After the collapse of
the Soviet Union, NATO was forced to remake its image. For this
reason the Atlantic Alliance has created some cooperative
initiatives like the Partnership for Peace (PfP). This programme
is very flexible and allows partners to choose the kind of
cooperation that they want to pursue. In the South Caucasus,
each country has chosen its own style of involvement in the PfP.
Caucasus, Russia, PfP, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan.
In the aftermath of
the Cold War era, NATO changed its character. After more than
forty years of existence, NATO became a flexible organization
where the different members and partners could find a
comfortable/suitable position. The lack of a common enemy allows
NATO members to adopt different and sometimes less committed
positions. While there are historic members like the US or the
Great Britain with a deep investment, then there are others like
Spain or Belgium that rely more on the E.U for their security.
This big difference is much clearer among the NATO partners.
There are at least, two different sets of partner countries:
those interested in becoming full members of NATO, and those
interested in maintaining some kind of cooperation with the
Atlantic Alliance rather than in membership.
argument is the palpable existing division in the South
Caucasus. On the one hand, Georgia maintains a strategy clearly
oriented towards its integration into NATO. In a similar
position, Azerbaijan was actively looking for its NATO
membership while respecting its relations with Russia and Iran.
Nevertheless, the current situation in the South Caucasus has
dramatically changed but the position of Azerbaijan, while
blurred, is still close to NATO.
On the other hand,
Armenia seeks to cooperate more and more with NATO, although the
Atlantic Alliance is still an organization in which it does not
feel very comfortable. There are two reasons to explain this
behaviour. The first is that NATO was created against the most
important of Armenia’s allies: Russia. The second is that the
most important of Armenia’s enemy, Turkey, plays an important
role within the Alliance. Consequently, though Armenia has
enhanced its relations with NATO, it may well prefer other
international institutions to ensure its security.
By its own, what NATO
has in mind concerning the South Caucasus is the idea of being a
flexible organization to cooperate with all the PfP countries.
According to this reality the Atlantic Alliance has tried to
launch several flexible and original initiatives like EAPC, the
Virtual Silk Road or the IPAPs (PfP) that allow the partners to
choose the kind of their cooperation with NATO. In developing
this strategy, the partner countries including the South
Caucasian ones, can choose all the fields in which they are
prepared to cooperate and those in which they need to be
assisted by NATO.
Summing up, we can
affirm that NATO’s approach towards the South Caucasus is
flexible and chosen by partner countries. Actually, NATO policy
towards the PfP in general and towards the South Caucasus in
particular could well be labelled as a form of a la carte
cooperation. Concerning the South Caucasus, any of the three
Caucasian Republics can select what kind of cooperation it
prefers to develop in the framework of the PfP. For instance,
Georgia is involved in most of the initiatives launched in the
framework of the PfP. Georgia’s most important aim is to obtain
its NATO membership in the near future to deter Russia from
interfering in its foreign policy. Nevertheless, Armenia does
not need NATO to deter its enemies (Turkey or Azerbaijan); this
task is reserved to Russia. Armenia tries to cooperate with NATO
in other fields through PfP in order to diversify its foreign
policy. By its own, Azerbaijan also cooperates with the
Alliance, but its behaviour is more balanced than the Georgian
or Armenian ones. Baku does not seek integrating into the
Alliance but its relations with NATO are much stronger than
those of Armenia. For this reason, we can point out that NATO
Partnership for Peace programme is a flexible initiative that
allows the partners to fill their foreign and security gaps.
towards the Post-Soviet Space
After the collapse of
the Soviet Union NATO tried to remake its image in Eastern
Europe developing a new cooperative relationship with Russia and
its former allies. Thus, the Atlantic Alliance launched a series
of cooperative initiatives (NACC, EAPC, etc…) intended to make
it appear like a peaceful organization rather than an aggressive
most pro-Western countries like Poland, Hungary, the Czech
Republic or the Baltic Republics wanted to go further.
Continuing to see in Russia a potential threat to their
security, they needed some security assurances in order to face
Russia, which had controlled their countries for forty years
during the Cold War. All these states were actually looking for
their survival and their perception of having been abandoned
when the Second World War concluded explains much of their
strategy. For its part, Russia perceived itself as a defeated
state that had to avoid losing more weight and influence in
rapprochement between Washington and Moscow, from the point of
view of Russian interests, NATO was still considered as the most
dangerous and aggressive organization. Russia’s relations with
the alliance have been determined by its domestic issues.
Although NATO needed to improve its image especially in Russia,
Washington did not want to repeat the same mistake again:
leaving the future of Eastern Europe in Russia’s hands. Taking
into account the dual dimension of the problem, Warren
Christopher introduced an innovative tool (the so called
Partnership for Peace programme) which allowed NATO to face this
significant challenge. Through this project NATO created a
cooperative framework to reform their defence sector while
leaving NATO’s door opened for those interested in going
further. Russia not only could not blame NATO for seeking its
enlargement, but also couldn’t avoid participating in the
In the case of the
South Caucasus, when the Partnership for Peace emerged, an
important regional division became apparent. Although neither
Georgia nor Azerbaijan had real aspirations of becoming members
of NATO, both governments decided to maintain an active role in
the PfP. Nevertheless, Armenia, whose relations with Azerbaijan
were rather difficult, decided to move closer to the Russian
position than to the NATO one, thus boycotting any PfP
s. Armenia considered that it could not
cooperate with an organization in which its main enemy, Turkey,
was one of the major actors. This was the first significant
division in the South Caucasus, as far as the cooperation with
NATO was concerned.
towards Moscow was strengthened in 1995 when NATO published its
enlargement study. Suddenly Russia decided to block any sort of
cooperation with the Atlantic Alliance. Moscow advised its
allies, including Armenia, not to cooperate with NATO in the
framework of PfP. Russia felt that NATO had created the PfP just
to enlarge the organization. Russia boycotted any cooperative
initiative including the Partnership for Peace. For this reason,
the distance between Yerevan and the other two Caucasian
capitals grew inceasingly larger. Indeed the Russian military
assistance to Armenia reached unexpected levels and Yerevan
became the most important Russian ally in the region, thus
strengthening its historical alliance with Moscow.
In contrast, in 1999
Azerbaijan and Georgia decided not to renew the Tashkent Treaty
on Collective Security, leaving the Russian-led security
structures. Azerbaijan and Georgia felt that this security
agreement was very unsuitable for their interests, taking into
account that Russia had supported separatist movements in both
countries. However, Armenia not only renewed this agreement, but
also signed a new one (CSTO) in 2002.
Far from that,
Azerbaijan and Georgia started to cooperate in the framework of
a new regional organization called GUAM (Georgia, Ukraine,
Azerbaijan and Moldova) oriented towards NATO and United States.
The key point of
NATO’s interest in the Caucasus was the September 11 terrorist
attacks. After being attacked by Al-Qaeda, Washington decided to
change its strategy towards the Greater Middle East. The South
Caucasus’s importance for NATO and the US increased
tremendously. For this reason, the Partnership for Peace
Programme was redefined and the South Caucasus and Central Asia
became crucial for the War on Terror launched by the US.
Nevertheless, NATO´s interest in the South Caucasus was also
driven by other issues such as, transnational crime, separatism
and its growing strategic importance as an energy corridor.
The tour made by its Secretary
General in 2003 constituted a landmark step in NATO’s interest
in the South Caucasus, even if it was not the first time the
Secretary General visited the region.
However, on that occasion, Lord George Robertson confirmed the
Alliance’s interest in the region by paying a three-day visit.
During the visit, NATO’s Secretary General stressed the role of
the South Caucasus for the security of Europe.
Indeed, Lord Robertson reminded the South Caucasian republics
that NATO’s door remained open for them although the way would
be long and tough. Today, one can observe how hard and long this
way has been for the South Caucasian countries, especially for
Georgia, which has real aspirations of gaining NATO membership.
In summer 2004, the
NATO summit was held in Istanbul. There, the NATO Allies decided
to increase their involvement in the South Caucasus and Central
Asia, creating two important positions: that of the NATO Special
Representative and two NATO Liaison Officers (one for each
region). What are its functions and responsibilities? The
Secretary General’s Special Representative for the South
Caucasus and Central Asia tries to coordinate NATO’s policy
towards these two regions. In practical terms, the Special
Representative provides the Secretary General with advice on
NATO’s policy in the South Caucasus and Central Asia. Besides,
the Special Representative works directly with regional leaders
in order to improve their cooperation with the Alliance. The
first and the current Special Representative is Robert F.
Simmons, who was appointed in August 2004 by the Secretary
In November 2006,
NATO held a new summit. The city of Riga organized a summit
where the overall theme was future NATO enlargement. Although,
there was no NATO commitment on the Georgian integration
process, the Allies encouraged Tbilisi to continue its efforts
to become a member of NATO.
Cooperation with the South Caucasian countries
Each South Caucasian
country has its own interests in cooperating with NATO. While
Georgia is searching for a protector against Russia, Azerbaijan
just wants to diversify its foreign and security policy. The
case of Armenia is more complicated; whereas its attitude
towards NATO has dramatically changed over the last few years,
Yerevan still considers that Russia is its main ally and
protector against “the Turkic threat”.
Georgia has been identified as the
most ambitious country in its drive to join the EU and NATO.
Cooperation between NATO and Georgia can essentially be defined
as a case of balancing
against Russia. Tbilisi perceives Russia as the threatening
power and tries to deter it through an alignment with NATO and
Since early 2005, when Saakashvili
came into power, Georgia became even more pro-Western than
before. The Rose Revolution was just the beginning of an
alliance between Washington and Tbilisi that has an extension in
NATO. Georgia’s main alignment is actually with the US, but
Tbilisi prefers it to be conducted under the NATO umbrella in
order to deter Russia from attacking Georgia. For this reason it
can be affirmed that Georgia is trying to balance the perceived
threats from Russia with its partnership with NATO and the US.
with NATO has two implications for the security of the region.
The first one is its fast growing defence budget. Georgia is
working very hard to enhance its defence sector to meet NATO’s
standards as well as to achieve NATO interoperability levels.
For this purpose, following the explanation given by its
government, Georgia has doubled its defence budget in order to
qualify for NATO membership. This fast growing defence budget is
being used to modernize the Georgian army, though Russia accuses
Georgia of creating a security dilemma. The reality is that the
secessionist regions of Georgia (Abkhazia and South Ossetia),
too often supported by Russia, are afraid of being attacked by
the new updated Georgian army.
The second security implication
has to do with its integration with NATO. Tbilisi has worked
very hard in its path to NATO, carrying out an ambitious
Individual Partnership Action Plan (IPAP), being part of the
Intensified Dialogue and working on the approval of its
Membership Action Plan (MAP). However Russia and the two
secessionist republics (South Ossetia and Abkhazia), which are
heavily oriented towards Moscow, would not allow the Georgian
accession into NATO. If finally Georgia gets its NATO
membership, Tbilisi would invoke Article 5 of the Washington
Treaty to call on its allies to defend it every time Russia
decides to attack the border area. For this reason, Georgia-NATO
cooperation and, overall, its accession into NATO are very
contested within the Atlantic Alliance itself. Those countries
with a strong relationship with Russia are not supportive of
Georgian aspirations to become a member of NATO. This is the
case of Germany, which signed several energy agreements with
Russia, that allow the latter to supply up to forty per cent of
Germany’s total gas consumption.
This has been one of the major issues blocking Georgia’s
accession into NATO.
Indeed there is
another problem: the question of the two secessionist republics,
i.e. South Ossetia and Abkhazia. What will happen with these two
territories if Georgia joins NATO? South Ossetia and Abkhazia,
both, are clearly Russia-oriented and, even more, Russian
peacekeeping forces are protecting the Russian passport holders
of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. If Georgia wants to become a
member of NATO, it should settle these two conflicts first.
For these reasons, NATO does not
agree to present any schedule for the accession of Georgia into
NATO. Current NATO Secretary General, Jaap de Hoop, stated in
October 2007 that Georgia should try to settle its internal
conflicts to become a member of the Atlantic Alliance.
Armenian interest in
NATO is less vital than the Georgian one. While Georgia
perceives Russia as the threatening power, Armenia regards
Russia as its protector against its enemy Turkey. Therefore,
Armenia is more confident in Russia than in NATO, an
organization in which its enemy, Ankara, is deeply involved.
Nevertheless, from September 11 terrorist attacks on, Armenia
has drastically changed its foreign policy approach. For several
years, Armenia relied exclusively on Russia to protect its
interests, whereas now Yerevan has diversified its foreign and
security policy. Armenia has adopted the so-called multi-vector
foreign policy to ensure its national interest.
From early times, Armenia and
Russia have maintained a traditional alliance though it has not
been very fruitful for Armenia over the past years. From 1991,
Armenia had been isolated and dependent on Russia for its
survival, including in the economic sphere. Then Armenia began
to think about other “big brother” possibilities such as the U.S
or Europe. The September 11 events increased the regional
imbalances in the space covered by the so called Greater Middle
what represented a window of opportunity for Armenia. Yerevan
decided to implement a new foreign and security policy called
the multi-vector model. It means that Armenia maintains its
strategic partnership with Russia, while trying to strengthen
its relations with other powers such as the US or France.
As for NATO, Armenia
has decided to be more involved in Partnership for Peace
exercises. Besides, President Robert Kocharian signed an
Individual Partnership Action Plan (IPAP) with NATO as a proof
of Armenia’s commitment with the Atlantic Alliance. The US
requested Armenian support in Iraq, and as a result, a group of
46 Armenian peacekeepers were sent to Iraq in January 2005. By
its own, the Congress of the United States started in 2007
debates concerning the adoption of a resolution recognizing the
so called “Armenian Genocide”. The adoption of the resolution
was adjourned after one of the traditional American allies in
NATO, Turkey, vigorously protested against such attempts by the
It must be noted that Armenia has
greatly softened its historical aversion towards NATO.
Previously, Armenia perceived NATO just as an organization that
strengthened its eternal enemy Turkey. While in the past Armenia
just followed Russian NATO policy, today Yerevan considers the
Atlantic Alliance as an important key to apply its multi-vector
foreign policy. Therefore, Armenia has already adopted IPAP,
though Yerevan does not officially aspire to NATO membership or
to build a “Georgian scenario”.
Armenian behaviour with NATO can
be described as one of bandwagoning,
because after 2001 Yerevan has aligned itself with the Atlantic
Alliance more actively in the hope of profiting from its
dominant position. Nevertheless, Armenia still relies on Russia
for its security, especially concerning its relations with
Turkey and Azerbaijan. Thus, although Armenia has enhanced its
relations with NATO adopting the IPAP, it remains an active
member of the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty
The case of Armenia
proves that NATO, after the end of the Cold War, has become a
flexible international organization.
Cooperation with NATO
It must be stressed that the case
of Azerbaijan is quite interesting. First of all, Azerbaijan is
probably the most secularized Muslim country in the World. The
majority of the Azerbaijani Muslims follow the Shiite direction.
Secondly, the Azerbaijanis are ethnically Turks. Thirdly, the
Russian and the Kemalist heritages turn Azerbaijan into a
European country in the middle of the Greater Middle East.
Moreover, Azerbaijan has enormous oil and gas reserves and does
not belong to OPEC.
independent in 1991, Azerbaijan sought to follow the Turkish
Kemalist model of statehood. He aspired to become a member of
the Euro-Atlantic Community while preserving their Azerbaijani
identity. For these reasons, Azerbaijan started to actively
cooperate with Turkey, with the US and NATO. From 1994 on,
Azerbaijan has been an active member of the Partnership for
Peace Programme (PfP) participating with Turkey in several
international peacekeeping missions (KFOR, ISAF)
considers NATO membership an option, for the time being it is
not a priority for him. It is not a secret that Azerbaijan’s
neighbours (Iran and Russia) do not feel comfortable about any
NATO enlargement to the region. Thus, Azerbaijan tries to
combine his efforts to cooperate with NATO in the framework of
the PfP and IPAP with his more or less friendly relations with
Iran and Russia.
policy is mainly aimed at protecting its interests in the
dispute with Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh, an enclave in
Azerbaijan primarily populated by Armenians. This conflict,
while dormant after the cease-fire of 1994, has still the
potential of getting out of control and destabilizing Azerbaijan
and the whole region again. The conflict remains unsettled to
date and determines to a great extent the Azerbaijan’s
foreign policy. All the Azerbaijani presidents have adapted
their foreign and security policy to this priority. Azerbaijan’s
interest in any international security organization, including
NATO or CIS, is always related to supposed international support
on the question of restoration of his sovereignty over
As far as NATO is
concerned, Azerbaijan would like to see the Alliance getting
involved in the conflict and providing peacekeeping forces.
Nevertheless, NATO has rejected several times this possibility
as a result of Russian and Armenian pressures. On her own,
Armenia with the support of Russia will always impede any NATO
involvement in the conflict, as Armenia achieved her goals
during the war and any negotiation might cause a worsening of
her current position.
has not achieved his goals on Nagorno Karabakh, the same cannot
be said about other issues. For instance, NATO and the US have
helped Azerbaijan regarding energy security. In this sense, the
construction of the BTC oil pipeline has given Azerbaijan more
relative power as the pipeline constitutes an energy corridor
alternative to the northern (i.e., Russian) one. On his side,
Azerbaijan has contributed to NATO by participating in several
PfP programmes and international peacekeeping missions. That’s
why one can argue that the cooperation between NATO and
Azerbaijan can also be labelled as one of bandwagoning for
Summing up, after the
demise of the Soviet Union, NATO turned into a flexible
organization where members and partners can develop their own
strategies. In the case of the South Caucasus, each country has
dealt with the Alliance in a different way. While Georgia has
adopted a balancing strategy, Armenia and Azerbaijan have chosen
different sorts of bandwagoning behaviours.
By itself, this
flexibility has allowed NATO to survive post-Cold War
international changes, such as the rise of international
terrorism and other international threats or the proliferation
of WMD. NATO has benefited from the vacuum of power created
after the break up of the Soviet Union.
The aforementioned flexibility
allows NATO to be involved in a space traditionally dominated by
Russia. Nevertheless, Moscow cannot accuse NATO of using the PfP
to enlarge the organization because each PfP member can choose
its own form of involvement in this programme.