​Hunter, Shireen T. (ed.) (2017) The New Geopolitics of the South Caucasus: Prospects for Regional Cooperation and Conflict Resolution. Lanham, MA: Lexington Books, xxviii+275 pp.

ISBN: ​978-1-4985-6496-0 (print) / 978-1-4985-6497-7 (online)

Pavel K Baev

Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO)

​The title of this solid volume produced by the team of ten well-known experts promises more than they can realistically deliver. Political developments in the Caucasus are always in flux, but its geopolitics remains remarkably stable: The three states follow their different political courses, the three quasi-states stubbornly remain outside the normative international framework, and the three neighbouring states pay just enough attention to the region to prevent any undesirable reconfiguration. This geopolitical inertia survived the shock of the August 2008 Russian-Georgian war, and is reinforced by the diminished importance of the Caspian Sea oil, which from the late 1990s to the early 2010s appeared to be a major factor of change. The USA had lost interest in this static region even before the Trump administration reduced the complexity of global affairs to the crude simplicity of ’America-first’; the EU has recognized the low limits of its Eastern Partnership endeavour for promoting reforms; and China is yet to discover the importance of the Caucasian cross-roads for its Belt&Road initiative. What is presently new is the profound shifts in the policies of Iran, Turkey, and Russia. The former explores options opened by the 2015 nuclear deal, and the book gives a good account of possible initiatives. The post-failed-coup Turkey has mostly turned its back to this sector of its conflict-rich neighbourhood, and Hunter’s team expect no re-discovery. It is Russia engaged in the mutating confrontation with the West that is the variable of heavy impact and extra-high uncertainty, and this focus in the volume is not sufficiently clear. If Moscow goes for another ’victory’, Georgia is a likely target.