The Critical but Perilous Caucasus

The war on terrorism has brought Afghanistan and the Central Asian states into the spotlight of world politics, but the nearby region of the Caucasus between the Black and Caspian Seas, made up of Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia, is less well known. It is by no means less important to U.S. foreign policy. In the military operations in Afghanistan after 9/11, the three Caucasian states offered their support to the United States. All U.S. and coalition aircraft transiting from America and Western Europe to Central Asia flew in the South Caucasian states’ airspace. These two states offered blanket overflight and basing rights, and their cooperation has been vital in the war on terror. But the importance of the Caucasus does not stop at this: the oil resources of the Caspian Sea, especially Azerbaijan and Kazakstan, are one potential alternative to Middle Eastern oil, and Caspian natural gas reserves are a possible future source of energy for Western Europe and Turkey. The Caucasus is again the ‘‘Silk Road’’ linking Central Asia and Europe. Its location, between Russia, Iran, and Turkey and near Iraq and the Middle East, gives it great strategic value.

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