A Reset in the Caucasus

YEREVAN – Will Turkey’s current turmoil between Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the country’s powerful army complicate and delay the country’s boldest initiatives in years – the moves to address decades-old tensions with both Armenians and Kurds?

Restructuring the role of Turkey’s army is vital, but if Turkey cannot follow through with the Armenian and Kurdish openings, the country’s own domestic situation, its relations with the two peoples, as well as tensions in the Caucasus, will undoubtedly worsen. Of the several flashpoints in the region, including that between Georgia and Russia over South Ossetia and Abkhazia, the tension between Armenians and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh is among the most challenging.

As to Georgia and Russia, the disproportionate size, weight, and power on one side are enough to deter any return to violence. Moreover, there are no entangling alliances complicating the matter. Georgia is not a NATO member, and the United States, it is clear, will not go to war with Russia over Georgia.

The Armenian-Azerbaijani struggle is more precarious. It is no longer a two-way tug-of-war between two small post-Soviet republics, but part of an Armenia-Turkey-Azerbaijan triangle. This triangle is the direct consequence of the process of normalization between Armenia and Turkey, which began when both countries’ presidents met at a football game.