Why NATO can play a role in resolution of Nagorno-Karabakh conflict

Saturday, January 25, 2014

It is well understood that NATO presence in South Caucasus is very limited due to the geopolitical factors of presence of such regional players such as Russia and Iran. Reluctance of NATO to engage South Caucasian states more closely after the events of 2008 during the Russian-Georgian war is understandable, however it may seem overcautious. At the same time if the situation changes and there will be expectations of some sort of agreement on Nagorno-Karabakh problem, security guarantees will play one of the major roles in stabilizing and negating possible tensions that the process of resolution may bring to the region.
NATO has considerable experience when it comes to peacekeeping operations and maintenance of peace and security. Balkans, Libya and Afghanistan are some of the examples of such activities. Positive and negative aspects of these experiences maybe still debatable, however it is undeniable that they have showed that NATO is capable of carrying out such operations even in the large scale missions like Afghanistan. These situations are also indications of the changing role of NATO as security organization. The threats to North Atlantic area do not originate from “state-actors only” anymore. Non-state actors are the new challenges to the global security – terrorism, cyberwarfare and weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) are the new threats that NATO faces. The ability of organization to acknowledge and adapt to new realities will play crucial role in the future of NATO. NATO will have to redefine the approaches to deadlocked conflicts and non-conventional threats to be able to address the pressing issues of regional and international security.
Arguably as the situation changes with the nature of threats, so does the situation change with their scope. In the new age of security frameworks, conflicts in non-member states bordering NATO, start to become new security challenges for the NATO as the possibility of unconventional warfare spill-over into territories of NATO members is a reality and not a myth anymore. One such example is the situation in Syria.
Nagorno-Karabakh is another conflict that is on the border of NATO. Though far from the active phase it still remains a threat to the international peace and security, and thus to the NATO as well. Ultimately, NATO should be interested in the resolution of the conflict and engagement in the situation with intent to help. However geopolitical realities do not allow for such a close engagement and presence.
What can be done in such a situation? First of all there is a lack of understanding and compromise in terms of strict “red lines” drawn between NATO and major regional power in the region of South Caucasus – Russia. Naturally, given the changing nature of threats to the international security NATO and Russia should cooperate to address unconventional threats from non-state actors that affect both parties. The same goes to protracted unresolved conflicts on their borders. At the same time it is understandable that both NATO and Russia have their separate political and security agendas that may be in conflict with each other.
Nonetheless, when it comes to Nagorno-Karabakh conflict the compromise needed that may satisfy all the interested parties. One such compromise may be a joint peacekeeping operation of NATO with Russia-led CSTO. In that way both organizations would have equal amount of participation to keep each over in check and balance. To satisfy parties to the conflict, namely Armenia and Azerbaijan, the participation of troops from the countries of the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs as well as from the conflicting states should be excluded to ensure impartiality of forces. At the same time all these aforementioned states may provide financial assistance to NATO and CSTO troops respectively thus ensuring their own participation and interests in the peacekeeping efforts after some kind of agreement reached around Nagorno-Karabakh. 
Such concept may seem futuristic; however, the only way to address the new era of threats to international peace and security is cooperation between military alliances of different political allegiances. If a proper understanding could be reached, these prospects may not seem fictional anymore. In any case, compromise over common security concerns may lead to the transition in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and stabilize the security situation in the South Caucasus.

Kamal Makili-Aliyev
Doctor of Laws (LL.D)