BAKU: USA to Fail in Karabakh, Azeri Daily Says


Ekho, Baku
29 Apr 04

The US business interests in the South Caucasus will eventually
require political backing, and Washington seems to have decided to
deal seriously with regional conflicts, and firsty the
Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagornyy Karabakh conflic t, Azerbaijani
newspaper Ekho has reported. In order to resolve the problem, the USA
has to dismiss its balanced policy and define favourites, Ekho said.
Washington might try to drive Armenia out of Russia’s influence, while
at the same time putting pressure on Azerbaijan and Turkey. But in
this case, the USA could alienate its two strategic partners and,
moreover, provoke an upsurge in Islamic influence in the region, the
paper said. The whole plan might have “catastrophic repercussions” for
Washington and make it forget about its major economic projects in the
region, Ekho concluded. The following is the text of Nurani report by
Azerbaijani newspaper Ekho on 29 April headlined “American
rollercoaster”; subheadings inserted editorially:

USA vs Russia in South Caucasus

This popular attraction is called “Russian rollercoaster” everywhere
in the world. It is believed to repeat the traditional Russian
amusement – sliding down an ice hill on a sleigh. However, in Russia
it is said to be “American” since this “round-the-year” attraction
came from America.

For some reason, this unserious comparison comes to my mind every time
I compare how the Russian and Western press comment on the situation
in the South Caucasus. The majority of Moscow (and pro-Moscow)
newspapers believe that the South Caucasus has long been “ruled” by
the USA that has turned this region, which is geographically and
environmentally destined to be none other than “Russia’s backyard”,
into “its 51st state”. On the other side of the former “cold war”
frontiers, the situation is conceived in a completely opposite way.

The composition, to be more precise, the style of the (OSCE) Minsk
Group was the best proof: while Russia was officially represented by
unimpressive (Nikolay) Gribkov, the former deputy director of the
Russian foreign intelligence service and the incumbent deputy foreign
minister, Vyacheslav Trubnikov, visited the region along with his
colleagues. Moreover, the “strategic concepts” of the two super
powers, as regional observers could witness more than once, do not

We should probably expect that the US business interests in the region
will sooner or later require political “backing”. Today, one can find
dozens of ongoing political developments which, if you have enough
desire and imagination, could pass for the manifestation of that US
strategy. For instance, the “rose revolution” in Georgia (even if the
USA’s real role in it is a topic where telling whisper and hints will
for a long time dominate clear-cut and unambiguous statements) was
unequivocally interpreted as the start of a “purge” of the political
field of the oil-rich region from corrupt undemocratic regimes,
despite their loyalty and the leader’s past merits.

USA has to dismiss balanced policy

Against this background, the appointment to the post of US co-chairman
of the Minsk Group of Steven Mann, who used to be in charge of the
“energy diplomacy” in the region which proved to be very successful,
is said to clearly show the USA’s decision to seriously deal with the
settlement of regional conflicts in the South Caucasus, and the
Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict in the first place.

If we remember that the USA has been for quite a long time “pushing”
Armenia and Turkey towards a dialogue, Steven Mann’s appointment,
which reveals the USA’s aspiration to a speedy settlement to the
conflict which is simmering near pipelines, completes the “picture” of
the situation in the region.

However, the “conflict diplomacy” in general, and the brokering
mission in the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict in particular, might
prove to be a much more difficult task for the USA than an effective
economic breakthrough. The world has already witnessed the failure of
three mediation initiatives in Nagornyy Karabakh – the step-by-step
and package settlements and the territorial swap. Although today US
diplomats react quite painfully to criticism of the Minsk Group, one
has to draw not at all encouraging conclusions from 10-year-long
negotiations: the chances that the parties themselves can “reach a
compromise” are most likely to be very slim. To put it simply, if the
USA is serious in its intention to settle the Armenian-Azerbaijani
conflict, it will sooner or later have to dismiss its hope to conduct
“balanced policy” and define its likes and dislikes.

A fairly extraordinary situation has been formed in the region. Both
regional political mega projects – the Karabakh settlement and the
Armenian-Turkish dialogue – impact Armenia. This country is the only
strategic ally of Russia in the region, while it is opposed in one
case by Turkey, for which, despite all the recent problems, the USA is
undoubtedly number one strategic partner, and in the other case by
Azerbaijan, for which Washington is again closer than Moscow.

“Catastrophic” repercussions for USA

Rumours have been going on in the South Caucasus for quite a while
that the USA will finally try to “buy out” Armenia from Russia and
take this country out of Moscow’s monopoly and thus gain control of
the whole of the region. Hence, there is a clear conclusion that now
Washington will try its best to “interest” Armenia and,
correspondingly, step up pressure on Azerbaijan and Turkey: it is
always easier to pressurize your ally than a country which you have
yet to improve relations with.

However, the situation is far from being simple. If in the early 1990s
analysts said that those who would succeed in mediating conflicts
would get carte blanche in the region, today’s forecasts are
completely different: in case of the mediators’ failure, all the other
US projects in the region, including economic projects, might be

Indeed, relations with Armenia are a very sensitive issue both in
Azerbaijan and Turkey. It is hardly possible, even theoretically, to
“dose up pressure” in order, on the one hand, to force Azerbaijan and
Turkey to make a concession that would impress Armenia, and on the
other hand, not to damage its own positions in these countries. The
reason is simple: the “limit” of Armenia’s requirements is extremely
high. On the other hand, excessive pressure on Baku and Ankara might
prompt these countries not only to look for “alternative partners”,
from the European Union to Russia. An upsurge in Islamic influence in
these countries could prove to be much more dangerous. These will be
the same Islamists who found themselves in power in Iran unexpectedly
for the whole world, easily won the majority of seats in the Algerian
parliament elections, and proved to be the most influential political
force in today’s Iraq. They hardly have any particular influence in
Azerbaijan nowadays, and the ruling JDP (Justice and Development
Party) in Turkey can hardly be described as a radical group. However,
politicians know well about the possibility of “catastrophic” shifts
in the public opinion, particularly if sensitive and painful problems
such as Karabakh are at issue. This means that an attempt to buy out
Armenia from Russia at the expense of Turkey and Azerbaijan could have
catastrophic repercussions for Washington, and the USA will have to
forget about those regional mega projects for a long time to come.

From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress

Emil Lazarian

“I should like to see any power of the world destroy this race, this small tribe of unimportant people, whose wars have all been fought and lost, whose structures have crumbled, literature is unread, music is unheard, and prayers are no more answered. Go ahead, destroy Armenia . See if you can do it. Send them into the desert without bread or water. Burn their homes and churches. Then see if they will not laugh, sing and pray again. For when two of them meet anywhere in the world, see if they will not create a New Armenia.” - WS