On October 30, the heads of state of Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey opened the Baku-Tbilisi-Akhalkalak-Kars railway. This railway project was launched in 2008. It is ready after 8 years.
At first sight, this project has an anti-Armenian connotation, and Turkey and Azerbaijan initiated it to deepen the blockade and isolation of Armenia. Perhaps this is the reason why the international organizations, the United States and the EU refused to finance this project, and the railway was technically laid out on Azerbaijani funding.
The situation related to this railway project is controversial though. On the one hand, it is anti-Armenian because there was the Kars-Gyumri-Akhalkalak-Tbilisi-Baku option but it was out of question with the closed Armenian-Turkish border. After the construction of the Kars-Akhalkalak the railway Kars-Gyumri becomes a far secondary prospect. In this respect, Turkey and Azerbaijan join in bypassing Armenia.
Armenia does not seem to have any strategic loss due to this railway, and perhaps this is the reason why, despite refusing to fund or co-fund the project, the West did not oppose to the project and did not try to prevent it or persuade Georgia not to join the project that isolates Armenia. Considering the relations between Georgia and the West, if need be, Tbilisi could have been persuaded to step back from joining the project.
Apparently, the West had a different look at the Kars-Akhalkalak project. By joining the project Tbilisi becomes the Euro-Atlantic watch in this Turkish-Azerbaijani project.
In this case, the question is why would they allow the project to come true to go on to watch it. Would it not be easier to thwart this project and keep the prospect of the Kars-Gyumri-Akhalkalak project alive. Theoretically, maybe. Technically, it is obvious that there is no such prospect and even if the Kars-Akhalkalak-Baku project is not allowed, the West would hardly be able to force Baku and Ankara to reopen Kars-Gyumri without the famous Karabakh preconditions. And they would not be able and their geopolitical interests would not allow them to force Armenia to meet those conditions. Moreover, the West is helping Armenia to ignore these preconditions.
Instead, by allowing the Kars-Akhalkalak-Baku project funded by Azerbaijan mainly, the West addressed several issues. First, Azerbaijan’s oil dollars served regional economic goals in this singular example. The point is that Baku’s oil dollars mostly serve generation of security threats, namely the weapons race.
In this case, the railway is an infrastructure which may serve a change in the region if the situation changes. The railway Kars-Akhalkalak is a project which places Azerbaijan in certain dependence on Georgia.
And considering that Georgia is a so-called base for Euro-Atlantic economic, political and military institutional representation in the Caucasus, including an important backup importance for the security of Armenia, the railway Kars-Akhalkalak-Tbilisi-Baku is technically a leverage of the so-called Euro-Atlantic manageability of the Turkish-Azerbaijani tandem.
In this context, the Georgian Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili stated after the change of government that Tbilisi was not satisfied with the construction of Kars-Akhalkalak, questions had occurred, and it had to be suspended. After this statement, Ivanishvili left for Baku and afterwards he stated that all the issues had been addressed, and construction can continue. This is an example of how Tbilisi can use this project as an instrument in its relations with Azerbaijan and Turkey.
And since Georgia has considerable dependence on Turkish-Azerbaijani investments, balancing this circumstance is essential to Tbilisi and the West, and the railway could be instrumental.
In addition, it needn’t be excluded that Baku and Ankara expected to be the watch of the Euro-Atlantic path of Georgia otherwise they would realize that the railway would act like a boomerang rather than a loop around Armenia’s neck. Simply the Euro-Atlantic pole decided to build its relations with Tbilisi directly rather than indirectly via Ankara and Baku.
Could Armenia join the railway? The Georgian government, for example, does not think that there is an obstacle though it is possible that Turkey and Azerbaijan may set certain conditions. The main problem is that if Armenia is able to join the railway and use it, it will be a new and better opportunity. If Armenia nevertheless fails to do that, there is no need to turn this circumstance to a matter of Armenian-Georgian relations because in that case Armenia technically does not lose anything and the Armenian-Georgian tension would not be desirable at all.
Moreover, from a strategic point of view, the instrument gained by Georgia and the opportunity to balance the Turkish-Azerbaijani influence are also favorable for Armenia.
In this case, the question is how Armenia will be able to develop the so-called parallel or perpendicular direction – the Armenian-Georgian cooperation, as well as the Iran-Armenia-Georgia pole. In addition, its development is necessary and important for Tbilisi because the so-called natural security of Georgia is possible only through strategic partnership with Armenia.