Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Tina Kaidanow appointment, Russia-Turkey summit

This was first published in August 22, 2009 Armenian Reporter

Washington Briefing
by Emil Sanamyan

State Department’s Caucasus manager names his successor

Ambassador Tina Kaidanow will serve as the next U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state in charge of relations with the Caucasus, Turkey, Greece, and Cyprus. Matt Bryza, who currently holds the job, made the announcement in Georgia on August 10, reported. Amb. Kaidanow's has not yet been formally named by the State Department.

Speaking in Azerbaijan on August 12, Mr. Bryza said it was unclear whether Ms. Kaidanow would also succeed him as U.S. envoy for the Karabakh peace process, Turan news agency reported. The State Department has combined the two previously separate responsibilities in one official since 2004.

Embarking on a farewell tour of the South Caucasus earlier this month, Mr. Bryza indicated to Azerbaijani media that he remains hopeful about being appointed ambassador to Azerbaijan. The previous U.S. ambassador there, Anne Derse, completed her posting earlier this summer.

When reports first surfaced that Mr. Bryza was being considered for the job in Azerbaijan, several critics raised concerns about close personal relationships Mr. Bryza reportedly enjoyed with leaders in both Baku and Tbilisi. In various capacities at the State Department and the National Security Council, Mr. Bryza has been dealing with Caucasus issues without interruption since the mid-1990s.

Ms. Kaidanow has been focused on the Balkans for a similarly long period. From July 2008 until last June, she was U.S. ambassador to Kosovo, the first person to hold that position in a country that the United States recognized a year and half ago. Ms. Kaidanow served as U.S. chief of mission in Kosovo from 2006 to 2008 and was deputy ambassador in Bosnia from 2003 to 2006.

According to RFE/RL, while in Kosovo Ms. Kaidanow was known for "getting things done," but also - and very much in contrast to Mr. Bryza - appeared to avoid publicity and rarely gave interviews.

In her earlier assignments, Ms. Kaidanow served as special assistant to Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage (2001-3) and before that as special assistant to the U.S. envoy for the Kosovo crisis, Christopher Hill. She also worked at U.S. embassies in Belgrade and Sarajevo and as an official managing U.S. policy in the Balkans at the President's National Security Council.

Russia says it wants Karabakh settlement; mulls use of military force abroad

"Russia is interested in the [Karabakh] conflict settlement and we are not interested in any conflicts in the Caucasus," Russian premier Vladimir Putin said on a visit to Turkey on August 6. He also praised the "great positive work" undertaken by Russian president Dmitry Medvedev "in connection with Karabakh conflict settlement," the Russian state-funded RIA Novosti reported.

Mr. Medvedev has helped organize several meetings between leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan since last fall. Russia along with the United States and France, mediates in the dispute.

That the comments were made during Mr. Putin's visit to Ankara indicated that Turkish leaders were continuing to raise Armenian issues with third countries.

Like in Sochi earlier this year, Mr. Putin reiterated Russia's position that it would not force a settlement and would only serve as a "guarantor of the [peace] process and agreements made." He added that Moscow would continue to "help" the parties in the effort to "achieve agreements and find compromises that would lead to a complete and final settlement."

Writing for RIA Novosti on the day of Mr. Putin's visit to Ankara, commentator Andrey Fediashin suggested that only Russia could try to compel Armenia to compromise in Karabakh. But he also added that for Russia it would be both "stupid and dangerous" to try something like that "especially after [Russia's] recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia."

Meanwhile, on August 10 Mr. Medvedev asked leaders of the Duma, the Russian parliament, to modify the federal law on defense to specify when Russian military force could be used abroad.

According to the president's website, Mr. Medvedev recalled last year's war with Georgia, when Russia justified its intervention on the grounds that its peacekeeping forces deployed in South Ossetia, as well as local civilians with Russian citizenship, were attacked by Georgian forces. Both circumstances - an attack on Russian forces or citizens abroad - would now be spelled out in legislation.

The new legislative language would also allow the Russian leadership to authorize the use of force to "defend or preempt" aggression against another state, as well as to fight piracy.

Russia, Turkey reach fresh energy, trade agreements

Turkey agreed to transit Russian gas to third countries and will continue to consider the Russian bid to build Turkey's first nuclear power plant, the two nations' leaders agreed earlier this month. Russia in turn agreed to ease customs regulations for Turkish imports.

The agreements were announced during Russian premier Vladimir Putin's visit with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara on August 6, the New York Times and regional media outlets reported soon after.

The gas deal complements Turkey's efforts to become the hub for Europe's gas imports. Last month, Turkey agreed to transit natural gas from Russia's potential competitors in Central Asia – the so-called Nabucco project supported by the European Union and the United States, which are seeking to lessen Russia's dominance in the European gas market.

Turkey already imports most of its natural gas from Russia, through what is known as the Blue Stream pipeline that crosses the Black Sea and was built by Italy's Eni corporation. The Russian-Turkish summit was joined by Italy's prime minister Silvia Berlusconi, reflecting the Italian business interests.

But Russian-Turkish cooperation appeared to be driven in equal measure by economic and political interests. RFE/RL cited a commentator for Hurriyet Daily News noting Mr. Putin's popularity in Turkey because he was seen as seeking to challenge America's global dominance.

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