As ever, the Economist has an excellent analysis of the situation in the Caucasus. They mention many of the strategic and historical interests in the region that I heard directly from Georgians themselves. The situation is extremely complex, and via translator it was explained to me over several days.
The map they use is extremely good too. I actually stayed the night in Supsa, just south of Poti, and saw markers in the ground where the pipeline they mark is placed.
The Economist suggests a process to help Armenia and Azerbaijan to move closer to the West.
Two keys could help to unlock this process. The first is to dangle the prospect, however distant, that all three countries might one day qualify as members of the EU. As experience in eastern Europe has shown, this is the best way to lure countries towards reform. The EU may offer a better route than NATO membership, which is both more problematic and further off after Georgia’s war.
The second key is to work with Turkey, which as the only NATO country in the region is well-placed to offset Russia’s influence. Shortly after the war, Turkey launched a proposed “Caucasus Stability and Co-operation Platform”, which even the Russians applauded. Turkish companies are active in the region, conspicuously so in Georgia and Azerbaijan and (in disguise) even in Armenia. If the Turks can improve relations with Armenia, including opening the border, they could play a more constructive role in the Caucasus than the Russians have ever done.
But both Turkey and the three Caucasus countries will need encouragement. That could start with a firm EU decision to back the Nabucco gas pipeline. It would also help if the Caucasus countries were less nationalist and better at working together. Paradoxically, Georgia’s war with Russia may enhance the chances of peaceful progress in the whole region.
We shall see.