Saturday, April 8, 2017

Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia

The United States recognized the independence of Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia when the
former Soviet Union broke up at the end of 1991. The United States has fostered these states’ ties with the West in part to end their dependence on Russia for trade, security, and other relations.
The United States has pursued close ties with Armenia to encourage its democratization and
because of concerns by Armenian Americans and others over its fate. Close ties with Georgia
have evolved from U.S. contacts with its pro-Western leadership. Successive Administrations
have supported U.S. private investment in Azerbaijan’s energy sector as a means of increasing the
diversity of world energy suppliers. The United States has been active in diplomatic efforts to
resolve regional conflicts in the region. As part of U.S. global counter-terrorism efforts, the U.S.
military in 2002 began providing equipment and training for Georgia’s military and security
forces. Troops from all three regional states have participated in stabilization efforts in
Afghanistan and Iraq. The regional states also have granted transit privileges for U.S. military
personnel and equipment bound to and from Afghanistan.
Beginning on August 7, 2008, Russia and Georgia warred over Georgia’s breakaway regions of
Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Russian troops quickly swept into Georgia, destroyed infrastructure,
and tightened their de facto control over the breakaway regions before a ceasefire was concluded
on August 15. The conflict has had long-term effects on security dynamics in the region and
beyond. Russia recognized the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, but the United
States and nearly all other nations have refused to follow suit. Russia established military bases in Abkhazia and South Ossetia—in violation of the ceasefire accords—that buttress its long-time
security presence in Armenia. Although there were some concerns that the South Caucasus had
become less stable as a source and transit area for oil and gas, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan are barging oil across the Caspian Sea for transit westward. Also, the United States and the European Union still support building more east-west pipelines through Turkey to bring Azerbaijani and
perhaps other gas to European markets.
Issues of concern in the 113th Congress regarding the South Caucasus may include Armenia’s
independence and economic development; Azerbaijan’s energy development; and Georgia’s
recovery from Russia’s August 2008 military incursion. At the same time, concerns have been
raised about the status of human rights and democratization in the countries; the ongoing
Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict over the breakaway Nagorno Karabakh region; and ongoing threats
posed to Georgia and the international order by Russia’s 2008 incursion and its diplomatic
recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Congress has continued to oversee the region’s role
as part of the Northern Distribution Network for the transit of U.S. and NATO military supplies to
and from Afghanistan. Georgia’s aspirations for NATO membership have received ongoing
congressional support. Many Members of Congress have evinced interest in recent political
trends in Georgia following the peaceful transfer of party control in the October 2012 legislative
election and in the wake of an October 2013 presidential election.
Some Members of Congress and other policy makers believe that the United States should
provide greater support for the region’s increasing role as an east-west trade and security corridor
linking the Black Sea and Caspian Sea regions, and for Armenia’s inclusion in such links. They
urge greater U.S. aid and conflict resolution efforts to contain warfare, crime, smuggling, and
terrorism, and to bolster the independence of the states. Others urge caution in adopting policies
that will increase U.S. involvement in a region beset by ethnic and civil conflicts.

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