The Role of International Organizations in Strengthening of Stability in the South Caucuses

Your Excellences,
Ladies and Gentlemen

First of all I want to thank all organizers of this conference: the Bulgarian Atlantic Club and Institute for Regional and International Studies for the invitation to speak here today. Your experience of Balkan Countries and particularly Bulgaria's experience can serve for the Caucasus countries as an important guidance for promotion of regional integration and moving to better future to fulfill our nations' desire for European integration.

Caucasus today is crossing of interests not just of the three de jure recognized Caucasus countries: Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia, but also its neighbors: Russia, Turkey and Iran. The major global powers also have interests in this region, and although they are not, strictly speaking, a part of the Caucasus, the activities of the US, the EU and China affect the Caucasus system. Let's also not forget existence of unresolved conflicts and issue of 3 unrecognized but de facto existing Abkhaz, South Ossesian and Nagorno Karabakh Republics.

Now let me address the role of International Organizations in Strengthening of Stability in the South Caucasus. The concept of international stability today implies the involvement of different organizations such as NATO, OSCE, Council of Europe, the EU, the UN, the WB with their full scope of possible tools to monitor, advise, support, implement and cooperate towards reform development within individual countries.

I would further characterize the international community's involvement by several major directions or frameworks:

1. Democratic Reforms

Main institutions here are the Council of Europe, OSCE and the different projects supported by the various programs implemented by the USAID, DFID, etc, via their supporting organizations and international NGOs.
It is now widely believed that a new wave of democratization is taking place in the Black Sea region, particularly in Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova. With regard to the South Caucasus countries we need to make distinction between Georgia and Armenia and Azerbaijan. In Armenia and Azerbaijan still there exist features of post-Soviet autocracies more so than of emerging European democracies. And although Georgia has already passed one year of democratic reforms (including consolidation of bureaucracy and fighting corruption), there is one major problem that is similar to all three countries. It is the absence of a strong and constructive opposition that would serve as a strong domestic watchdog and help develop a system of checks and balances. Also, there is a similar situation with media and definitely we need to mention existence of unresolved conflicts.

Bruce Jackson in his March 8, 2005 testimony before the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee express the following: "The brief survey of the mature, nascent and inchoate democracies of the Black Sea region reveals a special class of democracies which are torn between the desire of their peoples for a European future (and all the economic and political freedoms these people associate with Europe) and the lingering grip of a brutal past. In short, this is a region of Europe where the future of democracy is still at risk."

Hence as future of democracy is still at risk I see the role of the International Organizations to support democratic reforms will take place and rooted into nations. This is very hard and time consuming process and requires a lot of investment. I don't mean just simple provision of funding but more investment in Education of young generation. We need a culture change to take place and this is possible through education and trainings. A simple transformation to any democratic model won't work and we need to educate new generation and good citizens for our countries. I hope that International Organizations and Governments will join their efforts in harmonizing the democracy support programs. For example European Neighborhood Policy program of the EU, the US-supported NGOs like NDI, NED and IRI, Council of Europe should someway coordinate their efforts to accelerate strengthening the capacity of democratic institutions.

2. Economic Reforms

Main institutions here are the WB, IMF and again the different projects supported by the various programs implemented by the USAID, DFID via their supporting organizations and international NGOs. I don't want to stop on this element as it is obvious that democracy can be established in society whose economy is also performing well. Also let's not forget that security system in general requires strong financial and economic system and hence the role of the International Organizations that working on promotion of Economic Reforms in the SC countries should be devoted to promotion of economic development and building strong free market economies. Each country of the SC has its specifics on which they are building their economies and unfortunately as of today we have only 3 small and weak systems. To make it stronger it is obvious that we need both on national levels develop strong and competitive economies and on regional level integrated common economic system.

3. Military Reforms

Processes of European integration and cooperation are diverse and interrelated and cannot find their solutions through cooperation implemented by one organization only. However, a fundamental role in the application of the European security architecture is given to cooperation in the NATO framework.

NATO can become the real working model of cooperative security. NATO, which initially had been created solely for defense of the Western Europe, is now modifying to become a factor for consolidation of stability throughout Europe. If we wish to make the Euro-Atlantic security architecture a reality, NATO should continue to evolve. It should expand its relations with non- NATO-members and develop its range of joint actions as a way to create a more extensive security system in Europe. To be sure that such an expansion establishes stability and security in Europe, non- NATO-members' viewpoints should be regarded and considered in a long-term perspective. In the context of collective security, a final escape from the Cold War framework and elimination of dividing lines among forces actively involved in the area take on special significance. New Europe requires new approaches to security issues. NATO acted as the only International Organization who didn't buy in into internal political manipulations but rather acted on the bases of stability and justice principles.

Today the threat of terrorism is universal and hence the fight against it also should be one for all. It requires a universal approach, which will allow to simultaneously use all political, economic and military means to prevent and manage crisis as well as defend and stimulate implementation of entrusted basic values. NATO plays its distinctive role in stimulating such an approach. There are considerable to be had both for NATO members and partner-countries.

Hence, NATO is the main institution in this framework. Also there is direct involvement by different NATO countries' governments on bilateral program but the main tool is still Partnership for Peace. Today IPAP program is designed to fulfill more deeply integration and there is a strong belief that by this tool all the South Caucasus countries will pave their way into NATO.

IPAP is truly the next bridge of deepening relations between NATO and the Caucasus. Georgia and Azerbaijan already presented their programs and NATO has endorsed Georgia program. Regarding Armenia the situation is following. The Armenian leadership has several statements that it is going to present its program last year. But it forms an opinion that making a statement on the intention to sign the IPAP early last year, the Armenian leaders either did not have the full idea of the consequences of this step or, most likely, decided to postpone the making of serious conceptual decisions. Today, to all appearances, NATO makes it clear for Yerevan that the IPAP supposes serious if not radical changes not only in the structure of the Armenian armed forces but also touches upon all the aspects of the state's activity. Is Yerevan ready for such changes today? Armenia, of course, cannot turn back now and there is high probability that in April Armenia will present its plan to NATO. But the matter is that Armenia's Individual Partnership Action Plan with NATO should not become a formal document the only aim of which is to demonstrate that Yerevan does not lag behind Georgia and Azerbaijan also involved in the IPAP process.

There is another fundamental problem too - Armenia's geographical situation makes it rather dependent on Russia from the point of view of transport and energy. We must not rule out that under certain developments Moscow can use transport and energy levers of pressure on Armenia. If NATO is really interested in involving Armenia in its orbit the West should press on Turkey to at least partly rehabilitate the railway communication with Armenia. In this case, Yerevan will have much wider possibilities for maneuver.

Ronald Asmus said recently that "Our goal is or should be to extend the zone of peace and security in the Euro-Atlantic community to the wider Black Sea region. I believe that the Alliance needs to try to pursue a dual track strategy where it expands its outreach to this region and tries to deepen its cooperation with Moscow in parallel."

Partnership and cooperation have already accomplished a great deal, bringing direct benefits to citizens of NATO Member and Partner states. In fact, from a system of security for the members of the alliance, NATO is turning into a system of protection of a zone of common values. Building on its achievements and tackling future challenges will be the key to the further success of Partnership and definitely will strongly contribute to the stability in the Caucasus.

4. Conflict Resolution Processes

Definitely OSCE is a major and leading organization here but there are lots of tools that all organizations trying to implement on the Track Two level and ease tensions between the conflicting sides.

It is not a secret that the main and major problem for stability in the South Caucasus region is unresolved conflicts. The positions of conflicting sides are diametrically so different that it has not been possible to find solutions for a decade already. And I hardly believe that positions will be changed in continuation of today situation of cultivation of animosity and hate speeches. All sides are trying to argue their positions by notions like refugees, international standards, blockades, etc. As I mentioned at the beginning there is truly a complicated system of interests in our region due to crossing of the interests of different nations. The presence of the USA, the EU countries, Russia, China, Turkey and Iran in the SC is because of their national interests and not because of their positions or simple wishes. All listed countries and groups of countries understand and realize their interests based on a simple question - Why is the SC is so important for them? Contrary to them, we are truly unable to think and ask ourselves that same simple question - WHY and find real our interests than only explore our positions. It is so easy always to find arguments for putting all blame for the conflict on the other side and never try to in a constructive way discuss issues from the point of view of our real interests and try to challenge the main cause and essence of the confrontations.

In the Caucasus, Armenia and her neighbors live with unresolved conflicts. It is obvious then that Armenia believes in and participates in efforts at regional cooperation and the utilization of confidence building measures in order to create an environment in which European solutions can be found to entrenched conflicts.

To bring solutions to this complex situation the conflicting sides also should be able to move from their positions to understanding of their interests. In this case the solutions would be not on the level how to bring closer the positions of the sides but searching for the way to satisfy and fulfill interests of the sides. Here the role of international organizations should be to help conflicting sides to realize and understand their interests and then it will be easier to move towards solutions. Today's European perspective could be one of the ways for that.

To conclude my remarks I'd like to add that the countries of the Caucasus have their own specifics, and their own dynamics. There is no a single organization like NATO or OSCE or some other one that will have the solutions to all the problems here, or elsewhere. But policy of cooperation will strengthen security and eventually stability for all of us. We have a unique chance to turn South Caucasus into a region of cooperation and stability, in which every country has its say, and none considers itself threatened. And I hope that working together with the international community our generation with full understanding of the interests of all involved sides will be part of that success too.

Thank you and I am ready to answer any questions you may have.
© Armenian Atlantic Association