Policy Memos

US-Russian Cooperation in the Caspian: An Opportunity Worth Pursuing

Policy Memo:

136

Publication Date:

05-2011

Author(s):

Description:

For the United States, the strategic importance of the Caspian region has increased dramatically in recent years. The Caspian littoral states have come to provide an important set of opportunities for the United States in a strategically significant region. Now, however, they face a range of security threats in the region, which have resulted from a combination of changes in the region's geopolitical environment resulting from the break-up of the Soviet Union and conflicts over the division of marine and seabed resources in the Caspian Sea. Specific threats include smuggling of narcotics and other contraband, proliferation of WMD or related materials, and the limited reach of government authority in remote land and maritime areas. Further, a number of regional actors pose threats to Caspian energy security. There is also the potential for armed conflict that can spill into the wider region; in particular, Azerbaijan and Armenia may come to blows over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region. Finally, terrorism presents a threat—both directly to several of the littoral states, and indirectly to the entire region, which serves as a transit corridor for terrorist group members traveling between the northern Caucasus and Afghanistan. An important consideration is that the effects of these threats can and do proliferate beyond the region. It is in the interests of the U.S. government to help its Caspian regional partners achieve or enhance the ability to deter, detect, and respond to these threats themselves before problems spread. [...]

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About the author

Senior Analyst
CNA; Harvard University