BERIL – The Caucasus, once again?

The Caucasus, once again?The renewed struggle between the Western world and Russia began in Georgia in 2008. Russia won the first round, as Georgia has been dismembered without any hope of taking back its secessionist provinces.

Then it was Ukraineand#39s turn. Russia won once again and seized the Crimean Peninsula, leaving Ukraine in total chaos.

Russia and the US are seeking to establish a bipolar order in the international system, but the game is not yet totally in place. The civil war in Ukraine continues, and there are many bloody conflicts all over the world: Syria, Libya, Gaza, Iraq, Mali, Nigeria and so on.

Washington and Moscowand#39s bargain will probably lead to a deal like this: Russia will have control over the andquotnorthern axis,andrdquo which means the natural gas suppliers, while the US will consolidate its control over the oil-supplying countries of the region, or the andquotsouthern axis.andrdquo Such a deal could provide some kind of balance for the international systemNevertheless, third parties donand#39t want to accept Russia and the US making bilateral deals and shaping the world order without consulting them To put it differently, a number of European countries have refused the US and Russiaand#39s plans and want to have their share.

These European powers have been spoilsports and made the crises in Georgia and Ukraine unmanageable.It appears these states still insist on having their say, despite the outcome of the crisis in Ukraine, and now they have focused their attention on the Caucasus — or, more specifically, to the old and pretty much frozen conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

There havenand#39t been any new developments between these two countries to justify the interruption of the cease-fire, but many soldiers have died on the border The problem is quite old and nothing has changed recently between them The world, however, has changed.The latest skirmish on the border has reminded everybody that the risk of war is real in the Caucasus.

This doesnand#39t mean there will be an actual war between these two countries, but the risk is there. It was a timely reminder, as there are third parties who would benefit from a renewed armed conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

We know that Russia is facing serious international sanctions because of what is going on in Ukraine. This is bad news for Russia, but its European partners will suffer as well.

In other words, economic sanctions will punish both Russia and Russiaand#39s biggest trading partners in Europe. The only way for the European Union to compensate is for it to deepen its economic partnership with the US — for example, by signing the much-debated free trade zone agreement.

Germany, of all the European powers, is the first one who will suffer from this new situation. Some analysts have said the reason behind the tension in the Caucasus is Russiaand#39s desire to react to the Western sanctions imposed because of Ukraine.

But it is not reasonable for Russia to open a new front right now. Besides, neither Baku nor Yerevan would like to antagonize Russia Thatand#39s why one can say the border skirmish has something to do with other players in the international systemIf a real armed conflict were to begin between Azerbaijan and Armenia, who would benefit from it? It is only natural that Russia would promptly play the leading role in pacifying the region and thus would reinforce its presence in the Caucasus.

That would push other regional players toward the US, who is waiting to receive them with open arms.Unfortunately, Azerbaijan and Armenia have been incapable of dealing with their bilateral problems on their own in the past.

In international politics, third partiesand#39 involvement makes things often more complicated and problems can remain unresolved for many years, ready to be exploited anytime those third parties want.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman