U.S. respects defense choices of S.Caucuses countries
U.S., Washington, Sept. 15 /Trend special corr. M.Assenova/
Russia will have a role in the South Caucasus, but no country should have the right to a privileged sphere of influence in the region, said today Jennifer Walsh, Principle Director for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia at the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) at a conference on 20 years of independence of the South Caucasus. The conference is hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, DC.
"We do not agree with this position of Russia," she added.
Ms. Walsh stressed that the Defense Department respects the political and defense choices made by each of the South Caucasus countries.
"We welcome the aspirations of Georgia to join NATO, this right is mandated by the international law," she said. "We respect the choice of Azerbaijan to partner with NATO and also Armenia¹s membership in NATO's Partnership for Peace," she said.
Ms. Walsh said that the importance of the region to U.S. security interests is based on its geographical proximity to Iran and countries that are possible suppliers of weapons of mass destruction. The South Caucasus plays a critical role in the logistics to sustain the supply lines to NATO¹s military operations in Afghanistan. The region is also an important energy producer and energy corridor to Europe. Jennifer Walsh pointed out that the United States has national interest in promoting stability and conflict resolution, particularly in a region prone to violence where the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict has not been resolved for two decades. Last but not least, the South Caucasus is a part of the larger Euro-Atlantic space and each country in the region is free to join the Euro-Atlantic institutions.
Ms. Walsh outlined major aspects of U.S. defense cooperation with Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan. In Azerbaijan, the DoD focuses on reforms of the military institutions, building a NATO interoperable unit, and ensuring protection of the energy infrastructure. In Armenia, DoD focuses on peacekeeping training, reforming the military, and training and education of military personnel. In Georgia, DoD supports defense reforms and modernization, and the country¹s NATO aspirations.