ArmInfo’s interview with Mateusz Piskorski, Director General of the European Center of Geopolitical Analysis
by David Stepanyan
Do the agreements following the two events in Geneva continue the “reset” of the US-Russian relations?
I see no prospect for the regular and true rebooting especially after the latest events in Ukraine. There is no accord in the matter of the Syrian conflict settlement either. One principle difference between Washington and Moscow is always preserved - the first does not see an opportunity to keep representatives of Bashar al-Assad in the new transitional government, whereas the second is for the political settlement on the basis of preserving sovereignty of the Syrian state. Such a position causes much difference in interpretation of the key political ideas of the two superpowers. The USA thinks it is possible to topple any power on the basis of protection the rights of national minorities and citizens. Moscow is for peace without the external interference in local affairs of sovereign states. So, they have no general approach. This is the matter of elementary values. In this case, Syria is a polygon of fight between the one-pole world of de-sovereignty offered by Washington, and the multi-pole world of sovereign states and various integration unions offered by Moscow. This confrontation is not so much obvious in case of Iran. However, here as well, there is difference of approaches.
Russia blames the West for the development in Ukraine. The West, in turn, blames the Kremlin? Which one is right?
After the coup in Kyiv, the struggle for Ukraine switched to an absolutely new stage. Many people say that the latest events in Kyiv mean the geopolitical defeat of Russia and its integration aspirations at the post-Soviet area. Actually, the present situation is much linked with the nature of the Ukrainian statehood, which supposes resolving of local political and economical conflicts by means of maidan and protest actions. There is a permanent war of oligarchic clans in Ukraine. For this reason, it is hard to say about a consistent policy, and it is likely to say about redivision of the influence zones in the privatized economy. If Ukrainian oligarchs think that joining the Customs Union is useful, they will do that. But if they think that rapprochement with the European Union is more beneficial, they will adopt such a decision. The ruling regime in Russia understands it. For this reason, they consider Ukraine not an established state but an oligarchic structure, which pretends to be a state. Against such a background, one can say that Ukraine is a "chronic ill" entity of Eastern Europe. Naturally, this is a problem to all its neighbors. Participation of Ukraine in any integration unions and programmes is possible only in case of creation of true state structures at its territory.
Can the present conflict in Ukraine lead to the country’s state and territorial collapse? How do you think the developments in Ukraine will end?
After the recent events in Ukraine, it is not ruled out that Ukraine will transfer to federative and confederative system and later separate entities of this structure may declare independence. There is no general idea that unites the Ukrainian state. There are many positions and interests, which cancel each other out. For this reason, the split of the current territory of Ukraine may be the only way for creation of the state structures at this territory. However, Ukraine will not break down soon. It may happen as a result of the long-lasting process of disintegration in which external factors will also take part. However, nobody has drawn such a conception or analyzed consequences of such a scenario.
The Kremlin is not going to give up the idea of creation of a European Union. Will Moldova and Azerbaijan be in the focus of the reintegration policy?
Chisinau will probably have to study the Eurasian course of its foreign policy, due to its economic dependence. Some regions of Moldova supported the Gagauzia referendum displaying the actual preferences of the people. The people seem to have realized that the path to the EU suggested by Romania is little realistic. Bucharest has no real levers of influence in Brussels, despite the 'imperial' statements of President Basescu. After the parliamentary elections, Chisinau's relations with the CU will be discussed and the result of these discussions will greatly depend on Moscow's offers. As for Baku, I don't believe it may seriously study Eurasian integration, at least, at the given stage. Probably, some Azerbaijani politicians use 'Eurasian' rhetoric to frighten and exert pressure on Armenia. There is an impression that Baku tries to persuade Armenia that even the Customs Union will not make them feel secure. Nevertheless, Azerbaijan's statements must not be taken seriously. Baku has been building its foreign political identity creating an image of Russian threat and Moscow's imperialism too long. Even with ceasefire breaches on the border with Armenia and Karabakh, the Azerbaijani leadership tries to detract the attention of its own public from domestic problems. Every time a threat of unrest emerges in Baku, provocation happens on the border. It is difficult to imagine peaceful resolution of the conflict. It will require at least change of political elite in Baku, because the incumbent authorities will hardly be able to change their rhetoric and actions.
Do you think the military and political preferences can compensate and even overbalance the ambiguous economic prospects of Armenia’s accession to the Customs Union?
Why do you need low prices for cars if they are going to be fired at or bombed? So, this is a problem of the system of values and priorities. I think that in case of Armenia, it is hard to discuss any vectors of foreign policy without taking the security factor into consideration. In fact, at present only Russia owns enough potential for prevention of the armed conflict in the region. As regards the economic consequences of Armenia's integration in the Eurasian projects, there are certain risks when fulfilling any such project, linked with the necessity of transition to another customs regime and introduction of certain standards and norms. Nevertheless, there are more risks in case of any country's joining the EU or even signing the Association agreement with the EU. Naturally, the level of the economic security of population much depends on ability of the political leadership of the country to conduct effective talks. I think that it is possible to get certain transitional periods and preferences within the Customs Union.
How would you assess Armenia’s foreign policy?
In the conditions of the limited field to manoeuvre, Armenian diplomacy has been acting rather successfully. There are potentially big capacities linked with the southern direction of the foreign policy of the republic. First of all, it is the idea of the transport corridor connecting Russia with the Persian Gulf through Iran. Armenia may play the key part in this project, although the participation of Georgia and other regional partners in this project is also necessary. The Armenian diplomacy has to draw special attention to the processes linked with establishment of the new state in the region – Kurdistan. Despite the complicated history, it is not ruled out that Armenia will be forced to establish relations with this new geopolitical actor of the region. Although, this issue is of a strategic and long-lasting prospect, it may change much in Armenia's relations with the neighboring states.