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The East-West Black Sea/Caspian Sea Corridor in the Age of Uncertainty

The East-West Black Sea/Caspian Sea Corridor in the Age of Uncertainty

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This policy brief advocates for the development of a trade corridor between the Caspian Sea and Europe.
This policy brief advocates for the development of a trade corridor between the Caspian Sea and Europe.

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Categories:Types, Research
Published by: German Marshall Fund of the United States on Mar 06, 2013
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Black Sea Trust for Regional Cooperation
March 2013
Te Black Sea rust forRegional Cooperation
B-dul Primaverii nr. 50Corp 6 “Casa Mica”Sector 1Bucharest, Romania +40 21 314 16 28F +40 21 319 32 74E BlackSearust@gmus.org
A East-West StrategicCorridor connects Central Asiato the Eastern border of theEU and NATO via the SouthernCaucasus, as both a physicalcorridor for transportation, trade,and energy, and a virtual onefor economic and investmentprojects. The development of 
this corridor will bring benefts to
all countries it directly involves,to their neighbor countries, andto the EU and United States intheir stated intention to accessthe resource-rich land-lockedCentral Asia. The corridor linksthis region to Europe and furtherto the Atlantic, providing foralternative sources and routes forenergy and trade, and a secureroute that could be used for thetransport of military materialinside NATO. It brings economic
and security benefts to the
region, while also exposing thelocal populations to the valuesand principles of modern Westernsocieties, particularly democracyand human rights.
 The East-West Black Sea/Caspian SeaCorridor in the Age of Uncertainty 
by Iulian Chifu
From the Editor 
In the ve years since the launch o theBlack Sea rust, the Black Sea regionhas gone through dramatic events and major changes, which aected bothindividual countries and the region as awhole. Te Black Sea rust has devot-edly assisted civic groups in the nineBlack Sea countries with reacting or adapting to political and social events,researching the dynamics o the region, promoting stronger relations withinternational community, and building bridges between societies or groups inconfict. Five years on, the rust refectson the current context in the region and the challenges ahead.
Te East-West Black Sea-Caspian SeaCorridor perectly complements theNew Silk Road, introduced by U.S.Secretary o State Hillary Clinton in2011. As a project or Aghanistanand the broader region, the New Silk Road is about transportation, trade,and energy linking Central Asia viaAghanistan to Pakistan, India, andChina, re-connecting economies thathad been torn apart by decades o warand rivalry. For its part, the East-West Corridor gives the economieso Central Asia and, through them, o East and South Asia, direct access toEurope, so they perectly complementeach other.Te project is not without challenges.Political and electoral contexts now and in the coming two years, and thehistorical events that will be commem-orated in 2015, raise new risks to thedevelopment o the corridor. Conictin Syria, immigration to Russia by Syrian Circassians, the upcomingSochi Winter Olympic Games as wellas the commemoration o 100 yearssince the events o 1915 could eachconsiderably delay the project. Teproject could be secured by the clearpolitical commitment o the countriesit involves, which would oer a legiti-mate guarantee or its sustainability,and by the maniest interest o theUnited States and the EU.
The Importance of the East-WestCorridor
Te strategic weight o Central Asiaderives rom its proximity to severalconict zones, but also rom itseconomic potential and vicinity totwo major actors, Russia and China,both o which have uncertain relationswith the West. Iraq, Aghanistan, andIran are also in close proximity. Any direct and sae access into the hearto Central Asia should be a strategicsecurity incentive or the West. CentralAsia’s riches and economic potentialare o interest to the EU, which needsalternative sources and routes o energy. Te entry o the United Statesand the EU in the region would changethe regional power game and wouldbring a needed counterbalance toRussia and China.
Black Sea Trust for Regional Cooperation
Te East-West Black Sea-Caspian Sea Corridor grantsconvergence o interests between the actors involved. Forurkmenistan and Kazakhstan, the corridor oers directaccess to a third major player — Europe and/or the UnitedStates — and thus acilitates a change in the geopoliticalbalance o powers. It encourages Western investment,needed in resource exploration and energy, and allows or atranser o knowledge and technology to the region.Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Romania would also benet romthe corridor. Increased trade and contacts would ensure thestability o the countries and the ow o investments, trig-gering extensive development. Te benets o this strategiccorridor would also likely spill over to neighboring coun-tries. urkey would nd itsel linked closer to Azerbaijanand to the Central Asian countries with urkic historicalidentities and links. Ukraine would be a major beneciary o the East-West Black Sea-Caspian Sea Corridor, not leastbecause o the opportunity it oers or trading with theCentral Asian countries and or importing oil and gas.Te East-West Corridor is a logical strategic next step orthe EU and the United States and is o immediate benet.Should it enjoy the political support o the countriesinvolved and the public support o the United States, NAO,and the EU, it would acilitate a series o much neededprojects covering trade, transportation, energy exports, andinvestments. In the shorter term, it would allow or a saeretrieval o military equipment now stationed in Aghani-stan.Te corridor could prove to be a solid deterrent againstconicts in the region and an important strategic incentiveto stabilize the regions to the south o this corridor — Syria,Iran, and the Greater Middle East — but also to the north,especially the Northern Caucasus. Te Strategic East-WestBlack Sea-Caspian Sea strategic corridor can play a role asa common project (and the principle or peace keeping,conict resolution, and condence building associated withthis concept in the Western Balkans). Te very existenceo the common project would prevent these conicts rombeing reignited, since the benets to the countries in theregion would outweigh any rom provocation and conict.Sustained exposure to Western values and
modus vivendi
isan important potential eect o the corridor project. First, itis a direct and short link to the EU and NAO border at theRomanian Black Sea coast at Constanţa. At the same time,cooperation through transportation, trade, energy, andinvestment is an important condence-building measure,which is o importance or a region tarred by numerousconicts.
Current Challenges to the Corridor
Developments over the last six months have generatedpotential challenges to the strategic project. Conict aroundNagorno-Karabach may escalate aer presidential electionsin Azerbaijan, scheduled or this year; the delimitation o maritime borders in the Caspian Sea has generated tenserelations between Azerbaijan and urkmenistan, and many issues are still to be solved between all coastal states; theuture o the rans-Caspian Sea pipeline remains unclear;and events in Romania, Georgia, and Armenia negatively inuence the will and/or ability to embark on the project.In Romania, events in the summer o 2012 revealed aninternal ght or power and placed uncertainties on thecountry’s commitments as a member o the EU and NAO.Te new governmental majority, elected a ew months later,has stated its adherence to Romania’s internal and externalobligations as a member o the transatlantic institutions, yetthis ollowed an electoral campaign marked by anti-Euro-pean and anti-American rhetoric, while politicians withinthe governmental coalition continue to make eyebrow-raising statements. Tis and the electoral campaign o December have placed suspicion on the countrys ability toembark on and maintain strategic projects, either currentor uture, despite the apparent continuity rom the currentpresident’s remaining two years in ofce.Georgia underwent a peaceul change o power ollowingelections in October 2012. Te new government was quick to conrm continuation o the country’s course towardNAO and the EU imprinted by its predecessor, yet its“reset” with Russia raises nervousness both within andoutside the country, as do a ew o its domestic policies. Tenew ruling coalition took precipitous steps to punish many o the ormer ofcials or wrongdoings and abuses in power,in a process that unolded so quickly and so intensely thatit resembled political revenge through selective justice. Tisthreatened the ragile “cohabitation” between Georgianpresident Mikhail Saakashvili and Prime Minister BidzinaIvanishvili, and raised ears o tension between their oreignpolicy priorities. Subsequently, an agreement on constitu-tional changes was negotiated and the strategic orientation
Black Sea Trust for Regional Cooperation
o the country and sustainability o the projects involvingGeorgia could enjoy constitutional guarantees, whichcalmed spirits and alleviated concerns.Simultaneously, some o Prime Minister Bidzina Ivan-ishvili’s statements created concern among the country’sneighbors. Te prime minister demanded revision o theenergy contracts with Azerbaijan, cited Armenia as a greatexample or Georgia in its relations with NAO, and calledor a “balanced approach” to both Russia and the Westthat reminded some o Ukraines new swing between thetwo powers. Tose statements triggered reactions in Baku,bilisi, and Western capitals, beore they were soened toboth domestic and international audiences by the GeorgianMinistry o Foreign Aairs and the Prime Minister’s Ofce.Public support or Georgia’s Euroatlantic integration has notdiminished; it has actually increased aer elections, risingto a historical maximum o over 80 percent. A shi o Geor-gias oreign policy in the opposite direction would hencebe detrimental to the governing Georgian Dream coalition,and this is reassuring to international partners, who wouldnevertheless preer to see more clarity and coherence instatements and policies. A possible uture comprehensivecohabitation agreement could give more credibility to Geor-gia’s strategic orientation. Similarly, an ofcial declarationby the Parliament o Georgia’s Strategic Orientation wouldaddress some o the concerns o international partners.Absent these, Georgias commitment to current and uturestrategic projects continues to be seen as uncertain.Azerbaijan is a major pillar o all strategic projects in theregion involving Black Sea-Caspian Sea transportationcorridors, energy, and trade. Te country’s relationshipwith Georgia has recently come under stress rom someo the statements o the Georgian prime minister, but thetwo Ministries o Foreign aairs handled the situation welland cleared the air. Relations with Armenia, however, areonly getting more tense. Following exchanges o re at thedemarcation line and in remote places along the border,Armenia orced changes in Nagorno-Karabach. As in thepast, these events were connected to U.S. and Western visitsto Baku and to events in the negotiations in Nagorno-Kara-bakh, and were used to bring attention to the conict andto the stagnation o resolution process. Tey usually hadlittle impact in Armenia, yet this time they occurred shortly beore presidential elections and have been used electorally.In act, the Minsk Group was absent rom the resolutiondialog throughout the last year, and the process unoldedin an inormal 1+2 ormat, with Russia taking the burdeno the negotiations between the Armenian and Azerbai- jani presidents. Tis initiative, aimed at enhancing Russiasregional authority, did not produce any positive outcome.On the contrary, Baku elt isolated this way, where solutionsagainst Azerbaijan’s interests occasionally ound their way into the discussions, only to erode the process urther.Te decision by Armenian authorities to open an airportin Stepanakert, Nagorno-Karabakh and charter Yerevan-Stepanakert ights increases tension. Considering thatKojali, the current location o the airport, is historically and symbolically important to Azerbaijan as a place o resistance during the war in Nagorno-Karabach, an angry reaction by the Azerbaijani authorities is to be eared. Tey have already stated their intent to use all necessary means toensure respect or the international rules related to aircratrafc in the region. Te Chicago Convention oers Bakuthe grounds to block any transport to Kojali Airport andeven to orce down any plane that would not observe inter-national rules. Tis is a real concern or the possible escala-tion o the Armenian-Azeri conict in Nagorno-Karabakhor elsewhere, a situation that could put strategic projectsinvolving Azerbaijan at risk. Since Armenia eels isolated,and now that elections are out o the way, it might decide totry and break its unofcial semi-blockade.urkey is a major player in the East-West Corridor, trans-portation, and energy projects. It makes or a stable actor,yet it is deeply aected by the Syrian internal war, whichmakes Ankara more concerned about issues in its souththan on developments o projects in the Caucasus. Perhapsthe most important challenge, which comes with an impor-tant risk o escalation, is the commemoration o the 1915events. Well advertised by the Armenian Diaspora, thiscould uel harsh exchanges between Yerevan and Ankara,and, most importantly, it could aect urkish interests inother capitals where condemnation o events o 100 yearsago may occur. Albeit smaller in numbers than its urkishcounterpart, the Armenian Diaspora proved better orga-nized and was able to reach to the U.S. Congress and tothe Parliaments o some key European states in order toobtain political declarations that harm urkey. Tis couldpotentially aect all projects launched in the region, and, i 

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