s: Initiatives for naval cooperation

Mid-2000s witnessed two initiatives for naval cooperation in the Caspian, though both of them failed to produce any serious action. The first one, “Caspian Guard” was launched and advocated by the US. However, the initiative did not bring about a tangible cooperation in the Caspian and after several years of discussions the parties lost interest in it. Determined to prevent the US involvement in the Caspian affairs, Russia launched a counter-initiative called “CASFOR” which was supported only by Iran and had a similar fate as previous the American initiative.

9/11 2001 terrorist attacks resulted in massive expansion of the theater of the US military involvement in the world, particularly in the Middle East. It was also a period of the strong US commitment to the Caspian region. The US granted small size, mostly leftover boats to the Caspian countries to strengthen their maritime capabilities and put forward a special naval cooperation initiative “Caspian Guard” in the fall of 2003. The initiative was an integrated counter proliferation, counterterrorism, and illegal trafficking effort to help secure the Caspian Basin from transnational threats, it included a wide variety of maritime and border training exercises, and equipment upgrades.[1] If to be implemented, the initiative coordinated by United States European Command, would establish integrated airspace, maritime and border control regime for Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan. It planned to improve the two countries’ ability to prevent and, if needed, respond to terrorism, nuclear proliferation, drug and human trafficking, and other transnational treats in the Caspian Sea. Since exploration and transportation hydrocarbon resources of the Caspian Sea considered having key importance for the US, program was particularly designed to ensure Caspian countries’ capability of efficient reaction to states of emergency, including attacks against oil infrastructure.

The Wall Street Journal on 11 April 2005 reported that the US planned to spend $100 million on “Caspian Guard” to respond to crisis situations in the Caspian Sea region.[2] The US participated in joint naval exercises with the Azerbaijani side in the Caspian, donated up-to-date radar equipment and three motor boats to the Azerbaijani navy by the end of 2006.[3] However, despite consultations during the most of the 2000s, the initiative failed to be fully materialized. While Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan showed interest in negotiations within the framework of the initiative, it faced fierce opposition by Iran and Russia who were determined to as much as possible lessen the US influence and involvement in Caspian affairs. Towards the end of the 2000s, with the decreasing US interest in the region, the initiative dropped from the discussion agenda of the Caspian countries.

Following the US initiative, Russia launched a counter-initiative called “CASFOR” in July 2005, offering its Caspian neighbors to establish the Caspian naval group for operational cooperation.[4] The major argument behind Russian initiative was that only Caspian states should be allowed to participate in the common schemes to provide security in the Caspian Sea. Iran supported Russian position about unacceptability of foreign involvement in the sea.[5] According to Russian plans, special joint naval group was to be established under the leadership of Russia. As it was stated by Sergey Ivanov, defense minister of Russia, during his January 24, 2006 visit to Baku, “CASFOR” was intended “to prevent the threat of terrorism and WMD proliferation, [and] the illegal trafficking of weapons and drugs” in the Caspian Sea basin. The initiative would also “protect the economic interests” of the sea’s five littoral states, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Iran and Russia.[6] However, Russian initiative was failed too, because no Caspian country, having vital energy resources in the Sea was going to enter under Russian naval domination again. Details about the program was never officially cleared, no littoral country stated that it had officially received the offer to establish a joint naval force within the framework of the program. After being in the agenda for several years, the issue lost the littoral states support and attention to it.

  • [1] J.L. Jones, “U.S. European Command Posture”, Statement of General James L. Jones Commander, U.S.European Command U.S. Marine Corps, Senate Armed Services Committee, 7 March 2006, pp. 16-17, in G.J.Dyekman, Security Cooperation: A key to the challenges of the 21st century, Strategic Studies Institute of theUS Army War College, November 2007, available at: http://www.strategicstudiesinstitute.army.mil/pdffiles/pub820.pdf (last retrieved 19 February 2014).
  • [2] Global Security.org, Caspian Guard, 22 July 2007, available at: http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/ops/caspian-guard.htm (last retrieved 19 February 2014).
  • [3] Global Security.org, Azerbaijan Military Naval Forces, 14 November 2013, available at:http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/azerbaijan/navy.htm (last retrieved 20 February 2014).
  • [4] Ministry of Defense of the Russian federation, Caspian Flotilla, http://eng.mil.ru/en/structure/forces/navy/associations/structure/forces/type/navy/kasp/history.htm (last retrieved 21 February 2014).
  • [5] Александр Карпенга, Страсти вокруг Каспия, Voenno Promishlennoy kurier, 5 сентября 2012, availableat: http://vpk-news.ru/articles/9226 (last retrieved 21 February 2014).
  • [6] R. Ismayilov, “Azerbaijan Ponders Russian Caspian Defense Initiative”, Eurasianet.org, 31 January 2006,available at: http://www.eurasianet.org/departments/insight/articles/eav020106.shtml (last retrieved 22 February 2014).
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