Thomas Graham, the managing director at Kissinger Associates, Inc., where he focuses on Russian and Eurasian affairs, Ex- Special Assistant to the President Bush and Senior Director for Russia on the National Security Council staff from 2004 to 2007, also served as the Associate Director of the Policy Planning Staff of the Department of State, one of the founders and co-Directors of the Russian Studies Project at Yale, in his interview to ArmInfo speaks about current conditions of Russian-Chinese relations, Donald Trump’s Administration political motivation in respect to Iran, speaks about the Karabakh conflict settlement
An opinion exists stating thatDonald Trump's administration views the relation with Russia from the priority point of the relations with Chin. And tit is exactly Beijing that forms in general the agenda of Moscow-Washington relations. Do you subscribe such point of view?
I think, in real this position is not so close to reality. Everything regarding Russia in the end brings to bilateral relations for USA. This is the most important thing. The matter is our different visions and estimates of the situation existing. For instance, regarding issues like Syria, Ukraine, European security. At that, in respect to issues related to Eastern Asia, the main partner for United States is China. The problem in USA-Russia is relations in the stubborn rejection of Washington to recognize the Russian presence in Asia. To recognize the significant role Russia plays in this region. Meanwhile when estimating the role of China in Eastern Asia, USA obviously underestimates the role of Russia. That is why there is no triangle existing in USA-Russia-China relations. I don't know how it goes in China or in Russia, but there is no such disposition for Washington in Moscow- Beijing relations for sure.
And, in any way, is China the main global partner for USA today?
The heart of the matter is that USA today is the leading global power. At that, China grows very fast, and its power looks much more impressive than 5-10 years agop. That is why China is viewed by Americans as the only country that could become the strategic competitor for United States. That is why US pays a special attention to China and applies many efforts in respect to relations with Beijing.
Could You please state the most proper line to settle the problems with Russia? If, of course, You think this vector is right and proceeds from US interests?
The urgent need to have a dialogue with Russia exists right now. We have to resume the communication channels we had successfully implemented before Ukrainian explosue r. We have essential contradictions existing between our countries. They will not disappear, and Moscow and Washington need a better mutual understanding of positions. No issues could be settled without the cooperation between our countries.
Was the recent statement of USA President regarding Northern Korea reading something like put everything in order there or we will do it ourselves" addressed to Pyongyang or the final correspondent was Beijing?
Guess it was addressed directly to Northern Korea, because a great deal of danger comes out exactly out of there. In my opinion, this action of White House was not a kind of pressure to China. More likely it was a call for cooperation stating that " if things go bad for us, they will go bad for everyone, including you."
In distinct to Barak Obama’s administration, Donald Trump’s staff has essentially toughened the position in respect to Iran. What interests exactly is it preconditioned by and what is the motivation, up to You?
The reasons and motivations are pretty various. First of all, this is being suspicious regarding Tehran nuclear program. The second is the ambitions of Iran at Middle East. We have a opinion that the main target of Iran is to restructure the existing status quo at Middle East, and to become the leader of the region in the end. And this all is happening under conditions of Iran refusing to adjudicate Israel, to consider the interests of United States, condemning the very fact of our presence in the region. In such circumstances it is not real to expect we will agree for sole domination of Iran in the region. And this is exactly one of the main reasons of Trump's motivation in forming the agenda in respect to Iran. At the same time, I think if changes in Iranian authorities would become reality, the USA-Iran relations would be of quite another kind, reminding that 40 years ago the main tower of strength for USA in the region was the Shakh Iran. In this respect, I do not rule out returning of American-Iranian relations to the level of those with Shakh Iran. For now, considering the level of ideology of current Iranian authorities, such a level of cooperation is simply excluded.
South Caucasus is another part of a big region embraced by hybrid wars, which is discussed by us now, and this part is also burning with long lasting conflicts. Could we speak about Karabakh problem settlement options?
To my great regret, the Karabakh conflict will smudge and burn and for a pretty long time yet, because it burns and smudges for three decades already, due to ethnic tension. I could say that it is very hard to settle the conflict operating the principles of territorial integrity and self- determination simultaneously. Of course, a time may come when these problems could be settled and the conflict will get a chance to be settled. But here another question arises - when the Caucasus was completely tranquil? That is why the smudging Karabakh is a normal situation for Caucasus.
Which power – regional, external or internal one - is interested in keeping Karabakh conflict being unsettled ?
I don’t think that Russia or USA are interested in keeping Karabakh conflict in smudging status. According to the expert, the problem is that Yerevan and Baku are very defensive in their positions, and their positions are right opposite. I would like to accentuate also the difficulties of settling the conflict under the circumstances of being equal to national identity. Any exit to a mutually acceptable compromise able to satisfy both Azerbaijanis and Armenians, is very difficult to reach.
And, nonetheless , relying on Your experience, what is the possible compromise in Your opinion?
All the compromises possible for the settlement are being discussed already. Adjudication of Nagorno Karabakh as a part of Armenia, its actual independence, communication paths between Armenia, Karabakh, Azerbaijan and Nakhidjevan and others. Up to me, such issues are to be solved when both sides are simply get tired and understand that it is impossible to go on in such bellicose situation like this. In the case of Karabakh it is obvious that sides did not reach this understanding yet.