ROMANCOV, Michael a kol. Jižní Kavkaz v bezpečnostní perspektivě.

Prague: Metropolitan University Prague Press, 2013. 180 s. ISBN 978-80-86855-90-5

All contributions in this volume unequivocally identify the collapse of the Soviet Union, i.e. an event that took place more than two decades ago, as the key factor determining current regional issues. It appears that the following statement of British historian Norman Davies also applies to Transcaucasia: “The larger the empire, the longer the shadow it casts upon its fall.” The Soviet influence may be the largest obstacle in efforts to harmonise, albeit to a small extent, the past with the present; nevertheless, it is certainly not the only one. In addition to the Soviet “shadow”, the Transcaucasian area is “overshadowed” from many other directions; and it is precisely this combination that crucially inspires hibernation of local issues and conflicts.

From a geopolitical perspective, it is obvious that the region remains in the spotlight of its neighbours as well as distant powers. In addition to Russia, Turkey, and Iran, the USA and the EU plan to remain in the game, and the interest of China is also likely to increase. Turkey, Iran, and the USA, who need to pay attention to events unfolding in the immediate vicinity, i.e. the Arab Spring, or to be exact to their aftermath (at the time of the writing of this article, the events in Syria were among the most visible) find themselves in a more difficult situation than the EU, Russia, and China. In spite of all its efforts and resources, the present engagement of the EU seems unimpressive at best. The EU failed to reduce the prevailing lack of trust both among the regional players and among the regional players and neighbouring enemy powers. Russia’s activities in “its” Northern Caucasus may appear as “successful” only to those who choose not to see the desperate situation in the region; and Russia’s ability to perform positive non-military actions on the southern side of the mountains is even worse than that of the EU. The question remains, to what extent is the world willing to believe that the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi (planned for February 2014) will offer a real portrayal of contemporary Russia. Nevertheless, it is very likely that we can consider the Winter Olympic Games as a safety measure, at least in the short term, which will prevent aggressive behaviour.

The text of Linda Piknerová provides information on basic socio-economic factors that influence current policies of the countries of South Caucasus while pointing out a number of specific issues that Czech experts are most likely to encounter in the region. This perspective is essential for understanding of the vast differences between individual countries and complex relationships with external players. The author makes it evident that if the old wisdom “good roads make good citizens” applies, then the public and political “infrastructure” in this part of the world suffers from a lack of economic means and political intent to provide any communication improvement. Therefore, the only synergy – unfortunately entirely negative – is the fact that the meagre financial resources (with the exception of Azerbaijan) and the even lesser willingness to act hand in hand help preserve the current situation. Thus, in the near future we are not likely to see the opening of the borders or return of hundreds of thousands of displaced persons to their homes.

In their precise and detailed examination of ethno-political conflicts, Tomáš Hoch and Emil Souleimanov unveil the key dimension of political and security situation in the region that clearly represents the worst and most painful manifestation of the Soviet heritage. The authors convincingly show the many negative levels (security, economic, social, and political) on which the existence of unrecognised quasi-state units impacts the quality of life in the region; this is best shown by pointing out heavy economic losses. Nevertheless, the authors do not leave aside the impact on the international system in the area of international security. Particularly the documented numbers of victims and refugees without any chance to return are among factors that the international community should perceive very strongly.

The text of Ondřej Ditrych implies that complex interaction formulas of conflict and cooperation can be detected in South Caucasus. Its security environment continues to have impact on the relative weakness of newly established states, high level of political polarisation, intervention of external state actors, and persisting negative consequences of both old and new ethno-political conflicts. In this respect, the author detects the most serious risk in Nagorno-Karabakh. From our perspective, the most important is the fact that the region has a potential to become a place where the (im)maturity of the EU, as a responsible and operational actor, will be revealed.

In his text, Jakub Landovský demonstrates how and why the Czech position towards the region of South Caucasus changed. Pro-Western orientation, withdrawing from the markets in the area of the former Comecon, and conversion of the arms industry along with efforts to subordinate foreign policy to the accession to the EU and NATO as much as possible caused the decline of the relationship between the Czech Republic and the countries of the South Caucasus. After a successful accession, the Czech Republic gradually implemented the European Neighbourhood Policy and, with respect to its own transition experience and commercial interests, supported its Eastern dimension. Bilateral relations with the group of countries from the South Caucasus went through a rather positive stage of development, the climax of interest in this region being the period of the Georgian-Russian War and the Czech presidency of the EU. Czech diplomacy can be praised for not acting like a “bull in a china shop”, however, manoeuvring between importation of oil from Azerbaijan, exportation of weapons to Georgia, and meticulous observance of values mentioned in the foreign policy outline requires a certain degree of hypocrisy.