Foreign Policy Blogs

The "Security Dilemma" of the Caucasus

Map of the Caucasus Region

Having largely gone unreported by the Western media in general, a burgeoning arms race between Azerbijan and Armenia has steadily crystalized over the past few years.  Predominantly concerning frictions over the disputed regions of Nagorno-Karabakh drawn across ethnic and geopolitical lines, the two nations have begun acquiring military hardware at a frantic rate.

Emboldened by the rapid accumulation of petrodollars in recent years, the Azeri Government has sought to acquire sophisticated defense equipment from its principal partners, to include the Ukraine, Turkey, and Georgia, increasing its military expenditure to as much as 10% of GDP – potentially the highest level of any OSCE member state.  In response, the Armenian government has used its close relationship with Russia to tap into vast quantities of military assistance.  As such, with the Government of Azerbaijan attempting to overturn the balance of forces in their favor through the acquisition of MiG-29 and Su-25 fighter aircraft, the Armenian Government has countered with heavy ground equipment supported by the introduction of Russian-controlled air defense systems.

While a military buildup does not necessitate war, preparations for conflict by one nation inevitably provoke other nations into doing the same.  This is what has been referred to as the security dilemma of international relations, a concept developed by German scholar John H. Hertz.  Hence, in seeking to satisfy a nations’s security requirements, a situation is ultimately created whereby the nation’s security is put further at risk.  As witnessed recently in the Caucasus, one of the classical symptoms of the security dilemma can best be described as an arms race.