Rhetoric on Caspian Demilitarization Doesn't Match the Reality
Is the demilitarization of the Caspian Sea still a viable possibility? Representatives of the five Caspian littoral states (Azerbaijan, Russia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Iran) just finished meeting in Baku, and their statements to the press afterwards suggested that all was peace and harmony on the sea. Via Contact.az:
The question of military activity is an important element of the legal status of the Caspian Sea, said [Azerbaijan's] Deputy Foreign Minister Khalaf Khalafov. "The work in this direction is going on. There are different approaches. There is an idea of demilitarization. There is an idea of regulating the activity of armed forces. Of course, we have not come yet to a common opinion," Khalafov said on April 27.
The Russian representative at the talks, Alexander Golovin, agreed:
[Golovin] stressed that "all the littoral states agree that the Caspian should be a sea of peace and friendship." "And accordingly, none of the littoral states is going to start up the arms race, or compete in the military sphere with each other," Golovin said. This is not the field of activity on which the littoral states must spend their efforts, he said.
So they say. But actions speak louder than words, and here are a few of the recent developments on the sea:
-- Russia "significantly reinforced the army and navy forces on the Caspian" including adding an anti-ship missile battalion in Dagestan;
-- Kazakhstan has announced its intention to deploy several new warships in the Caspian;
-- Turkmenistan has bought the first two ships for its new navy; and
-- the U.S. revealed that it is helping Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan all develop their navies;
That doesn't sound like too many of the Caspian countries are interested in demilitarization.
Joshua Kucera, a senior correspondent, is Eurasianet's former Turkey/Caucasus editor and has written for the site since 2007.