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April 1, 2009

ACNIS Presents New Policy Brief on “The Military Balance of Power in the South Caucasus”

Yerevan, April 1, 2009—The Armenian Center for National and International Studies (ACNIS) convened a special roundtable seminar discussion to present a new special publication entitled, “The Military Balance of Power in the South Caucasus.”

Welcoming the participants and attendees, ACNIS Director Richard Giragosian explained that the new ACNIS report, the second in a series of ACNIS Policy Briefs, examines recent shifts in the military and security situation in the region, including a specific focus on developments since the August 2008 war in Georgia.  He further noted that the report includes an assessment of the current state of the Azerbaijani military, and an analysis of the implications for the security of Armenia and Nagorno Karabagh.

The discussion featured three main presentations, with ACNIS Director Richard Giragosian offering a brief presentation on the “Shifting Military Balance of Power in the South Caucasus” (in English and Armenian), ACNIS Senior Analyst Hovsep Khurshudian evaluating the “Impact of the Global Economic Crisis on the Regional Balance of Power” (in Russian), and ACNIS Director of Administration Dr. Karapet Kalenchian offering a presentation on the “Political Military Problems of the South Caucasus Region” (in Russian). ACNIS Senior Analyst Manvel Sargsyan also provided concluding comments.

Giragosian noted that “nearly eight months after a brief, but deadly, war in Georgia in August 2008, the outlook for security and stability in the South Caucasus remains far from certain,” and that the war “had dramatically altered the geopolitical landscape of the region, consolidating a clear reassertion of Russian power and influence and forcibly ‘resolving’ two of the region’s three formerly ‘frozen’ conflicts.”  He also stressed that “the Georgian war raised new doubts over Georgia’s strategic role as the regional ‘center of gravity’ for the West and effectively ended Georgia’s hopes to join the NATO alliance.”

“But most importantly,” he argued, “was the fact that the August 2008 war further demonstrated a dramatic shift in the region’s delicate balance of power, which has already reconfigured the threat perception and military posture of the region.”  More specifically, Giragosian asserted that “although it is now clear that the shifting military balance of power remains one of the most crucial considerations for regional security and stability, the real imperatives are internal in nature and depend far more on institutional legitimacy, the rule of law and good governance, and on local economics and politics than grand geopolitics.”

ACNIS Senior Analyst Hovsep Khurshudian then evaluated the “Impact of the Global Economic Crisis on the Regional Balance of Power,” noting that Azerbaijan had based its 2009 state budget on the high price of oil.  He added that the drop in the oil prices since August 2008 had a sharply adverse effect on the country’s economy, however, because between 65-70 percent of Azerbaijan’s state budget relies on energy-related income.  Khurshudian also underscored that “even if Azerbaijan’s state budget is reduced, this hardly will reflect any change in the country’s military spending.”  But this point, according to Khurshudian, can not be ruled out either, especially “if we take into account that Azerbaijan’s leadership is intelligent enough to understand that the current economic conditions in both countries is such that any active military operation could destroy their economies.”

For his part, ACNIS Director of Administration Dr. Karapet Kalenchian presented an assessment of the “Political Military Problems of the South Caucasus Region.” He emphasized that “the regional neighbors have huge armies, whereas the regional countries possess armed forces that can withstand only one another, and, objectively speaking, they can not stand against the military potential of the neighboring countries.”  Therefore, Kalenchian argued, the political component of stability assumes a pivotal role in terms of the security of the regional countries.  “In other words, the armed forces in the region cannot be self-sufficient factors in the security of those countries. And after the events that occurred in Georgia last August, Azerbaijan would hardly carry out any military operation against Nagorno Karabagh without the consent of Turkey, Russia, the United States, England, and France, which are those countries that have huge interests in the South Caucasus region.  Also, we must not exclude Iran. And even if Azerbaijan receives that consent, it will need to think considerably before taking any military action. The Georgian incident is always evident for all,” Kalenchian stated.

Closing the session, ACNIS Senior Analyst Manvel Sargsian then provided concluding comments and underlined the need to specifically focus on the possibility of radical changes in the policies of “world powers, including new US policy with respect to Russia and Iran.”  Sargsian went on to say that “Russia’s and Iran’s possible agreement with new US proposals can substantially change the geopolitical situation in the South Caucasus region, and this will definitely have an impact on Armenia’s security.”

The formal presentations were then followed by questions, answers, and a lively exchange among many leading Armenian analysts and experts, as well as several officials and diplomatic representatives.

The Armenian Center for National and International Studies (ACNIS) is a leading independent strategic research center located in Yerevan, Armenia.  As an independent, objective institution committed to conducting professional policy research and analysis, ACNIS strives to raise the level of public debate and seeks to broaden public engagement in the public policy process, as well as fostering greater and more inclusive public knowledge. Founded in 1994, ACNIS is the institutional initiative of Raffi K. Hovannisian, Armenia’s first Minister of Foreign Affairs.  Over the past fifteen years, ACNIS has acquired a prominent reputation as a primary source of professional independent research and analysis covering a wide range of national and international policy issues.

For further information on the Center call (37410) 52-87-80 or 27-48-18; fax (37410) 52-48-46; email root@acnis.am or info@acnis.am; or visit www.acnis.am.

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