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.