NATO, Energy Geopolitics and Conflict in Caucasus

Rarely are geopolitical events innocently coincidental, as an old saying goes. Let’s look at a few recent upheavals.

  • Finian Cunningham

First we have the renewed pressure on Germany and Europe to abandon the Nord Stream-2 gas pipeline from Russia, which the strange Navalny affair and his alleged poison-assassination conveniently gives cover to what would otherwise be an unprecedented backsliding on strategic energy trade.

Then we have the resurgence in armed conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the disputed enclave territory of Nagorno-Karabakh.

A key factor in all this too is NATO’s long-term plans to expand membership of the U.S.-led military alliance in the Caucasus and Central Asia along Russia’s southern periphery.

Political analyst Rick Rozoff comments that the flare up in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is fully consistent with Turkey’s years-long agenda of bringing Azerbaijan into NATO membership. He says that Ankara is trying to force a resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute in favor of Azerbaijan whereby the latter reclaims its historic territory from Armenian separatists.

For NATO to move forward with absorbing Azerbaijan into the alliance there must be a settlement to the long-running frozen conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia. The two sides last went to war during 1988-1994 and have had cross-border skirmishes ever since. At the end of last month, the conflict blew up again on account of a recent surge in rhetoric from Azeri leaders and their Turkish patrons about recovering sovereign lands.

Rozoff says there is an analogy here to other post-Soviet frozen conflicts in South Ossetia, Abkhazia and Transnistria. For NATO to incorporate Georgia and Moldova, as it intends to do, there is a requirement of Georgia and Moldova to gain control over their respective breakaway regions. The brief war in 2008 between Georgia and South Ossetia – when the former attacked the latter only to be repelled by a Russian intervention – was triggered by NATO’s ambition to recruit Georgia.

The analogy with Azerbaijan today is that the country is trying to settle its Nagorno-Karabakh question at the prompting of NATO member Turkey in order to make the nation an acceptable entrant for the alliance. Turkey has long endorsed Azerbaijan as the “next NATO member”. Ankara’s greatly increased military supplies to Azerbaijan is also part of the process of bringing the candidate country up to NATO’s standards.

But NATO’s expansionism is not merely about militarism for militarism sake. Yes, to be sure, having American missiles stationed further around Russia’s underbelly is to be desired in the game of “great power rivalry”.

However, there is a more specific and equally enormous strategic aim, and that is the supplanting of Russian (and Iranian) energy supplies to Europe with an alternative route from the south. The Caspian oil and gas riches have long been sought after. It was a driving goal for Hitler’s Wehrmacht to reach as it battled across the Russian space. …

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