ArmInfo’s Interview with Director of the Russian Center for Strategic Assessments and Forecasts Sergey Grinyayev
by David Stepanyan
In its sanctions against Moscow, the West is already applying tough measures even against its own companies operating in Russia, which has already resulted in outflow of capital and technologies from Russia. How would you assess the possible impact of the sanctions on the Russian economy in the future?
The West's sanctions are hurting the Russian economy as it is strongly dependent on foreign technologies. This is the result of the liberal policy our authorities have been carrying out over the past decade. Had the sanctions been imposed in the Soviet times, we would have had no problems. But today we have very few industries of our own and are heavily dependent on imports. Even our key defense sectors depend on imports.
The Customs Union was designed exactly to save Russia's economy. This is why the West is chocking Russia with sanctions. But they in the West are also weak. Undermined by the global crisis, they are no longer as strong and unanimous as they were before. So, it is not yet clear who will suffer more from the sanctions: right after the second phase of the sanctions, the stocks of European companies fell 15%. Besides, the West is not the only one in the world, we also have Asia and South America.
Can the West’s sanctions against Russia affect the formation of the Customs and Eurasian Unions given that the other potential member states (e.g. Armenia) have close economic ties with Russia? Won’t the international isolation of Russia make the countries leave its integration projects?
The current sanctions of the West are extremely positive for the whole Eurasian Union project. It is better to determine who is who now that the project is in the initial phase and Russia has not yet started supporting the partners' economies. If they run away, let them do it now. The brightest example is Ukraine. This country has been trying to keep a foot in both worlds for many years by giving out promises to everybody and getting support from both Moscow and Brussels. Things do not just happen. The failure of such strategy is obvious and vivid today.
Therefore, everything will depend on the members and the potential members of the Customs Union. Will they be ready to overcome the difficulties together with Russia or will they join our rivals? The idea of the Eurasian Union is relevant like never before given that the growth of economies of Asian countries, first of all, China and India, demands expansion of economic ties with the rest of the world. He thinks that such ties can most effectively and safely be laid from China to Africa via the Black Sea straits and to Western Europe via Minsk, as well as from China to Europe and the United States. It is these transport corridors that will ensure the vitality of the financial center. And here each of the members of the Union should decide its own station.
Do you agree with the opinion that Crimea will soon turn into another "black hole" for Russia like Chechnya, where billions of Russian taxpayers are pumped?
No, I don’t. Russia has received one more landlocked sea since Crimea has been back to Russia, and no one will likely be able to mount a serious resistance to Russia in the Black Sea. Crimea is an immense potential, because one of the sections of the Great Silk Road will be laid via Crimea and will go farther via the Black Sea straits to the Mediterranean Sea and to Africa, which is so interesting to China today. The unification of Crimea and Russia is quite beneficial to Russia and the whole Eurasian Union. Today I would not call even Chechnya a "black hole". The situation is gradually changing for the better.
Will Russia’s expulsion from the G8 bring real problems to Russia?
Expulsion from the G8 will not be a big problem for Russia as its involvement in this structure was mostly a symbol of its being part of the western civilization. Russia still has no access to the G8's finances and has no say in most of its decisions. Such formats are good as long as they foster dialogue but once they are used for pressure they are no longer needed. Instead Russia will strengthen its influence within the G20 and some other much more effective international formats.
Do you agree with the experts linking the escalation of the Karabakh conflict with the tense situation in the southeast of Ukraine?
The current situation makes me agree with the experts linking the escalation of the Karabakh conflict with the tense situation in other countries. I mean the escalating conflict in the southeast of Ukraine and the growing tension on the Line of Contact of the Azerbaijani and Karabakh troops. Evidently, there is a link between these two geopolitical 'playgrounds' in the Russia-West game. We have repeatedly predicted such developments before. Not to allow the situation to grow worse, Armenia and Russia need to come out from a single position at least on acute geopolitical issues. That is, Armenia must actively support Russia's policy in Syria, Transcaucasia and southeast of Ukraine, while Moscow will more actively engage in the Karabakh peace process. At the same time, together we will get quite new opportunities to resist the West's pressure and will avoid finding ourselves alone against that cunning enemy.