Professor Vitali Naumkin, the academician of Russian Academy of Science, scientific board member and the director of Oriental Studies Institute in his interview to ArmInfo speaks about the relations of Russia with Karabakh conflict sides, about the armament trade. Gives evaluation to the current relations of Israel and Iran with Azerbaijan and Armenia. Comments on the probability of the Middle East unrest projection to the South Caucasus.
In Your opinion, how successful is Russian policy in the aspect of keeping and improving concurrent relations with Armenia and Azerbaijan without causing any loss to own interests? What role is played by unsettled Karabakh issue in this respect?
IO think that there is simply no other options. Russia tries to consolidate the post-Soviet region, whit its territories embraced by deep conflicts. One of such conflicts is the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, preconditioned by complicated historical and ethnical relations. And today Russia, as the consolidating center and the mediator of Karabakh conflict settlement, naturally has to develop its relations with Azerbaijan and Armenia. Either on bilateral and multilateral basis. There is no other option. And I do not see any special strategy here. It is obvious that Armenia, becoming a member of CSTO and EEU, weighs more in this situation. We have no such level of relations with Azerbaijan, that is why those are asymmetric. That is why Russia does not work with Baku and Yerevan running with hare and hunting with hounds, because the level of relations is too different.
Recently another shipment of armored machines was delivered to Azerbaijan. Generals estimate the Russian shipments of Armaments to Azerbaijan as a politics, and politicians – as business. How would You do characterize this process?
I would only say that if not our armored machines should be shipped to Azerbaijan, than those would be shipped from other countries. Azerbaijan, with its resources, will not stay without weapons anyway. I think that Russian partnership with Azerbaijan in military-technical cooperation sector corresponds to Armenian interests. Because any agreement on Russian armament shipments to Azerbaijan could not be just a business. This process is a symbiosis of business and politics, the essence of which is to have good relations with Azerbaijan and Armenia at the same time. In his opinion, there is some element of guarantee that these weapons will be used against Armenia.
How do You see the prospective of Karabakh settlement within the existence of such relations of Russia with the sides of this conflict?
Whispers on some agreements existing between Armenian and Azerbaijani leaders in respect to Karabakh, various settlement plans are spread very fast. I don't know the details, but I think that it will be pretty hard to it anyway. Of course, I can be wrong, a miracle will come down and Karabakh issue will be solved. But the mutual exclusion of stage-by-stage and package approaches is existing for today, and I do not know how this issue could be solved while parties stand at different and opposing positions. Of course, mediators have developed the conflict settlement scheme, and all we have to do is to hope that it will work," he mentioned. The Minsk Group yet plays an insufficient role as a mediator, particularly in respect to development of new options . In this respect the only working format is the format of two presidents within the mediation of Russia. I hope that it will work, but, being a circumcised optimist, I think that in the nearest future this could hardly work.
Israel and Iran recently show certain interest to Azerbaijan and Armenia. Is this preconditioned by some changes in US policy in respect to Iran, generated by Donald Trump’s coming to White House?
Armenia always was a very important country for Iran, including the matter of positioning Iranian state power as based on Human Rights and national minorities existing in Iran. Tehran always shows Armenian and Christian Communities to the West as possessing all the rights and capabilities. At that, Armenia, under the conditions of semi-blockade of Tehran is one of the exits to external world for Tehran. Iran is also a similar window for Armenia. The speeches of Armenian President and other politicians obviously state that. Powerful Armenian diaspora in USA and Europe allows to build certain relations with NATO and EU. And this role allows Armenian to be viewed as a useful bridge not only by Iran, but by Russia also. That is why exactly the diversification of Armenian relations with external world allows to evaluate the political line of Yerevan as too much addicted to Iran,
Azerbaijan, having common borders with Turkey and Iran, impact of strong players, who are able to change the internal balance of forces in the country between Shiite and Sunnite communities, the existence of radicals addicted to extremism or Iranian power, does not make happy. And it is exactly Israel that helps Azerbaijan to find ways out of situation by now, not allowing Azerbaijan to restrict relations by Muslim countries.
And by Russia too….
Of course, by Russia too. Of course, this is also a diversification, though of a less capacity. I do not think that in early 2017 Israeli Prime Minister came to Baku to investigate any conditions and environment for USA. Washington, of course, criticizes Baku for the situation with human rights. But Azerbaijani-American relations are not good in common and USA does not need Israeli mediation. Azerbaijan always had good relations with Israel. There was a time Azerbaijani community in Israel was very strong. Aliev-elder had very good relations with Israel as well, at that, in pretty confidential sectors That is why Iran is treated in Baku very careful.
Do You think there are some preconditions for Middle East unrest projection to Armenia and Caucasus? Or Turkey and Iran are still serious obstacles for that?
I think there is no threat of direct projection yet. There is much stronger threat of that for Central Asia with its radical groups and communities. Iran is a really powerful buffer protecting the region from Syrian and Iraqi unrest. At that, Turkey does not possess tools to make any impact on South Caucasus proceeding of own interests. I could say only that Russia is interested in keeping Turkey’s territorial integrity. Russia has a philosophy concept which is very important for us - we stand against any attempts to destroy the power state in Syria, especially during the “Arabic Spring” , when the West tried to make the state regimes down there in Arabic countries.
And does the West try to disturb the integrity and state power in Ukraine as well?
Crimea is a quite another situation, that could be talked over for a pretty long time. Everything began from Yugoslavia, Kosovo, Bosnia. It was not Russia that started all this. Yugoslavia was destroyed by West, and all this is going on by now.
By the way, are You an adept of “managed chaos” ?
Absolutely not. This is 100% conspirology.