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ARMENIA AND THE WAR ON TERRORISM: DELICATE TIMES AHEAD

Armenian News Network / Groong
January 16, 2002

By Richard Giragosian and Khatchik Derghoukassian


It is now clear that the "War On Terrorism" (WOT), declared after the
September 11 terrorist attacks against the United States, will not end
with the final defeat of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan nor with
the dismantling of the Bin Laden-led "Al-Qaida" terrorist network, but
will carry on to a next stage, still to be determined.  For much of
the developing world, the priority is to stake out a secure place
within this new geopolitical matrix, a priority necessitated by the
U.S. recasting of the world along a new "with us or against us" axis.
Among the smaller, weaker states, this need to demonstrate allegiance
to the U.S. WOT has resulted in a near comical collective expression
of support ranging from such improbable states as Sudan, Libya, and
even Somalia.

For the Caucasus in particular, the WOT has already demonstrated the
extent of the scale and scope of the changes in the geopolitical
landscape.  Although no stranger to the threatening and destabilizing
influences of terrorism, the Caucasus is now experiencing the
repercussions from the WOT with new challenges and imperatives for
each of the region's countries in transition.  In the Transcaucasus,
the larger global shift has raised expectations and fears equally,
although it can be argued that each of these three states, Armenia,
Azerbaijan and Georgia will tend to lose, with the only variance being
in the degree of the losses. It seems obvious that the outlook
promises further uncertainty and poses real tests for these states in
a profound period of delicate times.

It is this dynamic geopolitical shift that has left many of the
smaller weak states precariously caught in the shadows of new regional
and global power alliances.  The influence of the WOT has spread far
afield from the Afghani theater of operations, involving a number of
marginal and peripheral states anxious to exploit the opportunity to
garner geopolitical worth and strategic value.  Such an anxious effort
to hurriedly climb on board the WOT locomotive was seen in the almost
ridiculous claims of support so profusely offered by some questionable
regimes, most notably with Azerbaijan's allegations charging the
democratically elected Nagorno Karabagh government with ties to
international terrorism.


The Twin Towers of the WOT

Although still somewhat abstract and inherently controversial, the
concepts defining the (WOT) have undoubtedly redefined U.S. foreign
policy for the remainder of the Bush Administration.  The WOT
comprises two competing pillars: the search for American primacy
through unilateral behavior, advocated by the "hawks" of the
Administration, against a realist balance of power strategy, aptly
termed as "offshore balancing" following the concept of "Grand
Strategy" elaborated by Christopher Layne in a widely quoted 1997
essay. Led by U.S. Secretary of State, Collin Powell, the realist
balance of power strategy is marked by a strong reliance on
coalition-building and multilateral initiatives, even though the
Republican "multilateralism" would be defined "` la carte" according
to State Department planning chief Richard Haas, or as a "Sinatra
Doctrine" according to noted analyst Juan Gabriel Tokatlian.

The inherent tension between these two competing pillars, or "twin
towers" of foreign policy, is setting the course for the future
direction of the now fully-engaged United States.  This WOT has
effectively ended all talk of the allegedly "isolationist" Bush
Administration, moving the focus sharply to global security.  The real
tests for the U.S. are still to come, however, with the challenges of
seeking security amid the deepening global economic recession combined
with the "world wariness" of the next stages of the WOT.  Such world
wariness stems from the possible escalation of the WOT and its
expansion to other target areas such as Iraq, Somalia, or elsewhere,
and threatening to divide the global coalition so carefully
constructed by Secretary Powell.

The WOT holds domestic implications as well, as a series of new laws
and powers have been ushered in that could very well assure an
unprecedented executive branch domination in domestic politics. Such a
legislative strengthening of the executive also contains an
ideological shift that could damage the strong American tradition of
civil liberties, as many alarmed legal observers have already remarked.
Yet the ongoing debate about security versus civil liberties is just
one aspect of the WOT's impact on domestic politics.  Another aspect
lies in the even closer internal/external linkage and interaction with
new rules of the game for Capitol Hill's public policy formulation.
Advocacy groups of international or global projections (such as the
leading human rights groups) have also taken notice of the changing
rules and their inherent emphasis on the extra-territorialization of
U.S. law.

The legislative enhancements to U.S. security are a natural extension
of the profound effects of September 11th on the U.S. body politic.
Seemingly contrary to the goals of the attackers, September 11th has
in fact unified a previously fragmented American identity, reawakening
the slumbering patriotism of most Americans. Ironically, this national
reawakening follows the country's most divisive presidential elections
in recent history and has bolstered the Bush Administration
tremendously.  Similar to the effects of Pearl Harbor, the attacks on
American soil have accomplished a nationalistic unity not seen since
World War II.  And perhaps most significant for the world, the
aftermath of September 11th has demonstrated the potency and power of
an awakened United States.


A Realist New World Order: A "Duo Concert"?

It is not just the changes in U.S. foreign policy, however, that is
marking the WOT's new international context of a restructured
international political and economic order.  There is significant
potential to utilize the new environment to modernize the global
security and economic architecture and to stabilize a number of
conflict zones.  The overall goal should be to address the world's
traditionally ignored regions and regimes by performing an "exorcism
of terror" by preventing the causes of conflict.  The WOT has led
President Bush Junior to validate President Bush Senior's heralding of
a "new world order," a once premature announcement that now seems
quite apparent.  The hallmark of this new world order can be seen in
Washington's new global relationships, and with Russia most
dramatically.

The last U.S.-Russian summit between presidents George W. Bush and
Vladimir Putin took place in a strange coincidence on the very day the
Northern Alliance forces, with U.S. support, entered and secured Kabul
on November 13th.  Although resulting in very little with respect to
the standard agenda of the abolition of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic
Missile (ABM) treaty and the Bush Administration main defense project,
the National Missile Defense (NMD), the Texas summit did, however,
articulate an important mutual understanding and support of the WOT.
Despite the still ongoing evolution of this new bilateral strategic
relationship, it seems evident that a new "burden sharing" arrangement
between Russia and the West is underway, demarcating stable areas of
influence and zones of cooperation.  This is also seen in the current
negotiations between Russia and the North Atlantic Treaty organization
(NATO).

This new U.S.-Russian strategic relationship could well define a 19th
century Concert of Europe-style new "Duo Concert" based on mutual
interest through a partnership in the WOT. This new great power
concert, with all of its internal, regional and global implications,
is the context in which the three Transcaucasus states, Armenia,
Azerbaijan and Georgia, find themselves.  Since 1991, the fall of the
former Soviet Union and the emergence of the Commonwealth of
Independent States (CIS), the nature of the U.S.-Russian relationship
has formed the subtext of the foreign policy agendas of these three
states.  Such a decade-long subtext has been strongest in the region's
security and energy issues, with each country balancing its own
foreign policy against the limits of being hostage to the broader
implications of U.S.-Russian relations.


Implications for the Caucasus

In the immediate aftermath of September 11th, all three countries
responded by attempting to redefine their regional policies according
to the new shifting international conditions.  The most pressing
challenge for the Transcaucasus is to accommodate the now converging
interests of Moscow and Washington.  Despite the discontents in both
camps, the American hegemony advocates in Washington and the eternally
NATO-suspicious in Moscow, true U.S.-Russian security cooperation
could lessen influence-expansion competition and offer new ways to
overcome regional obstacles, especially in terms of energy
development.  Such a situation, once concrete, holds substantial
promise, although possible only within the parameters of the
U.S.-Russian cooperation process.

Such a promise of a new "great power framework" in the Caucasus would
redefine mutually accepted "zones of influence," based not on strict
geography but according to specific issues.  Such promise for
bilateral cooperation, however, is limited by the influence of
external third parties, most clearly by regional powers Turkey and
Iran, and depends on the abilities of the U.S. and Russian governments
to prioritize their bilateral agenda for the Caucasus and to contain
the destabilizing roles of such external actors.

This regional aftermath of the WOT's new global context will
undoubtedly impose an imperative for a foreign policy of delicate
balance on each of the three states of the Transcaucasus.  It is no
longer the zero-sum game of a bilateral competition but a period of
newly defined multiple alliances, each based on the various agenda
issues of the U.S.-Russian partnership.  Although the conflict-prone
nature of the region is far from over and each state will still pursue
its own national and security interests, the new regional environment
is now endowed with a substantially less competitive context.  But it
is still a war of jockeying and repositioning among and between the
three states as each state seeks to strengthen its geopolitical
position.

In this context, Armenia, a country that has suffered international
setbacks in its diplomatic position regarding its hostile neighbors
and adversaries, must look beyond its traditional reliance on the
strategic alliance with Russia as its sole pillar of national
security.  While that alliance is still obviously crucial, it should
not disregard an opportunity for a special role within the evolving
Russian partnerships with the United States and the North Atlantic
Treaty Organization (NATO).  Such an opportunity would maximize the
unique Armenian position of bridging both camps, an asset not held by
its two neighbors and a move truly validating the course of
"complementarity" as the defining concept of Armenia's foreign policy.


Section 907: Rewarding the Aggressor

It is disturbing that the first concrete expression of the new
security environment of the Caucasus came at the expense of Armenia.
This setback to Armenia came in the form of the suspension of
U.S. sanctions imposed on Azerbaijan for its long-standing blockade of
Armenia and Nagorno Karabagh.  With a vote in the U.S. Congress in
late October, the sanctions manifested through Section 907 of the
Freedom Support Act were effectively suspended, providing the
president with broad powers to waive the sanctions annually with
minimal requirements to certify his decision.

By removing the Section 907 sanctions, the U.S. has effectively
stripped itself of an important lever designed to hold the
authoritarian Azerbaijani government accountable for actively
preventing the restoration of regional trade and transport links.
Azerbaijan's policy of blockade, compounded by Turkey's support in
upholding the blockade, represents one of the most serious obstacles
toward regional security and continues to impede the mediation effort
seeking a negotiated settlement of the Nagorno Karabagh conflict.
With the removal of Section 907 as an incentive to restore normal
trade and end all hostile blockades, the outlook for regional economic
development is also greatly diminished.  As a move justified by its
supporters as necessary to reward Azerbaijan for assisting in the
campaign against global terrorism, it is sadly ironic that the first
policy shift in the region has rewarded the aggressor at the expense
of the victim.


Overcoming the Weak State Syndrome

Looking back over the last decade, one can see a spotted record of
reform and development in Armenia.  Despite a notable attempt at
forging strategic relations with its neighbors and the regional
powers, Armenia still remains beset by the fundamental challenges of
corruption and stunted reform.  Much of this corruption and clan-based
economy are legacies of the Ter Petrosian administration, a disturbing
period of modern Armenian history marked by autocratic rule, rampant
governmental corruption and misdirected reforms aimed at securing
power and wealth for a small ruling elite.  These internal challenges
compound the fragility of Armenian democracy and pose sizable
obstacles to overcoming the twin isolation of geography and blockade.
On balance, Armenia can be appropriately characterized as a "weak
state," a seemingly fitting category given its neighbors - a Georgian
"failed state" and an Azerbaijani "war state."

The concept of "weak state" is yet to be theoretically refined to fit
the structural context of the global political economy and the
aftermath of the post-Cold War characterized as the Age of
Globalization.  As scholar Bruce Bagley, among others, first conceived
the concept, the "weakness" of a state is referred to in its
institutional inability to extract resources from a society and
resolve the conflicts within it.  Though primarily seen in a domestic
context, Armenia's case, however, shows the need for projecting the
conceptualization effort to the foreign policy realm, incorporating
the importance of a national Diaspora affected directly or indirectly
by state policies and with certain leverage to influence decisions in
Yerevan.

The excesses of the Ter Petrosian regime blurred the contrast between
Armenia and its neighbors.  Armenia was once the "island of democracy"
of the region, initially demonstrating an impressive record of
privatization, democratic reform and internal stability.  This
contrast was rapidly eroded in the early 1990s, however, amid a
domestic "reign of authoritarianism" directed against real and
perceived opponents of Ter Petrosian regime.  This contrast has been
steadily restored under the Kocharian government and Armenia holds
renewed opportunities for establishing itself as the only stable
democratic state in the region.  Such a contrast is affirmed
externally by the Azerbaijani regime's blatant disregard of democracy
and its trend toward dynastic rule, and by the tragic nature of the
failing Georgian state.  The contrast needs to be bolstered
internally, however, as the need to consolidate democratic
institutions and the rule of law needs to be matched by a formidable
campaign against corruption.  Such an internal effort is vital to
overcome the "weak state syndrome" afflicting Armenia.


Armenia as Pivotal Player in Regional Security

In accordance with this contrast between Armenia and its neighbors,
Armenia holds new potential in this post-September 11th reality to
utilize a unique geopolitical position.  Specifically, the convergence
of interests between Russian and the United States, no matter how
short-lived, empowers Armenia as a pivotal player in regional
security.  Virtually validating the concept of "complementarity" by
bridging U.S. and Russian interests in the Caucasus, Armenia can now
forge an enhanced role in the new dynamic of NATO-Russian cooperation.
With security and stability as the new hallmarks of Russian and
U.S. policies in the region, Armenia can exploit its "bridging"
position between Moscow and Washington, a position even more appealing
given the marked contrast with the failed Georgian state and the
dynastic, war state of Azerbaijan.

Such potential may also be extended to a new level of regional
development, overcoming the exclusionary nature of pipeline politics
as the only truly stable country in the region.  With the energy
sector being an arena for the new U.S.-Russian cooperation, it may be
realistically argued that Armenia now holds a unique role in the
transport of Caspian energy devoid of the risks posed by a
destabilized Georgia and an Azerbaijan destabilized by looming
succession.  And as the failed advocacy of the Baku-Ceyhan oil pipeline
on strictly geopolitical over commercial grounds has demonstrated, the
essential considerations of regional energy development must be
justified in terms of economics and, therefore, mandates Armenian
participation.  In terms of stability and security, this inclusion is
also vital to restoring the economic relations of the region as a
fundamental prerequisite to conflict resolution and prevention.

The challenge for Armenia, however, is considerable, as although such
opportunity is an obviously welcome development, the realization of
such potential necessitates prudent policy and firm political will.
The test for Armenia's leadership now rests with its ability to chart
a steady course through the shoals of a region at risk.  Such a course
is also required to reflect a serious understanding of the
opportunities of the new Russian-U.S.  relationship while avoiding too
much of a shift in one direction or the other.  This balancing of
policy is delicate and must exploit the U.S.  emphasis on stability
while continuing to utilize the Russian strategic interests in the
region.  There are also some secondary policy aspects of value, such
as the emerging Armenian relationship with Iran as a possible feature
of the current U.S. effort to reengage Iran.


Conclusion: Balancing Issues not Adversaries

The key to seizing the opportunities offered in the new global and
regional geopolitical reality lies in the need for Armenia to balance
issues rather than adversaries.  The new reality is no longer the
traditional zero-sum game, with a standard balance of power among
competing rivals, but is one of converging interests among formerly
rival powers.  Recognizing this, Armenia must forge an internal policy
aimed at strengthening the Armenian state supplemented by an external
policy establishing a role within the Russia-U.S. relationship.  This
strategy must be based on nation-bolstering measures to overcome
internal weaknesses of corruption and fragile democracy, with a
complementary campaign to limit reliance on Russia and deepen
relations with NATO and the West.

The coming months will determine the success or failure of Armenia's
ability to seize these opportunities and will reveal Armenia's place
within the rapidly changing geopolitical landscape.  The coming
months, however, may be truly tumultuous times for Armenia as Georgian
instability is reaching crisis proportions and as Azerbaijan faces a
likely struggle for power as its succession question looms ever
larger.  Undoubtedly, the Kocharian Administration will soon face its
most demanding challenge and, hopefully, will prevent Armenia from
losing yet another historic opportunity.


----------------------------------------------------------------------
Richard Giragosian was a professional staff member with the Joint
Economic Committee, U.S. Congress specializing in international
relations and economics in the former Soviet Union and China.  He is
the author of the monthly newsletter, "TransCaucasus: A Chronology."

Khatchik Der Ghougassian is a Ph.D. student of International Relations
in the School of International Studies, at the University of Miami. He
has written as a political analyst in the Armenian and Argentinean
press.
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