- Zaur Shiriyev, Analyst, South Caucasus, International Crisis Group
- A. Sencer Gözübenli, Balkan Studies and Foreign Policy Analyst (Croatia-based), Åbo Akademi University
- Esra Serim, Independent Researcher
Panelists provided the following observations, recommendations and resources, building off of their comments during the event.*
Zaur Shiriyev, Analyst, South Caucasus, International Crisis Group
- In Azerbaijan, major legislation like the National Security Concept (2007) and the Military Doctrine (2010) is outdated and do not include provisions for parliamentary oversight as well as civil society’s oversight and involvement in security sector reform. Azerbaijan’s military doctrine and national security concept must be updated in the near future.
- The main goal of Armenia after the 2020 war seems to be the redefinition of its defense concept and security strategy and rebuilding of the army. For this purpose, the country's policy on the purchase of military weapons should be more transparent (like Georgia) and should include short-term and long-term plans. This need for transparent military procurement policy and long-term planning is also valid for Azerbaijan.
- Russia's invasion of Ukraine requires a revision of the security strategy in all three countries and makes it necessary for all three countries to carry out security sector reforms more quickly and effectively, taking into account the new realities.
- Michael Lambert, “The Revival of the Georgian Armaments and Defense Industry,” Russian International Affairs Council, November 8, 2021.
- David Darchiashvili, “Georgia: A hostage to arms”, Saferworld, 2004.
- “Georgia outlines defence procurement priorities,” Jane’s Defence, July 26, 2021.
- “A difference of five times: Military spending of Armenia and Azerbaijan in numbers,” fact investigation platform, May 25, 2022.
- Elkhan Mehdiyev, “Security Sector Reform in Azerbaijan: Key Milestones and Lessons Learned,” Geneva Centre for Security Sector Governance, May 2021.
- Lt. Col. Edward J. Erickson, “The 44-Day War in Nagorno-Karabakh:Turkish Drone Success or Operational Art?” Military Review, August 2021.
- Ulkar Natiqqizi, “After war victory, Azerbaijan keeps increasing military spending,” Eurasianet, May 12, 2022.
- “Nagorno-Karabakh: Seeking a Path to Peace in the Ukraine War’s Shadow”, International Crisis Group, April 2022.
- Robert Aydabirian, Jirair Libaridian and Taline Papazian, "A WHITE PAPER: The Karabakh War of 2020 and Armenia’s Future Foreign and Security Policies," 2021.
A. Sencer Gözübenli, Balkan Studies and Foreign Policy Analyst (Croatia-based), Åbo Akademi University
- The Russian invasion of Eastern Ukraine and Crimea in 2014 showed that conventional warfare in Europe was not over. Serbia is the first to take its place in the arms race in the region. Between 2015 and 2021, Serbia’s defence budget jumped by around 70% to close to $1.4bn a year. During that time, its neighbors tried to restore their armed forces.
- Russia mentions Bosnia and Kosovo while threatening Ukraine and/or the international community both before and during the invasion in 2022. While this situation causes uncertainty in the Balkans, it also causes concerns about Russia taking the war further to the West, encouraging the parties to engage in arms trading.
- While the rhetorical commitment to preventive diplomacy and action may still be high in the international community, in less stable countries in the Balkans, especially in Bosnia and Herzegovina, organizations have done little to create a functional conflict prevention regime at the country’s regional level. That’s also because the commitment to its implementation at the domestic level is very weak. There’s very limited coordination between Bosnian state and the international community. There are “Putin-backed separatists” in the Bosnian federal institutions. The increase in international troops in Bosnia and Herzegovina is a very limited one. Their number remains symbolic.
- Same for Kosovo. Kosovo is urging NATO and the EU to admit Balkan applicants to avoid a second European front with Russia. But the international community and the EU elites are sharing posts about Kosovo’s commitments on the EU integration process.
- Cooperation efforts between the Balkan states should be supported by the international community. This can be achieved through isolated but EU-backed thematic projects such as the Three Sea’s Initiative or the Open Balkans (with Kosovo), although support should be sensitive to political tensions. This may narrow the sphere of influence of external actors that threaten the stability of the region, such as Russia, China and Erdogan's Turkey, which are also arms dealers.
- Continued efforts to support journalism and protection of journalists, chiefly through small grants and funding should continue and increase. Thematic journalistic grants relating to tracking and monitoring arms trades in the region should be considered by donors.
- NATO and EU military peacekeeping presence in the Balkans should not increase in just numbers, but in quality and effect, working closely with both officials and civil society in Bosnia and Kosovo.
- The EU should communicate more clearly its intentions with the Western Balkans.
- Ishaan Tharoor, "Russia’s war in Ukraine finds echoes in the Balkans," Washington Post, August 1, 2022.
- Filip Ejdus, "Policy Brief on the Spectre of an Arms Race in the Western Balkans," Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy, University of Hamburg, March 2020.
- Vuk Vuksanovic and Marija Ignjatijevic, ““What’s Behind The Arms Buildup In The Balkans,” War on the Rocks, December 28, 2021.
- "EU isolationism leaving dangerous power vacuum in Balkans, warns major new report on the arms trade," review of Tactics Institute for Security and Counter Terrorism report, June 15, 2020.
- Stephen Blank, "Can Selling Weapons to Serbia Create Peace in the Balkans?" National Interest, September 26, 2021.
- Special investigation series on Balkan Arms Trade by Balkan Insight
Esra Serim, PhD, France-based independent researcher
To preserve Erdogan’s rule, the Turkish administration continued to pursue ambiguous and unreliable foreign policy and investing more in the defense sector. It wants to turn the country into a major arms exporter, which is also Erdogan’s personal ambition.
The fact that Turkey turned from democracy and the West and into an authoritarian regime leads to increasing the distrust in the eyes of the West. The West also questions a non-democratic Turkey, which began to set a high record in the military sector.
- The Erdogan regime must stop making militaristic foreign policy and supporting nationalist ideology to ensure his power at home. Turkey should not get involved into any conflict, including in Syria and Libya in the Middle East and the Caucasus. Ankara should stop taking up arms given Greek tensions and the interventions in Syria and Libya.
- The Biden administration should temporarily block military export and projects including the F16 fighter jets as long as Ankara is governed by the Erdogan regime and dismantles democratic norms or does not restore democratic rule in Turkey. A NATO member cannot purchase and use both Russian and US military equipment and/or aviation. Turkey ignored US warnings not to purchase Russia’s S-400 missile defense system, which is incompatible with NATO systems.
- Given the Russian threat, however, both the United States and the EU need better relations with Turkey despite Erdogan’s political actions. They should work to convince him to restore Turkish democracy and liberalization, and not to intervene in any neighboring country. In addition, the West should not ignore Turkey’s security concerns in NATO. They should also encourage Erdogan to keep shut the passage to the Black Sea for military vessels through the Turkish Straits, which is very crucial to Ukraine and the course of the war.
- “Drones and Resets: The New Era of Turkish Foreign Policy”, Baku Dialogues, Summer 2022.
- “Turkey’s Unpromising Defense Industry,” Carnegie Endowment, October 9, 2020.
- “Turkey’s Growing Foreign Policy Ambitions,” Council on Foreign Relations, June 29, 2022.
- “Why the West Should Make Peace with Erdogan Now,” Foreign Policy, June 22, 2022.
- “Turkey’s Foreign Policy Becoming Alarmingly Militarized,” Al-Monitor, September 21, 2020.
- “Understanding Turkey’s Increasingly Militaristic Foreign Policy,” APSA MENA Politics, November 10, 2020.
* Panelists at this event do not necessarily endorse the views and opinions of others, nor does the Forum necessarily endorse the views and opinions of others. Please feel free to contact panelists directly for additional conversation.