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 Saturday, June 29 2013

Safaryan Ashot

Maxim Shevchenko: Russia still has no comprehensive policy in the Caucasus

Maxim Shevchenko: Russia still has no comprehensive policy in the Caucasus

Mr. Shevchenko, the weapon deal between Moscow and Baku has had a wide
public response. What made Russia sell weapons to a country – enemy of its
strategic ally Armenia?  


Russia is
connected with Armenia via CSTO, therefore contractual relationships between
the two countries are deeper than the relations of Moscow and Baku. Armenia and
Russia are closely cooperating in many key fields.  However, Azerbaijan is not an enemy for
Russia either. In Russia we are very upset over the Armenian-Azerbaijani
conflict. As regards the sale of weapons to Azerbaijan, I don't know what is
the logic of the Russian government or the president. I think, however, that
balance of forces in the region is the guarantee of peace and stability. If
disarmament is impossible, balance of force is the guarantee against military
actions and use of force. There is nothing anti-Armenian in the sale of the
Russian weapons to Azerbaijan. The contractual relations of Armenia and Russia
make Moscow protect Armenia in case of a threat.


 Supply of Russian weapons to Azerbaijan leads to a new wave of
anti-Russian sentiments in the Armenian public. Isn’t Russia concerned over
that fact?


Public sentiments in Armenia and Russia
have no impact on the decisions of politicians. Russia cannot take either
pro-Armenia or pro-Azerbaijani position in the Karabakh conflict.  Moscow will observe certain balance in
it.  We will not allow military  


Russian politicians say that Russia supplies weapons to Azerbaijan not
to lose its weapons sale market. Otherwise, USA, Turkey or Israel will start
supplying weapons to Azerbaijan. Do you share these views?


Russia does
not want to lose Azerbaijan as a sales market for its military production or
yield it to the USA, for instance. That is not the point, however. If the USA
decides to supply weapons, it will do that irrespective of Russia. We have
already witnessed how the USA 'pushes through' its decisions at any cost. I
think that in the light of rather serious developments in the regions, threats
of war around Iran, unfortunately, the balance of forces is the guarantee
against the use of force by the conflicting parties.


What do you think of further relations of Iran and Azerbaijan under new
President of Iran Hassan Rouhani? Yet during the presidential race, Rouhani
called Baku a threat to the security of Iran…


A
confrontation with Iran would be dangerous for Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan's
decision to let Israel use its territory for anti-Iranian reconnaissance is
dangerous for Iran, but it is no less dangerous for Azerbaijan as it may lead
to an Azeri-Iranian confrontation. One of the scenarios the United States and
NATO are considering for withdrawing their troops from Afghanistan is the use
of Azerbaijan's territory, which will hardly be good for the Azeri people. The
mass arrests of Shias in Nardaran are aimed against Iran. Azerbaijan should not
to conduct such a policy now that Wahhabis are getting increasingly active in
its south.


Over the last 2-3 years, some experts and politicians in Armenia have
revised the Armenian-Russian relations criticizing them for inequality. What do
Russian experts and politicians think of these relations/


I’d not say that the relations have been revised. We can see certain
activation of the interests of the USA and NATO in Armenia. I think Russia
takes little efforts, maybe, because the Armenian-Russian relations are at
rather a high level and do not need any caution. The two leaders have good
personal relations and activity of the western structures will hardly be able
to spoil those relations. However, I think it is necessary to be a little more
cautious.


On the other hand, Russia still has no comprehensive policy in the
Caucasus. Russia does not perceive the Caucasus as a single whole. All the
countries in the Caucasus are inter-related, which must be reflected in the
Kremlin’s policy. Moscow needs an efficient policy meeting the interests of all
the subjects in the region.


There are hot debates in Armenia over deep integration into EU and
integration projects offered by Moscow. Is it a dilemma for Armenia or
complementary foreign policy?


To join the Customs Union, Armenia needs to sign certain documents.
However, Armenia will hardly manage to fulfill the provisions of those
documents unless the Russian-Georgian and Armenian-Azerbaijan relations are
settled and the railway communication via Abkhazia and Georgia is restored. The
idea of the Eurasian Union is worth supporting, of course. I think it is a
historical, strategic project and the relations of Moscow and Tbilisi must be
normalized. As for the relations with the EU, I think Armenia’s joining that
structure is unreal.


European officials speak of ‘deep integration’ and not admission…


If
Armenia continues integrating into the EU, it may be required to stop its
relations with Iran. The pro-European lobby in Armenia consists of politicians
receiving grants from Brussels. But they don't specify what benefits Armenia
may expect from its integration into Europe. 
The EU is not ready to make Armenia its member. On the other hand, it
may set preconditions, like withdrawal from the Collective Security Treaty
Organization, closer cooperation with NATO and no more contacts with Iran. I
don't think that the last precondition will be good for Armenia and its big
community in Iran.

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