ArmInfo’s Interview with Giorgi Tarkhan-Mouravi, Director of the Tbilisi-based Institute for Policy Studies
by David Stepanyan
Can we say that the Kremlin is trying to repeat the South Ossetian scenario in the Crimea today? What are the prospects of that scenario?
Moscow's methods in the Crimea and South Ossetia bear certain similarities. Among those methods are determination to change the formal-legal status of the region, complete lies and propaganda of the Russian Mass Media, secret deployment of troops and denial of the presence of Russian troops in the region amid negligence of the international law, application of double standards in the foreign policy, and issue of Russian passports as a tactical step. Similarities can always be found and they are always conditional and sometimes even delusive. At the same time, there are also certain tangible differences in Russia's goals and approaches, in the situation in Ukraine and the Crimea. The actions of the Ukrainian authorities and the West's response are also different. Russia has strong nostalgic feelings connected with the Crimea. Therefore, Moscow mulls Crimea's unification with Russia, while South Ossetia was important for Russia as a military foothold and a lever of influence on Georgia. In addition, there is growing need to distract the Russian population's attention from the deteriorating situation in that country and Putin's inadequacy that is becoming more and more obvious as well as the negligence he displays towards Russia's long-term interests.
Let’s put aside the twists and turns of the information war. What do you think is really going on around Ukraine?
The clash of the two ideas for development of Ukraine is taking place: one - towards integration with the West and the other one - joining the Eurasian project and having "sovereign" democracy similar to the Russian democracy. On the other hand, the clash of geo-political and strategic interests of the West and Russia is obvious in Ukraine. However, I should specially emphasize that in the geo-political and strategic sense Ukraine is more important for Russia than for the western community. The clash between the "soft" force of the West and the "harsh" force of Russia is taking place in Ukraine. In the situation in Ukraine Moscow often ignores the international law when it comes out at the short end.
Almost all the statements of western politicians and diplomats condemning Russia’s actions in Ukraine are actually inefficient, except US Secretary of State John Kerry’s assessments. What are the reasons of such passivity?
As usually, US political figures come out from more principal and strict positions. I do not mean only the assessments by US Secretary John Kerry. Barack Obama's assessments of the processes in Ukraine and the Crimea were also quite harsh. Relying on the existing sources of information, not all European politicians make 'unprincipled' statements and Ms. Merkel also gave quite tough assessment of Putin and his policy. The assessments cannot be effective unless there is a threat of efficient measures. In the given case, the USA and some other countries have already begun taking certain measures and the EU will probably impose some economic sanctions on Russia and freeze cooperation with that country in a range of fields. Analyzing the reasons of why some politicians, especially in Europe, are so cautious in their assessments, one should not forget about how fragile is the situation in Europe, and how important are the Russian energy resources and market for Europe. Much less important is the fear for reversal of the process rehabilitation of European economies. Meanwhile, even a threat of sanctions against Moscow has already led to a fall of the Russian ruble and shares. And this is not the end yet.
Given Moscow’s refusal to hold direct negotiations with the new Ukrainian authorities, Kyiv can play no role in the confrontation of the West and Russia. May this become a starting point of military escalation in the diplomatic war for Ukraine? Or do you think the geopolitical confrontation will result in new agreements and a new status quo?
Direct military confrontation in the conflict between the West and Russia is hardly possible. However, the West will show big military aid to Ukraine. All this will be accompanied by speeding up integration processes of Ukraine. The new status-quo in the world order may appear sooner or later. However, at present we live in a rather dynamic time. For this reason, one can say about a new status quo only relatively or within specific frames. As regards the possible consequences of the situation around Ukraine, I think Ukraine is likely to overcome the main existential challenges, but the problem of the Crimea's status will still remain. Russia and Putin, in particular, are not always predictable. So, it is hard to say for sure, how Moscow will act regarding Eastern Ukraine.
Do you think that if Moscow gives up the project on restoration of its influence in the post-Soviet space, it will give an impetus to western and Turkish disintegration projects in Russia’s territory?
Despite Moscow's positions, I think that disintegration processes in Russia have already started. But are the Russian laws fully functioning in Chechnya or the Far East? All this has been taking place against the background of the worsening demographic situation in Russia, growth of ethnic nationalism and relative weakening of the country. The West is hardly striving to disintegrate Russia. As for Turkey, it is entering a rather hard time and it does not have enough resources for implementation of such a serious project. Disintegration processes are available in Russia itself and are stemming from the southeastern part of the country.
Ukraine assumed the CIS chairmanship in January 2014. How may the shift in power in Kyiv and the ambiguous situation in the Crimea affect the prospects of the chairmanship and the prospects of the CIS in general?
This will depend on whether Russia will recognize the legitimacy of Kyiv’s authorities in particular and on development of the Ukrainian-Russian relations in general. Even if everything is all right formally, the CIS will continue existing as a talkfest rather than an efficient integration organization.