Caucasus Security Studies Initiative (CSSI)

The Caucasus Security Studies Initiative (CSSI) organizes working papers, edited volumes, conferences, talks, and lectures analyzing the region’s security, economic and human rights issues by raising awareness of the Caucasus within the Western world. We also design and teach courses that are offered as part of the curriculum of the European and Eurasian Studies Program, Steven J. Green School of International and Public Affairs, Florida International University: (In)Security in the South Caucasus; Russian Neo-Imperialism and Power Struggles in the South Caucasus and Beyond; Turkey and Russia: An Ambiguous Partnership.

Target Audience

The target audience for CSSI is higher-educational institutions, prospective students, governmental and non-governmental organizations, international organizations, NGOs, who want to study and increase awareness of regional security complex in the South Caucasus within the Western world.

Future of the Initiative

Higher Education is a fast-paced, evolving industry. In response to this climate, CSSI will offer other services, including mediation and facilitation in peace processes in the Caucasus.

Program Description

Mission Statement

The Caucasus Security Studies Initiative provides and supports academic study of the South Caucasian region from an interdisciplinary perspective. The CSSI initiative stresses the geopolitical importance of the Caucasus to international security and stability. It also hopes to encourage the growth of democratic principles supporting individual rights and freedoms guaranteed by the United Nations Charter, specifically “to develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, and to take other appropriate measures to strengthen universal peace.” The end result is the promotion of meaningful dialogue and debate that would serve to stabilize the South Caucasus, and to prepare the generation of new scholars who will tackle grand challenges of the region.

Who We Are


Dr. Lilia Arakelyan has worked on numerous academic and policy-oriented projects on Russia and the independent states of Eastern Europe, Central Asia, and the South Caucasus. Her research interests include Russian foreign policy in the post-Soviet space, different aspects of nationalism, ethno-national conflicts in the South Caucasus, and international security more broadly. Dr. Arakelyan was an international fellow at the Caucasus Resource Research Center (Yerevan, Armenia), where she conducted independent research on the upsurge of violence and mediation in the Nagorno Karabakh conflict. Dr. Arakelyan currently teaches International Relations courses at Florida International University and works as an educational policy expert for the United Nations Development Programme in Georgia. She has developed educational policies that have been implemented in Abkhazia in cooperation with the United Nations and the U.S. government. She is the author of Russian Foreign Policy in Eurasia: National Interests and Regional Integration (Routledge, 2017), as well as multiple book chapters, scholarly articles, and policy briefs. Dr. Arakelyan earned her MA at the University of Arizona and her PhD at the University of Miami.


David J. Kramer joined Florida International University's Steven J. Green School of International and Public Affairs as a Senior Fellow in the Václav Havel Program for Human Rights and Diplomacy in May 2017. In July 2019, he also became Director for European and Eurasian Studies. Mr. Kramer worked in Washington, DC for 24 years, most recently with The McCain Institute for International Leadership as Senior Director for Human Rights and Democracy. He served for four years as President of Freedom House. Prior to that, he was a Senior Transatlantic Fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the United States.

Kramer served eight years in the U.S. Department of State, including as Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor; Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs (responsible for Russia, Ukraine, Moldova and Belarus affairs as well as regional non-proliferation issues); Professional Staff Member in the Secretary’s Office of Policy Planning; and Senior Advisor to the Undersecretary for Global Affairs. He also was Executive Director of the U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy in Washington.

Before joining the U.S. Government, Kramer worked at various think tanks in Washington including the Project for the New American Century, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Kramer was an Adjunct Professor at the Elliott School for International Affairs at The George Washington University. He also is Chair of the Board for the Free Russia Foundation, a Member of the Board of the International Republican Institute, and a Member of the Advisory Council for the George W. Bush Presidential Center’s Human Freedom Project, a Member of the Advisory Council for the Alliance for Securing Democracy at the German Marshall Fund, and a Contributing Editor for The American Interest. A native of Massachusetts, Kramer received his M.A. in Soviet studies from Harvard University and his B.A. in Soviet Studies and Political Science from Tufts University.


Dr. Hanna Samir Kassab is an Assistant Professor at East Carolina University. His most recent books include Weak States and the Sphere of Great Power Competition, Prioritization Theory and Defensive Foreign Policy: Systemic Vulnerabilities in International Politics and Grand Strategies of Weak States and Great Powers. He is also the co-editor and author of several volumes with Lexington Books under Security of the Americas. He has applied his weak and small states theoretical framework in the following collaborations with Jonathan D. Rose: Crime Violence and the State in Latin America, Illicit Markets, Organized Crime, and Global Security, and Corruption, Institutions, and Fragile States.

Legal Structure

CSSI is part of the Eurasian and European Studies Program at Steven J. Green School of International & Public Affairs at Florida International University.