Andrei Areshev, the Research Associate of the Center for the Study of Central Asia, Caucasus and the Ural-Volga Region of the Oriental Studies Institute under Russian Academy of Sciences in his interview with ArmInfo discusses the latest progress in the negotiation process on Karabakh, Moscow's motivation to provide Yerevan with another defense loan; predicts the signing of a new Armenia-EU agreement; shares own version of the catalysts of centrifugal processes in Europe and Asia.
Is it possible today to speak about the concrete results of the Geneva talks held between the Presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan on October 16, taking into account the death of an Armenian serviceman on October 19?
Unfortunately, such tragic incidents used to take place the day before or immediately after the meetings of the foreign ministers and presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan before. Of course, the continuing loss of life and the inevitable retaliatory actions lead to an additional wave of mutual negativity, which cannot have a positive effect on political and diplomatic efforts. Obviously, neither Yerevan nor Stepanakert can stay off responding to the provocations of the opposing side. Sluggish war around Karabakh and, moreover, with the prospect of more serious exacerbations, if it does not put an end to the negotiations, at least, gives their possible results a much less certainty. It is not enough to talk about reaching some agreements, it is important and it is necessary to implement them. And here, as you know, the Armenian side showed readiness and even made concrete steps to implement the agreements, seemingly achieved in 2016 in Vienna and St. Petersburg. At the same time, even such a seemingly logical step as a two-fold increase in observers on the contact line meets active resistance from one side. The international mediators are well aware of the situation in the region, including the reasons for the not escalating military escalation, as evidenced by at least recent hearings by the US Helsinki Commission with the participation of former OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs James Warlick and Kerry Cavanaugh, as well as the program director of the International Crisis Group Magdalena Grono. During their joint briefing, the main points of the so-called "Madrid principles" were again mentioned, disappointment was expressed in connection with the continuing loss of life. "It is important to understand that the OSCE Minsk Group cannot force the two conflicting parties to come to an agreement. The conflict must find a political solution, "- said, in particular, Mr. Cavanaugh. Negotiations, of course, should continue, but we see that the logic of military confrontation in the Karabakh conflict still dominates. In response to the consistent growth of the military budget of Azerbaijan in previous years, the Armenian side has taken similar steps. So, according to the draft state budget of Armenia for 2018, military spending will increase from the current 440.4 to 518 million, or almost 18. The so-called "four-day war" of April 2016, I think this term is rather arbitrary, since de facto painful actions, albeit local ones, are being conducted all the last years, testify: the stronger the military security of the country, the more confidently it will feel itself in the course of negotiations - both bilateral and multilateral. The recent Geneva meeting of the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan seems to me to be a continuation of the sluggish negotiation process without visible breakthroughs with the aim of preserving contacts between the leaders of the parties to the conflict. Restrained official information on the outcome of the consultations, in my opinion, is due to the persisting fundamental disagreements in the approaches and positions of the parties.
Do you see the political component in Moscow's motivation while taking the decision to grant Armenia a USD 100 million defense loan ?
Obviously, all the details of the military-technical cooperation of the two countries are not subject to disclosure, but it seems to me that in this case there is both a political motivation and, in fact, a factor of the defense cooperation between our two countries. Earlier, agreements were reached on the formation of an integrated grouping of forces, the general contour of the air defense system, and others. The Russian side seeks to maintain a balance of power in the region, to which, of course, many factors affect. Sometimes the idea of introducing, with the co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group, the full embargo on arms deliveries to the parties to the conflict, is voiced, but it is obvious that it will not be carried out by all, while for Moscow, following such obligations would mean the curtailment of military-technical cooperation, Baku, and with Yerevan. Meanwhile, last year the Armed Forces of Armenia demonstrated a number of modern systems in their possession, including the Iskander tactical missile systems, the Infauna and R-325U electronic warfare systems, Smerch heavy heavy-shot rocket systems and anti-aircraft missile systems Buk. The restoration of the partially violated (why - a separate issue and, it is supposed, complex) correlation of forces, the efforts of the defense ministry of Armenia - all this allowed to calm the situation somewhat. The Russian side is least interested in the occurrence of another complication around Nagorno-Karabakh, both earlier and now and in the future. I think that for the purposes of restraining military escalation Moscow will use all communications, methods, tools in dialogue with both Baku and Yerevan.
Does Moscow have real chances and main intentions to integrate Azerbaijan into the EEA Rumors and media-injections on this issue are spread out more than enough ...
It seems to me that for the time being all these intentions do not go beyond the rhetoric of individual political scientists and economists. I think that in such matters it is still necessary to focus, first of all, on the official statements of the leadership of the member countries of the EAEU. Serious applications for accession to the EAEU in official statements from Baku are not visible. In this context, these or other discussions on the prospects for the integration of the Caspian region into the EAEU
can pursue a variety of objectives, including purely tactical ones. The foreign policy of Azerbaijan will continue to focus on cooperation not only with Moscow, but also with Ankara and Western countries, for which the transit-resource potential of Azerbaijan is of strategic interest.
From the published text of the Armenia-EU framework agreement, scheduled for November be signed, everything is removed that prevented Russia in one way or another in September of 2013. Some forces in Armenia still believe that Moscow will once again raise obstacles for signing. Why, reallyJust for the sporting interest?
It seems to me that such an opinion almost does not conform to reality. In the new Agreement on a comprehensive and expanded partnership, the provisions on economic cooperation are more general. However, it has not gone anywhere, just like other, no less important areas of cooperation between Armenia and a united Europe - in order to make sure of this, it is enough to get acquainted with at least the structure of the document. For example, visa liberalization, standardization, statistics, some other factors, including the closure of the Armenian nuclear power plant, by the way, the agreement is signed not only with the EU, but also with European Nuclear Society. I believe that the parties learned from the memorable history of 2013, when the parties increased some mutual predictability. I draw similar conclusions on the basis of the statements of some officials of the Eurasian Economic Commission quoted by various media outlets, which do not see any special objections to the signing of a new document between Brussels and Yerevan. And although various assumptions are expressed, in particular, that the positions of European countries that are closely cooperating with Baku, or sensitive to the problem of so-called "separatism", may have some nuances, in my opinion, the agreement will soon be signed. At the same time, the expression by European partners of the requirements for deepening some of the articles of cooperation with Armenia can still have ambiguous consequences for the Armenian-Russian relations. However, this is also a matter of mutual trust.
The referendums in Kurdistan and Catalonia are serious geopolitical trends aimed at breaking the existing world order in the framework of a single logic, or are they reflected only by purely local separatist moods in a positive meaning of the word ?
I think that external sponsors of such things, to one degree or another, are existing everywhere, and this should be treated quite calmly - as an organic part of our life. They were in Catalonia and Kurdistan, but their position can change and take on bizarre forms. To see this, it is enough to compare the public statements of Erbil supporters of American Middle Eastern "strategists" and some actions of political practitioners that led to the well-known changes in Kirkuk and many other so-called "disputed territories". As we see, unlike Kosovo, the will of these external sponsors to implement the decision on the independence of these regions in life was still not enough. And there are many versions. On the one hand, the internal dynamics of national movements in Catalonia and Kurdistan demonstrates that the idea of independence enjoys wide support there. The tendency towards "separatism" is connected, in my opinion, with the general feeling of turbulence and the variety of processes taking place in the world, the desire to secure and gain additional economic preferences. However, the complex problems of minorities, the distribution of economic benefits and many others acquire an additional dimension. On the one hand, the desire for their own institutions of statehood is quite understandable, and on the other hand the question of the quality of elites of various kinds of "newly-baked" state entities is raised - it is enough to look at everything in Kosovo, which was taken away from Serbia by force. Or to the Kurdish Autonomous Region of Iraq, when the money gained from the sale of hydrocarbons is acquired by luxurious mansions around the world (of course, this process, which demonstrates the colossal gap between the elite and the main part of the people, is typical for a lot of quite "recognized" states). Returning to the case of Catalonia, I note that the position of European structures, as far as it can be understood, amounts to the fact that everything has to be solved according to the Spanish legislation, which is very tough in relation to the so-called "separatists" ...
The loosening of the system of international law, the frank use of "double standards", when everything is possible for "its guys" and for others, it is impossible, leads to a deadlock the system of international relations as such.
In other words, Kurdistan and Catalonia are not able to become another precedent in the negotiation process for Karabakh
I think that , neither Kurdistan nor Catalonia really do not work as a precedent for Karabakh. As it is known, earlier European politicians and representatives of civil society positioned the "Aland islands model" as a possible example, which development should be aimed at the parties to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. And today I would like to know how they will interpret the "Catalonia case" as applied to the South Caucasus realities. As for the Iraqi Kurdistan, in this case, some Armenian and Russian media and experts, taking advantage of superficial associations and parallels, do not sufficiently take into account the depth and severity of the contradictions of this part of the Middle East with its extremely complex ethno-confessional and political dynamics, including, and divided in many lines Kurdish community. So far, with the exception of some general phrases, specific political and legal mechanisms for "separatist" regions are not visible. Already in fact, some mechanisms are being created, for example, the OSCE Minsk Group on Nagorno-Karabakh or a contact group for the Donbass. At the same time, as the cases of Abkhazia, South Ossetia or Crimea testify, in the case of open armed aggression or an immediate threat thereof, other decisions may be made. Despite the high standard of living, the experience not only of Catalonia indicates that such problems will continue to be characteristic of the European continent. In any case, "separatist" as well as secessionist aspirations in different parts of the world will not disappear, but their possible consequences and mechanisms for resolving emerging conflicts will be determined on the basis of the ratio of many internal and external factors in each particular case.