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 Wednesday, October 19 2016 14:11

David Stepanyan

Alexander Sotnichenko: If Moscow, Ankara, and Tehran manage to settle Syrian crisis, status quo in Nagorno-Karabakh may be changed and not in favor of Armenia

 Alexander Sotnichenko: If Moscow, Ankara, and Tehran manage to settle Syrian crisis, status quo in Nagorno-Karabakh may be changed and not in favor of Armenia

In an interview with ArmInfo, Alexander Sotnichenko, Ph.D, a political analyst, an expert on Turkey and the Middle East, associate professor at the Saint Petersburg State University, Department of International Relations, speaks about the preconditions and reasons of the growing global confrontation between the West and Russia, forecasts the prospects of the Russian-Turkish relations, the reasons behind instable relations of Moscow and Tehran, as well as possible scenario of the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement.

Do you see any real preconditions and substantiations behind the gradually deepening conflict of interests of Russia and U.S.? It is clear that the talks of sooner war, if not World War III, target the U.S. population amid presidential race in that country. It is not clear why do the alarmist and militarist sentiments spread in Russia. 

Conflict of interests of Russia and U.S. has real grounds.  After the two-polar system in the international relations collapsed in 1991, U.S. became the only Big Power to have worldwide interests. By present, Washington has expanded its influence on Eastern Europe and the post-Soviet area, including Ukraine and Georgia. Certainly, Moscow perceived this as encroachment upon its area of interests. Such king of disregard of Russia’s position could not but spark a conflict. U.S. believes that Moscow as a party that lost the cold war has no right to oppose NATO’s expansion, the plans to overthrow undesirable regimes in the Middle East. Washington does seek to retain its position of the only Big Power and is hostile to any challenge from Russia. U.S. demonstrates that it is ready to tolerate Russia as a partner only if Moscow fully accepts Washington’s policy – something that was observed until 2008.

Has the latest Russian-Turkish agreement on the Turkish Stream gas pipeline project helped returning the two countries’ relations to the level they were before Turkish forces downed a Russian warplane over Syria? Are there any real preconditions for development of these relations, or they are connected with the recent strain in the relations of Moscow and Ankara with the West?

Relations between Turkey and Russia have good preconditions for development, as the cooperation between our countries is mutually advantageous both politically and economically. Turkey has been disappointed at the West as its key partner and seeks new partners to implement its political and economic strategies.  What impede the Russian-Turkish cooperation are the discrepancies over Syria.  The only way to overcome those discrepancies is a dialogue on Syria with participation of the regional powers (Iran, Saudi Arabia) and without the non-regional powers  (U.S. and EU) in the process.  The disagreements of Moscow and Ankara over Syria are not irresolvable, as it may seem. Both the sides seek to stabilize the situation, stop the civil war and preserve Syria as a state. U.S. and Israel pursue different goals.

After the foreign ministers of Russia, Iran, and Azerbaijan signed agreements on North-South corridor on April 6 2016 in Baku, and following the meeting of the three countries’ presidents later in August, many experts alarmed of geopolitical reshaping of the South Caucasus. However, the statement by Tehran and Moscow that followed it has demonstrated that Tehran is not ready to such close cooperation with Moscow. The relations with which country have determined such stance of Iran?

Iran does not trust Moscow’s multi-vector and instable policy. In 1989-2010, Russia has drastically changed its attitude towards cooperation with Tehran in the military-technical field for 4 times. Iran considers Russia as a generally Western country that will refuse from cooperation with Iran to settle its relation with EU and U.S. The current crisis in the relations of Russia and the West contributes to the development of the Russian-Iranian relations, but they in Tehran understand that this alliance may be temporary if the incumbent political elite remains in power. Russia’s rather friendly relations with Israel have an important part here. Tehran does remember that the strategic mutually advantageous deal on S-300 missile systems was failed after Israel’s Prime Minister B. Netanyahu traveled to Moscow in 2010.  

Territories of the South Caucasus have been traditionally used in the geopolitical games of Big Powers. The recent dialogue of Lavrov and Cavusoglu concerning “the role Turkey could play in the Karabakh settlement” reminded the Soviet-Turkey treaties of 1921. What do you anticipate from Moscow and Ankara in the context of the Karabakh peace process?

Real settlement of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict is possible only in case of a political dialogue between Russia, Turkey, and Iran and the trust between the sides. So far, Syria is on agenda. No conditions for settling the conflicts in the South Caucasus are possible in such format so far. The conflict will remain frozen, unless “hot heads” in Baku attempt to use their prevalence in the military equipment in practice. If Moscow, Ankara, and Tehran manage to settle the Syrian crisis by combined efforts, the next step may be Karabakh. The status quo may be changed then and not in favor of Armenia.

Quite lately, Ilham Aliyev told Russian media that Baku is ready for a concession on Karabakh in terms of the “highest possible autonomy.” Will such concession favor Moscow, considering that the status quo in the Karabakh conflict helps it retain its influence on the sides?

Status quo is in favor of Moscow partially, as it ensures the ceasefire. If another scheme able to ensure the ceasefire and reduce the conflict potential in the region emerges, Russia will support it.

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