Nearly thirty years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, sweeping societal, economic, and generational changes are transforming the South Caucasus, Eastern Europe, and Central Asia. Competition for influence in these regions is intensifying. Russia is trying to reestablish itself as the dominant actor, China is expanding its economic and political clout, and Turkey and Iran are rebuilding their historic ties there. Meanwhile, the West is increasingly shifting its attention to other parts of the globe and its own internal challenges.
Unresolved conflicts continue to fester in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine, highlighting the region’s overall fragility. As the old, Soviet-era generation leaves the stage, its successors are rediscovering their history and legacy of difficult relations with their powerful neighbors. Throughout the vast regions that comprise post-Soviet Eurasia, the record of independence has been mixed at best. Economic gains have been few and uneven, while progress toward accountable governance rare and often reversible. Grassroots political activism has sprung from frustrations with falling living standards and the need for more accountable governance. Both the authoritarian and democratic governments of the region have struggled to meet their citizens’ expectations. With the West focused elsewhere, these fragile states have in effect been left to fend for themselves.
The Aso O. Tavitian Initiative, made possible through a generous gift from the prominent late philanthropist and longstanding trustee of Carnegie Endowment, is dedicated to correcting this lack of attention. A long-term project that involves teams working across Carnegie’s global centers, it examines the future of Russia’s neighbors, starting with the South Caucasus. Led by senior fellow Paul Stronski, the initiative draws upon contributions from leading Carnegie scholars in Washington, Moscow, and Brussels, including Thomas de Waal, Marc Pierini, Philip Remler, Eugene Rumer, Dmitri Trenin, Marie Yovanovitch, and Andrew S. Weiss.
Through evidence-based research, policy initiatives, and public outreach, the Aso O. Tavitian Initiative helps decisionmakers within and outside the broader region come to grips with forces that are reshaping societies, politics, and foreign policies. Working with local partners, helping build their capacity and bring their perspectives to stakeholders in Western capitals, the initiative equips leaders to sustain meaningful engagement with the region and seize opportunities to deliver on the original commitment the United States made to the people of these new states nearly three decades ago—to help them become independent and sovereign.