Caspian Policy Center Discusses the United States Presence in the Strategically Located Caspian Region With Foreign Policy Experts From Washington and the Greater Caspian Region
WASHINGTON, D.C. – TODAY, the Caspian Policy Center (CPC) brought together top foreign policy experts from the leading research think tanks based in Washington and the Greater Caspian region countries to discuss the current geopolitical dynamics of the U.S. presence in the strategically-located Caspian region.
CPC’s Executive Director Efgan Nifti opened the event with welcome remarks that were followed by introductory comments from the panelists.
“With the rapidly changing global geo-political landscape coupled with COVID-19-induced economic and social disruptions of historical scale, it becomes increasingly challenging to balance relations with multiple foreign partners that oftentimes have diverging regional agendas,” said Mr. Nifti.
Ambassador (ret.) Farid Shafiyev, Chairman of the Center of Analysis of International Relations in Azerbaijan; Ambassador (ret.) Giorgi Badridze, Senior Fellow at the Georgian Foundation for Strategic and International Studies (Rondeli Foundation) in Georgia; Iskander Akylbayev, Executive Director of the Kazakhstan Council on International Relations; Eldor Tulyakov, Executive Director of the Development Strategy Center in Uzbekistan; Brianne Todd, Assistant Professor of Central Asian Studies at the National Defense University; Victor Kipiani, Chair of Geocase in Georgia; and Esmira Jafarova, Deputy Chairman of the Center of Analysis of International Relations in Azerbaijan were among the webinar panelists who talked on the current state of the COVID-19 pandemic in the Caspian region, a range of foreign policy actions to support the independence and sovereignty of the regional countries, strategies implemented by the United States to maintain critical partnerships in the region, and implications of regional geopolitics for the development of energy infrastructure and security.
“There are countries that would like to have a good relationship with the United States but still keep their geopolitical options open in the closer neighborhood. I would call them countries with bridging capabilities. This is an avenue we can pursue for our bilateral relations,” said Ambassador (ret.) Farid Shafiyev, Chairman of the Center of Analysis of International Relations in Azerbaijan.
“There is initiative and readiness on part of Central Asian countries to engage in strategic transportation projects that will realize their economic potential to a greater degree,” shared Ambassador (ret.) Giorgi Badridze, Senior Fellow at the Rondeli Foundation in Georgia.
“The China-Russia partnership is becoming an increasingly important factor in defining the U.S. involvement in Central Asia. I believe we’ll see greater pressure on the region from different stakeholders – the United States, China, and Russia – on different matters, including trade, technology, and military cooperation,” said Iskander Akylbayev,Executive Director of the Kazakhstan Council on International Relations.
“Central Asia is located in the crossroads of great civilizations and serves as a linking bridge between the East and the West. Thus, it has been in the center of global and regional actors’ interest, primarily, due to their geopolitical and geostrategic objectives. With the launch of the Belt and Road Initiative, Central Asia has become a strategic crossroad for Chinese global economic and trade relations,” said Eldor Tulyakov, Executive Director of the Development Strategy Center in Uzbekistan.
The Caspian Sea is an important, if often-overlooked, region for the United States. Many of the challenges that the U.S. faces around the world converge in the Caspian region. The resources located in and near the Caspian make the region of particular importance for locals and outsiders alike. The webinar, moderated by the CPC Board Member Ambassador (ret.) Richard Hoagland, promoted fruitful exchanges amongst the panelists on how the U.S. can have a working strategy to strengthen its presence in the Greater Caspian region, help Europe improve its energy security, and partner with emerging regional actors such as Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan.
“In this COVID era, we are now in a period of reduced resources and capabilities and the United States is going to have to make some hard decisions about where and how we partner. This is not even specific to Central Asia; we are going to see this internationally,” said Brianne Todd, Assistant Professor of Central Asian Studies at the National Defense University.
“It is not always lack of interest by the U.S. – I do not think that the role of the US is waning or withdrawing from the region – I think that in any relationship you need partners that have mutual objectives, willingness, and capacity to work together,” she added.
“This very high degree of connectedness and interdependence demonstrates all the realities of geopolitics in the Black Sea and Caspian region and underlines the importance of making these ties even stronger and more resilient,” said Victor Kipiani, Chair of Geocase in Georgia.
“We are all witnessing that the Southern Gas Corridor, which has been strongly supported by the United States, is coming to its conclusion. And it stands as a valuable contribution to Europe’s energy security and ensures diversification of sources and routes of energy,” shared Esmira Jafarova,Deputy Chairman of the Center of Analysis of International Relations in Azerbaijan.
During the webinar, the speakers highlighted the importance of regional collaboration among the Greater Caspian Region countries as well as with the global powers and noted that the United States, China, and Russia were not alone in their involvement in the Caspian region’s foreign affairs. The Caspian region is also an area of interest for secondary powers, including Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and Turkey.
Panelists noted that Turkey plays an especially significant role in the region due to its historical and linguistic ties. They agreed that continued U.S. support and engagement would be critical to safeguarding the sovereignty and prosperity of the Caspian region countries while navigating through its complex web of regional and international relations.
WATCH THE FULL WEBINAR RECORDING
About Caspian Policy Center
The Caspian Policy Center (CPC) is an independent, nonprofit research think tank based in Washington D.C. Economic, political, energy, and security issues of the Caspian region constitute the central research focus of the Center. CPC aims at becoming a primary research and debate platform in the Caspian region with relevant publications, events, projects, and media productions to nurture a comprehensive understanding of the intertwined affairs of the Caspian region.
With an inclusive, scholarly, and innovative approach, the Caspian Policy Center presents a platform where diverse voices from academia, business, and policy world from both the region and the nation’s capital interact to produce distinct ideas and insights to the outstanding issues of the Caspian region.
Learn more at caspianpolicy.org