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 Alexander Krylov, Doctor of Historical Sciences, President of the Scholarly Society of Caucasus Studies, leading research associate of the Center for Problems of Development and Modernization at the Institute of World Economy and International Relations of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
by David Stepanyan
Despite its desire to access the Customs Union that contradicts the DCFTA - a component of the Association Agreement with the EU - Yerevan will try to sign a document on a special, lower status of Armenia in the relations with the EU at the upcoming Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius. How much possible is it?
I haven’t got the impression that Armenia was offered an 'upgraded status' in the relations with the EU before 3 September. Now, it is offered a 'lower' one. The agreement on Armenia's Association with the EU seems to be symbolic and shows its aspiration for civilized and democratic Europe. Nothing practical has been observed so far. It would be good if the citizens of Armenia received an opportunity of visa free traveling to the EU and then a similar regime were introduced also for Russia and other post-Soviet countries. Establishment of a single European space would give new opportunities for settling the problems on the continent. Unfortunately, new and new borders are emerging in Europe and there is no progress in continental integration. Such trends on the continent do not allow Armenia to combine cooperation with Europe and the Customs Union membership.
After the Armenian President had taken the decision on Armenia’s accession to the Customs Union, a number of Russian analysts and experts started to say that Armenia’s membership of the Customs Union will be followed by recognition of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic at least by the member states of the Customs Union – Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan. In the meantime, they state that Azerbaijan can avoid such a scenario only if it joins the Eurasian integration process. Would you explain the prospects of such pressure on Baku?
Mass media comment on the last integration events as a result of pressure by the EU and Russia upon these or those countries, for instance, Armenia and Ukraine. Basically, everything is not so simple. Actually, two integration unions are being formed which have their own game rules within the unions as well as regarding the external world. Nobody can make Armenia or Ukraine join the Customs Union or EU, as they are independent states, and they themselves choose what to join. When politicians or experts say that joining any project will have certain consequences and even losses, it is watched like a pressure, threats and even "arm-twisting". Actually, these are just predictions called to show consequences of these or those steps. It is clear that Ukraine's integration in the EU will change the nature of its relations with the Customs Union member-states much, first of all in the economic sense. However, it is not clear yet what Europe offers the countries which have been invited to join the Association Agreement. The same may be said about Russia and its Eurasian Union and Customs Union projects too. But here potential members of these unions have an opportunity of becoming fully-fledged members and developing almost all the game rules themselves. As for the EU, the situation is different here, there is still no word about the fully-fledged membership and equal partnership. We may ride the long European pine together with the countries of North Africa, Turkey and small Balkan counties. It is clear that both roads will not be embraved with roses and potential members of any integration projects will be forced to always prove their substantiality.
Azerbaijan does its best to evade integration into any military and political unions. Can Turkey alone ensure Azerbaijan's security?
The vulnerability of Azerbaijan's position is conditioned by the fact that this country is not a member of any collective security structure, such as NATO, SCO, CSTO. Even the contracts with a NATO member-state Turkey do not guarantee Azerbaijan support in case of potential conflicts. For instance, after the bellicose statements from Baku, representatives of Ankara have repeatedly made it clear that they are against resumption of the war in Nagorno-Karabakh and that in case of the war resumption, Baku cannot hang hat on Turkey's support. At the same time, it is necessary to take into consideration the factor that such statements were made in the conditions of the military parity of the confronting parties, and a problem, what Turkey will do in case of changing of the geo-political situation still remains unsettled. Even against the background of permanent growth of the army by Azerbaijan, it is obvious that only by its own means and even with a help of Turkey Baku will hardly be able to neutralize all potential threats from the south. Meanwhile, threats may appear in the near future in the context of development of the Big Middle East located to the south of Azerbaijan.
What are the prospects of Russia's policy for establishing the Eurasian Union in the post-Soviet territory by means of economic and political pressure on the post-Soviet countries given that no other methods are observed?
I cannot agree with the question formulation. The West asks for a certain response from the post-Soviet states about the future direction of their development and the nature of their future relations with Russia. Various options are watched and their possible consequences are discussed. They openly say that the game rules at the post-soviet territory will change soon depending on the choice made by the former Soviet republics. If to speak about pressure, it is the pressure of their own responsibility for their own choice. I cannot say that the prospects of setting up of the Eurasian Union or Customs Union are clear and cloudless, and all their members will be happy and rich. The same may be said about the European Union as well with all its problems and local disagreements. Any choice has positive and negative sides and one should take them into account when making a choice in favor of the European or Eurasian Union. However, it is necessary to emphasize that the situation of such a choice cannot be normal. Moreover, that was not Moscow that initiated in Europe the "either - or" policy.
The frozen Armenian-Turkish protocols still remain on the agenda of the two countries’ parliaments. What geopolitical realities might necessitate the restart of the Armenian-Turkish dialogue?
Azerbaijan's position was just an excuse for the failure of Armenia's football diplomacy. Besides the Nagorno-Karabakh problem, Armenia and Turkey have a complex of problems related to the genocide of 1915. All this was left beyond the football diplomacy, so, no surprise it ended in such a way. The Armenian-Turkish dialogue will be restarted only given the wish of both sides and their mutual commitment to show a complex approach to bilateral problems.