On February 16, 2021, IWP alumnus Scott Cullinane spoke as a panelist in a virtual forum by the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute (CACI). The event centered on projected U.S. approaches and policies to the South Caucasus given the recent transition of power to the Biden Administration.
Scott Cullinane is the Executive Director of the U.S.-Europe Alliance Foundation – a bipartisan organization that works to mobilize Americans to advocate for the enduring strategic and economic partnership between Europe and the United States. Prior, he has had years of experience working with the U.S. Congress for the House Foreign Affairs Europe Subcommittee.
Additional panelists of this event included: Jason Bruder, Former Foreign Relations Committee Staffer and Senior Advisor at Open World; Claire Kaiser, Director for Strategic Initiatives at McLarty Associates; and Mark Simakovsky, Atlantic Council Nonresident Senior Fellow.
Despite the nascency of the Biden Administration, the panelists discussed recent developments in the formulation of South Caucasus-focused policies. For example, the Biden Administration has already started to reconfigure NSC European and Russian portfolios, paying special attention to how the South Caucasus could fit into these regional blocs. Further, the panelists pointed to the expertise of many in the Biden Administration – a promising sign, although there are more appointments to follow in the coming months. Additionally, it is important to note the likelihood of future policy on the South Caucasus as a byproduct of wider policy reviews; Russia being the first among them. However, serious consideration of the South Caucasus should not be overlooked, especially in the achievement of the desired “Transatlantic Reset.”
According to CACI, the question of what policies the Biden Administration will implement towards the South Caucasus is a particularly important one due to a common trend among past administrations in discussing central Asia policy. While there was a relative understanding of the Caucasus as a region in the 1990s, there has been a recent departure from a strategic approach by the United States. U.S. officials tend to look individually at the countries of the region and view them sometimes as an appendage to other powers; whether that be their relationship with Russia, particularly in the case of Georgia, Turkey, and Armenia, or, in the case of Azerbaijan, viewed simply as a factor of U.S. policy towards Afghanistan. In short, as the Biden Administration finalizes its foreign policy goals, a comprehensive regional approach of the South Caucasus is essential.