by vetoing a Security Council move to impose economic sanctions on Syria if Bashar al-Assad’s regime failed to implement an international peace plan. In February, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton characterized an earlier veto by Russia and China of a resolution condemning the Assad regime’s crackdown on its own people as a “travesty,” and said that “friends of a democratic Syria” would take action.… Seguir leyendo »
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s visit to Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia this week is timely. The Caucasus holds risks of confrontation that could affect American and European interests, and it requires regular and high-level attention.
Terrorism and insurgency are spreading in Russia’s North Caucasus region. Russian military occupation of Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and adjacent areas in Georgia heightens strains. Renewed hostilities are increasingly possible between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the ethnic Armenian enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh in Azerbaijan.
Vladimir Putin’s return to Russia’s presidency adds complexity. He seeks to increase Russia’s influence over former Soviet neighbors, counterbalancing the appeal of the NATO and the European Union.… Seguir leyendo »
The end of Soviet rule two decades ago unleashed new freedoms in Russia, but also roller coaster political and economic life. Arab countries should learn from Russia’s transition. The West should be realistic about Arab prospects, while encouraging reform even as it is resisted in Syria and elsewhere.
The Soviet Union collapsed under the weight of a stagnating state-run economy, cynical ideology and popular disillusionment. Modest reforms by the last Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, raised hopes but failed to remake a rigid and grossly inefficient system.
Catapulted into independence, Russia had no blueprint or consensus for reform but did have a freely elected president, Boris Yeltsin.… Seguir leyendo »
The Black Sea is a cradle of civilization, trade and cultures, but today it is also a region of unresolved conflicts, porous borders and rivalries.
Terrorism and insurgency are spreading across the North Caucasus, abetted by fighters from the Middle East and South Asia. Everything from narcotics from Afghanistan to supplies for Iran’s nuclear program are smuggled through the region. Georgia remains tense since the 2008 war with Russia; separatists threaten hostilities in the regions of Nagorno-Karabakh and Trans-Dniestr.
Contributing to the insecurity is an absence of effective institutions for Black Sea regional cooperation.
The European Union’s Black Sea Synergy Initiative, the Organization of Black Sea Economic Cooperation and Operation Black Sea Harmony, a Turkish-led naval coalition, limp along.… Seguir leyendo »