Internet press conference with “Anatoly Sobchak Foundation" expert, council member of the "Growth” Party Sergei Stankevich (Russia) for the Armenian media

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Sergey Stankevich
Expert in the "Anatoly Sobchak Foundation" council member of the Party "Growth"(Russia)
Россия

On September 6, internet press conference of expert in the "Anatoly Sobchak Foundation" council member of the Party "Growth" Sergei Stankevich (Russia) for Armenian media.

David Stepanyan, www.arminfo.am
 
Question- The ambiguous situation around the Russian military base in Iran has demonstrated the ambiguity of the agreement between Moscow, Tehran and Baku, which started in April. Please rate the degree of importance and the prospects of "North-South" infrastructure project and the possible regional impulses caused by its implementation...
 
Answer - The use of military base by Russia in Hamadan is a separate issue. Russia relied on oral assurances of the Iranian side and started to use the base before the necessary documentation was executed. Apparently, that hasty step required further correction. Now deliberate and careful processing of the agreement package is taking place, after which, it will be possible to use the base again.
 
With the regard to tripartite infrastructural project "North-South"; it will certainly be implemented, but the completion timing and the actual traffic capacity of the corridor remains open to question.
 
The railway from Iran (Qazvin) to Azerbaijan(Astara) is nearing completion now. After its commissioning it will become clear what is the real (and not assumed) freight traffic flow and the cost of the cargo. They will still have to compare the cost of railway track with the sea transport from Astrakhan to the North Iran through the Caspian. If the railway track does not prove any notable logistical and tariff benefits, that will affect the prospects of the entire ambitions project to create a transport corridor from St. Petersburg to India.
 
Politically, the project"North-South" looks ambitions and appealing. However, the economic aspect will play the crucial role.
 
Question -Can we assume that the attempt of engaging Russian military facilities in Iran is another step aimed of deterrence and now also isolation of Turkey? Is it a possibility for preventing Turkey's direct involvement in Caucasian affairs, in particular Ngoro Karabakh settlement and Eurasian project, something to what Ankara has been seeking for so long? Or another "thaw" in the relation between Moscow and Ankara withdrew these issues from the Kremlin agenda?
 
Answer -Russia needs airbase in Iran only to improve the use of heavy strategic aviation with the expected end of the war in Syria. When flying from Russian Mozdok the bombers are forced to take only the half of the ammunition or do aerial refueling. Both of the mentioned above reduce efficiency. Russia is not seeking for permanent military presence in Iran.
 
Cooperation with Turkey is necessary for the same purpose: to block the 100 kilometers of the Syrian-Turkish border onJarablus - Azaz line, through which the replenishment of terrorist groups in Syria withmanpower and military equipment is realized.  If the border is blocked, the completion of military operation against ISIS and related groups in Syria will be a matter of few months. 
 
Turkey's active intervention in the Karabakh conflict is not possible in current circumstances. The political gestures, maneuvers and demarches will continue up until the final settlement of the conflict by diplomatic means.
 
Question -Please rate the success of Russia's policy aimed at isolation of the West from the South Caucasus in view of recent impulses.
 
Answer– Russia insists that all security issues in the South and North Caucasus should be resolved only by the countries in the region without the intervention of any outside powers. Exceptions are only possible with direct UN sanctions (e.g., Nagorno-Karabakh related activity of the OSCE Minsk Group).
 
Although the USA and their allies still attempt to influence Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia, these attempts do not bring up any significant or lasting changes;therefore, Russia’s strategic line in the Caucasus region remains relatively successful.
 
Question -After another meeting of Russian President with the colleagues from Armenia and Azerbaijan over the Karabakh conflict, French President Francois Hollande expressed readiness to organize a similar meeting. The positive response of the Russian Foreign Ministry to this initiative at first glance demonstrates coherence of at least two of the three co-chairing countries of the OSCE Minsk Group. What do you think this testifies given the ongoing isolation of Russia by the Western countries?  
 
Answer -Isolation of Russia turned out impossible. This was confirmed by G20 Summit in China. European allies start to cooperate with Russia more and more closely and even the USA are close to signing deals with Russia over the conflicts in Syria and Ukraine. Mediation efforts of France are certainly agreed with and will be implemented in coordination with Moscow.
 
Question -Russia's "arms" policy towards the sides of the Karabakh conflict is harshly criticized in ally Armenia and partner country Azerbaijan is also not very much enthusiastic. What objective is Russia pursuing by arming both sides simultaneously, even if in different volumes? Is the April escalation an indicator of the success of such policy?
 
Answer–It requires sober evaluation, without emotions. If Russia stops supplying weapons to the Region, other external suppliers will appear immediately.  As a result, we will have an arms race with inevitable escalation of the conflict into a full-scale war. Thus, Russia being the supplier helps to maintain the balance, deterrence and prevention of conflict "spreading" and multiplication of engaged parties. Frankly speaking, it is a compulsory policy helping to avoid a catastrophic scenario.
 
“Hetq” Online Newspaper, www.hetq.am
 
Question – Military-political cooperation between Armenia and Russia deepened even further recently (formation of common groups of forces, joint air defense system). At the same time, cooperation between Armenia and NATO continues (participation in NATO exercises under the auspices of the United States). Why does Russia perceive this cooperation with somewhat “understanding”, and is it possible at all that Russia will raise the question of limitation of Armenia's cooperation with NATO?
 
Answer - Russia does not want to put such "sharp" questions on the principle of "either-or", as it understands and respects the different points of view on the issue in Armenia. The language of ultimatums and pressure is unbecoming the allies. Moreover, reckless gestures on the part of Russia can only play into the hands of anti-Russian powers and moods in Armenia. It makes more sense to rely on common sense and age-old sense of preservation of the Armenian people and its political class.
 
Question- Why, in your opinion, Turkey is perceived by Russia in the least as NATO member state, while the other members, on the contrary, and are perceived as NATO members at the first place?
 
What are the Russian-Turkish relations in the context of military and military-advisory expansion of Turkey in Georgia and Ukraine lasting for many years, in Kirgizstan since March and in Azerbaijan since June 2016?
 
Answer- In a region like Caucasus only the policy of balance of powers and interests may be successful. Turkey is not a typical NATO member- it has a large degree of autonomy, which is going to only increase, just like the role of Turkey in the Region. It is shortsighted and dangerous to disoblige this.  Russia has to combine pressure with power political gestures, situational deals and tactical alliances on certain issues. In particular, Russia will try to maintain its strategic dominance over the main post-Soviet area, preventing appearance of any permanent alternative centered of power consolidation.
 
Question – Do you consider CSTO an acting collective security organization for its members?
 
Answer -CSTO is indispensable as a tool for ensuring security in Caucasus and Central Asia. This tool is not perfect but we simply do not have any alternatives. In the coming years this organization should be thoroughly strengthened and expanded, taking into account the rise of terroristic threats from Middle East and Africa, as well as the risk of defrosting of old regional conflicts.
 
Armen Minasyan, www.panorama.am
 
Question - Do you consider Russia's policy in South Caucasus region and in Armenia in particular, balanced and pragmatic?
 
Answer - There were serious blunders in Russia's policy in the region of the Greater Caucasus in the past. In recent years, in my opinion, the policy is quite balanced and pragmatic: strategic self-sufficiency of the region in terms of security, containment of external influences. Russia is like a mediator and a tool for multilateral peacekeeping.
 
Question- How do you see the future of EAU in the context of opposition between Russia and West?
 
Answer–The peak of confrontation between Russia and the West is in the past. Now the phased de-escalation and quitting the sanction war is coming. This will open the way for the new phase of expansion and strengthening of EAU.
 
Question - Is a new large-scale escalation of Nagorno-Karabakh conflict expected? What is the role of Russia in this process? Will the mediatory activities of Moscow bring forth a real progress in the process of peaceful settlement of the conflict?
 
Answer - Russia is fully capable to prevent the escalation of armed conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh zone. However, it cannot speed up the diplomatic resolution on its own. We will have to continue to rely on OSCE Minsk Group and additional diplomatic efforts of Russia and France.
 
Karabakh conflict by itself is a rare type of a conflict in world history, referred to as "conflict of three generations". In the scenario of truce, at least three generation should be replaced on the both sides for the final and lasting solution to be possible. Indeed, we all have to gather historical patience...
 
Question - Will the zone of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict become yet another platform for rivalry between Russia and the West?
 
Answer – No, it will not. Neither of the conflicting sides nor Russia or the West wants it.
 
Answer- What are in your opinion the prospects of Azerbaijan's accession to the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU)? Is such a scenario possible without the definitive solution of the Karabakh conflict?
 
Answer - Entry is possible. Moreover, involvement of Armenia and Azerbaijan in a joint economic activity within the frameworks of EEU can contribute to reconciliation of the parties, or at least serve as a notable relaxation of tension. Yet this is only possible in case of presumption of good faith by both parties.
 
Artak Barseghyan, Public Radio of Armenia, www.armradio.am
 
Question - How do you assess the current level of the Armenian-Russian relations?
 
Answer– This are relationships of deep strategic partnership. They cannot be compromised even given particular disagreements on specific issues.
 
Question -In your opinion, why are the commercial interests often placed above the strategic partners by Moscow, in the light of ongoing sale of Russian advanced weapons to Azerbaijan?
 
Answer -Arms sales in the Greater Caucasus region is not considered by Russia as a significant source of commercial profit. It is crucial to prevent the partition of the region between different suppliers, which will lead to regional arms race and inevitability of war. For Russia this not so much trade, as much a means to maintain stability and containment of external influences.
 
Any radical change in the situation is fraught with rapid disaster.
 
Question - How likely is exclusion of Turkey from NATO in the context of cooling of relations between Ankara and Brussels.
 
Answer-Such a development is not realistic; it is not going to happen. NATO has a vital interest in keeping Turkey in its ranks. Ankara will even get some additional freedom in exchange for proof of loyalty to the alliance.
 
Question -How do you assess the current warming of the relations between Kremlin and Ankara? Is Moscow stepping once again on the Turkish "rake"?
 
Answer – Now cooperation between Russia and Turkey is of a situational tactical nature. The end of Syrian conflict will serve as a decisive test. In particular, Turkey's assistance in closing the Syrian-Turkish border on Jarablus-Azaz line. If cooperation in terms of Syrian conflict based on mutual concessions fails, the warming will change into cooling. If it succeeds, Russia will think about further forms of partnership. In any case, Russia will never make its relations with Armenia a subject of trade or exchange. It is impossible by definition.
 
Tatevik Kazaryan, www.news.am
 
Question - It is believed that the meeting in St. Petersburg between Moscow and Ankara was a statement of dissatisfaction with the West. Do you agree with this point of view. Will Erdogan be able to achieve any results towards the West?
 
Question–The peak of confrontation between Russia and the West is in the past. Now the phased de-escalation and quittingof the sanction war is coming. This will open the way for the new phase of expansion and strengthening of EEU. Turkey is not a typical NATO member- it has a large degree of autonomy, which is going to only increase, as well as the role of Turkey itself in the Region. It is shortsighted and dangerous to disoblige this. Russia has to combine pressure with power political gestures, situational deals and tactical alliances on certain issues. In particular, Russia will try to maintain its strategic dominance over the main post-Soviet area, preventing appearance of any permanent alternative centered of power consolidation.
 
Question - How deep will the current Russian-Turkish warming get and how much will it last?
 
Question - Do you see any perspectives for Russian-Turkish cooperation in Syria? How realistic is the temporary agreement between Moscow, Ankara and Damascus aimed at fighting the Kurds of Syria?
 
Answer –My answer to both questions at once.Now cooperation between Russia and Turkey is of a situational tactical nature. The end of Syrian conflict will serve as a decisive test. In particular, Turkey's assistance in closing the Syrian-Turkish border on Jarablus-Azaz line. If cooperation in terms of Syrian conflict based on mutual concessions fails, the warming will change into cooling. If it succeeds, Russia will think about further forms of partnership.
 
Question - How would you describe the reaction of the West and NATO to cooperation between Russia and Turkey in Syria?
 
Answer –See the answer above.
 
Question - How will the improvement of Russian-Turkish relations influence the process of settlement of the Karabakh conflict? Will this be a constraining factor for Baku?
 
Answer –Russia is fully capable to prevent the escalation of armed conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh zone. However, it cannot speed up the diplomatic resolution on its own. We will have to continue to rely on OSCE Minsk Group and additional diplomatic efforts of Russia and France.
 
Karabakh conflict by itself is a rare type of a conflict in world history, referred to as "conflict of three generations". In the scenario of truce, at least three generation should be replaced on the both sides for the final and lasting solution to be possible. Indeed, we all have to gather historical patience...
 
Neither the conflicting parties, nor Russia or the West want Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone become yet another platform for rivalry between Russia and the West.
 
Question- Considering the agreements reached during the tripartite summit between Russia, Iran and Azerbaijan in Baku, can we assume that Armenia is “left out of the game”? How would you assess the possibility of supply of Iranian gas to Europe through the territory of Armenia now?
 
Answer -
 
Gagik Baghdasaryan, www.newsarmenia.am
 
Question - What should be Russia's policy towards Karabakh conflict settlement, taking into account the allied relations with Armenia and Moscow's recognition of independence of Ossetia and Abkhazia?
 
Answer – I partially answered to that question above.
 
Answer - Do you think it possible that the South Caucasus becomes yet another hearth of Russian-American confrontation, and what can the countries of the region do to avoid it?
 
Answer - Russia is fully capable to prevent the escalation of armed conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh zone. However, it cannot speed up the diplomatic resolution on its own. We will have to continue to rely on OSCE Minsk Group and additional diplomatic efforts of Russia and France.
 
Karabakh conflict by itself is a rare type of a conflict in world history, referred to as "conflict of three generations". In the scenario of truce, at least three generation should be replaced on the both sides for the final and lasting solution to be possible. Indeed, we all have to gather historical patience...
 
Neither the conflicting parties, nor Russia or the West want Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone become yet another platform for rivalry between Russia and the West.
 
Question–Do you see any prospects of improvement of Russian-Georgian relations?
 
Answer- Relations are already gradually improving. Nevertheless, the events should not be forced here. Any type of excessive activity on the side of Russia may be interpreted as imperial claims. The Georgian society should naturally come to a dominant consensus on relations with Russia. It is crucial for Moscow that Georgia maintains its nonaligned status and does not become a tool of hostile pressure on Russia. This is the "red line", to which any negotiations, concessions and agreements are possible.
 
Gradual upgrade of the Georgian political class will help to eventually restart the bilateral relations taking into account existing opportunities and limitations.

 

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