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Challenges and Options in the Caucasus and Central Asia

Authored by Dr. Pavel K. Baev. | April 1997

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That Russia has vital strategic interests in the Caucasus and Central Asia can be taken as an established political fact. What is remarkable about this fact is that the nature of these interests as well as the nature and intensity of challenges to them have changed quite drastically during Russia's 5 years of existence as a post-Soviet state. It is no wonder that Russian policymakers are permanently agonizing over reassessment of these interests and are now nowhere close to producing a coherent strategy of their advancement. This monograph will argue that Russia's ability to meet the challenges from the South is a major factor in determining its future as a world power.1

There is no doubt that the Caucasus and Central Asia are two separate regions in the turbulent post-Soviet geopolitical space, with different political dynamics and plenty of internal diversities and conflicts. Even looking from Moscow, it is obvious that these differences are of such a scale that no single integrated strategy could possibly embrace both regions; two essentially different policies are required and were, in fact, pursued. Still, the author attempts to take these two regions together, seeking to trace interplay among Russia's economic, political and strategic interests and to discover parallels in Moscow's past, current and possible future activities.

This paper will first take a brief look at the evolution of Russia's policies in the Caucasus and Central Asia in 1992-94; then the impact of the Chechen War will be evaluated. This is followed by the analysis of the growth of the economic interests (first of all related to oil) and the increase in influence of the regional processes in Russia itself. Finally, an attempt to distinguish between the real and misperceived security challenges for the near future will be undertaken.


1. This paper builds on the analysis presented in my book (Baev, 1996) (see the References section that follows these endnotes beginning on p. 21) and in several recent publications focused on Russia's policies in the Caucasus (Baev, 1997a) and on Russia's experience in conflict management and peacekeeping (Baev, 1997b).