There there is the long-standing Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between Baku and Yerevan. Unlike in Georgia, Washington sees the potential for broad cooperation with Moscow on this issue, and this is beneficial for more ambitious goals—such as Afghanistan and Iran—for which Russia's support is very important. In fact, Russian policy vis-à-vis the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process focuses on mediation, in contrast to its one-sided support for the breakaway republics in Georgia. Not seeing this situation as a threat of neo-Soviet reintegration, Washington is prepared to share with Moscow the responsibilities of assisting in the resolution of the Armenian-Azerbaijani confrontation.
Washington's interest in the Caucasus is clear. But it is not connected to any one issue. Rather, it is part of larger external political projects: a “reset” in relations with Russia, a resolution of the issues in the Middle East generally, and a solution to the problems of Iran and Turkey in particular. In this sense, it is possible to speak about varying perceptions of the Caucasus in Moscow, Tehran and Ankara on the one hand and in Washington on the other. Consequently, in order to be more successful, the Eurasian powers, primarily Russia, should overcome their nearsighted vision and learn to see the more sensitive Caucasian challenges within wider geopolitical contexts.
Sergey Markedonov is visiting fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Russia and Eurasia Program, in Washington, DC.