Harry Sarles | Army University Public Affairs
The Command and General Staff College’s Cultural and Area Studies Office hosted a panel discussion on “Geopolitics and Great Power Competition in the South Caucasus” Feb. 2 in the Lewis and Clark Center’s Arnold Conference Room. The panel linked former ambassadors, high-ranking government officials and regional experts with students, faculty and staff.
Following COVID protection protocols, the event had limited in-person attendees and streamed the event live on the CGSC Facebook page. Presenters from outside the area also connected remotely. Only the moderator, one panel member and a limited live audience were allowed in the conference room. More than 3,500 viewers were reached on Facebook.
Dr. Jack Kem, CGSC associate dean of academics, opened the program. He said CASO and its many partners continue to present panel discussions on important topics in support of U.S. national security and national defense strategy. The discussions, he said, go across the spectrum of conflict including large scale combat operations.
Kem introduced the panelists: Ambassador Richard Kauzlarich, former deputy assistant secretary of State for European affairs; Ambassador Carey Cavanaugh, former U.S. special negotiator for Eurasian conflicts; Paul Goble, former special advisor to the secretary of State and Central Intelligence Agency, and Matthew Stein, Eurasian security analyst at the Foreign Military Studies Office.
Dr. Mahir Ibrahimov, CASO director, moderated the event. Each panelist made a short presentation.
Kauzlarich drew from his experiences as U.S. ambassador to Azerbaijan and U.S. ambassador to Bosnia-Herzegovina. He said both the Dayton Agreement that ended the conflict in Bosnia-Herzegovina and the recent peace deal between Armenia and Azerbaijan ended ethnic conflicts in which hundreds of lives were lost. He said he believes Armenia and Azerbaijan are again preparing for war and the international community needs to act quickly to develop the negotiating framework leading to a more permanent peace.
An agreement like Dayton could help Armenia and Azerbaijan to address war crimes and reconciliation, rights of refugees and displaced persons, international monitoring, and interethnic boundaries, Kauzlarich said. The international community must be involved, he said.
Cavanaugh followed with more information on the international effort to deal with the South Caucasus. He explained that war broke out in the region before the fall of the Soviet Union. The USSR and then Russia failed to resolve the conflict. When the United Nations was unable to resolve the conflict as well, the Organization for Security and Cooperation Europe began working for peace there, Cavanaugh said. OSCE created the Minsk Group to provide and observe peace and stability in the region. Russia, the United States and France co-chair the group, lending major international support to the peace effort.
Goble described how he sees the five countries in the region — Azerbaijan, Armenia, Russia, Turkey and Iran. Azerbaijan is seen as the overall winner in the conflict that ended with the peace deal in November. However, it took Russian military power to secure the cease-fire.
“Iran matters a lot more than people think,” Goble said.
Iran has a political border that divides the Azerbaijani people. But, with Azerbaijan’s success in the fighting, ethnic Azerbaijanis in Iran began to think of themselves as Azerbaijanis first.
Going forward, Goble said, Moscow is going to keep the Minsk Group that it finds useful in a number of ways. He also expects Moscow and the other capitals involved will pursue bi-lateral and multi-lateral agreements to prevent this war from starting again. Finally, Goble said, the expectations of the people of the countries themselves have been changed by the war and resulting peace.
Stein completed the group’s opening comments. He described the background of the conflict over the Nagorno Karabakh region. He also talked about Azerbaijan’s recent increase in military capability that led to its success in the fighting.
Following the opening comments, the panel members took questions from the live and remote audience. The full panel discussion is available on the CGSC Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/92324474457/videos/679976476030510.