Eric Rubin, deputy assistant secretary in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs at the U.S. Department of State, discussed the history of U.S. engagement with the South Caucasus and its continued commitment to the region.

A Changing Landscape

  • Change Since the Soviet Union: The region is a “different landscape” from 20 years ago, marked by active engagement with the international community, economic development, and independence, reflected Rubin.
     
  • Foreign Investment: Improving business climate and cracking down on corruption are critical to attracting foreign investment in the region, stated Rubin.
     
  • High Level of Engagement: Considering the size of the countries in the South Caucasus, the U.S. level of engagement in the region is very high, stated Rubin. He described the region as a “very, very major priority” for Washington.

U.S. Engagement

  • Georgia: The United States is eager to see a decrease in tensions between Russia and Georgia. Rubin stated that Georgia’s recent agreement to stop blocking Russian membership to the World Trade Organization was good news “for first time in three years.”
     
  • Azerbaijan: “We have frank dialogue with government of Azerbaijan on human rights issues,” said Rubin.
     
  • Armenia: Armenia will hold parliamentary elections in May 2012. Rubin explained that the elections process is at “the front of our dialogue and top of our list when we meet Armenian officials.”
     
  • Armenia and Turkey: The United States has invested heavily in helping Armenia and Turkey strengthen their relationship. Rubin warned that “outbursts of rhetoric on both sides not helpful.” He said that he was hopeful that “once the door is open a crack,” rapid progress can be made in normalizing relations between the two countries.