Vol. 3, No. 32, September 3, 2001
U.S. Policy toward the Caspian Region:
Recommendations for the Bush Administration
In July 2001, Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government published an analytical brief under such title by Dr. Brenda Shaffer, Research Director of the School's Caspian Studies Program, containing analysis, recommendations, and policy guidelines for the U.S. Government in pursuing its national interests in the Caspian region.
The resources of the Caspian region can make an important contribution to United States energy security. However, the importance of the region extends beyond energy; extensive ties with the states of the Caspian region can contribute to improvement of Washington's relations with the Muslim world and encourage U.S.-oriented regimes and open societies. In order to better advance these aims, the U.S., first and foremost, needs to conduct a comprehensive and coherent policy. The U.S. should continue to promote the peaceful resolution of the conflicts in the region. The U.S. should continue to conduct a policy that is cooperative with Russia and not allow the area to become a zone for U.S.-Russian rivalry. At the same time, the U.S. should be firm in its commitment to uphold the independence of the states of the Caspian region and resist potential Russian attempts to compromise that independence.
The Caspian Region: Advancement of U.S. National Interests
A number of U.S. national interests can be advanced through the successful articulation of policies in the Caspian region, as well as neighboring states that belong to the security and energy transport picture of the sea basin, such as:
1. Viability and stability of global energy supplies and diversification of supply from areas other than the Persian Gulf. The Caspian's resources are located in countries possessing predominately pro-Western orientations that are not currently members of OPEC. The addition of Caspian oil could weaken the OPEC monopoly, providing greater leverage over the pricing policies of Saudi Arabia and other OPEC countries, ultimately contributing to lower world oil prices.
2. Promotion of the well being of Turkey, an important U.S. ally, now in the midst of a financial crisis.
3. Improved relations with the Muslim world.
4. Promotion of U.S. economic interests. Good political relations with the states of the region provide important support for American investments and encourage the growth of these investments.
5. Promotion of the independence of the states in the Caucasus and Central Asia; their successful democratization; and general peace, stability and prosperity in the region".
Dr. Shaffer outlines 14 recommendations on how to promote those interests, the first being to "increase diplomatic efforts and encourage financial investment to promote the flow of Caspian energy resources along an East-West corridor (Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan). The building of this pipeline serves a number of key U.S. strategic goals, foremost energy security, and it additionally promises to bolster the political independence of Caspian states. Dr. Shaffer also argues for the need to "work to contain and reduce the implications of the Afghanistan conflict, which is a source of actual, and in the future, potentially increasing instability in the Caspian region and the Middle East". She believes it is necessary to "alter the thrust of U.S. democratization programs in the region to emphasize the establishment of open society infrastructure (e.g. wide Internet access, independent press and an independent and qualified judiciary), while recognizing that local leadership must guide these democratization efforts. Democratization is a long process. Elections and election monitoring should not be the focal point of the whole democratization policy nor should they be the only barometer of success. Heavy emphasis on election monitoring has contributed to a public cynicism about elections. Democratization should instead be geared towards long-term goals. The U.S. must be perceived as a friend in the democratization process, and commend the positive steps in this regard whenever possible. The previous Administration often recognized progress by making more demands, creating confusion and animosity among the governments in the region. Moreover, foreign election monitoring created wide resentment in Central Asia and the Caucasus; alternative programs supporting the rule of law and infrastructure for information exchange would better promote democratization and produce less local resentment. The author considers that "it is easy to ruin U.S. credibility in the region and difficult to rebuild it. The Bush Administration should be careful not to make quick or dramatic shifts in what have been cornerstones of the previous administration's policies. If the U.S. removes support for 'cornerstone' policies, Washington will only damage its credibility and find it more difficult to build future partnerships. Major policy shifts will cause confusion in the region, especially since local regimes have taken great risks to be good partners with America. Before Washington makes a major shift on any of its Caspian policies, it must factor in the costs to U.S. credibility; credibility will decisively impact the efficacy of future U.S. efforts to mobilize support for, and trust in, American polices".
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News Bulletin of the Embassy of the Republic of Kazakhstan
(Compiled from own sources and various agencies' reports)
Contact persons: Roman Vassilenko, Aibek Nurbalin
Tel.: (202) 232- 5488 ext. 104, 115
Fax: (202) 232- 5845