Why does H. Clinton visit South Caucasus? New-York Times presents its predictions

US State Secretary visits South Caucasian region on June 4, today. First she will visit Armenia and then the Secretary of State will continue her visit to Georgia and Azerbaijan. The New York Times has published an article where the author aims to understand the purpose of this visit.

“Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s visit to Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia this week is timely. The Caucasus holds risks of confrontation that could affect American and European interests, and it requires regular and high-level attention”, the article starts. Then its refers to the terrorism on the North Caucasus and Nagorno Karabakh conflict.

After speaking about Russian role in the Caucasus the article refers to the Nagorno Karabakh conflict and the possibilities of its development.

“The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) seeks a mediated solution, but negotiations are long stalled. A fragile cease-fire is frequently violated. Russia arms Armenia and maintains a military base there. Azerbaijan uses its oil wealth for an arms buildup, and its ally Turkey has closed the border with Armenia for more than a decade. The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict could suddenly become unfrozen”.

“In the North Caucasus, popular alienation and militant violence are increasing. Two dozen Russian soldiers died in an attack three days before Putin’s inauguration last month. Russia relies mostly on force and economic subsidies to quell resistance, but the strategy has not worked. Terrorism could be a real threat to the 2014 Winter Olympic games in Sochi. Moscow might again blame Azerbaijan and Georgia for aiding terrorists, as it did falsely in 1999 regarding Chechnya”.

And when comes the important question. In this mixed and dangerous situation “how can the America and Europe lessen risks in the Caucasus”?

The author of the article considers that the USA and Europe “should continue to stand firm for the independence of Georgia and against the illegal occupation of one-fifth of its territory. Moscow ought not to be allowed to assert control over the export of Caspian energy through Georgia. Europe and America should importune Georgia not to stir anti-Russian animosities in the North Caucasus. They ought to cooperate with Russia to prevent terrorist acts around the Olympics”.

And what about Nagorno-Karabakh? Don’t worry there is another offer as well. “America and Europe can no longer keep the Nagorno-Karabakh talks on the back burner. Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev faces domestic pressures to act, but Europe and America should caution him about the adverse consequences, notably a broader regional war. Energy investment in Azerbaijan and a major new gas pipeline to Europe, Nabucco, could become casualties.

O.S.C.E. members have largely stopped engaging Russia about tensions in the North Caucasus, but risks grow and could spill over into Azerbaijan and Georgia. Members should use the permanent council in Vienna to raise concerns and begin a dialogue.

In her visit, Secretary Clinton should spotlight these tensions and offer reassurance that the West will work actively to prevent confrontation and conflict”, the article concludes.

On the eve of Clinton’s visit to the Republic of Armenia, June 3, at night, Azerbaijani fired on Armenian positions at Tavush region and killed three Armenian soldiers. There are also wounded soldiers. It is expected Clinton will express her attitude towards this case as well.  

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