The South Caucasus is rapidly becoming a critical strategic crossroads in 21st century geopolitics, encompassing the most ambitious energy transit projects in history and the consolidation of a military corridor reaching from Western Europe to East Asia, one whose command centers are in Washington and Brussels.
The culmination of eighteen years of post-Cold War Western designs is on the near horizon as oil and gas are intended to be moved from the eastern shores of the Caspian Sea to Central Europe and beyond and US and NATO troops and equipment are scheduled to be deployed from Europe and the Persian Gulf to Afghanistan and Central Asia.
Nothing less is at stake than control of world energy resources and their transportation routes on one hand and the establishment of a global army under NATO auspices fanning out in South and Central Asia and ultimately Eurasia as a whole on the other.
The three nations of the South Caucasus - Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia - are increasingly becoming the pivot upon which that strategy turns. With the Black Sea and the Balkans to its west, Russia to its north, Iran and the Arab world to the south and southeast and the Caspian Sea and Central Asia to the east, the South Caucasus is uniquely situated to become the nucleus of an international geostrategic campaign by the major Western powers to achieve domination of Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Africa and as such the world.
The overarching plan for the employment and exploitation of this region for the aforementioned purposes is and has long been an American one, but it also takes in the US's European allies and in addition to unilateral and bilateral initiatives by Washington includes a critically vital NATO component.
With the nearly simultaneous breakup of the Soviet Union and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 1991 - one a cataclysmic and instantaneous and the other a prolonged process - prospects were renewed for the West to engage in a modern, expanded version of the Great Game for control of Central and South Asia and for that vast stretch of land that was formerly the socialist world excluding Far East Asia.
Since 1991 a 20th and now 21st century Silk Route has been opened up to the West, one beginning at the northeast corner of Italy and ranging to the northwest border of China and taking in at least seventeen new political entities, some little more than diminutive mono-ethnic statelets sovereign in name only. They are the former Yugoslav republics of Bosnia, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Slovenia and the international no man's land of Kosovo in the Balkans; Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia in the South Caucasus; and Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan in Central Asia, with Moldova and Ukraine representing the northern wing of this vast redrawing of historical borders and redefining of geopolitical space.
As previously noted, the South Caucasus lies at the very center of this new configuration. As in the days of empire, both ancient and modern, armies seeking plunder and states replenishing their treasuries with it must now pass through this region.
Pass through it, that is, if their intent is a hostile, confrontational and exclusionary one, a policy of containing Russia and Iran and effectively blockading both in their respective and shared neighborhoods, for example the Caucasus, the Caspian Sea Basin and Central Asia.
On the energy front American, British, French, Norwegian and other Western nations, sometimes individually but most always as consortia, are the prime movers; on the military one the task has been assigned to NATO.
Of the seventeen new nations listed above, all except for the aborted Kosovo entity, aptly described by a leading Serbian political figure as a NATO pseudo-state, have Partnership for Peace and in many cases Individual Partnership Action Programs with NATO and two former Yugoslav republics, Slovenia and as of three days ago Croatia, are now full Alliance members.
Of the seventeen only Serbia, Kosovo (so far), Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan have not been dragooned into providing troops for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The way stations on NATO's 21st century caravan route from the Atlantic Ocean to the Chinese frontier progressively reveal the pathetic - and tragic - status of what awaits much of the world in this not so grand plan. The West's two latest mini-states, Montenegro which became the latest member of the United Nations in 2006 and Kosovo which was torn from Serbia a little more than a year ago, are both underworld enclaves, gangland smugglers' coves carved out of broader states, Yugoslavia and Serbia, for the sole purpose of serving as military and black market transit points.
NATO's latest additions, Albania and Croatia, belie in every particular NATO's and the United States' claims of the Alliance epitomizing alleged Euro-Atlantic values and a new international "union of democracies." Croatia, still beset by fascist nostalgia and risorgimento, is guilty of the worst permanent ethnic cleansing in post-World War II Europe, that of the US-directed Operation Storm of 1995 which drove hundreds of thousands of Serbs and other ethnic minorities out of the country. Albania is another crime-ridden failed state which played a key role in assisting the second worst irreversible ethnic cleansing in modern Europe, the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Serbs, Roma, Gorans, Turks and other non-Albanians from Kosovo since June of 1999. (At the recently concluded NATO 60th anniversary summit Croatian President Stjepan Mesic boasted that his nation would contribute to NATO operations with its "war experience.")
After the US and NATO brought what they triumphantly designate as peace and stability to the former Yugoslavia, they moved the battleground eastward toward the Black Sea and the Caucasus. Bulgaria and Romania were ushered into NATO in 2004 and Ukraine and Georgia were placed on the fast track to follow them.
With Turkey already a long-standing member of the Alliance, Russia is the only non-NATO and non-NATO candidate nation on the Black Sea.
Georgia is the major objective in this drive east as its western flank is the Black Sea and its eastern is Azerbaijan, whose eastern border is the Caspian Sea.