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 Thursday, November 26 2015

Степанян Դավիթ Stepanyan Ստեփանյան David Давид

Nikolay Silayev: Risk of deployment of a "third front" around Karabakh is rather high

Nikolay Silayev: Risk of deployment of a "third front" around Karabakh is rather high

 

Would you assess the Caucasus policy of Russia? 

 

The Russia-U.S. geopolitical confrontation, which has been obvious over the past decade, is subsiding now. I think this is a positive factor given that it gives opportunities to the South Caucasus to develop more quietly. Moreover, at the current stage, the Caucasus policy is not a priority for Russia. At the same time, I would not expect any prompt results from the Eurasian integration given that the project is meant for decades and the outcome is not clear yet. The prospects of this project depend on the prospects of Russia's economic growth; however, the current economic crisis demonstrates that the project is far from being accomplished. I am convinced that the project will show its effects but the effects are not in the offing. Today the Russia-Armenia-Georgia dialogue is an imperative. This is first of all connected with the transport and communication, as well as with possible interaction between the EEU and Georgia's European integration. I believe that the synergy is possible unlike the period of Ukraine's European integration process that lacked cooperation and dialogue. I think the situation around Ukraine will teach us that the dialogue should not be neglected. The intensive visits between Yerevan and Tbilisi are the evidence of discussions on these opportunities.

 

The latest visits of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to Baku and Yerevan demonstrate Moscow’s aspiration to adjust the Karabakh peace process within the Minsk process. However, the impression is that both conflicting parties feel suspicious about the Russian proposals… 

 

Despite the rather tense diplomatic exchange involving Russia, it is clear that Moscow is not going to settle the Karabakh conflict for the conflicting parties. The willingness of Yerevan and Baku is needed here. In this light, I would point out the lack of geopolitical confrontation between the major force centers around the Karabakh conflict, unlike other conflicts in the post-Soviet space. The mediators should put aside the discrepancies on other issues to achieve progress in the Karabakh conflict settlement process. 

 

Today the Russia-West confrontation is on the Ukrainian and Syrian fronts. Is there a risk of deployment of a third front around the Karabakh conflict?

 

Russia really has serious discrepancies on Ukraine with both the United States and the European Union. But it is also conducting negotiations within the Normandy process. The developments in Syria are also noteworthy given that Russia's intervention has created an absolutely new situation both in Syria and in the world. I think this situation can make it possible to put off the discrepancies between Moscow and Washington and to create additional opportunities of cooperation on other matters. This formula looks rather shaky, especially in the current changing times. A huge part of the Karabakh negotiations is being held behind the close doors. Judging by the current situation, the game is going on many boards, because there are obviously separate talks with both Yerevan and Baku along with the diplomatic negotiations within the OSCE Minsk Group format. I regret to say that the risk of deployment of a third front around Karabakh is really high. Moreover, amid the escalation of the tension on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border and the line of contact of the Nagorno-Karabakh and Azerbaijani troops in summer 2015, this issue has been discussed in Moscow in that context. The thing is that it is not clear at all why Yerevan and Baku need that front especially given that the consequences for the two countries will be very grave, if not fatal. Consequently, the external management of the Karabakh conflict remains an open question. So does the West's willingness to nurture the aggravation of the situation in the South Caucasus. However, the mediators' accord on Karabakh remains. Therefore, at the current stage the course of the conflict settlement depends on the conflicting parties.

 

The supply of up-to-date weapons for reinforcing the Russian 102nd military base in Armenia on border with NATO member Turkey demonstrates the availability of geopolitical confrontation around the South Caucasus. Doesn’t this contradict the geopolitical trends you have mentioned?         

 

Any security policy should be built with due regard for the worst case scenario. But it does not mean that the worst case scenario will take place. Like in Russia, in the United States foreign policy is a subject for discussions. The Russian-U.S. confrontation and rivalry - starting from the Caribbean crisis - have always had limiters. Therefore, when preparing for aggravation of that confrontation in some regions, Moscow and Washington always realize and see the red line, which should not be crossed. I think no one is going to cross that line in the South Caucasus yet.

 

In other words, does the Karabakh conflict have all prospects to remain frozen for many years?

 

I am afraid it is the most realistic scenario. Generally speaking, Armenia benefits from a frozen conflict. On the other hand, it will have rather grave economic consequences for both Yerevan and Baku. Therefore, it is for the conflicting parties to make the decision. Let’s look at the Balkans. The Balkan conflicts were settled within the NATO and EU formats, and the solutions to the conflicts were rather controversial amid almost absolute lack of geopolitical confrontation. In the meantime, the answer to the question whether the EEU can strengthen so much to be able to suppress the geopolitical rivalry in the post-Soviet space is still hanging in the air. I cannot help pointing out one more paradox in the foreign policy of Russia. For instance, in all doctrinal documents the foreign policy in the post-Soviet space - CIS, EEU - is qualified as an unconditional priority. However, strange though it may seem, this direction is not considered to be prestigious as compared to the relations with the United States, the European Union and China. These vectors have a big commodity turnover and receive the major part of resources. Unfortunately, Russia's relations with the post-Soviet countries are determined, in a sense, on leftovers. This demonstrates certain immaturity of our foreign political course.

 

How much do you think the supplies of strike weapons to Azerbaijan fit into the intermediary mission of Russia in the Karabakh peace process?

 

It is very hard to imagine anyone hindering the torrents of billions around the military hardware deals. Therefore, I think Moscow does not pursue any geopolitical goals in the supply of weapons to Baku. Everything is restricted to elementary business. 5 billion USD remains 5 billion USD.

 

But this business has geopolitical consequences…

 

Indeed, it has. And these consequences may be grave even for Russia. One day these weapons may fire and in this context I totally share the concern of Armenian authorities. On the other hand, even if Russia quits selling the weapons, others will do it after all.

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