Swiss Ambassador to Armenia Lukas Gasser: Switzerland will try to contribute to a peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict without questioning the established formats such as the OSCE Minsk process
ArmInfo’s interview with one of the leaders of the Karabakh Movement in 1988, well-known analyst Igor Muradyan
by David Stepanyan
The Euro-Atlantic community is in deep defense and is steadily building a security belt around itself. This policy implies active integration. This integration is based on security rather than economy or communications. The United States are keen to see Europe secure and is unanimous with it on most of regional issues - be it Turkey or the conflict in the Middle East.
EU's Association with the Eastern Partnership member- states is a political concept designed to bring the countries into the orbit of the western policy.
But this is just an instrument, so, any further discussions on it are just messing with people's heads. We should stop thinking about the content. What we need to do is to try to become the EU's partner rather than raw material appendage. There are three levels of co-existence in the world: leaders, partners and sources of raw materials, and even small countries can be partners. So, Armenia should start moving in this direction, especially now that the western policy on the South Caucasus is changing, and the Euro-Atlantic community is beginning to regard the region as not just a service and transit area for operations in Central Asia, Iran and Afghanistan but a partner against new threats like Turkey. Yet 10 years ago I wrote in an item that unlike Armenia and Georgia, Azerbaijan will never join the EU and NATO. It will exist the way it used to exist till today, until there is oil and gas in its subsurface... They asked me why, but I did not know the answer.
It seems you know the answer now…
There are several reasons of that. Azerbaijan scares any integration very much, as in that case the ruling regime will disappear as it will lose power...Aliyev is very much afraid of the geo-political mismatch. Baku was given no specific promises, what will happen in case of the military conflict.
Neither did Russia…
Russia, and, to be more precise, Turkey, that signed an illegitimate treaty with Baku. And NATO closes eyes on that treaty. Turkey’s membership of NATO will be endangered if it defends Azerbaijan. So, today we should consider principles rather than instruments of integration. Europe is building a security system based on NATO, and its partners that are not NATO members for the moment can become ones in due time. Our problem is not that we lack logic or information but that our society is unable to overcome certain phobias. We have acquired really huge experience in the last 25 years but have learned almost nothing from it.
You don’t think that Russia is able to guarantee Armenia’s security at the given stage, do you? You think that NATO can do that.
No, I just think that Russia is no longer able to guarantee Armenia's and Nagorno-Karabakh's security all alone. Following the interests of its rulers, it is beginning to reckon with Turkey and Azerbaijan, and this is very dangerous for Armenia.
To put it crudely, they may be bribed?
The Azeris have bought the Russians outright, and everybody will know this soon. In addition to the $3bln's worth of arms already sold to the Azeris, they in the Kremlin are planning to sell them weapons for an amount of $4bln. Who will they use this weaponry against? NATO, Iran? It will take the Iranians just a week to wipe the Azeris off the map.
It is not in favor of Russia to see us in danger. What about the notorious balance?
Sure. the Russians would not like to see us in danger. They are doing this to keep us tied to them, to earn money and to improve their relations with the Turks and the Azeris. Russia's trade with Turkey amounts to $100bln. This is why it is ignoring our interests and this is what may prove most dangerous for us.
Do you assume that one beautiful day Moscow may give Karabakh to Azerbaijan and betray Armenia?
I am convinced that sooner or later the Russians may give Nagorno- Karabakh to Azerbaijan so as to turn that country into their ally and to prolong their influence in the region. They have always regarded Nagorno-Karabakh's independence as something done against their will and therefore temporary. The Karabakh Movement was one of the key factors that ruined the USSR. They in the Kremlin have not forgotten this.
Yes, but Azerbaijan is also under pressure of Russia and the West...
Well, there you are. If it were pro-Russian, there would be no such question. Therefore, there are attempts to absorb it at any cost, even at the cost of Karabakh. I have been explaining that for 30 years and will not give up.
Do you think that the Association Agreement with the EU will be initialed in November?
Is there any serious pressure of Russia upon Yerevan with a purpose of preventing such a scenario?
There is pressure, but Moscow does not know what levers to use for that. They still count on creation of an atmosphere of mental affection and fluctuation in Armenia. Just for this reason, discussion of this topic stopped in Armenia, but they still go on discussing that.
Evidently, Association of Armenia with the EU hinders Moscow. Why?
The Association of Armenia with the EU hinders Moscow very much, as Yerevan will start playing foreign games and become a member of a foreign programme. Armenia is a CSTO member, at the same time, it has practically a NATO base at its territory.
Do you mean the Armenian peace-making brigade under NATO?
Sure. The Russians are afraid not of what Armenia will start doing, but of what they (NATO) will start doing with Armenia. So, to become a partner, Armenia has to take part in different strategies. Armenia still has two functions: to balance forces in the Caucasus, breaking of which the Western community will not allow, and participation in suppressing of Turkey. The second function is hard and dangerous, but there is no other way out.
Several years ago I said about the beginning of the West's policy on blockading and isolation of Turkey. Armenia is among the participants in this blockade. By the way, Syria is also among them, and it has not been ruined just for this reason. What will happen to Syria? It will find itself under Saudi Arabia and Turkey, which is not beneficial to the West, as after that Syria will blaze a trail for Turkey towards the Middle East, which the Turks will never leave. At present, they seem to understand that and are trying to correct the situation.
Let’s talk about the balance of forces in the South Caucasus, which the West so much cares for…
The balance of forces in the South Caucasus the way the Russians see it is that Armenia has as much weaponry as Azerbaijan does, but Armenia wants something more and is wondering where it can get that something. The West will give us exactly as much as Russia will keep from us. So, the balance will not change. But if we go deeper into the West's strategies, we may get more, and the balance will turn to our advantage. The Russians are afraid of any alternatives to them in the Caucasus. They are well aware that they are no longer able to guarantee the region's security alone. And as always they are faced with the need to concede something to Turkey. And as always, they will do it at Armenia's expense.
The Turks and the Russians had real talks on Nagorno-Karbakh, with the former offering to stop the Baku-Akhalkalaki- Kars railway project if the latter guaranteed the return of at least three districts around Nagorno-Karabakh. "They also suggested that they might call back some of their agents in the North Caucasus if the Armenian troops withdrew from Nagorno-Karabakh.
Why did the talks fail?
The talks failed simply because the Russians were unable to do it. That's exactly why in 2008, following the Moscow meeting of presidents Medvedev, Aliyev and Sargsyan, the Armenian authorities intensified their integration talks with NATO.
Could you bring at least one agreement between Ankara and Moscow in prejudice of Armenia after 1991?
Russia and Turkey have an agreement to block Armenia's integration into NATO. The Turks keep complaining to NATO that the Armenians have occupied Azerbaijan's territories and each time NATO replies that it is not a arena for such discussions. France and Greece stood up for Armenia for several times. But it was the United States who set Turkey down by asking it if it wanted to see Russia weak.
Will Armenia become EU's partner or will remain its raw material appendage?
Even if we want, it will be very hard for Armenia to become a raw material, It depends not so much on economy than on the fact if Armenia is an educated and cultural state. Will the republic have battle-worthy armed forces? The definition of the country between the raw material and the partner is made just in this context. There is no doubt that Armenia will join the EU as well as NATO. So, we have to conduct our future policy just stemming from such a prospect.
Armenia seems not to be invited there so much…
Today Armenia seems not to be invited there so much. But tomorrow they will invite Armenia and the latter will undoubtedly join these organizations and at the same time will remain Russia's partner. NATO and EU need partners. Today the alliance refuses to receive new members, but it has been drawing out new formats of relations with new partners. IPAP will soon become an instrument of the true cooperation. Sweden is not NATO member either, but it takes part in NATO operations more than Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and Slovakia taken together. Practically, Sweden is an unofficial member of NATO. And Armenia will take part in IPAP by all its forces, and when we have shortage of forces, they will give them to us. This is the logic. Unlike Armenia and Georgia, Azerbaijan will never join the EU and NATO. It will exist the way it used to exist till today, until there is oil and gas in its subsurface...