Mr. Secretary of the National Security Council,
Dear Colleagues and Friends,
In my capacity as President of the Marshall Center Armenian Alumni Association and the Director of the Center for Strategic Analysis Spectrum, I have the honor and pleasure to welcome you to our fifth seminar. In accordance with tradition, this seminar has been organized through the common efforts of our Association, the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies and Center for Strategic Analysis. It has received generous support from the US Embassy in Armenia.
The history of the Armenian Alumni Association is relatively short – our organization is only seven years old. However, it unites the people, who work for the different ministries and other governmental bodies, for several universities and analytical centers. All share a common goal – to create a stable and secure Armenia, and stability and security throughout the South Caucasus region. This is a difficult task, one that demands our combined intellectual strength and our efforts. It requires also mutual understanding and broad-based cooperation. In regard to these efforts, the contribution rendered by the Armenian Alumni Association is to a degree unique, for it counts among its members politicians and the military, decision-makers, professors, and other highly-skilled analysts—in other words, it brings together a great team of practitioners and thinkers able to contribute to the achievement of a stable and secure region.
I view our four previous seminars as open and constructive dialogues between the parties concerned. To continue this tradition and to present our vision to the broader international community, we decided to alter our seminar to include those officials from embassies in Armenia from nations that participate in the Marshall Center programs.
Today’s seminar is the logical continuation of earlier discussions on critical developments in the South Caucasus and beyond. We are planning to offer descriptions and analysis covering a certain time period, the period after the August war of 2008.
I would like to mention that the existed frameworks of the Marshall Center Armenian Alumni seminars introduce several important aspects:
– First, we discuss the most urgent problems that influence Armenia and the South Caucasus region.
Let me remind you that our first seminar in 2005 was dedicated to an examination of Armenia’s contribution to the struggle against terrorism; we then discussed, in the following year, the participation of our servicemen in the peace-keeping operations in Kosovo and Iraq. Our third seminar was dedicated to the role of Armenia in the European security system.
However, the developments in the region were characterized by growing tension on the bilateral and multilateral levels. Thus, our fourth seminar, which was held in October 2008, was dedicated to a discussion of the aftermath of the August war in Georgia and to an analysis of its impact upon the entire region.
– The second important aspect of our seminars is that our lively and open discussions allow us directly to present the Armenian official and un-official vision of regional problems not only to the faculty of one of the leading European centers, but also through them indirectly (or maybe directly), to deliver our message to the broad international community of professionals dealing with the security issues.
– Third, our seminars offer a great opportunity for the Marshall Center Alumni to meet in an open and friendly atmosphere, to remember the days spent in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, and to confirm our commitment to the ideals of the Marshall Center.
It is quite difficult for me as a researcher and analyst to limit myself only to the introduction of the activity of our Association. Thus, before giving the floor over to our distinguished speakers, I would like to take the advantage of my privileged position to outline some parameters for our discussions.
The developments and trends in South Caucasus and beyond challenge the security of all of the states and state entities. These developments and trends continue significantly – I would say, strategically – to influence and change the security environment in our region. However, these changes can be mainly identified by, and are dependent upon the developments not only in the South Caucasus itself, but in the adjacent regions as well.
Today there is even more complicated situation in the region than before the Russian-Georgian war. It develops against the background of the world economic crisis, the parliamentary elections in Armenia and Georgia, and presidential elections in Russia, Turkey, and in the United States. Both factors – the crisis and the elections – influence internal developments in each state entity in the South Caucasus. However, I am sure that the presidential elections in the three key non-regional actor states will shape the contours of their foreign policy, or at least, cause a shifting of accents. This, in turn, will have an impact upon developments in our region.
I would like to distinguish some major indicators of the security environment as they relate to the broader Caspian-Caucasian region, beginning with a consideration of contextual factors relevant to the Nagorno Karabakh conflict.
For roughly twenty years it has been considered as a permanent “hot spot” balancing on the verge of overt conflict. Its resolution is complex as a consequence of
– The complicated bilateral relations of the parties involved, and their mutually exclusive interests,
– The intraregional relations, that is, the relationship between the regional states and the regional powers. Furthermore, this conflict is a very precise example of the way in which relationships between the external actors influence both directly and indirectly the process of conflict resolution.
However, there are the parity of military might between the parties to the conflict and the balance of forces in the region that preserve the current status quo in the area of the conflict.
At present, the Nagorno Karabakh conflict is the only ethno-political conflict in the post-Soviet area where energy sources play a significant role. On the one side, they stimulate the growth of the Azerbaijani economy and therefore stimulate also an increase of the Azerbaijani military expenditures and provoke the growth of militaristic moods. On the other side, the pipelines constitute a restraining factor that decreases the possibility that Azerbaijan will unleash a war.
The second indicator is the following. The recognition of the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia by Russia does not mean the final resolution of the Abkhazian and the South Ossetian conflicts. Besides the tensions along the “Georgia-Abkhazia” and “Georgia-South Ossetia” axes, there is further growing tension in these semi-recognized state entities. The elections in South Ossetia and the internal processes in Abkhazia clearly indicate the complexity and fragility of the present situation there.
Third. The outcome of the August war of 2008 clearly indicated that Russia is ready to defend its strategic interests also by the utilization of hard security measures. Both Georgia and Russia continue to play in their bilateral relationship the so-called “Abkhazian” and “South Ossetian” cards, which is in light of their strategic viewpoints, understandable and logical.
However, Russian-Georgian bilateral relations affect less and less their relationships with the non-regional actors, mainly the U.S. and the European Union. The Russian-Georgian relationship is not a priority in Russia-U.S. and Russia-EU relationships.
Fourth. There is a growing involvement of Turkey in the South Caucasus through its relationship with Azerbaijan and Georgia. This engagement must be seen against the background of the increasing competition between Turkey and Russia. Any analysis of the trends and directions of Turkish foreign policy requires consideration of at least three factors. First, Turkey increasingly perceives itself as the second actor after Russia in terms of its role, involvement, and significance in Eurasia. Second, domestic political circumstances frequently shape and define the directions of Turkey’s foreign policy – or at least introduce serious corrections at the point of its implementation. Third, we are witnessing a move away, in Turkey’s foreign policy from the idea of “zero problems” with its neighbors.
As the fifth indicator I would mention the discussions and developments around Iran, which could affect – in the worst case scenario, the region and each of its state entities negatively.
I am sure that our distinguished speakers will concentrate upon some of these complex issues, and they will provide their valuable analysis and will provoke interesting and fruitful discussions among us.
I would like to thank Ambassador Hans-Johen Schmidt, the Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany to Republic of Armenia, and Ambassador John Heffern, the Ambassador of the United States of America to Republic of Armenia for their kind agreement to address the audience.
I would like to express my gratitude to Mr. Arthur Bagdasaryan, the Secretary of the National Security Council of Armenia. Let me remind that our second seminar was hosted by the National Assembly, and Mr. Bagdasaryan addressed the participants in his capacity of President of the Parliament.
I am sure that our keynote speaker, Major General Dr. Hayk Kotanjian, the Director of the Institute for National Strategic Studies under the Ministry of Defense, will provide a multilevel and complex analysis of the current developments in the region in his presentation titled “Some asymmetric features of the security dynamics in the South Caucasus and the surrounding region.”
The theme of the security environment of Armenia and the role of international structures will be analyzed in the presentation of Mr. Samvel Mkrtchian, the Head of the Arms Control and International Security Department, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Armenia.
The developments in the region are occurring against the background of the world economic crisis. Dr. Sabine Collmer will share with us her vision of the impact of the Euro-zone crisis upon European Union external relations. The EU is becoming a significant actor in the South Caucasus area, and of course each trend and shift in it economy affects the situation in our region.
The other representative of the Marshall Center, Dr. Gregory Gleason will discuss an important issue in his presentation, namely the role of energy resources. The issue is critical to all of our immediate neighbors, whose economy is based upon either the importation of energy resources or its distribution.
Let me once again welcome all the participants and wish interesting and provocative discussions. Thank you.