Energy and Security in Transcaucasia

  • September 01, 1994
  • Dr Stephen J Blank

One of the world's enduring regional conflicts is in Nagorno-Karabakh. This war pits local Armenians and their cousins from Armenia against Azerbaidzhan and has enmeshed Russia, Turkey and the Western allies (France, Great Britain, and the United States) in a complex series of regional relationships. The international stakes of this war involve the control over exploration for natural gas and oil and the transhipment of these commodities from Azerbaidzhan to the West. Energy resources represent Azerbaidzhan's primary means of economic modernization and are therefore vital to its economic and political freedom. For Russia and Turkey the question is one of access to enormous amounts of desperately needed hard currency and control over a long-standing area of contention between them. More broadly, Russia's tactics in attempting to impose a peace settlement in the war and to establish control of a large share of the local energy economy represent a recrudescence of the imperial tendencies in Russian policy that are incompatible with democratic reform. Accordingly, this war is overlaid with international rivalries of great scope and of more than regional significance. Western policy here is a sign of U.S. and European intentions to preserve the post-Soviet status quo while Russian policy is no less illustrative of the direction of its political evolution. The Strategic Studies Institute hopes that this study will clarify the links between energy and regional security and that it will enable our readers to assess regional trends and their importance for the United States, its allies, and the Commonwealth of Independent States.