Russia, the United States, and the Caucasus
ARMY WAR COLL STRATEGIC STUDIES INST CARLISLE BARRACKS PA
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The Caucasus region consists of the new independent states of the Southern Caucasus Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia and the Russian federal region of the Northern Caucasus, including war-torn Chechnya. In the post-Soviet period, it has become one of the most volatile and potentially unstable regions in world politics. Fragile state structures, a series of unresolved or frozen secessionist conflicts, and widespread poverty generate popular dissatisfaction and political instability. The region covers a major fault line between Christian and Islamic civilizations, and confessional rivalry, together with the rise of Islamic radicalism, have become sources of friction. Despite these inherent challenges, the hydrocarbon reserves of the Caspian basin also have attracted significant great power competitive engagement. The United States and the Russian Federation pursue assertive regional policies in the Caucasus. At present, both Washington and Moscow tend to define their interests in such a way as to ensure that their relationship in the region will be contentious. The questions of access to the oil and natural gas reserves of the Caspian, Russias role in the geopolitical space of the former Soviet Union, the Western military role in the unstable regions along the Russian Federations southern flank, and strategies for pursuing a war on terrorism in Inner Asia all have the potential to become serious apples of discord. A zero-sum Great Game for leverage in so fragile an area, however, is not in the best interests of either major external actors or the regions peoples. Nor does it accurately reflect the dynamics that could be working viii to redefine the U.S.-Russian relationship beyond the Cold War. Washington and Moscow should seek to find a modus vivendi that will recast their regional roles within a broader framework that allows for mutually beneficial cooperation in areas of joint interest as well as healthy competition.
- Government and Political Science