Internet press-conference with analyst Gordon Hahn (USA)

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Gordon Hahn
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On March 26 Internet press-conference for Armenian media with American analyst, professor in several universities Gordon Hahn was held on following topics: European and Eurasian integration processes and security issues for the countries of our region; The current policy of Russia in promotion of integration processes; Islamic extremism in the post-Soviet countries and territories of Russia
 
These "first-hand" comments Armenian journalists will publish in their media outlets.
 
The internet press-conference with Gordon Hahn was organized within the project “Topical Dialogues on the New Integration Agenda of Armenia” of  the “Region” Research Center supported by U.S. Embassy Public Affairs Section.
David Stepanyan, www.arminfo.am
 
- Recently, the relations between the Europe, the USA and Iran are gradually expanding the geopolitical functions mandated to this regional superpower in the Greater Near East. Is it possible to foresee a more significant role played by Iran in South Caucasus, considering that such aspirations have multiply been voiced by Iranians, at least, in expert circles?
 
Answer – It is true that Iran, including its Revolutionary Guards, is being allowed to play a leading role in the battle against ISIL in Iraq and that this could give Teheran a foothold in Mesopotamia in might seek to expand and retain, increasing its power in the region. Moreover, the nascent deal on Iran’s nuclear program could relieve the burden of sanctions and allow Iran to develop both a civil and military nuclear program while being able to export oil. In this way, Iran’s economic and political power will be enhanced. This said, I do not think Iran is focused all that much on Azerbaijan, having more important fish to fry in the Middle east, Iraq, and Israel. 
 
- The list of Azerbaijani public officials deprived of the right to enter Western countries was the reaction  of the West to the closer relations between Moscow and Baku, by the way not only within the multibillion arms sale deals, but also energy projects, including those Rosneft is involved in. In its turn, the US has expressed readiness to develop its relations with Armenia not only in the economy, but also the defense. And this is regardless of the presence of Russian Military Base 102 in Gyumri. Can we have new tendencies in the geopolitics of the West and Russia in South Caucasus against this background?
 
Answer – It is possible that if the new ‘cold war’ continues to escalate that Russian-Western competition in the Southern Caucasus will intensify. This is already happening with NATO’s plan to expand its ‘Atlantic Resolve’ military exercises to Georgia and the nearby Black Sea region. In addition, the pipeline wars are likely only to intensify as problems between Ukraine and Russia persist and the EU seeks to end its dependence on Russian energy supplies. Russia’s Turkey Stream project also signals that the South Caucasus is likely to become a more coveted energy transit route. Russia’s successful courting of Armenia to join the EEU is another sign of the region’s growing geopolitization. The US is therefore likely to pay greater attention to Baku as a counter to the Russian-Armenian axis.  
 
- Has the Ukrainian crisis strengthened or weakened the positions of this or that superpower in South Caucasus? In particular, do you think the Ukrainian crisis has somehow readjusted the positions held by the USA, Russia, and the EU in the region?
 
Answer – Much will depend on the outcome of the crisis. The destruction and economic dislocation created by a crisis could serve as a lesson to Azerbaijan and Armenia not to rely on the West because of the negative reaction sure to come from Moscow. Moscow’s greater interests in the region and greater willingness to protect those interests is insurmountable as long as Europe refuses to expand to the region and the US remains too distant from the region and preoccupied with other issues to devote the resources necessary to challenge Russian dominance there.
 
- The establishment of an actual customs point on the border between Russia and Belarus has once again revealed the setbacks of the EEU and the gap between the real politics and the integration projects implemented by Moscow. Can we state today that the Eurasian integration is still as topical as before and does this serve as a foundation for the Russian aspiration for a bipolar world?
 
Answer – The customs posts are the consequence of Lukashenko’s policy of embracing Moscow but maintaining a wandering eye on the other girls in the neighborhood to keep his options open. Because of geography, Belarus, like the other European former Soviet republics, is in some ways more torn between Europe and Russian than are the other former Soviet republics, and it tries to play both sides of the fence as a result. I would not regard the EEU as an Eurasian integration project to be a failure, unrealistic, or neo-imperial. Russia seeks to consolidate a sphere of influence, security and markets near its borders. This is normal for a great power, and it is likely to succeed to some extent over time, as long as it is patient, develops its own economy so it is an attractive partner, and limits the military component of its foreign policy in the region.
 
Anahit Danielyan, www.karabakh.open
 
Against the background of European and Eurasian integration processes and the security issues deriving from those, how probable do you think the following are:
 
1. The peaceful resolution of the Karabakh conflict and in what way?
2. The international recognition of Nagorno Karabakh?
 
Answer - Unless Yerevan and Baku can come to terms on their own, then with Russia’s close ties to Armenia long-standing and now further consolidated under the EEU, there are only two options: (1) continued conflict driven by the parties themselves and/or by competition between Russia and the West with the latter taking Azerbaijan’s side to counter the Russian-Armenian alliance or (2) a resolution of the conflict sponsored and guaranteed by Russia. 
 
Artak Barseghyan, Public Radio of Armenia, www.armradio.am
 
- Mr. Hahn, do you think that the escalation of tension between Russia and the West may lead to a confrontation and a new global war?
 
Answer – This is increasingly possible but remains more unlikely than likely at the present moment. The military escalation in the form of intensifying and expanding maneuvers between NATO and Russia marks a new phase in the conflict. The West remains unwilling to recognize Russia’s sphere of influence, so Moscow has decided to enforce it – to make it a reality. If the West and NATO are as intent on denying Russia this sphere of influence as Moscow is intent on securing it, then war is a distinct possibility. If the Ukrainian war heats up again, then Washington is likely to begin sending lethal military equipment, which will prompt a harsh reaction from Moscow – likely to be Russian troops’ full intervention in the Donbass and an offensive to push Ukrainian forces beyond the borders of Luhansk and Donetsk Oblasts and perhaps a drive to secure a land bridge to Crimea.  
 
- What prospects for the Karabkh conflict resolution do you see in the conditions of a continuous escalation, provoked by the Azerbaijani party?
 
Answer - 
 
- How interested is the US in the normalization of the Armenian and Turkish relations, and is Washington ready to put the necessary pressure on Ankara to make it recognize the Armenian Genocide and open of the Armenian and Turkish border that has been closed since 1993. 
 
Answer – The US has a full plate and is not very interested. Washington’s policy of emphasizing human rights and democracy to one extent or another is an obstacle to close relations with Baku, but that could change under a Republican administration after Obama.
 
The ,,Hetq,, newspaper, www.hetq.am
 
- How do you think the EU (Association membership) and EEU integration of the countries in the so-called post-Soviet space will be reflected on their security priorities and the security of Russia? 
 
Answer – Unfortunately, the failure of the EU and Russia to negotiate over Ukraine’s relationship with the EU and EEU - despite the divided preferences inside Ukraine that remain to this day according to a recent opinion survey – has led to a security crisis reflected in Moscow’s withdrawal from the CFE treaty and recent trial balloons regarding a European army. Washington will be pressuring NATO member countries to comply with the 2% of GDP minimum for defense expenditures, likely making a European army an overly expensive luxury. The EU is forced to follow NATO which will be stepping up its pressure on Russia, leaving Europe between two flames. Moscow is likely to push gradually for the further militarization of SCO, a more robust CSTO military potential, and semi-militarization of BRICS.
 
- In which regions (South Caucasus, Near East?) and in what issues of international politics do the interests of the EU, USA, and Russia coincide today, and how much are the parties able to build their relations in a differentiate manner?  Is the ISIL among the issues that may unite the efforts of the conflicting parties – Russia and the Western countries, including the USA? 
 
Answer – I have repeatedly recommended that cooperation become the cornerstone for trust-building in Russian-West relations in times of tension. After all, despite the horrors of Stalin, we were able to cooperate with the USSR against Nazi Germany. ISIL and AQ are no less a potential problem, and Putin’s Russia is far better than Stalin’s USSR. Unfortunately, the ubiquity and instantaneity of communications keeps tensions higher than they should be. So has Ukraine. ISIL and AQ are threats to the US, EU and Russia, so there is no reason not to work together, and this threat is actually a good reason not be fighting over Ukraine. 
 
- Do you think the sanctions war between Russia and the USA strategically justified? What can be a factor contributing to winding down this war?
 
Answer – The West needs to impress upon Kiev that no economic assistance will be forthcoming should the war be renewed and impress upon Moscow that should it or its Donbass allies be the party that renews the war, sanctions will increase multifold and NATO will beef up its forces even further in eastern Europe. The West should offer to agree to and help secure Ukraine’s non-bloc status, if Moscow helps secure fulfillment of the Minsk II agreements.
 
Tatevik Ghazaryan, www.news.am
 
- Mr. Hahn, from your point of view, do the United States of America consider Russia a threat to its national interests and security taking into account the crisis in Ukraine and the deteriorating relations between the two former polars of the "cold war"? 
 
Answer – Unfortunately, yes the US does now see Russia as a threat. However, it fails to understand that it created this threat by seeking to expand NATO to Russia’s borders, including Georgia and especially Ukraine.
 
-  How would you assess the perspectives of a new integration organization - Eurasian Economic Union of Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan as well as Armenia, since January 2015? 
 
Answer – I believe there is real geographic (proximity), political (similar systems and political cultures), and economic logic for the formation of a regional economic association in the former USSR. This is the practice in every other region of the world. Each country has reasons to join, but Russia’;s is ot any desire to recreate the USSR or be a new ‘Third Rome.’
 
- Do you think that the international society, that is the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairing countries and the United States in particular, make their best efforts and really have a political will to reach the peaceful resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict (taking into consideration the recent announcement by U.S Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland on the need of an "humanitarian gesture" by the Armenian side concerning the Azerbaijani diversants who killed a 16-year-old boy in Nagorno-Karabakh)?
 
Answer – 
 
Araks Martirosyan, The ,,168 hours,, newspaper,  www.168.am
 
- We are currently at the most dangerous point since the signature of the ceasefire that ended the worst fighting between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces twenty years ago. We can understand that disagreements between Azerbaijan and Armenia continue, because sides cannot reduce tensions. How can the West reduce Russia’s influence on Armenia and Azerbaijan which, for many international experts, is worrying?   Many experts insist that Russia inflames tensions between the conflicting sides to punish the West for the conflict in Ukraine, and for the sanctions.
 
Answer – I do not believe Russia has an interest in inflaming the conflict. The conflict is largely local and built on interethnic distrust between Baku and Yerevan and the legacy of Soviet state-building. 
 
- Armenia has chosen to be a part of Eurasian economic union because Armenia is dependent from Russia in security sphere. Can the West give security guarantees to Armenia if needed?
 
Answer – This is unlikely. The US has enough problems on its plate, and Yerevan appears to have made its choice in favor of Moscow as a protector.

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