Interview of Director of Institute for the Eastern European and CIS Countries in Tel-Aviv, Dr, Alexander Zinker
by David Stepanyan
Ukraine has stirred up the layer of the old problems accumulated between the world force centers. Today they have been seriously discussing a problem of a unique border running through its territory and of the geo-political split between the West and Russia. What are these borders?
New processes have been developing at the territory of the former USSR, within the frames of which some republics understand the statements by the Russian leaders "concerned about the problems of the Russian-language population in other countries", of the so-called "big Russian world", like a warning. On the one hand, it is normal that Moscow is concerned about these problems. But on the other hand, how much Russia may support these communities of the "Russian world". The problem goes out of the CIS frames. There are 1,5 million Russian-language population living in Israel. However, this does not at all mean that Russia may suddenly be concerned about the problems of the Russian-language population of Israel. Fortunately, Moscow does not think about it, and I hope Russia will never do that Ukraine has risen many old problems accumulated between the world force centers, and it is hard to predict how further events will develop in Ukraine, and between Russia, Ukraine, the USA, Europe and other CIS countries. I can only say that the events in Ukraine have stirred up all the problems between the above mentioned countries. Moreover, the attitude of the USA and EU to this issue is absolutely different. If the events in Ukraine directly concern Europe, they concern the USA indirectly. Just for this reason, unlike the Europeans, the Americans are more categorical in their statements and requirements.
I think that in that case Israel’s answer will be short…
The time will come when the peoples of Russia and Ukraine will think not about their difference but equality. A new word expression appeared today <Ukraine has lost the Crimea, and Russia -Ukraine>. This word expression really reflects the situation and the short-tern prospect. I have never seen such a true information war at all the levels, and in mass media first of all. I think no mass media as such have remained in Ukraine and Russia. They have quickly turned into the propaganda bodies.
I have got an impression that today people have simply turned into zombie by this multi-level propaganda. And the situation will not recover, until these people themselves will not understand that they can make friends. By the way, today Georgia and Russia have been gradually establishing relations, though after the war 08.08.08. it was practically impossible. I think that the time will also come when the peoples of Russia and Ukraine will think not about their difference but equality. Not everything is simple there. As for the purely political reaction of the EU at the events in Central Europe, here we have a strict system of dual standards.
Do you agree to the viewpoint that the USA and Russia have again found themselves in a “cold war”?
The Americans and the Russians have called the relations establishing between them for the last years as "restart". But at the symbolic button they accidentally wrote the word "overload", and actually just the overloading has taken place. Today the cold war again started between these countries. The relations level being established today between Russia, the EU and the USA is like a new cold war. Moreover, some people say even about the danger of the third world war. For this reason, today there is no smile in the relations between the USA and Russia, and I think they will not smile to each other for a long period of time. Both parties may be blamed for that. I think that all the ideas of President Barack Obama, for which he was given the Nobel Prize, were not brought to life. His only merit is withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan. As for the situation in Ukraine, the expert thinks that Obama's administration has been acting not so much far-sightedly, as it is better to talk than to threat with sanctions and weapon.
And what about Putin?
Today's Vladimir Putin differs very much from Putin which came at the beginning of the 2000s. When he appointed Medvedev as a premier, the conception of his foreign policy sharply changed, to be correct, its paradigm changed. And the empire statements often voiced by him for the last period of time, will unavoidably lead to bigger changes. I think that the radicals' wing in his surrounding and in the Russian policy strongly pushes him to that. Today this wing says about the necessity of bringing Russian troops into Ukraine, which is very much dangerous. Taking into consideration the fact that the leadership of NATO seems to be eager of that, it is a very much dangerous trend. The talks that the third world war will save the world economy from a theoretical research has transformed into a theory which may be implemented in practice. I hope that the radical wing of the Russian policy will not gain a victory, but he does not want to predict further development of the situation conditioned by the latest trends in the global politics. Nevertheless, one thing may be said for sure - "the cold war" period has again become reality today.
In its aspiration “to gather the Russian lands” Moscow has been imposing pressure upon the potential participants in its Eurasian projects. What does it hinder Russia to economic levers for raising of the true interests of the South Caucasus states, including Azerbaijan , in the Eurasian Economic Union? I mean, for instance, unblocking of the Abkhazian sector of the railway.
I have got an impression that by every attempt of the Russians to restore any commonwealth, not the USSR, which is unreal, less beneficiary countries remain. So, I think that such an approach is wrong. The economic tie of the countries with Russia is the best scenario for integration. And although it is not so much modern in Armenia, I treat Armenia's joining the Customs Union rather calmly. By the way, Israel seriously revises the idea of cooperation with Eurasian Union. I think that in Armenia as well as in Ukraine this issue is very much politicized. Whereas, in Israel only big businessmen and governmental structures were aware of signing the Association Agreement with the EU, all the rest population were not interested in this issue at all.
Maybe, because there was not an opposite pole to pull Israel to its side?
Yes, of course. At present we have been cooperating with Eurasian structures, but the EU does not even try to say that having an Association agreement with the EU, Israel should not have similar economic relations with another structure. So, economy is the best machinery for being interested in integration. At the same time, I am not sure that if Moscow decides to involve an issue of unblocking of the Abkhazian sector of the railway in its integration machinery, it will be easily resolved, as it is not an economic problem. I am confident that when Georgia revises the problem of letting trains run through the territory which it thinks is an occupied one, it is not an economy any more but politics. In this context, I think that it is very much possible that the problem of the Abkhazian railway may be resolved only grounding on the economy but not politics. Incidentally, the Georgians have several times come to that. However, the politics always became an obstacle.
And what about Israel?
In general, taking into account the level of relations between Armenia and its natural partner Iran, Israel is quite alert to the idea of restoration of the North-South communications. I think that opening of the Abkhazian sector of the railway would extend the economic ties of Armenia much. If Russia took the issue of other CIS countries' participation in its economic projects on the basis of equal partnership, it would gain much more, at least, it would not lose the friends which it loses today. I think that Kazakhstan, taking into consideration the fact that numerous Russian-language people have been living at its territory, should worry that one day, when its relations with Russia worsen, Russia may take this trump card. I think that the trend of readiness of the Kremlin to protect the "Big Russian world" is dangerous for Russia, first of all. And one should take it very much carefully. Any country does not have friends forever, there are only everlasting interests. What is happening today between Russia and Armenia may be explained just by coincidence of economic and in a certain sense regional interests of Russia with the interests of Armenia.