Tension in the South Caucasian region owing to unsolved conflicts lately increased due to recurrent exacerbation of Russian-Georgian relations. Though some hope appeared for a new phase of settlement of the Karabakh conflict owing to the recurrent visit of the OSCE MG co-chairs. However the matter does not go far beyond an agreement on talks for the time being. Analyst of Spectrum Center for Strategic Analysis Sergey Sargsyan comments on the regional situation to PanARMENIAN.Net.
The favorite topic of Armenian politicians is inevitable negative consequences of Russia's sanctions against Georgia for Armenia. Is not their significance exaggerated?
It seems that at the given phase of the protracted confrontation between Georgia and Russia there are no significant and moreover catastrophic consequences for Armenia expected from economic and political pressure put by Moscow upon Tbilisi. Firstly, the matter does not concern economic blockade yet, but economic and psychological pressure. Moreover, Russia is interested to make these addressed, thus limitations will not concern transit. Secondly, the next peak of anti-Russian campaign in Georgia, marking local authorities elections is already overcome. Another matter is that Russia used the occasion - the detention of its servicemen - to radically reconsider its policy towards Tbilisi. Thus, one should not rule out further aggravation of Russian-Georgian relations, up to introducing complex sanctions. Thus, it would be good to prepare to it in advance, e.g. changing transportation routes.
Besides, in the current situation repair and expanding of Poti-Akhalkalaki-Gyumri road could be lobbied within the Millennium Challenge Account. Its sponsors will meet the idea with understanding, as otherwise the cargo will go through Iran, and this will tie Armenia with IRI even closer - both in economic and political respects.
What do you think will happen in the region in case Armenian and Azeri Presidents do not want to come to an agreement over the Karabakh settlement? An approximate scenario of developments.
When making statements on exclusively peaceful resolution, all international organizations, having to do with the Karabakh settlement, in fact induce the Presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan to continuing the talks. Refusal of one of the Presidents will result in weakening of his position and all the criticism for failure of the settlement being aimed against him. Thus, I believe that talks at the top level will continue. Though incompatible expectations of Karabakh conflict parties from compromise conserve solution till «better times.» Specifically, Azerbaijan expects economic growth.
Our army is strong - everyone says that. However, will it be enough or what will happen if Azerbaijan indeed modernizes its armed forces, given that it has more money than we do?
Modernization of the Armed Forces of Azerbaijan is not a matter of several months and even years. The shortest way is to transfer at least part of military detachments to forming on the basis of a contract, as well as launching staff retraining programs similar to Train and Equip, held in Georgia with the support of the US. However, even Georgian experience shows that making even a few battalions comply with NATO standards takes 2-3 years. Besides, as neither Armenia, nor NKR are not going to attack anyone, the expenses for sustaining combat efficiency for a defense doctrine will be lower.
At the same time the complicated relief in the conflict zone, deeply echeloned system of NKR Defense Army positions, modern engineering fortification, impossibility for Azerbaijan to have an advantage in the air in the foreseeable future allow sustaining the current balance of power for a long period of time. Although, of course relaxing and hoping for the balance to be sustained by itself is inadmissible. On the other hand this is rather the military aspect, while the excessive financing of Azeri Defense Ministry at the expense of social programs is the political one and it may arouse wide discontent of the population.
Oil is an important factor, however not the major one. What can we expect from our neighbors in case oil prices fall, which is a trend we already observe?
I believe we should not expect further significant fall of oil prices. Firstly, forecasted demand will not exceed supply. Secondly, OPEC countries, will correct the oil production volume. Thirdly, anti-American rhetoric of Venezuela and more the internal instability in Iraq do not promote reduction of risks on oil production, which is taking into consideration in price formation. Thus some reduction of prices will only result in Azerbaijan and Iran being deprived of additional revenue, which will not have a notable impact on their economy.
Is establishment of Armenian-Turkish relations possible in foreseeable future?
Hardly. Turkish foreign policy is rising currently. It became activated in the Middle East, as illustrated by the participation of Turkish military in the peacekeeping contingent in Lebanon. Turkey became more active in the South Caucasus: its projects of breaking a Turkic corridor via Georgia to Azerbaijan and father to Turkic republics of the Central Asia is realistic as never. Specifically owing to Georgia needing allies due to the confrontation with Russia. I believe that the «European project», which is actively lobbied by Islamic-leaning Party of Justice and Development, is a clearly calculated move, aimed at reviewing basic principles of Turkey as a secular state, not at its accession to the EU.
The military who were considered to preserve the legacy of Kemal Ataturk, secular nature of the country and close integration of Turkey with the West, were deprived of influence on political decision-making resulting to reforms at the demand of the EU. This strengthened the position of the the Justice and Development Party and allowed the Islamist party changing the foreign and internal policy of Turkey. The growth of nationalist and Islamist moods in Turkey and Europeans' apprehensions for the future of the EU in case of Turkey's accession are the outcome. As a result Turkey will probably be left out of the EU, positions of guarantors of Turkey being secular - the military - are undermined. Thus, Islam-leaning forces by pro-European policy can attain what they could not during their attempts of direct Islamization of the country during Erbakan being the Premier. Thus, against the background of on the whole successful internal and foreign policy, withdrawal of «the Armenian block» of issues as compulsory preconditions of Turkey's accession to the EU, it is more advantageous for the ruling JDP to abide by its earlier position, i.e. linking establishment of Turkish-Armenian relations with settlement of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict at terms favorable to Azerbaijan and thus to a further prospect.