What Will the US Do in the Caucasus?

While President Joe Biden maintains an agenda almost completely focused on domestic policy, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin toured the Asia-Pacific region. The two officials will be in Tokyo March 16-17, and in Seoul March 17-18. Furthermore, Blinken and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan will meet with their Chinese counterparts on March 18. Even though the foreign policy dynamics of the Biden administration are slowly emerging, Caucasus policy will be a subject of interest.

While Washington called for restraint in Armenia’s coup attempt, Blinken explained that it happily welcomed efforts to ensure a lasting political solution to the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan that will benefit the people of that region. Furthermore, we know that the Biden administration seeks a stable nation-state within borders for Georgia, integrated into Europe and NATO and kept distant from Russia. The D.C.-based Caspian Policy Center, whose programs I have participated in, hosted George Kent, senior official at the U.S. State Department’s Europe and Eurasian Desk. Here is what I took away from what Kent said on the issue of the Caucasus:

The U.S.’s strategic support for a democratic, prosperous, peaceful and secure North Caucasus and Greater Caspian region has not changed;

We should continue the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe Minsk Group’s process and enliven Washington’s engagement in Nagorno-Karabakh;

It is unsettling that Russia, China and Iran have different interests in the region; and

It is important for the region to achieve democracy, the rule of law and basic freedoms.

The U.S., in short, is sending a message to the region: Even though we do not seem to be in your midst, we still have eyes and ears in the region. We possess the power to take the steps we want without ceding ground to anyone, especially with respect to the economy and energy security when necessary.

In the meantime, I spoke with four important people in Washington concerning America’s Caucasus policy. Here are the short headlines on those conversations.

Retired U.S. Maj. Gen. (Retired) Michael Repass

Turkey could provide an element of balance and play an important role in establishing peace.

The U.S., Turkey and Azerbaijan can work together on many issues, including energy. Washington should give much more importance to the region.

Efgan Nifti, Executive Director of the Caspian Policy Center

Nifti believes the U.S. will try to undertake an active role in postwar rehabilitation, and will make efforts toward securing a lasting peace by working especially with Azerbaijan and Armenia.

America’s Caucasus policy has not been fully established because many critical positions pertaining to these regional issues have not been filled.

The winner of the Azerbaijan-Armenia War was, foremost, Azerbaijan.

As a NATO member, Turkey has taken on a very important balancing role. From this standpoint, it is very important for the U.S. to cooperate with Turkey on policy aimed at the Caucasus and Central Asian regions.

Robert Cekuta, Former U.S. Ambassador to Azerbaijan (Retired)

As an instrument, the OSCE Minsk Group will play an important role in bringing peace.

There is a ceasefire in Nagorno-Karabakh, but no peace yet. The U.S. can play a leading role in establishing this peace.

The fact that Russia has military forces in Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia is worrisome.

The gas treaty between Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan is a source of hope for the West.

Jeanne Mitchell, Washington University

There are officials in the Biden administration who know the Caucasus very well. The Biden administration will pursue a balanced approach to advance under the new status quo and promote peace in the region.

Even though Russia has military power in the region, it does not have soft power like the U.S. This means that Russia cannot bring economic relief and development to the region.

The important question is whether or not the current issues with Turkey and Russia will mean that the Biden administration will disengage with Nagorno-Karabakh.

A Decision the Governor of California Should Be Ashamed Of

California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that an Armenian named Hampig Sassounian will be released on parole from a life sentence for the 1982 killing of Turkey’s Consular General Kemal Arıkan in Los Angeles. Newsom explained his decision not to oppose the release to the Armenian National Committee of America, but did not explain it to the press or public! The 58-year-old Armenian terrorist was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Sassounian’s lawyers previously submitted an early release request to the state court in Los Angeles, which the governor opposed in May 2020. This time, however, the governor explained that he will not oppose the decision to release Sassounian. So why did Newsom make a 180 degree change now?

Some 1.9 million Californians have petitioned for Newsom’s resignation. I believe the governor gave the green light to paroling the Armenian terrorist because he does not want to lose the strong support of the Armenian population in California at an understandably difficult time.

Blinken explained that “We are disappointed with this decision.” It was a good speech, but it was not enough. While the Armenian terrorist is expected to be released soon, the Biden administration could appeal the decision made by California in federal court. So, will it? No, it will not. In that case, where do you think we should stand on Blinken’s statement?

One of the two terrorists who killed U.S. diplomats is serving a life sentence in France, the other in Greece. What if these countries were to release these two terrorists? The U.S. would raise hell. I cannot find the words to describe this.

Overlooked Issues in the US

The number of people vaccinated in the U.S. has passed 100 million.

The pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca is expected to get FDA approval in 30 days for its COVID-19 vaccine. There will now be four different vaccine choices in the U.S.

Clocks were set an hour ahead yesterday in the U.S. Therefore, there is once more a seven-hour time difference between the American East Coast and Turkey.

The $1.9 trillion economic package that Biden signed averted the layoff of 27,000 airline workers.

In many states, including New York and Virginia, in-class instruction is beginning again in a month.

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