The CSS Blog Network

Realignment in the Caucasus

Image: Travelpleb/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by the World Policy Institute on 22 April 2015.

An April 2 meeting between the defense ministers of Turkey, Georgia, and Azerbaijan might have easily passed as routine. Yet in a region like the Caucasus, fraught with deeply entrenched interstate rivalries, this summit could hardly be described as inconsequential. At the meeting, Azerbaijani Defense Minister Zakir Hasanov identified Armenia as a regional threat, remarking that it “is the only state in the region which lays territorial claims to our countries.” The same day, Russian fighter jets stationed in Armenia began three-day drills. Though these two events probably coincided by chance, they illustrate two distinct – potentially competing –  regional orders in the South Caucasus: a deepening Turkey-Georgia-Azerbaijan coordination and a historic Russian presence represented by the Kremlin’s close alliance with Armenia. » More

The Modi Moment for China and India?

Indian Prime Minister Modi gives a speech, courtesy of Narendra Modi/flickr

This article was originally published June 20, 2014 by Harvard International Review.

When former Indian National Congress (INC) Minister of State Jairam Ramesh coined the term ‘Chindia’ he envisaged a relationship between China and India that was driven by mutually beneficial trade rather than conflict. Today it seems China and India are tipped to become the leading superpowers of the twenty-first century, driving forward the international economy and maintaining peace and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region.

Both among the fastest growing economies, China and India are the two most populous countries in the world with a great deal of untapped trade potential. Beijing and New Delhi recognize this and will harness it under under Xi Jinping and Narendra Modi’s leadership. Whether the Modi moment becomes the ‘Nixon moment’ for Sino-Indian relations rests heavily on the level of cultural engagement between the two countries. » More

Reducing the Risk of War with Water

Reservoir and intake tower behind the Katse Dam, Lesotho. Photo: Beest/Wikimedia Commons.

Water has become a hot button issue on the international stage. The fear of water scarcity and its implications for human security has been acknowledged by leaders and decision makers across the globe. For example, the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon has warned that “the consequences for humanity are grave. Water scarcity threatens economic and social gains and is a potent fuel for wars and conflict.” Yet, the challenges posed by water scarcity are a manifestation of the lack of management of resources rather than an actual physical shortage. So while conflict over water resources is possible in many parts of the world, the threat is not due to scarcity but mismanagement. This begs a question – can water bodies ever be jointly managed for equal benefit? We at the Strategic Foresight Group (SFG) believe so.

The Good News

According to the findings of our new report “Water Cooperation for a Secure World”, any two countries that are engaged in active water cooperation do not go to war. We are also convinced that if countries cooperate to ensure water supplies they are also far less likely to come to blows over ideologies, economic competition and other factors. Indeed, cooperation between states over water resources not only reduces the chances of war, but also enhances the prospect for social and economic development in other areas. » More

Why is Russia Favored by Mongolia and North Korea?

Border between Russia and Mongolia. Photo: Geoff Sowrey/flickr

Russia is favored by Mongolia and North Korea just as the United States is welcomed by some of its Southeast Asian partners. At the same time, Mongolia and especially North Korea provide opportunities for Russia to raise its stakes in Northeast Asian matters.

Despite the collapse of the Soviet Union and relative inattention by the Kremlin in the 1990s, Ulaanbaatar and Pyongyang never abandoned their attempts to renew ties with Russia. High-ranking political and military officials constantly made calls to advance political, military, economic, and cultural ties with Moscow. Positive responses came after a decade, under Russian President Putin. Putin’s visit to the DPRK and Mongolia in 2000 demonstrated the Kremlin’s new emphasis on two its former allies, whose industrial facilities and enterprises were built with Soviet assistance and technology. Their treaties of mutual assistance with Russia were replaced by treaties of good neighborliness in 1993 (Mongolia) and 2001 (North Korea). And the $11 billion debts incurred during the Soviet era, were resolved favorably for Mongolians in 2003 and North Koreans in 2012. As a result, Russia seems to have secured its stake in key infrastructure development projects. In North Korea, Russia will invest in the trans-Korean railway, a gas pipeline, special economic zones, and education. Russia will invest in the trans-Mongolian railway, its extension, and the mining of uranium and aluminum in Mongolia. Economic cooperation with Mongolia and North Korea will play an important role in Putin’s agenda to develop Russia’s long-neglected Far East and Siberia and to secure Chinese and East Asian markets for its mineral exports. » More

Regional Cooperation in Afghanistan: What Makes the Heart of Asia Beat?

ISAF soldiers provide aid at Kabul airport.

Turkish civil-military cooperation teams from the ISAF’s Regional Command provide aid at Kabul airport. Photo: isafmedia/flickr.

The new grand bargain went into its next round. On 14 June 2012 the Heart of Asia group gathered in Kabul to push forward the Istanbul Process on Regional Security and Cooperation for a Secure and Stable Afghanistan. The real potential for regional security and cooperation, however, remains a contentious issue. Some observers disregarded the gathering as yet another useless meeting which failed to take concrete steps towards a regional security architecture. Others like UN-Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon praised it as “real progress on the path to security and broad-based development”. » More