Since the Black Sea and its littorals have become contested zones between Russia and the West, it behooves us to think cogently about U.S. interests in the equally important Caucasus and how to defend them. Our vital interests are the same as the 1990s, even taking into account major changes in the regional and global strategic environment. We want these states to remain independent, enjoy real sovereignty within their treaty-defined borders, remain at peace with each other and be open to international economic markets.
Unfortunately, the current reality greatly differs. An honest assessment of recent U.S. policy must admit that Washington has neglected this region. Such neglect is misconceived and in no way benign. Instead it is malign neglect and contributes to the growing problems in the region, precisely because it leaves the field open to Russia to play its neo-imperial games.
Russia incited war against Georgia, and, subsequently, used its gains to repeatedly encroach upon Georgia’s territorial integrity with impunity. It also deliberately perpetuates the Nagorno-Karabakh war between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Russia has used the war to acquire a large and permanent military presence in Armenia, along with its other bases in what was Georgia and Russia proper. Moscow uses its military not only to subjugate Armenia, but also to threaten Azerbaijan and Georgia; project power into the entire Middle East and Black Sea; and contribute to the aerial and naval encirclement of our NATO ally Turkey.