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Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia:
Political Developments and Implications for United States Interests

Jim Nichol

Congressional Research Service Report RL 33453

The United States recognized the independence of Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia when the former Soviet Union broke up at the end of 1991. The United States has fostered these states’ ties with the West in part to end their dependence on Russia for trade, security, and other relations. Successive Administrations have supported U.S. private investment in Azerbaijan’s energy sector as a means of increasing the diversity of world energy suppliers. The United States has been active in diplomatic efforts to resolve regional conflicts in the region. As part of U.S. global counter-terrorism efforts, the U.S. military in 2002 began providing equipment and training for Georgia’s military and security forces. Troops from all three regional states have participated in stabilization efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq. The regional states also have granted transit privileges for U.S. military personnel and equipment bound to and from Afghanistan.

Beginning on August 7, 2008, Russia and Georgia warred over Georgia’s breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Russian troops quickly swept into Georgia, destroyed infrastructure, and tightened their de facto control over the breakaway regions before a ceasefire was concluded on August 15. The conflict has had long-term effects on security dynamics in the region and beyond. Russia established military bases in Abkhazia and South Ossetia that buttress its long-time security presence in Armenia. Despite concerns that the South Caucasus had become less stable as a source and transit area for oil and gas, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan are barging oil across the Caspian Sea for transit westward. The United States and the European Union still support building more east-west pipelines through Turkey to bring Azerbaijani and perhaps other gas to European markets.

Georgia’s aspirations for NATO membership have received congressional support. Many policy makers believe that the United States should provide greater support for the region’s increasing role as an east-west trade and security corridor linking the Black Sea and Caspian Sea regions. They urge greater U.S. aid and conflict resolution efforts to contain warfare, crime, smuggling, and terrorism, and to bolster the independence of the states. Others urge caution in adopting policies that will increase U.S. involvement in a region beset by ethnic and civil conflicts.