Europeans have given much more attention to the Caucasus lately, and because of their interest NATO also develops a greater interest, in the context not necessarily of Eastern Partnership as a model but in the EU`s efforts to deepen relations with all the countries on its periphery.
interview with Cory Welt, Associate Director, Institute for European, Russian, and Eurasian Studies, Elliott School of International Affairs, George Washington University, and Adjunct Fellow, Center for American Progress.
Why has NATO recently started to give much more attention to the Caucasus region?
I don’t think it’s NATO per se, I think Europeans have given much more attention to the Caucasus lately, and because of their interest NATO also develops a greater interest, in the context not necessarily of Eastern Partnership as a model but in the EU`s efforts to deepen relations with all the countries on its periphery.
How would you assess Georgia’s decision to develop a reserve corp?
There are lots of discussions about what it is and it’s very difficult to tell from the news reports exactly what they’ve developed and what the purposes are. So Georgia talks about the importance of having a civilian reserve corp like many other countries. But it’s political and defensive more than anything related to immediate strategic or military objectives. Georgia clearly has no ability or will to engage in any particular military activity at the moment.
It’s clear that Georgians have an interest in defending their own territory. The Russian Federation has not yet made a pledge of non-use of force, so Georgians are naturally afraid of another attack coming at some point in the future. I still think it’s a political decision to develop the corp but it has no offensive purpose.
What role can Russia play in providing stability in the region?
Naturally I think the reduction of Russian military forces from Abkhazia and South Ossetia would increase stability. Greater transparency at a minimum, the opportunity for greater freedom of transit across the administrative boundary lines, and the opportunity for international observers to see what’s happening in Abkhazia and South Ossetia could increase confidence that Russia only intends to have a stabilizing presence and not any kind of further offensive presence. And in general, Russia could try to continue to be more constructive about bringing Abkhazia and Georgia, South Ossetia and Georgia together in any number of ways, even understanding that Russia has established for itself certain lines that it won’t walk back from any time soon.
Is competition between Russia and NATO possible in the Caucasus?
We all know that both the United States and Europe at this point of time are not that interested in competition. They would like to hold the line; they would like to continue to embrace countries that are interested in movement toward the West. Georgia has clearly been very supportive of NATO efforts in Afghanistan and generally continues to insist on its determination to move toward NATO and the European Union. So there is a natural desire to maintain a close relationship with Georgia. It's not seen particularly now as a kind of competition with Russia.