Wednesday, April 11 2018 15:57
David Stepanyan

Maksim Suchkov: Refusal to choose between the West and Russia, Iran and Israel gives Armenia more chances for development

Maksim Suchkov: Refusal to choose between the West and Russia, Iran and Israel gives Armenia more chances for development

 An expert of the Russian Council for International Affairs (INF), an expert of the Valdai Club, an Americanist Maksim Suchkov in an interview with ArmInfo comments on the current state and immediate prospects of US-Russian relations. Refers to the role of Russia in the global confrontation between the US and China. Represents his own vision of Armenia's relations with Russia, the United States, the European Union, Iran and Israel. 

 

In recent days, at a meeting with colleagues from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, US President Donald Trump described opponents of establishing relations between Russia and the United States as "stupid people." Does this statement include a certain message, both to supporters and opponents of ending the confrontation between Moscow and Washington against the backdrop of the Trump-Putin meeting announced earlier by the White House? 

Trump thus once again announced his own desire to establish relations with President Putin. However, there is such a gap between this desire and the positions of the rest of the collective Washington that it is hardly possible to talk about the realization of Trump's intentions, at least in the near future. The bilateral agenda over the past year has become even scarcer than before. So far, we see attempts by Moscow and Washington to avoid the direct military confrontation in every way, which in the current situation is in itself an "important minimum," but we are not talking about ending the confrontation. 

Significantly strengthened with the arrival of Trump, the trade wars between China and the United States seem to be only part of a global confrontation between the two superpowers. In your opinion, is Russia, in your opinion, built into this confrontation, and if so, how and on what vectors? 

Both countries are the main "announced enemies" of America, if you believe the tramp policy of national security. It is unlikely that there is anything new in this statement of the question. True, the current administration periodically gives grounds to believe that it neglects Kissinger's precepts about the inadmissibility for the United States of simultaneous opposing  of Russia and China. Trump, apparently, does not seek immediate direct confrontation with either of these states. Rather, he is trying in various ways to bargain for "more favorable for America" conditions - trade, security, etc. Another thing is that in this process, the United States itself uses a different tool, including what is called in Russia "unfair competition ". As a result, strategic Russian enterprises in the field of military-industrial complex, energy, are subjected to a sanctions regime under the pretexts of plots - including contrived ones - with which these companies are in no way connected. This causes a corresponding reaction. China, which has more options and tools to answer "point and pain", is following one path in its response measures. Russia, which has opportunities primarily in the military , information and cyber spheres, responds in its own way. Given the "publicity" of these measures on the one hand and the greater focus of Western media on Russia than on China , on the other, it seems that it is "hot" in the Russian-American direction. The degree of confrontation between Russia and the United States is indeed higher, but the nature of the confrontation between America and China is perhaps more serious. 

Does the actual proposal by the US Ambassador on billions of investments in Armenian energy and visit of congressmen to Armenia and Artsakh, Washington's intent to "tear off" (the term of Russian media) from Armenia from Russia or is it solely conditioned by the desire to please the voters of the Armenian community of the United States reflects in your opinion? 

The accentuated high  level of official delegations from the United States is underlined and the proposed financial and economic projects work objectively both to strengthen the US presence in Armenia and to strengthen the arguments of supporters of such a presence among Armenian politicians, experts and the public. I would not blame the United States for this approach - they do what they consider necessary to promote their own interests and weaken the geopolitical competitor, which they certainly see Russia. I do not think that Moscow needs to seriously worry about these initiatives - they are one-off, although they are built into a more harmonious system of American influence in Armenia. We must at least fulfill our minimum of work, respond to a request for constructive Russian participation in the development of Armenia, which is also in Armenia, and then we will not have to worry about what the competitors are doing. By the way, Lavrov's recent remarks about the fact that Armenia is an example of "multi-vector diplomacy" in this sense are also indicative. And while the Armenian elite does not put itself and the population in front of a false choice "with the West or with Russia," and does not give in to external pressure to make such a choice, the country has more chances for development and prosperity. In the losers there will remain those states, including the so-called. "Small", who are now trying to "earn" on this confrontation - to play up to one side, getting involved in certain problematic subjects that do not have a direct relationship with them and support the reaction to them. This is a sign of political short-sightedness. 

 

Asses splease  Armenia's chances of embedding in rapid global political transformations, especially in the neighboring region of the Middle East, taking into account the leveling of risks to our own security? 

Serious political transformations, as we know, are not only challenges, but also opportunities. Armenia has good relations with Russia and Iran - two major players in the contemporary Middle Eastern theater - and in this sense Armenia has the opportunity to level out the same risks of its security from the Middle East direction. It is more difficult, perhaps, to respond adequately and in a timely manner to the socio-economic and political challenges that exist in the country and are indirectly fueled by the fuse of Middle East turbulence. But this is a challenge not only for Armenia, but for other post-Soviet states, including Russia.

 

On March 10, EU Supreme Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini described the EU's relations with Armenia as "never so close to each other as they are now." What, in your opinion, gives Brussels an excuse for such optimism, given the continuing strengthening of Russia's influence in Armenia? 

It is difficult to speak for European politicians, which nourishes such assessments. I suppose that in this case it is a combination of political rhetoric and the need to report to the European bureaucracy for the work done and the funds invested in the Eastern Partnership project. Of course, relations with the EU, including within the framework of this project, can help Armenia's development in the sphere of the civil sector, economy, liberalization of the visa-free regime. At the same time, these initiatives have obvious limits: the same "convergence with the sectoral economic policy of the EU", which is envisaged by the Eastern Partnership, will raise the issue of competitiveness of Armenian goods in the European market, changes in quality and production standards, etc. And here it is important to correctly assess the risks, how painful this can be for the Armenian economy, to what extent it will already diverge from integration into the Eurasian Economic Union. It is in such "details" that the essence of cooperation with the EU and with other partners hides. This is not bad and not good, but it needs to be understood by both elites and the population: to have relations with the European Union - even "the closest ones" - does not mean "to live like in Western Europe." 

2017 was the year of a rather noticeable activation of Israel in the direction of Armenia. By what factors, according to your estimates, this process can be conditioned and what role does Iran play in it? 

This is largely due to your previous question of how to line up in the current Middle East transformations, preserving your own security. The nature of relations between Israel and independent Armenia was, to put it mildly, specific. The main counterparties of Israel in the region were, nevertheless, Georgia and Azerbaijan. Armenia needs to carefully consider the reasons for changing this approach by the Israeli side. Of course, Israel could give a lot of benefits to the Armenian economy in terms of capital, investment and technology. However, it seems to me that the main motive for interest in Armenia is political motivation, with a priority to find the footholds for deterring Iran. The Caucasus in this sense became such a platform for Israel in the second half of the 2000s. In 2008 - 09. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Israel established a specialized department for the affairs of the Caucasus and Central Asia. Therefore, the principle of "multi-vector diplomacy", which while helping  Armenia avoid extremes in the relations between Russia and the West, is logical to apply to the Israeli-Iranian plot. It is important not to become an object of influence of one strong player in his fight against another.

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