Friday, August 23 2019 17:27
David Stepanyan

Fyodor Lukyanov: The fragility of the situation around Karabakh by no  means contain high risks of a war

Fyodor Lukyanov: The fragility of the situation around Karabakh by no  means contain high risks of a war

ArmInfo.Editor-in-chief of the journal "Russia in Global Affairs", Research Director of the Foundation for Development and Support of the Valdai Discussion Club,  Fyodor Lukyanov in an interview with ArmInfo shares his own vision of  the possibility of the Karabakh conflict developing into a military  confrontation. He analyzes the geopolitical regional background  around the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, discusses the  causes and future prospects of the US-Iranian confrontation.

- Since the establishment of the ceasefire on the Line of Contact in  Artsakh in 1994, there has always been a threat of military  escalation of Karabakh conflict, which became especially clear in  April 2016. In your opinion, are there any geopolitical prerequisites  for the resumption of large-scale hostilities, taking into account  the interests of the co-chairing countries of the OSCE Minsk Group,  Iran, Turkey and the conflicting countries themselves?

Escalation of any frozen conflict should never been completely ruled  out. This applies to all conflicts, especially the Karabakh conflict,  given the outbreak of violence that took place relatively recently,  in April 2016. This outbreak showed that none of the major players:  Russia, the United States and Europe are interested in the escalation  of this conflict. Accordingly, as soon as something happens around  Karabakh, measures are immediately taken to extinguish it. And I  understand why this is done. The overall situation in the region and  in the world is tense to the degree of unpredictability. Accordingly,  nobody needs a new hotbed of escalation of war in the region, where  wars, as a rule, develop not only very brutally, but also spill over  its borders, involving many new forces, including non-regional ones.   Nobody needs it at the moment, because everyone has enough of their  own problems, moreover, more and more internal ones.  Therefore, it  seems to me that, despite the constant balancing on the verge of  collapse, on the verge of resumption of hostilities, the Karabakh  conflict has a rather high degree of stability of this very frozen  state.

- The frozen state, which is caused by external factors:

External factors, plus the presence of a certain military parity  within the conflict itself. Conversations and even outbreaks of  violence, of course, may occur. But, it seems to me, Azerbaijan  realizes that it cannot win the war. A similar understanding, I  think, exists in Yerevan. Accordingly, in this regard,  the fragility  of the situation around Karabakh, does not at all contain high risks  of its escalation. Often, rather passive conflicts contain a more  explosive potential than conflicts like Karabakh that are constantly  talked about.

- The military-political leadership of Azerbaijan periodically voices  threats against Artsakh and Armenia. But does Ilham Aliyev have the  opportunity today to make a sole decision on another aggression  against Artsakh and Armenia?

I think in the current situation, the decision to start hostilities  will ultimately be made by the parties to the conflict, and not by  external forces. At the same time, the rhetoric of Baku is still  political in nature. The transfer of conflict into the military phase  is not its purpose. Rather, this is due to the desire of the  military- political leadership of Azerbaijan to maintain the existing  state of affairs. The theme of Karabakh plays a very important role  in the political structure of Azerbaijan. Accordingly, it must be  constantly maintained.

May the development of confrontation between the United States and  Iran into the military phase become a catalyst for the resumption of  the Karabakh conflict?

This is a very difficult question. A new wave of destabilization in  the region, which includes not only the Caucasus, but also other  destabilization centers in the Middle East and around Iran and Turkey  in particular, is in fact capable of creating a new wave of  destabilization, even more powerful in scale. And this wave may quite  well sweep the South Caucasus, moreover, it will have absolutely  nothing to do with Karabakh. According to my estimates, at the moment  there is no similar threat directly to the Karabakh conflict. The  situation in Turkey is very complex, but nevertheless, it is far from  predicting any disasters.  The conflict around Syria has overcome its  most acute phase. And it seems to me that there will be no war around  Iran. Donald Trump is not a warrior. The current president of the  United States does not like to fight, he loves to intimidate and  strangle the enemy in every possible way. Accordingly, considering,  in general, the low chances of escalation in the surrounding region,  we can conclude that in Karabakh one should not expect escalation  linked to the region.

- What, in your opinion, determines Trump's relentless focus on Iran?

Trump and his administration are the most pro-Israeli U.S. president  and administration for the first time in many years. Accordingly, his  worldview and views on the region are largely determined by the  position of Israel. Israel's position is obvious - it is strictly  anti-Iranian. Further, specific people, such as Trump's national  security adviser John Bolton, who has always been known by his  anti-Iranian moods, continue the same line. So Trump's attitude  towards Iran is more determined by the personal factor than the real  politik.

- Then how do you see the settlement of the crisis around Iran? Can  this only become possible after Trump leaves?

I think that the matter may concern not so much a settlement as a  long-term mid-level confrontation between the US and Iran. Without  war, bombs and airstrikes, but with the United States trying to  squeeze Iran, put pressure on it economically even more. The  prospects for such a policy depend on a number of factors. First of  all, on the degree of resistance to such pressure from Iran itself.  Russia is also interested in resolving the situation. For Moscow,  Tehran is the most important partner in Syria, where Russia needs to  move forward. Without Iran, as well as without Turkey, such  advancement is impossible. Accordingly, Russia, of course, supports  Iran. Russia will demonstrate this support by refusing any  participation in the US campaign of pressure on Iran.

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