Published in Forums & Events

 Can Regionalism Drive Development in Central Asia?

Event Summary by Matthew LaFond

On October 24, 2018, the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute (CACI) at the American Foreign Policy Council hosted a Forum entitled, “Can Regionalism Drive Development in Central Asia?”. Speakers included CACI Chairman Frederick Starr, Lead Economist in the World Bank’s Europe and Central Asia Region David M. Gould, and Rohullah Osmani of the Asian Development Bank’s North America Representative Office. CACI Senior Fellow Mamuka Tsereteli moderated the event. During the Forum, the speakers addressed a number of topics, including the history of regionalism in Central Asia, the economic benefits regionalism will bring, and how international institutions such as the World Bank and Asian Development Bank are contributing to economic development.

CACI Chairman Frederick Starr began the Forum by introducing and providing perspective for common misconceptions about regionalism in Central Asia. He started by describing that the inhabitants of Central Asia are descended from two very different but interconnected ways of life: nomadic peoples and sedentary oasis-dwellers. This deep tradition of interdependence demonstrates that the diversity of the Central Asian peoples would not hamper regionalism. Another misconception he addressed was that the Central Asia region encompasses a vast number of different languages and ethnicities. He refuted this with the case of the Fergana Valley, which spreads across Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan. The valley’s inhabitants freely intermingle and share common cultural features despite their different languages and nationalities. Dr. Starr concluded his presentation with a history of regionalism in Central Asia. He argues that Central Asia’s modern regionalism was actually born under the Soviet Union; during the 1960s-80s, the Central Asia SSRs were intimately coordinated and managed to create a de facto autonomy. Finally, Starr demonstrates that regional elements have continued to exist since the Soviet Union’s dissolution. All five presidents have agreed on renaming the region “Central Asia” and making the region a nuclear-free zone.

World Bank representative David M. Gould gave a presentation of the recent publication, Critical Connections: Promoting Economic Growth and Resilience in Europe and Central Asia. In his presentation, Gould posited that connectivity and its relationship to economic growth should not be viewed in only one dimension (i.e. solely trade or migration), but rather multidimensionally. In other words, connectivity in one field, such as trade, foreign direct investment (FDI), migration, telecommunications, or transportation, complements connectivity in another. However, Gould also explained that if connectivity is multidimensional, then shocks in one dimension have adverse effects in other dimensions as well. Furthermore, countries that are more reliant on a single connection will be significantly more affected by these shocks. Gould identified this as a major concern for the region of Central Asia. Although connectivity is increasing, Central Asian countries are still very dependent on Russia. Gould concluded his presentation with a few recommendations: countries’ connections should be multidimensional and multinational, and a balanced connectivity profile is more important than being well connected in a single dimension. According to him, the remedy for shocks from connections is not isolation, but broadening the range of connections.

Asian Development Bank (ADB) representative Rohullah Osmani presented on the development projects that are connecting Central Asian countries. Osmani began by discussing the TAPI and TAP projects. He explicated that Central Asian countries face significant challenges that do not respect borders, such as the financial crisis, oil and gas crises, and climate change. To address these, he noted the newly launched Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC) 2030 strategy, which expands CAREC’s mandate and seeks to better help CAREC’s 11 member countries achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and Paris Climate Agreement targets. To support CAREC 2030, ADB has committed $5 billion for the next 5 years. Osmani concluded his presentation by noting the results of a survey by the Asia Foundation on the impact of infrastructure on public attitudes. The survey demonstrated a positive relationship between infrastructure, employment opportunities, and public optimism.

The Forum then opened up for questions. Much of the discussion from the speakers and audience during this period revolved around the question of why regionalism in Central Asia has not already happened. Starr provided two reasons: sovereignty and a lack of committed interest by international institutions. He explicated that these countries have only just become confident enough in their individual sovereignties and opening up to their neighbors. Then he noted that international financial institutions are not embracing the region as an analytical category and producing a significant amount of data. Gould disagreed with Starr’s critique, stating that while the World Bank does adequately focus on Central Asia on a regional basis and that these countries are still very hesitant to open up internationally. Although there were a variety of viewpoints presented at the Forum, the speakers agreed that a new era of regionalism is emerging among the Central Asian countries, and if these countries embrace this greater connectivity, they are sure to be host to economic benefits and development.

 

Clip of the Event Below. Check the CACI YouTube page for the remaining clips.

Published in Forums & Events

 Reform in Uzbekistan: A Turning Point for Central Asia and Beyond

Scroll down for the video recording

Momentous changes have taken place in Uzbekistan, at the heart of Central Asia. Reforms launched by President Shavkat Mirziyoyev have not only transformed Uzbekistan, but opened the door to a new spirit of regionalism that has swept Central Asia. This Forum marked the launch of CACI's comprehensive new study of the reforms, Uzbekistan's New Face, and provided the opportunity to hear firsthand from leading implementers of reforms from Uzbekistan.

 

Speakers: 

S. Frederick Starr, Chairman, Central Asia-Caucasus Institute; co-editor, Uzbekistan’s New Face

H.E. Mr. Sherzod Shermatov, Minister of Public Education, Uzbekistan

Mr. Eldor Aripov, Director, Center for International Relations Studies, Tashkent

Moderator: Svante E. Cornell, Director, Central Asia-Caucasus Institute; co-editor, Uzbekistan’s New Face

 

Where: The National Press Club 529, 14th Street NW, 13th Floor, Washington, DC 20045

When: Thursday, Octobeer 4, 2018 from 3:00 - 4:45 pm

Published in Forums & Events

 The U.S. and Security Challenges in the South Caucasus Roundtable

Event Summary by Hayden Gilmore

On September 14, 2018, the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute hosted an off-the-record
roundtable discussion on U.S. Security Challenges in the South Caucasus. Speakers at the event
included Former U.S. Ambassador to Azerbaijan Robert Cekuta, Senior Director at Penn Biden
Center for Diplomacy and International Engagement Dr. Michael Carpenter, and American
Foreign Policy Council Senior Fellow Dr. Stephen Blank. CACI Director Svante Cornell moderated
the event.
The roundtable started with a discussion on changing variables within the region. The
speakers acknowledged key issues currently affecting U.S. relationships with the states of the
Caucasus and major players outside of the region. These issues include a lack of U.S. policy
focus in the region, the loss of Turkey as a model for states in the Caucasus and Central Asia,
political leadership that is fearful of a resurgent Russia and Iran, and the influence of China’s
Belt and Road Initiative in the region. The participants agreed that the U.S. should respond now
rather than later as a loss of influence, business operations, and spreading corruption all affect
U.S. relationships with countries in the South Caucasus.
One participant argued that the U.S. needs to be more involved in the region and utilize
opportunities with countries willing to accept and welcome U.S. involvement. The example of
Georgia and its territorial defense program was mentioned in this context. It was suggested
that the U.S. should help redesign the national security of the Georgian executive branch, as
well as present new military and tactical ideas, such as using the terrain to the Georgian
advantage. The restructuring could have a major impact with minimal U.S. resources.
Another key issue discussed was the relationship with Azerbaijan. There is a potential to
improve relations with the U.S. by means of security cooperation, particularly maritime
security. The previous administration was distracted from the region, and both Azerbaijan and
Armenia now need reasons to place trust back in the U.S.
The topic of Black Sea Security was raised, and the roundtable agreed on the necessity
of increased security in the Black Sea. One participant discussed increasing NATO presence and
maritime domain presence. However, Russia could consider these actions as provocative. Still,
the importance of the Black Sea to European allies was noted, as was the close link between
European security and Caucasus security. Concerning the Black Sea, it was noted that a
Romanian port is needed as there are currently only land forces in the area and the naval base
in Rota, Spain is too distant. Maritime presence in the area would act as power projection.
Two important opportunities for the U.S. to take advantage of were noted: the first is the 2018
Armenian Revolution, and the second is the Caspian Convention. Focusing on the importance of
the Caspian Convention, the argument is that this agreement lays the groundwork for a
possible gas pipeline to Europe, enhances Azerbaijani importance to Turkey, and causes the

South Caucasus to have more strategic importance as an energy provider to Europe in the long
run. It was noted that Russia continues to play Armenia against Azerbaijan to prevent
democratic values from reaching Armenia. This will stall democracy and prevent the gas
pipeline from materializing. To prevent this scenario, the U.S. must provide support and
convince Armenia that sustaining the conflict with Azerbaijan is counterproductive to its own
interests, and the U.S. should ramp up its role in the conflict resolution process. This would
entail committing U.S. resources as incentives towards economic revitalization to encourage
peace.
During a discussion of the prospect of energy pipelines across the Caspian, a note of caution
was issued: the U.S. has been against the Nord Stream 2 pipeline and for the Southern Gas
Corridor. Delays to construction through Italy though, could lead to a situation where Nord Stream 2 is built while the Trans-Adriatic pipeline, part of the SGC, falters. This would reduce U.S. credibility, and thus, before attempting to build Trans-Caspian pipelines, the U.S. should ensure the TAP pipeline is successfully constructed.

  

Published in Forums & Events

 Toward "Enlightened Islam"? Religion and the Secular State in Uzbekistan

Uzbekistan has remained staunchly secular and taken a firm stand against extremist movements since independence. In recent years, however, Uzbekistan’s policies have shifted from a defensive to a more proactive approach. The recent surge of reforms has affected the religious area as well. Uzbekistan has taken major steps toward the promotion of what President Shavkat Mirziyoyev terms “Enlightened Islam” at home and on the world stage.

This Forum was part of CACI’s ongoing research on the relationship between politics and religion in Central Asia and the Caucasus, and coincided with the release of the Silk Road Paper “Religion and the Secular State in Uzbekistan”, by Svante E. Cornell and Jacob Zenn.

Speakers: Svante E. Cornell, Director, Central Asia-Caucasus Institute at the American Foreign Policy Council

Moderator: Frederick Starr, Chairman, Central Asia-Caucasus Institute

 

Where: Middle East Institute: 1319 18th Street NW, 20036

When: Thursday, June 7, 2018 from 4:00 - 5:30 pm

 

Full Recording of the Forum Below:

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AFPC-Full-Logo

 

News

  • New Article Series on Changing Geopolitics of Central Asia and the Caucasus
    Wednesday, 24 November 2021 11:53

    Eurasia

  • CACI Initiative on Religion and the Secular State in Central Asia and the Caucasus
    Sunday, 24 January 2021 13:53

    In 2016, the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute & Silk Road Studies Program launched an initiative on documenting the interrelationship of religion and the secular state in the region. This initiative departed from the fact that little systematic reserch had been undertaken on the subject thus far. While there was and remains much commentary and criticism of religious policy in the region, there was no comprehensive analysis available on the interrelationship of religion and the state in any regional state, let alone the region as a whole. The result of this initiative has been the publication of six Silk Road Papers studying the matter in regional states, with more to come. In addition, work is ongoing on a volume putting the regional situation in the context of the Muslim world as a whole.

     

    Case Studies

    Each study below can be freely downloaded in PDF format.

    az-formula-SRSP

    Azerbaijan's Formula: Secular Governance and Civil Nationhood
    By Svante E. Cornell, Halil Karaveli, and Boris Ajeganov
    November 2016   




    2018-04-Kazakhstan-SecularismReligion and the Secular State in Kazakhstan
    By Svante E. Cornell, S. Frederick Starr and Julian Tucker
    April 2018

     

     

     

    1806-UZ-coverReligion and the Secular State in Uzbekistan
    Svante E. Cornell and Jacob Zenn
    June 2018

     

     

     

    2006-Engvall-coverReligion and the Secular State in Kyrgyzstan
    Johan Engvall
    June 2020

     Event video online

     

    2006-Clement-coverReligion and the Secular State in Turkmenistan
    Victoria Clement
    June 2020

    Event video online

     

     

     

    Articles and Analyses

    Svante E. Cornell, "Religion and the State in Central Asia," in Ilan Berman, ed., Wars of Ideas: Theology, Interpretation and Power in the Muslim World, Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2021.

    Svante E. Cornell, "Central Asia: Where Did Islamic Radicalization Go?" in Religion, Conflict and Stability in the Former Soviet Union, eds. Katya Migacheva and Bryan Frederick, Arlington, VA: RAND Corporation, 2018.

  • Basic Principles for the Rehabilitation of Azerbaijan's Post-Conflict Territories
    Wednesday, 07 October 2020 09:01

    Rehab-coverIn 2010, the CACI-SRSP Joint Center cooperated with Eldar Ismailov and Nazim Muzaffarli of the Institute for Strategic Studies of the Caucasus to produce a study of the methodology and process for the rehabilitation of the occupied territories in Azerbaijan. The study was written in the hope that it would prove useful in the aftermath of a negotiated solution to the conflict.

    Such a resolution nevertheless did not materialize. At present, however, it appears that some of these territories are returning to Azerbaijani control as a result of the military conflict that began in late September, 2020. While it is regrettable that this did not come to pass as a result of negotiations, it is clear that the challenge of rehabilitating territories is as pressing today as it would be in the event of a peaceful resolution - if not more, given the likelihood that such a solution would have included a time-table and provided the Government of Azerbaijan and international institutions time for planning.

    It is clear that the study is a product of a different time, as much has changed since 2010. We fully expcect many updates and revisions to be needed should the recommendations in this study be implemented today. That said, we believe the methodoloy of the study and its conclusions remain relevant and would therefore like to call attention to this important study, published in English, Russian and Azerbaijani versions.

    Click to download:

    BASIC PRINCIPLES FOR THE REHABILITATION OF AZERBAIJAN’S POST-CONFLICT TERRITORIES

     

  • Resources on the Armenia-Azerbaijan Conflict
    Monday, 05 October 2020 08:19

    Resources on the Armenia-Azerbaijan Conflict

     

    The Central Asia-Caucasus Institute & Silk Road Studies Program have a long track record of covering the Armenia-Azerbaijan Conflict. This page presents the key resources and most recent analysis. 

    In 2017, Palgrave published the first book-length study of the International Politics of the Armenia-Azerbaijan Conflict, edited by Svante Cornell. The book concluded by arguing that if international efforts to resolve the conflict are not stepped up, “the ‘four-day’ war of April 2016 will appear a minor skirmish compared to what is sure to follow”.

    In 2015, CACI & SRSP released the Silk Road Paper  “A Western Strategy for the South Caucasus”, which included a full page of recommendations for the U.S. and EU on the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict. These are reproduced below:

    ------------------

    Develop a substantial and prolonged Western initiative on the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict.

    o This initiative must be led by the United States, in close consultation with its European partners – primarily the EU Commission and External Action Service, and France. Barring some process to reinvigorate the Minsk Process – a doubtful proposition given Western-Russian relations in the foreseeable future – Western leaders must be prepared to bypass that process, utilizing it where appropriate but focusing their initiative on developing direct negotiations between the Armenian and Azerbaijani leaders.

    o The U.S. and its European partners must abandon the practice of relying solely on the Minsk Group co-chairs to resolve the Karabakh conflict. These diplomats have contributed greatly to formulating a workable framework agreement. However, strong and sustained U.S. Government leadership from the top level is needed to complement or, failing that, to replace the Minsk Process. In practice, this means the expressed support of the President, involvement of the White House, and leadership manifested in the appointment of a distinguished citizen as Special Envoy for the resolution of the conflict.

    o The EU must take a more clearly defined and substantial role in the process, by integrating to the highest degree possible the French co-chairmanship of the Minsk Group with EU institutions. While Washington will need to take the lead on the political side, it would be natural for the EU to take the lead in organizing an international development program for the currently occupied Azerbaijani provinces and Karabakh itself. That effort, too, would need to be led by a senior EU figure.

    --------------------------------------------

    In 2011, CACI & SRSP helped launch an extensive study of the steps needed for the post-conflict rehabilitation of Azerbaijan's occupied territories, in cooperation with Eldar Ismailov and Nazim Muzaffarli of the Institute for Strategic Studies of the Caucasus. The monograph "Basic Principles for the Rehabilitation of Azerbaijan's Post-Conflict Territories" can be accessed here

     

    More background resources:

    Svante E. Cornell, "Can America Stop a Wider War Between Armenia and Azerbaijan?", The National Interest, October 2020

    Brenda Shaffer and Svante E. Cornell, Occupied Elsewhere: Selective Policies on Occupation, Foundation For Defense of Democracies, January 2020. 

    Brenda Shaffer and Svante E. Cornell, "The U.S. Needs to Declare War on Proxies", Foreign Policy, January 27, 2020

    Svante E. Cornell, “The Raucous Caucasus”, American Interest, May 2017

    Svante E. Cornell, Small Nations and Great Powers: A Study of Ethnopolitical Conflict in the Caucasus, RoutledgeCurzon, 2001.

    Svante E. Cornell, The Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict, Uppsala University, 1999

    More recent analysis:

    Turkey Seeks to Counter Russia in the Black Sea-Caucasus Region,” Turkey Analyst, 10/5/20, Emil Avdaliani

    Turkey’s Commitment to Azerbaijan’s Defense Shows the Limits of Ankara’s Tilt to Moscow,” Turkey Analyst, 9/25/20, Turan Suleymanov & Bahruz Babayev

     “Cross-Border Escalation between Armenia and Azerbaijan,” Central Asia-Caucasus Analyst, 9/25/20, Natalia Konarzewska

    Russia and Turkey: Behind the Armenia-Azerbaijan Clashes?”, Central Asia-Caucasus Analyst, 8/31/20, Avinoam Idan

    Armenia and the U.S.: Time for New Thinking?”, Central Asia-Caucasus Analyst, 10/2/19, Eduard Abrahamyan.

    Why Washington Must Re-Engage the CaucasusCentral Asia-Caucasus Analyst, 7/8/19, Stephen Blank

    Azerbaijan’s Defense Industry Reform”, Central Asia-Caucasus Analyst, 5/7/19, Tamerlan Vahabov.

    Military Procurements on Armenia's and Azerbaijan's Defense Agendas”, Central Asia-Caucasus Analyst, 3/27/19, Ilgar Gurbanov

    Armenia's New Government Struggles with Domestic and External Opposition,” Central Asia-Caucasus Analyst, 3/20/19, Armen Grigorian.

    Bolton's Caucasian Tour and Russia's Reaction”, Central Asia-Caucasus Analyst, 12/17/18, Eduard Abrahamyan.