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Oil and gas are most reliable allies for Azerbaijan

News.Az interviews Alexander Karavayev, Russian political scientist

-28.12.2009-

News.Az interviews Alexander Karavayev, Russian political scientist, head of the political forecasting service at the Centre for Post-Soviet Studies.

- Baku has condemned the decision by the US congress to allocate $8 mln to Nagorno Karabakh as a separate assistance beyond assistance to Azerbaijan and Armenia. What can you say about this step of the country whose leadership constantly states the support of the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan and non-recognition of Nagorno Karabakh as an independent formation?

- The politicians of the global superpower that presents itself as a kind of a geopolitical “Sun” that gives “light” to all countries without exception view it as a usual action. Congressmen really believe that their funds are used for civil social development and strengthen the US influence.

Another moment is that we should not forget the peculiarity of the US political system. It is quite pluralistic on the level of the Congress and often there emerge a situation when the law-making body undertakes decisions contrary to the policy of the president and the US Department of State. To a definite extent this fact reflects the democratic achievements of the US system. External lobbyists are also making use of it. Therefore, the resolutions in Armenia’s favor are constantly proposed and in the result we can observe decisions about trenches to Karabakh almost every year, the Congress work group on Armenian issues has attained an anti-Azerbaijani resolutions on the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars project; Armenian NGOs also get larger financing via USAID as compared to Azerbaijan.

Some 400 different NGOs financed from external subsidies and grants like the ones allocated by the Congress are functioning in Armenia. Usually, the organizations functioning in legal sphere are perceived as conductors of external interests. This issue becomes urgent in the mass media of the CIS countries especially before elections. Armenian NGOs also had an active influence on the atmosphere of the recent presidential elections. But the overall situation with Armenian public organizations is different from the neighbor states- thanks to the contacts with diaspora, they conduct the interests of “Armenians” in the world and only after that do they cover their influence on Armenia.

Such influence technologies are not kept secret. The soft power methods should be used to promote interests. The situation is gradually changing. The meetings of Azerbaijani delegations with the US experts and congressmen have become regular and the Center of Strategic Studies under the Azerbaijani president makes a significant contribution to this work. But this work will take more than a year.

Armenians are skillfully taking advantage of lobbying and a specific shortsightedness of the giant as by taking such a decision an ordinary congressman even not motivated by the Armenian propaganda considers that he is making this decision to raise US influence in the region (the funds are allocated for construction of schools, hospitals. Allocation of grants for NGOs and so on) and he considers that money are spent on people no matter who controls the region. How can the idea be changed? The most obvious method is to present arguments. You should set the question the following way- as you spend much on the Armenian community of Karabakh, why not assist to the Azerbaijani community expelled from their homeland? You should especially train experts to expand the lectures at the US universities. By the way, this can be applied not only to the United States. Azerbaijani position will be understood by the impartial politicians of many countries.

- Do you consider that Azerbaijan may incline more to Moscow and its mediation in Karabakh settlement after this step by Washington?

- Such an idea in Baku is profitable if we judge from the position of the Russian expert community. But we also need to disperse definite illusions connected with such judgments. The disappointment caused by initial optimism of hopes is not the best motive for building long-term ally relations while Russia needs a smart ally who defines its positions without radical changes. The “inclination” towards Moscow will not raise effectiveness of Russia’s mediation for Azerbaijan. It is an illusion. I understand the factors and the way it strengthened in the late 90’s (under the analogy of Russia’s influence on Armenia) but it is unclear why it is today so strong in Azerbaijan. Let’s take several examples.

Let’s take Moldova and separatist conflict in Transdniestria. It implies not the military escalation but the confrontation of ruling elites that have their joint business, including a gas company, and we also know how the profits from export of metallurgic production of Transdniestria were used. In other words, the situation is different as compared with the Karabakh conflict. Ex-president Voronin positioned himself as a leader conducting a pro-Russian geopolitical course in the second term of his geopolitical course. In addition, Russia has no especially sensitive issues of security either in Moldova or Transdniestria. Has the situation been settled in Moldova’s favor during Voronin’s reign?

Let’s now take Armenia. The argument of Russian support to Yerevan – the Russian base played a great role for Azerbaijani community and the role of Russian investments is hiding Armenia’s expansion in Azerbaijan. This is the way it seems to be.

But in fact the situation is different. Armenia used Russian security and geopolitical interests to cover its own interests. Any other superpower could be in Russia’s place. For example, the United States. They have interests in Azerbaijan and probably they could gain control over Armenian enterprises. This situation is theoretically possible. But then we cannot expect rapid changes in Azerbaijan’s favor. It is impossible to settle the conflict without deeper interference with the internal political life of one of the countries in the current situation of independence of Armenia and Azerbaijan. This script requires full democratic and forcefully repressive control over the communities of the two states and the full control over elites. Only the Soviet Union could execute it in the South Caucasus in the 20th century. At that time Armenians and Azerbaijanis though having their national demands coexisted peacefully without killing each other. Here we can recall the experience of the Russian empire and then there came a brief moment of democratic South Caucasus republic. It all occurred as an implication of the fact of the imperialistic obedience or the disaster of its collapse. Such a situation will not repeat in the nearest future. One should not have illusions about integration of Armenia and Azerbaijan in the result of EU’s expansion to the East and creation of a single supranational regulation center, this is not the creation of a single state built on the principles of justice and respect to the territorial integrity of its inseparable parts. 

- Unlike Russia, the United States are far from the South Caucasus and its problems. Is it correct to speak about the effective participation of this country in mediation efforts to settle our conflicts, especially the Nagorno Karabakh issue?

- The United States did not participate at the initial stage in the moment of suspension of war. However, it was possible to speak of the definite positive motives of Washington’s influence. The role of the United States in the South Caucasus was growing and taking the positions freed after the USSR collapse and weakening of Communist Moscow’s center. It is today impossible to get rid of the US factor though it is hard to say whether this influence is effective or no.

I would like to note once again that the conjuncture political steps of the superpowers do not deserve so much attention. Oil and gas are rather the best allies for Azerbaijan compared to superpowers and neighbors. Therefore, to settle the Karabakh conflict the country should stake on the socioeconomic development raising trust to Azerbaijan and Azerbaijanis, therefore, traditional political pressure and the work with the conjuncture allies is applied to this.

News.Az (28.12.2009)

 

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