Washington briefing: National intelligence director notes Caucasus problems

by Emil Sanamyan

Published: Thursday February 19, 2009

Admiral Dennis Blair, U.S. Director of National Intelligence. Office of the Director of National Intelligence

Washington - "Fundamental differences between Azerbaijan and Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh will keep tensions high in the Caucasus," National Intelligence Director Dennis Blair told the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in testimony on February 12.

The testimony summarized recent developments around the standoff: "Azerbaijan fears isolation in the wake of Kosovo's independence, Russia's recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, and signs of improved Armenian-Turkish relations. Armenia is concerned about Baku's military buildup and does not want to become dependent on Russia. Both countries face the dual challenges of overcoming inertia in democratic reforms and battling endemic corruption in the face of an economic downturn."

In the aftermath of the Georgia war, the U.S. intelligence community's "Eurasia/Caucasus/Central Asia" concerns occupied a full page of the total 44 pages of testimony.

Admiral Blair noted that despite its many problems, "the Russian military defeated the Georgian military last August." He also referred to Russia's persistent line that Georgia's and Ukraine's membership in NATO would put U.S.-Russia cooperation on international security issues in jeopardy.

In their recent comments, Obama administration officials have stepped back from the Bush administration's outright support for the two countries' NATO membership.

In a possibly related development, Russia this week indicated it would continue to hold up supplies of sophisticated air defense missile systems to Iran.

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