Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Research Report

Central Asia and the Caucasus:: A Vulnerable Crescent

Thomas de Waal
Anna Matveeva
Copyright Date: Feb. 1, 2007
Pages: 25

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. (pp. None)
  2. (pp. None)
  3. (pp. i-ii)
    Terje Rød-Larsen

    The International Peace Academy (IPA) is pleased to introduce a new series of Working Papers within the program Coping with Crisis, Conflict, and Change:The United Nations and Evolving Capacities for Managing Global Crises, a four-year research and policy-facilitation program designed to generate fresh thinking about global crises and capacities for effective prevention and response.

    In this series ofWorking Papers, IPA has asked leading experts to undertake a mapping exercise, presenting an assessment of critical challenges to human and international security. A first group of papers provides a horizontal perspective, examining the intersection of multiple challenges in specific regions of the...

  4. (pp. 1-1)

    The Caucasus and Central Asia – eight countries of the former Soviet Union stretching to the south of Russia and to the west of China – form a chain of weak states, vulnerable to conflict, extremism, and spillover from potential instability in the Middle East, Iran and Afghanistan. Once on the path of the Silk Road, these countries are still transit routes in the world economy rather than major economic players. The overarching problem for the Caucasus countries situated on the eastern fringe of Europe – Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia, as well as the Russian North Caucasus – is unresolved...

  5. (pp. 1-5)

    Fifteen years after Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia achieved independence, power is still concentrated in the hands of a few. There are strong regional disparities within all three countries, with the capitals having the lion’s share of population, power, and resources. Minorities – such as Armenians and Azerbaijanis in Georgia or Lezgins, Kurds, and Talysh in Azerbaijan – are poorly represented in public life and suffer from lack of educational opportunities and infrastructure. They therefore remain a malleable and discontented force within society.

    Power-sharing and succession issues are the main faultlines which threaten political stability. Georgia remains heavily decentralized and some...

  6. (pp. 5-5)

    The Russian North Caucasus provides additional reason for alarm, being the region of Russia with the fastest growing population and likely the greatest political instability over the next two decades.

    Krasnodar region (Krasnodarsky Krai) along the western coast of the Black Sea is a distinct area, with a predominantly Russian population and a growing economy. It already has a large Armenian migrant population and is likely to be a continuing magnet for economic migrants from the South Caucasus. The seven North Caucasian autonomous republics (from west to east Adygeia, Karachai-Cherkessia, Kabardino-Balkaria, North Ossetia, Ingushetia, Chechnya, and Dagestan) pose a different...

  7. (pp. 5-7)

    The South Caucasus is not a coherent region in the way that the Baltic States or even the Balkans are, and it has no cross-regional institutions. The fragility of state institutions and the divisions resulting from conflict magnify the role of informal actors, powerful neighbors and international institutions in the region. A host of international organizations are active in the region, but Moscow and Washington are the two poles between which security interests fluctuate – an unstable situation that is set to continue.

    Russia remains the most powerful player in the region, a far more vigorous day-to-day actor than either...

  8. (pp. 7-8)

    There are many dangers. Increased oil wealth in Azerbaijan could lead a “party of war” to renewed military action over Nagorny Karabakh, triggering a response from Armenian forces, armed by Russia, and a disastrous war. A further deterioration in Georgian-Russian relations could cause war in Abkhazia or South Ossetia (or civil strife could break out in South Ossetia), with open Russian intervention in those territories. It is virtually impossible to see how renewed conflict would result in a clear victory “solving” any of the problems of the region instead of exacerbating them.

    Azerbaijan is most vulnerable to political instability. A...

  9. (pp. 8-8)

    Taking into account the changed realities on the ground, it is necessary to rethink the approach of the international community and multilateral agencies to the unresolved conflicts in the region.

    The need for a resolution to the Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorny Karabakh dispute needs to be put at the center of international policy in the Caucasus. The local elites and too many international players have become more or less comfortable with the status quo, failing to recognize that if the conflict reignites it will cause devastation and set back the region for a generation. There is a worrying assumption that conflict resolution...

  10. (pp. 8-12)

    Central Asia has been neglected by the international community. Its significance largely derives from proximity to other areas relevant to the international community, such as Afghanistan, Iran, and China. Yet how ‘Central Asia’ is defined is not straightforward. The Soviet designation did not include Kazakhstan, which is eager to stress its dual Eurasian character as belonging to both worlds due to its ethnic make-up and status as a middle income country rather than one that requires developmental assistance. Some argue that Afghanistan should be regarded as ‘Central Asia’, being linked ethnically and geographically.18 In terms of international policy implications, this...

  11. (pp. 12-16)

    International thinking about the region has been often marred by misguided preconceptions about the dangers it contains. Central Asia has fallen victim to many ‘danger discourses’: that it is subject to an AIDS epidemic, is awash with small arms, is a critical environmental hazard, and that remnants of the Soviet defense industry present a risk of nuclear weapons falling into hands of terrorists. Undeniably, there are grounds to pay attention to these issues, but their significance should not be exaggerated, as to date there is scarce hard evidence. Equally significant– but not so ‘sexy’ – problems of health, education, and...

  12. (pp. 16-16)

    There is a significant risk that continuous instability in Afghanistan may take its toll on Central Asia. In the worst case scenario a proliferation of security threats, including terrorist networks, gun-running, and drug trafficking affects the region as a whole; social and economic standards decline, following a demise in inherited infrastructure which has become irreversible; states are unable to provide basic public goods and ensure order, which in its turn leads to sporadic violence. Out of such turmoil, or a prolonged succession crisis degenerating into public disorder, an Islamist group could come to power out of the ruins of a...

  13. (pp. 16-17)

    Social infrastructure requires much more investment. Priority areas should be education and youth problems, such as meaningful employment, social activities, underage marriages and problems of young families separated by labor migration. Related issues of public health and sanitation need to move higher up in the list of priorities. Support in the field of economic/social development is the best form of engagement for the time being, as Central Asian countries would not be amenable to any external suggestion for political reform, but only gradual transformation after the new generation of Central Asian leaders comes to power. The absorption capacities of these...

  14. (pp. 18-19)
  15. (pp. 20-20)