Unlike 2015 that claimed dozens of lives on all the sides of the Karabakh conflict, amid the standstill in the OSCE MG-mediated peace process, January 2016 is relatively calm so far. Do you see any other reasons besides the volatile social and economic situation in Azerbaijan? Is there hope that the current trends will result in any breakthroughs in the peace process in 2016?
Unfortunately, I anticipate no positive dynamics in the Karabakh peace process in 2016. This is not just about the specifics of the conflict and the region. Though, the conflict is specific, indeed. The problem is with the explosiveness of the Near East and Middle East, where there are still a number of radical Islamic movements, which will negatively affect the situation in the Caucasus. In the current general geopolitical situation amid deepening economic and financial field, destabilization of the situation anywhere in the world is in favor the key international actors. The more hotbeds of tension there are the better, given that war helps writing off many things, including economic and even diplomatic miscalculations.
It appears that lifting of the “nuclear” part of the sanctions against Iran may open new economic and (why not?) geopolitical opportunities to Armenia turning it into a transit country between the south and north. What are the prospects in the given direction? Will Russia involve in such projects?
Well, lifting of the sanctions from Iran opens up a new page of the Great Game in the Caucasus and in the Middle East. Such large-scale shifts will obviously change the role of each of the players involved in the game. Time will show what it will be like. But even today it is possible to speak of the new opportunities, including for Armenia. Yet I would not overestimate the situation or pin great hopes on the transit status of Armenia - the current global projects linking the key economic regions of the present-day world are somewhat different. It is another matter that under the new conditions the role and significance of the Armenian Diaspora is growing. The Diaspora has strong roots in many countries and the transport routes lie through those countries' territories. This is what should be thought about. Several years ago, at the dawn of the Eurasian integration processes, we expressed the idea to consider Armenia as a gateway into the global world. At that time, no one in either Armenia or Russia took our proposals seriously, but it has appeared that our proposals are topical again. It is the new role and significance of the Armenian Diaspora that can prove to be of much importance to Armenia under the new conditions of the big geopolitical game.
One should take into account that 2016 is a year of key transformations that lay the basis of a new global financial and economic system. The formation of two powerful economic centers - Pacific and Transatlantic Economic Partnerships - is nearing completion, the Eurasian integration processes are gaining momentum and the projects within the new Silk Road Economic Belt are becoming realistic. All these processes will change the economy of the next few decades and Armenia should also take part in these processes not only as an EEU member, but also as a sovereign state with all its national goals and interests. In this light, I think it is time to get back to our scenario of the mid-term outlook for Armenia and to look at Armenia as a gateway into the new global world.
Will the conflict situation between Russia and Turkey put the leadership of Turkey's strategic ally Azerbaijan to a dilemma like in happened to Yerevan on September 1 2013?
I don’t think that “either…or" options are possible in the current situation. Armenia was demanded to make a choice either. Everyone is free to choose whom to build partnership and alliance with. I know that, for instance, one of the scenarios of the future for Armenia was to turn it into the world humor capital. It was suggested by the Armenian elite, not from outside. Perhaps, this is how they see the future of their country. They did not even think of any global projects. Another matter that Baku can, indeed, take advantage of the situation in the region in its own goals to try to settle the protracted Karabakh conflict by force. However, the current level of involvement of Moscow and other global actors, for instance Beijing, in the regional processes does not escalate the tensions. Escalation of the conflict is obviously not within the interests of Moscow, as it will inevitably lead to a blunt demarche against the party behind that escalation. The experience of previous years shows that further escalation of the fragile situation will result in a disaster, both economic and social, and there will not be winners.
Do you see any prospects for the China-led Silk Road project and the Russian-led Eurasian integration could to become complementary, considering that the Silk Road extends via the territory of the post-Soviet space, which Moscow still considers as a zone of its vital interests? Last December, China with the support of Georgia, Azerbaijan, Turkey, Kazakhstan, and EU launched the project of cargo shipments from Asia to Europe passing by Russia as part of the Silk Road infrastructure project. This demonstrated that these two projects could hardly become complementary despite the assurances of Moscow and Beijing.
I’d like to repeat, everyone has freedom of choice. At the same time, it is not correct to say that one must sacrifice one's own national interests and the nation's future to please the allies. Over the past few years we have repeatedly said that the time of the "milk cows" has gone and that today relations are based on mutual benefits and pragmatism only. The preference is given to the one offering more interesting conditions that the competitor. One should clearly understand the role and place of everyone in such large-scale projects as the Silk Road Economic Belt, which will link the Pacific and Atlantic markets and will also involve the Indian Ocean markets. This will cover more than half of the planet's population. It is the project of China and China is developing the project the way it thinks best stemming from its national interests. Moscow also has its own interests. Moscow is fulfilling its interests, including through the Eurasian Union project, which will certainly interact with the Silk Road project. Naturally, Moscow should show a more active stand. Beijing's pilot project on cargo supplies from Asia to Europe that bypasses Russia but involves Georgia, Azerbaijan, Turkey, Kazakhstan and the EU is the Chinese side's "vision" that may become quite realistic if Moscow maintains its current relatively passive stand.
What are the real reasons behind the Iran-Saudi Arabia conflict and its prospects, considering that Islamabad is willing to support Sunni Riyadh in its confrontation against Shiite Tehran? What is USA’s role in it?
Such a sharp deterioration of the Riyadh-Tehran relations has proved to be unexpected for many people, though the regular monitoring of the situation in the region demonstrated that it was meant to happen and it was only a matter of time and conflict scale. Too many things have intertwisted around these two regional actors over the past few years. The specified events are just one of the actions of the new Great Game that involves London, Tel Aviv and Washington as the key players. Religious game may extend the Iran-Saudi Arabia conflict beyond the region. It is necessary to understand that neither of the parties will benefit from the given conflict though neither of the parties is ready for public reconciliation for de-escalation. In this light, I suppose the given conflict will last for a long time.
Neither the oil price slide nor the depreciating ruble has stopped Russia’s air strikes in Syria. There is temporary ceasefire in the conflict in Ukraine. The lifting of the sanctions against Iran once again showed the failure of the policy of sanctions of the U.S. and their European allies. Does Washington have Plan B concerning Russia or it will have to negotiate with Moscow?
Washington is now more concerned over the consequences of the global financial crisis of 2007-2008 that drove the U.S. economy to the verge of collapse. It should be noted that the global financial elite and its representatives at the U.S. Administration have finally understood that it is impossible to overcome the crisis by just switching on the printing presses. Fundamental and global changes in the structure of the global economy are needed to stabilize the situation and keep the U.S. dollar as the key global currency on similar conditions that were before the crisis. Therefore, they chose the Trans-Pacific and Trans-Atlantic economic partnership projects on the establishment of which the U.S. diplomacy worked. The implementation of these projects will give a start to a new era of the global financial and economic system under U.S. dollar. So far, Washington and London seek to liquidate any obstacle to the implementation of these projects. I suppose the Silk Road generally fits into that U.S. project unlike the Eurasian Economic Union. This is where Russia’s problems of the last years –from Donbass to Damascus - come from. Actually, Moscow’s future depends on its own stand. Washington does not need any Plan B. Our country’s stand on the ongoing geopolitical transformations is clear and we insist on it, which means that we will win. In particular, Russia among others has a triumph card - the Northern Sea Route able to link the Pacific and Atlantic oceans outside the zone of traditional risks. Its economic efficiency is attracting many today. It is rather interesting to the future project of transport corridors.