Two levels of the Nagorno-Karabagh conflict
The Nagorno-Karabagh conflict is evolving on two levels. The first is strategic and the second is diplomatic-legal. The strategic level represents the base (to use Marxist terminology). Besides a purely military aspect, this level incorporates relevant geopolitical and geo-economic factors as well as the internal political processes of the states, directly or indirectly, involved in the conflict. It is this set of complex factors that determines the strategic thinking of the immediate parties to the conflict.
The superstructural level of the Nagorno-Karabagh conflict is located in the framework of OSCE's Minsk Group negotiations. Logically, if the developments on the superstructure are not going to meet those of its base, then these two levels will experience a dangerous friction. In other words, a successful settlement of this conflict depends on whether the international mediators, as well as the parties to the conflict, understand adequately what is taking place on the ground and how seriously they try to cope with the fundamental causes of this conflict.
The OSCE's Minsk group process has until now dealt with the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict at the level of superstructure only. They address only the immediate time and territory of the hostilities, as though the only issue was the administrative status of Nagorno-Karabagh and the plight of its population. Thus, the negotiations confine themselves to the narrowest framework possible -"to the tip of the iceberg" -leaving out of the agenda the deeper conflicting patterns of behavior and strategic thinking of the immediate parties to the conflict In fact, the Nagorno-Karabagh crisis has a strategic two-dimensional causal field: first, a clash of divergent strategic interests and objectives of the immediate parties to the conflict and, second, a similar clash between the great and regional powers, who have båån effectively meddling in Transcaucasia and especially in Karabakh. This strategic reality means, among other things, that the political responsibility for solving the Karabakh crisis rests not solely with the immediate parties to this conflict, which include Armenia, Nagorno-Karabagh, Azerbaijan and, as we shall see below, Turkey, but this responsibility rests, in equal measure, on the big powers, especially Russia and the USA. We must recognize as well that these two powers have opposing agendas in the Caucasus and are in the midst of an intense, ongoing tug-of-war in the region.
Recently, some western analysts have promoted an almost mystical slogan of "integration" between Transcaucasian states as a panacea for the resolution of regional conflicts. It should be obvious, however, that ànó kind of regional integration between the Transcaucasian actors is possible only if and when accompanied by simultaneous and concomitant regional co-operation among the greater powers, Russia, the USA, Turkey, and Iran. Without a geopolitical and geo-economic modus vivendi between these powerful outside players,any talk about the integration of the Transcaucasian actors is, at best, wishful thinking.
With regard to the first dimension, that is the clash between the immediate parties to the conflict (IPCs), the strategies pursued by the immediate parties to the conflict are as follows. One of the foremost strategic objectives of Turkish foreign policy is td strengthen its position in the newly independent and not finally shaped Caucasian-Central Asian geostrategic region. The main means for achieving this aim is to deepen the economic, political and, if and whenever possible,
military and security relations with the five Turkic-speaking former Soviet republics of Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Kirgizstan. Thus, in May 1998 the security ministers of all these states held a sudden meeting in Istanbul, which was viewed with suspicion in Moscow. Prior to that, we have the Treaty în Bilateral Military Cooperation signed by Turkey and Azerbaijan in summer 1996. Turkish-Georgian military collaboration is also evolving. Besides financial and technical support for the Georgian army, there also exists a training program for Georgian officers.
The primary strategic goals of Azerbaijan are to strengthen its independence by building and exploiting oil and gas pipelines that bypass Russia, and to provide economic and military security to its province of Nakhichevan, a small territory bordered in three sides by Armenia and non-contiguous with Azerbaijan proper.
The strategic objectives of both Turkey and Azerbaijan converge on trying to shrink Russia's sphere of influence and to eliminate the narrow " Armenian wedge" consisting of Armenia's southernmost province which separates Azerbaijan proper from Nakhichevan and Turkey. This is not merely because of a century-old ðàn-Turkic ideology (which calls for the political unification of à" Turkophone peoples) or traditional Armenophobia (quite strong in both Turkey and Azerbaijan), but because of clear geopolitical and geostrategic interests. Pan-Turkism and Armenophobia are merely the appropriate ideological vehicles for the promotion of these interests.
The major strategic challenge facing Armenia is to withstand this pressure from Turkey and Azerbaijan and to ensure its long-term security. Armenia's security predicament is to survive as a state and as a nation. Neither Turkey nor Azerbaijan faces a similar problem.