The Significance of the Caucasus

Here’s a rather simplistic video dispatch by STRATFOR, a US based company which provides “analysis and insights into political, economic, and military developments”.
There really isn’t anything new or anything we didn’t know about the Caucasus in this dispatch.
But it provides food for thought and a reason to get back to a blog-post I wrote several years ago on what I think of this thing called South Caucasus.
Following the recent developments in this region I sometimes think, that the only factor, which used to unite the territory known as the Caucasus has been the triple threat of invasion by Iran, Turkey and Russia. Yes, in the past centuries this region has been a battleground between those regional powers and has thus acquired some sort of a regional identity.
However, the past 20 years have reshaped the face of this geographic area and I have been thinking of what common interest is there to unite us now, that new dividing lines have been drawn in this area.
The dividing lines I’m speaking of include the Karabakh dispute, confrontation of Iran with Azerbaijan, Armenia’s friendship with Russia, Russia’s conflict with Georgia, Turkey’s brotherhood with Azerbaijan and longstanding conflict with Armenia. It has become so confused, that any presentation, such as STRATFOR’s dispatch above, which tries to look at this area as a unified region only raises an eyebrow.
Or maybe I’m wrong? After all, I look at everything from an Armenian’s perspective, which is only one side of this complicated and multifaceted region.

Artur Papyan

Journalist, blogger, digital security and media consultant


  1. @Observer
    …”what common interest is there to unite us now?”
    why would we want to unite with those who WANT TO DELETE us from the world map??? no unity is needed and/or wanted.
    as it is younger gen ARmenians in that region are susceptible to wanting to make friends with our enemies, which can quickly lead to a severe lack of ARmenian identity&culture and possible full complete assimilation. todays youth (15-35) is not the same mind set of that of older gen ARmenians (40-70) who know the truth of our enemies and know that if we lose ARcax we turn the last pages of our history as a republic and many Hays will either assimilate (by force or naturally) to be ruskie-azeri and/or flee to moskva, europe, glendel, sydney, etc etc…essentially giving our precious & priceless homeland to our enemies and saying BYE-BYE to Hayastan forever 🙁
    as I see it, ruskies are the quarterback of this game
    they deciding when, where, and how to throw the ball
    iran has no significant diplomatic role play in the caucasus other than supplying oil to russia via the caspi and natural gas to us via southern border/Mexri pipeline. I can’t recall what they do with azeri, I’m sure persians supplying something to them that benefits for iran’s power elite
    also, persians cant afford to make intern/external war with azeri. there are 35-40M azeri living in northern iran near the border region (azeris call it southern azerGAYjan, thats funny to me…LoL! ) if persians chose to back us, they stand alot to lose geographically, financially, and diplomatically. no doubt azeris will rise up against persians and have internal conflict, which would then give GAYliev justification to try to invade nothern iran and take it and/or back the azeris there with armament and supplies and use it as a diversion to bring 2nd phase war on us via ARcax and Naxijevan
    russians dont give 2 shits about the region’s political& diplomatic problems. they only care about that BLACK GOLD….OIL !!!!! that both azeri & persians supply to moskow. so, their interest is to make sure peace & stability in that region for oil reasons. otherwise, what do they care about hate between Hays, azeri, and persians??
    also, the guy in the video is neglecting to mention that the turks already have access to the caspi via northern iran. persians are supplying oil routes to turks. currently 1 pipeline exists and 3 more on the drawing boards. the turks have NO problems getting access to the caspi, they dont need to make friends with us to get to caspi. althought, it would make it easier for them, but just dipping below the borders there is not an issue for the turks

  2. To create a formula out of this, it will look like this,
    Armenia + Russia + Iran
    Georgia + USA + Azerbaijan + Turkey (they depend on Azerbaijan’s gas and are against Russian’s domination in the region)
    Azerbaijan + Turkey + USA + Georgia (along with all problems with Armenia, they also want to weaken Iran as they have huge diaspora in Northern Iran)
    This is indeed a puzzling situation, even more puzzling than Balkans. This has it’s threads, but also, maybe, opportunities.
    And what do these 3 Caucasian countries have to offer to their partners? Or what do they have to influence external politics? They say in Caucasus Azerbaijan has oil, Georgia has geographical situation, and Armenia has ….? This is where our Diaspora is all we have.
    Thank you for this post, Observer.

  3. Eventually, it boils down to numbers.

  4. 1. “…the past 20 years have reshaped the face of this geographic area.” Correction/clarification: Nothing can reshape geography. Geography is the only constant thing. Mountains don’t change their location or altitude. Rivers don’t change their direction or presence. Valleys and plains don’t move.
    2. Geography of the Caucasus was, is and will be the same. Forever. The regional actors may change (Assyria, Rome, Greece, Byzantium, Iran, Ottoman Empire, Russia, Mongols, etc.), but not the geography. Geopolitics dictates us to accommodate to the geography. Geopolitics forces us to act in certain ways in foreign and security policies.
    3. Geopolitics is a very, very, very complex game. It is also very dispassionate subject. Most people don’t understand it. M. Saakashville, despite being a brilliant politician (domestic politics in Georgia), lacked the fundamental concepts in geopolitics. He and his entire crew failed to understand that: (a) Russia is the dominant player in Caucasus, (b) Georgia was, is and must be a buffer zone for Russia. The war of 888 was a disaster for Georgia and a fantastic (albeit incomplete) move by Russia. It was a logical result of Russia reasserting its influence to protect its southern border.
    4a. Russia’s interests boil down to protecting its southern border: (a) to dominate the countries in Caucasus (especially their foreign and security policies), (b) to prevent foreign powers to establish military bases in Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, (c) control or affect the energy transport routes in Caucasus, (d) other issues.
    4b. USA’s interest is to prevent Russia from becoming a global power which threatens its worldwide interests, by making sure it is does not control “the heartland” (the key geopolitical concept): (a) encircle Russia, (i) for our purposes, force it to retreat from its southern border established since Ivan IV, (ii) establish its own military presence (it began in Georgia – military advisors or potential NATO membership, but 888 prevented it), (b) make Europe less dependent on Russia’s energy supplies, thus creating and protecting alternate routes (BTC, Nabucco, etc.). (c) other goals.
    4c. Armenian leadership does NOT understand how INSECURE Russia is. Russia is the most powerful regional player (not a global power anymore), but it is also very, very insecure. Stated differently, Russians are scared. Really scared. But they don’t show it, because they are real masters in this big and complex game. They have a long tradition of geopolitics dating back to 15th century. Thus, Armenia is not getting as much as it can from its geographic location.
    4c(i) Russians (still) think globally. Armenians, due to their history, do not think globally. Their mentality is provincial; after all they had no statehood (except 1918-1920), and were a backward province of Ottoman Empire and/or Russian Empire. I suggest the Armenian Military General Staff and its Foreign Ministry “think globally, act locally.” What goes on in the Southern Sea of China, the US withdrawal from Iraq, the India-Pakistan conflict, US placing a military base in Australia, China building naval bases in Africa and Pakistan, the price of water in 10 years, the location of the US navy in the past 2 weeks, the likelihood of Israeli strike on Iran without consulting the US, are important for Armenia. But I bet if I asked the president, the ministers of defense or foreign affairs these questions, they will be dumbfounded. I wish I am wrong, but ….
    4c(i) (1) For example, what are the consequences of a US or Israeli military strike on Iran? What opportunities does it provide to Armenia? Is Armenia ready to gain its advantage, if any?
    4c(i) (2) For example, during the next Russia-Georgia war (since Russia did not accomplish its final goal), what should Armenia do? I don’t have all the inside discussions in Yerevan, during 888, but, looking from afar, I see that Armenia failed to take advantage of the potentially wonderful opportunity. Again, I am not privy to any secret discussions between Moscow and Yerevan. But theoretically I see at least two things Yerevan could have done to gain more influence in the region.
    4c(i) (3) For example, Russia is happy with the status quote in NKR. Its the most powerful weapon against Nabucco project or Transcaspian gas pipeline to scare Baku with NKR. All the talk about EU, UN and this and that is a distraction. Meetings, interviews, conferences are for the uninformed. That’s why Russia has not solved the issue and will keep it on the back burner (a) to scare Baku, (b) to scare Yerevan. Thus, no party will join NATO. Russian southern border is more secure.
    4d. The aforementioned are some basic interests. It is short. In order to detail all the actors, their interests, their actions, the shifting alliances and possible outcomes requires a long book.
    P.S. I suggest you read Sir Halford John Mackinder. He is the father of geopolitics. He wrote 100 years ago, but he is still pertinent.

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