Interview of Alexander Krylov, President of the Moscow-based Scientific Society for the Study of the Caucasus, with ArmInfo news.agency
by David Stepanyan
Many say that nothing has changed around Karabakh for the last 20 years. Meanwhile, the geo-politics around the conflict has changed much, if nor radically. The conflict in Ukraine, Russia’s new role, deeper disagreements between the OSCE MG co-chair states, etc. May this result in a new situation around the Karabakh settlement?
Over the last twenty years, the situation in the world, particularly in Azerbaijan,Armenia and NKR, has tangibly changed. The only thing that has not changed in the world policy is the difference of interests of the major global and regional actors. Therefore, every of the Minsk Group co-chair-states acts in line with its interests that may either coincide or partially coincide with those of its partners or run contrary to them. The co-chair- states are not interested in resumption of military actions, here is where their interests coincide. For the politicians of the USA and France it is extremely undesirable spoiling relations with their voters of Armenian origin. This will happen, if they agree with any military actions "forcing the parties to peace. Actually, the Armenians of France and USA will quite differently respond if operations similar to those in Iraq, Lybia and Syria are launched in NKR and Armenia. Moreover, the talks on possible deployment of NATO peacekeepers in the Karabakh conflict zone are idle as long as Armenia is a CSTO member and enjoying Russia's security guarantees. For Russia a solution to the Karabakh conflict with help of external force and pressure is inadmissible. Otherwise, the U.S. and other non-regional superpowers will expand their military presence on its borders. In addition, judging by the 20-year experience of the U.S. peacemaking operation, one can state for sure that they have destructive and tragic aftermaths, first of all, for the peoples, countries and regions that were turned into objects of the U.S.peacemaking activity. Once, Russia and France, and even Germany opposed the U.S. peacemaking operation in Iraq. Now, it is evident that the U.S. operations in Iraq help no one, including Americans.
Despite shortage of the official information, just the way out from the transport semi-blockade was the key reason of Armenia president’s official visit to Georgia on 18-19 June. Before Serzh Sargsyan’s departure to Georgia, president of the Russian Railway Vladimir Yakunin said in Yerevan that the “necessity to concentrate at opening of the railway movement through Abkhazia and Georgia to Armenia”.
The new leadership of Georgia has understood the necessity of normalizing relations with Russia, and is trying to develop this way putting the problems of Abkhazia and South Ossetia outside the negotiating process.We always needed unblocking of the railway through Abkhazia. Earlier, Georgia's position hindered this process, as during Shewarnadze's tenure Georgia was trying to use this factor to have an effect on Russia in its attempts to take Abkhazia back. In fact, that time Russia was offered to recover Abkhazia for Georgia, which was unacceptable even for the Russian diplomacy of Kozyrev's times. Then the railway was blocked as a result of Saakashvili's policy for the military settlement of Abkhazia's and South Ossetia's issues. Now the situation has changed. After the events in 2008, Russia recognized both republics and is not going to revise its position. Against such a background, we hope for unblocking of the railway through Abkhazia, he said and added that at present not negative position of the Georgian leadership is the key obstacle of that, but Georgia's strong dependence on Azerbaijan and Turkey. The leadership of these countries have all the opportunities not to let unblocking of the railway through Abkhazia by means of imposing pressure upon the leadership of Georgia and they are likely to use these opportunities.
The railway North-South is able to unite Russia, Georgia and Armenia with Iran and give the shortest and economically backed way out to all the three countries to the big markets of the South-East Asia and Arab countries. What is the reason of the fact that Moscow is trying to develop the Eurasian project and ignores the true economic projects. What is the reason of that?
For Russia the North-South railway can run either via Azerbaijan or via Armenia. There are no problems with the route via Azerbaijan. In case if such railway transportation is more favorable than maritime traffic, the project may be developed. As for the route via Armenia, everything is much more problematic here. First and the foremost, everything here depends on economic rather than political factors. Azerbaijan and Turkey are exerting pressure on Armenia, isolating it from the external world as much as it is possible. In this light, it is obvious that the Georgian government that is dependant on Ankara and Baku cannot make independent decisions when it comes to the North-South railway. The situation may change, if the Georgian leadership manages to reduce its dependence on Azerbaijan and Turkey. Armenia may help Georgia become less dependent on Ankara and Baku. The Armenian diplomacy gets a wide area of maneuvering here.
Russia’s Minister for Regional Development Igor Slyunyaev said it is very much possible that Azerbaijan may join the Customs Union or Eurasian Economic Union. Meanwhile, Azerbaijan does not think about it. What are the Kremlin’s expectations from Azerbaijan against such a background?
The modern world has been always persuading us that there is nothing impossible in it. Everything depends on the level of Azerbaijan's joining the Customs Union or Eurasian Economic Union. In this context, one can suppose that some day the Cyprus or Sri-Lanka may also join these structures. Russian functionaries and ministers may express their viewpoints regarding different issues. So, we should not watch similar statements as expression of Moscow's official viewpoint and pay great attention at them. In this case the minister simply said that such a thing is possible and nothing else.
Russia is trying to extend the sphere of its influence through inviting different countries to the Eurasian Union. Are there any other reason of this process initiated by the Kremlin except the danger of NATO’s extension to the East?
NATO’s extension to the East confronts Russian’s security interests. and affects foreign policy of Russia, in this case, it does not much affect Moscow's policy. Since the USSR split the reconstruction of the post-Soviet area has been taking place and the process is still developing. Unfortunately, we do not have a single Europe after the USSR split and two integration project have been developing here. Similar projects have been developing in other parts of the world too and have been forming a new multi-pole world. Which of them will be successful? I mean the integration projects of the European Union and Eurasian Economic Union too. First of all, Russia is concerned about ensuring of its own stable and successful development at the post-Soviet area jointly with its neighboring states. However, this contradicts interests of the forces which go on having illusions of a single-pole world and have been trying to block partnership both in the all-European scale as well as within the frames of the project of Eurasian Economic Union. The experience of the European Union shows that its extension gave birth to many problems. It would be useful to Russia to take this experience into account and act according to the principle "better less" and not to strive to maximal extension of the Eurasian Economic Union. If the EAEU gets true profits from the project over the coming years, if the project is successful and provides stable development and resolving of social and economic problems, in that case, this integration union will hardly have shortage of those who want to join it.