ArmInfo’s interview with Sergey Markedonov, Ph.D. (History), assistant professor at the Regional Studies and Foreign Policy department of the Russian State University for Humanities
by David Stepanyan
Could you give your vision of the causes of the conflict over Crimea.
Today the stances on Crimea are rather precise. Russia has proved in the minority not because it is wrong. That is not the question. The point is that the balance of power in the world is shifting in favor of the U.S. and its allies for a range of issues. That is why the situation with Crimea is interpreted in the light of the aforementioned. And the response from both the parties of the global conformation is tough.
Do the positions of the South Caucasus nations on Crimea reflect the latest real politik tendencies?
Today the position of being above the struggle for the Crimea would be the best for any Caucasus states. We see that at present the struggle for tones and half-tones is taking place practically everywhere. Georgia which for many years was watching Ukraine as a strategic partner, thinks that the West is its strategic choice. But on 6 March when sanctions against Russia were discussed in the parliament, the "Georgian dream" did not support the project. It only criticized that and abstained from effective measures. As for Azerbaijan, for which Ukraine has always been an important partner in many sectors, the current authorities of Baku do not like Maidan's ghost very much, and they do not want to have similar Maidan in Azerbaijan. On the other hand, Azerbaijani opposition is very much inspired by this sample, although the Crimea has become the true price of the Maidan. Armenia is Russia's strategic partner. But there are many cases which Yerevan did not want to make a point of. For this reason, an open supporting of the referendum in the Crimea by Yerevan may push the West to raise an issue of "Nagorno-Karabakh occupation". Yerevan was not happy for the events in Georgia in 2008. But because of the clear reasons it did not want to support Russia. So, for all the Caucasus republics it would be right to stay aside and not to interfere in the conflict which is actually strange to them. No country of the South Caucasus has vitally important interests in the Crimea or Ukraine to fight for.
The situation over Crimea is more or less clear, unlike the future of Southeastern Ukraine. Do you have a scenario for this region?
Comparing the situations in Crimea and in the southeast of Ukraine is wrong, as the phenomenon of the large-scale Crimean separatism existed yet long ago. Meanwhile, Leonid Kuchma, Yulia Timoshenko, Alexander Turchinov, Viktor Yanukovich and a number of oligarchs are from the east of Ukraine. They are not natives of Galich. Therefore, all these territories have always been included in the all-Ukrainian process. Meanwhile, Crimea has always had certain selfness. As for the southeast, it is also very different. Kharkov and Dnepropetrovsk are more integrated in the Ukrainian processes amid pro-Russian processes in Lugansk. In Donetsk the processes are less pro-Russian. I can see no pro-Russian parties there to come out as Moscow's agents with relevant messages. In the meantime, there has always been a Russian community in Crimea. Speaking of Crimea, Abkhazia, South Ossetia, many go in geopolitics not even noticing the views of the people that live there. Meanwhile, no geopolitics is able to change the public opinion. The Crimea and Karabakh issues did not originate from any geopolitical interests, simply the people living there saw no future for the countries they were attached to in the Soviet times without any referendum. However, the problem of Ukraine is the problem of power. "In any revolution, there is always a political force able to control and monopolize violence. Ukraine, there is no such leader so far. Therefore, the scenario of a full collapse of power in Ukraine and Russia's inevitable interference is still possible. However, there is also another scenario according to which Kyev finally displays reasonability and begins to negotiate.
Transdniestria is already asking to join Russia. Some people are also mentioning Nagorno-Karabakh. Do you think that Crimea has become a precedent?
Russia's foreign policy is not selling boxes: Crimea's joining Russia does not mean that the same will happen to Transniedstria. Still many are sure that Russia's policy today is aimed at collecting territories. In reality, Russia's policy in the post-Soviet area is not only what it does to others but also what others do to it. When Georgia tried to force the Russians out of the South Ossetian peace process, they got South Ossetia. When Ukraine began defying them, they got Crimea. But if Moldova acts differently, they will not get Transdniestria. Growing confrontation with the West is the last thing Russia wants. Everybody perfectly understands that one day Russian resources may end as may the patience of the West.
Are there real opportunities to settle the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict that are being missed?
Very often they in the West mistake the wish for the reality. Some people think that things here depend on whether the West and Russia will be able to come to terms though the real problem comes from the reluctance of Armenians and Azeris to make peace. The West and Russia came to terms when they adopted the Madrid Principles but that did not bring Armenians and Azeris closer. The problem is that those principles contain lots of contradictions. For example, the point concerning the interim status of Nagorno-Karabakh contradicts the one confirming Azerbaijan's territorial integrity. With the world community refusing to recognize Nagorno-Karabakh and its authorities, it is not clear who will govern that region during the period of the interim status. So, the only term for the Madrid Principles is imitation. The West and Russia are just aiming to show that they do have common grounds. The other aim they have in view is to keep Armenia and Azerbaijan at the negotiating table so as to create an illusion of negotiations and to prevent a new war.
Is there a country interested in comprehensive peace in Nagrono-Karabakh. What are the interests of geopolitics today?
Despite absolute absence of consensus, the parties to the Karabakh conflict should nevertheless be interested in reaching a universal peace settlement. I think that today everybody, even Turkey and Iran, are interested in reaching the compromise option. Not geo-politics but the parties to the conflict should make a compromise. In that case, Armenia will get the opened borders. And Russia will not be forced to tack between Yerevan and Baku preserving certain influence in both countries. However, unblocking of the border to Armenia by Turkey without settlement of the Karabakh conflict is impossible, taking into consideration the domestic political significance of this issue for Turkey. The West which thinks the Bosnia and Kosovo are its success, goes on developing the project on opening of the Armenian-Turkish border to reach another "success". The EU has long ago stopped producing creative ideas. The Europeans declare grandiose success in democratizing and assure to reach bigger success. Meanwhile, there is nothing of the kind and no democratizing is taking place. It is good that regime has changed in Georgia for the first time for the last 20 years, but it is not clear. what was Bidzina Ivanishvili's role in all that. "If it is democracy, in that case, let the USA and Europe choose the Deng Xiaoping reforms for themselves too. What democratizing success does Azerbaijan have? If we compare Serzh Sargsyan with Robert Kocharyan, we may probably find dynamics. Nevertheless, I still do not see a system of the functioning democratic institutions in Armenia.
Has the Eastern Partnership program lost its prospects or will it gain a new momentum, with all ensuing consequences for Russia?
The program has prospects but at the same time, it does not have them. It has no prospect as its moderators do not understand true images. Allegedly, it is a hostage of the lost capacities and invented myths which it follows. However, it has prospects as its member-states still have a demand for Europe. They travel to Europe and see the situation there, but they do not understand that for becoming Europe they have to work like Europe but not to wait for democracy brought by the Europeans. However, if there is a demand, there are also bilateral impulses towards Brussels. The main problem of the "post-Soviet" countries and the European security system in general is that they do not try to take Russia as a partner in a big European concert. Many people say that real politics is bad. But the policy based on the myths and illusions is even worse as many people will be disappointed with it. Of course, Russia will not become a member of the EU, but its voice should be heard there. Moscow does not admit the out of control extension of NATO like an exchange for beautiful words. Nobody has canceled competition and conflict of interests.
Is Ukraine a part of this conflict of interest? Or things are much more complicated?
Undoubtedly, the situation in Ukraine is more complicated than it seems at first sight. First of all, it is a test for statehood that arose from inside from the very first day. Actually, everybody, including Russia pass this test in the Caucasus, Povolzhye, etc. Besides Karabakh, Azerbaijan passes this test in the Talish and Lezgin issues too. The same has been happening in Ukraine. The point is about the identity which fits the population of the country. For this reason, I would offer another two volumes to Leonid Kuchma's book "Ukraine is not Russia" - "Ukraine is not Galicia" and "Ukraine is not Maidan". They have to understand that and all the viewpoints should be taken into consideration. Even if Maidan gathers one third of the population of Ukraine, it is just one third. But if Ukraine wanted to be entire, it had to understand that before the Maidan. The Georgians also had to understand that and create privileged conditions for the Abkhazs so that to preserve the borders of Georgian Soviet Socialistic Republic. Today many people blame Vladimir Putin for supporting Ramzan Kadirov. But such is the price of the issue, the price that Moscow pays for having Chechnya within Russia. Many people in Russia do not like such a position. For this reason, the root of the problem should be fist of all looked for in Ukraine. And later all the rest external factors overlapped that.